To fully appreciate this weekend, I have to rewind to 2009 when I attempted STP the first time. I was also training for 3 marathons in 90 days, had just recovered from a bout of vertigo, and was following the Cascade Training Plan for STP, which by the way, is over kill. As a novice rider and aspiring Ironman, I naively thought that this was a good combination-marathon training and double century training. Not to mention all the swimming (In reality, Ironman training does not include a full marathon prior to the event). I ended up hurt from over training and went camping that weekend instead. SO STP has been that thing-sort of hanging over me since then. Every year, I have hesitated. This year, I decided I have to face my thing.
Cascade is the bicycling club that organizes the event. There are pros and cons to this club. The older-experienced riders can be some what condescending and flat out rude to people who are starting out. I think they just have forgotten where they came from. Note to self to always remember I was once a beginner. Riding in packs of 20-30 people does not appeal to me. I prefer to pedal in peace and not listen to other riders calling out "runner up", "car back", "on your left", "on your right", "cheerio". I do understand this is a safety measure, but hearing it every five minutes over the course of 100 or so miles-yeah, annoying. However, my good friend Heidi likes the club. The Pros: folks to ride with (admittedly friendly types too), accountability, showing up for a ride and not having to plan out the route, advice and support. I didn't join the club, but I followed the long ride portion of the plan and managed to be fit enough to ride the entire way.
Day 1 6:00am- met Heidi, Marki, Christine and Joyce at UW parking lot start line. 6:30 rolled out. By the time we reached Seward Park, I was having fun and thinking that cycling is an ok sport. I conserved on day one because I wasn't sure how my body would feel on day two. I completed only two training back to back rides, but also did a lot of trail running, which is hills and elevation-actually more elevation in 13 miles than the entire distance of STP. There is one big hill on day one and it's really all about shifting low and spinning your way to the top. Grateful for spin classes all the way up that hill. The event is well supported. There is food/water/bathroom stops and gas stations all along the route. We made it to Centralia, the half way point, by 4:00. I was staying in Olympia (driving back with my bike to a nice hotel) to fuel and recover with a warm epsom salt bath and a comfy bed. I highly recommend this over camping out.
Day 2 6:00am-met Marki in Centralia. Heidi and Christine had decided to ride an extra 10 miles on day 1 and to sleep in an extra hour. We thought Joyce had dropped. Her training plan consisted of a 52 mile ride and several 10 mile rides during the week. More on this later. This day was all about rollers-so much fun. I was extra hungry so I ate a whole Larabar at mile 25 and two tacos at the 43 mile mark. I was a bit nervous about the bridge crossing the Columbia river in Longview. There had been a car accident earlier in the morning (no injuries) so traffic was backed up and bikes were backed up waiting to cross. The bridge is not too steep but waiting to go up was creating anxiety in the crowd and riders were falling over-I guess forgetting to un-clip. I lost my friends about half way. I practiced eating on the bike like in a triathlon, so I didn't need to stop so much. I am amazed at the different types of bikes that cross the finish line-mountain bikes, tandem bikes with four people (how do you bike fit that), recumbent bikes, and those retro type bikes with the basket on the front and a banana seat. I noticed several kids, Moms and Dads pulling a trailer with kids, a bride and a groom on their honeymoon, riders with beer jerseys (gotta find one of those), all walks of life, all body types, all ages. Ok, back to Joyce. We had a pasta dinner the night before the ride and Joyce was explaining her training plan of one long ride of 52 miles and 10 miles daily in her neighborhood with a hill. Whoa, and I was worried I had only one hundred mile ride finished. Joyce finished the ride and I think how most all endurance events are a little bit of training and a TON of determination.
That's my STP adventure. I crossed the finish at about 3:00 on day two. I am grateful I faced my thing. I learned that I do enjoy riding-especially when that's all I have on my 'to do' list that day. Already considering the one day ride next year!