The SIR 300K
April 13, 2002
a ride report by Kent Peterson
In the same way that the Inuit are reputed to have something like fifty different words meaning "snow", the Seattle area weather forecasters have at least several dozen different ways of predicting rain. They decorate their reports with all kinds of linguistic obfuscations like the classic "rain turning to showers with a chance of sunbreaks" and "heavy precipitation in the northern convergence zone" but all the words in the world can't mask the fact that the region's reputation for rain isn't exactly undeserved. And as T.S. Eliot noted, "April is the cruelest month." So, while the forecast of "wind and rain" for Saturday April 13th wasn't exactly unexpected, it did denote a certain lack of creative effort on the part of the meteorological community. Either that or they had collectively decided that there was no point in fostering any false hopes for the day. April 13th would contain wind and rain and there was no point trying to hide the fact.
I woke at 4:00 AM, pulled on my riding clothes, brewed my morning coffee and looked out at the rain. It wasn't raining hard and south wind was blocked by the reassuring bulks of the Cascade foothills. At 4:30 AM, I rode the 28 kilometers from my warm dry home in Issaquah to the ferry dock in downtown Seattle. I rode out from the shelter of the hills and over Mercer Island, but the wind still wasn't too strong and the rain was gentle.
By the time the ferry pulled out at 6:20 AM, a good crowd of randonneurs had shown up for the ride and when the ferry docked in Winslow at 6:50 AM, we joined up with a few more. Bill Dussler gave us the final pre-ride briefing, including a caution about watching the bridge crossings in the wind and at about 7:02 AM we all headed north across Bainbridge Island. Despite the grim forecast, there were nearly 40 people riding this 300K.
The really fast folks took off quickly with Jan typically hammering his way off the front. Other strong riders like Ken Carter, Ken Bonner and Ed Husted were also moving at a good clip as was relative newcomer Stan Reynolds. Since we were heading north, the wind was basically in our favor now and as we crossed the Agate Point bridge onto the Kistap Peninsula the skies cleared. I wound up riding much of this early section with Robb Simmons. I first met Robb a few weeks ago on the SIR 200K and to look at us you wouldn't think that we'd ride together too much: I'm small and Robb is big, I'm riding an Eddy Merckx set up as a classic fixed gear while Robb is on a Bianchi with Spinergies, Robb bombs along on the descents while I dance up the climbs. And while we didn't ride at the same pace for hardly any of the ride, the rolling terrain made it so that we'd keep passing and re-passing each other. Robb was having a bit of wheel trouble, but he'd contacted his wife and she'd be delivering his alternate wheels to the first control at Port Hadlock.
While the wind hadn't been bad on the Agate Point bridge, the Hood Canal Bridge was a mile of floating concrete laid perpendicular to the wind's fury. As I turned west and I saw some of the faster folks working their way across the bridge. The wind had pounded the water to the south of the bridge into an angry white froth and every minute or so a strong gust would smack a few hundred gallons of seawater across the width of the bridge in a randomly collapsing arc of moisture. We each measured our pedal strokes and our efforts, somehow avoiding the worst of it. Well, most of us did. Later I'd find out that my friend Ken Krichman crashed almost as soon as the front wheel of his recumbent hit the water-slicked bridge deck. Bill Dussler and Ken Stagg had stationed themselves at the bridge and Mark Thomas had been right by Ken when he went down, so even though Ken was out of the ride with a dislocated finger and a torn up elbow that would require stitches, he was in good hands. Ken Stagg transported Ken back to Seattle and when I talked to Krichman the next day he seemed to be in good spirits.
Back on the road, those of us who remained were all glad to be past the bridge. At 9:22 AM, I pulled into the Texaco at Port Hadlock. This marked the northernmost point of the ride and now the soon enough we'd be facing the wind. I was surprised to see Jan Heine at the control. While Jan had been characteristically fast, he'd also made one of his typical navigational errors. I was also happy to see Ken Bonner, another fast guy whom I typically only see at the start of rides. This would, of course, turn out to be the last time I'd see Ken today. After drinking down a pint of milk and munching a Clif Bar, I headed south.
From Port Hadlock to Quilcene the route is mostly sheltered from the wind, but the chipseal road is legendary for it's slowness. Today it didn't bother me much and I rode part of this section with Wayne Methner and Pete Liekkio. When we got into Quilcene, we stopped again to refuel. It was here that we got the word about Ken's crash from Mark Thomas and Terry Zmrhal. Both Mark and Terry had ridden the pre-ride last week. Terry was just out for a "fun ride" and would be heading back to the bridge from Quilcene, while Mark Thomas had skipped the northern leg after having a couple of flats and characterized what he was doing now as "just some riding with friends". Fellow fixed gear riders Jon Muellner and Tom Brett also pulled into Quilcene before I headed south for the gentle climb up Walker Pass.
After cresting Walker Pass, we again had to face the strong south wind. I was mostly riding by myself for this section but never to far from Wayne, Mark, Pete, Jon or Tom. Most of us wound up stopping at Eldon, but Jon motored on while the rest of us were munching as did a few other riders.
The wind was draining, dropping my average from it's earlier 27 kph down to 24 kph, but the Eldon break proved to be refreshing. I was feeling pretty good when I pulled into Hoodsport at 1:25 PM. Our sunshine was evaporating and off to the east the skies didn't look good. The turn onto 106 again put the wind at my back and this proved to be another 27 kph section. I rolled past Wayne, Pete, and Mark who where stopped helping Jan. I shouted out a quick query to make sure they were OK and when I got the standard assurance, I rolled on. I'd later find out that Jan had blown out a big section of his tire and lacking a spare, he'd had to wait until somebody else showed up with a tire that would fit.
Tom Brett was right behind me as we pulled into the QFC in Belfair at 3:15PM. I had a lovely latte and a couple of coconut macaroons, one of which I saved for later. It was beginning to rain so I zipped the sleeves back onto my jacket/vest and after making sure my bottles were topped out, I headed back onto the road. On North Shore Road I passed Jon Muellner who was pulling on his rain gear.
I pulled into the control at Kay's Corner at 4:27 PM. This control consisted of Bill Dussler and his parked car, but Jan was there taking advantage of the food, comfort and conversation offered by the control. I paused just long enough to get my card signed and steel my resolve for the hills ahead. Jan was as low as I've ever seen him, repeating how this wasn't a good day, questioning the distance, the weather, the sport and the wisdom of continuing. This was so uncharacteristic of Jan, a man who normally knocks these rides off with an apparently effortless nonchalance. But as he pointed out, this wasn't his day. On the other hand, I was having a good day. I've concluded that one of the main appeals of the sport for me lies in pushing against the limits. A hilly 300K course with wind and rain? Bring it on. How about if I ride it on a fixed gear just to keep things interesting? Jon Muellner pulled in just as I was pulling out. Jan looked like he was still going to spend some time considering his options.
Fortunately this year the 300K takes a right turn to go along the Tahuya River Road instead of staying left on the wicked Belfair-Tahuya Road. Mark Vande Kamp, Jon Muellner and I had been out here a couple of weeks ago on our fixed gears and that left fork was still vividly impressed on our thighs and backs. Mark who'd done the 300K pre-ride last week assured me that the Tahuya River Road, while still hilly, is "about 1/100th as hard as the left fork." As I climbed those now gentle seeming hills along the Tahuya River Road, I realized that he was right.
Another person who'd been right was whoever it was who'd written that "wind and rain" forecast. I'd seen plenty of the wind so far and now the rain part was in full force. It was pouring down. My bike computer decided that we were going 99 kilometers per hour, then that we were going zero kilometers per hour and finally it decided that we were obviously on a submarine and we were cruising at 24 fathoms. OK, maybe I decided that last part after my computer just gave up in disgust. Unlike my computer, I was still feeling fine. I was extremely wet, but I was fine.
I dove down to Dewatto, climbed a whole lot of very wet hills and eventually turned onto the Seabeck-Holly Road. I know the Seabeck-Holly Road very well and it features a large hill with a dog that lives at the base of the hill. Often, the dog is restrained and even when he's not, he's only curious and territorial. Still, I'd often looked at the Old Holly Hill Road as it arcs off to the left and wondered "is that any better?". I know that the old road joins the Seabeck-Holly road at the top of the hill, so it at least has the potential to be a preferred route, in the same way that the Tahuya River Road is better than the Belfair-Tahuya Road. A few weeks ago on our exploratory trip Jon, Mark and I took the old road, the road less traveled by, to see if it made a difference. It did. It's worse. It's a bigger hill and it features two dogs. And it's longer. We actually wound up climbing above the crest of the Seabeck-Holly Road and having to descend to rejoin it. So, armed with that hard-won knowledge, I pushed up the Seabeck-Holly Road in the rain. The dog was restrained and watched me from the deck of his cabin.
And when I say I pushed up the Seabeck-Holly Road, I mean I pushed. I've ridden this whole course on a 42*16 fixed gear without ever walking but as I was creeping up the hill, I remembered that I still had a macaroon in my handlebar bag. And I was really hungry. So I walked and munched and pushed my bike up the steepest part of Holly hill. When I finished the macaroon, I hopped frog-like onto the saddle and rolled up the rest of the hill.
I slogged into Seabeck at 6:45 PM. The latte stand was closed but the store was open and I got my card signed and I microwaved a turkey and cheese sandwich which was delicious. Jan pulled in a few minutes after I did, and was surprised I was taking off again so quickly, but I told him I couldn't bear to stand around and get cold. I put on my reflective sash, turned on my lights and headed out at 6:52 PM. I knew right then that Jan would make it in and figured he'd catch and pass me somewhere before Bainbridge Island.
I again did my walk and eat trick with some soggy Hershey nuggets on the steep early climb on Anderson Hill road and then spun down and up middle section of that monster. Two weeks ago Jon, Mark and I had taken this hill in the reverse direction on the fixers and none of us had walked. In retrospect, none of us can figure out how we did it. Anderson Hill Road is better tackled with ropes and pitons instead of fixed gear bicycles.
After Anderson Hill Road, it was all easy. Sure it was raining, sure it was dark but the wind had died down somewhat and I was past the hills. I rolled onto SR3, into Poulsbo and at 8:50 PM, Ken Stagg was signing my control card in the parking lot at Winslow. Jan pulled in five minutes later. Ken told us that we were the fifth and sixth riders in with Ken Carter, Ed Husted, Stan Reynolds and Ken Bonner finishing in time to catch the previous ferry. Jan and I expressed our sympathies to all those riders still out on the course. We were very glad to be done.
We ate some potato chips and then warmed up in the ferry waiting area until the next ferry which pulled out around 9:20 PM. I had a cheeseburger and a latte on the ferry. A bit before 10:00 PM the ferry docked in Seattle and Jan and I went our separate ways. He rode home to Ballard and I rode back to Issaquah. On Newport, the rain redoubled it's efforts and when I got home at 11:30 PM, I poured half and inch of water out of my shoes and two inches out of my handlebar bag.
|Zmrhal Jr., Terry||12:00|
|Vande Kamp, Mark||13:03|
|Maxon, E. Max||17:04|
|McSweeney, Anne Marie||DNF|