2016 Seattle International Randonneurs Cascade 1200K 17-21 June
by Tim Snyder
Ever since I started Randonneuring, I have wanted to ride the Cascade 1200. This June the opportunity to do so arrived. I headed out to Seattle and arrived in Mount Vernon, where the 1200 would start and finish. After checking in and passing the mandatory bike check, I settled down in the lobby to wait for the 4 pm riders meeting. The highlight of the riders meeting was when they told us that there had been sightings of bears and cougars on the Centennial trail, which we would be riding during the middle of the first night. After the meeting and a quick bit to eat, I staked claim to a couch in the lobby of the hotel to catch some sleep before the 10pm start. As we got ready to start, the debate as to whether to put on rain gear or not began. As I got my Brevet Card signed, the locals were saying we were going to get wet. Listening to them, I quickly went in and put my rain gear on.
We left Mount Vernon at 10 pm with 73 riders, we left behind the 12 riders opting for the 89-hour option. We headed south on our way to Packwood, where we would have our first overnight control. I got to the first control riding near the back of the peloton, but with riders of my strength, and locals, which helped navigation in the dark. Leaving the first control, the rain began to fall. We set out hoping it was just a passing shower, but no such luck. After riding down the Centennial Trail, we arrived at the Snohomish Bakery (70.6 miles), I was soaked and beginning to get chilled. A quick cup of coffee and a scone, and back on the road. Pushing on to Woodinville Control (84.9 miles) in the pre-dawn rain and downpours was not improving my mood.
At Woodinville, I left the group and took a few extra minutes to get some warm food and drink into me and warm up. Not having fenders on my bike, everything was covered in Northwest grit, including my water bottles. First mistake, leaving the camelback in my drop bag. At the 103-mile mark, my teeth were beginning to chatter again, and I pulled over at McDonalds to get warm and eat some more food. At 142.3 miles, I turned on to the Foothills Trail, which is familiar to me as my sister lives near this bike trail. My mood and motivation was very low at this point, so some familiar trails began to lift my mood, although the thought did cross my mind to just turn off and head to my sister’s house and pull the plug on this whole miserable wet adventure.
About half way down the Foothill Trail, the sun came out, I began to dry out and warm up, improving my mood greatly. I arrived in Eatonville (169.2 miles) with the sun out and in a much better mood. Stopping at Subway for lunch, I laid all my wet gear out in the sun to dry off. Just as I finished packing everything away, it began to rain again. Since it looked like a passing shower, I hung out for a few minutes until it stopped. Rain gear packed away, I headed out of Eatonville toward Mt Rainier. Less than five miles out of town, the heavens opened, and it poured. Putting my rain gear back on, even though I was soaking wet, I hoped I could stay warm for the rest of the day. In and out of the rain, I arrived at the Elbe Control (180.9 miles), back of familiar roads as this is the entrance to Mt Rainier Park.
Now it was time for our first mountain pass to climb. As I neared the summit of Skate Creek, it opened up again in a torrential downpour. Have a 14-mile descent into Packwood, I was looking forward to sandwiches and something hot to drink before setting out on a 100k loop before getting back to Packwood for the overnight. The downhill sucked all the warmth out of me, and I arrived in Packwood (214.2 miles) completely frozen. Getting into the lodge and getting my wet outerwear off, my brother in law took everything over to the fireplace to dry it out. I got a couple of sandwiches and sat down by the fire to warm up.
Second mistake; sitting by the fire and warming up was great, but hearing the people talk about quitting, and how hard the 100k loop was, I began to waiver about going back out. I began to make excuses in my mind about how my body core temp was too low, and it was too dangerous to go back out. I went out to get something off my bike, and got chilled again. At this point, I was just trying to muster the “courage” to go back in and throw in the towel. My brother in law and the Control Captain saw how close I was to quitting, and began to focus on helping me get back out. Telling me not to quit in the middle of the ride, filling my water bottles with hot water, and giving me some chemical heaters to place in my back jersey pockets next to my kidneys and in my front pocket over my heart, they got me back on my bike.
As I left Packwood with some tunes in my ears, the sun setting, as some warm water to drink, I began to warm up. At the Ciscpus Control (248.7 miles), there was a bonfire and hot soup! Knowing I had only 30+ miles left until I could sleep, I pushed on through the night in good spirits. I arrived back in Packwood (275.6 miles) around 2 am, ate some dinner, prepped my bike and gear for the next day, jumped in the hot shower, and hit the hay.
Day Two came after 3 hours of sleep. Feeling refreshed and ready to go, I set out for the first climb of the day, White Pass. It was really cold starting out, and the sun was hit or miss on the road as it was still rising over the mountains.
As I neared the summit of White Pass, I was rewarded with some awesome views and a great view of Mount Rainier.
Needless to say, I am not the world’s best climber, coming from the Tidewater area of Virginia.
The sight everyone wants to see in Washington State Summit!
The landscape on the eastern side of the mountains began to change drastically.
After a great descent in the warm sun, we arrived at the Tieton Rd Control (306 miles) and rode around Tieton Reservoir. Arriving in Yakima (352 miles) for lunch, we enjoyed the warm of the desert and plains. The winds began to pick up and we started the long slow climb out of Yakima. It became a real grind as the headwinds were fierce and the road climbing and strait.
After a quick stop at a rest area, we had a big short climb out of the desert onto the Plateau. We arrived in Mattawa (418 miles) right as the full moon was beginning to rise.
With 72 miles left until Moses Lake and the overnight control, we pressed on. As the sun set, the temperature began to drop in the clear night and the wind remained fairly stiff. Now having 3 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours began to take its toll on our group. We tried to come up with all kinds of topics to talk about and stay awake, like “your best or worst ride”, “favorite ride” and such. With everyone being tired, and not really concentrating on getting down the road, we began to lose time on the clock. As the sun began to rise, we arrived at Moses Lake (482.8 miles) overnight control. A quick breakfast of eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, piled high on my plate, and off to the room for a shower and 2 hours of sleep.
Day Three started out with me fighting to just get my clothes on and trying to get back out on my bike and on the road. I kept telling myself I was going to quit, and then I would put my shoes on. I am going to quit, and I filled up all my water bottles and camelback. This went on until I was finally on my bike and on the road. The morning started with another long shallow climb into stiff headwinds, that were very demoralizing. The road was long and straight, and there was nothing but wheat fields to look at. It was a really tough stretch to ride. We finally dropped off the Plateau and were rewarded with light winds.
We headed downstream towards Dry Falls and Grand Coulee Dam. After a long hot ride, we arrived at Dry Falls (532.1 miles). The reward here was a milk shake truck at the Dry Falls Rest area. A double expresso malted milk shake never tasted better!
A quick stop in Grand Coulee to restock on water, we headed back out of the valley towards the Colville Indian Reservation, and our first mountain pass of the day. As sun set, we headed up Disautel Pass.
The temperatures stayed warm as we summited Disautel Pass and headed down into Omak. At the Omak Control (617.7), it was time to hit the caffeine and get ready for the big climb of the day Loup Loup Pass. We stopped about half way up Loup Loup to put on warm clothes, as it was getting cold, and watched the bad weather begin to build around us. By the time we summited Loup Loup, dawn was breaking and we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. The descent down Loup Loup was very cold, and it was raining so hard the water was pooling on the road. I began to get very chilled, and very concerned we were not going to make the time cut off in Mazama of 7:51 am. On the climb of Loup Loup, we had talked about getting a couple of hours sleep in Mazama, but now realized this was impossible. I began to plan out my stop at Mazama, with the thought of just pressing right through after the control. The rain cleared, and the sun came out, but we were met by a very stiff headwind in the valley.
We arrived in Mazama (677.3 miles) at 7:25, and I sprang into action to get back on the road in the best state I could. Dry clothes, and a great breakfast, and we were back on the road for the penultimate climb of the ride, Washington Pass, followed by Rainy Pass.
It was a beautiful climb up Washington Pass, and one that was very rewarding, knowing that I had accomplished a very difficult ride.
After summiting Washington Pass, it was a quick drop (with speeds up to 40MPH!) and short climb up Rainy Pass. The reward for all this climbing was 25 miles of downhill! At this point, having only 5 hours of sleep in the last 80 hours, I was really sleepy on the downhill ride. A couple of times I found myself sound asleep at 25 mph downhill. We passed a couple of other riders, and we all joined together to try and keep each other awake. The goal at this point was a Burger and Fries at Cascade Burgers in Concrete. With a small amount of time in the bank against the clock, we did not want to let up and set up a great pace line running down the valley towards Concrete. With each of us pulling for a mile, we were able to gain an hour on the clock. The reward was a plate of loaded fries and a burger at Cascades. Thirty miles left, and a fairly flat route, left us feeling good about conquering this ride. As the sun was setting, we arrived back at Mount Vernon at 9:21pm. It was an amazing ride and definitely one of my bucket list rides that I can now say I completed. 801 miles on 5 hours of sleep in 94 hours.