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James – Seattle to Portland

July 13th, 2009

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes his recent 200+ mile ride from Seattle to Portland – the pain cave runs deep in this dude! Find out what it feels like before/during/after a ride of this magnitude…

After the 24hr race I had a huge motivation gap that really threatened to extend deep into the fall. So I decided to change the route everything was taking by riding to Portland on the 4th of July.

So Friday night saw me frantically loading the Talon 11 up with some clothes (not enough for a cold Monday), tools and tubes (I never needed them), and lots of supplements. I woke to an early alarm on Saturday and somehow managed to dress, drink a cup of coffee, pump up my tires, and double check my preparations well before my departure alarm went off. Then I started the long haul south. Two weeks before I had mapped out the entire 206.12 mile route on my computer from my house to my sisters with a couple of deviations from the normal “flat” course the STP takes. With a punch of my Garmin’s button I was rolling.

Riding road you know takes a lot of fun out of a ride and the first twenty-five miles were dull. They would have been really dull except that I didn’t have to stop once while I was still riding in familiar territory. Some fluke of light timing and the lack of any cars on the road made it really easy to cruise through the twilight into dawn and then full sun. The north flanks of Mount Rainier were bright in the south by the time I reached mile 40 and the day was already starting to warm up. I cruised through a couple of little towns that I would have had no other reason to be in except that they were on my route and made the little climb out of Puyallup and started to get hungry. I stopped in Yelm and grabbed an amazingly quick breakfast of buckwheat pancakes and bacon (mmm…bacon) that would keep me filled for a long time. The terrain got a little more interesting when entered rolling roads in dry pine forests just as I ticked through 70 miles.

Oddly enough, mile 80 to mile 90 is a little fuzzy. I’m pretty sure I hit the north end of Centralia and rode through town but I’m not sure. I do remember the 100 mile mark on Centralia Alpha Rd. Perfect pavement in the middle of nowhere with a great two and a half mile climb and large trees. This road took me up to the last views I would get of Rainier and led me to the Jackson Highway and straight into the teeth of the dark place that is bonking. Right as the ride was entering some of the best roads I had a pretty serious conversation about where the nearest highway exit was. I could call here, still have the longest ride of my year under my belt (112 miles), and be showered and drinking beer by 2:30 pm. But I decided that I would tap into my Hammer Perpetum and see what happened. Half a bottle and a little stretching and wouldn’t you know it, I was fine. Not fine as in perfectly rested, but I was going to keep on going. I rode gingerly at first but as I crossed I-5 at the 120 mile mark I was back to full speed.

A quick stop for essential travel items (water, pizza pockets, and snickers bars) and broke up the mental monotony with a view of how everyone else was traveling. I was actually feeling O.K. I was going as fast as I had gone at eight in the morning and there were no real signs that my legs couldn’t make it all the way. Unfortunately this was when I had to begin the pep-talk to the rest of the body.

I had to convince my arms and wrists that the three positions I had available were fine, my skin that putting more lotion on wasn’t the answer, and the undercarriage need special convincing that the saddle was just fine. I followed the twists of the Cowlitz river south in increasingly unbearable heat and crossed the Columbia just as I started to really feel how warm it was. However, the bridge into Oregon meant I only had to make it another 48 miles.

My mantra became focused on doing the math of averages. “Let’s see, if I do 15 miles an hour I get there in two and a half, if I do 16 then I get there in two and change…” on and on it went. I had been dreaming about the tailwind down the Columbia all day and I got it just as I crossed the 30 to go mark.
Ten miles later, things began to unravel. First and foremost I couldn’t stay in one position for more than twenty seconds. My brain was on overdrive and I could feel everything in my body. Then my sister called and I knew that it was over: “Hey, do you want me to come pick you up?”….”Uh, yeah”…”Where are you”…”Uh, I’m the only guy riding south in the middle of the afternoon on Hwy. 30, I think you’ll find me” (close approximation). I was done with the ride fifteen miles from Portland.

As I dug through my pack a half an hour later to get dressed I realized that I didn’t feel all that bad. I had managed to ride from Seattle to just short of Portland by myself carrying all my gear! I hadn’t noticed my little pack unless I pulled it up to high on my back and I hadn’t had a single flat or mechanical. I could have done the ride with way less on my back. I’m glad I had all the extra stuff and the space, but next time I think I will try and get it into 11 liters and maybe I’ll pack all the right stuff. I don’t think I can ride that route again, but it has me thinking that I might tackle some other big rides in the near future. Thanks for reading!

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