It took a sterling support crew, spot-on logistics, and a take-no-prisoners ride pace, but we got the job done.
The dream I’ve had for the last year – to ride 60 miles of prime trail in a single day to celebrate my sixtieth birthday – was achieved on Friday, July 23rd, with the help of 14 great friends.
We covered 63.6 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing. We turned the crank on the first trail at 4:55 a.m. and rolled off the last one at 6:37 p.m. for an elapsed time of 13 hours and 42 minutes. We were on our bikes for 10:07.
I put up ten photos at the bottom of the post to give you a feel for what we experienced. I will save the rest of the pics and the vid clips for the movie I am putting together.
The ride team and support crew included Ryan McMaster, Mike Van Hoose, Dave LeMonds, Jeff Muldoon, Dara Muldoon, Jack Berry, Thomas Mueller, Vaughn Martin, Brian Mahon, John Platt, Denise Livingston, Andy Crump, Lance Brigman, and Andy Jansky. We met on Wednesday at the Backstage Cafe in Kelso, ate pizza, and ironed out the details.
I was up at 1:30 a.m. on Friday and in Kelso by 2:45. We consolidated our bikes and gear, headed out at 3:00, and arrived at Ape Canyon at 4:23.
We were on trail at 4:56, all of us equipped with lights. The sun hit St. Helens at about 5:25, and we were golden from that point forward. Big views of Adams, Hood, Rainier, and the entire Cascade chain, not to mention the exhiliration of riding on the shoulder of an active volcano.
As would be the case throughout the day, Ryan set the pace for me and Mike rode behind us. The two of them packed my food, fluid, an extra tire, chain, and more.
I had predicted 3:30 for this leg, but my calculation was way off. I didn’t think we were pushing the pace, but evidently that wasn’t the case. Ryan, Mike and I were at the top of the big climb in 54 minutes. We crossed the Plains of Abraham, rode through the five washes on the north side and hit our turnaround point on the north side.
Dave, Crump, Jansky, Thomas, and Lance showed up a few minutes later, and we put the hammer down on the return trip. I caught a pedal on the way down and went over the bars, but there was minimal damage. It was a joy to roll down the old-growth ridge at Ape Canyon without having to worry about meeting hikers or other bikers. We were back at the trailhead at 7:43, after covering 15.5 miles with 2,800 feet of climbing in 2:47.
Denise, Jeff, Dara, John and Brian all rode a partial out-and-back and were waiting at the cars when we got back.
Blue Lake to Red Rock Pass to the Kalama Horse Camp
We drove down the 8100 to the Blue Lake trailhead, where we arrived at 8:24. Ryan, Jack, Dave, John, Brian, Lance, Jeff, and I were turning the crank at 8:30.
Imagine riding slightly uphill in a rocky creek bed. That was what the first mile was like. Tell yourself whatever you want about conserving energy, but unless you generated momentum, there was no way to clean this section.
After crossing a good-sized wash we entered a nice stand of old growth, where the tread featured a series of 8- to 20-inch rock drops. We crossed the lava field at Red Rock Pass, headed across the 8100 Road, and rolled past McBride Lake. The tread was fast and friendly for several miles. As we began riding along the Kalama River, it turned loose and sandy and became more demanding. Fortunately, we were rolling slightly downhill.
I predicted 1:30 for this leg, and we finished in 1:24. We were off the trail at 9:54 a.m., after covering 8.8 miles with 750 feet of climbing. We’d eaten a lot of dust, so we took a few minutes to wash off before the long trip to Lewis River.
When we arrived at the Curley Creek trailhead at 11:10, things were beginning to heat up. We knew in advance that this might potentially be the deal-breaker, so everyone was focused and a little apprehensive.
Thomas, Ryan, Jack, Brian, Dave, Lance, Mike, Denise, and I saddled up and headed out at 11:25 for the lower Lewis River Falls.
The tread was in great shape, but the trail was as tough as we’d anticipated. Lewis River has dozens of short, energy-sucking interval climbs, along with numerous creek crossings, and off-camber corners with big drops down toward the river.
Ryan, Mike, Denise, Lance, and I were drained when we got to the falls. Brian and John showed up a few minutes later and decided to head back on the 90 Road. We started down the trail and met Thomas, Jack, and Dave – all of whom were looking pasty and dehydrated.
We stopped only occasionally on the way back so that I could take a few swigs off a water bottle and pop a couple of Endurolytes to avoid cramping. I went through more than 100 ounces of fluid on this leg alone.
We got back to Curley Creek at 3:22 p.m. I had predicted 4:30, so our time of 3:57 was pretty respectable. We rang up 22.2 miles with approximately 2,250 feet of climbing. And it hurt like hell.
Vaughn, Jeff, Dara, and Crump had ridden modified out-and-backs and were waiting when we returned. Brian and John were already back, and Dave, Jack, and Thomas showed up 10 minutes later.
This trail is difficult enough as a stand-alone ride, but as the third leg it left us whining and wheezing. We grumbled a while, then decided we had no choice but to load up and head for Old Man Pass. We had 46.5 miles under our belts. Just 17.1 to go.
When we climbed out of our vehicles at Old Man Pass at 4:13 p.m., the temperature had soared to about 85. Everyone was showing signs of wear, but there was no talk of anything but finishing.
Brian, Mike, Ryan, Crump, Dara, Jeff, Dave, Lance, and I left the parking lot at 4:27. Jack, Thomas, Denise, Vaughn, and John would take the cars to the bottom.
Dara and Andy were fresh and raced out like they’d been mainlining HGH. Ryan let the rest of us up the six-mile climb at a more modest pace.
Thankfully, the interval climbing at Lewis River was behind us. Falls Creek is more of a grind. My overall strength was still good and my heart rate still under control. But whenever the trail turned up, I could feel the pain.
By now, Dave was hanging on by his toenails, but – obstinate person that he is – I knew he was determined to finish.
The tread was in great shape as we began to race through one rock garden after another. The temperature cooled down under the canopy and, despite the fact that we were fading, our entire group started hauling ass.
I had predicted 2:30 or more for this leg. I was stunned to learn that we had covered it in 2:09. We rolled into the parking lot at the bottom at 6:37, after 17.1 miles and 1,250 feet of climbing.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to get to the finish line. We hugged, high-fived, and took photos. Thomas and Jack had Crump’s barbecue fired up, and the brats were almost ready. I pulled out a fifth of Patron Gold I’d been keeping on ice for this moment, and we shared a toast.
It was a long drive back, compounded by traffic delays from Kalama to Kelso. I got home at 11:30 and was in bed at 12:17, to cap off a day that was just under 23 hours.
My training really paid off. I rode strong all day and was able to maintain a consistent pace. I was fatigued the following morning, but my legs weren’t sore – which is remarkable for a person of my advanced years.
I set out to celebrate my 60th birthday, but 60 @ Sixty turned out to involve a lot more than that. I was able to pay tribute to Mick Spane and Gary Ekegren, who are battling pancreatic cancer, and will probably exceed $8,000 in donations for Friends of the Castle Rock Library, Girls on the Run of Southwest Washington, and CurePC.org.
Maybe what I’m appreciating more than anything else was the chance to share the day with friends who were willing to make any sacrifice so that I could finish. My hat is off to them and to all of you who pledged money for one of the organizations.
I went through three gallons of fluid during the ride . . . Dave, Ryan, Lance, and I completed all four legs. Mike skipped Blue Lake but easily had the strength to do the entire thing . . . I never touched my bike between rides. The support crew, led by Jeff Muldoon, cleaned the drivetrain, checked the shifting and braking, and handled loading and unloading. Dave was slightly bitter about this . . . We experienced only minor carnage. I caught a pedal on Ape Canyon and went over the bars. Ryan missed a corner on the same trail and suffered a few scrapes. Dave took the hardest hit when he blew through a berm on the descent at Falls Creek and racked his forearm and rib cage . . . Aside from a slow leak in Lance’s rear tire on the Lewis River leg, we experienced no mechanicals . . . Thanks to Jack’s mom for sending the corn beef sandwiches, to Vaughn’s wife for sending the salad, to Dara for making the pasta, and to Andy Crump for the brats.