We met up with Doug and Ron at 7 am. We headed up to our starting point, about 90 minutes north of where we live. The roads were windy and tree covered. We finally got to our starting point, got our gear all unpacked and loaded up on our bikes. This ride was going to be JUST 84 miles, nothing like the 100 miles we rode before. I was actually a little disappointed that we weren't going 100 and figured we would be done in about 6 hours or so.
This has been a tough week for us and I was a bit concerned how we would hold up on such a long, steep ride. But it had to be done. After this, we only have one more LONG bike ride before Ironman. It helped to know that.
We got going and after about 3 miles, we started an uphill. The roads were winding and steep. This first uphill was about 5 miles long and it was REALLY uphill. I kept thinking how great it would be to come back down this hill right at the end. My legs were tired from the week, but I figured there was nothing else to do but pedal. So that is what I did.
Doug got some good pictures of our team coming up that first hill...
We kept on going and the route was uphill for a few miles, then downhill. The uphills were REALLY uphill, the downhills were gentle. We were about 20 miles into the ride and we hit a long downhill, I kept track and it was about 5 miles. I felt a little sick to my stomach because I realized we would hit this stretch as an uphill around mile 60.
We made a turn off onto the road to St Helens. This too was a roller coaster. Up and down. The last ride we did was mostly uphill on the way there and then mostly downhill on the way back. This ride seemed to be both up and down hill on the way there - which meant that is how it would be on the way back.
I tried not to think about what was ahead for us. Instead I focused on the scenery, on how lucky we were to be able to do this, on how far we have come. It was a beautiful, sunny day.
When I was 14, my family took a vacation out west. We started in San Francisco and headed up to Vancouver, Canada. We stopped at Mt. St. Helens. That was 1986. Last time we rode to St Helens, I kept thinking "wow, this sure has changed since I was here last". I realized during this ride that we must have taken the south side back then, because it looked EXACTLY like I remembered. It was all lush and green, until we rounded a corner and then it was all burned earth and dead trees. Amazing how it didn't seem to have changed in 24 years.
I spent most of this part of the route thinking about my parents, remembering that trip. I thought about what my dad would have said if there had been bikers on the road that day. "Stupid". There was really no shoulder and it was quite a drop off. We were courteous to the drivers and I felt safe the whole time.
We got to the top and stopped to enjoy the view. Amazing. The view point is called Windy Ridge. There is a reason for that...it was windy and it was all Ridge. We started back down and saw about 5 other cyclists on their way up. This was my favorite part of the ride. I realized we were not the only crazy people doing this. I was SO happy to see them!
Well, now the fun was over and I knew that we had quite a bit of work left. At mile 60, we made a turn back onto the main road and up we went. This 5 mile stretch was seriously the hardest thing I can remember doing. I actually thought to myself, for the first time in a while, "what the hell are we doing". Then I thought about Ironman. And how this was going to make that so much easier to bear. So I just kept pedaling.
We finally got to the top and I was so happy. Except that I knew we still had at least one more climb. This is Doug coming up the hill. See behind him, how steep it is? It was like that for 5 miles....
Now it was just a matter of time and we would be done. I was tired and I was feeling ready to be done! I kept pedaling, kept sticking to my nutrition plan. I kept thinking about what I wanted for dinner!
We finally got to the point where the last downhill started. Wow, what a ride! We flew down those last few miles and finally reached the stopping point. I was so glad to be done and I felt SO good that I did it.
These three guys, Trevor, Doug and Ron, are the best riding partners ever. I think we all know we are crazy, but we all just keep going anyway. No one stops to rest on the way up, we just keep pedaling and pedaling. Being there together makes it just a bit easier. I especially like when they let me know that it is hard for them too!!
This was a great day. One more step on the road to Ironman. We have 10 more days of hard training and then the taper begins. The work is just about done. Hard to believe.