Seattle to Portland The STP story version
The buzz of everyone leaving for the weekend. Smells of a bagel that could not be would not wreck the weekend. First a little background of the adventure I am about to dive into.
On a brisk hot summer night in downtown Portland. Perusing the pearl district and out walking in the parks with friends, I see bike riders coming in through downtown. You can tell they were on a long bike ride these were the one day riders arriving from the legendary Seattle to Portland ride. I looked to my friend and said that should’ve been me. (not a one day rider, but a participant) I had just started working out and changing my lifestyle back in January of this year. It took a rude awakening with chest pains one night (another story). A couple weeks later I just did my first 30 mile bike ride. That’s it I started looking every week for a road bike knowing I did not want to venture the STP with my heavy duty Costco mountain bike. October I found the best deal I could, put it on layaway and finished payments in December. Learned how to participate in the STP I signed up in January and started training in February.
Long story short I have never missed a STP since that night walking the parks of Portland. The STP is an event that 10,000 people partake of. All different fitness levels and experiences, it is incredible to be around that many people achieving a common goal. The ride has become a lot more than two hundred miles on a bike. July’s have revolved around this event making a lasting impact on my life.
To me the STP is about finishing in Portland. No matter how long it takes you it is the same triumph for everyone. Some people’s first question to me is have you done it in one day? I know I will, but this is not the question, it is were you able to finish. Flat tires, dropped chains, walking up hills, broken bike getting hauled to next stop to get fixed, camping to wherever you make it, this ride is about getting to Portland and all the stories that happen in between. This year I sat up personal goals to get me to Portland. Some of them were meant and some weren’t, but I made it to the Rose City.
You can easily pick up a conversation with almost anyone, because of what you are doing together. The pace you keep with 10,000 people puts you right with people that ride very similar to you. It is very easy for me to overlook little nuances that show up riding with ten thousand people, because of all the positives of this ride.
Getting started on this STP which would be my fourth. After a five and a half hour bus ride which should of taken three we arrive in Seattle with nothing but bikes. Right in front of the stadiums with no idea if I could fit my gear on my back and bike at the same time. Need to upgrade my sleeping bag the one I have is to dense and takes up a whole pack. Perfect tent tied onto bottom of pack.(Bought it for my first STP a one man) 2 days of bike clothes and toiletries take up less than ⅓. A sleeping bag stuffed as far in as possible and still hanging out.
Just got new bike shoes with a carbon bottom really can’t walk in them, not the best idea to test them out on a 200 mile bike ride. Off and going very slow. Every time I put my head up my helmet gets pushed down by the pack. We find a Whole Foods on the way to University of Washington and not really wanting to eat in a restaurant with all of our gear. Time to brown bag dinner and ride to the tent site. I took off my helmet for the next three miles and no problems at all with the pack. (Remember for next time)
Arriving at the stadium all the big yellow moving trucks were there for bag drop off and we found a few people camping and joined them. Got camp set up and then ate the perfect Sushi dinner, things are looking up. Off to bed. Waking to the sounds of the loudspeaker announcing the one day riders in the morning. Pretty nervous as this has been my worst training year in four years and haven’t even finished more than 53 miles in a day. I did aggressively train for three weeks before the event riding 4 out of 5 days short distances, but at a high pace. Taking the last week off minus a flat ten mile ride to feel out the new shoes.
We were up time to tear down the tent and go, so weird a living space fits in a pack still liberating from how I usually vacation. Got the pack on the truck to meet us halfway, filled are Nuun/Trek water bottles and got in the start line. Oops too anxious forgot the start line pic will have to borrow someone else’s.
Our plan was I usually start slow and end strong so I would get pulled and keep up first half and visa versa. I was able to hold on for about 60% of the time. Our best time of the whole ride came between miles 10-15 five mile in 16:09 which is a personal best.
Got to the best stop of the STP at REI headquarters. They were having an 80’s party while assisting us at the stop. Odwalla juices and cashew bars were the highlight for me. Oh and I was able to snag another Nuun bottle, I love those things. After the cruel Puyallup hill my garmin beeper went off and showed I was down to 28 minutes for the last five miles. I was behind on the 15 mph average goal I set out on New Years. So from 45 – 50 head down chin up and push as hard as I can for 5 miles. I ended up getting my time back and putting myself over 15 at the 54 mile mark.
Arrived at lunch and took about 40 minutes here. Filled my helmet with food (pretzels, daves bread, cookie, etc…) no sandwiches, but they did have smoothies. Sat down on bleachers and ripped the new shoes off to let my feet breathe. I have learned to not park your bike with all the one as you pull in, take it with you through the line to the other side and leaving is much easier and I don’t have to worry about it as I can always keep an eye on it from the other side. First year we didn’t see the big Army planes flying over.
Lunch was over at the 54 mile mark and then something happened. It was not as crowded as usual in past years and I was able to just pace at about 18 and hold it most of the way to camp. One point for a little over five miles I held a 23 mph could not believe. Thank you shoes, Nuun, or Sushi. I ended up with a 15.9 on the day which I have never done so I was stoked. I don’t think I have ever beaten 13 mph on a century.
I had a meal planned for half way as I credit the whole month before I had been on my nutrition, but plans changed and I ended up downing a bacon cheeseburger and fries couldn’t help it. It took two hours to get the food at Mcmenamins we did this a couple of years ago with the same results. I will learn one year. Got back to camp as it was cooled down and we could bear to be in our tent, but walking by they had the Timber game on all the TVs it happened to follow the Tour de France coverage, so that made my night even though it was a scoring bonanza and they lost 5-3.
Hit the sack about 10:30 could not hear a thing amongst the 1,000 or so tents all within two feet of each other. about 415 I heard the first zipper and then that’s you heard until 6:00 when I was probably in the seventy percentile of waking up. I did take two different recovery shakes after the ride and that was the best sleep that I have had after a century.
The Second Day
As always it starts with one thing. Just get on the bike and go! Pack it all up get the clock picture bags on bus sore rear on bike here we go. Those first two miles are so mentally tough, you really want to just go home. Settling in and muscles warming, looking forward to the cup of coffee from the gentleman at his house. The year before I did so I wouldn’t miss the Timbers Sounders derby match and I was really out of shape that year and shouldn’t of ridden the first day. That’s another story for another day. (and i did get a lot of miles in the second day steel)
As much as I want to keep the goals of the second day, it is just hard not conditioning for multiple day rides for the body to do this again. So the second day is about something else to get me through. The second day is about a lot of little things that motivate you and the people that are happy to do it for the bikers. First is the cup of coffee, oh yeah the cup of liquid heaven from the coffee guy. It’s only about 5 oz, but what a coffee break. This guy is awesome. He takes 200 feet or so of extension cable and brews coffee for all riders passing by, good dark coffee. Find out we are on a different route and definitely got discouraged. These little things are mental pick me ups that help ignore the miles and just move on.
We were going through town and what do I see? A group of teenagers blasting YMCA with a full dance choreography. Next to them a friend of the coffee guy with signs for free coffee put on by the 4h club. Coffee down now it is on to the banana bread which is timely because it is right after the worst hill of the ride 11 miles in. Oh that will get me started, not we cross I-5 and not long until the longest hill of the STP, why can’t we skip this. After climbing this hill I look at it as the point where there is no return that is done just get the 85 miles done there is nothing worse now. The guy with the banana bread made 100 loaves for us and it is good stuff some of the best I have had there is other on the trip that isn’t even close, in fact I would by this bread if it were at coffee shops.
I did remember my singles this year so I could be grateful even though they covered me in the past as I didn’t carry any money on me.
Bread and coffee lets me blast to the ¼ done of the trip at the 25 mile stop. The treat here are Vader taters, they are a treat. Your body is craving something different from the normal food you have been given and a potato has never tasted so good. Mind you up to this point all carbs are bread (very good bread thanks Dave’s Killer Bread for being a sponsor) bars, and bagels. To get carbs from an actual vegetable is a good change of pace. Season salt and whatever they do to them and it’s ready to move on.
Right when you get back on the bike a short hill, but steep. This is the hardest point for me now I find out how overused my leg muscles really are. Taking my first dose of ibuprofen for the day (at the previous stop). Head down Chin up with 20 more miles to the lunch stop at Lexington. This was my longest break of the two days and my average was lost and told myself just go slow and finish you can do it. This time this year is when I have to mentally tell myself just get to Portland even if you have to walk.
After about an hour with my shoes off and finally a turkey sandwich (This was so much needed) we rode to the bridge to get half way for the day. Only had to wait for 5 minutes and climb that stupid thing. I was able to get a descent downhill and it motivated me for the next 12 miles I decided I was going to stop at every stop here on out. Bathroom lines were extra long so moved on 5 miles down the road and took another break.
WOW I am in St Helens that gave me strength to get to the last food stop. Another turkey sandwich sun lotion and a heavy mist from the misters. These little stops were actually easier than I thought to ride to. I didn’t notice, but I was actually climbing my average that I gave up on. 15 mph was coming back into reach. So with another 14 to the next stop I hooked on a long pull most of the way at 16-19 and saw myself just climb into 15 mph, but I knew I had the ST John’s climb and that would destroy that part. I made the last official stop of the STP, I should not of stopped here, but did got back on keeping a 16.5 mph average until the climb and actually had a decent climb. A couple of teenagers yelling at the top of their lungs “woo hoo awesome” helped with this stretch. It is amazing how many people help you along the way and how far encouragement goes. Every since my first ride I get a ton of motivation from people on the side of the road. Just ignore the other fingers and horns from people who decide they want to be angry at us bikers.
On my 5 mile alarm I noticed i was close to the average so I kept above 20mph for .5 miles and beat it by 4 seconds man having that alarm has helped. I am relieved as I have ridden the rest many many times and knew I could keep the average over fifteen miles an hour. Drove past New Season’s with a big smile. (I eat lunch there a lot and for the last few months kept telling myself I would be passing by here and would be happy at this point) Turn on Vancouver got to high five a row of kids and then to the rose garden and one of the best parts of the STP and you wouldn’t know it unless you have done it. You just mentally put your body through a lot and 6 blocks of people congratulating you is a pretty cool feeling going through the big finish.
Encouraging others to take the dip next year it’s fun.
Didn’t know for sure, but loaded up my GPS and my average was an even 15.0 for day 2 so very pumped for that. Next big ride for me is RSVP (Seattle to Vancouver BC) First day has more climbing than both days of STP and terrible side winds. I am going to do my best to train the same adding a couple of hills and staying on my nutrition. I am very nervous on crossing 15mph the first day, but I will try with the same approach of the first day of STP.
If you made it this far apologies for the length I have done 4 STP’s so combined a bit of experience and excitement in this post. This should be the longest post I ever make regarding a ride and think I like the bullet format a little better.