Why would I want to ride RAMROD? (Ride Around Mt Rainer in One Day) Well... I have asked myself this numerous times. it all starts back to my earlier days of riding and I would hear about RAMROD and envisioned that ride was only for "the big boys" and very strong riders. I had ridden other local organized longer rides such as Seattle to Portland (STP), Ride Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP) and Courage Classic fund raiser (3 mountain passes over 3 days) but didn't think RAMROD would be something I could ever do. I had no idea what it was like, I just imagined it was super hard, continuous climbing, and way out of my league. And just filed that away in my mind as "something I would never be able to do"
Fast forward many years later, perhaps some wiser years later, as I returned to cycling after having my son, I saw others training for RAMROD, and others telling me they had ridden it. Other women just like me! This intrigued me...Hmmmm..if they can ride it, maybe I can too. So I moved it to the "maybe someday" category.
Last year, several of my triathlete friends trained for RAMROD and my schedule would not allow it due to my training for mountain bike racing and triathlons, but I watched them train, and succeed in riding it! I was so excited for them and I decided to go for it this year! I volunteered to help with RAMROD last year so I could bypass the lottery process for 2016. My friend, Holly, got in through the lottery process for her 2nd year of riding it, and now we get to train and ride it together! How cool is that?!
So now the work begins...lots of "time in the saddle" and hills to be ridden. We resumed our weekly hill rides from last year, and we both wanted to start riding the RAMROD Training Series (RTS) through the Redmond Cycling Club. We hoped to join those rides as much as possible and riding lots of hills to get ready. I am so grateful for the routes that Per Sunde, from the Redmond Cycling club, put together every week.
Early on, we ventured out on one of the RTS courses with another friend, Janis, armed with 3 navigation tools; a GPS app, a Garmin, and a cue sheet. We followed the 80 mile course that they had ridden the previous weekend, with only a few minor errors in direction. Yay for us!
At the next attempt at joining an RTS ride on a Saturday morning with heavy rain, something in my gut told me not to ride that day for safety reasons, and I chose to listen...and Holly supported my inner gut feeling...so what does that mean???
5 hours on the trainer for both of us!!! Uuughhh...that was excruciating...Please oh please weather Gods...allow us to ride future RTS rides out on the road...I never want to do that again!
Finally, my first century of the year on Memorial Day...cool weather in the morning and 70s by the end of the day for the
7 Hills of Kirkland century ride. I was a bit nervous about riding 100 miles, since it had been so long since I had ridden that many miles, with 14 hills included. But all went well, one hill at a time, one rest stop at a time, and the 3 of us riding together actually had fun! Riding this distance that day instilled the confidence in me that I can actually do the RAMROD ride...the only variable will be the heat in July...that could be a challenge for me.
July rolls around...and it has been a temperate month so far as the weather goes. 3 more century rides now completed, and one very hard "EDGE" ride - of which had to be reduced to 50 miles, due to some lingering chest and rib discomfort from my triathlon mountain bike crash the week before, and Holly's knee was bothering her. Thankfully the doctor in Canada, my acupuncturist, and rest, has put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Finally...one week to go...the weather is slowly warming up in the coming week of the "Big Day." I am actually getting excited about the ride, rather than nervous about the elevation and heat...I watched a video about the creation of the ride and this got me very fired up for all the beautiful scenery out there. Here is the link to the historical video of the ride: https://vimeo.com/134535786
RIDE DAY IS HERE! We arrive at the start location at 4am to make sure to get onsite parking - as parking was extremely limited. We got a spot, grabbed a light snack, geared up, and were ready to roll by 4:50 am with lights on our bikes and started in the dark.
The first 60 miles are uneventful, we see the sunrise, the course is well marked, our bodies feel good, and the first 2 rest stops have yummy food and services. Many riders are complimenting Holly on her jersey and we see this rider "wearing" a butterfly on her back and I asked to take her photo, as Holly and I both love butterflies.
Then the "adventure" begins to unfold. We climb to Inspiration Point, our first "big" climb inside Mount Rainer National Park, and luckily this first climb was early in the day and mostly in the shade. Holly then had a mechanical issue with her brake lever, that needed to be fixed by a mechanic. We made it up to to the next rest stop (78 Miles) and the mobile bike mechanic, Andy with Velofix, graciously fixed it . www.vewww.velofix.com/locations/seattle/lofix,com There was some confusion as to where we would hook up with the mechanic so this caused quite a delay and waiting for us at that rest stop.
Then we were off again. A fun and beautiful descent then took us to the 4th rest stop and one of the volunteers gave us some ice from his own personal ice chest for our "tube socks" that we wore under our jerseys. They weren't supplying any ice just yet, but it was getting warmer. All the volunteers were so helpful and kind!
Another fun and curvy descent, and then we were climbing again to Box Canyon Summit. We then were greeted by the most amazing cooler filled with ice that I had ever seen! We loaded up on ice and began the next big climb to Cayuse Pass.
This was slow going, reflected heat from the ground was reaching 97 degrees and it was a slog to get halfway up to the rest stop for more ice and water. We finally made it up the 4 miles to the rest stop and I was getting overheated. There was no shade at the rest stop and I found the only shady seat inside the van door opening and started to try to cool down. Then I heard the question from one of the volunteers "would anyone like a ride to the top?" I didn't realize that was even an option...and without hesitation, I jumped at the chance. Holly was agreeable and "Vince" loaded our bikes and drove us the final hot and steep 4 miles to the top of Cayuse Pass. We slowed to check on several riders along the way. There were many getting shuttled to the top that day.
At the top of Cayuse Pass, we then prepared for the fun descent down to the famous "Deli stop" where they have real food and soft drinks for everyone. (116 miles). We still had about 38 miles to ride.
After getting some food, we were ready for the final leg of our journey, and get to the finish. The last section is slightly downhill, however with a headwind, and we were moving along well. We saw an elk and deer, and about 15 miles from the finish, Holly got a flat tire. We pulled over to take care of it, and at that moment, an "unofficial" volunteer "Doug" asked if we needed help and we welcomed the help to change her tire, as we were pretty tired by then (135 miles). He changed the tire for us and we started to push the pace towards the finish since it was getting late with all the delays.
On our way home, we saw an ambulance and fire truck rushing somewhere. As we turned onto Mountain Mud road (the last turnoff to the finish), we came upon an accident involving 2 other RAMROD riders, one of whom was Holly's friend. A motorcycle rider had been doing a wheelie and lost control and his motorcycle slid out and took down 2 cyclists. The motorcycle rider was badly scraped up and injured and Holly's friend hurt her hand and her bike was ruined. We stopped to visit briefly and wish them well.
The final country roads seemed endless as we made our way back to the start, and we were greeted by volunteers and got an ice cream bar. 150 miles, 9000 feet of elevation, and 11.5 hours ride time -it was quite the adventure!!