I was able to hook up my GPS and download my track from the Tour de Blast straight into the new version of Google Earth.
It shows not only the elevation, but the speed and angle. Here you can see we were doing 31 mph at mile 60 on a 7% down grade. Google Earth also allows me to play back the route as a tour! If only it could control the weather. Now I just need to geocode my photos!
My third trip to Mt. St. Helens for the Tour de Blast was the most challenging yet. I first did this event solo in 1998, and returned with my brother Neil in 2004. Luckily, I was well prepared this year and brought a great support crew. Some how, suffering is easier when done in good company!
Neil's daughter Emily was along to support. She gamely spent the day with the car at the high school, reading, running, and sleeping.
The weather forecast was not promising, but we forged ahead anyway. Brief clearings made us appreciate the scenery all that more.
The first major rest stop is at the top of a six mile climb at about the 4000 foot level. We hit fog and patches of rain and the temperature dropped significantly on the way. A long descent made it tough to stay warm before the next climb.
Crazy enjoys company. The Rotary Club, with lots of practice, puts on a well supported event. They had a tent with a fire to get warm and there was plenty of food. There was a bus running to collect those smart enough to retire. There were plenty of EMS on hand and they were using their ambulances as warming centers for about eight riders at a time. There was no cell phone coverage on the course, but they local volunteer ham operators for communication.
The crowds thinned out as we reach the top. I don't know how many were brave (or prepared) enough to go the distance, but I doubt it was more than 25%. Neil made use of a trash bag to help maintain his low-fat ultra-marathoning core temperatures above freezing on the long cold descents. I was a little more well insulated than on my last trip here by about 20 pounds despite having lost 15 training for this event!
We made a couple of friends along the way. On the climb to the top we met a Navy doctor from Bremerton who shared some war stories with Neil. The final 25 miles flew by as we met up with Andy, a fire fighter from Seattle who was wearing wool and riding a classic bike complete with leather bags. I did my best to stick in the draft as he and Neil powered on while chatting.
It wasn't pretty, but we made it: 82 miles with 6200 vertical feet of climbing. A warm shower and cup of hot chocolate awaited us at Neil's friends in Castle Rock.
I keep wondering why we do things like this. As we rolled in to one of the rest stops, the Rotary guy directing traffic commented, "I'm not sure why you guys are smiling". I think we do it for two reasons. First, to test our selves, and secondly to witness the wonder of mother nature. She made the test a bit harder this year, and reminded us how unpredictable she can be. It is certainly a crazy way to have fun.