Phew! Sarah, Blaine (BFF from CO), and I safely completed the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour on Monday. We all rode on the Harmon Bike Club/Rotary Riders team, which was 61 riders strong and raised over $61,000 for the cause. And we had one of the hottest looking team jerseys!
The ride started in Snoqualmie, WA, where we checked-in, loaded our over-night gear on a UPS truck (what a great event sponsor!), then hit the road en route to lunch at Snoqualmie Pass.
The ride follows the main interstate highway for most of the climb and part of the descent, which can be a little nerve racking. Blaine had two flats on the way up, the second within a stones throw of the first, which cost us enough time that we didn't reach the summit until noon. It was 86°F and rising when we headed down the east side of the mountains.
When we reached the campsite at the Suncadia resort, the Xtracycle was a handy bike for hauling our gear from the UPS truck to our tent spot across the field.
In an attempt to beat the higher forcasted temperatures on Day 2, we left Suncadia at 0610 and skipped the big breakfast in town. The rolling pastures were visually stunning as the sun rose over the mountains.
The Tacoma North Rotary ran the food stop on the way up Blewett Pass. It was a great place to refuel and stretch before the final 8 mile climb to the top. This climb seems to be a favorite for many riders, as we saw at least three people turn around before the check-in at the summit and head back down for a second climb. We felt good just making it up the hill once!
The ride down the north side of Blewett was pretty fast, but by the time we reached the water stop at the bottom, the temperature was nearing 100°F. Despite sno-cones and spray bottles of cold water at the rest stop, the last 13 miles into Leavenworth were brutal in the heat. I heard reports that temps hit 109°F on the outskirts of town. Once we finally made it to camp and had the tent up, we biked down to the Icicle River for a much needed soak in the chilly water.
The heat of Day 2 was so overwhelming that everyone collectively voted to move the Day 3 breakfast from 0630 to 0530 so that we could all get an even earlier start. I have to commend the Leavenworth Lions Club for so graciously accommodating this request.
In fact, this would be a good time to point out that the Courage Classic is such a fun and unique ride because of the amazing volunteer support from the Pierce County Rotarians, mechanics from Old Town Bicycle, medics from Rural Metro, support car drivers, and many others. It takes an enormous collective effort to make an event like this run so smoothly, and I'd like to offer my thanks to everyone who volunteered for not only helping, but for doing it with a smile on their face day in and day out.
Nearly our entire team was present for our team photo at 0545 and ready to hit the road soon thereafter. We reached the first rest stop in Plain with the sun barely above the horizon.
We followed the old Chumstick Highway up to Highway 2, where we had a chance to relax with a root beer float before the real climbing began. Our trio was one of the slowest groups each day, but we had finally learned how to work as a team by Day 3. With me out front pacing, Sarah and Blaine fell in line and we picked up other riders the whole way up. By the time we reached the last critical water stop, our pace line was seven riders long and we were working together like a well oiled machine. It was critical for morale and helped push some of us to a new level of cycling. Blaine and Sarah had never ridden in a big group like that before, and neither had ever climbed a road that steep for that long a distance. The strength of such a team effort is truly inspiring.
The last four miles of the climb are pretty steep. I ended up getting a flat about half-way through it, then rode the last bit in the heat of the day in the lowest gear of the Xtracycle. It may have been the most grueling section of road riding I've ever done. The reward for pedaling this beastly machine up the mountains is that you get to ride it down. I slide off of the saddle and sit on the Snapdeck for the descents and Stevens is the fastest of them all. Even with a stiff headwind this year, I'm sure I hit 50mph. Fat tires and disc brakes are the way to go on a free-fall like that!
Sharing this experience with such close friends was unbelievably rewarding. I was so proud of Sarah and Blaine for stepping forward to help raise money, training as much as they could in a short time, then putting their heads down and gritting out the pedal strokes when the road was steep and the heat was on. We're already making plans for next years ride.
Thanks to everyone who offered their support and helped get us over the mountains. Many of you have chipped in financially to the fund-raising effort, but it's not too late to contribute if you didn't. Extra thanks go to my sister for watching the kids and to my dad for loaning his bike and his truck - we could not have done this without you guys!!