Monday, July 14, 2014

Another One-Day STP in the books

As luck would have it, the annual northwest heat wave decided to appear on Team Mang's longest ride of the year - the Seattle to Portland Bike ride.  The forecast for the weekend was a high of 92 degrees in Longview, which we had estimated was where we would be during the hottest time of the day.  Of course, air temperature is just relative - the sun on the pavement typically adds another 10 degrees to the temperature.  We proved this theory while in Centralia when signboards all said 80 degrees at around 10:30 AM while our GPS units read 90.  So we actually rode the most difficult parts of the ride in temperatures in the mid 90's to just over 100...whew!
Team Mang at the Kent REI stop
More than half of the team started out from QFC near UW ahead of the official start.  By 4:15 AM, the guys and gals in orange were flying through the streets of Seattle on their way to meet up with the rest of the group at the first stop in Kent.  Just a little before 6 AM, the whole team started their journey together, agreeing to make it a brisk pace with disciplined short breaks to try to beat last year's time and beat the heat.  There were a bunch of first timers, too, and three riders - Mang Eugene, Mang Rudy and Mang Aldwin - were out to conquer the ride after having to abandon early last year due to an accident. Our team was probably the biggest in this year's event - more than 35 by the time we started out from REI in Kent.
Having fun on the ride!
The pace was quick, as expected, through southern King and Pierce Counties.  The team was averaging 19 - 22 mph with other riders on long trains on the way down to Puyallup.  That feared hill didn't really slow us down as much as it did in the past years.  All those hill training rides actually paid off.  The ride towards the half way point was pretty uneventful - cruise, break, cruise.  At the Spanaway stop on mile 54, there were orange jerseys everywhere as the team's paces varied with some taking longer breaks than others and riders leaving just as others were arriving.  Nevertheless, Mangs always found a way to stick with someone wearing the jersey.  We made it to the official halfway point, Centralia, between 10:30 - 10:40 am. The amazing support team was well prepared and had set up shop at an alley beside the local Teriyaki joint.  Lunch was in individualized specialty containers!  As mentioned earlier, temperatures at this time had reached 90 degrees and riders were beginning to feel the heat.  Everyone had their own way of dealing with it - ice in stockings inside their jerseys, special cooling towels, quick "showers".  The idea was to keep hydrated and cool.  We were on our way out of Centralia by 11 AM.
Team Mangs at a rest stop
The second half of the ride would prove to be the most challenging as the first major hill approached.  The thermometer slowly but surely started rising on our way to Napavine and by the time we hit that hill up to the elementary school (mile 115), temperatures were hovering around 95.  Usually, from there, the short ride to Vader is where riders start questioning why they're doing the 1 day in the first place (existential crisis).  Our main support crew had skipped the Vader stop and set up shop at Lexington, but thanks to family members who were following along, the lead riders were refreshed at Vader.  They left before the second group who hung around a bit more to wait for a couple more trailing riders. The Vader break is usually a morale booster, as it was this year, and the break was a big help considering that rolling hills were approaching. 
On the way to Lexington (mile 145), a flat and a broken spoke (requiring a wheel replacement) would further slow the second group, which allowed a third group to catch up.  A fourth group of riders would still be further behind.
The lead group taking a break at Lexington
At Lexington, we took a long awaited break from the sun but had enough discipline to not relax too much. The lead group had already been gone for almost an hour and they reached the last stop - St. Helen - around 5PM.  They weren't all together, of course, and all the way to the end, their train was long.  Towards the last 10 miles, Mang Roland decided to attack with Mang Ferdie and a few others giving chase.  A flat prevented them from catching the guy and he rolled into Portland first around half past 6.  Everyone else in the lead group followed quickly with everyone in that group coming in before 7 pm.  
The secondary group at the Lexington stop
The second big group stuck together all the way to St. Helen and reached that stop just before 6 pm.  This is, of course, the stop-and-take-pictures group.  They're the only Mangs who have a picture of the Longview Bridge as a backdrop.  Just before they left the St. Helen stop, they decided that they'd cruise at 15 mph until the end due to heat weariness.  But adrenaline just kicked in and they slowly started accelerating to 19 - 21 shortly thereafter.  The train grew long, and the tip of that spear crossed the finish line around 7:45 with the tail end crossing around 8:30.
Some of the Team Mangs and Alings the day after
hardly recognizable without their superhero costumes
The support crew waited for the last few riders to come in at the St. Helen stop.  It turns out we did have one more rider abandon due to a broken derailleur. The last of the riders came into the finish past 9 PM.  We're thankful that everyone made it safely to Portland and we had no major incidents.  This was our toughest ride as a group, as most STP riders will attest, not because of the distance or terrain but because of the heat.  That would be the biggest story of the day.  
Team Mang is a diverse group of riders of all abilities and cycling goals.  We have everything from fast tough racers and climbers, to recreational weekend warriors. We respect everyone's right to ride as they see fit. As long as you're willing to hang around with a bunch of happy cyclists, you're welcome in Team Mang!
Here's a video summary:

Mangs and Alings and extended family!