Ride report - Seattle International Randonneurs 100K Urban Populaire 3/15

(No pictures. Sorry.)

After fumbling with the coffee maker I made my way over to the living room to check the weather. I was about to switch on the TV when I noticed some flakes coming down. Soon they were the size of cotton balls. The weather report confirmed that temperatures would remain above the freezing mark though, and knowing this ride had already been postponed a week I knew it was on. Randonneurs are a hardy bunch, and with no real potential for ice I couldn’t see it being cancelled. Beside, the coffee was already brewing.

Knowing I was in for a sloppy day in the saddle with reduced speeds I opted for my commuter with full fenders and mudflaps. I was not thrilled at the prospect of hitting some of the climbs on a heavy singlespeed, but with slop-friendly 32mm tires it was the right tool for the job.

Hitting ¾ mile-long descent at the beginning of the ride to the meeting point, I immediately got a taste of what was in store for the day. The flakes were coming down hard and fast, and one lodged squarely on the left lens of my glasses. I also realized that knickers, even fleecy ones were probably not the best choice for this day, and regretted my stubbornness in opting not to replace the last shoe covers I shredded.

I rolled up to the start and found several dozen riders chatting and shivering. Fortunately the organizers had brought more coffee, and I managed to cram down a few cookies before rolling out.

After leaving the start in the University District we settled into a steady pace. The slushy roads made for some tentative descending but really broke up the bunch on the first climbs. Skinnier tired riders were spinning out and unclipping, and I soon found myself walking along with them when I could no longer turn over my 42x17 gear.

The scariest aspect of the early weather was braking performance. With a few long descents in the slop my rims were pretty effectively glazed over and after blowing a stop sign and having to take an emergency detour on one particularly technical descent I realized something needed to be done for me to continue. Fortunately, my riding companions agreed to stop and wait while I wrestled with my cantis through two layers of soaked gloves. Modulation was never great, but this at least gave me the reserve braking power I needed.

After braving a descent he crashed on 20 years ago, one of my riding companions decided to call it a day, leaving me with just one rider for company. Fortunately he had a handlebar bag with map case, as the constant rain would have reduced mine to pulp by this point.

We made our way through Discovery Park, Magnolia, and downtown. On the minefield of Marginal Way the wind coming off the water was pretty fierce. I spent the better part of an hour in the drops getting up close and personal with my stem through West Seattle before climbing out (more walking) and over into South Park. The short break in the clouds was soon over, and after negotiating another screaming downhill and threading our way through the potholed industrial area by the Duwamish River we found ourselves being pelted by hail. Since we evidently took a wrong turn somewhere we decided to take the opportunity to take shelter under the awning of a greasy spoon and figure out where the hell we needed to go. A few torn up streets and mud puddles later we were back on track.

After rolling through a series of access roads we finally turned onto Martin Luther King to begin the journey north. Here our group swelled to half a dozen riders, aided by the first legitimate tailwind of the day. The sun broke through again on the road to Seward Park. Dropping into the park, my mood finally changed from “Well I guess I can’t feel any worse.” to “I’m going to make it.”

The pace picked up after downing some much-needed calories at the park control, and I even jumped ahead on the winding climb up Lake Washington Blvd. Cruising through the arboretum we were soon all back together. Having ridden this section of the route dozens of times contributed to the “home free” feeling, but with my shoes and gloves soaked through, I was very much ready for it to be over.

Soon we were spinning up University to deposit our bikes in the pile in front of the Big Time Brewery. I walked in to applause and threw my brevet card down on the table with an unintentional flourish. “You look tired.” said my riding companion from earlier. Apparently he had decided to change into some dry clothes and join the festivities. I didn’t recognize him.

I ordered a sandwich and in my bleary state attempted to text my wife, only to select the number of a coworker instead. If he didn’t think I was nuts before, he does now. After devouring the sandwich I decided I was not feeling very social and wanted to get home and out of wet clothes before my body stiffened up.

Soon I was making my way along the water through more curse-inducing headwinds, giving dirty looks to pedestrians who were wandering around thoughtlessly on this now-beautiful, sunny day. A few miles later I was at the foot of the climb to home.

Then the hail started again.

I was thinking about the ride while I was at work. Kind of glad that I ended up on the clock, but at the same time kind of disappointed that I couldn’t make it. Long rides with mother nature working against you always end up with some of the better stories. Your coworkers always seem to think you’re insane when you’re telling the stories too.

Good job making it all the way through. The weather yesterday was ridiculous.

i love the northwest

congrats tarckee. definitely an earned finish.

I laughed I cried, I thought now this is why I want disc brakes, then I got pissed at my self for putting on the extra winter pounds and being a fat ass. You are now new hero of the day! To bad Thejakessnakes is already forming a northwestern team tarck or we could have formed one for the 2010 ride. OK not really. but it does sound like a good ride on a nice day