Rookie’s Perspective on Training for the STP: Week 8: 82 Miles, 3,500’ Elevation

On the ride home from Sultan, I thought to myself: I would happily do this ride every week.

Who knew there were such pretty country roads through the Snohomish River valley out near Sultan. We always just whiz by in our car on Highway 2 on our way to the mountains; I’d never gotten off the highway and explored the rural valley with its carefully kempt farms and fields.

What a beautiful place to ride a bike. (Too bad I was too tired to take any pictures.)

We gathered at Magnuson Park (where I was married many years ago at the top of a windy hill, just so you know), headed north up Sand Point Way, said goodbye to the lake and headed due east to Woodinville, and then north to Snohomish, east past Monroe to Sultan, and then westward back to Seattle. By the end of the ride, I was very glad to see the sparkle of Lake Washington again and to know we were almost home.

Ride to Sultan, WARide to Sultan, WA

With four Ibuprofen in me, I felt good for all but the last 10 miles, where I was kind of trudging. At a quick stop somewhere mid-ride, our ride leader David singled me out: “How are you doing, Kathryn?”

“Kicking ass,” I responded. (What, do I look like a weak link? I’ll show you weak link!)

Just before our first big hill, David told us to regroup at the stoplight at the top. Pushing up the hill, I saw a stoplight just ahead and felt quite smug about how handily I had conquered the hill. “Careful,” said a more experienced rider as I was starting to pass. “The hill keeps going up to the right.”

It sure did.

Oddly, I feel stronger and faster on the uphill than the downhill. I’m such a cautious wimp going downhill, both hands gripping the brakes for dear life, everybody swooping past me. Somewhere later in the ride, we rode down a very, very steep hill with a blind curve to the right. There was something creepy about the hill. Ominous. When I got to the bottom, one of the riders behind me told me that a friend of his lost control on that hill last year and ran into an oncoming car. She lived. I’ve been thinking about her ever since, wondering if she had a creepy feeling before she fell.

Creepy hill aside, for the first time I can see my way to 100 miles; I could have done another 20 if I’d had to. I’ve figured out how to keep nourished (homemade superpower hummus, homegrown hardboiled eggs, salted potatoes, and various sweet things) and hydrated. I’ve figured out what to wear (and I don’t care that nobody else is wearing a skirt). Biggest problem at the moment is that I still haven’t figured out how to keep my hair from sticking out goofily from the sides of my helmet.

Perhaps more importantly than feeling good during the ride was that I felt good the next day. My legs were tired – I wasn’t tempted to go for a run or anything – but I didn’t feel sick tired like I have for days after previous rides. I was running and biking again on Tuesday, which is a day earlier than last week, so this whole training thing might be working.

Coming up: 92 miles and up the 196th hill. When bikers ask me where we’re going this weekend and I say something about “196,” they all nod knowingly.

Oh dear.

Kathryn Saxer is currently enrolled in the Cascade Training Series, a 13-week training series designed to prepare Cascade members physically and mentally for  the Group Health STP or RSVP. She’s a personal and professional coach in Seattle. When not learning how to bike long distances, she likes to run in the mountains, share adventures with her 7- and 9-year-old children, and cook terrible dinners for her beloved and long-suffering partner. She’ll be reporting on her CTS journey weekly