The SIR 300K

April 10, 2004

A Ride Report by Kent Peterson

April 10th, 2004 turned out to be one of those terrific days for a bike ride and as luck would have it April 10, 2004 happened to be the scheduled day for the SIR 300K. It was 48 degrees at 4:20 AM when I leave my home in Issaquah and the 29 kilometer ride to the Seattle ferry terminal passes quickly. A quarter moon hangs in the clear sky and I startle a few pre-Easter rabbits near the Bellevue Slough. As I approach the ferry terminal, I see the familar sight of cyclists clad in reflective gear, perched on well-lit, well-fendered instruments of elegant mobility. The Seattle International Randonneurs are ready to ride.

We wait for the ferry to dock. My pal Mark Vande Kamp is here just to be social. Pressing domestic duties prevent him from doing the whole ride but he'll ride out to the first control just to just to stretch his legs and log a few kilometers for the day. Since Mark is a member of the Shiftless Bums Fleche Team, he's naturally riding his bike as a fixed gear today. Another shiftless fellow is Will Roberts, who'd cracked the frame of his fixed gear on a ride last week. Mark has provided Will with a loaner frame so he can still ride fixed. As Mark had told me earlier in the week "I had to do something, the poor fellow showed up on my doorstep riding a kickbike scooter!" Will informs me that he'd been inspired by the Finnish fellow who rode PBP on a kickbike and had to get one of his own. Will also tells me that the kick bike has "absolutely no mechanical advantage whatsoever" and that while riding PBP on a fixed gear or any kind of bike might be a challenge, anyone who can ride it on a kickbike is "by Gawd really doing something!"

Today I'm riding my current favorite fixed gear, the Schwinn Madison. At February's bike swap I'd traded some clothes to my buddy Tony for the Madison. Tony had gotten a custom Seven fixed gear bike and had insisted I take the Madison. It turned out to be a good trade for both of us -- I've ridden no other bike sice I got the Madison and it seems that every time I see Tony, he's wearing some bit of my old wardrobe. Today I notice he's wearing a GoLite Zen jacket that looks rather familar.

Adam Stritzel and Wayne Methner are also members of the Shiftless Bums and are riding fixed today and our non-bum friend Ken "Dr. Electron" Krichman is shiftless but not fixed, choosing to ride his decrepit ancient French bike as a single-speed. I'd quizzed Ken about why he favors the old bike over his much shinier, much newer, much more option-filled Mariposa and he'd replied "you know me buddy, I'm not fond of having too many choices!"

On the ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island we all file our registration papers and get our control cards. At Bainbridge we wait until 7:00 AM and Peter Beeson registers a few other riders who have opted to meet up with the ride on this side of the water. After the usual pre-ride briefing, Peter sends us on our way.

It's a quick ride across Bainbridge. At one point, I watch as Wayne, Mark and Adam descend a hill a bit ahead of me. Wayne and Mark are spinning smoothly on the decent, but Adam's hips are rocking wildly. "Crap," I think, "his saddle is too high. I should catch up with him and set him straight."

Thought is one thing, action is another. Even with a less than totally efficient power stroke, Adam is motoring along at a good clip. I'm not quite sure that I can catch him and I'm not willing to go into oxygen debt in the first hour of a 300K ride just to pass along my biometric advice. I kick my pace up a bit but the gap between us doesn't close.

Outside of Poulsbo, I see Dan Turner pulled over. "You OK?" I ask, slowing slightly as I roll by. "I'm fine," he replies, "it's just a flat." I roll on with a mostly clear conscience but I'm still wondering how Adam is doing.

I don't have to wonder for long. In Poulsbo, just past the turn onto Little Valley Road, I see Adam pulled over. "Do you have a 14 mm crank wrench?" he asks. This would be a ridiculous question to ask most people, but I am not most people. In fact, just yesterday at the shop I'd shown Adam one of my recent purchases, a Lifu crank/pedal wrench. Fixed gear bikes often have bolt-on rather than quick release wheels and these wheels usually use 15mm track nuts, so a 15 mm wrench is a handy thing to have. Lifu makes a wrench that on one end is a 15 mm  pedal wrench while the opposite end other features 14 and 15 mm crank sockets. Of course, I'm carrying this handy little wrench in my seat bag.

And it's a good think I'm so prepared because Adam's left crank bolt has come loose. I stop and we use the handy little wrench to tighten down the crankarm. "I was watching you spin on a descent back a ways and I think you're saddle is too high. Did you change things around recently?" "Well," Adam says, "I did just put this Brooks Pro saddle on last night and but I didn't change the seatpost height." "Yeah," I counter, "you're looking too high, though. Brooks sit higher on the rails than a lot of other saddles." Adam begins to lower his saddle a bit and then another thought hits me, "Didn't you just change cranks recently as well?" "Yeah," Adam says, "I went to those Shimano cranks..." "And they're 170s and your old one's were 165s." I say, completing the thought. You shouldv'e dropped your saddle by five milimeters when you swapped the cranks." Adam gives me a boy-do-I-feel-like-a-dope look and sheepishly drops his saddle another few millimeters.

While we've been stopped doing these roadside modifications, quite a few other SIR riders have rolled on past. A few have asked if we're OK and we've returned various positive replies. While Adam finishes his final adjustment, I peel off my wind shirt, munch a granola bar and then take off. Adam asures me he'll catch up and by the time Little Valley Road turns into Big Valley Road, we are riding together again.

At the llama farm I glance to the left and see one of the camels basking in the morning sun. I've been out on this road many times and I've seen the camel enduring weather much worse than this, so I know he's made of hearty stuff. Still, I think, it's nice he can enjoy a warm day every once in a while. As I roll past I have the odd thought that maybe the camel is thinking the same thing about us, "there go those rando bikers again. It's nice they can have a decent day once in a while!"

Just before the turn onto the Hood Canal Bridge Adam and I catch up with Ken Krichman. A few years ago on a very blustery day, Ken crashed on this bridge, so now he's very careful going across it. "You lead, buddy!" he says to me as I pull around him and we roll onto the bridge. We all cross the bridge without incident.

Paradise Bay Road goes up but not unbearably so. We all roll over the hills at our various paces. Ken coasts on the descents. Wayne, Adam and I spin pretty smoothly on the descents and take the climbs at a pace that is somewhere between dancing and grinding. Mark and Will are somewhere out ahead -- I haven't seen either of them since Bainbridge Island. And then there is Pete Liekkio.

Pete is riding his titanium Bacchetta recumbent. He has to gear down to crank this thing up the hills, but he's a pretty fast twiddler. And on the descents the Bacchetta is an absolute rocket. As he blows by me on one of the longer descents I hear him mutter "I hope those cars get out of the way." This is only a slight exageration as I watch him quickly chase down a couple of cars that are only doing about 45 mph on the descent.

As we're coming up toward the Port Hadlock control Adam asks me if having his saddle too high could cause knee pain. I assure him that it certainly could. I realize that this is not exactly a hypothetical question for Adam right now. I try to reassure him that lowering his saddle should help things out, but I think we're both wondering how his knees will hold out for the rest of the day. It's one thing to correct a  problem and relax and recover, it's another to push on through another several hundred hilly kilometers.

I don't linger long at the Port Hadlock control, pausing only long enough to grab a pint of milk, a PayDay bar and to get my control card signed. I'd started the day wearing a nylon windshirt over both long and shortsleeve wool jersies but here I stow the shortsleeve jersey into my always handy Deuter Race-X bag next to the windshirt. I also stow my legwarmers and apply some sun-block before heading off down Center Road. Adam is a little slower through the control, but I figure I'll see him somewhere down the road.

I ride some with Wayne and Pete on Center Road. Center Road is a great example of why road surface matters. Much of it is chipseal and chipseal really does slow you down. My Madison is usually a silent bike but the constant buzz from the chipseal makes my brake cables chatter against the frame and little chips from the road chirp constantly against my coroplast fenders. When I finally roll onto normal asphalt a bit north of Quilcene, the silence is almost eerie.

Quite a few riders are stopped in Quilcene but I decide to press on. I know there is a market in the micro-town of Eldon and my plan is to fuel up there.

There's a decent sized climb south of Quilcene followed by an equally decent descent down to the canal. Now the road mostly follows the water with a mix of climbs and descents. At one point another rider comes along side me and asks me how fast I can go on the descents. He obviously understands one of the limits of a fixed gear: since it only moves when you pedal it, you can only descend as fast as you can pedal. I tell him that my top speed is around 50 kilometers per hour. Just as I'm saying this we happen to hit a descent and I wind up spinning along. When things level out, I hit the button on my computer to check my top speed. Yep, 54.5 kph.

At Eldon I stop at the market and buy a microwaved double cheeseburger, a large Frappicino and a bottle of iced green tea. I eat the burger, drink the Frappicino and pour the tea into my water bottle. While I'm stopped I see various randonneurs roll on by.

I stop briefly in Hoodsport to get my control card signed. I also buy another PayDay bar which I wash down with a bottle of fruit punch. While I'm stopped I switch from my longsleeve to shortsleeve jersey and I apply some more sunblock.

One of the other riders at Hoodsport is Mitchel Schoenfeld. This is Mitchel's first year of randonneuring and he and I had been having various discussions previously about lights. Mitchel uses a handlebar bag that doesn't work well with his handlebar-mounted lights so he'd been trying to figure out a solution. The plan he'd came up with was to stow his handlebar bag in his rear bag once it got dark and then mount the Cateyes. It's 1:30 PM now and we're 148 kilometers into the ride, so Mitchel says to me "hey, maybe we won't even have to use our Cateyes." I look at Mitchel and think "oh man, you've never been through the Tahuya Hills have you?" but I say something less foreboding and quote Han Solo: "Don't get cocky."

Since I'd done the bulk of my eating back at Eldon, I'm quicker out of the Hoodsport control than some of the other folks. I roll south down 101, make the turn onto 106 and roll on toward Belfair.

A few kilometers before the turn up SR3 to Belfair, I see some riders in my rear view mirror. I've been riding solo for quite a while now and they look like they're rolling along at a pretty good clip. In a few minutes they catch up with me. It's Corey Thompson, Mitchel and Ray McFall and they're riding in a loosely configured paceline. As they come alongside me Corey comments that this sure is different than last year's 300K. I have to agree with him. Last year's 300K was wet and cold and I certainly wasn't feeling my best. Today, on the other hand, is a great day to ride.

There is one problem with the Corey-Mitchel-Ray paceline and that is that it isn't running at a fixed gear pace. When you ride a fixed gear, you find that the bike has a certain speed that it wants to go and right now that speed is something faster than the paceline speed. Maybe they've burned too much energy chasing me down or maybe the road has dipped up again but for whatever reason, I quickly realize that I can't sit in behind them. I take a quick glance in my mirror, see that there are no overtaking cars, pull out and punch the pedals. I think that maybe they'll latch on behind and I'll tow for a while but instead the Madison does what Wayne Methner describes as the "jump to hyperspace". When I look back in the mirror the group is a rapidly shrinking cluster of dots.

At Belfair I follow the exact letter of the cue sheet and turn up at the Safeway and then loop back and stop in at the QFC. We always stop at the QFC on this ride and it is wise to maintain traditions. The tradition in this case is a well-founded one. It is very unwise to enter the Tahuya Hills without sufficient supplies and this is the last grocery store between here and Seabeck. I really don't need any food, but I stop to use the bathroom and to fill up my water bottles. Wayne and Pete are here and we leave at the same time. As we are leaving, Ray, Mitchel and Corey pull in.

On the rolling hills of North Shore Road Wayne, Pete and I make an odd group. With Wayne and myself both riding fixed and Pete on the recumbent we are almost perfectly out of sync on the hills. At one point I comment to Pete that if we could only merge our two machines we'd really have something. Of couse exactly what that something would be is a bit hard to imagine. It would either be something human powered that quick at both climbing or descending or it would be slow at both kinds of terrain. But while we can imagine other machines the reality of the day has the three of us on our three distinct machines rolling into the Kay's Corner Control at pretty much the same time 4:25 PM.

Mr. Don is manning this control and he's got bagels, chips, pop, water and other good stuff. Bill Dussler is here dozing in a chair. Bill has adopted an interesting strategy for this brevet -- go out fast and nap enroute. While this is something we've all done on longer brevets, it's odd to see the technique employed on a 300K. But there is something about a sunny afternoon that makes a nap mighty appealing. While we are here Wayne informs me he knows exactly how hot it is. Sounding like the straight man in a Johny Carson skit I ask "exactly how hot is it?" and Wayne tells me it's hot enough to see a lizard basking on the road and he'd seen one back on North Shore Road.

While Bill and certain lizards can bask the day away, some of us remember that we have miles to go before we sleep. I quickly fill my bottles, chomp down a handful of chips and head out. Wayne nearly runs me over when I stop a few feet past the control do do my paranoid double check to make sure I had a signed control card in my possession but we quickly get everything sorted out and head off into the Tahuya Hills.

Much has been written about the Tahuya Hills. Some say the Tahuya Hills are part of a geographic anomolly, like those roadside mystery spots where water flows up hill, compasses spin in crazy circles and houses are built entirely without the use of right angles. Some say that every time you visit the Tahuya Hills there are more of them, they are steeper and that demons in the form of dogs live at the base of the worst of the hills. Some say that riding a bike in the Tahuya Hills is like going to fat camp with Richard Simmons -- maybe not all that painful but most assuredly relentlessly annoying.

Well, I'm here to tell you that those hills really aren't that bad. Today we take the right fork on Tahuya River Road instead of taking the left fork. Taking the right fork leads you up and down and up and down and up and down a series of hills that makes you feel like you're being hammered with wooden mallets. If you were foolish enough to take the left fork, like we have in certain other years, you would have gone up a hill that would make you feel like someone has dropped a piano on you from a great and gruesome height. Compared to a piano, mallets aren't that bad.

Rains have washed away part of the road so it is technically closed. Peter Beeson is here, directing us safely past the closure and around the washed out section of road. Wayne is off ahead now but Peter Liekkio and I clamber over the mounds of dirt.

Aside from the mounds of dirt, I don't walk up a single hill. My Madison has 165 mm cranks and 42*17 gearing. I was wondering if I'd stall out on any of the hills but today I'm able to keep the cranks spinning. At times they are spinning rather slowly but I manage to keep them spinning. I ride the brakes on the descent to Dewatto, climb another bunch of hills and eventually turn onto Seabeck-Holly Road.

I remember Holly Hill from previous years and today there is a dog stationed at the base of the hill. This does not surprise me. The odds of going through the Tahuya Hills without seeing a dog are approximately the same as the odds of passing through Seattle without seeing a Starbucks. What is surprising is that the dog is passive. He looks at me as if to say "fixed gear, eh? Let's see if you can make this hill." I watch the dog as he watches me and I climb the hill. The song that's going through my head is Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb".

"There is no pain you are receiving..."

I crest Holly Hill and roll on toward Seabeck.

At 7:00 PM I roll into the Seabeck control. I buy a Snickers bar, a pint of chocolate milk and some salted cashews. As I'm eating my healthy supper and refilling my water bottles a fellow randonneur asks about my choice of the fixed gear. "It doesn't really go slow," I explain. That's what I like about it. That and the fact that I've concluded that I like to pedal. With a fixed gear, you get to pedal a lot.

I'm also asked about why I prefer PowerGrips to clipless pedals and I explain that they work well for me. On long rides, I like to wiggle my foot fore and aft and while clipless pedals have float, none let you really move your foot in the front to back direction. I don't claim PowerGrips are the solution for everyone, but they are my pedal system of choice.

It's getting dark now and cooling off so I pull on my longsleeve jersey, leg warmers and reflective gear. I flip on my tail lights and head on down the road.

I haven't walked any hills today so I'm not about to let Anderson Hill get the better of me. I chug up the first hill, spin as fast as I can down into the valley and then chug up the other side. Then things level out for a bit before going up again. When I get to the top, I know that all of the day's serious climbing is behind me. I feel great.

I turn onto Olympic View Road and follow the turns to SR-3. By the time I roll onto the SR-3 entrance ramp it's dark enough for me to flip on my headlight and helmet light.

It's a nice ride in through Poulsbo and onto Bainbridge Island. I pull into the Bainbridge control at 9:19 PM and Ted Vedera signs my card. Some other riders are there and Wayne Methner and Mike Richeson pull in a few minutes behind me. Ten minutes later Ken Krichman and Bill Dussler finish. It's very comfy at the finish control and we're all glad to be done. The ferry will be here at 9:45 PM and we're all pulling for our fellow riders, hoping a few more will make this ferry. Pete Liekkio and Dan Turner finish with a few minutes to spare.


Jan Heine and Kenneth Philbrick finished the ride with a quite zippy time of 10 hours 22 minutes. I was perfectly happy with my more leisurely pace of 14 hours 19 minutes. Will Roberts was the fastest fixed gear rider of the day with a total time of 12 hours 23 minutes.

I hadn't seen Adam since Port Hadlock but I'd been hoping that he'd managed to slip by me while I was lunching at Eldon. Alas, his knee continued to bother him after Port Hadlock and after a ten minute rest in Quilcene, he'd decided the smart thing to do was bail out and ride slowly back home. He didn't want to push things since he wants to be fully recovered for the fleche in two weeks.

Dan Turner had two flats for the day, one early on and one not to far from the ferry. He was glad he got the second flat changed in time to make the 9:45 PM ferry.

Mitchel Schoenfeld wound up using his Cateye lights. He just missed the 10:30 PM ferry and wound up taking the midnight boat back home.

My pal Tony finished the ride in grand style, meeting his goal of finishing in time to catch the last ferry home. His time for the ride was 17 hours 51 minutes.

Pete Liekkio on his titanium Bachetta
Pete Liekkio at the ferry dock on his titanium Bacchetta. Photo by Tony Licuanan.

At the start
At the start. Photo by Tony Licuanan.

The Pre-ride Briefing
Peter Beeson delivers the pre-ride briefing. Photo by Tony Licuanan.

Mr Don at the Kay's Corner Control
Mr. Don -- The Kay's Corner Control Master: cold pop, great snacks and words of encouragement. Photo by Peter Beeson.

Jan Heine
Jan Heine -- A Man in Motion at the Kay's Corner Control. Photo by Peter Beeson.

Kenneth Philbrick
Kenneth Philbrick pausing momentarily at the Kay's Corner Control. Photo by Peter Beeson.

Karen and Duane
Karen and Duane -- Good Cheer and Delicious Cookies at Seabeck after 9:00 PM. Photo by Peter Beeson.

Ted Vedera
Ted Vedera: Finish Line Coordinator, SIR Veteran and Great Company for the 5:20AM boat! Photo by Peter Beeson.

Christoff Irran
Christoff Irran: Lounging at the Finish. A quick break before catching the 1:20 AM boat home. Photo by Peter Beeson.

Jim Giles
Jim Giles: Happy at the Finish -- another 300K in the books! Photo by Peter Beeson.

SIR 300 km Results - April 10, 2004
Name Time
Dan Austad DNF
Patti Austad DNF
Shane Balkovetz 16:35
Peter Beeson 15:11
Daniel Boxer 15:01
Thomas Brett 13:36
Christopher Brosell 16:04
Robert Brudvik 15:11
Christopher Chamberlin 13:58
Gregory Cox 13:08
William Dussler 14:32
James Giles 19:05
Bill Gobie 18:56
Rick Haight 15:36
Doug Hallam 14:00
Michael Haselman 15:36
Jan Heine 10:22
Ron Himschoot 15:55
David Huelsbeck 12:31
Christof Irran 17:09
Name Time
Mark Jacox 14:00
David Johnson 13:36
Phil Jones 15:15
Colin Kennedy DNF
Ken Krichman 14:32
Edward Lance 14:00
Tony Licuanan 17:51
Peter Liekkio 14:39
Brian List 15:02
Bob Magyar 19:44
E. Max Maxon 15:11
Ray McFall 15:34
Peter McKay 13:09
Wayne Methner 14:22
Brian Ohlemeier 11:34
Kenneth Peterson 15:36
Kent Peterson 14:19
Kenneth Philbrick 10:22
Amy Pieper 15:36
Robin Pieper 11:50
Name Time
Chris Ragsdale 11:34
Peter Rankin 11:50
Dave Read 13:05
Andrew Repanich DNF
Stan Reynolds 13:09
Owen Richards 13:45
Mike Richeson 14:22
Victor Ringkvist 16:04
William Roberts 12:23
Mitchel Schoenfeld 15:34
Robert Simmons DNF
Dennis Slaback 16:06
Donald Smith 15:36
James Sprague 16:04
Adam Stritzel DNF
Corey Thompson 15:01
Daniel Turner 14:39
Peg Winczewski 15:15
Robert Winn 13:41
Duane Wright 19:07