Wow. I'm way late posting anything about this ride, especially since there's already been another SIR 200K since then...whoops. I've been busy, and blogs don't exactly cry out for attention.
The 11th (and last, apparently) annual SIR Chili Feed 200K is the "kick-off" brevet of the season, and I'd been looking forward to it for quite some time. I'd ridden some permanents, and the spring populaire, but this was my first official length brevet.
The ride started at 7:00 am in Kent, but I wanted to ride there and still have plenty of time to get my shit in order before the ride started, so I rolled out of bed at some ungodly hour, probably 4:00 am or so. I rolled out of Seattle in the darkness, passing maaaaybe 5 cars between my house and Kent. It's amazing how quiet the city can become in the middle of the night/morning. I'd never seen Rainier Ave so quiet in all my time living in South Seattle.
I thought I'd give the new Google bike directions that everyone had been talking about a try, and the 3 route choices they gave me were all pretty legit options. They avoided the major hills that I knew of, and routed me on quieter streets and a couple of trails. In the end, I chose the one that took the new Soos Creek Trail, since I'd never been on it. The trip went without any hitches, other than having to backtrack a bit looking for the entrance to the trail in the complete darkness. As is typical with bike paths, they're usually not marked as well as even the smallest road:
The trail was great, and took me through some really nice, almost secluded, wetland areas. The trail itself was flat, smooth, and paved like a new interstate. Seriously, there were yield signs, stop signs, and some lane markings. The thing was paved better than half the streets in my neighborhood!
The sun was coming as I wound my way closer to the start:
When I reached the start, I realized that I'd made much better time than I anticipated. I had enough time to get some coffee and a bit of muffin, shoot the breeze with a couple of randos, and get my route sheet and brevet card in order. Of course, it was also just enough time to get cold after my nice long warm up. The turnout was huge, with somewhere over 125 riders. I ran into 2 of my neighbors from across the street, and we joked about our block having the highest randonneur per capita ratio in town.
When the ride got underway, we headed due east out of Kent, towards Redondo and Dash Point in Federal Way. I didn't take any pictures from this leg even though there were some pretty spectacular views along the water, because I found myself trying to keep up with the lead group up some pretty sizable climbs. I knew the pace wasn't sustainable for 200K (for me anyways), but it was fun to be part of the fast pack for a while. I arrived at the first control in no time and decided I'd dial it down a bit.
From Dash Point, we followed the water, and rode past the tidal flats and Port of Tacoma:
A long, slow climb up from the water greeted us after that, then through some pretty unremarkable suburban sprawl, until we reach the outskirts of Auburn. It was somewhere along this stretch that one of my knees began to hurt, a remnant of an old running injury. I knew the familiar shooting pains from my running days, but I'd never experienced any knee pain on the bike though, so I was little concerned.
I felt great otherwise though, so I just resolved to take it easy a bit and push on, since there wasn't really anything I could do about it.
Just after Auburn, the route turned onto the now-familiar Green Valley Road. I ran into a few other randos and joined them to make a small 3-man paceline. I'd been pretty much on my own since the first control, so it was nice to have a little bit of windbreak. Between chatting and checking out the livestock on the nearby farms, the 12 or so miles to the next control at the Black Diamond Bakery flew by. I was pretty hungry at that point, so I pounded a whole wheat cinnamon roll and a chocolate milk (my new favorite long ride beverage) and hopped back on the bike. I didn't want to spend too long at the controls like I'd done on some of my permanents, since it becomes hard to get going again. I somehow immediately made a wrong turn after the Bakery, and ended up putting in a few bonus kilometers (up a big hill no less!!!) before getting back on the route.
We wound our way down to Enumclaw, by way of the micro-towns of Ravensdale and Cumberland, in order to hit highway 410, where we made the climb to Greenwater. I found myself hitting some pretty substantial headwinds for a few stretches during this time, but nothing major. I chatted briefly both with riders I passed, and those that passed me. This area of King/Pierce counties is particularly scenic, and it was entertaining enough to just watch the scenery roll by:
The climb to Greenwater was pretty mellow, and wasn't what I had expected, given that it's in the Cascade foothills, and close enough to Mt. Rainer to seem daunting:
The control at Greenwater provided a chance to stretch my ailing knee, and to pick up some more chocolate milk and some salted peanuts. I ate the peanuts like they were going out of style, and washed it down with plenty of water. It's no secret that riders crave salty foods on long rides, and that they help replace electrolytes and whatnot, but DAMN, they tasted GOOD. Biking-related food cravings are weird like that.
On the climb up to Greenwater, I met a really nice guy name Dave on a sweet all-chromed Davidson. We pretty much rode the rest of the brevet together, and the conversation took my mind off my knee. The descent from Greenwater was strange, since the wind came uphill, turning the descent into actual work! Based on the number of riders we'd seen descending from Greenwater while we climbed up, it seemed like we were making pretty good time, so we didn't push anything too hard. We took some really great roads on the way back up through Enumclaw and into Kent, where the promised chili and beer awaited us. Mud Mountain Road in particular was great, since there was absolutely NO traffic, great smooth pavement, and a pretty screaming descent.
As we made our way out of the last control, and back to Kent, I joked that I could smell chili in the air, and I thought about how good some hot food was going to be. In the same way that you can be guaranteed to get a flat by talking about how you never get flats, I must have jinxed myself with my chili talk. I got a flat less than 3 kilometers from the finish. Seriously. Not wanting to take the time to pull the rear wheel off and replace the tube, I just pumped it back up and rode hard towards the finish. That carried me almost all the way to the finish, but I had to pump up one more time in order to make it all the way in. Dave was nice enough to wait for me, even though hot food, beer, and relaxation was mere meters away.
At the finish, I was too busy enjoying my heaping bowl of veggie chili and cold beers to take any pictures, or even really carry on a good conversation for that matter (sorry guys). After being off the bike for about half an hour, my knee had tightened up so much that it was hard to walk on it. Riding home was out of the question, so I called Grace for backup.
The event was great, and my thanks go out to everyone who helped organize it. I know a lot of work went into allowing slackers like myself to just show up and ride and eat. With the exception of the whole knee issue (which I'll have to figure out for the next brevet), I felt great on the ride. It's certainly left me itching to do a 300 or 400K in the near future.
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2 months ago