We just got back from the RSVP. It was really a great time. A ton of riding and a huge challenge (at least for me) but it was really great to have been part of it.
Oh, you want details? Well, ok. :)
We started off at around 7 am on Friday morning. The first 13 miles or so were a piece of cake along the Burke Gilman trail. This is part of the trail we did a lot of training on so it was simple, flat and familiar. Once we made a turn in Woodinville, we hit our first big hill and while it took a bit of time, I made it up with no real problem. Just one quick stop to catch my breath. Then we rode on to Snohomish.
One thing that I had noticed was that my bike made an annoying squeaking sound when I was pedaling. This was mainly annoying because it meant that some of my energy was being converted to sound instead of speed, so I was wasting effort, but it had done this before and I had just had a tune up a week before the ride, so I figured it wasn't a big deal. This will prove to be wrong much later on...
After Snohomish, we hit hte Centennial Trail bike path which was a nice path with only one annoyance - at each intersection there are large metal posts that cross the path to keep cars, motorcycles, etc from getting on, but they mean you need to stop on the bike and carefully maneuver between them. Sometimes you could go off the trail around them, but with 1400 other bikers in the same general area, they tended to get a bit backed up. Otherwise, it was a nice section of the ride.
Then we started up a gradual, but very long climb past Lake Stevens, ultimately reaching the highest point on the ride. It was interesting because there was no really steep part here, just lots and lots of climbing. It was also getting warmer so this started to really take a bunch out of me. We had a nice downhill section that followed (what goes up must come down, thank goodness) and we rolled through Arlington to meet up with our support folks at around Bryant.
Here... I bonked. I ran out of energy and found myself sitting on a low wall just staring at the ground. I couldn't really eat anything and Gatorade was just gross. The rest of the crew was ready to go on, so I took a little break and Leslie and Zach drove me to the next stop about 17 miles ahead in Mount Vernon. By the time I got there I was starting to feel better. I had one of the techs look at my bike to see if he could figure out the squeaking but it would have taken too much time to really dig in to find it. Clue #2 that there was something amiss...
After that break, though, I was ready to go again so we set out from Mount Vernon and headed into the valley. No real hills here, but we hit a big headwind, so while the ride was flat, it was a ton of work to press through the wind. Most of the crew was up ahead of me so I did this part alone but after the rest I was still feeling pretty good and we made it up to the next rendezvous spot with our fabulous support crew in Bow at the Rhododendron Cafe.
The next section was the last section of the first day - the ride up Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham. I had been dreading this through training because it was so hilly and late in the day, but it ended up being a real treat. Tony, Jason and I stuck together for this part and while it was a bunch of rolling hills, the scenery was gorgeous. Sammish Bay off to the left, lots of trees along the road and it had cooled down from earlier in the ride (and no wind!) so we just cranked up each hill and took as much as we could from the downhill segments. This turned out to be my favorite part of the whole ride. There were about seven hill segments to it, and then we entered Bellingham and had a surprisingly long ride through the streets before we got to our meeting point for the end of day one, but once there, it was great to be through with it.
We all met for a nice dinner in Bellingham and then headed back to our hotels for some sleep.
We started out from Bellingham at about 7:30. The first few miles of the second day are challenging only because my butt was so sore from the day before but that went away pretty quickly. I must not have had the best breakfast, though, because on the second hill out of Bellingham, I fell a bit behind the group and was on my own for the next 14 miles or so. Not all alone, of course, I would pass the occasional other bikers and be passed by the zippy group must have started a bit later than us. The destination for the first segment was Lynden, where Jason had pre-ordered an amazing banana cream pie which he called the "best in the world."
I rolled in to Lynden and we got in line for pie. I'm not much for banana cream pie, perhaps because, as Leslie points out, those are the ones you are supposed to throw in people's faces. Their chocolate caramel pie, though, was delightful and after a good amount of pie eating and bathroom breaking, we headed out for the Canadian border. The rest of our group actually left about 10 minutes before we did and that was the last we would see of them until Vancouver, but Tony, Jason and I headed up to the border and crossed at the same time as our support crew were driving through.
We were driving along 0 Ave right on the border when we had our only real accident of the trip. Tony's front tire hit my rear tire and he dumped along the road. Fortunately, he landed about as best you could when rolling at 17 miles per hour and there wasn't anyone behind him to roll over him, so we picked up the spilled bike bits and after briefly admiring his skinned knees, we continued on.
The next big challenge was "The Wall." A very steep section which I ended up having to walk up but once we were over that, it a windy stretch and then downhill into Fort Langley. We picked up more refreshments from Leslie and Zach who were waiting for us at the ferry crossing, crossed the Fraser river with them and a bunch of other bikers and then rode to a quick pit at the only real food stop of the second day.
By this point, it was quite hot. Somewhere around 90 degrees and no real cloud cover. Most of the roads from here on in are city streets and highways so the heat was a pretty big factor. We drank a lot of water. Crossing the Pitt River, I hit my gear to go into the high gear for some more flat roads and my chain fell off. Ugh. I stopped and put it back on, started going again but it was making a grinding noise now and just a couple blocks more it fell off again. Looking down, something was really wrong now. Basically, the derailleur, instead of going from gear 1 to 2 to 3 was going from 2 to 3 to dump the chain. Climbing was going to be much harder now and even in the regular gears, there was lots of grinding as I pedaled. We were still eight miles from the next pit stop and any hope of a bike tech being able to look at it so we pressed on through the streets of Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Port Moody.
As I was going up the last hill to the Port Moody mini-stop, I took another look down at my right pedal and noticed that there was about a 1/4" gap on the crank. Well there's yer problem right there. The whole crank had started to come apart and the gears were not where they were supposed to be. Hence the gear shifting issue and grinding. We made it to the mini-stop where the whole support crew was waiting for us having just seen off the rest of our group for the last leg of the ride into Vancouver. I found the bike tech at the stop and he took a quick look at it. Basically, the crank assembly was broken and needed to be taken apart and re-assembled. Any further riding would just make it worse.
I was done. Hardware failure.
Tony and Jason continued on to Vancouver. Leslie, Zach and I headed to our hotel in Vancouver.
My total distance for the ride was 150 miles. Even with the missing finish, it was still one heck of an accomplishment, particularly given how the whole idea started.
Now I need to head to the bike repair store for a bit of a repair and start thinking about training for next summer's STP.
You rocked it, dude. Considering where you were last year, and all the things that have happened in the past year, I'd call this one a total success!
You rocked! It was a fun ride. Congrats!
Indeed, Chris you rocked... hot, windy, hilly and mechanical failure to boot - Congrats!
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