Saturday, July 30, 2016

My RAMROD Moment

(Unlike previous entries that sound like news articles, this entry is my own reflection on this event)
So I finally did it - this epic ride that everyone talks about. 10,000 feet of climbing over the course of 152 miles.  There's also the dreaded Cayuse Pass portion of which everyone says is the killer.   Well, this ride lived up to the hype.
Some of the Mangs at the start of the Ride
The RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day) wasn't really on my radar.  Unlike many cyclists, I don't sit around dreaming of one day accomplishing it.  I'm the type of cyclist who enjoys any old ride but I don't want to suffer too much to have fun.  Sure, I'll do a hard hill, but 3 passes, the last one in sweltering heat?  I don't think so.  This year, though, mainly due to peer pressure, I decided to do it anyway.  I figure, with how fast we did the STP and how I did pretty okay on that ride, I should be able to finish it at least with a relaxed pace.  So hesitantly, I showed up at Enumclaw on Thursday, the 28th.

Last stop before the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park
The first third of the ride was already exhausting - going through cold fields in the fog and trying to keep up with some of our strong riders was already work enough.  After Eatonville, I was still feeling okay, but decided to hold back and hang with Mang Aldwin, who was taking it pretty easy.  So we got to the next rest stop within decent time as our other team mates waited for us.  We all left that stop at the same time and started up the climb to Mount Rainier together.  Up until Longmire, we were all still one long group, with Mang Ferdie leading the charge.  Eventually, the stronger riders advanced further and Mang Chris and Ken even caught up with us (they had started late).  As we got closer to the top, I had already given up in my head - reasoning to myself that I would catch a ride at the top of Inspiration Point.  I even stopped to take pictures at Narada Falls.  Mang Aldwin, though, stayed with me, and kept encouraging me to keep going. We waited for each other and slowly made it to the top of the first climb (Inspiration Point).  At this point, it didn't make sense to stop because this was the beginning of a long downhill ride.  So I figured, what the hell...let's ride it downhill.  I'll catch a ride at the bottom.
Me, Aldwin, Cris and John
Might as well get a solo shot on the way up, right?

That downhill run ended up at a break and I was able to collect enough energy (in my head) to make it up to the next climb up from Box Canyon.  As I passed the time check, the volunteer mentioned, "6 miles of downhill coming up..."  so I figured, I might as well do this.

With some more Mangs at the top of Inspiration Point

By the time we came down that pass, only 1 climb was left - 9 miles on Highway 123 towards Cayuse Pass. So I figured - I might as well do this, I made it this far. Mang Boni, Raf, Aldwin and Allan were there, too, and we all agreed to work together.    So the slow climb at 4 - 5 mph started with the temperatures in the low 90's.  Halfway up, those temps reached as high as 102 on my Garmin and we had resorted to climbing from 1 shade to the next to lower our body temperatures intermittently. This Thursday just happened to be heat wave day (of all the days it could hit).  My head was spinning by this time and I could feel my body warming up every time we moved out of the shade. About 5 miles from the top, Mang Boni and Mang Raf had taken off leaving me, Allan and Aldwin to fend for ourselves.

A mile after the last break, I was done.  I told Aldwin just before the tunnel (about 3 miles from the top) that I was getting a ride. I wasn't having fun anymore.  So Aldwin and Allan continued to the top without me.  From the top of the pass, where highway 123 meets up with Highway 410, we all met up, and rode together to the last rest stop at the Rainier park gates where Mang Raf was waiting for us.  The four of us worked together to make it back to Enumclaw and finish around 7:15 - so the gates didn't close on us.

Finished around 7:15 with these guys!
Overall, the experience was truly memorable.  I finished the RAMROD with some assist, as others did on that last climb.  But I'll always wonder what would have happened if I pushed myself just a little bit more over that last 2.5 to 3 miles.  What you read about in those articles about pro cyclists is true - on race day, they've all trained hard and trained around the same amount.  On the day itself, it comes down to who has the legs and more importantly, who has the will to finish.  On RAMROD day, I think I had the legs..but I didn't have the will - I was just trying to get through the ride and I wasn't willing to work any more than I had already done.  I suppose I enjoyed the ride - the views and those downhill runs were experiences to remember.  And as with all rides, just being around the Mangs is fun enough.  The climbs were unforgettable, too - I had moments where I felt least before that last climb.  But climbing Cayuse Pass in 100 degree weather just wasn't my cup of tea.  Not doing 100% of the ride on my own...hmmm.  There's a bit of regret in there pushing me to think of signing up for next year to address that unfinished business.  I don't regret it as much (or maybe I'm just sourgraping). I'm just glad I did 99% of it.

I guess I'll wait and see how I feel next year when people start talking about it again.  Maybe I'll have an itch to finish that 1%.   Until then, I'll just consider myself a RAMROd rider.