Team Slow
…because speed kills. Pass with care. Makes frequent stops.

ERN’s Rapture Report

Ed, Gabe and I rode out from the Hillsboro MAX the night before on what we later found out was the long and hilly route to the Flying M Ranch. We arrived after nightfall and were greeted by a gigantic hug from Rob, who thought we were wandering lost in the dark. Luckily, that was not the case, and being at bike speed we had less problems finding the ranch than many folks who drove. We gratefully gathered ’round the fire to scarf food before setting up tents or bivvies and sleeping.

The morning of the Rapture arrives. It is gray, cloudy & cool but not rainy. Nice day for a hard ride, actually.

So this ride is 70 miles of gravel, eh? No problem! I’ve ridden much farther than 70 miles. And I’ve ridden gravel–well, in 5 or 10 mile increments. I’m comfortable riding the hell out of my Trek 7000, and I put new ‘cross tires on it, so I should be able to lick this. I don’t have the recommended bike computer, but the turn sheet, map and a few well-placed spray paint markers are enough to keep me from taking any wrong turns. I also have an emergency GPS, courtesy of Mr. Anderson’s coworkers, which I thankfully never have to turn on.

At the beginning of the first climb up Trask Mountain/Toll Road, I realize there’s no way I can keep up with anyone. I can ride this, but only at my own pace, in true Slow style. If I push too hard, I’m concerned I will a) burn myself out far before the end of the ride, b) re-injure my knee, and/or c) be miserable. Be a tortoise, not a hare, I keep thinking the whole ride.

The first climb is arduous and halfway beautiful. The ride is primarily on logging roads, and the first section has us riding a line between a beautiful forest and a recent clear cut. I try lifting my head up to take in the view now and again, rather than staring uphill at all that gravel.

I know from staring at the elevation profile that the first climb is technically the hardest–the longest, the steepest and the most elevation gain (2500’+ over 8 mi). But it’s also over in the first 13 miles, so I push through the whole climb, dismounting only for the 100 yards or so of snow on the road. I pass Gabe and Rob patching pinch flats on the first bone-rattling descent before stopping by a stream for a snack and a quick rest.

At this point, I’m pretty much in the back of the pack. That’s okay. Every time someone passes me we exchange greetings and I happily think, “Oh, I wasn’t in the back! Maybe I am now.”‘ I come across Ed patching a flat and give him a few of my patches since he’s running low. I leave him to patch knowing he’ll catch me soon, and he does at my next rest stop by a stream.

Throughout the ride I think about letting a little more air out of my tires for a more comfortable ride, but seeing so many folks pinch flatting makes me too paranoid to do so. Thankfully I have zero flats the whole ride, but I think my seat suffered for it. I’m also really missing my padded shorts that I melted last September in front of a campfire (not while on me, of course).

The rest of the ride is a bit of a blur. The last few folks I was leapfrogging with bailed at Old Railroad Grade Road with another 11 miles to go, and I’m afraid it’s getting close to 8, at which time the ride leaders claim they will call my emergency contact. I don’t want my Mom to worry, so I just keep spinning. The final hill is on Puddy Gulch Road, and it is the one point on the ride where I reach brief misery. There’s a sprinkling of rain, there’s 14% grade with no oomph left in my legs, there’s no one around to cheer on or commiserate with, and there’s the feeling of being so close to the finish but so very far away. As I reach the top of the last of the climbing, though, I am treated with a very pretty pastoral landscape and sunlight on my skin that lasts the rest of the ride.

I pull back into the Flying M at 5:30, well before the time I thought I would arrive. And I wasn’t even last! One final group of 3 pulls in 40 minutes behind me. Huzzah! The organizers even have a keg to help us celebrate and forget our sore bodies.

I’d been looking forward to conquering this ride for weeks, especially since I missed events earlier in the spring from an injured knee, and wanted to prove that I can still push myself. I think that’s why I was in such good spirits the whole ride, because It Was Hard. And I would totally ride it all again.

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