02 September 2012

Rocky Mountain 1200 day 3 and 4

Rocky Mountain 1200 - day 3 and 4

At 1.45 A friendly controller gently wiggled my toes and woke me up from my 4.5 hours of incredibly deep sleep - deep space deep sleep if there is such a thing. I felt fresh and ready to go - but all good things start with a big breakfast! So I went to the dining area and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and several cups of coffee before I was off towards Revelstoke around 2.45, some 145 km down the road. It was overcast and really dark as soon as I got outside of Golden, but again I was taken aback by how well the Edelux could lit up the road. It was truly a joy to ride in the night with the Edelux and the soft Grand Bois tires. I shifted in the saddle - my saddle soar was beginning to make itself known a bit, despite liberal use of body glide. Oh well, I could at least see an end to it all... 

The road to Revelstoke was mostly downhill, except for 2 minor passes, each ascending roughly 300 meters. Coming down the first pass I ran into a lot of mist and fog, so I had to stop and put on extra layers. The chill lasted for an hour or so until I began the climb up the last pass, Rogers Pass. It was a delight to climb as it was now broad daylight though with only a few misty areas here and there so I quickly had to stop and undress a bit again. There was a stretch halfway or so up the pass where the road had been passed through 4 tunnels during the course of a few km. The sound from passing cars and trucks filled the tunnel with reverberating sounds when passing and it made it feel a bit otherworldly to ride through them although none of them were very long, a km at the most. At the top of Rogers pass there was an impromptu service control. Several Rando’s were there and I pulled over as well to sit down for a cup of coffee and a banana. Rogers Pass marked the end of any serious climbing on the ride - it was now downhill all the way to Revelstoke and I was seriously looking forward to that :-)  

Gary Prince, also from SIR, was at the control as well. He had DNF’ed a day or so earlier as he was too cold to continue on from Jasper. However, when the car he was in had crested Sunwapta Pass in the afternoon sun he got out so that he could complete the rest of the ride now that he was warm and able to ride again. Good for him! 

After a few minutes I was off again and the road almost immediately descended. I was now going downhill in the sunshine with a tailwind. What a difference to the previous days! The ride photographer passed me several times in his car and took pictures of me and the other riders. There were a bunch of us spread out over a few km, so some other riders were always visible ahead or behind. In randonneuring, you can ride dozens of km being 100-200 m behind another rider because the two of you don’t ride at *exactly* the same pace. For me, that is the only possible way I can ride long distances with somebody else: if our paces are exactly the same when climbing, descending or riding on the flats. If the ride partner’s pace is higher, just by a tiny amount, it wears me out physically over the course of a 1200 km ride, and if partner’s pace is lower I get extremely impatient after a few hours. I usually ride alone for a large part of the ride and then catch up with people in the controls instead.
Ole Ole
Climbing a hill before Revelstoke. Photo by Stephen Hinde, RM 1200 photographer.

The sun started to feel *really* hot, and it was still early morning-ish. I stopped to get rid of some more layers, but kept the arm warmers on for now - that way I wouldn’t have to use sunscreen yet. Once again the photographer came around and took a few pictures. We chatted a bit before I rolled on again; he was pleased with the weather too - better to get nice shots when it’s not raining cats and dogs and there’s road spray all over the place. Soon I rolled into Revelstoke and a late morning breakfast / early lunch - it was shortly after 10, so it had taken some 7 hours to ride to Revelstoke from Golden. 911 km down, 294 km to go. Ha, less than a 300 k ride, which I could normally do in 14 hours or so w/o becoming exhausted. Not bad at all :-)
Shedding layers outside of Revelstoke. Picture by Stephen Hinde, RM 1200 photographer.

I reveled in the hospitality of the Revelstoke controllers. I had a big breakfast consisting of pancakes, eggs, bacon, ham, coffee, coke and juice. Kathy Twitchell was there; she and I had worked the Cascade 1200 ride a month earlier in WA and had good fun doing that. Her husband was riding the RM 1200 as well, and he had also ridden the Cascade 1200 in June. As I sat down with my meal somebody poked me on the shoulder. It was Seana whom I hadn’t seen since a couple of hours after the start Sunday evening. She as well had abandoned at Beauty Creek due to her knees acting up in the cold and was now en route to Kamloops in one of the volunteer vehicles. It wasn’t the first time that somebody had talked about knee problems. If your knees get cold you’re toast on a long ride like this. It made me really glad that I had my RainLegs, which had always kept my knees warm, dry and toasty even in freezing temperatures, rain, snow and sleet. James was there as well. We had ridden together from Kamloops to Clearwater on the first day. He had abandoned at Valemount due to the cold and rain and was getting a ride back to Kamloops in the same vehicle as Seana. Too bad; the weather was getting really sunny and warm now, and supposed to stay like this through the end of the ride.

After an hour I was ready to take off again. I walked outside and immediately felt the heat from the sun - and it wasn’t even noon yet! I took of as many layers as I could, including the undershirt but again left the arm warmers on so I didn’t have to apply sun screen. Since the start of the ride I had been wearing a woolen jersey, but I was now getting concerned that I was in for a real scorcher on the 126 km stretch to Armstrong. As comfortable as wool is when it’s cold, it can cause serious overheating when riding in the sun. However, as my nearest non-wool jersey was in my drop bag in Golden, 148 km in the wrong direction there was no need to dwell upon such facts and so I set off.

I felt the heat immediately, most noticeably due to the arm warmers that made my arms feel as if they were in a toaster oven. After 10-12 km or so I arrived at Three Valley Gap, a resort town / chateau of sort with its own genuine ghost town in the back yard. The latter is a relic from some hopeful gold miners that came to the area in the 1860’s and quickly left again after a) quickly building a little town and b) upon further exploration realize that there was no gold in the area. Oh well... However, I was not interested in any of those fascinating facts. My arms were cooking so I pulled over and ripped off my arm warmers - ahhh. On came the SPF 30 and then I was off again, feeling a lot better. 

Three Valley Gap - quite the construction!
The road was generally downhill for the next couple of hours as I rode towards the halfway point between Revelstoke and Armstrong, Sicamous. The ride was now quickly getting out of the mountains, and the landscape opened up a bit more with broader valleys, more agriculture and less forest. Less forest meant less shadow. It was now brutally hot and I was sweating heavily in the wool jersey. My speed slowed down a bit and a couple of km outside Sicamous I was passed by a couple of faster riders. Shortly after I had made the turn in Sicamous towards Armstrong I saw them lying in the grass in the shadow of some large pine trees. Apparently I was not the only one who felt the heat! 

Still, lying down in the shadow seemed like a really good idea and a couple of km down the road I pulled over and sat down in the soft grass out of the sun. Ahhh, I closed my eyes and drifted off for a few minutes while I ate a power gel and had some serious helpings of Gatorade. A handful of other riders passed me while I was resting and we greeted each other. After composing myself for ten minutes or so I felt much invigorated and ready to take on the last 50 km or so towards Armstrong. They turned out to be a delight, probably the most memorable 50 km during the entire ride for me. The landscape had now completely changed from mountains to wide fields and lots of farmlands, all very green and lush and set in a very wide valley. The farmers in the valley certainly seemed to know what they were doing, and it was a striking contrast to ride through the farmland as opposed to the mountains outside of Golden where I had started the day. The view changed every 1-2 minutes as the road turned and passed yet another immaculately kept farm, passing through small villages and feeling like I was getting back into civilization again. Until now there hadn’t been much traffic or other people outside of the controls, but that had certainly changed. It was a nice contrast. Because of the variation in the landscape the last half of the stretch towards Armstrong seemed to go very quick, and before I knew off it I pulled in at the Armstrong control 16.58 Wednesday afternoon. 1038 km down and 166 km to go!

The Armstrong control wasn’t very busy - only a handful of riders were there when I showed up. It was in the local gym, and it was a delight to get inside and out of the sun for a bit. My wool jersey had almost done me in in the summer sun. What a remarkable change from only a couple of days ago - but such is randonneuring :-) Regardless, I sat down for a grilled cheese sandwich and some fruit salad, and 2-3 cans of cokes. I had a drop bag here as well, and I changed my bibs. The saddle soar was making itself known now, but the bibs I had in the drop bag had the thickest chamois of all my bike bibs so I was actually quite looking forward to the next section to Salmon Arms. 

I spent the better part of an hour at Armstrong and shortly before 18.00 I was on the road again. Salmon Arms was only 37 km down the road and it took me about 1:30 hours to get there. It was a quick ride, the first few km were uphill as the road climbed 100 m and then it was flat on backroads all the way to Salmon Arms. There was very little traffic and the heat was dying away in the early evening - it was a great segment to ride. I was debating with myself what I should do a Salmon Arms. Should I stay or should I go on to Kamloops - only 130 km down the road? I would reach Salmon Arms with about one hour of daylight to spare, so I could make a big inroad on the stretch to the penultimate control at Westwold if I left right away. On the other hand I would be finishing in the middle of the night if I did so, and wouldn’t get to see much of the scenery of the last 130 km, and nothing at all of the stretch from Westwold to Kamloops. 
As I rolled into the Salmon Arms control I was still debating what to do... 1073 km down, 131 km to go.

I sat down for dinner at a table where also John Kramer from Oregon and Gary Prince from SIR were eating. Suddenly a 6-pack of beer appeared on the table; it was Gary who had felt the need for a beer and asked if anybody else wanted one? That did it! I grabbed a beer and at the same time made the decision to stay the night and then carry on in the early morning. The beer felt really good after a long day in the sun! After that I was ready for a 5-hour nap, so I asked for a bed and to be woken up at 2 am. Then I was off to lalaland once again.
Salmon Arms
A beer at Salmon Arms :-)

At 2:00 I was once again awoken by a friendly controller and I immediately went for breakfast - bacon, eggs, and sausages - yum! At 2.45 I was out the door en route to Westwold, only 73 km down the road. 

The initial route out of Salmon Arms involved a huge descent into the town centre, upon which the course quickly took me out in the country side. It was jet-black so I couldn’t really see much of the surrounding landscape (no lighting to highlight the features!), but I could feel that the road was gently rolling. I remembered from the elevation profile that the road was mainly climbing for the first 30-40 km to Westwold as we were gaining 300 m in elevation, in preparation for a large downhill on the last stretch into Kamloops. However, I didn’t really feel much of the climbing until around day break when I exited the countryside backroads for the highway leading towards Westwold and - by extension - Kamloops. Suddenly the bike rolled a lot slower - 14-16 km/hr, which was REALLY annoying as there was still some 30-40 km to Westwold and I wasn’t particularly keen on slowing down this much towards the end of the ride. I suspected that the speed decrease was due to a gentle grade on the road - invisible to the naked eye - and that eventually it would level out. After an hour or so at slow speed I finally began to pick up some speed and rather quickly found myself rolling along at my usual 25-27 km/hr, which was much nicer.  The last 10-15 km into Westwold might have been very pretty, but a dense early morning fog made it impossible to see what the landscape looked like. But at least it now felt flat! At 6.21 I rolled into Westwold control, 1147 km down and only 57 km to go - nice!

At Westwold I sat down with John Kramer (OR) and Spencer Klaassen (MO) who had been 1-2 minutes ahead of me the entire way to Westwold. I had an awesome cup of potato soup and a few cookies, together with a cup of coffee. We chatted for a few minutes - quite elated about the fact that we were now at the penultimate control and that some 30% of the remaining road would be mostly downhill! John and Spencer had both had the same experience as me, with the bike going a lot slower. Spencer said the grade had been around 1.5%, not enough to see, but certainly enough to slow you down at this point in the ride, which was exactly what I had felt. I was glad that part was now mostly over! 

After half an hour or so we took off again - no point in sitting around when the finish was literally around the corner. The first 45 minutes or so the road was rolling and then the descent towards the trans Canada highway began. I flew down the hill and onto the highway. A big sign said Kamloops 26 km. It was 7.45 or so in the morning, the sun was up, there was no wind and hardly any traffic. I switched to the big ring and found myself cruising at 30 km/hr with hardly any effort towards Kamloops. John and Spencer caught up after a little while and we rode the last 10 km or so together. At 8.49 we all pulled in at the Kamloops curling club were we had started 82:49 hours earlier - a Personal Best for me! 1204 km done, 0 km to go!

Notifying the entire world about my finish. Photo by Stephen Hinde, RM 1200 photographer.


gowlin said...

Great report!

gowlin said...

Great report!