We just finished the Cascade 1200. Sort of. The regular Cascade 1200 Brevet wasn't offered in 2009, but the 2005 Cascade 1200 course is available as a Permanent, so Vincent Muoneke, Kole Kantner, Ralph Nussbaum, and myself decided we'd give it a go. The regular Cascade 1200 Brevet run by the Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR) is known for its support and the potential for extreme heat in eastern Washington makes an unsupported ride - unwise to say the least. We were fortunate enough to arrange for support from two of the "significant others" - Carol Nussbaum and Trudy Frantz. I can't imagine finishing the ride without their support.
The first day was going to be a long one, so we decided to head out at 5:00 AM, same as the regular C1200, and so stayed overnight in Monroe to get as much sleep beforehand as possible. It was a good decision.
The first stretch, from Monroe to Issaquah, passed quickly. Then a turn for the worse. Rain. We hadn't expected that. The forecast had been pretty good, although chance of showers had creeped in. These weren't showers. We had pretty solid rain for the next three hours. At least we had rain gear and it wasn't cold, so we did okay. It was nice when it lifted and we were able to dry out. We had lunch at the Eatonville Subway. From there we rode to Morton, then Randle before starting one of my favorite parts of the ride, down between Mt Adams and Mt St Helens. A bit of climbing, then dinner at a secret control at Iron Creek Campground. Then our first major climbs ... up and over Elk Pass to Northwood. We set a pattern here that we would repeat over many of the climbs ... Ralph was the last one up, but the first one down. A Kamikazi on the way down! We had some great views of Mt St Helens as the sun was setting. It was dark by the time we reached the Northwoods control and the store was closed, but Carol was there so we were able to get supplies from her. Then the last climb of the day over Old Man Pass. We arrived at the Carson Hot Springs Inn about 12:40 AM ... Carol had hot soup for us, which hit the spot. It had been a long day, with over 12,000 feet of climbing and 224 miles of distance.
A few hours of sleep and we were up at 4:30, hitting the road at 5:30. It was a compromise start ... some of us wanted to start earlier, getting more of the ride done while it was cool, while others treasured sleep more. Today was another long day, although a little less distance and climbing - 10,000 feet and 212 miles. However, now that we were in eastern Washington heat would be a factor. We were fortunate that it would only get to the low 90's, but that was hot enough. It slowed us down ... at least Vincent & I. Ralph claimed the heat didn't bother him and Kole, well he's simply amazing ... makes everything look easy. Kole hit 700,000 feet of climbing for the year, well on his way towards a goal of 1,000,000 feet.
This was a painfully slow day. It took us almost six and a half hours to go from Carson to Goldendale, only 62 miles. We stopped for breakfast, stopped for the bathroom, and just rode relatively slowly. Sometimes it is like that. At least it was a pretty section, first along the Columbia River and then mostly up the Klickitat River valley. Ralph had said he wanted to stop at Klickitat, so when we got there Vincent & I stopped and went into the store ... but Ralph and Kole zipped on by. Oh well, we figured we'd catch them on the climb out of the valley that was a few miles ahead ... and we did. Unfortunately Vincent left his wallet in the park by the store ... or at least that is what we guessed happened later on.
When we arrived at Goldendale (a control), we met Carol for lunch and to stock up on water for the long barren stretch to Sunnyside ... 71 miles with heat and more climbing. Vincent and I also took the opportunity to charge our Garmins. From Goldendale we gradually gain 600 feet, then rapidly lose 1,000 before a painful climb of 600, then back to a gradual climb up to 3,200 feet (another 1,600 feet or so) near Bickleton. Having cleared the concept with Edward Robinson at RUSA prior to the ride, we had a couple of water/ice stops on the way to Bickleton ... which was a very good thing as I was running out of water.
We made it to Sunnyside about 7:30 and ate at a Subway. Only 85 miles to go! We rigged for night riding and headed out and up ... a 1,000 foot gentle climb. We eventually make it up and over, then on the way to Mattawa we turn left in front of the Hanford gate. Vincent misses the turn and heads for the security gate. With visions of flashing sirens, warning shots, and overzealous security guards we yell at him to turn ... fortunately he realizes his error and turns. Without any id (due to losing his wallet), it could have been a difficult discussion.
We arrive at Mattawa, having made plans for nice cool ice cream sandwiches ... but the 24 hour Shell Station is no longer 24 hour ... everything in town is closed as it is now after midnight. Kole finds an outside faucet and he & Vincent refill their water bottles. No sense dilly-dallying, we've still got forty miles to go!
As we ride along the Columbia, I look back and across the river. It is a clear sky, with an almost full moon, with a clear reflection shimmering on the river. Gorgeous.
Then our last climb of the day up Beverly Burke Road. At the top Vincent & I wait ... Vinent sees a red light high in the sky, moving erratically. I tell him he's nuts, then see it myself. Don't know what it could have been. We finally make it in to Quincy around 4:40 ... 23 hours after we started. Ouch.
We had originally planned to leave Quincy at 7:00 AM and had been having discussions that it would be good to leave earlier ... but that was before we arrived at 4:40 AM. So we got our hour of sleep and left at 7:00 as originally planned. Didn't have much of a breakfast in Quincy, as we planned on a full breakfast in Ephrata. We stuffed ourselves there ... I had a "Cowpoke" at the same Cafe we'd eaten at after the spring 400K pre-ride. It was good except for the climb up out of town. The Spring 400K ride through Moses Coulee (but not the pre-ride) had been marred by a 4 mile stretch of torn up road. That was back in April or May and shouldn't be an issue now, Sep 1st right? Wrong. As we start on the now gravel section we pull up to the flagger and his stop sign. Ralph comments on the need for sunscreen ... the flagger says something to the effect that there's no need for sunscreen, he's a smoker, so that'll kill him first...I guess that's one way to look at it. Fortunately only half of the section is still unpaved and we are soon at Farmer, another secret control, for lunch.
Our pace picks up as we make our way to McNeil Pass and then zip down McNeil Canyon Road. It is a wonderful descent, dropping 2,400 feet in about six miles on a nice road (redone last year). A nice view of Lake Chelan across the river thrown in. As we get towards the bottom it is like walking into a blast furnace, with waves of very hot air. The next stretch along the Columbia River on US-97 is very hot. Fortunately the control at Pateros is at a store/restaurant that is air conditioned. That isn't good enough for Vincent, who walks into the river to cool off. After we cool down, fuel up, and stock up on water, we head towards Loup Loup Pass along old-97. Here we run into the worst road conditions of the trip ... the road is torn up for 5-6 K. Ralph & Kole's headsets come loose from all the vibrations.
A brief stop at Malott to restock on water and we start the grind up. The good news is we've been slow enough during the day that it is no longer unbearably hot. I make it up and start down the other side. The ride down was wonderful. The moon was out, almost full, and the skies were almost totally clear. The moonlight reflecting off the small clouds, the stars, and the mountain tops were stunning. It was one of those stretches that we ride for, where the challenges of the day fade away and it is all worthwhile. The one catch is I had been having occasional mild chest pains. In the middle of the mountains, in the middle of the night, what is one to do? I figure it isn't that significant and, even if it was, there wasn't anything I could do about it. So I continue on.
All too quickly I'm at the bottom, where Trudy is waiting for us with water; the others arrive an hour later, at about 11:15, shortly after Trudy went to look for them. I caught myself snoring while waiting, so I must have gotten a brief cat nap in. We're almost there. We continue on and arrive at the overnight at the Mazama Country Inn at about 1:15 AM. Pasta and other goodies hit the spot.
We leave at 6:00 AM ... with about 15 minutes in the bank. Three hours of sleep felt wonderful. The legs were sore to start the day, but not nearly as sore as my bottom. Fortunately the Ibuprofen soon kicked in. Near the top is fresh chip seal ... lovely. Fortunately it only lasts for a kilometer or so. We make it to the top of Washington Pass and then Rainy Pass a bit after 9:00 AM. There is a work crew with four truck loads of gravel about to lay down chip seal ... I'm glad we made it here before they started laying that down! While it isn't all downhill from here, it feels like we've got the ride in the bag. We're a bit ahead of ourselves here, as we've got about 130 miles to go.
The views along the way and at the top are well worth the climb.
The next forty miles are mostly downhill, so we make pretty good time to the Diablo Overlook and then Marblemount, where we have lunch at Clark's Cabins. We form a pace line (which I dislike) for the stretch into Marblemount, as there is a bit of a headwind, and then continue it for much of the rest of the ride. Ralph has a flat after Darrington ... which Kole quickly changes. We're soon at Arlington, then we pick up speed by Granite Falls. By this point I'm falling off the back, so when we stop at the gas station on SR-92, I tell the others I'm going to leave first, as they'll soon catch up. Less than 20 miles to go!
They catch up to me about six miles later and I'm quickly at the back of the pack again. We start the last significant climbing (a 400 foot climb) and there is talk of slowing the pace so I can keep up. So I attack! The Ensure I had at the gas station must have kicked in. I pass them all and soon no longer can see them. I make it to the final turn off Chain Lake Road and wait for them ....we all ride in together, completing the ride in 87 hours and 20 minutes.
After changing we head off to dinner at a nearby restaurant for a celebratory steak, beer, and to complete the paperwork. It hit the spot.
Elevation Gain Recap (per Garmin 705 & Training Center)
Day 1 12,670
Day 2 10,405
Day 3 9,201
Day 4 7,440
Ralph & Kole had similar measurements.
Wednesday and Thursday I was very sore ... going up and down stairs was especially painful. By end of day Thursday the soreness was less of a factor, so the chest pain issue came back to mind and I had it checked it out - my EKG was abnormal ! I guess I'll be following up on that.