Jul 16 2013

Anyone Can STP in 1 Day!

There was once a time, a long time ago, long before the Renault Fuego was considered a stylish and sporty import, around the time when people would stand in line to use a payphone, during an age where one would hold up a cassette tape recorder up to the TV during Soul Train to record songs for mix tapes (“QUIET!! Can’t you see I’m recording here?!”), when I was a young lad, and I could hop onto a bike and pedal away. Of course back then I was on my imitation Schwinn Stingray from Sears, and wore bell-bottom jeans and striped T-Shirts, even though bell bottoms and stripes where no longer cool..they just happened to be the fashions that were handed down to me from other families, but enough kids were still wearing them that I didn’t look too dorky. If any of this sounds familiar to you, then you know that this was a while ago.

Biking was a care-free proposition then. Later, I grew older and got a real bike. And by “real” I mean an assemblage of surplus parts, Suntour, Modolo, Dia Compe, bolted onto an old, and apparently-abandoned Schwinn frame that someone found in a basement. My franken-bike might’ve been ugly, but I could ride it fast, and far. I rode for miles, without “nutrition” or training.  Riding was my training. Up hills. Through headwinds. Didn’t matter. Nothing stopped us. Felt as strong as Lance on an EPO binge. I loved biking. It was exhilarating, and most of all, effortless.

Fast forward to 2003. Jane is very pregnant with our first child, and I’m employed as an Oompa Loompa at a large company. And while on paper the pay is good, in reality the company is definitely getting their money’s worth out of me. One thing for sure is that I haven’t been biking in a while. Somewhere along the way I had to buy all new pants, because I could no longer close the buttons around my waist. Around this time I decided that I’m going to have to do something about this, or else I may go broke having to buy bigger and bigger pants every year.  And thus began my odyssey to get back into shape. What took Sylvester Stallone a mere 15 minutes of plot time in “Rocky III” getting ready for his bout with Mr. T, took me about 10 years.

And, ok, let’s be honest here: I really haven’t made it back to where I used to be. Yes, I can fit into some of my old pants again. But as Jane calls it, my “muffin top” doesn’t look good (by the way, I can NEVER say that to her). I’m slower. Hills require excessive levels of exertion. My lungs burn, alveoli clawing for Oxygen. Breathing is so intense that I can taste blood. My heart sprints for dear life, like a baby gazelle chased by a hungry cheetah. My legs push as hard as they can, but I progress as if pulling a cable car up Nob Hill. Sweat drizzles down from my head, while white cakes of dried salt stain my helmet straps. This is what biking is like for me now. So naturally one asks “why, then, do you do this?” I don’t have a great answer: I do it because I love to bike.

This year was like recent years, with weekend sessions down to the Black Diamond Bakery, to Snoqualmie Falls, or laps around Lake Washington, except that I never really felt strong on any ride. I especially felt discouraged on the Mt. St. Helens ride, where I completely broke down, unable to keep pace with the others. I remembered a Greg LeMond interview where he described his return to racing after a couple years away, and how he couldn’t even make it up some of the climbs that he used to dominate, felt psychologically and emotionally broken, discouraged, and considered retiring right there on the spot. It was later during the same season where he went to win the Tour de France for the 2nd time.

Like most others, I trained to ride the STP in 2 days. What I especially like about the 2 day ride is the casual pace, the banana bread, cookies, and brownies. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. With 2 weeks to go, Doug gave me a phone call (not from a pay phone): “Hey, Eddie. Would you want to join William and me to attempt a 1-day ride? We’ll give it 12 hours. Wherever we are at that point, we’ll see whether we can finish. What do you say?”

Well, the rest is history. Doug, William and I started off at 5am sharp, and rolled into Centralia around 10am. We would’ve arrived sooner were it not for a mis-communication at Puyallup hill. William and I thought we were going to all regroup at the top, while Doug continued on. We spent at least 30 minutes trying to figure out where each other were. We celebrated Centralia with noodles and peanut butter sandwiches (MANY MANY thanks to Lori, Esther, and Daniel!). More delays were caused by a derailleur adjustment I needed, and also by the 15-minute bathroom line, which I stood in because William didn’t want me to be “one of those people” who go in the bushes.

The 2nd 100 miles were tougher. I found that I could maintain a consistent 17.5mph pace, whether I was plowing through headwind, or drafting behind a group. William was very frustrated by this, since I would go long stretches without drafting, and burning more energy than needed. Truth is, I prefer to draft, and agree that it’s much easier. However, to draft meant I had to accelerate to catch up to a group to draft, and acceleration simply wasn’t in the cards. On top of that, whenever I did manage to find a group to draft, they’d speed up, then slow down, then speed up again, and I found that even more exhausting.

I spent a number of miles spinning at 17.5, head down, pushing against the wind, watching the asphalt roll by. I tried not to look at the odometer. Just keep spinning. Drink. Eat. Spin. Then, we made it to St. Helens, the 12 hour mark. Actually it was 13, but at this point I there was no question in my mind. With only 30 miles to go I was going to complete the ride. The next 20 were tough. I was tired and wanted to finish. My back, shoulders, wrists, all very sore. Finally, we hit the last big hill climb up to the St John’s bridge over the Willamette, where my legs finally gave it up. I managed to maintain 17.5 for the past 100 miles since Centralia, powering over the rollers and short climbs along the way, and now I ran out of gas, crawling my way up the hill, over the bridge, and into Portland by 8pm. We made it. I gave it my all, as it took my all to make it in. Total time 15 hours. Ride time, 12 hours. Glad I did it. Glad it’s done.

To close, I have a few random thoughts:

  • I need to tweak my handlebars, rotating them upward 1 or 2 degrees. I felt like I was leaning over too much on my hoods. Fatiguing.
  • I want to change out the synthetic tape on by handlebars. I’ve always used cork in the past. The synthetic chafes my skin. Don’t like.
  • Want new gloves, with thicker padding.
  • Leather Saddle = Happy Backside (this is for Jon Okada)
  • Will try chamois butter on my next > century ride. No need for details here. Move along.
  • I really like my Vittoria Diamonte Pro tires (220 tpi). Always used Michelins in the past.
  • Would like to try aero bars for my next > century ride.
  • Proper Nutrition > Conditioning. I’m proof. Take Heather’s workshop. It works.
  • William and Doug have proven that with just a couple of short training rides, you too can do the STP in 1 day