Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

I needed to remind myself that I can.

I can do it.

I can do anything.

I can ride over 200 miles on a bike in less than 12 hours.

I did it.

I can do what ever I want to do.

I can smile, laugh and tell random stories, pass people, stay calm and pedal on.

All you need to know is that you can do it. Yes you can.

Remember way back when, I was excited, I purchased a spot in Group Health's 2011 Seattle to Portland Ride? I hardly remember as well. I pretended that I didn't. But I did and there was no way around it.

I was completely unsure about following through with the race. A month and a half before the July 8th ride date I had written the ride off. My riding petered out, I lost interest and was okay with focusing my energy else where. The days preceding the ride I started to get the feeling that intrigued me to sign up for the ride in the first place. Can I do it? Is it possible? Will I have saddle sores so bad that I won't want to ride a bike the rest of summer?

I had so many doubts. Fears that were holding me back. I had rode my bike all winter, logging more miles than most of the men in the group I ride with, Chinook Cycling Club, I could keep up, I can pedal in circles with the best of them. It was not a matter of fitness, not inadequate gear, funding, fear of a long physically challenging day, it was a fear of failing that held me back from fully committing to the ride. Totally irrational fear.

J was as supportive as he could be for a die hard mountain biker. He teased me about saddle sores and boredom. The day before the race, I needed a bit more advice. I turned to the most motivated racer I know. The only racer I know, Jen T. She is a rock star in more ways than I can even begin to tell you about. She was wisdom and experience that I needed, the push that helped me commit. She reminded me that the uncertainty is why we do rides like this. Not knowing if you can do it is the motivation.

Logistically the ride is a pain. It requires contrived transportation and lots of resources. I had intended to wrangle a family member to meet me in Portland and whisk me home in a tired heap after I crossed the finish line. When that was not an option I decided THE NIGHT BEFORE the ride that started around 4am that if I could score a bus ticket that took me back to Seattle I would do the ride. If I could ride 200 miles in a day, I could do this on my own.

I walked into a bustling Seattle REI Friday night. There was spandex, impulse buying, spraying and mad dogging. I strolled up to the  woman sitting behind a cash box with papers scattered in front of her. I asked if there was still transportation available from Portland back to Seattle. She said the was one ticket left for Sunday. She held up the coveted last pass for transportation for the two day ride, giving me the ear to ear smile like I was the lucky winner. Visibly nervous I said that won't be necessary, I will need a ride back to Seattle on Saturday because this will only take a day. She cocked her head sideways and said, really just a day? Was it the black cocktail dress that I still had on from the late night before? Was it the lack of testosterone that was emanating through the rest of the room? She didn't believe me that I was needing a ticket as a one day rider. The man behind me piped up claiming the last day two ride back. Still hesitating she asked me if I had done the ride before, no I haven't I replied, I haven't even been riding road bike for a year, now just give me the ticket. I had enough self doubt to talk myself out of this on my own I didn't need a stranger to doubt me more. I hadn't even rode a hundred miles yet.

I purchased a ride home for Saturday night, I snagged a parking pass for just a day and felt a bit of pride that I was going to complete this ride without any personal support, just the support provided by the event itself. In the bustle of the noise of REI, I dialed J and told him that I would be getting up at 3am and going to participate in the day long 200 mile ride. I gave him details and he gave me a bit of encouragement and told me that I should have gone to bed 2 hours ago. I called a friend that lived in Seattle and made dinner plans and asked him if he would give my bike one final look over to ease my nerves about my bike falling apart under me.

I was committed. In a few short hours I was going to throw my leg over the bike and take on the classic Seattle to Portland ride. How is that for procrastinating? Eight hours before the start of the ride I committed. Six hours before the ride I was drinking wine and eating seafood. I take this shit for real.

My nerves were rattling, hands were shaking and I tried to settle the butterflies in my stomach so I could consume as many calories as possible to ensure that I had plenty of energy.

The ride? I started early, 4:30am early, dark o'clock and rolled through the quaint roads Seattle. Before leaving Seattle I latched on to a group that I road with the first 50 miles. When I realized that I knew I could push harder than them with fewer stops I thanked them for their early morning support, tucked my head and rolled on. I tucked behind several different groups as the morning eased on and we traveled south. With over 10,000 riders there were plenty of different people to chat with and wheels to ride. I made a point to consume more food than I thought I needed knowing that my biggest hurdle is crashing from lack of nutrients (I eat twice as much as people around me which sometimes seems weird but when I feel like I never hit a wall I am glad that shove food in my face constantly). I made a point to stop at the major food stops and fill my pockets with food I know I could consume easily, bread and pb&j kept me fueled but do it as fast as possible to prevent the crippling lactic acid build up in my legs.

A little past half way through the ride, as we rolled through beautiful farm land I was having trouble keeping up with the groups. More than 75% of the riders call it a day at 100 miles. I was expending a lot of energy trying to catch wheels and was feeling a little nervous, I know the I could not complete the race in time if I had to ride solo. After a couple of these big efforts I was passed by four jubilant Bicycle Adventures friends who were obviously having a good time with each other from . I summoned the juice deep within my legs and caught on to this group and did not let go. I asked them if I could ride with them the last 75 miles and they gladly let me in their little rotation. I am incredibly grateful for their generosity, energy and experience with the course. Thanks again Brad, George, Tim and Linda ya'll rock!

At the last rest stop with a little over 30 miles to go I realized that I had averaged around 18 mph over the route so far and I was well ahead of the time I was expecting. The sheer joy of being so close, being one of the only woman in the field and keeping a rather hot pace I was jazzed to get to Portland. There was a renewed feeling in my legs and I was motivated.  Rolling into Portland I said goodbye to the Bicycle Adventure crew and tried to pass as many people as I could. I felt like a million dollars, I neared the end. The finish line was amazing and I pedaled in before 5 pm. I heard the announcer read my name and that I was just around the corner. As I rode into the finish chute I teared up as a I heard a spectator cheer "Nice work lady!" among the hundreds of other spectators.

I did it! I did better than I ever imagined. I finished four hours earlier than what I had predicted. I felt wonderful. The finish area was a sea of people but I managed to bump into a few of the people I rode with, high fives were shared over a celebratory beer. I couldn't wipe a sill grin off my face as I wandered around, still shocked that I was done. I had two people come up and ask me if I actually rode the entire course, skeptical that a random woman on a cheap bike and miss matched clothing could finish this early.

The rest of the week, I rode out the feeling of satisfaction and contentment.

I done did it. Double century.

My max speed was 58.6 mph. Holy !@#$.

My average speed for over 200 miles was 18 mph.

I did it.

I pushed myself beyond my limits and incredibly grateful that I did.

I owe it to my sweet J who inspires me to stay in shape, believes in me and provides support when I am unsure.

Jen, thanks for taking the time to provide a newbie some encouragement.


  1. Yay!!!!! You rock:)

  2. Congrats! Awesome! Atta Girrrl! You Rock!
    A Bham Reader

  3. You are amazing! What an are truly an inspiration.