Cascade 1000 ride Report
The Cascade 1000 is run concurrently with the Cascade 1200. It’s a counterclockwise loop around Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker and the central Washington Cascade mountains. Beautiful, but challenging. Because it’s a loop if you ride the 1000k you then ride the last 200k to get back to the start. Or at least that’s the plan, but more on that later.
The Seattle International Randonneurs (“SIR”) are one heck of a club. Lots of strong riders. Lots of friendly folks. And lots of generous volunteers. This is one of the best thought out and well run brevets you could ever ride. Thanks again SIR!
Its also one of the tougher brevets you could ride. If you took out the good chance of precipitation west of the Cascades and even better chance of strong winds east of the Cascades, and took out several of the mountain passes, then it would be on par with other grand randonnees I’ve done like PBP, Rocky Mountain or Gold Rush. As it was, it kicked my butt!
SIR member and rider Steve D graciously picked me up at SeaTac Friday and drove me and one more rider to the start in Monroe, saving us hundreds of dollars in transportation costs. Thanks again Steve. While chatting with other riders I assembled my bike and prayed the rain would let up by morning. It was fun catching up with fellow randonneurs from previous rides. Saturday my routine started: Up at 4:30, breakfast, packed and on the bike at 6am. Finish eleven something at night. Well, except for the last day, but we’ll get to that.
The rain had indeed let up. The roads were wet and it was very damp but not really raining. For the first 65 miles anyway. Then a good steady rain set in for the next 40 miles. As we sat in a nice little bakery / café in Eatonville Mike announces to ½ dozen of us that he’d really like a little donut hole of blue sky and warm sunshine at the next control in Packwood. Of course we all derided him as delusional. Imagine our amazement as we rode this pretty little forest service road over the southwestern flanks of Mt. Rainier and could see off in the distance this gorgeous donut hole of blue sky. Right over Packwood! Thanks Mike. It wasn’t exactly warm out, probably 60 something, but the solar heat energy sure felt wonderful. Well, by now we’ve done 150 miles of rolling hills, with a few sharp kickers thrown in, and my energy was starting to wane. Just in time to climb 4500’ White Pass. Although it’s not too steep; I think mostly 5% or so, it goes on and on. And on. Finally, about 175 miles done I crest the summit, put on both my wool sweaters, my rain jacket and reflective vest for the descent. I probably had low blood sugar because the next ten miles careening downhill I shivered badly. Definitely a low point. Hot chocolate and cup of noodles at Clear Lake control did wonders, both physically and mentally and I motored on into the overnight control at Naches a little after 11 pm like the proverbial horse smelling the barn. Heavy, aero Andy makes good time downhill. [grin] A hot shower, dinner, and 4 ½ hours sleep did wonders, as 223 miles of hills, mountains, rain and cold had beat me up pretty good.
Sunday started out to be like groundhog day; déjà vu Saturday all over. Up at 4:30 and on the bike at 6. Ride all day (ok, only 209 miles today) and arrive a little after 11 pm for a hot shower, dinner and 4 hours sleep. Haven’t I done this before? Heck no. If the west side of the Cascades features lush pacific northwest rainforest, the east side is desert. Except where mankind has irrigated into vibrant green farms of fruits, wheat and lord only knows what all I was looking at, but it sure looked healthy and really gave me perspective on the debates about Columbia River dams or salmon. Anyway, the morning started with a climb into a strong headwind up Chinook Pass, turning around just before the summit at 3600’. Because this leg was out and back I got to see who were the early risers, or not, and who was riding fast. Or not. The rest of the day was the least scenic, but flatter and quicker. It was actually a very pleasant day of bike riding; not too hot or cold and not too hilly. I did get lost a couple of times and I’m always amazed how utterly clueless some people can be. Like convenience store clerks that don’t know the name of the street in front of their store. Thank goodness Mr. Garmin knows all or I’d probably still be wandering around out there. I did have one mechanical scare; freewheeling along I heard an ugly “tick- tick, tick- tick” coming from my rear hub. It’s a pretty new wheel and shouldn’t have bad bearings yet. Maybe 40 miles of rain rinsed the lube out? Anyway, it was ugly scratchy when I spun the axle. I managed to drip some chain oil into the non-drive side which lessened the scratchiness and quieted it down. It worked fine the rest of the 300+ miles I had to go. I felt much better pulling into the Quincy overnight control than I had the night before. A good hot shower, dinner and bed always feels sooo good at times like this.
Monday I had the routine down pat; up at 4:30 and riding at 6. Only problem was the wind was howling. I’d tag onto a “fast” pace line to bump my speed from 10 all the way up to 12 mph. Oh man is this going to be a long day. And the winds (read “Headwinds”) were nasty for 100 miles and then only somewhat nasty after that. And it was hillier again. And the rain returned. And my Achilles were quite sore. But other than that it was all good. Until about mile 560 where the 1200k riders turned left and I soldiered on by my lonesome. The worst part of this is no-one to help me stay on course. Sure enough I got lost, I’m sure due to a bad cue sheet and not at all my delirious mental and physical state. I squandered an hour going 2 miles this way and back, and then 2 miles that way and back. And again the locals were clueless about the names of streets in their own small town. Somehow I finally managed to get where I needed to be. And headed towards the notorious Loop Loop Pass. Story has it that federal highway funding wasn’t available so they built the road straight up the mountainside. Now, I do OK when the grade stays in the single digits. And double digits are manageable for short stretches. But miles of 10% grades are hard on my (already sore) Achilles. By now it’s about midnight, dark, cold, I’m exhausted, and I’ve got to get down off this 4000’ pass without shivering myself to death. I barely made it. Now only 35 miles to go, thick ground fog hid the frolicking deer (I must have seen ½ dozen at least), and I worried I might hit one until I remembered how pathetically slow I was now going. Between my tired state causing slow reactions and my lack of bike speed, I puttered along for what seemed like forever, arriving at my 1000k finish just before 3am. Success! And more importantly glorious warmth inside the control.
I was worried about my tender Achilles and inquired whether I might bag the next day’s 260k over 2 big mountain passes, and instead help schlep drop bags and catch a lift back to Monroe. Man was THAT the best decision I made the whole ride. Watching the 1200k riders slog up 5,400’ Washington Pass in 36 degree cold rain made me feel for them. Some tough hombres I’ll say. Sitting at the finish in Monroe I could vicariously feel each rider’s joy of success as they finished.
It’s no wonder SIR has so many strong riders, what with the mountains they have to climb, the scenery they have to experience, and the camaraderie they have to get them through. Kudos SIR! I may have to come ride with you again. After I do a little more hill work.