Having completed the 200k, 300k, 360k fleche, and 400k, I thought I was ready for the upcoming Cascade 1200k in mid-June. The official eligibility rules state that I’d either have to ride a 600km brevet, or get permission to proceed without it. Although I had asked around and had a good feeling like I could get by without the 600km ride, a few others said that preparation-wise, it was a bad idea to skip it. The difference with 400k and below is that those are all one-day rides. When the distances get to 600-1200, you need to plan for multiple days, and manage your pace well enough to not be cooked for subsequent days.
Kathy had just found out she would have the weekend off work, so the car was available and I made a last minute decision to get in on the Oregon Randonneurs 600km just south or Portland. We drove out Friday night to stay in a hotel before my 6am start.
Within the first few minutes, it was clear that the pack of 25 were splitting into two groups. It was either jump on the train launching full speed ahead, or ride with the reasonable pack. Like past rides, I jumped on the train.
Somehow in my invincible state, I was covering miles fast, and people were dropping off the back one at a time. We ended up riding the first 100 miles in under six hours, which I had only done once before. Except this time, that included one break and a good amount of climbing. When we first reached the Lyons controle, it would only be a few minutes before others caught up and we regrouped with a more reasonable pace.
Shortly after this photo by Detroit Lake was around the point when I started to get leg cramps for the first time while riding, and backed off the pace more. I got to the top of the climb past Detroit Lake while the others were still there though, and we shortly turned to go back toward Lyons.
In an effort to stay hydrated, I was drinking a lot all day, but resources were far away and I was solidly between any place selling water. I passed a few camp site areas, but none with running water. I rationed my remaining amount until I eventually found a fountain at a park where I stopped for 15 minutes to rehydrate and give my legs a rest. By this point, I think there were six fast guys now well ahead of me, but I knew some others weren’t far behind. After waiting for one to pass, I caught up when they stopped at a coffee stand. I had a chance in Lyons again to buy some more water and gatorade before the next hill that I’d climb with two other Oregon Randos. I was still lagging behind though, with my legs cramping more if I pedaled too hard. I’d reach the top shortly after them, for a short break. Coming back down, I was more into coasting downhill than putting any real effort into it if I didn’t need to, so they started to pull off ahead of me.
I rode along with the two other Portland-area guys for a while, but just couldn’t keep a very steady pace and was generally needing to go a little slower than them. When I caught up at an ice cream shop they stopped at, they took a longer break while I made it a quick bathroom stop and then kept on rolling (I had just stopped roadside not 10 minutes before, not knowing there was a good place to rest). They’d pass me once more with about 40 miles to go as I started a series of short minute breaks every 10 miles when my feet were aching and the headwinds were picking up. Those last 40 miles were some of the toughest, but I finished the 220 miles that day around 10pm, and got at least 6 hours of sleep. This was probably the most out of the whole group, as I think the fastest few rode through the night, and most everyone else started before 5am. I was rolling at 6am.
I was unsure about how a second day of this would go, since this was becoming an unusually taxing ride for me. My plan was to start day two no matter what, and ride the 30 miles to the top of the big climb for the second day and decide there. That’s where the photo above is from. I passed four others on the way to the climb, but they were rolling slower than I wanted, and I was afraid they may not make it in time. My feet and calves were feeling much better after sleeping, so I made the choice to continue on, now with 135 miles to go. The road ahead was long, with no services for about 45 miles. Luckily I had packed an extra bottle of water for this stretch, but I was still running low.
Upon reaching the info controle in Sandlake, people on the porch told me that some other cyclists came through 3 hours ago. Uh oh, I thought I was doomed to ride alone if everyone else started that early. But a woman corrected him and said it was more like 30 minutes. Not trusting either story, I continued on, knowing that I had limited time to make the first timed controle point of the day in Pacific City.
When I reached the town, I saw David, who I had ridden with much of the previous day. He was fixing a torn sidewall, had a broken brake, and wobbly wheels. It looked like his bike was having a rough time, but we soon left and he powered on much faster than I could hold onto. 85 miles into the day, and I got only 7 with company before it was gone again. I figured that it would only be a matter of time before I caught people that started ahead of me but were riding slower, though my progress in catching anyone was slowing down over time too.
Finally, with 47 miles to go, I reached a store with a whole pile of randonneurs. A few left shortly after I got there, and I definitely needed a break at this point. I bought more water and gatorade, and then found one of my bottle cages was starting to separate. With only two people left, I loaded up my gear and headed out with these people I wasn’t yet familiar with. They turned out to be some of the best randos I could have asked to ride with! They were from the Desert River Randonneurs in eastern Washington, and were riding a very steady and reasonable pace. Finally, I had people to ride with that I could keep up with! We would see a larger crowd a few more times upon reaching controles at stores, but they were always 10 minutes ahead of us and about ready to roll out when we arrived. I stopped a few times to bungee my now broken waterbottle cage to the frame to keep the bottle from falling out, expecting to get left behind to finish on my own, but Norm and Paul spotted me in the mirror both times and would stop to let me catch up. I was thankful, because the last 10 miles were treacherous high-traffic, small debris-filled shoulder riding back into town, and it was good to not be alone along that road. We rolled up to the last controle, a burger joint, just before 7:30pm, about 37.5 hours after starting on Saturday.
This ride was 373 miles over two days. It was a tough journey, though most of the difficulty was an unexpectedly bad luck with muscle cramps and sore feet. Both of these problems haven’t been an issue for me before. I’m hoping that by riding a smoother cadence at a speed more suited for me on long days, and staying well hydrated, I can avoid this in the future. My next ride will be twice as long!
Strava ride for 220 miles on day one
Strava ride for 156 miles on day two