So, finally the big day has arrived and our weekend of bike riding is about to begin. The previous week was an unintentional taper as we had a number of work/personal commitments that interfered with our planned workouts. It also made our preparations for the ride a little rushed and last-minute and had us leaving the house a little too late the morning of the ride and hurrying for the start line to drop off our bags. I hate running late and the stress of potentially missing the drop off had me in tears. (Not the way you want to start off nearly two hundred miles of bike riding… )
It turned out that the baggage truck deadline was half an hour after the start line “closed”, which hurts my brain with it’s craziness. We took a quick self portrait as they dismantled the start line behind us. (The phrase WTF popped in my head more than once this morning… )
Because we got a late-ish start (keep in mind, it’s 7:10 in the morning… ) we didn’t see a lot of other riders and had no idea how many people were doing the ride at all. We had the trail to ourselves and were generally a little bit annoyed with our ride experience thus far. It felt like we were in the back of the pack and would be lucky to hit the aide stations before they were closed. But, little by little, we started to reel in other riders and realized we were going to be just fine. By the time we got to Snohomish, there was a decent sized group in town. We opted to stop at Snohomish Bakery for some food/caffeine. They snazzed up their sign since last we’d been there:
The next section of the ride was on a multi-use path that we don’t have much occasion to ride, called the Centennial Trail. It goes for a long way and has hardly anybody on it. It’s a little slice of cycling heaven:
We were on the trail for quite a ways and it was really nice to just cruise along, not having to watch out for traffic or other bikes. It was just T and I, chit-chatting along. Very nice and relaxing. Definitely one of the ride highlights. We pulled into Arlington and started a hilly section of the ride. I have to say, doing these organized stage rides has really given me a confidence boost with my climbing. I may not be the speediest climber ever, but I pass a ton of people on these rides. Whether that’s because they don’t climb enough in training or I’ve just improved that much, I can’t say. But it’s really fun to be the one passing folks, I must say.
Three-quarters into the ride, we wound through farmland and rattled our poor bodies on chip seal roads. Our energy ebbed and flowed. When we felt good, we rode hard, when we didn’t feel good we took it easier. (When I say “we”, I mean myself. T always seemed to feel fine… ) We passed more people (mostly on the “feel good” parts, but occasionally on the cruising parts) and were solidly in the middle of the pack.
We approached the section of the ride I’d been most concerned about, the hills around mile 90. Just their placement in the ride was concerning to me. I had not idea how steep they’d be or how my legs would hold out. But as we started climbing, I found myself thinking “Hey, this isn’t that bad!” and in fact, I was feeling pretty great. I passed tons of people and met up with T at a lookout point at the top. (No matter how well I’m climbing, I’m not match for that boy!) It was still overcast, but the blue sky was starting to shine through:
Then we just had a little bit more ground (and a few more hills) to cover. I was ready to be done for the day, so I pushed myself to go a little bit harder. We got a bit lost getting to our hotel. (This would be because for whatever reason, the ride organizers didn’t feel it was necessary to provide route markers to our hotel, despite it being a baggage drop-off point/official hotel on their ride. Assholes!) But after a small tour of downtown Bellingham and a few consultations with our phone maps, we made it there.
The hotel continued the tradition of disappointment/irritation by giving us the first American hotel room I’ve ever been in with no bathtub. After riding 110 miles, I was counting on getting to soak my poor legs in hot water. I’m pretty sure I spent a good portion of the days riding daydreaming about it, in fact. Needless to say, I was not pleased. But the hotel was full so switching rooms was not an option. This, combined with the fact that the very loud smoke detector went off after we took a shower, (and could only be turned off by a member of the hotel staff, who arrived ten minutes later and ripped it out of the ceiling.) makes Best Western Regency Inn in Bellingham my official “Worst Hotel Stay in Recent Memory” award.
After all of that drama, we walked over the the Red Robin across the street (far and away the most enticing of our limited dining options within walking distance… ) You’ll never do bottomless fries justice like you will after a 110 miles of riding:
After consuming an obscene amount of calories, we headed back to the room to veg out on the bed and watch tv. Tomorrow we enter into the big unknown, how will 80-something miles feel after so many miles in my legs today. We shall see…