Another successful Cascade ride and the third time I've ridden RSVP, first since 2009. It's better than ever and while STP this year was great, I prefer the smaller crowds, better scenery and Canadian finish to the Portland ride. The two provide different experiences, with RSVP being the greater challenge due to climbs, especially Chuckanut Drive at the end of Day One. And, the finish into Vancouver, through Burnaby and then Chinatown, Water Street and Gastown, and into the Coast Plaza Hotel is more dramatic than the arrival in Portland.
Here's what worked, what to remember for next time, and a few other observations.
For two days before, Seattle suffered through two successive days of 90 + temps and humidity for which we are not acclimatized, making for lousy sleep and some discomfort. So, my start was sluggish, despite the overnight-early morning push of marine air, cool-down and overcast. By the first climb up the Woodinville-Duvall Rd hill, I felt it. But, CTS training and having made that climb a couple of times earlier this year helped.
Riding with Howard definitely helped. He set a quick pace, a little faster than I was used to, but good to be pushed. Howard mashed up the hills, I sat and spun, but he waited, joked, and provided good companionship. The Dark Side of the Moon Jersey on Day Two provoked comments and acted as a chick magnet. Big plus.
The new Centennial Trail route from Snohomish to Arlington made the first 50 miles relatively easy and fast paced, with an arrival in Arlington by about 11:15 for a quick lunch. Good choice not to patronize restaurants along Olympic Avenue, but to find a small coffee place (Stilly Coffee?) with wraps and java to spur us on for the 2nd half of the day, a much tougher stretch along Lake Cavanaugh Road and down into Mount Vernon. The sun came out, the road turned to chip seal, the hills obtained, and we got the first and only honk and flip-off of the day, from a Honda sporting a Coexist bumper sticker. Go figure.
Mount Vernon, headwinds, food stop with 30 miles to go across the Skagit Delta and farmland, and then to Chuckanut Drive at Mile 90. Always, always a killer at the end of Day One, and this was no exception. Still, the stretch is spectacular in vistas, classic Pacific Northwest and well worth the sweat and strain. The "Think Pink" lemonade stand at the end of the last hill is a ritual worth preserving, and I made a contribution to Mikayla's college fund once again.
So we slid into Bellingham, headed to the WWU dorms, and had to climb the steepest 200 yards of the first day getting up to the place. Not worth it. Get a motel with a hot tub, in-room coffee, TV and a real shower next time. No food service at the dorms, spartan conditions, out of the way. What did work, big time, was C and Max meeting us there to drive us to dinner in town. After stocking up on fruit and chocolate milk for breakfast, the SAG crew dropped us back at the dorms, while they drove up to the finish line.
Day 2 started with drizzle and cool, damp ride into Bellingham downtown, fuel up at Starbucks, and not feeling bad until the first slight incline out of town, where I dropped like a rock off the pace, felt old and tired, and resigned myself to the need for more training on the climbs, as well as the need to lose some ballast over the next year to make me less sluggish. 10 lbs at least. Very doable.
What worked on Day Two?
- Lynden food stop. Going on Friday and eating the Dutch Mother buffet would have been great, but the organic berry parfait (riding with Howard I ate less) was sufficient and probably resulted in less sluggishness. The Wall was short and steep, but not a real problem.
- The cool, overcast skies worked better than the heat that wilted me in 2008.
- The Golden Ears Bridge over the Fraser is spectacular and a significant upgrade over the old ferry.
- Joining the informal pace lines and drafting at a 15 -16 mph pace reduced the strain and improved the ride, as well as making it easy to follow.
- Watermelon at the Rocky Point Park Food Stop, before the Barnet Hwy (noisy and ugly traffic, but at least not the 35 highway miles going into Portland!) was a spot-hitter.
Animals seen along the way….cows, horses, ponies, longhorn cattle, donkeys, mules, sheep, alpaca, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, heron, squirrels, porcupine, possum…..
- Stop at JapaDog in Vancouver. Better than the hamburger at the Finish Line Party.
- Lose the 10 lbs. Avoid the carbs and sugar.
- Bring food to the hotel room, and get a room with a hot tub, coffee and a pool, close to restaurants.
- More hill climbing during the training.
- Keep up the fall and winter rides.
- RSVP > STP, but sign up for both.
- Consider the bus or train returns. And, consider the one-day ride to Centralia or to Bellingham as a training ride.
- Avoid NUUN and other supplement/electrolyte drinks. They don't sit well with my stomach. Cool, clear water for hydration.
- Have fun, ride with groups but at my own pace, go like 60 next year!