Last weekend, I rode in the Cascade 1200 km brevet. I like to make one ride every year my “main goal” – a ride for which I train, around which I plan my calendar, a ride that is special.
This year, my “big” ride was the Cascade 1200 km brevet. The course circumnavigates the central part of my home state of Washington. I like rides that take me through diverse landscapes. Beyond that, I had some unfinished business with the Cascade 1200. The first time I attempted it, I woke up the morning of the ride with a slightly sore throat. My condition worsened, and after 350 km, I took the train home and proceeded to spend three days in bed with a flu. The next year, I pre-rode the course a week ahead of the official event. This is done to check the route sheet for accuracy, and make sure the course is rideable. In the event, we had to find a new route at the last minute, because a mountain pass still was covered in winter snow. I set out with too ambitious a goal, spent much time finding a new route through Yakima, got exhausted a third of the way through the ride, only to face horrendous headwinds in Eastern Washington that slowed me to a crawl. I finished the ride, but I knew I could do better.
This year, my goal was to complete the Cascade 1200 in “Charly Miller Time” – 56:40 hours. The Charly Miller Society is RUSA’s only performance award, for U.S. riders who complete PBP as fast or faster than the only American who ever raced in PBP when it was a professional race; Charly Miller came 5th in 1901. For the Cascade 1200, this was my private goal, not something recognized by any “official” awards.
While my training this year was much less than I would have liked, I tried to make up for it in quality and focus. I also spent some time planning my ride. I thought about my average speeds on various sections of the course and the length of my stops at each control. I fine-tuned these variables until I was convinced that my goal was within reach. Having a bike now that performs better would help, too. During the previous attempts, I still was riding tires that by themselves were about 8% slower than my current Grand Bois Hetres on smooth pavement, and probably much worse on the chipseal of eastern Washington.
This year’s ride turned out to be a memorable adventure. It was nice to ride with various randonneurs on Saturday, during the first day on the road, even though a deluge dampened our spirits a little. When most riders stopped to sleep at the first of three “overnight” controls provided by the organizers, I forged ahead alone through the next two days and nights. Even though this approach means I missed the organized ride’s support, I appreciated all the volunteers who catered to all my needs and encouraged me at the first day’s stops – thank you!
The winds were more favorable than last time, and even losing 1:15 hours due to several unfortunate errors on the route sheet (pre-ride check??) only temporarily threw me off schedule. I was lucky to avoid rain on the last mountain pass – the roads were still damp – and even more lucky that a deer running in my path during the descent only glanced off my front tire. Descending mountains in the morning twilight always makes me sleepy, so I took several short naps along the way, before speeding up for the last leg along the Cascade foothills.
I arrived back at the start/finish on the third day at lunch time, 54:32 hours after I started. I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at our favorite taco truck, but the ride back to Seattle, just 65 kilometers, seemed to take forever. Indeed, it took all afternoon! A few nights sleep later, I now am looking forward to a bike-free vacation with my family, and some leisurely touring this fall. A full report on my ride in the Cascade 1200 will be in the Autumn issue of Bicycle Quarterly.