300 kilometers (186.4 miles) in one day.
My first time was in April 2008 on the Long Haul Trucker with a completion time of 16 hours 7 minutes. Not too shabby considering my knees were hurting the entire time from too much running in the days prior to the ride.
This year was going to be different. I had been training, long rides, faster bike, better prepared, shorter stops, and no mechanicals.
The day started off with a light rain for around 2 hours ensuring that I was pretty wet from the waist down and completely covered my bike with grimy road dirt.
I was able to keep up with the front group for a few miles but quickly realized that my legs couldn’t sustain the wattage. I needed to pull back a little bit and conserve energy. Ed caught up to me and we pulled over to remove layers as we were swimming in sweat. This put me several minute behind the front pack with only 7 miles completed.
The morning was swift. The rain kept coming in waves and I caught up to a few riders at the Timber Road out-and-back.
It was only about 30 miles into the ride but it would be the last time I would see most of my friends. Asta, Ed and Theo were nailing it and dropped me after getting back onto Highway 6. I didn’t mind. I didn’t have anything to prove to them.
Then the big 1,600-foot climb started.
I reached the peak, pulled over to pee on some bushes that looked like they could use some watering but that’s when I realized something was wrong. My legs were KILLING me.
Despite a fitting adjustment to address kneecap pain, my hips and outer knees were in a lot of pain after the first major climb to Browns Camp. I initially though this was just soreness from engaging the muscles but by the time I made it to Tillamook, some of the pains were too extreme to push through.
I considered calling it quits and just taking the bus back to Portland. I considered the possible damage I may have just done to my legs.
The voice in my head was screaming:
This is too hard, you’re getting old, this is the wrong bike, you aren’t in any condition to do this anymore!
“Fuck you inner voice!” There were guys twice my age gunning ahead in the “FastBoys” group. I’ve pushed through more pain and suffering. I slogged through worse conditions.
The sun had been poking some rays through cracks in the clouds for a couple of hours as I made my way up the next major climb in the Cape Meares loop. Pain and low gearing kept me from putting in the effort to get up the hill very quickly.
Then, the head-winds started. Steady, demoralizing headwinds.
The miles leading up to the Cape Lookout climb were slower than usual as the 15mph headwind kept me from pedaling faster than around 10mph. The terrain was relatively flat and rolling, but if I stopped pedaling for a couple of seconds I would quickly roll to a stop.
Chocolate to liven my spirit.
The miles up the Cape Lookout climb were longer and harder than Cape Meares. The winds were stronger, working against me to push my bike back toward Tillamook.
I’VE HAD WORSE! BRING IT!
The 25 miles from the start of the Cape Meares climb to Pacific City were mentally devastating but seeing other riders gave me some hope. I wasn’t completely behind everybody.
At the convenience store, I stocked up on Mounds bars, ate a couple of large chicken strips, downed coconut water, a banana, devils food cakes, and more Gatorade. I think sun helped my mood but it never really got that warm out. It was only slightly warm enough to keep me from shivering. Hydration and food gave me another kick in the pants to get moving.
No sooner had I rolled my bike out of the parking lot and headed into the winds, gray clouds quickly formed once more, a light spattering of rain started pecking at my face.
Shortly before heading Southeast, the wind and rained picked up speed. A strong gust stopped me dead in my tracks almost knocking me over into the middle of the road. I had to plant both feet onto the ground for a minute to wait for the wind to let up just enough.
At this point, I was full of swears and curses. Cursing the rain, cursing the wind, cursing my aching body parts and questioning my logic in participating in such a pain-fest.
The solitude of the road helps calm and focus my mind. I LOVE this.
I pedaled on again.
Turning onto Highway 101 for a mile then onto Little Nestucca River Road, the wind didn’t shift too much but it wasn’t helping me at all.
I knew I was entering the winding stretch of the ride where there would be little to no services for many miles and I was unlikely to see any other riders. This let to stretches of time where i didn’t see another bike for at least 2 hours. I never thought i was lost, but I sometimes thought I would be the last rider to finish.
Determined to finish. Determined not to quit. Determined not to give in to an easy out.
I passed a couple of other riders as I turned East onto SR18. We played leap-frog since Tillamook but itt would be the last time I would see them for the day.
Just before entering Willimina, I saw another cyclist heading my way. He was uncertain where he was and was convinced he missed a turn. At 130 miles into a ride, everybody’s cyclometer is a little off. I knew this section from years past, and assured him the next turn was less than a mile away. We rode together for only a short time barely exchanging words. Exhaustion had reduced our vocabulary to “You OK?” and “I’m good”.
My head was pounding. I wasn’t sure if it had been a the strain on my neck or sinuses. I needed to find some decongestant and pain relief soon.
Pull it together, you aren’t dead or dying. Stop somewhere and get some pain relievers.
It was night as I pulled into Dayton. The convenience store there was a familiar site as I had stopped there on several other brevets and knew they would have what I needed.
Surprise from nowhere, my friend Chris had caught up to me again! I hadn’t seen him for at almost a full 100 miles. He seemed tired, aching and a little out of breath. But then again, that seemed to be the average rider this far back in the day.
We had already completed 151 of the 187 miles of the day. A decongestant and ibuprofen down the hatch to get me back onto the road. Circus Peanuts candies to give me a mood-lifting spike of sugar and I was back into the groove.
Chris pulled me for the last 26 miles. I new most of the turns by heart from prior rides and counted down each mile in my head. 20 to go. That’s the distance of my commute. 15 to go. That’s an hour ride at this pace. 5 to go. I can do that in less than 20 minutes.
I finished in 16 hours 23 minutes. Sixteen minutes slower than 2008.
We need rest. The spirit is willing but the body is spongy and bruised.
Was I a really slower rider? Was this the wrong bike and gearing? Did the weather really have that much affect on my speed for all those miles? I need to chew on these factors a bit longer and re-visit my fitter for a consultation about my knees.
Next year, certainly I’ll do this again.