[This year's Courage Classic was so awesome, it's gonna take three posts to tell you all about it! Part 1 of 3. - Matt]
I had spent Friday night getting all of my gear prepped and packed. UPS handles our overnight bags, so it wasn't a big deal that I was bringing an enormous 3-man tent just for myself. And even though the on-road SAG support is unparalleled and Old Town Bicycle has mechanics stationed at every stop, I was bringing a lot of tools and gear with me on the bike.
Terry and I had decided to forgo the shuttle at the top of Snoqualmie Pass and instead ride around the section of I-90 that was closed to bicycles. This seemed easy enough via the John Wayne Trail, but since we would be deviating from the course and on our own, I was planning for the worst. Two tubes, do-it-all multitool, spare bit of chain, etc. A small handlebar bag and a saddle bag were quite full. I was ready for anything.
Blaine and his family were in town for a wedding, so he volunteered to drive me up to the start line at oh-dark-thirty. We stopped for coffee on the way (breve latte!) but only after I'd had some pre-ride breakfast:
Matt's Most Awesome Oatmeal
-Cook a handfull of unsalted oats in the microwave
with just enough water to cover. 3min maybe.
-Stir in 1tsp natural peanut butter and 1tsp Nutella.
-Add a splash of half-n-half.
I was fed and caffeinated and ready to hit the road. Really ready, in fact, because this was the first year that the Courage Classic hosted a pre-ride packet pick-up. Prior to the event, I visited the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Children's hospital where I not only picked up my ride packet, but also received a personal tour of the facility by one of the staff. It was humbling to see the examination room first-hand. Very humbling. The children who have the strength to tell their story and to confront the abuse they've endured; they are the courage in Courage Classic.
We arrived at Snoqualmie around 7am and I was on the road quickly by 7:15. I figured that I'd be riding pretty slowly on the flat sections, so I wanted to get an early start. It was overcast and a little misty, my favorite riding conditions. I took my time and rode solo at a comfortable pace, maybe 12-14 mph. Remember, I had geared the bike pretty low, 36x18, so I'd be able to do the climbs.
I was heading up the on-ramp to I-90 at 8am, and that first blast of 70mph traffic was a little disorienting after rolling through sleepy North Bend. The clouds hung low on the mountains and the air was damp. I had been passed by a number of riders on road bikes, but as the road steepened I passed many of them as I found myself getting out of the saddle and sprinting a bit to stay on top of the gear. It was the first time I'd let my breathing dictate my speed and it felt great to be riding hard.
I reached the first rest stop around 8:20, just an hour after I'd started.
I've never been out front like this!
I stretched and ate, drank a little coffee. I chatted with a Rotarian volunteer about the compostable cups they were using and the efforts the Courage Classic has taken over last few years to "green up" the ride. The Green Team is onsite at all stops to help sort your trash into compostable, recyclable, and garbage bins. It's something that I'm used to doing at home and I'm excited to see it being done on a big ride. Tacoma's last landfill is scheduled to close next year and all of my household garbage will be trucked to a suburb about 15 miles away. I don't really want to burden that community with my waste (nor pay the economic and environmental price to have it hauled there), but I digress. The volunteers were also very excited about these new racks which replaced their old homemade PVC models.
I packed up my fleece and headed back on course. It wasn't long before I snagged my first bungee. The interstate is littered with them, but most are broken or missing a hook. I've salvaged a few each year. This year I brought home three.
I taped a little mantra onto the stem: Slow, Stretch, H2O, Smile! I figured if I did those four things then I'd probably have a fun weekend.
The clouds continued to lift as I gained elevation. There still were few riders on the road and I hadn't seen any of my teammates yet when I exited I-90 for the main summit climb.
When I reached Denny Creek Campground, I decided to pull over and flip my wheel around to the lower fixed gear. This is when I realized that my 15mm wrench/tire lever tool was not on board, which meant two things: 1) I couldn't flip the wheel to the lower gear, and 2) I couldn't remove the wheel to change a flat. I could still patch a tube with the wheel in-place, but I figured the better plan would be to just not get a flat. I'm easy.
Denny Creek is a steep, switchback road that climbs quickly up the mountainside. As you look up you can see riders zigzagging on levels above.
You can also look back down and see how far up you've climbed. It's a lung-buster, but I always find myself smiling and laughing on this section. The funny bit is that near the top of all these switchbacks is a team of Rotarians blasting Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise through a giant PA system. The song echos down the valley on permanent repeat. Hilarious.
I reached the summit at 10am, just as the clouds began to part.
I had an early lunch of spaghetti and fruit, and waited for my teammates to arrive. I was ready to leave when Terry reached the summit, and since I didn't feel like waiting and didn't have my wrench, we decided to take the shuttle. It took about 1 hour from the time I got in line to load my bike to when I was back on my bike heading out of the Price Creek rest area.
Near the end of the descent to Lake Easton, just after the fast section, I realized that my rear tire was slowly losing air. When it got too low, I pulled over and pumped it back up with my hand-pump, then road away as fast as I could. I was only a few miles from the mechanical tent at this point, so I repeated this strategy of pump and ride about 5 more times before finally walking the last bit. Jason from Old Town Bicycle changed the flat for me, in spite of my efforts to do it myself, and also loaned me a 15mm wrench from his personal toolbox to use on the rest of the ride. I love that guy.
Many of our Tuesday Night Ride crew rolled out from Lake Easton together.
Rick and Chris
Rich and Nathan
As we rolled back onto I-90, the geared riders took off and I was left mostly on my own to enjoy the warm, dry breeze of Eastern Washington. It was blowing hard enough at my back that I was probably coasting along at 17-18mph with out pedaling much. It was glorious. As I finished up the course at the Suncadia finish line, I still felt like riding. A few of us rode a few miles further up the road to Rosalyn, a sleepy town where Northern Exposure was filmed. (I can't believe that we thought this was Alaska.) I stopped at the local hardware store and bought a 15mm wrench.
Rosalyn's main drag
Back at Suncadia, I setup my tent and had a few Red Hook beers from the beer garden before hitting the chow line. It was great to spend the evening hanging out with friends.
My road bike! Loaned to Jaarvis this year.
HBC Bike Pile
At left, Bud, Rotarian and 18yr CC rider
Rick's plate. Mine looked similar.