23 July 2011

Seattle Super Gran Fondo

My first ever Gran Fondo!

I had put the Seattle Gran Fondo on my calendar long ago but you never really know if you will be able to do it when the date draws near. Things can happen like it can rain or you can be too tired or some family obligation comes up so it was pretty damn exciting when all things aligned and the forecast was fantastic.

Besides, any event with the word 'super' in it has got to be cool.

From what I have heard the established fondos are pretty damn fast! Riders take off from the gun and it's basically a race for 100 miles with the pack breaking up into groups. I was not so confident about my ability to race 100 miles much less 100 miles that finishes with an 18 mile climb!

To my relief the ride started out at a very sane pace but as we pulled out of the first aid station it was Tony B, myself, two young kids (Ian T and Alan S) from Hagens Berman and a couple of others, On the very first hill our pace shed the two others and so suddenly it was just four racers.

So much for taking it easy. :)

Our ride actually started at Tony's house. I drove there to park and we rolled down to the ferry terminal which was about five miles. Here we hung out for about 20-30 minutes eating doughnuts and enjoying the early morning sun.

There was a HUGE variety of bikes and people at the ferry dock. Mine is pretty average as far as racing bikes go.

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Of course there were over-the-top carbon everything bikes but at the other end of the spectrum was stuff like this.

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Ouch!

Once we got underway Tony and I were able to easily draft and generally conserve tons of energy.

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So much so that I felt very comfortable shooting a quick video as we rode into Port Gamble.

We pulled into the first aid station/food stop and I sorta thought we would pull out pronto but the ride leader/organizer got on the PA and said we had 15 minutes! Suddenly people started sitting down on the grass so Tony and I did likewise but we kept our eyes peeled for folks that might be leaving. When the two Hagens riders rolled back out we got on our bikes and followed them to the intersection.

Where no one knew where to go.

The sign said turn left but that was the way we had just come from. Thank goodness someone had a map which confirmed that left was the right direction so I said let's just go and Tony and I started down the road. We were joined by the Hagens riders and a handful of others.

Shortly we came to an intersection that said the 100 mile route goes right so I turned right. What I didn't see was that there was another sign that said the HC (Hurricane Ridge) route goes left. Oops. Tony yelled at me and I turned around. I had gone from first to last in our little group so I accelerated to catch up, went past our group and right to the front. I then carried on up the hill and by the top when I pulled off there were only three people on my wheel Oops again.

So now it was down to just the four of us.

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And really, it was not a bad thing. We didn't race but we didn't go slow either. Just nice and steady. For sure Alan and I did most of the pulling but I didn't care. When Alan flatted just west of Sequim we all stopped and helped him fix it.

A few miles after this we got on a bike path (the Olympic Discovery Trail) which was rally fun to ride. It wound around, crossed streets and went up and over this amazing wood bridge that I WISH I had filmed. It was just like some - albeit very tame - elevated North Shore mountain biking path. I did try to get some footage.

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After a few miles of trail we found the last aid station where they had Cokes on ice and salty crackers! Nice. As we were slowly getting ready to continue a pack of about 15 riders blew by us on the highway. We had actually missed the turn-off for the trail and only found it because we were meticulous about following the directions. Once we hit the highway we knew we had made a wrong turn and backtracked about .5 miles to find the trail. These people had not bothered. :)

Amid shouts of, "Time to roll!" we all quickly finished stuffing our faces, drinking our Cokes and hopped on our bikes. We had been in the lead so long I guess some of the competitive juices had stopped flowing. This was a timed event after all!

After we left the last aid station I was probably a tiny bit amped up. From here we rode across some gravel sections, around several blind corners and one of them was my undoing. I was in front and suddenly the trail turned left up this short, steep hill. Pretty much everyone (including me) realized I was going too fast but since I was in front I had the least time to react and instead of simply keeping it upright and perhaps bouncing off of the chain-link fence next to the trail I tried to make the corner and pushed out the front wheel. Ouch.

I was not going that fast but slid a bit and of course tore up my hands because I hate to wear gloves. Crap. As I stood up to inspect myself and my bike we were both mostly okay but my palms were bleeding all over the place! I straightened out my left STI lever, hopped back on and we began to ride. Oh man were my handlebars a mess… I had blood all over my hands, the bar tape, my levers, my stem, my cyclometer, you name it. Pretty gruesome looking. But it didn't hurt too bad so I said I was okay and we kept on going.

And then of course we started the climb.

I was not sure if these guys were going to leave me behind immediately or what but I figured I would hang on as long as I could. Tony was having difficulty pretty early on but then we got to the start of the timed section and regrouped because they were letting riders go at two minute intervals. Who should we see here but the organizer of the ride! Turns out Mr. Hunter Ziesing is quite competitive and takes no small amount of pride in beating riders younger than himself.

Hunter was lying down for effect but of course jumped up and insisted on started the timed section of the climb with us so off we went.

Tony was gone right away; darn. And suddenly Ian was on the front. :) I led for a bit trying to keep the pace sane (for me anyway) but it didn't last. Ian passed me again and after about four or five miles I was really hating life. There was a brief respite when Ian's wind vest fell out of his pocket and I stopped to pick it up but my heart was beating incredibly fast and it was those shallow beats that don't feel really good… After not very much of this I had to say goodbye. In hindsight it was probably a good thing because as soon as I peeled off my back felt like crap and I had to stop, get off my bike and stretch for a bit.

From here I just rode my own pace which felt like it was a LOT slower than we had been going. Oh well. I got off the bike twice more to stretch and also stopped once at a water station manned by two EMTs. I finally got to rinse my hands and sponge some of the blood off of my bike. They were really nice and offered me a towel. When I handed it back the thing was half red. :( An EMT took one look and pulled on gloves to take it back.

After a while Elvis and a gorilla informed me I had two miles to go. That was nice to hear.

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Then maybe half a mile later I saw a deer in the ditch by the road! It was absolutely not afraid so I snapped a picture.

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Finally another gorilla told me I was just one mile from the top.

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I had recovered enough that I had the presence of mind to get my camera out for the finish. As I rolled across the line the timer asked me what my number was (since I hate frame numbers and helmet numbers and my jersey number was on the opposite side of the road) and I replied, "I have no idea…" I'm an idiot.

Whew…! As I pulled up Ian (who I had noticed earlier likes to blend the tan lines as much or more than I do) had already stripped down and everyone was relaxing.

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Luckily Tony was not too far behind and so eventually, after eating and drinking we got some obligatory summit shots like this.

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Note the AMAZING view. It really was a banner day… not too hot, no clouds and you could see as far as your eyes would let you.

After recovering a bit I started to look around at some of the other bikes that finished and spotted this beauty here:

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Yep, that's an 808 in the front and a 1080 in the rear. Perfect hill climbing gear dontchaknow. But you gotta love cycling enthusiasts and the founder of Mad Fiber was here riding his wheels so we ran the full gamut.

They announced the first bus back to the start so Tony and I went for it. As nice as it was up here I was already looking at a 10 PM arrival back home so we got out of there as fast as possible. The drive down was agonizingly slow compared to riding… but they did serve us beer.

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By the time we got back to the start I was starving again and of course they were taking down all the food tents and our ferry left in 10 minutes. I tried shoveling some fantastic pesto pasta and mixed green salad in my mouth and then jumped on the bike to catch the ferry. For a few seconds there I was seriously worried I was going to choke to death from all the food I had tried to cram down my throat but after some very gross sounding coughing and pseudo-retching I managed to regain control of things and survived. Plus we pretty much rolled right onto the boat. Nice.

As this ride grows and turns into a faster event with more people I predict that trail which caused me problems will also be the undoing of many others… The gravel section where I went down was about the third bit where one of us almost bit it. There was an incredibly tight and steep downhill switchback that would have surprised many riders and some ugly metal posts that we almost ran into. Good times. Still, this is a fun route when the weather is nice and hopefully I'll be back.

Thanks to Tony, Ian and Alan for the company!

Here are all the pictures.

Sleep 6
Waking HR  
Body Weight  
Body Fat  
Breakfast 5:00 AM - cereal
6:45 AM - doughnut, half a bagel
8:30 AM - cookie
Lunch after the ride - tomato bisque soup, cornbread, water, cookie
bus ride home - 2 beers
Dinner 7:00 PM - some pesto pasta and green salad but not enough
Workout Food water, HEED, 4 gels, banana, half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cheddar Goldfish crackers, Ritz crackers, Coke
Injuries - scraped up my palms, left elbow, left hip and left knee
- my back was pretty tight by the end
- one of the times I stopped to stretch my hamstring almost cramped but it went away
Therapy  
Time of Day 8:30 AM
Workout Type endurance
Weather some low clouds/fog in the beginning, dry, relatively calm, upper 70s by the finish
Course Kingston to Hurricane Ridge
Results Hurricane Ridge climb - 4th
Overall - 4th
official results
Equipment Road Bike
39/53, 12-25
Neuvation wheels
Clothing bib shorts, sleeveless undershirt, short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, wind vest, cap

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