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This Might Be the Way it is Supposed to Be
Cascade 1200 - Day Four
Ride dates: June 21-24, 2014
by John Oswald

Go To: Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Epilogue

Chris and Keith on Washington Pass

In the circle of camp chairs at dinner after Day 3 of the Cascade1200, Keith Fraser had asked me what time Chris Cullum and I were planning on heading out in the morning. When I responded that there was no plan as yet, Keith asked if he could ride with Chris and me. Keith had just finished the 1000km version of the C1200 with the lead group (to qualify for the Randonneur 5000 medal and improve his PBP 2015 registration priority) and was apparently looking do the 280km permanent back to the start at a more sedate pace. While both Chris and I had doubts about our ability to hang with Keith, I found myself saying that we'd be getting up at 4am and aiming to leave at 4:45, with 5am being more likely.

Sure enough at 4am as we were leaving for breakfast, there was Keith outside our door returning from the mess hall with Nigel Press and Ryan Golbeck who were about to hit the road.

"Just come by my room when you guys are ready to go," was all he said as we headed for breakfast. Dave King had expressed interest in riding with us today and so had Ed Person. Ed now told us at breakfast that he had to change a tire that had gone flat so he wouldn't be joining us. Dave had added the caveat that he might leave earlier and as he was nowhere to be seen, we assumed he decided to go with his original plan. It was drizzling on the way to and from breakfast but by the time I'd pumped up my tires it had morphed into a bit of a squall. As we rolled up the road to the main highway I began switching from my vest to my full rain jacket.

Now, those of you who've ridden with him will know that Keith is pretty minimalist and very efficient in his clothing changes. He only makes a change at a control or during a nature break. Meanwhile, in the course of the climb up Wasington Pass (5477') I:

- took off my vest
- put on my rain jacket
- put my vest on top of my jacket
- took off my vest again
- took off my jacket again
- rode through drizzle in just a wool jersey and arm warmers

In contrast, Keith rode the whole time in a jersey, arm warmers with another sleeveless jersey over top. Smoothness.

The climb itself was mostly gentle with a few kickers. We were taking turns setting the pace and passing most of the early risers in the process. Our fears that Keith would ride away from us on the climb were unfounded as he seemed comfortable at a pace we could handle. We saw Theo Roffe of SIR near the top and he hung in for a while before chilling out again. The final switchback of the climb takes riders above the snow line and provides a great view down the river valley. It was at this point we came across Dave who had indeed left early. I was getting drowsy just before the switchback so I fell off the pace a bit near the top as I took photos and then pounded a caffeinated gel in an effort to wake up.

At the summit sign we put on all the clothes we had and since I have a large handle bar bag (that improves my aerodynamics with almost no weight penalty), I had a lot of stuff. Full length Gore Wind Stopper tights, Mavic toe covers, Gore Wind Stopper gloves Chris lent me, fitted Gore-Tex rain jacket and PBP reflective vest. Keith pulled out a full rain jacket from his tiny seat bag and Chris had a comparable amount of stuff to me. The road drops down and then climbs briefly to the lower elevation Rainy Pass (4855'). And then it's aero tuck time for a long stretch--except this time there was an SIR aid station just over Rainy Pass. Hot Chocolate, a propane heater and some bananas-to-go were just what the doctor ordered.

While it is not "all downhill from there!", as some blowhard Rando had been boasting last night, Washington Pass was the highest elevation for the C1200. We did, in fact, have to pedal for some good chunks in the next 40km to the Colonial Creek Campground but it wasn't horrible. After the campground we rode up to the tunnel and THEN it was (mostly) rolling downhill for the rest of the ride. That rolling downhill was meted out in approximately 5km pulls for the 185 remaining kilometres and that, my friends, is how spirited riding should be:

South Skagit Highway outside Concrete

a group of riders of comparable ability, with a goal in mind, sharing the load equally and giving each other great opportunities to eat, drink and recover before taking the reins again. So civilized, so democratic, so….spectacular.

The landscapes and geography were ever changing over the course of the day and I got to see it all through regular trips through the paceline. I've never ridden with one group all day in a randonneur event--someone inevitably flats, bonks, says "no mas" etc.--so I never really bought into the overly romanticized stories of 'how it used to be'. This was it! I get it now. Thank you Chris and Keith for opening my eyes! (Note: I've been on two Flèche teams but one rider DNF'd on the first, and the second was based on drafting our tandem!).

In Marblemount, a cigarette-smoking squeegee guy checked messages on his smart phone in front of the gas station while we adjusted our attire and restocked our food supply at the control. I bought some cashews and combined them with my remaining dark chocolate-covered açai berries for a stellar trail mix. We were off again towards Concrete and the South Skagit highway that we had used on the Spring 400.

Skagit River

The only nagging negative of the whole day was the growing pain in my right shin. I took some Vitamin I at four hours into the ride and I had two left for the 8 hour mark. I figured this would cover me for the first 12 hours of the ride and I could suffer in the spirit of les anciens for the last hour.

It wasn't going according to plan.

I needed to take the second set of Ibuprofen two hours after the first pair and I was going to have to look for more at the next control.

The kilometers were still clicking by though, and soon we were at the penultimate control--Big Rock Cafe-- with no pills ( sight!) taking off the arm warmers and prepping for the final 80km. Had Chris and I been riding alone, we would have surely made it into a beervet at this point, but Keith pointed out that if we kept to our pace we'd arrive at 4:30pm and that was good enough motivation for me to hit the road again.

We got back onto the #9 south with a slight detour around a cottage lake, then back onto the #9 until pulling onto the Centennial Trail. I told the guys that there was no threat of repeating the 'Bike Path Antics' of the first day at this point and everything was great until we hit Arlington, where the Centennial Trail became annoyingly reminiscent of the BC Parkway/7-11 Trail in Burnaby by Metrotown: on and off curbs, tonnes of street crossings, poor signage….

Once we cleared Arlington there were less street crossings but now bollards at trail intersections conspired to break the rhythm of our paceline, gradually eroding the spirit from our spirited ride. We continued to make good time but considered it sub-optimal at best. I did see four tandems as well as a dorktastic-looking Fred on a hybrid in a 508 Jersey(!) going the opposite direction. I kept daring Chris to say,"Hey, girls!" to any group going the opposite way but he never did. When it was my turn to pull on 1% rail grade uphill for an extended stretch into the wind with repeated bollards, I was done with the Centennial Trail. However, it would not be done with us for another 15km until we arrived in Snohomish.

Once we were back on the road, what the French call "le gout de l'effort" (a taste for the effort) returned to the ride. We took out our bike path frustrations on the pedals and we ripped towards Monroe at speeds rarely falling below 30km/hr. When I mentioned to Keith that it was looking tight for our 4:30 arrival he laughed and said, "I'm not on the clock, you guys are!" indicating that he would not be going to front again at this pace. Chris and I brought it in and we arrived at 4:19pm for an 82h19min time which was only a few minutes longer than my previous time for a route that was about 35km shorter.

We had pizza and locally-sourced, adult-appropriate recovery drinks followed by a shower and some contrast baths in the hot tubs. Chris and I went for Mexican with Ryan and Nigel. Malou, our chauffeur for the drive home, would join us later at the restaurant. Malou was reluctant to go into the finish line reception room back at the hotel because,"…of the wall of stench," so then of course we had to tell her that the finish gym at PBP was a million times worse. Because, y'know, I'm sure that'll REALLY make her want to go to France if we are successful at VanIsle!

#Training4VanIsle #CanAmMedal #spiritedriding #tastefortheeffort



Day 4 Slideshow (3:53)

Go to: Results
Go to: Cascade 1200 Home


July 4, 2014