The Last Climb of Mountainstroh

10 years ago this month, I started on a new stage in life, I became a cyclist. For the 13 years prior, I did my damnedest to be a mountain climber, and summit Mt Rainier. Over the 13 times, I tried 4 times to reach the top. Hence the name Mountainstroh. Sadly, no matter how hard I trained, this body of mine shuts down at 12,000 feet. Since Rainier is 14,410, that left me a wee bit short.

I can hear some of you thinking (you are LOUD thinkers!) “You have told this story MANY times! Why do it again?”

Well this week, Michelle found a thumb drive I thought I had lost, and on it were all my photos from that climb! Some, honestly, I didn’t know I had. So, sit back, and let me regale you with a bit more detail, and a LOT more photos, about my last climb… Continue reading “The Last Climb of Mountainstroh”

Slow and Steady Dearie, You’ll Make it!

I’ve told the story in here about my first hike to Camp Muir, at the 10000 foot mark of Mt. Rainier.  I was trudging along a very steep path when this little old lady (who late I found was in her 70s) passed me like I was standing still!  As she went by I heard her say, “Slow and steady dearie, you’ll make it!”

My first trip
My first trip

This story came to mind again today as I was talking with one of the ladies training for the Seattle-to-Portland.  She was telling me that her friend is very worried about how slow she is and whether she’d be able to finish “in time!”

I started thinking about the rides I have done.  Of all of them only 2 had real time limits in my mind.  The finish line for the STP closed at 9PM on the first day.  My personal goal was to get there (206)  by that time (16 hours and 15 minutes).  If I was later, I would’ve still finished in “one day” but that was my personal goal.  The other was the High Pass Challenge.  That one had a true time limit, 10 hours or no medal.  My goal was just to completed the course.  That is until I was under 15 miles to the finish and just under an hour to get there!  MADE it and have the medal!

Holding the bronze medal after the High Pass Challenge!
Holding the bronze medal after the High Pass Challenge!

Adding a time limit increases stress for new riders.  I sometime “Race the Sun” trying to get home, before sundown, but to me it adds to the fun.

For new riders, getting ready for the first century ride, adding time concerns can cause them to give up before they even start.  So here is a trick I used.  Assume you will average 10 miles an hour.  (I would bet most people doing a century are faster than this, but I still use 10 cuz I like easy math!)  If it’s a true century, 100 miles, it will take 10 hours at 10 MPH.  So if the start of the ride is at 7, you will be done around 5.  Now, if you ride faster than 10 MPH on average, then you will know you will be done sooner!

The two ladies I am referring to, have no set shut down date on day one, they can take as long as they want.  This means they can take their time and enjoy the ride, visit the food stops, hit the honey buckets, and not stress in the least.  She is worrying about something that doesn’t matter.

My kids used to ask “Are you going to win the race tomorrow?”  Nope not a race guys, it’s a ride.  It’s not about how fast you get there.  It’s about  getting there.  I found that if I didn’t wear the watch, suddenly I’d be crossing the finish line, and wondering where the rest of the ride went.  Then when I checked the time, I find I was MUCH faster than I thought!  It’s hard to give your best performance when you are stressing about things that “just don’t matter!”

There is plenty of time later for rides with time limits (RAMROD for me this year) if you are looking at your first century ride do these few things:

  1. Cross the starting line when it first opens, maximize your time
  2. Don’t try to keep up with the “real bikers” you’ll burn yourself out
  3. Eat and Drink the whole time
  4. Have Fun!
  5. Brag about it when you are done!
The end of my first century, notice the thumbs up!
The end of my first century, notice the thumbs up!

biking 100 miles in a day is a true accomplishment.  Look around you, how many people do you know or work with who have done it?  Screw the time, just handle the miles!

 

The Day “Mountainstroh” was Born

This may surprise some people, but I have NOT always been the almost in shape, outdoorsy, bike riding, hiker guy you see today.  Yes, it is true, there was a time there was no Mountainstroh.

Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoyed the outdoors. As a kid my family would go camping more than any other type of vacation.  We’d drive to Mt Rainier,

I was the tall one!
I was the tall one!

or walk through the Ape Caves near Mt St. Helens.  I’d leave camp for hours in search of firewood (This can be translated into “Exploring the woods around us without brothers and sisters tagging along!)  There were many times I would leave enough wood in our site for the next two families! (Except for the time my dad built a fire so big the army sent a helicopter to check it out…but I digress…)

During and after my time at Washington State University (GO COUGS!),

The Strohs Bros!  I was NOT the tall one, and check out the wall paper
The Strohs Bros! I was NOT the tall one, and check out the wall paper

there were still camping trips, but these revolved more around beer, girls, water skiing or some river rafting.  Nothing to do with being in shape, but hell, back in my 20’s I could eat ANYTHING and never gain a pound, and lord knows there was enough beer consumed to float a horse!

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In November of 1995 I was a cubical jockey, working for a local insurance company.

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My buddies and I were on a soft tip dart league (We made it to state twice!), but throwing darts does  not provide lot of exercise.  There is, however,  plenty of beer drinking while throwing darts!  Funny though, now that I was in my 30s  pizza and beer seemed to be making jeans tighter…

So there I was, minding my own business, when a coworker came up and said “Hey, I just signed up to climb Mt. Rainier, want to try it too!”

rainier

I did not know this at the time, but this was the moment Mountainstroh was born.  If I would have said no, I would have saved $1000s on equipment, 1000s of miles on the station wagon, and who knows how much in first aid supplies/ibuprofen.

I would also probably be 300lbs, and not NEAR as full of happy experiences as I am, and no one would be reading this right now.

I spouted “SURE, why not!”  He immediately made plans for us to climb Mt. Si.  A local 4 mile long,  4000 ft elevation gain trail in the Cascades.  Halfway up  since he didn’t stop once, I almost lost the Sausage egg mcmuffin and coffee I had for breakfast (well you need energy when hiking right?) I was  hiking in jeans, with cotton long johns underneath, a cotton flannel shirt (I hadn’t learned that “cotton kills in the mountains)  and carrying my old college book bag.  The mountain gods took pity on the rookie, and I made it to the top, just barely.  That’s when I  was told “Good job, I took the hard way!  I knew you could make it!”  I decided it was too much work to push his butt OFF the mountain so I just laid there and tried to breathe.

I had no idea what was involved in climbing Rainier.  And in June, Climbing to Camp Muir (10000 ft point of Rainier, and the toughest “trail” in the state while carrying a bowling ball (yep really)) I realized it was NOT to be that year.

My first trip
My first trip
Camp Muir, overnight camp for Summit push
Camp Muir, overnight camp for Summit push

However, I was able to climb Si, and other trails, with a 40 lb pack, non-stop, I was stronger and in better shape than I had ever been and MUCH better equipped.  I was wowing people with pictures I had taken and places I had gone. It was fun!  Even coming home one day with 50 mosquito bites (I counted them) on my chest (rookie mistake #245 that year,  I forgot to reapply bug spray) didn’t dampen my new-found joy.!   I was never athletic in school, never lettered, and yet I was doing things that others only wished they could do!  It was addicting, but addicting to something healthy and good!

That single conversation started me down the path of 18 plus years of adventures.

Skydiver Stroh sticks the landing
Skydiver Stroh sticks the landing
Summit of St Helens
Summit of St Helens

As we know, I never made it to the summit of Rainier, but I’m good with that, and I have just begun sharing my adventures and accomplishments with y’all!  This is what has led me to cycling 10000+ miles!  More importantly, there are still a helluva lot of miles left in these legs, and I want to use them all.

End of First STP
End of First STP

I like this man Mountainstroh (I hope yall do as well)  and I am VERY glad I was at work and hadn’t played hooky to play darts the day he was born!

My favorite celebration.  Wine at Denali Base Camp.
My favorite celebration. Wine at Denali Base Camp.