This is pretty long -- I wrote it mainly as a record for myself -- so apologies if it seems self-indulgent....
I did my first double-century this past weekend, on the Cascade Seattle to Portland ride. I did the ride last year over two days (how most folks do it) for my very first (and second) century. This year I decided to see if I could do it all in one go as a double, and with no drafting.
The first seventy miles or so were good -- beautiful weather, friendly folks, and I was maintaining about 17 mph without feeling any strain. I stopped at the first official rest stop for sun-screen (left the house without it, since it was still overcast in the morning, and I knew I'd make the first stop before it got too sunny), and it was a total zoo -- lines more than a hundred deep for the port-o-potties, etc; so I decided not to stop for food, water or potty, since I still had enough food and water, and I had already lost a bunch of time just fighting my way in to the first-aid tent for the sun-screen.
Once outside of the city, the route winds through farmland and country-side, and then through wooded areas and alongside big rivers. It was just after my favorite stretch along the Deschutes river that I flatted. It took me way too long to patch and get back on the road, and here I made two mistakes. First, after sweating out in the sun with the tire-change, I mis-read the distance to the next rest stop by ten miles, and downed most of my remaining water. Second, having lost time on the tire change, I tried to go a faster pace to make up the time.
The water issue was a little bit bad, but not tragic -- I ran out and was thirsty for about half an hour before I finally got to the rest stop. There I chugged a bunch of water, and re-filled both bottles. But after that, I continued to maintain too fast a pace for another forty miles or so, and I really started to get into trouble. I knew that I needed to slow down, but I just didn't seem to be able to help myself...
Finally around mile 120, I stopped to rest, and I was really feeling pretty bad at that point. I tried to eat a Clif bar, and it was all I could do not to spit it right back out. I finally managed to eat it and drink some water, and then I just sat and rested in the shade for about half an hour before starting up again. After that I kept to an easier pace, and I started to feel better. By the time I crossed into Oregon at mile 150, I was feeling quite good again.
The last forty miles before Portland was kind of a slog -- an unlovely stretch of country highway in the dusk and growing gloom. All the hard-core one-day riders had long since passed me, and I had long since passed all the two-day riders, so it was just me and that unlovely stretch of highway and the dusk and twilight and eventually night. I had become a little bit paranoid about my water, so I stopped at the very first gas station I saw to refill, and it's a good thing I did -- the gas station closed just after I walked in, and I didn't see any other place I could have refilled along that whole stretch of road. But I had refilled my two bottles and picked up a third, disposable bottle and stuffed it in my jersey pocket, and that saw me all the way through to the end.
Since crossing into Oregon, I had been keeping an eye on the clock. The finish line officially closed at 9pm, and I knew that I wasn't going to make it in time; but I thought I would still be able to cross the finish line before midnight, and so still be able to say that I rode the STP in one day, even if I didn't get the badge to prove it. The last ten miles through Portland itself, though, was different than the previous year, and I had a hard time reading the street signs in the dark, so I made a couple wrong turns. Finally, just as I was getting to a stretch of road that looked familiar from last year, I came across a group of five cyclists who were also trying to finish in one day, even though they were also way behind the crowd by hours. As I pulled up with them, I called out, "Hey, we've only got ten minutes left! Better hurry!" They called back, "We left at 4am, so we figure we've still got four more hours to make it 'in one day.'" That wasn't how I was looking at it, though, so I pushed on and pulled away from them. I did the last four miles in a flat-out sprint, and I crossed the finish line literally at the very stroke of midnight, 12:00am dead on.
Pleased with myself, I put my arms up and yelled, "Woo-hoo!" and was surprised to hear a bunch of other people cheer, "woo-hoo!" back at me. Turns out the organizers were still there, getting ready for tomorrow, and as I pulled through the finishing area, a ride official said, "If you were just a second later, I wouldn't give this to you, but you made it by midnight," and he handed me a one-day finisher badge. My face split into a ridiculous grin -- I totally couldn't believe it. So now not only can I say that I rode STP in one day, but I have the badge to prove it.
Total distance: 207 miles.
Butt-in-saddle time: 13:10.
Door-to-door time: 16:45.
Average speed: ~ 16 mph.
The big disappointment looking back on it is the three-and-a-half hour differential between door-to-door time and butt-in-saddle time. Some of that was due to the tire change, and some was due to deliberate resting, but I think that probably most of it was wasted at the over-crowded rest stops. Even when I stopped at a grocey store to use the bathroom, there was a line of cyclists in front of me. I don't think I'll do such a large event again; there's definitely a certain energy that comes from being out there with eleven thousand other cyclists, but it's not worth the clogging.
For food and drink, I was doing a Clif bar and a liter of fluids (alternating plain water and Nuun) per hour for the first half. Lunch was a couple of PBJs. The second half, I switched to Clif gels, Perpetuem and water, after getting so run down with that hard push. By the end, I was feeling equal to solid food again, and I picked up a bag of barbeque potato chips at that last gas station; I tell you, no food has ever tasted as good as those potato chips did just then.
Things that I improved since last year: zero foot or knee pain, thanks to better shoes, pedals, cranks, and technique (more spinning, less mashing).
Things that I should have improved since last year but didn't: saddle-sore and hand pain. I'm still using a cheap Planet Bike saddle, and it just chafes too much on long rides. I picked up a nicer Terry saddle, and I've ridden it around town for a few weeks, but I haven't yet done any real distance with it, and I thought it would be a mistake to try something so new on such a long ride so far from home. So my commitment for next year is to have found a saddle and aero-bars that work for me on 100+ mile rides.
Things that I need to work on: faster tire changes. I'm totally confident and comfortable changing a flat -- I just seem to do it very very slowly. Are there drills to improve at this? I can see just practicing removing and replacing the wheel, tire, and tube at home in the garage, but a big part of my slowness is finding the leak (especially outside in the wind) and the splinter, and I don't know how to practice that, short of breaking bottles on the ground and then riding over the shards.... Any tips here?
Well, that's it. Double-century done, next milestone 400km. And PBP in 2015...