Today, again, was no Sunday in Hell, but it sort of felt like it, localized and selfishized at least. We decided to go up to Stanwood and do the Camano Island loop, following the cue sheets and maps proffered by the Seattle International Randonneurs.
First let me gloat on a personal note: for the month o’ February I managed to log 560 miles. A little over my goal. I’m very happy with that.
When we parked in Stanwood and got ready it was cold. Cold enough to prompt me to ask, “Should we even do this?” Partly that was ‘cuz in an ill-advised fit of chivalry I’d forced Surlylady to take my ‘warm’ gloves. Once we started spinning and hit the first hill, however, I took off the balaclava and felt much better. But it was a bitter, ill wind which bore much bad omen for yours truly. No, not Surlylady, me.
Today’s ride, in a karma-balancing kind of way, paralleled last Saturday’s ride: on an island; cold wind; cloudy, leaden skies that once in a while threatened sun breaks; and one of us with the blahs. Today it was my turn to be grumpy. To give myself some slack, I had some things going against me. I had a personal trainer session yesterday which included chest presses, for the first time, 100 pounds. That sounds wimpy to most of you but for me, someone who’s never done a chest press intentionally in my life, it made my arms and chest areas sore. On top of that, or below rather, my right hamstring was super tight. I think it may have been related to the gym stuff, where I had to do some balance toe touching with a 27.5 barbell, much more weight than I’d done before. Anyway the first half of the ride my right hamstring was threatening to cramp up. It’s an awful feeling, I’m sure you’ll agree, being on the verge of a cramp. No amount of stretching or Midol seemed to help.
Then, further below, my old friend the hematoma was back. In fact, let’s name him. How about Hemi? Full name Hemi Moore. And he’ll talk in the voice of… that tumor/baby thing from Hellboy II. So how’s it going today Hemi Moore? Oh dear, I can’t print that. Sounds like you’re under lots of pressure. Really, it’s not cool to make fun of fat people… oh you don’t say? That’s it, I’m taking a hot bath. We’ll see how you like being submerged in boiling water.
Anyway, while he’s quiet, let’s return to the ride. So, triangulating between all these aches and pains was one thing, but my heavy-as-lead legs were even worse. I could barely keep up with the Surlylady. It was her turn to slog me around an island. And BTW, as I was riding and suffering, I thought that when the SIR propaganda says some ‘rolling hills’ will be involved, you should beware that’s euphemism for ‘horrendous hills at a ferocious frequency’ but of course now that I’m all bathed and warm and recovered (thank you Darigold chocolate milk!) it probably wasn’t all that bad.
Our first diversion was a placed called English boom. Nice little spot, but watch the hill down to the water. Surlylady had to walk part of it back up ‘cuz it was so steep. After a nice frozen interlude, we remounted and returned to the official route, which led us mostly along the water, as along the water as you’ll get in a crowded seashore location mere hours from a mega huge city that is. At one point I was about to tell the Surlylady that this was my new favorite place (as opposed to San Juan Island; sorry SJI I’m fickle) when we were viciously set upon by a small dog that didn’t seem to have an algebraic appreciation for speed and trajectory. It was almost funny: owner shouting fruitlessly comes running out into the street; dog nearly catching Surlylady who’s taken off like a… frightened antelope, that’s right… owner sidesteps just behind the SL and neatly cuts off the dog, who’s prey instinct had by this time abated and hardly paid any attention to me. Then it was another long hill. Then another. Then another. Then another. And so on.
Finally we came to what we thought was the correct state park, according to the Cue Sheet, but it was in fact Cama Park, and not Camano Island State Park. They’re right next to each other. I’m sure they feature many of the same features. But because of this, I’m sure we didn’t miss much as we sat in a sheltered area and munched on PB&Js. Oh, the facilities were very modern and even had heating, so that was kind of nice. Oh, and the facility count so far, going west along the top of the island, just before you bear south there’s a Gull station. Then nothing more until the state park(s).
Then there were more hills out of the state park(s). In what seemed, at the time at least, like the only substantial payoff in terms of elevation remuneration, coming down this hill I managed to hit just over 46 miles per hour! Surlylady let me get in front (remember the “I have more mass song”?) and I took full aero advantage, getting down into a tuck, pedals at the 3 & 9 o’clock positions, butt off the back of the saddle a little like when downhilling on a MTB. As I wound it up my legs were acting as (weakened) suspension springs as I hit dips in the road, and I could tell I was getting very close to maybe bouncing in a very bad, directional change kind of way, but then things smoothed out. That’s by far the fastest I’ve ever gone… not sure if I want to do that again, at least on purpose. If something had jumped out in front of me, or if I’d hit a bad hole or something, it wouldn’t have gone well. Wellington, the Long Haul Trucker, due to its relatively long wheelbase (I think) was sufficiently stable; not so sure I would have wanted to do the same on my Lemond Sarthe. Or maybe on that one I could have gone over 50MPH! Sorry Wellington. Oh, don’t rattle your new chain at me! There, now you’ve gone and woke up Hemi Moore. Great.
This fun downhill was followed by… another hill… and then more… and more… all around and down to the southern tip of the island. Sorry. It wasn’t that bad I reckon, honest. This area was lovely, marred only by all the signs of new construction. Why so much new construction when it seemed that a full third of all the properties on Camano were currently for sale? Anyway, here’s a nice scene from this area:
By this point, the southern point, I was actually feeling much better. The huge downhill run had rejuvenated me somewhat, and my right hamstring had worked out the kinks and kicked out the cramps jams (RIP Lux Interior). So, all that remained was Hemi Moore and my dead lead legs. Every time I looked up it seemed Surlylady was 100 yards away. There were some long sharp hills where I could only manage 5MPH… but I managed it. Thanks in part to a constant recital of one of my favorite passages from The Biker’s Prayer:
And verily, though lactic acidity
Should cause elastic flaccidity,
I shall remain constant in truth and motion;
Each turn of the pedal deserving of medal,
Each pedal stroke an aero spoke
In the hand-laced Wheel of Devotion.
The Eastern side of the island was maybe even lovelier than what we had already seen. My spirits revived, etc. We stopped and had a Snickers bar:
From this scene on, unfortunately, we rejoined the heavy traffic zone that must be locally & colloquially known as the Stanwood Speedway. There was a nice turnout, per the SIR instructiones, on Russel Road etc, that got us away from the heavy traffic. But, if taking this cutout and heading east, there’s an equally heavy price to pay: the heartbrake hill. First there’s a long and steep section followed by a long and not as steep section. Not much chance for recovery. That was the hill that did me in. Once we rejoined the 532 speedway I was able to get out of the saddle and sprint a few of the hills but I was done. Spiritually, psychically, bicycally. Surlylady would pull away and I’d have to curse myself to goad my wide load into catching up… but I did, time after time. Then came the Stillaguamish squeamish bridge crossings (wow there are a lot of big diesel trucks in that area) and then there was the car.
And then a few minutes later, there were the blessed, blessed tots: