The 2016 Seattle to Portland bicycle classic has come and gone! Last year a group of friends did STP in two days. This year, a friend and I challenged ourselves to do it in a single day. Mission accomplished!
For those that may not know what STP is, it’s a 205 mile bicycle ride starting from Seattle WA to Portland OR. Riders may choose to ride it in one or two days.
With all the training and effort put into riding STP in a single day, here I wanted to document everything up to, during, and after the ride. The following is a somewhat detailed account of my experience.
*** Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form, a physician, physical therapist, coach, or anything close to knowing what the hell I’m doing. The following is just my experience as a novice/newbie on a road bike. Everyone is different and your results may and will differ from my own.***
To understand my 2016 riding season, I suppose understanding where I started from will give you a clearer overall picture of what it took to prepare to ride STP in a single day.
I assume any physical activity prior to 2015 didn’t have much bearing on my cycling health or efficiency. Having said that, the majority of my past exercise history was with weight training. After years of weight training (~20 years) I developed some pain in key parts of my body (right elbow, lower back) and stopped lifting around 2013. In 2015 I bought my first road bike since middle school. With that bike, I trained and rode in the 2015 STP 2-day ride.
After this first STP I had a better idea about cycling gear and what hardware I wanted to ride with for the 2016 1-day ride. I purchased my Cannondale Synapse soon after.
With the 2016 incoming season, I was 5′ 7″ and 211 lbs. Most, if not all, physicians would classify me as obese (fat).
During the off-season, my riding consisted of a relatively flat 14 mile commutes home from work, 2-3 times a week. Training for STP really began in January with a slow buildup to STP. I had done a handful of century rides within 6 weeks of STP with sprinkles of 50-75 mile rides here and there. Days prior to the ride, my legs felt the strongest they have ever felt. By ride day I was down to about 205 lbs.
There was only one goal I had for this ride. Alright, well maybe 2; finishing in one day and maintaining good levels of nutrition/hydration. My real goal throughout the ride was focused around nutrition. I knew the key to me finishing in one day was to keep my energy level up and staying hydrated.
Hydration: I used a Camelbak. To many road cyclists, wearing a Camelbak backpack is a big faux pas. Do I care? As long as it makes it easier to keep hydrated, I’ll use it. Within the bladder, I packed it full of ice and about 32 oz of water, refilling it at stops. Throughout the ride I tried to drink every few miles. By my guess, I consumed about 128 oz of water through the whole ride. Was that enough? No. My guess is that this was about half of what I should have consumed for the day.
Nutrition: Within the Camelbak I packed 5 Denver rice cakes (185 cal / serving), 1 banana, 2 Snickers mini bars, Big Chees-It crackers, Ibuprofen, Tums, and Saltsticks. I also had 4 Camelbak Podium Ice (21 oz) insulated bottles, each containing water mixed with 2 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem and 2 scoops of Heed. To help maintain their freshness, I froze them overnight. I carried 2 bottles for the first 150 miles and the third for the last 50. As they melted, I sipped on them throughout the ride. At mile 150 I was able to replenish my supplies.
The whole day was overcast, except for maybe an hour or two of sun at the end of the day, thankfully. Ambient temps got up to as high as 82, but while moving it didn’t feel anywhere close to 82. It was comfortable throughout the day.
Slept well for about 5 and 1/2 hours. I wasn’t very nervous, yet. My only concern was going #2 before putting my gear on.
Nutrition: 1 bagel with strawberry cream cheese. 1 cup of coffee. 5 Ibuprofens
Mile 0: UW Seattle: 5am
Excited and nervous at this point. After all the hours and miles training for this day, I was ready to get this done! Just needed to avoid any altercations with all the other riders.
Nutrition: 1 banana
Fatigue level: 0/10
Mile 24: REI rest stop Kent: 6:48am
As one would expect, lots of congestion. Riders everywhere. Saw a few mechanical issues on the side of the road, but thankfully no bodily injuries.
We had a headwind heading south. ~7 mph based on what http://www.timeanddate.com reported. Ugh. We tried to find a pace line that would help.
Nutrition: 1 Denver rice cake, 1/4 role of peanut butter tortilla (Cascade provided), 5 Ibuprofens, 1 Saltstick
Fatigue level: 2/10
Mile 54: Spanaway Rest Stop: 9:39am
At this point, things were going as expected. Physically I felt good but I noted a few minor issues that I knew would become bigger issues. Slight fatigue in my neck. Slight feeling of cramping in my right calf. Hands began getting numb.
At this stop, Crush Kids Cancer (charity I was riding for) was there providing catered food for us. Time to refuel, but mindful of not overeating.
Nutrition: Chicken Enchilada, rice, pasta salad, 1/2 Gatorade, 2 Saltsticks
Fatigue level: 3/10
Mile 71: McKenna Stop: 10:16am
About 5-10 miles to this point, we were in a decent pace line, except for 2 tandem riders. They looked to be dad + kid and mother + kid. They sucked. They repeatedly shifted forward/back within the line, weaving back and forth, and showing a wheel to other rides. I almost came into contact with one of them at least twice. Time to get away from these people, so we stopped for a quick potty break.
Fatigue level: 4/10
Mile 88: Tenino Mini Stop: 11:17am
Took my first turn pulling a small group leading up to Tenino. Was feeling decent, but definitely hungry for some food of any substance. Knowing we were meeting a friend’s wife at the half way point, we didn’t stay long.
Fatigue level: 5/10
Nutrition: 5 Ibuprofens, 1 Saltstick
Mile 101: Centralia Stop: 12:13pm
I was tired. The bottom of my feet were hurting, my neck was sore, and slight inner right knee pain. Thankfully the cramping never got any worse. I assume the Saltsticks helped.
Here we met up with my riding buddy’s wife. She had Subway sandwiches ready for our consumption. Thanks Emily!!!
After the half way point, the rolling hills really started. I hate hills. I really hate climbing. I REALLY hate hills. This is the point the ride turned into a slow grind.
Nutrition: 6″ Subway turkey sandwich, 1 Snickers mini bar
Fatigue level: 6/10
Mile 121: Winlock Mini Stop: 2:21pm
I hate hills. Peddle peddle peddle.
Nutrition: 2 Denver rice cakes, 1 Snickers mini bar, Chees-It crackers
Fatigue level: 7/10
Mile 146: Lexington Rest Stop: 4:39pm
Quick stop here as my energy levels were dropping. I didn’t plan to have any food when we met up with my wife at mile 150, so better get food where we can. Before leaving, I texted the wife and requested hot french fries🙂
Nutrition: 1/2 PBJ handwich, 1/2 turkey sandwich, 2 sugar cookies, some potato salad.
Fatique level: 8/10
Mile 150: Kelso: 4:59pm
I was really tired. Here my wife greeted us with a cooler packed with fluids and the recently requested hot french fries. Hmm, those fries were awesome! I couldn’t eat them fast enough.
The fresh cold fluids and hot food definitely gave me a boost. I could feel a bit of my energy levels coming back. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you Sumer (wife)!
From here we soon crossed over the Lewis and Clark bridge. The good news is that once we got over the bridge, our route direction changed and we finally got a break from the headwind, which turned into a tailwind. The ride was much easier and I was seeing cruising speeds between 20 and 24 mph.
Nutrition: McDonald’s large fries, 2 coconut waters, 1 Snickers mini bar, 4 Ibuprofens, 1 Saltstick
Fatigue level: 8/10
Mile 176: St. Helens Rest Stop: 6:57pm
Stopped at the St. Helens rest stop to meet and visit with one of the follow ride’s parents and girlfriend. I knew we were about 30 miles from finish and had 2 hours to do it. With the decent tailwind, I wasn’t too concerned about getting to the finish by 9pm.
At this point, my rear was starting to get pretty sore.
Fatigue level: 9/10
Last 30 miles:
As the miles ticked off, my energy level and moral began to drop off significantly. As the vehicles sped past on the freeway I couldn’t help but think how all this could be over within minutes if I were in a vehicle. Is it over yet? It was like watching the clock on the wall in high school class, except I was watching the miles on my Garmin. But with only a few miles left there was no way I was quitting!
Fatigue level: 10/10
Mile 197: 8:29pm
Feeling exhausted, I had no energy left, but I knew the finish was just around that corner. To help me get through the last few miles, I needed a little sugar, so I made a quick stop on the side of the road.
Nutrition: 1 Snickers mini bar
Fatigue level: 11/10
Mile 206: Portland Finish: 9:07pm.
As you would assume, I was grateful to finally finish. YES! Though I was too tired to really celebrate or understand the accomplishment.
I was really happy to see my wife. As soon as I got through the finish line, she was there to help and support me. Taking my bike and letting me do nothing. So grateful!!!
Fatigue level: 10/10
Nutrition: Everything I could get my hands on :) A big burrito, 1 Snickers mini bar, and a Coke.
Post Ride – The Day After
After leaving the finish line, the wife and I went to our hotel in Vancouver where I showered and hit the bed. I was out.
The next day I was a zombie. I had a hard time concentrating on the road driving home so I asked the wife to drive for a bit. I was just zoning out. Legs and rear were sore. Right knee was stiff. Otherwise I felt better than I had thought I’d feel after being on a bike for 12+ hours and 200+ miles.
Throughout the day I could feel I was dehydrated. My mouth seemed like it was constantly dry. I don’t think I went #1 all day until about 4pm, which is when I really started to feel normal again.
Just a quick note here about the pacelines during the ride. My guess is we rode in a single line paceline for about 50% of the time. With the headwind for the first 150 miles, it definitely helped when it was safe to be in one. At other times it just wasn’t safe. For the first half of the ride, some riders weren’t as experienced. Some didn’t signal hazards, some were all over the place. Once we began the second century, the crowds thinned out. All the 2-day riders were gone and you could just tell that the riders around you were a bit more experienced/serious about their riding. After the Lewis and Clark bridge, with the tail wind, the advantage of being in a paceline was almost none.
With all the hard work and time put into this, I want to thank a few key people who help me along the way.
First, JR, for being a great riding buddy. Always pushing me to train harder and becoming a stronger rider. Thanks duder!
Second, all the folks who donated to the cause I rode for, Crush Kids Cancer (http://giveto.seattlechildrens.org/page.aspx…). Han, Miki, and Andrew. Thank you all for your contributions to help the kids fighting their cancers. Altogether, we raised $650! They may never know who you are or what you did for them, but I will. Much appreciated!
And last but not least, my wife Sumer. For supporting me for all the time (hours and hours) spent training for the event, for being one of our personal mini stops to bring us ice cold fluids and those french fries. Those fries hit the spot for sure! And then the after-ride support. I was pretty useless after the ride and having your help was just plain AWESOME!!!
So what’s next? Well, I can tell you what isn’t going to be in my near future… Bike rides.
For a bike computer, I used the Garmin Edge 1000. I tried Garmin’s live tracking feature, but it was intermittent. Nice idea, but execution was buggy.
- Time: 16:07:19 (12:39:22 moving)
- Distance 208.23 miles
- Elevation Gain 5,000 ft
- Calories: 6,155 (Garmin based)
- Avg Speed: 13.2 mph (16.5 moving)
- Avg Power 120 W (161 normalized)
- Avg Temp 63.8 F