Saturday, July 12, 2003 STP Ride Report
We had been planning to do the one-day STP faster ever since last year’s ride. We decided to get a larger group of tandems, practice more, get fitter, and be stronger. We were successful in all of those except the practicing more as a team. The day of the ride dawned and we still hadn’t even met everyone we’d be riding with. Oh well. The best laid plans…..
Our team (sans Monte and Christian, who were starting at the UW) met at our house at 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 12. We were: Dave and Kelly (who had trained with us the previous year), Vincent and Bonnie (whom we hadn’t all met until then), Don and James on their recumbent tandem, Sheila and I, and our stellar tailgunner, Jay. I had decorated our bike with white Christmas lights to add some fun for the gloomy morning hours. It was so warm that we doffed our jackets and leg warmers. We were going to go light and fast! We set off at 4:30.
It was light by the time we got to the hill out of Seward Park and there we connected with Monte and Christian. Now our family was complete and we headed for the first rest area at REI. Along the way we picked up Steve and Erica on their tandem. They liked our pace and we liked their style so we decided to let them move in. That’s them doing a new stretch we taught them.
We were also experimenting with how to work the line with the recumbent. It is hard to get as much draft from one of those as a regular bike. We decided to keep rotating them through the line until Spanaway to see how it was working.
The first several hours were great. We flew down to Puyallup, holding 23 mph some of the time. We envisioned smashing our record. The pace was too steep for Bonnie and Vincent and they dropped off at the Puyallup hill.
We kept up a good clip, 21-22mph, until the Spanaway rest area. We were still feeling strong at that point. But the air was muggy, a token of things to come. The biggest change was just a mile or two away.
We headed south from Spanaway and into strong headwinds. Our pace dropped and dropped and dropped. We struggled to hold our line at 16 mph some of the time. The singles must have really been suffering. We decided then that we couldn’t get enough of a break from Don and James, so they became a second tailgunner. The other four teams continued the rotation.
Finally we got to Centralia. We ended up taking a looong break there. Monte likes to eat well at the halfway point. Some of us were chomping at the bit. By the time we left, I was stiffening up some. Then the trouble started for Sheila.
Her right knee started to twinge, then tweak, then just give her plain pain. She couldn’t apply any power with her right leg. On the hills, she could barely turn the pedals. And we were getting to the second bunch of hills on the course. It hurt her just to coast. When we crested the Napavine hill (mile 114), we took a much needed break. The heat and humidity were taking their toll. Sheila iced her knee. Dave and Kelly had a flat which we repaired. The line kind of broke up as we limped to Vader (mile 128).
Another round of icing for Sheila. She was game to go from rest stop to rest stop. The next ten miles were very hilly so everybody went their own speed. Surprisingly, Sheila was starting to feel better as the pain relievers kicked in. We were feeling like we could make the entire trip. The line reformed and rode to Lexington (mile 145).
All day we’d been waiting for the turn onto Highway 30 at Longview. The prevailing afternoon winds there are always at your back. We thought we’d make up a lot of time, or at least have an easier go of it. No such luck.
The winds continued in our face all the way to Portland. We held our group together, though and got each other through it. Steve and Erica were a great addition to the team, though they dropped off briefly just shy of Portland. I don’t know why or even how they caught us again, but the entire group crossed the Steel Bridge together.
Crossing into Halladay Park at the Lloyd Center was a terrific feeling. We had really done something! Yes, it was 8:30. Yes, we were quite a bit slower than the year before. But we had conquered a very difficult “horizontal hill” that was 150 miles long.
We didn’t celebrate long. Jay, Sheila, and I grabbed some sample Boca Burgers from the Whole Foods booth. As we were leaving the park we heard from some folks that our friends Steve and Denise were in St. Helens still. They planned on getting in by 11. We went to my sister Cindy’s house to shower and change clothes. Then Jay’s wife Sara drove us all back home. We arrived in Seattle at 1 a.m.
Then we had to do a quick laundry, catch 3-4 hours’ sleep, and head north for Tour BC. We barely had time to savor our victory. We got to relive it several times that day though, as we became known throughout the Tour BC group as the couple that did STP in one day.
STP in one long, grueling day. It didn’t turn out the way we expected it to, but we enjoyed it just the same. We feel like we really earned those green and yellow jerseys!