I am not one for subtitles. But there are times that a blog post could actually use one. This would be my first post where two would be appropriate! The first would be Tour de Blast: The ride that almost wasn’t, and the second is Tour de Blast: What happens when you don’t train well enough….
Read on to see why!
The Tour de Blast takes off from Toutle High School, in Toutle Washington, and goes up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, then back. 85 miles, over 7000 feet of climbing. There is a 5 mile, a 7 mile and a 9 mile climb… It’s tough.
In theory, the reward is a great view of Mt St Helens at the top. However, this was my third ride, and this is the view I have had.
Somewhere out there is a mountain….
But lets go back a bit to the first sub title: The ride that almost wasn’t.
The town of Toutle is about 160 miles or so away from home. So instead of waking up at 2 AM to get there on time, I drove up Friday after work. The only downside of doing this is dealing with Portland on a Friday rush hour. I got through, and the roads opened. I kicked it up to 75 (speed limit there is 70) and I was 10 miles away from my exit when “BOOM!!!!”
I had no idea what happened! I looked all around and then in the rear view mirror. THE BIKE WAS HANGING!!!”
I got over fast to the shoulder of I 5 and ran to the back. One of the straps had failed not the bike rack!! Luckily, the other 3 held or the bike would tumbled down I 5 and been run over by a semi or two….
This was my own damn fault. I started thinking about when I bought that rack. It was before the Math Major was born. over 25 years ago!!! That rack has been rain, sun and a lot of miles…. I was damn lucky I till have a bike..
I was able to McGyver the rack for the last 10 miles. (keeping it below 60) and I got to the hotel safely. I used it one more time to get to the starting line. But I was watching in my rearview the whole 10 miles to the start!
It was time to ride.
Now last year, I made the mistake of believing the weather forecast and did not bring rain gear, it rained the whole morning,
This year I was smart. In the car I had every bit of rain gear I own. Sure as hell, it started out wet! I made sure to grab the waterproof gloves, the light rain shell, and the shoe covers. I was better prepared, equipment wise, than most. More than one person commented to me, “Obviously you have done this before!”, after they saw I was dry and warm while they were shivering and wet.
Just a quick aside, everyone in the world knows that in 1980 Mt St Helens erupted.
But what not everyone knows is that the forests around St Helens are prime Bigfoot country. I grew up on stories and books about sightings. Clearly the locals all know this.
The route travels out relatively easy, but a mile 20, the first long climb starts. The 7 mile climb goes up to the support stop with hot dogs. Remember above when I said I was better prepared? That was in equipment only. We are now on the the second sub title: What happens when you don’t train well enough…
Ladies and gents I did NOT train enough for this ride. Last year, Rob and I were doing the 1 day Seattle to Portland in less than a month from this ride. I was using it as a training ride for the big one. This year, I don’t have that ride to train for, and I have been slacking on the miles. I have had only one century ride, and only a couple over 70 this year.
This hill showed me how much I had been slacking.
The last two years I would passed people on this climb. It was hard, but doable.
This year, I was being passed, not by everyone but enough, and it was VERY hard, A genuine bitch, but doable. It was also wet and raining. In short it sucked.
It sucked enough that I was giving serious contemplation to turning around at the hot dog stop, and calling it just a 50. Yeah, I was bit downtrodden.
Eventually, without stopping, I made the top. I did have to dodge half a dozen giant slugs though.
I made to the hotdogs and brownies which never fails to cheer me up.
While there, I watched one of the side dramas you sometimes see on this ride. There was a lady there with a birthday tiara on her helmet. She was riding with a guy who was NOT doing well. (He was one of the few I did pass) He told her he was going to turn back. He was just hurting too bad.
Now I have no issue with this. A cyclist should listen to his body. But it was a next part that I feel was just wrong.
She told him to go back, but asked if he would drive to the top of the last climb to help her celebrate. She said she would wait for him. “No I don’t feel like it….” was the response. “Please?, said she. “NO” was the reply.
OK editorial time… When you ride miles together, you are a team. You stick with the other as long as you can. And when you can’t you do WHATEVER it takes to support the other. Not to mention it was her birthday! And she said please! I get he was hurting, and probably disappointed, but suck it up buttercup. Support your wingwoman! More on her later.
OK, I layered up and bombed down the hill. I just couldn’t turn around and not finish this sucker. At the bottom you have about a mile to pedal then the 5 mile climb, the WORST of the ride, starts. It gains 1400 feet in 5 miles, with a STEEP short climb near the top.
Just to give some perspective, this is looking down to the road below partway up
You can’t see him but there is a cyclist on the bridge, I zoomed in, he is the yellow blur at the bottom. This is not a climb for just anyone.
Where the 7 mile climb sucked royal this one hurt!! I knew I would finish, but I wasn’t sure if I’d still be standing. I finally got to the top, walked to the look out and just sat for a bit…. I was spent. But I made it. I was at 4200 ft, which is half the overall elevation of Mt St Helens itself.
This guy though, the one with the ponytail, who I dubbed Captain Caveman, made us ALL look bad.
He did the 5 mile climb, then went back down to find a friend and climbed again with her, and STILL got there before me! People were talking about him the whole way back. (he passed me again on the ride home….)
Remember birthday girl? Well I don’t know if her riding partner showed up, but the was not alone. She teamed up with a couple of guys who rode at her speed, and they were all high fiving and hugging. I was happy to see she was not alone.
There was still a 9 mile climb left….
I was dreading it. But first the 5 mile downhill! I hit 34 mph. It was fun, and always rejuvenates me! The first two miles of the last climb are the hardest. I was rewarded though, as it flattened a bit, the mountain came out!
It was fleeting though, 30 minutes later, it was gone again. I got lucky.
Even though its the longest climb, its the most gradual and “easiest” of the three. I made it to mile marker 37, the top of the climb and the hot dogs. They were running out, so only giving half a dog, and it had mustard on it already, which I hate, but I didn’t care! I wolfed it down.
The rest of ride was uneventful, but each climb hurt! I was counting down the miles.
But I did see a true wingman in action. His partner was hurting. So each climb he would move close and put his hand on her back to help her to the top. THAT is how riding partners should be!
I got back to the car, and loaded up. To be safe, I took off the front tire and put the bike in the back seat. It just BARELY fit. I was beat, but happy I had finished. Later I learned it only took 20 minutes longer than the year before…
I decided to avoid I5 traffic and went home along the Oregon Coast.
I got home to find Michelle had made a big platter of pasta and made sure I had the victory beverage in the fridge.
Folks, this was 85 miles and 7300 feet of climbing. This was my third time doing it and think it’s the last. Pretty ride, nice people, and a good route. But I think 3 times is enough. I am adding this ride to the STP, and RAMROD as rides I don’t plan to do again.
I KNOW better than to not train enough, but I guess every now and then you need a reminder.
Like the wind!