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Seattle to Portland Ride 2005



 
 
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  #1  
Old July 11th 05, 09:41 PM
harper
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Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


Bruce won't blow his own horn so I will.

Bruce Dawson just turned forty. He did the annual Seattle to Portland
Ride (over 200 miles) on a Coker in two days. He finished it yesterday.
This is an incredible feat. Prior to the STP he did an 82 miler and a 77
miler. Hopefully he will fill you in on the details. I can't begin to
fathom that kind of determination and endurance. Congratulations, Bruce.
You've done it once and you don't ever have to do it again.


--
harper - TANKED at GASWORKS

-Greg Harper

B L U E S H I F T

"Never ride backwards up a rocky mountain road because the things that
will trip you if you see them will also trip you if you don't. " -
munipsycho
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  #2  
Old July 11th 05, 09:54 PM
nathan
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Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


That's very impressive - congratulations Bruce! How did the other
unicyclists do? Jack Hughes told me that he was doing it again this
year. Who else? Several of us considered coming up from California to do
this ride but for various (wimpy) reasons, none of us made it.

---Nathan


--
nathan - BIG rides: Muni & Coker
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  #3  
Old July 12th 05, 06:28 AM
tomblackwood
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Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


Not sure what happened to Jack, but Bruce was the only unicyclist...the
sole representative from the "People that are crazy enough to ride STP
on a unicycle" club, which I believe is now up to a whopping three
members.

Bruce is understandably tired, but hopefully he'll join in on this
thread soon so we can stop talking about him like he wasn't in the room
.


--
tomblackwood - Registered Nurtz

Tailgate at your own risk.....

"By George! The man's a genius!"
Murde Mental

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  #4  
Old July 12th 05, 03:35 PM
briguymaine
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Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


wow Seattle to Portland, Maine? Amazing!!!


--
briguymaine

Life is like a box of chocolates? I hate chocolate.
'My blog is at www.munitard.com' (http://www.munitard.com)
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  #5  
Old July 12th 05, 04:44 PM
Bruce Dawson
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Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


After a year of planning it worked. At around 6:10 PM Sunday I rolled in
to Holladay Park in Portland and cracked open a bottle of champagne,
having left Seattle at 7:10 AM the previous morning. The vital
statistics a

204 miles
20:40 of saddle time
26:30 of road time

This gives me an average riding speed of a bit less than 10 mph. I’d
hoped for more, but it sure is hard to maintain a good pace the second
day. The first 40 miles on Saturday I managed a riding average of 11.4
mph. The first 40 miles on Sunday my riding average was 9.2. You’ll
notice that the Sunday speed is a tiny bit slower.

I’ve written up a ‘brief’ story of the ride. I only included the
highlights, but with 26:30 of road time there are bound to be quite a
few highlights.

I woke up on Saturday at an ungodly 5:30 AM, had a quick but substantial
breakfast, and headed off to the University of Washington. After sitting
in STP car traffic for half an hour I made it to the start line. The
ride got off to an inauspicious start as it took me four tries to mount
my steed. As I headed off I noticed my body felt oddly jittery--either
too much sugar from breakfast, or perhaps just excitement from the
ride.

Over the first few miles the jittery feeling gradually disappeared and
was replaced by seat discomfort. Five miles into the ride I felt like
I’d been riding for fifty miles. This is not a good sign and I started
to wonder how I could possibly do this ride. I rarely adjust the
pressure in my air seat and I’d actually considered leaving my pump in
my support vehicle in order to save weight, but luckily I’d changed my
mind. I stopped and added more air to the seat and suddenly I felt quite
comfortable--disaster averted. Over the rest of the ride I was
frequently adjusting the seat pressure, trying to find the perfect
pressure, and experimenting with varying the pressure in order to spread
out the wear and tear on my body.

The next forty miles were uneventful. I stopped more than I really like
to but my speed was good and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the view
from up high, talking to some of the cyclists and watching the miles
tick off. I was eating, drinking, and taking salt tablets in order to
keep my body working properly.

“The Hill” at the 43 mile mark is a legendary 7% grade that goes for a
mile. It’s not really that bad a hill, but you can’t argue with a
legend. This was one of the highlights of the ride for me. The really
fast cyclists were far ahead, so I was riding with cyclists who were,
once you removed most of their gears/coasting/brakes advantage, not as
fit as I was. So I toasted them. Nobody passed me on The Hill and I
probably passed sixty or more cyclists. It was very fun. It’s worth
unicycling the STP just for that.

Shortly after The Hill some jerk drove buy and yelled out rude remarks
urging me to get off the road and questioning my sexual orientation.
These remarks always perplex me, and make me sad. I don’t know why some
young men have so much anger, or inability to accept somebody different.
It doesn’t bother me; it just makes me worry about them. This was the
only negative comment I heard on the ride and it was completely
overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of encouraging comments from
other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

Shortly after The Hill I pulled a muscle in my right leg. It wasn’t a
bad muscle pull, but it was a nagging twinge every time I flexed that
leg muscle, and I’m not good at riding one footed with my left foot. For
the second time I started worrying about whether this was going to
work.

When I got to the 53 mile mark my wife Helen and my daughters were
waiting for me. We sat on the grass in the sun, ate the food that Helen
had packed, and loaded my backpack for the next section. My leg was
still bothering me a bit, and Helen said I looked terrible. I made it
about ten miles before deciding that I needed to do something to improve
my energy levels and reduce my seat discomfort. I stopped and added air
to my seat, took an ibuprofen, and slurped up a package of Lava Gu. One
of these changes—combined with a few minutes out of the saddle—did the
trick. I resumed riding and I felt like a new man. My pulled muscle
stopped hurting, I was riding fast, and I was back on track.

At a couple of minutes past 7:00 PM I rode in to Centralia, the halfway
point on the ride. At 102 miles this was my longest ride ever, on a
bicycle or a unicycle. Helen and my daughters Maria and Sarah were there
waiting for me with barbecued chicken, watermelon, and other tasty food.
Many cyclists had set up tents in the park and were getting massages,
drinking beer, watching the Tour de France, and generally having a great
time. However, with my slower average speed I couldn’t afford to stop
for long. I needed to get a head start on the second half of the ride if
I was to finish. So, after a brief rest I remounted and headed off.

I was now one of the few riders left on the road. I didn’t see a single
rider the rest of the day. For the first time I had to pull out my map
and pay attention to the Dan Henry’s painted on the road. There was a
brief period where I was convinced I had missed a turn because I’d been
riding for several miles and had yet to reach a turn that was supposed
to happen about two miles earlier. It turns out that that the STP
mileage calculations are not completely accurate. I suspect they fudged
the numbers in order to make Centralia’s park exactly the midpoint. It’s
really only 100 miles, which is confusing, and a discouraging discovery.
Despite the worry that I’d missed the turn I didn’t turn around and I
soon realized that I was still on the route.

A lone unicyclist in the middle of nowhere sticks out more than a
unicyclist surrounded by bicyclists so I started getting more random
comments from pedestrians. In Napavine I managed a brief and amusing
conversation with a young man loitering in the center of town.
Loiterer: Hey, it’s a unicycle!
Me: (wave)
Loiterer: Dude, are you totally crushing your radial vein?
Me: (wondering if his question is anatomically accurate) Yes I am!
Loiterer: Dude, you’re never going to get wood again!
Me: (heading around the corner out of town) It’ll be fine in a few
days!
Loiterer: (laughter fading off into the distance)

Male bonding--it's a wonderful thing.

My destination was the outskirts of Winlock: 119.6 miles into the ride.
Helen and I had discussed this on our cell phones and I expected that
she was there already. About four miles out of Winlock I got a call from
Helen--one of those useless calls where each person says a garbled
“Hello” a few times before the connection is lost. I’d managed to
unicycle out of coverage just as the call started. I didn’t worry about
it because I assumed she was just checking to see where I was, and I was
fast approaching her.

Around this time it started getting dark. I turned on my flashing rear
light, held a bike light in my hand, and continued on. Two STP safety
patrol cars pulled alongside to make sure I had proper lighting and to
check that I was okay. In order to ensure my safety--and probably
because not much else was going on—one of them followed me all the way
to Winlock, lending extra light, and ensuring that nobody ran me over.
I’m sure I would have been fine--my light was sufficient to see
obstacles, and my rear flasher made me feel relatively safe--but I
certainly didn’t complain. Riding at night is more stressful and
dangerous, and it was good to know that if I rode into the ditch I
wouldn’t lie there until morning.

I got to Winlock and found that Helen wasn’t there. Oops. Apparently she
had been calling to say that she was lost. I still had no coverage so I
borrowed a cell phone from the volunteer car that had been tailing me
and called her. We talked for about thirty seconds before--surprise--she
drove into the cone of silence that surrounds Winlock. In our brief
conversation I told her that I was half a mile into Winlock but I wasn’t
sure how much she had heard. After fifteen minutes of waiting the
volunteers started driving me back along the route, looking for Helen.
We found her at a gas station using a pay phone to call my cell phone,
and feeling quite frazzled by being lost and then thinking that she’d
lost me. It was a powerful reminder of how valuable cell phones are on a
ride such as this, and how frustrating it can be when coverage fails you
just when you need it.

My final stopping point was 120 miles, and I suspect this will be my
all-time one day unicycle record.

It was close to 11:00 PM by the time we got to our hotel, so by the time
I’d showered, eaten some more, had some more to drink, figured out how
to jury rig my laptop as an alarm clock (what kind of hotel has neither
wake-up calls nor an alarm clock) it was pretty late. I set my laptop to
play “Walking On Broken Glass.mp3” at 5:30 AM and did my best to
sleep.

Annie Lennox woke me in the morning and I had a quick breakfast,
including toast from the toaster that Helen had helpfully packed. Then
Helen drove me back to Winlock to resume the ride. Our hotel was
actually about 20 miles closer to Portland than Winlock and it was
*awfully* tempting to skip that section. Who would know? However, I
decided that I didn’t want to disappoint me, Helen, or God, so to
Winlock we went.

I hopped on my unicycle and rode about half a mile before deciding my
seat had too much air in it. I’m not sure how I’d managed to ride it the
previous night, but it was lifting me up so high that I was worried
about getting calf cramps from stretching my legs so much. So, I stopped
to let out a bit of air. I was careful to stop on a downhill in order to
make remounting easier. It was a good idea, but not sufficient.

As unicyclists we all know that a failed attempt to mount a
unicycle--especially a Coker--doesn't count as a fall. If you go on a
long ride and have a few failed attempts to get on then you can still
say, with a clear conscience, that you had no UPDs. Well, I tested the
limits of this rule that morning. Despite my perfect downhill mounting
point I managed to have probably my worst Coker fall ever, while
mounting. At roughly zero miles per hour I fell suddenly and violently
forward, landing on my hands and knees. My hands were lightly scraped
and both knees were bleeding. Helen was right behind me at the time and
she said that at that point she was very skeptical about my doing the
remaining 84 miles. I was feeling a bit shaken, but too stubborn and
proud to admit any weakness. However, after a couple more failed tries
to mount I used the van as a leaning post to get on. Mounting a Coker
with 5” cranks when you’re tired is a real pain, and this reality guided
my dismounts for the rest of the day. No matter how tired or sore I
felt, I would never stop unless there was a steep downhill, a well
placed leaning post, or a burly cyclist who could help me get on.

Other unicyclists have done the STP before, especially Jack Hughes, and
throughout Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that all unicyclists look
alike. I was greeted several times with comments like “it’s good to see
you again”, “I was wondering when we’d see you”, or even “Hi Jack”. I
even had a long conversation regarding this with the official
photographers. They started by greeting me with “you’re later than
usual” and then, after I’d pointed out that they were confusing me with
somebody twenty years younger, they started listing various other ways
that they then realized I was different from Jack--shorter hair, taller,
more handsome, etc. It’s amazing how long a conversation you can have at
10 mph if the road is quiet.

If The Hill is the defining terrain of Saturday then The Bridge is the
equivalent for Saturday. The Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia
has a reputation of being harder than it looks, and it is a huge bridge
with a fair chunk of vertical climb. Because the bridge is narrow and
crowded the organizers make cyclists wait until there is a huge
group--probably 500-1,000 riders--and then they shut the bridge to
traffic in one direction and escort the riders across. My one concern
was about riding on a reasonably steep hill (some sources claim it’s a
9% grade) packed in with a thousand cyclists. It certainly could have
been a bad ride, and if I’d fallen on the uphill there would have been
no chance to remount. But, it went well. It was a bit slower than I
would have liked, definitely crowded, and occasionally I had to dodge an
unpredictable and slow biker, but overall it went smoothly. On the
downhill side I just kept to the right and let the lazy cyclists coast
past me without pedaling. Wimps.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself how far I’d gone. One tenth
of the distance for the day. Two thirds of the total distance. Half of
the distance for the day. But it was still sometimes hard to keep going.
My average speed was down from Saturday which meant it was taking me
more saddle time to make the distance, and some estimates were showing
me not making it to the finish line until 7:00.

At 175 miles, after hours of rolling hills, I decided I needed another
performance boost. At a food stop where I met up with my loyal family in
the support mini-van I pulled out my secret weapon: longer cranks. It
takes just a few minutes to switch from 5” to 6” cranks (having pedals
pre-attached to the longer cranks helps) and the extra 20% of torque was
a godsend. Suddenly I could free mount on level ground again, I didn’t
feel like I was constantly on the edge of falling, and my speed actually
*increased*. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense. Short
cranks are great when you’re going fast. They really come into their own
at 12 mph and higher. At 9 mph they are completely pointless because
your speed is no longer cadence limited, and the longer cranks force you
to waste more leg strength on balance. I probably should have switched
to longer cranks earlier--like at the beginning of the day, or maybe
even Saturday evening. I am still learning how to best adjust the myriad
variables in endurance unicycling.

At the beginning of the day, faced with riding farther than I’d ever
ridden in one day prior to Saturday, I sometimes wondered whether I
would be able to finish. With less than thirty miles to go and a brief
burst of enthusiasm from the shorter cranks there was no longer any
doubt: I was going to finish this ride, and my only concern was wrapping
it up as quickly as possible. The last thirty miles were long and hard,
but basically uneventful.

Just a few blocks from the end began the highlight of the ride. My
daughters Maria and Sarah were waiting, with their unicycles, ready to
ride to the finish line with me. It was an amazingly powerful moment. As
we rode through the blocked off streets the crowd was cheering us
wildly. They were cheering everybody, but a unicyclist who makes it to
the finish line gets an extra loud cheer. A unicyclist with two
beautiful and talented daughters as a unicycle honor guard drove the
crowd completely wild, and I felt like I was the king of the world as I
rode triumphantly, giving high fives to my subjects. It was
indescribably powerful, and I still get choked up thinking about it. I
was again incredibly grateful to Helen for being there to support me,
and thinking of bringing the girls’ unicycles. I was also thankful to
her for being there to greet me, and for handing me a bottle of
champagne to pop up open and sloppily drink.

The moral support from the crowd at the finish line was amazing, but the
moral support along the ride was no less important. A huge number of the
cyclists that passed me--and many of the cyclists that I passed--had
powerful words of support. Throughout the ride I had hundreds, or
perhaps thousands, of people say “you’re amazing”, “that’s incredible”,
“you’re my hero”, and “you go boy!” If such comments make you feel
conspicuous or uncomfortable, don’t do a ride like this. But if they
buoy you up, as they did me, then they can be the force that sustains
you and pushes you to keep on going. These comments, and the dozens of
brief conversations about the realities of endurance unicycling, helped
to distract me from the discomfort, and focus my thoughts on the
monumental personal achievement of each pedal stroke.

Of course the support of my family was crucial. Unicycling the STP is
hard, and it would be foolish to do it without a personal support
vehicle. My family was incredibly understanding and selfless and I
couldn’t have done it without them.

Throughout Saturday I fielded a wide range of questions, but the number
one question was “Are you riding all the way to Portland?” To this I
answered some variation of “yes”, “I think so”, or “here’s hoping.”

On Sunday the questions continued, but the number one question shifted
dramatically to “Did you ride all the way from Seattle?” It made me very
happy to be able to answer with an unambiguous “Yes!”

Another very common question was whether I had difficulty on the
uphills. This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the difficulties
of unicycling. I would quickly explain that the inability to coast made
downhills and flats difficult, but that uphills were where I crushed the
spirits of weakling bicyclists by maintaining my speed while they slowed
down. Usually I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the
idea.

When people asked me if I had done the STP before I replied that this
was my first time--and my last time. The ride is so demanding, and so
long, that I’m not convinced I want to do it again. The last fifty miles
was incredibly brutal. If I did it again it would be to do it faster and
better, but the equipment limits how much improvement I could achieve.
If I were to do it again I think I would use a 1.5:1/1:1 shiftable 29”
unicycle. This would give me a 20% higher top speed, while letting me
cope with hills and tired legs more easily. Perhaps most importantly,
the lower seat would let me get on more easily, thus removing a
psychological barrier. This is all speculative--I don’t have enough
miles on Blue Shift to say for sure--but I think that a Purple Phaze
style unicycle is too much for endurance riding, and a lower seat is
very tempting. Purple Phaze is an awesome sprinting machine, but
inappropriate for endurance.

I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t encourage others to do it.
Specifically, I wouldn’t encourage harper, tomblackwood, or Lars Klausen
to do it, because I think I might be the oldest person to unicycle the
STP and I’d hate to lose that distinction. It is a really tough ride,
the training demands are substantial (I didn’t train enough), and you
have to be pretty compulsive or foolishly proud to stay in the saddle
for the ~20 hours that it takes a mere mortal to finish the ride.
114,000 pedal strokes in two days is not a normal thing to do. I have a
whole new respect for Lars Klausen and Ken Looi, who did STP level
distances in less than twenty four hours, and for Jack Hughes, who does
the STP on a unicycle most years.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, after an adequate nights sleep. My
body is gradually returning to normal, and I feel strong, healthy, and
ready to face any challenge.

And now, off to London (on a plane, not a unicycle).

P.S. I just heard back from Lars Klausen. He said congratulations and
then said "Maybe we can do it together sometime".

You know, it actually sounded kind of tempting...


--
Bruce Dawson
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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  #6  
Old July 12th 05, 04:44 PM
Bruce Dawson
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Posts: n/a
Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


After a year of planning it worked. At around 6:10 PM Sunday I rolled in
to Holladay Park in Portland and cracked open a bottle of champagne,
having left Seattle at 7:10 AM the previous morning. The vital
statistics a

204 miles
20:40 of saddle time
26:30 of road time

This gives me an average riding speed of a bit less than 10 mph. I’d
hoped for more, but it sure is hard to maintain a good pace the second
day. The first 40 miles on Saturday I managed a riding average of 11.4
mph. The first 40 miles on Sunday my riding average was 9.2. You’ll
notice that the Sunday speed is a tiny bit slower.

I’ve written up a ‘brief’ story of the ride. I only included the
highlights, but with 26:30 of road time there are bound to be quite a
few highlights.

I woke up on Saturday at an ungodly 5:30 AM, had a quick but substantial
breakfast, and headed off to the University of Washington. After sitting
in STP car traffic for half an hour I made it to the start line. The
ride got off to an inauspicious start as it took me four tries to mount
my steed. As I headed off I noticed my body felt oddly jittery--either
too much sugar from breakfast, or perhaps just excitement from the
ride.

Over the first few miles the jittery feeling gradually disappeared and
was replaced by seat discomfort. Five miles into the ride I felt like
I’d been riding for fifty miles. This is not a good sign and I started
to wonder how I could possibly do this ride. I rarely adjust the
pressure in my air seat and I’d actually considered leaving my pump in
my support vehicle in order to save weight, but luckily I’d changed my
mind. I stopped and added more air to the seat and suddenly I felt quite
comfortable--disaster averted. Over the rest of the ride I was
frequently adjusting the seat pressure, trying to find the perfect
pressure, and experimenting with varying the pressure in order to spread
out the wear and tear on my body.

The next forty miles were uneventful. I stopped more than I really like
to but my speed was good and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the view
from up high, talking to some of the cyclists and watching the miles
tick off. I was eating, drinking, and taking salt tablets in order to
keep my body working properly.

“The Hill” at the 43 mile mark is a legendary 7% grade that goes for a
mile. It’s not really that bad a hill, but you can’t argue with a
legend. This was one of the highlights of the ride for me. The really
fast cyclists were far ahead, so I was riding with cyclists who were,
once you removed most of their gears/coasting/brakes advantage, not as
fit as I was. So I toasted them. Nobody passed me on The Hill and I
probably passed sixty or more cyclists. It was very fun. It’s worth
unicycling the STP just for that.

Shortly after The Hill some jerk drove buy and yelled out rude remarks
urging me to get off the road and questioning my sexual orientation.
These remarks always perplex me, and make me sad. I don’t know why some
young men have so much anger, or inability to accept somebody different.
It doesn’t bother me; it just makes me worry about them. This was the
only negative comment I heard on the ride and it was completely
overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of encouraging comments from
other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

Shortly after The Hill I pulled a muscle in my right leg. It wasn’t a
bad muscle pull, but it was a nagging twinge every time I flexed that
leg muscle, and I’m not good at riding one footed with my left foot. For
the second time I started worrying about whether this was going to
work.

When I got to the 53 mile mark my wife Helen and my daughters were
waiting for me. We sat on the grass in the sun, ate the food that Helen
had packed, and loaded my backpack for the next section. My leg was
still bothering me a bit, and Helen said I looked terrible. I made it
about ten miles before deciding that I needed to do something to improve
my energy levels and reduce my seat discomfort. I stopped and added air
to my seat, took an ibuprofen, and slurped up a package of Lava Gu. One
of these changes—combined with a few minutes out of the saddle—did the
trick. I resumed riding and I felt like a new man. My pulled muscle
stopped hurting, I was riding fast, and I was back on track.

At a couple of minutes past 7:00 PM I rode in to Centralia, the halfway
point on the ride. At 102 miles this was my longest ride ever, on a
bicycle or a unicycle. Helen and my daughters Maria and Sarah were there
waiting for me with barbecued chicken, watermelon, and other tasty food.
Many cyclists had set up tents in the park and were getting massages,
drinking beer, watching the Tour de France, and generally having a great
time. However, with my slower average speed I couldn’t afford to stop
for long. I needed to get a head start on the second half of the ride if
I was to finish. So, after a brief rest I remounted and headed off.

I was now one of the few riders left on the road. I didn’t see a single
rider the rest of the day. For the first time I had to pull out my map
and pay attention to the Dan Henry’s painted on the road. There was a
brief period where I was convinced I had missed a turn because I’d been
riding for several miles and had yet to reach a turn that was supposed
to happen about two miles earlier. It turns out that that the STP
mileage calculations are not completely accurate. I suspect they fudged
the numbers in order to make Centralia’s park exactly the midpoint. It’s
really only 100 miles, which is confusing, and a discouraging discovery.
Despite the worry that I’d missed the turn I didn’t turn around and I
soon realized that I was still on the route.

A lone unicyclist in the middle of nowhere sticks out more than a
unicyclist surrounded by bicyclists so I started getting more random
comments from pedestrians. In Napavine I managed a brief and amusing
conversation with a young man loitering in the center of town.
Loiterer: Hey, it’s a unicycle!
Me: (wave)
Loiterer: Dude, are you totally crushing your radial vein?
Me: (wondering if his question is anatomically accurate) Yes I am!
Loiterer: Dude, you’re never going to get wood again!
Me: (heading around the corner out of town) It’ll be fine in a few
days!
Loiterer: (laughter fading off into the distance)

Male bonding--it's a wonderful thing.

My destination was the outskirts of Winlock: 119.6 miles into the ride.
Helen and I had discussed this on our cell phones and I expected that
she was there already. About four miles out of Winlock I got a call from
Helen--one of those useless calls where each person says a garbled
“Hello” a few times before the connection is lost. I’d managed to
unicycle out of coverage just as the call started. I didn’t worry about
it because I assumed she was just checking to see where I was, and I was
fast approaching her.

Around this time it started getting dark. I turned on my flashing rear
light, held a bike light in my hand, and continued on. Two STP safety
patrol cars pulled alongside to make sure I had proper lighting and to
check that I was okay. In order to ensure my safety--and probably
because not much else was going on—one of them followed me all the way
to Winlock, lending extra light, and ensuring that nobody ran me over.
I’m sure I would have been fine--my light was sufficient to see
obstacles, and my rear flasher made me feel relatively safe--but I
certainly didn’t complain. Riding at night is more stressful and
dangerous, and it was good to know that if I rode into the ditch I
wouldn’t lie there until morning.

I got to Winlock and found that Helen wasn’t there. Oops. Apparently she
had been calling to say that she was lost. I still had no coverage so I
borrowed a cell phone from the volunteer car that had been tailing me
and called her. We talked for about thirty seconds before--surprise--she
drove into the cone of silence that surrounds Winlock. In our brief
conversation I told her that I was half a mile into Winlock but I wasn’t
sure how much she had heard. After fifteen minutes of waiting the
volunteers started driving me back along the route, looking for Helen.
We found her at a gas station using a pay phone to call my cell phone,
and feeling quite frazzled by being lost and then thinking that she’d
lost me. It was a powerful reminder of how valuable cell phones are on a
ride such as this, and how frustrating it can be when coverage fails you
just when you need it.

My final stopping point was 120 miles, and I suspect this will be my
all-time one day unicycle record.

It was close to 11:00 PM by the time we got to our hotel, so by the time
I’d showered, eaten some more, had some more to drink, figured out how
to jury rig my laptop as an alarm clock (what kind of hotel has neither
wake-up calls nor an alarm clock) it was pretty late. I set my laptop to
play “Walking On Broken Glass.mp3” at 5:30 AM and did my best to
sleep.

Annie Lennox woke me in the morning and I had a quick breakfast,
including toast from the toaster that Helen had helpfully packed. Then
Helen drove me back to Winlock to resume the ride. Our hotel was
actually about 20 miles closer to Portland than Winlock and it was
*awfully* tempting to skip that section. Who would know? However, I
decided that I didn’t want to disappoint me, Helen, or God, so to
Winlock we went.

I hopped on my unicycle and rode about half a mile before deciding my
seat had too much air in it. I’m not sure how I’d managed to ride it the
previous night, but it was lifting me up so high that I was worried
about getting calf cramps from stretching my legs so much. So, I stopped
to let out a bit of air. I was careful to stop on a downhill in order to
make remounting easier. It was a good idea, but not sufficient.

As unicyclists we all know that a failed attempt to mount a
unicycle--especially a Coker--doesn't count as a fall. If you go on a
long ride and have a few failed attempts to get on then you can still
say, with a clear conscience, that you had no UPDs. Well, I tested the
limits of this rule that morning. Despite my perfect downhill mounting
point I managed to have probably my worst Coker fall ever, while
mounting. At roughly zero miles per hour I fell suddenly and violently
forward, landing on my hands and knees. My hands were lightly scraped
and both knees were bleeding. Helen was right behind me at the time and
she said that at that point she was very skeptical about my doing the
remaining 84 miles. I was feeling a bit shaken, but too stubborn and
proud to admit any weakness. However, after a couple more failed tries
to mount I used the van as a leaning post to get on. Mounting a Coker
with 5” cranks when you’re tired is a real pain, and this reality guided
my dismounts for the rest of the day. No matter how tired or sore I
felt, I would never stop unless there was a steep downhill, a well
placed leaning post, or a burly cyclist who could help me get on.

Other unicyclists have done the STP before, especially Jack Hughes, and
throughout Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that all unicyclists look
alike. I was greeted several times with comments like “it’s good to see
you again”, “I was wondering when we’d see you”, or even “Hi Jack”. I
even had a long conversation regarding this with the official
photographers. They started by greeting me with “you’re later than
usual” and then, after I’d pointed out that they were confusing me with
somebody twenty years younger, they started listing various other ways
that they then realized I was different from Jack--shorter hair, taller,
more handsome, etc. It’s amazing how long a conversation you can have at
10 mph if the road is quiet.

If The Hill is the defining terrain of Saturday then The Bridge is the
equivalent for Saturday. The Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia
has a reputation of being harder than it looks, and it is a huge bridge
with a fair chunk of vertical climb. Because the bridge is narrow and
crowded the organizers make cyclists wait until there is a huge
group--probably 500-1,000 riders--and then they shut the bridge to
traffic in one direction and escort the riders across. My one concern
was about riding on a reasonably steep hill (some sources claim it’s a
9% grade) packed in with a thousand cyclists. It certainly could have
been a bad ride, and if I’d fallen on the uphill there would have been
no chance to remount. But, it went well. It was a bit slower than I
would have liked, definitely crowded, and occasionally I had to dodge an
unpredictable and slow biker, but overall it went smoothly. On the
downhill side I just kept to the right and let the lazy cyclists coast
past me without pedaling. Wimps.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself how far I’d gone. One tenth
of the distance for the day. Two thirds of the total distance. Half of
the distance for the day. But it was still sometimes hard to keep going.
My average speed was down from Saturday which meant it was taking me
more saddle time to make the distance, and some estimates were showing
me not making it to the finish line until 7:00.

At 175 miles, after hours of rolling hills, I decided I needed another
performance boost. At a food stop where I met up with my loyal family in
the support mini-van I pulled out my secret weapon: longer cranks. It
takes just a few minutes to switch from 5” to 6” cranks (having pedals
pre-attached to the longer cranks helps) and the extra 20% of torque was
a godsend. Suddenly I could free mount on level ground again, I didn’t
feel like I was constantly on the edge of falling, and my speed actually
*increased*. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense. Short
cranks are great when you’re going fast. They really come into their own
at 12 mph and higher. At 9 mph they are completely pointless because
your speed is no longer cadence limited, and the longer cranks force you
to waste more leg strength on balance. I probably should have switched
to longer cranks earlier--like at the beginning of the day, or maybe
even Saturday evening. I am still learning how to best adjust the myriad
variables in endurance unicycling.

At the beginning of the day, faced with riding farther than I’d ever
ridden in one day prior to Saturday, I sometimes wondered whether I
would be able to finish. With less than thirty miles to go and a brief
burst of enthusiasm from the shorter cranks there was no longer any
doubt: I was going to finish this ride, and my only concern was wrapping
it up as quickly as possible. The last thirty miles were long and hard,
but basically uneventful.

Just a few blocks from the end began the highlight of the ride. My
daughters Maria and Sarah were waiting, with their unicycles, ready to
ride to the finish line with me. It was an amazingly powerful moment. As
we rode through the blocked off streets the crowd was cheering us
wildly. They were cheering everybody, but a unicyclist who makes it to
the finish line gets an extra loud cheer. A unicyclist with two
beautiful and talented daughters as a unicycle honor guard drove the
crowd completely wild, and I felt like I was the king of the world as I
rode triumphantly, giving high fives to my subjects. It was
indescribably powerful, and I still get choked up thinking about it. I
was again incredibly grateful to Helen for being there to support me,
and thinking of bringing the girls’ unicycles. I was also thankful to
her for being there to greet me, and for handing me a bottle of
champagne to pop up open and sloppily drink.

The moral support from the crowd at the finish line was amazing, but the
moral support along the ride was no less important. A huge number of the
cyclists that passed me--and many of the cyclists that I passed--had
powerful words of support. Throughout the ride I had hundreds, or
perhaps thousands, of people say “you’re amazing”, “that’s incredible”,
“you’re my hero”, and “you go boy!” If such comments make you feel
conspicuous or uncomfortable, don’t do a ride like this. But if they
buoy you up, as they did me, then they can be the force that sustains
you and pushes you to keep on going. These comments, and the dozens of
brief conversations about the realities of endurance unicycling, helped
to distract me from the discomfort, and focus my thoughts on the
monumental personal achievement of each pedal stroke.

Of course the support of my family was crucial. Unicycling the STP is
hard, and it would be foolish to do it without a personal support
vehicle. My family was incredibly understanding and selfless and I
couldn’t have done it without them.

Throughout Saturday I fielded a wide range of questions, but the number
one question was “Are you riding all the way to Portland?” To this I
answered some variation of “yes”, “I think so”, or “here’s hoping.”

On Sunday the questions continued, but the number one question shifted
dramatically to “Did you ride all the way from Seattle?” It made me very
happy to be able to answer with an unambiguous “Yes!”

Another very common question was whether I had difficulty on the
uphills. This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the difficulties
of unicycling. I would quickly explain that the inability to coast made
downhills and flats difficult, but that uphills were where I crushed the
spirits of weakling bicyclists by maintaining my speed while they slowed
down. Usually I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the
idea.

When people asked me if I had done the STP before I replied that this
was my first time--and my last time. The ride is so demanding, and so
long, that I’m not convinced I want to do it again. The last fifty miles
was incredibly brutal. If I did it again it would be to do it faster and
better, but the equipment limits how much improvement I could achieve.
If I were to do it again I think I would use a 1.5:1/1:1 shiftable 29”
unicycle. This would give me a 20% higher top speed, while letting me
cope with hills and tired legs more easily. Perhaps most importantly,
the lower seat would let me get on more easily, thus removing a
psychological barrier. This is all speculative--I don’t have enough
miles on Blue Shift to say for sure--but I think that a Purple Phaze
style unicycle is too much for endurance riding, and a lower seat is
very tempting. Purple Phaze is an awesome sprinting machine, but
inappropriate for endurance.

I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t encourage others to do it.
Specifically, I wouldn’t encourage harper, tomblackwood, or Lars Klausen
to do it, because I think I might be the oldest person to unicycle the
STP and I’d hate to lose that distinction. It is a really tough ride,
the training demands are substantial (I didn’t train enough), and you
have to be pretty compulsive or foolishly proud to stay in the saddle
for the ~20 hours that it takes a mere mortal to finish the ride.
114,000 pedal strokes in two days is not a normal thing to do. I have a
whole new respect for Lars Klausen and Ken Looi, who did STP level
distances in less than twenty four hours, and for Jack Hughes, who does
the STP on a unicycle most years.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, after an adequate nights sleep. My
body is gradually returning to normal, and I feel strong, healthy, and
ready to face any challenge.

And now, off to London (on a plane, not a unicycle).

P.S. I just heard back from Lars Klausen. He said congratulations and
then said "Maybe we can do it together sometime".

You know, it actually sounded kind of tempting...


--
Bruce Dawson
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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  #7  
Old July 12th 05, 04:44 PM
Bruce Dawson
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Posts: n/a
Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


After a year of planning it worked. At around 6:10 PM Sunday I rolled in
to Holladay Park in Portland and cracked open a bottle of champagne,
having left Seattle at 7:10 AM the previous morning. The vital
statistics a

204 miles
20:40 of saddle time
26:30 of road time

This gives me an average riding speed of a bit less than 10 mph. I’d
hoped for more, but it sure is hard to maintain a good pace the second
day. The first 40 miles on Saturday I managed a riding average of 11.4
mph. The first 40 miles on Sunday my riding average was 9.2. You’ll
notice that the Sunday speed is a tiny bit slower.

I’ve written up a ‘brief’ story of the ride. I only included the
highlights, but with 26:30 of road time there are bound to be quite a
few highlights.

I woke up on Saturday at an ungodly 5:30 AM, had a quick but substantial
breakfast, and headed off to the University of Washington. After sitting
in STP car traffic for half an hour I made it to the start line. The
ride got off to an inauspicious start as it took me four tries to mount
my steed. As I headed off I noticed my body felt oddly jittery--either
too much sugar from breakfast, or perhaps just excitement from the
ride.

Over the first few miles the jittery feeling gradually disappeared and
was replaced by seat discomfort. Five miles into the ride I felt like
I’d been riding for fifty miles. This is not a good sign and I started
to wonder how I could possibly do this ride. I rarely adjust the
pressure in my air seat and I’d actually considered leaving my pump in
my support vehicle in order to save weight, but luckily I’d changed my
mind. I stopped and added more air to the seat and suddenly I felt quite
comfortable--disaster averted. Over the rest of the ride I was
frequently adjusting the seat pressure, trying to find the perfect
pressure, and experimenting with varying the pressure in order to spread
out the wear and tear on my body.

The next forty miles were uneventful. I stopped more than I really like
to but my speed was good and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the view
from up high, talking to some of the cyclists and watching the miles
tick off. I was eating, drinking, and taking salt tablets in order to
keep my body working properly.

“The Hill” at the 43 mile mark is a legendary 7% grade that goes for a
mile. It’s not really that bad a hill, but you can’t argue with a
legend. This was one of the highlights of the ride for me. The really
fast cyclists were far ahead, so I was riding with cyclists who were,
once you removed most of their gears/coasting/brakes advantage, not as
fit as I was. So I toasted them. Nobody passed me on The Hill and I
probably passed sixty or more cyclists. It was very fun. It’s worth
unicycling the STP just for that.

Shortly after The Hill some jerk drove buy and yelled out rude remarks
urging me to get off the road and questioning my sexual orientation.
These remarks always perplex me, and make me sad. I don’t know why some
young men have so much anger, or inability to accept somebody different.
It doesn’t bother me; it just makes me worry about them. This was the
only negative comment I heard on the ride and it was completely
overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of encouraging comments from
other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

Shortly after The Hill I pulled a muscle in my right leg. It wasn’t a
bad muscle pull, but it was a nagging twinge every time I flexed that
leg muscle, and I’m not good at riding one footed with my left foot. For
the second time I started worrying about whether this was going to
work.

When I got to the 53 mile mark my wife Helen and my daughters were
waiting for me. We sat on the grass in the sun, ate the food that Helen
had packed, and loaded my backpack for the next section. My leg was
still bothering me a bit, and Helen said I looked terrible. I made it
about ten miles before deciding that I needed to do something to improve
my energy levels and reduce my seat discomfort. I stopped and added air
to my seat, took an ibuprofen, and slurped up a package of Lava Gu. One
of these changes—combined with a few minutes out of the saddle—did the
trick. I resumed riding and I felt like a new man. My pulled muscle
stopped hurting, I was riding fast, and I was back on track.

At a couple of minutes past 7:00 PM I rode in to Centralia, the halfway
point on the ride. At 102 miles this was my longest ride ever, on a
bicycle or a unicycle. Helen and my daughters Maria and Sarah were there
waiting for me with barbecued chicken, watermelon, and other tasty food.
Many cyclists had set up tents in the park and were getting massages,
drinking beer, watching the Tour de France, and generally having a great
time. However, with my slower average speed I couldn’t afford to stop
for long. I needed to get a head start on the second half of the ride if
I was to finish. So, after a brief rest I remounted and headed off.

I was now one of the few riders left on the road. I didn’t see a single
rider the rest of the day. For the first time I had to pull out my map
and pay attention to the Dan Henry’s painted on the road. There was a
brief period where I was convinced I had missed a turn because I’d been
riding for several miles and had yet to reach a turn that was supposed
to happen about two miles earlier. It turns out that that the STP
mileage calculations are not completely accurate. I suspect they fudged
the numbers in order to make Centralia’s park exactly the midpoint. It’s
really only 100 miles, which is confusing, and a discouraging discovery.
Despite the worry that I’d missed the turn I didn’t turn around and I
soon realized that I was still on the route.

A lone unicyclist in the middle of nowhere sticks out more than a
unicyclist surrounded by bicyclists so I started getting more random
comments from pedestrians. In Napavine I managed a brief and amusing
conversation with a young man loitering in the center of town.
Loiterer: Hey, it’s a unicycle!
Me: (wave)
Loiterer: Dude, are you totally crushing your radial vein?
Me: (wondering if his question is anatomically accurate) Yes I am!
Loiterer: Dude, you’re never going to get wood again!
Me: (heading around the corner out of town) It’ll be fine in a few
days!
Loiterer: (laughter fading off into the distance)

Male bonding--it's a wonderful thing.

My destination was the outskirts of Winlock: 119.6 miles into the ride.
Helen and I had discussed this on our cell phones and I expected that
she was there already. About four miles out of Winlock I got a call from
Helen--one of those useless calls where each person says a garbled
“Hello” a few times before the connection is lost. I’d managed to
unicycle out of coverage just as the call started. I didn’t worry about
it because I assumed she was just checking to see where I was, and I was
fast approaching her.

Around this time it started getting dark. I turned on my flashing rear
light, held a bike light in my hand, and continued on. Two STP safety
patrol cars pulled alongside to make sure I had proper lighting and to
check that I was okay. In order to ensure my safety--and probably
because not much else was going on—one of them followed me all the way
to Winlock, lending extra light, and ensuring that nobody ran me over.
I’m sure I would have been fine--my light was sufficient to see
obstacles, and my rear flasher made me feel relatively safe--but I
certainly didn’t complain. Riding at night is more stressful and
dangerous, and it was good to know that if I rode into the ditch I
wouldn’t lie there until morning.

I got to Winlock and found that Helen wasn’t there. Oops. Apparently she
had been calling to say that she was lost. I still had no coverage so I
borrowed a cell phone from the volunteer car that had been tailing me
and called her. We talked for about thirty seconds before--surprise--she
drove into the cone of silence that surrounds Winlock. In our brief
conversation I told her that I was half a mile into Winlock but I wasn’t
sure how much she had heard. After fifteen minutes of waiting the
volunteers started driving me back along the route, looking for Helen.
We found her at a gas station using a pay phone to call my cell phone,
and feeling quite frazzled by being lost and then thinking that she’d
lost me. It was a powerful reminder of how valuable cell phones are on a
ride such as this, and how frustrating it can be when coverage fails you
just when you need it.

My final stopping point was 120 miles, and I suspect this will be my
all-time one day unicycle record.

It was close to 11:00 PM by the time we got to our hotel, so by the time
I’d showered, eaten some more, had some more to drink, figured out how
to jury rig my laptop as an alarm clock (what kind of hotel has neither
wake-up calls nor an alarm clock) it was pretty late. I set my laptop to
play “Walking On Broken Glass.mp3” at 5:30 AM and did my best to
sleep.

Annie Lennox woke me in the morning and I had a quick breakfast,
including toast from the toaster that Helen had helpfully packed. Then
Helen drove me back to Winlock to resume the ride. Our hotel was
actually about 20 miles closer to Portland than Winlock and it was
*awfully* tempting to skip that section. Who would know? However, I
decided that I didn’t want to disappoint me, Helen, or God, so to
Winlock we went.

I hopped on my unicycle and rode about half a mile before deciding my
seat had too much air in it. I’m not sure how I’d managed to ride it the
previous night, but it was lifting me up so high that I was worried
about getting calf cramps from stretching my legs so much. So, I stopped
to let out a bit of air. I was careful to stop on a downhill in order to
make remounting easier. It was a good idea, but not sufficient.

As unicyclists we all know that a failed attempt to mount a
unicycle--especially a Coker--doesn't count as a fall. If you go on a
long ride and have a few failed attempts to get on then you can still
say, with a clear conscience, that you had no UPDs. Well, I tested the
limits of this rule that morning. Despite my perfect downhill mounting
point I managed to have probably my worst Coker fall ever, while
mounting. At roughly zero miles per hour I fell suddenly and violently
forward, landing on my hands and knees. My hands were lightly scraped
and both knees were bleeding. Helen was right behind me at the time and
she said that at that point she was very skeptical about my doing the
remaining 84 miles. I was feeling a bit shaken, but too stubborn and
proud to admit any weakness. However, after a couple more failed tries
to mount I used the van as a leaning post to get on. Mounting a Coker
with 5” cranks when you’re tired is a real pain, and this reality guided
my dismounts for the rest of the day. No matter how tired or sore I
felt, I would never stop unless there was a steep downhill, a well
placed leaning post, or a burly cyclist who could help me get on.

Other unicyclists have done the STP before, especially Jack Hughes, and
throughout Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that all unicyclists look
alike. I was greeted several times with comments like “it’s good to see
you again”, “I was wondering when we’d see you”, or even “Hi Jack”. I
even had a long conversation regarding this with the official
photographers. They started by greeting me with “you’re later than
usual” and then, after I’d pointed out that they were confusing me with
somebody twenty years younger, they started listing various other ways
that they then realized I was different from Jack--shorter hair, taller,
more handsome, etc. It’s amazing how long a conversation you can have at
10 mph if the road is quiet.

If The Hill is the defining terrain of Saturday then The Bridge is the
equivalent for Saturday. The Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia
has a reputation of being harder than it looks, and it is a huge bridge
with a fair chunk of vertical climb. Because the bridge is narrow and
crowded the organizers make cyclists wait until there is a huge
group--probably 500-1,000 riders--and then they shut the bridge to
traffic in one direction and escort the riders across. My one concern
was about riding on a reasonably steep hill (some sources claim it’s a
9% grade) packed in with a thousand cyclists. It certainly could have
been a bad ride, and if I’d fallen on the uphill there would have been
no chance to remount. But, it went well. It was a bit slower than I
would have liked, definitely crowded, and occasionally I had to dodge an
unpredictable and slow biker, but overall it went smoothly. On the
downhill side I just kept to the right and let the lazy cyclists coast
past me without pedaling. Wimps.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself how far I’d gone. One tenth
of the distance for the day. Two thirds of the total distance. Half of
the distance for the day. But it was still sometimes hard to keep going.
My average speed was down from Saturday which meant it was taking me
more saddle time to make the distance, and some estimates were showing
me not making it to the finish line until 7:00.

At 175 miles, after hours of rolling hills, I decided I needed another
performance boost. At a food stop where I met up with my loyal family in
the support mini-van I pulled out my secret weapon: longer cranks. It
takes just a few minutes to switch from 5” to 6” cranks (having pedals
pre-attached to the longer cranks helps) and the extra 20% of torque was
a godsend. Suddenly I could free mount on level ground again, I didn’t
feel like I was constantly on the edge of falling, and my speed actually
*increased*. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense. Short
cranks are great when you’re going fast. They really come into their own
at 12 mph and higher. At 9 mph they are completely pointless because
your speed is no longer cadence limited, and the longer cranks force you
to waste more leg strength on balance. I probably should have switched
to longer cranks earlier--like at the beginning of the day, or maybe
even Saturday evening. I am still learning how to best adjust the myriad
variables in endurance unicycling.

At the beginning of the day, faced with riding farther than I’d ever
ridden in one day prior to Saturday, I sometimes wondered whether I
would be able to finish. With less than thirty miles to go and a brief
burst of enthusiasm from the shorter cranks there was no longer any
doubt: I was going to finish this ride, and my only concern was wrapping
it up as quickly as possible. The last thirty miles were long and hard,
but basically uneventful.

Just a few blocks from the end began the highlight of the ride. My
daughters Maria and Sarah were waiting, with their unicycles, ready to
ride to the finish line with me. It was an amazingly powerful moment. As
we rode through the blocked off streets the crowd was cheering us
wildly. They were cheering everybody, but a unicyclist who makes it to
the finish line gets an extra loud cheer. A unicyclist with two
beautiful and talented daughters as a unicycle honor guard drove the
crowd completely wild, and I felt like I was the king of the world as I
rode triumphantly, giving high fives to my subjects. It was
indescribably powerful, and I still get choked up thinking about it. I
was again incredibly grateful to Helen for being there to support me,
and thinking of bringing the girls’ unicycles. I was also thankful to
her for being there to greet me, and for handing me a bottle of
champagne to pop up open and sloppily drink.

The moral support from the crowd at the finish line was amazing, but the
moral support along the ride was no less important. A huge number of the
cyclists that passed me--and many of the cyclists that I passed--had
powerful words of support. Throughout the ride I had hundreds, or
perhaps thousands, of people say “you’re amazing”, “that’s incredible”,
“you’re my hero”, and “you go boy!” If such comments make you feel
conspicuous or uncomfortable, don’t do a ride like this. But if they
buoy you up, as they did me, then they can be the force that sustains
you and pushes you to keep on going. These comments, and the dozens of
brief conversations about the realities of endurance unicycling, helped
to distract me from the discomfort, and focus my thoughts on the
monumental personal achievement of each pedal stroke.

Of course the support of my family was crucial. Unicycling the STP is
hard, and it would be foolish to do it without a personal support
vehicle. My family was incredibly understanding and selfless and I
couldn’t have done it without them.

Throughout Saturday I fielded a wide range of questions, but the number
one question was “Are you riding all the way to Portland?” To this I
answered some variation of “yes”, “I think so”, or “here’s hoping.”

On Sunday the questions continued, but the number one question shifted
dramatically to “Did you ride all the way from Seattle?” It made me very
happy to be able to answer with an unambiguous “Yes!”

Another very common question was whether I had difficulty on the
uphills. This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the difficulties
of unicycling. I would quickly explain that the inability to coast made
downhills and flats difficult, but that uphills were where I crushed the
spirits of weakling bicyclists by maintaining my speed while they slowed
down. Usually I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the
idea.

When people asked me if I had done the STP before I replied that this
was my first time--and my last time. The ride is so demanding, and so
long, that I’m not convinced I want to do it again. The last fifty miles
was incredibly brutal. If I did it again it would be to do it faster and
better, but the equipment limits how much improvement I could achieve.
If I were to do it again I think I would use a 1.5:1/1:1 shiftable 29”
unicycle. This would give me a 20% higher top speed, while letting me
cope with hills and tired legs more easily. Perhaps most importantly,
the lower seat would let me get on more easily, thus removing a
psychological barrier. This is all speculative--I don’t have enough
miles on Blue Shift to say for sure--but I think that a Purple Phaze
style unicycle is too much for endurance riding, and a lower seat is
very tempting. Purple Phaze is an awesome sprinting machine, but
inappropriate for endurance.

I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t encourage others to do it.
Specifically, I wouldn’t encourage harper, tomblackwood, or Lars Klausen
to do it, because I think I might be the oldest person to unicycle the
STP and I’d hate to lose that distinction. It is a really tough ride,
the training demands are substantial (I didn’t train enough), and you
have to be pretty compulsive or foolishly proud to stay in the saddle
for the ~20 hours that it takes a mere mortal to finish the ride.
114,000 pedal strokes in two days is not a normal thing to do. I have a
whole new respect for Lars Klausen and Ken Looi, who did STP level
distances in less than twenty four hours, and for Jack Hughes, who does
the STP on a unicycle most years.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, after an adequate nights sleep. My
body is gradually returning to normal, and I feel strong, healthy, and
ready to face any challenge.

And now, off to London (on a plane, not a unicycle).

P.S. I just heard back from Lars Klausen. He said congratulations and
then said "Maybe we can do it together sometime".

You know, it actually sounded kind of tempting...


--
Bruce Dawson
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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  #8  
Old July 12th 05, 04:44 PM
Bruce Dawson
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


After a year of planning it worked. At around 6:10 PM Sunday I rolled in
to Holladay Park in Portland and cracked open a bottle of champagne,
having left Seattle at 7:10 AM the previous morning. The vital
statistics a

204 miles
20:40 of saddle time
26:30 of road time

This gives me an average riding speed of a bit less than 10 mph. I’d
hoped for more, but it sure is hard to maintain a good pace the second
day. The first 40 miles on Saturday I managed a riding average of 11.4
mph. The first 40 miles on Sunday my riding average was 9.2. You’ll
notice that the Sunday speed is a tiny bit slower.

I’ve written up a ‘brief’ story of the ride. I only included the
highlights, but with 26:30 of road time there are bound to be quite a
few highlights.

I woke up on Saturday at an ungodly 5:30 AM, had a quick but substantial
breakfast, and headed off to the University of Washington. After sitting
in STP car traffic for half an hour I made it to the start line. The
ride got off to an inauspicious start as it took me four tries to mount
my steed. As I headed off I noticed my body felt oddly jittery--either
too much sugar from breakfast, or perhaps just excitement from the
ride.

Over the first few miles the jittery feeling gradually disappeared and
was replaced by seat discomfort. Five miles into the ride I felt like
I’d been riding for fifty miles. This is not a good sign and I started
to wonder how I could possibly do this ride. I rarely adjust the
pressure in my air seat and I’d actually considered leaving my pump in
my support vehicle in order to save weight, but luckily I’d changed my
mind. I stopped and added more air to the seat and suddenly I felt quite
comfortable--disaster averted. Over the rest of the ride I was
frequently adjusting the seat pressure, trying to find the perfect
pressure, and experimenting with varying the pressure in order to spread
out the wear and tear on my body.

The next forty miles were uneventful. I stopped more than I really like
to but my speed was good and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the view
from up high, talking to some of the cyclists and watching the miles
tick off. I was eating, drinking, and taking salt tablets in order to
keep my body working properly.

“The Hill” at the 43 mile mark is a legendary 7% grade that goes for a
mile. It’s not really that bad a hill, but you can’t argue with a
legend. This was one of the highlights of the ride for me. The really
fast cyclists were far ahead, so I was riding with cyclists who were,
once you removed most of their gears/coasting/brakes advantage, not as
fit as I was. So I toasted them. Nobody passed me on The Hill and I
probably passed sixty or more cyclists. It was very fun. It’s worth
unicycling the STP just for that.

Shortly after The Hill some jerk drove buy and yelled out rude remarks
urging me to get off the road and questioning my sexual orientation.
These remarks always perplex me, and make me sad. I don’t know why some
young men have so much anger, or inability to accept somebody different.
It doesn’t bother me; it just makes me worry about them. This was the
only negative comment I heard on the ride and it was completely
overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of encouraging comments from
other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

Shortly after The Hill I pulled a muscle in my right leg. It wasn’t a
bad muscle pull, but it was a nagging twinge every time I flexed that
leg muscle, and I’m not good at riding one footed with my left foot. For
the second time I started worrying about whether this was going to
work.

When I got to the 53 mile mark my wife Helen and my daughters were
waiting for me. We sat on the grass in the sun, ate the food that Helen
had packed, and loaded my backpack for the next section. My leg was
still bothering me a bit, and Helen said I looked terrible. I made it
about ten miles before deciding that I needed to do something to improve
my energy levels and reduce my seat discomfort. I stopped and added air
to my seat, took an ibuprofen, and slurped up a package of Lava Gu. One
of these changes—combined with a few minutes out of the saddle—did the
trick. I resumed riding and I felt like a new man. My pulled muscle
stopped hurting, I was riding fast, and I was back on track.

At a couple of minutes past 7:00 PM I rode in to Centralia, the halfway
point on the ride. At 102 miles this was my longest ride ever, on a
bicycle or a unicycle. Helen and my daughters Maria and Sarah were there
waiting for me with barbecued chicken, watermelon, and other tasty food.
Many cyclists had set up tents in the park and were getting massages,
drinking beer, watching the Tour de France, and generally having a great
time. However, with my slower average speed I couldn’t afford to stop
for long. I needed to get a head start on the second half of the ride if
I was to finish. So, after a brief rest I remounted and headed off.

I was now one of the few riders left on the road. I didn’t see a single
rider the rest of the day. For the first time I had to pull out my map
and pay attention to the Dan Henry’s painted on the road. There was a
brief period where I was convinced I had missed a turn because I’d been
riding for several miles and had yet to reach a turn that was supposed
to happen about two miles earlier. It turns out that that the STP
mileage calculations are not completely accurate. I suspect they fudged
the numbers in order to make Centralia’s park exactly the midpoint. It’s
really only 100 miles, which is confusing, and a discouraging discovery.
Despite the worry that I’d missed the turn I didn’t turn around and I
soon realized that I was still on the route.

A lone unicyclist in the middle of nowhere sticks out more than a
unicyclist surrounded by bicyclists so I started getting more random
comments from pedestrians. In Napavine I managed a brief and amusing
conversation with a young man loitering in the center of town.
Loiterer: Hey, it’s a unicycle!
Me: (wave)
Loiterer: Dude, are you totally crushing your radial vein?
Me: (wondering if his question is anatomically accurate) Yes I am!
Loiterer: Dude, you’re never going to get wood again!
Me: (heading around the corner out of town) It’ll be fine in a few
days!
Loiterer: (laughter fading off into the distance)

Male bonding--it's a wonderful thing.

My destination was the outskirts of Winlock: 119.6 miles into the ride.
Helen and I had discussed this on our cell phones and I expected that
she was there already. About four miles out of Winlock I got a call from
Helen--one of those useless calls where each person says a garbled
“Hello” a few times before the connection is lost. I’d managed to
unicycle out of coverage just as the call started. I didn’t worry about
it because I assumed she was just checking to see where I was, and I was
fast approaching her.

Around this time it started getting dark. I turned on my flashing rear
light, held a bike light in my hand, and continued on. Two STP safety
patrol cars pulled alongside to make sure I had proper lighting and to
check that I was okay. In order to ensure my safety--and probably
because not much else was going on—one of them followed me all the way
to Winlock, lending extra light, and ensuring that nobody ran me over.
I’m sure I would have been fine--my light was sufficient to see
obstacles, and my rear flasher made me feel relatively safe--but I
certainly didn’t complain. Riding at night is more stressful and
dangerous, and it was good to know that if I rode into the ditch I
wouldn’t lie there until morning.

I got to Winlock and found that Helen wasn’t there. Oops. Apparently she
had been calling to say that she was lost. I still had no coverage so I
borrowed a cell phone from the volunteer car that had been tailing me
and called her. We talked for about thirty seconds before--surprise--she
drove into the cone of silence that surrounds Winlock. In our brief
conversation I told her that I was half a mile into Winlock but I wasn’t
sure how much she had heard. After fifteen minutes of waiting the
volunteers started driving me back along the route, looking for Helen.
We found her at a gas station using a pay phone to call my cell phone,
and feeling quite frazzled by being lost and then thinking that she’d
lost me. It was a powerful reminder of how valuable cell phones are on a
ride such as this, and how frustrating it can be when coverage fails you
just when you need it.

My final stopping point was 120 miles, and I suspect this will be my
all-time one day unicycle record.

It was close to 11:00 PM by the time we got to our hotel, so by the time
I’d showered, eaten some more, had some more to drink, figured out how
to jury rig my laptop as an alarm clock (what kind of hotel has neither
wake-up calls nor an alarm clock) it was pretty late. I set my laptop to
play “Walking On Broken Glass.mp3” at 5:30 AM and did my best to
sleep.

Annie Lennox woke me in the morning and I had a quick breakfast,
including toast from the toaster that Helen had helpfully packed. Then
Helen drove me back to Winlock to resume the ride. Our hotel was
actually about 20 miles closer to Portland than Winlock and it was
*awfully* tempting to skip that section. Who would know? However, I
decided that I didn’t want to disappoint me, Helen, or God, so to
Winlock we went.

I hopped on my unicycle and rode about half a mile before deciding my
seat had too much air in it. I’m not sure how I’d managed to ride it the
previous night, but it was lifting me up so high that I was worried
about getting calf cramps from stretching my legs so much. So, I stopped
to let out a bit of air. I was careful to stop on a downhill in order to
make remounting easier. It was a good idea, but not sufficient.

As unicyclists we all know that a failed attempt to mount a
unicycle--especially a Coker--doesn't count as a fall. If you go on a
long ride and have a few failed attempts to get on then you can still
say, with a clear conscience, that you had no UPDs. Well, I tested the
limits of this rule that morning. Despite my perfect downhill mounting
point I managed to have probably my worst Coker fall ever, while
mounting. At roughly zero miles per hour I fell suddenly and violently
forward, landing on my hands and knees. My hands were lightly scraped
and both knees were bleeding. Helen was right behind me at the time and
she said that at that point she was very skeptical about my doing the
remaining 84 miles. I was feeling a bit shaken, but too stubborn and
proud to admit any weakness. However, after a couple more failed tries
to mount I used the van as a leaning post to get on. Mounting a Coker
with 5” cranks when you’re tired is a real pain, and this reality guided
my dismounts for the rest of the day. No matter how tired or sore I
felt, I would never stop unless there was a steep downhill, a well
placed leaning post, or a burly cyclist who could help me get on.

Other unicyclists have done the STP before, especially Jack Hughes, and
throughout Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that all unicyclists look
alike. I was greeted several times with comments like “it’s good to see
you again”, “I was wondering when we’d see you”, or even “Hi Jack”. I
even had a long conversation regarding this with the official
photographers. They started by greeting me with “you’re later than
usual” and then, after I’d pointed out that they were confusing me with
somebody twenty years younger, they started listing various other ways
that they then realized I was different from Jack--shorter hair, taller,
more handsome, etc. It’s amazing how long a conversation you can have at
10 mph if the road is quiet.

If The Hill is the defining terrain of Saturday then The Bridge is the
equivalent for Saturday. The Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia
has a reputation of being harder than it looks, and it is a huge bridge
with a fair chunk of vertical climb. Because the bridge is narrow and
crowded the organizers make cyclists wait until there is a huge
group--probably 500-1,000 riders--and then they shut the bridge to
traffic in one direction and escort the riders across. My one concern
was about riding on a reasonably steep hill (some sources claim it’s a
9% grade) packed in with a thousand cyclists. It certainly could have
been a bad ride, and if I’d fallen on the uphill there would have been
no chance to remount. But, it went well. It was a bit slower than I
would have liked, definitely crowded, and occasionally I had to dodge an
unpredictable and slow biker, but overall it went smoothly. On the
downhill side I just kept to the right and let the lazy cyclists coast
past me without pedaling. Wimps.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself how far I’d gone. One tenth
of the distance for the day. Two thirds of the total distance. Half of
the distance for the day. But it was still sometimes hard to keep going.
My average speed was down from Saturday which meant it was taking me
more saddle time to make the distance, and some estimates were showing
me not making it to the finish line until 7:00.

At 175 miles, after hours of rolling hills, I decided I needed another
performance boost. At a food stop where I met up with my loyal family in
the support mini-van I pulled out my secret weapon: longer cranks. It
takes just a few minutes to switch from 5” to 6” cranks (having pedals
pre-attached to the longer cranks helps) and the extra 20% of torque was
a godsend. Suddenly I could free mount on level ground again, I didn’t
feel like I was constantly on the edge of falling, and my speed actually
*increased*. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense. Short
cranks are great when you’re going fast. They really come into their own
at 12 mph and higher. At 9 mph they are completely pointless because
your speed is no longer cadence limited, and the longer cranks force you
to waste more leg strength on balance. I probably should have switched
to longer cranks earlier--like at the beginning of the day, or maybe
even Saturday evening. I am still learning how to best adjust the myriad
variables in endurance unicycling.

At the beginning of the day, faced with riding farther than I’d ever
ridden in one day prior to Saturday, I sometimes wondered whether I
would be able to finish. With less than thirty miles to go and a brief
burst of enthusiasm from the shorter cranks there was no longer any
doubt: I was going to finish this ride, and my only concern was wrapping
it up as quickly as possible. The last thirty miles were long and hard,
but basically uneventful.

Just a few blocks from the end began the highlight of the ride. My
daughters Maria and Sarah were waiting, with their unicycles, ready to
ride to the finish line with me. It was an amazingly powerful moment. As
we rode through the blocked off streets the crowd was cheering us
wildly. They were cheering everybody, but a unicyclist who makes it to
the finish line gets an extra loud cheer. A unicyclist with two
beautiful and talented daughters as a unicycle honor guard drove the
crowd completely wild, and I felt like I was the king of the world as I
rode triumphantly, giving high fives to my subjects. It was
indescribably powerful, and I still get choked up thinking about it. I
was again incredibly grateful to Helen for being there to support me,
and thinking of bringing the girls’ unicycles. I was also thankful to
her for being there to greet me, and for handing me a bottle of
champagne to pop up open and sloppily drink.

The moral support from the crowd at the finish line was amazing, but the
moral support along the ride was no less important. A huge number of the
cyclists that passed me--and many of the cyclists that I passed--had
powerful words of support. Throughout the ride I had hundreds, or
perhaps thousands, of people say “you’re amazing”, “that’s incredible”,
“you’re my hero”, and “you go boy!” If such comments make you feel
conspicuous or uncomfortable, don’t do a ride like this. But if they
buoy you up, as they did me, then they can be the force that sustains
you and pushes you to keep on going. These comments, and the dozens of
brief conversations about the realities of endurance unicycling, helped
to distract me from the discomfort, and focus my thoughts on the
monumental personal achievement of each pedal stroke.

Of course the support of my family was crucial. Unicycling the STP is
hard, and it would be foolish to do it without a personal support
vehicle. My family was incredibly understanding and selfless and I
couldn’t have done it without them.

Throughout Saturday I fielded a wide range of questions, but the number
one question was “Are you riding all the way to Portland?” To this I
answered some variation of “yes”, “I think so”, or “here’s hoping.”

On Sunday the questions continued, but the number one question shifted
dramatically to “Did you ride all the way from Seattle?” It made me very
happy to be able to answer with an unambiguous “Yes!”

Another very common question was whether I had difficulty on the
uphills. This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the difficulties
of unicycling. I would quickly explain that the inability to coast made
downhills and flats difficult, but that uphills were where I crushed the
spirits of weakling bicyclists by maintaining my speed while they slowed
down. Usually I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the
idea.

When people asked me if I had done the STP before I replied that this
was my first time--and my last time. The ride is so demanding, and so
long, that I’m not convinced I want to do it again. The last fifty miles
was incredibly brutal. If I did it again it would be to do it faster and
better, but the equipment limits how much improvement I could achieve.
If I were to do it again I think I would use a 1.5:1/1:1 shiftable 29”
unicycle. This would give me a 20% higher top speed, while letting me
cope with hills and tired legs more easily. Perhaps most importantly,
the lower seat would let me get on more easily, thus removing a
psychological barrier. This is all speculative--I don’t have enough
miles on Blue Shift to say for sure--but I think that a Purple Phaze
style unicycle is too much for endurance riding, and a lower seat is
very tempting. Purple Phaze is an awesome sprinting machine, but
inappropriate for endurance.

I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t encourage others to do it.
Specifically, I wouldn’t encourage harper, tomblackwood, or Lars Klausen
to do it, because I think I might be the oldest person to unicycle the
STP and I’d hate to lose that distinction. It is a really tough ride,
the training demands are substantial (I didn’t train enough), and you
have to be pretty compulsive or foolishly proud to stay in the saddle
for the ~20 hours that it takes a mere mortal to finish the ride.
114,000 pedal strokes in two days is not a normal thing to do. I have a
whole new respect for Lars Klausen and Ken Looi, who did STP level
distances in less than twenty four hours, and for Jack Hughes, who does
the STP on a unicycle most years.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, after an adequate nights sleep. My
body is gradually returning to normal, and I feel strong, healthy, and
ready to face any challenge.

And now, off to London (on a plane, not a unicycle).

P.S. I just heard back from Lars Klausen. He said congratulations and
then said "Maybe we can do it together sometime".

You know, it actually sounded kind of tempting...


--
Bruce Dawson
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bruce Dawson's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/1299
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/41811

  #9  
Old July 12th 05, 04:44 PM
Bruce Dawson
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


After a year of planning it worked. At around 6:10 PM Sunday I rolled in
to Holladay Park in Portland and cracked open a bottle of champagne,
having left Seattle at 7:10 AM the previous morning. The vital
statistics a

204 miles
20:40 of saddle time
26:30 of road time

This gives me an average riding speed of a bit less than 10 mph. I’d
hoped for more, but it sure is hard to maintain a good pace the second
day. The first 40 miles on Saturday I managed a riding average of 11.4
mph. The first 40 miles on Sunday my riding average was 9.2. You’ll
notice that the Sunday speed is a tiny bit slower.

I’ve written up a ‘brief’ story of the ride. I only included the
highlights, but with 26:30 of road time there are bound to be quite a
few highlights.

I woke up on Saturday at an ungodly 5:30 AM, had a quick but substantial
breakfast, and headed off to the University of Washington. After sitting
in STP car traffic for half an hour I made it to the start line. The
ride got off to an inauspicious start as it took me four tries to mount
my steed. As I headed off I noticed my body felt oddly jittery--either
too much sugar from breakfast, or perhaps just excitement from the
ride.

Over the first few miles the jittery feeling gradually disappeared and
was replaced by seat discomfort. Five miles into the ride I felt like
I’d been riding for fifty miles. This is not a good sign and I started
to wonder how I could possibly do this ride. I rarely adjust the
pressure in my air seat and I’d actually considered leaving my pump in
my support vehicle in order to save weight, but luckily I’d changed my
mind. I stopped and added more air to the seat and suddenly I felt quite
comfortable--disaster averted. Over the rest of the ride I was
frequently adjusting the seat pressure, trying to find the perfect
pressure, and experimenting with varying the pressure in order to spread
out the wear and tear on my body.

The next forty miles were uneventful. I stopped more than I really like
to but my speed was good and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the view
from up high, talking to some of the cyclists and watching the miles
tick off. I was eating, drinking, and taking salt tablets in order to
keep my body working properly.

“The Hill” at the 43 mile mark is a legendary 7% grade that goes for a
mile. It’s not really that bad a hill, but you can’t argue with a
legend. This was one of the highlights of the ride for me. The really
fast cyclists were far ahead, so I was riding with cyclists who were,
once you removed most of their gears/coasting/brakes advantage, not as
fit as I was. So I toasted them. Nobody passed me on The Hill and I
probably passed sixty or more cyclists. It was very fun. It’s worth
unicycling the STP just for that.

Shortly after The Hill some jerk drove buy and yelled out rude remarks
urging me to get off the road and questioning my sexual orientation.
These remarks always perplex me, and make me sad. I don’t know why some
young men have so much anger, or inability to accept somebody different.
It doesn’t bother me; it just makes me worry about them. This was the
only negative comment I heard on the ride and it was completely
overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of encouraging comments from
other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

Shortly after The Hill I pulled a muscle in my right leg. It wasn’t a
bad muscle pull, but it was a nagging twinge every time I flexed that
leg muscle, and I’m not good at riding one footed with my left foot. For
the second time I started worrying about whether this was going to
work.

When I got to the 53 mile mark my wife Helen and my daughters were
waiting for me. We sat on the grass in the sun, ate the food that Helen
had packed, and loaded my backpack for the next section. My leg was
still bothering me a bit, and Helen said I looked terrible. I made it
about ten miles before deciding that I needed to do something to improve
my energy levels and reduce my seat discomfort. I stopped and added air
to my seat, took an ibuprofen, and slurped up a package of Lava Gu. One
of these changes—combined with a few minutes out of the saddle—did the
trick. I resumed riding and I felt like a new man. My pulled muscle
stopped hurting, I was riding fast, and I was back on track.

At a couple of minutes past 7:00 PM I rode in to Centralia, the halfway
point on the ride. At 102 miles this was my longest ride ever, on a
bicycle or a unicycle. Helen and my daughters Maria and Sarah were there
waiting for me with barbecued chicken, watermelon, and other tasty food.
Many cyclists had set up tents in the park and were getting massages,
drinking beer, watching the Tour de France, and generally having a great
time. However, with my slower average speed I couldn’t afford to stop
for long. I needed to get a head start on the second half of the ride if
I was to finish. So, after a brief rest I remounted and headed off.

I was now one of the few riders left on the road. I didn’t see a single
rider the rest of the day. For the first time I had to pull out my map
and pay attention to the Dan Henry’s painted on the road. There was a
brief period where I was convinced I had missed a turn because I’d been
riding for several miles and had yet to reach a turn that was supposed
to happen about two miles earlier. It turns out that that the STP
mileage calculations are not completely accurate. I suspect they fudged
the numbers in order to make Centralia’s park exactly the midpoint. It’s
really only 100 miles, which is confusing, and a discouraging discovery.
Despite the worry that I’d missed the turn I didn’t turn around and I
soon realized that I was still on the route.

A lone unicyclist in the middle of nowhere sticks out more than a
unicyclist surrounded by bicyclists so I started getting more random
comments from pedestrians. In Napavine I managed a brief and amusing
conversation with a young man loitering in the center of town.
Loiterer: Hey, it’s a unicycle!
Me: (wave)
Loiterer: Dude, are you totally crushing your radial vein?
Me: (wondering if his question is anatomically accurate) Yes I am!
Loiterer: Dude, you’re never going to get wood again!
Me: (heading around the corner out of town) It’ll be fine in a few
days!
Loiterer: (laughter fading off into the distance)

Male bonding--it's a wonderful thing.

My destination was the outskirts of Winlock: 119.6 miles into the ride.
Helen and I had discussed this on our cell phones and I expected that
she was there already. About four miles out of Winlock I got a call from
Helen--one of those useless calls where each person says a garbled
“Hello” a few times before the connection is lost. I’d managed to
unicycle out of coverage just as the call started. I didn’t worry about
it because I assumed she was just checking to see where I was, and I was
fast approaching her.

Around this time it started getting dark. I turned on my flashing rear
light, held a bike light in my hand, and continued on. Two STP safety
patrol cars pulled alongside to make sure I had proper lighting and to
check that I was okay. In order to ensure my safety--and probably
because not much else was going on—one of them followed me all the way
to Winlock, lending extra light, and ensuring that nobody ran me over.
I’m sure I would have been fine--my light was sufficient to see
obstacles, and my rear flasher made me feel relatively safe--but I
certainly didn’t complain. Riding at night is more stressful and
dangerous, and it was good to know that if I rode into the ditch I
wouldn’t lie there until morning.

I got to Winlock and found that Helen wasn’t there. Oops. Apparently she
had been calling to say that she was lost. I still had no coverage so I
borrowed a cell phone from the volunteer car that had been tailing me
and called her. We talked for about thirty seconds before--surprise--she
drove into the cone of silence that surrounds Winlock. In our brief
conversation I told her that I was half a mile into Winlock but I wasn’t
sure how much she had heard. After fifteen minutes of waiting the
volunteers started driving me back along the route, looking for Helen.
We found her at a gas station using a pay phone to call my cell phone,
and feeling quite frazzled by being lost and then thinking that she’d
lost me. It was a powerful reminder of how valuable cell phones are on a
ride such as this, and how frustrating it can be when coverage fails you
just when you need it.

My final stopping point was 120 miles, and I suspect this will be my
all-time one day unicycle record.

It was close to 11:00 PM by the time we got to our hotel, so by the time
I’d showered, eaten some more, had some more to drink, figured out how
to jury rig my laptop as an alarm clock (what kind of hotel has neither
wake-up calls nor an alarm clock) it was pretty late. I set my laptop to
play “Walking On Broken Glass.mp3” at 5:30 AM and did my best to
sleep.

Annie Lennox woke me in the morning and I had a quick breakfast,
including toast from the toaster that Helen had helpfully packed. Then
Helen drove me back to Winlock to resume the ride. Our hotel was
actually about 20 miles closer to Portland than Winlock and it was
*awfully* tempting to skip that section. Who would know? However, I
decided that I didn’t want to disappoint me, Helen, or God, so to
Winlock we went.

I hopped on my unicycle and rode about half a mile before deciding my
seat had too much air in it. I’m not sure how I’d managed to ride it the
previous night, but it was lifting me up so high that I was worried
about getting calf cramps from stretching my legs so much. So, I stopped
to let out a bit of air. I was careful to stop on a downhill in order to
make remounting easier. It was a good idea, but not sufficient.

As unicyclists we all know that a failed attempt to mount a
unicycle--especially a Coker--doesn't count as a fall. If you go on a
long ride and have a few failed attempts to get on then you can still
say, with a clear conscience, that you had no UPDs. Well, I tested the
limits of this rule that morning. Despite my perfect downhill mounting
point I managed to have probably my worst Coker fall ever, while
mounting. At roughly zero miles per hour I fell suddenly and violently
forward, landing on my hands and knees. My hands were lightly scraped
and both knees were bleeding. Helen was right behind me at the time and
she said that at that point she was very skeptical about my doing the
remaining 84 miles. I was feeling a bit shaken, but too stubborn and
proud to admit any weakness. However, after a couple more failed tries
to mount I used the van as a leaning post to get on. Mounting a Coker
with 5” cranks when you’re tired is a real pain, and this reality guided
my dismounts for the rest of the day. No matter how tired or sore I
felt, I would never stop unless there was a steep downhill, a well
placed leaning post, or a burly cyclist who could help me get on.

Other unicyclists have done the STP before, especially Jack Hughes, and
throughout Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that all unicyclists look
alike. I was greeted several times with comments like “it’s good to see
you again”, “I was wondering when we’d see you”, or even “Hi Jack”. I
even had a long conversation regarding this with the official
photographers. They started by greeting me with “you’re later than
usual” and then, after I’d pointed out that they were confusing me with
somebody twenty years younger, they started listing various other ways
that they then realized I was different from Jack--shorter hair, taller,
more handsome, etc. It’s amazing how long a conversation you can have at
10 mph if the road is quiet.

If The Hill is the defining terrain of Saturday then The Bridge is the
equivalent for Saturday. The Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia
has a reputation of being harder than it looks, and it is a huge bridge
with a fair chunk of vertical climb. Because the bridge is narrow and
crowded the organizers make cyclists wait until there is a huge
group--probably 500-1,000 riders--and then they shut the bridge to
traffic in one direction and escort the riders across. My one concern
was about riding on a reasonably steep hill (some sources claim it’s a
9% grade) packed in with a thousand cyclists. It certainly could have
been a bad ride, and if I’d fallen on the uphill there would have been
no chance to remount. But, it went well. It was a bit slower than I
would have liked, definitely crowded, and occasionally I had to dodge an
unpredictable and slow biker, but overall it went smoothly. On the
downhill side I just kept to the right and let the lazy cyclists coast
past me without pedaling. Wimps.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself how far I’d gone. One tenth
of the distance for the day. Two thirds of the total distance. Half of
the distance for the day. But it was still sometimes hard to keep going.
My average speed was down from Saturday which meant it was taking me
more saddle time to make the distance, and some estimates were showing
me not making it to the finish line until 7:00.

At 175 miles, after hours of rolling hills, I decided I needed another
performance boost. At a food stop where I met up with my loyal family in
the support mini-van I pulled out my secret weapon: longer cranks. It
takes just a few minutes to switch from 5” to 6” cranks (having pedals
pre-attached to the longer cranks helps) and the extra 20% of torque was
a godsend. Suddenly I could free mount on level ground again, I didn’t
feel like I was constantly on the edge of falling, and my speed actually
*increased*. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense. Short
cranks are great when you’re going fast. They really come into their own
at 12 mph and higher. At 9 mph they are completely pointless because
your speed is no longer cadence limited, and the longer cranks force you
to waste more leg strength on balance. I probably should have switched
to longer cranks earlier--like at the beginning of the day, or maybe
even Saturday evening. I am still learning how to best adjust the myriad
variables in endurance unicycling.

At the beginning of the day, faced with riding farther than I’d ever
ridden in one day prior to Saturday, I sometimes wondered whether I
would be able to finish. With less than thirty miles to go and a brief
burst of enthusiasm from the shorter cranks there was no longer any
doubt: I was going to finish this ride, and my only concern was wrapping
it up as quickly as possible. The last thirty miles were long and hard,
but basically uneventful.

Just a few blocks from the end began the highlight of the ride. My
daughters Maria and Sarah were waiting, with their unicycles, ready to
ride to the finish line with me. It was an amazingly powerful moment. As
we rode through the blocked off streets the crowd was cheering us
wildly. They were cheering everybody, but a unicyclist who makes it to
the finish line gets an extra loud cheer. A unicyclist with two
beautiful and talented daughters as a unicycle honor guard drove the
crowd completely wild, and I felt like I was the king of the world as I
rode triumphantly, giving high fives to my subjects. It was
indescribably powerful, and I still get choked up thinking about it. I
was again incredibly grateful to Helen for being there to support me,
and thinking of bringing the girls’ unicycles. I was also thankful to
her for being there to greet me, and for handing me a bottle of
champagne to pop up open and sloppily drink.

The moral support from the crowd at the finish line was amazing, but the
moral support along the ride was no less important. A huge number of the
cyclists that passed me--and many of the cyclists that I passed--had
powerful words of support. Throughout the ride I had hundreds, or
perhaps thousands, of people say “you’re amazing”, “that’s incredible”,
“you’re my hero”, and “you go boy!” If such comments make you feel
conspicuous or uncomfortable, don’t do a ride like this. But if they
buoy you up, as they did me, then they can be the force that sustains
you and pushes you to keep on going. These comments, and the dozens of
brief conversations about the realities of endurance unicycling, helped
to distract me from the discomfort, and focus my thoughts on the
monumental personal achievement of each pedal stroke.

Of course the support of my family was crucial. Unicycling the STP is
hard, and it would be foolish to do it without a personal support
vehicle. My family was incredibly understanding and selfless and I
couldn’t have done it without them.

Throughout Saturday I fielded a wide range of questions, but the number
one question was “Are you riding all the way to Portland?” To this I
answered some variation of “yes”, “I think so”, or “here’s hoping.”

On Sunday the questions continued, but the number one question shifted
dramatically to “Did you ride all the way from Seattle?” It made me very
happy to be able to answer with an unambiguous “Yes!”

Another very common question was whether I had difficulty on the
uphills. This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the difficulties
of unicycling. I would quickly explain that the inability to coast made
downhills and flats difficult, but that uphills were where I crushed the
spirits of weakling bicyclists by maintaining my speed while they slowed
down. Usually I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the
idea.

When people asked me if I had done the STP before I replied that this
was my first time--and my last time. The ride is so demanding, and so
long, that I’m not convinced I want to do it again. The last fifty miles
was incredibly brutal. If I did it again it would be to do it faster and
better, but the equipment limits how much improvement I could achieve.
If I were to do it again I think I would use a 1.5:1/1:1 shiftable 29”
unicycle. This would give me a 20% higher top speed, while letting me
cope with hills and tired legs more easily. Perhaps most importantly,
the lower seat would let me get on more easily, thus removing a
psychological barrier. This is all speculative--I don’t have enough
miles on Blue Shift to say for sure--but I think that a Purple Phaze
style unicycle is too much for endurance riding, and a lower seat is
very tempting. Purple Phaze is an awesome sprinting machine, but
inappropriate for endurance.

I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t encourage others to do it.
Specifically, I wouldn’t encourage harper, tomblackwood, or Lars Klausen
to do it, because I think I might be the oldest person to unicycle the
STP and I’d hate to lose that distinction. It is a really tough ride,
the training demands are substantial (I didn’t train enough), and you
have to be pretty compulsive or foolishly proud to stay in the saddle
for the ~20 hours that it takes a mere mortal to finish the ride.
114,000 pedal strokes in two days is not a normal thing to do. I have a
whole new respect for Lars Klausen and Ken Looi, who did STP level
distances in less than twenty four hours, and for Jack Hughes, who does
the STP on a unicycle most years.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, after an adequate nights sleep. My
body is gradually returning to normal, and I feel strong, healthy, and
ready to face any challenge.

And now, off to London (on a plane, not a unicycle).

P.S. I just heard back from Lars Klausen. He said congratulations and
then said "Maybe we can do it together sometime".

You know, it actually sounded kind of tempting...


--
Bruce Dawson
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bruce Dawson's Profile: http://www.unicyclist.com/profile/1299
View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/41811

  #10  
Old July 12th 05, 04:44 PM
Bruce Dawson
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Seattle to Portland Ride 2005


After a year of planning it worked. At around 6:10 PM Sunday I rolled in
to Holladay Park in Portland and cracked open a bottle of champagne,
having left Seattle at 7:10 AM the previous morning. The vital
statistics a

204 miles
20:40 of saddle time
26:30 of road time

This gives me an average riding speed of a bit less than 10 mph. I’d
hoped for more, but it sure is hard to maintain a good pace the second
day. The first 40 miles on Saturday I managed a riding average of 11.4
mph. The first 40 miles on Sunday my riding average was 9.2. You’ll
notice that the Sunday speed is a tiny bit slower.

I’ve written up a ‘brief’ story of the ride. I only included the
highlights, but with 26:30 of road time there are bound to be quite a
few highlights.

I woke up on Saturday at an ungodly 5:30 AM, had a quick but substantial
breakfast, and headed off to the University of Washington. After sitting
in STP car traffic for half an hour I made it to the start line. The
ride got off to an inauspicious start as it took me four tries to mount
my steed. As I headed off I noticed my body felt oddly jittery--either
too much sugar from breakfast, or perhaps just excitement from the
ride.

Over the first few miles the jittery feeling gradually disappeared and
was replaced by seat discomfort. Five miles into the ride I felt like
I’d been riding for fifty miles. This is not a good sign and I started
to wonder how I could possibly do this ride. I rarely adjust the
pressure in my air seat and I’d actually considered leaving my pump in
my support vehicle in order to save weight, but luckily I’d changed my
mind. I stopped and added more air to the seat and suddenly I felt quite
comfortable--disaster averted. Over the rest of the ride I was
frequently adjusting the seat pressure, trying to find the perfect
pressure, and experimenting with varying the pressure in order to spread
out the wear and tear on my body.

The next forty miles were uneventful. I stopped more than I really like
to but my speed was good and I was feeling good. I was enjoying the view
from up high, talking to some of the cyclists and watching the miles
tick off. I was eating, drinking, and taking salt tablets in order to
keep my body working properly.

“The Hill” at the 43 mile mark is a legendary 7% grade that goes for a
mile. It’s not really that bad a hill, but you can’t argue with a
legend. This was one of the highlights of the ride for me. The really
fast cyclists were far ahead, so I was riding with cyclists who were,
once you removed most of their gears/coasting/brakes advantage, not as
fit as I was. So I toasted them. Nobody passed me on The Hill and I
probably passed sixty or more cyclists. It was very fun. It’s worth
unicycling the STP just for that.

Shortly after The Hill some jerk drove buy and yelled out rude remarks
urging me to get off the road and questioning my sexual orientation.
These remarks always perplex me, and make me sad. I don’t know why some
young men have so much anger, or inability to accept somebody different.
It doesn’t bother me; it just makes me worry about them. This was the
only negative comment I heard on the ride and it was completely
overwhelmed by the hundreds or thousands of encouraging comments from
other riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

Shortly after The Hill I pulled a muscle in my right leg. It wasn’t a
bad muscle pull, but it was a nagging twinge every time I flexed that
leg muscle, and I’m not good at riding one footed with my left foot. For
the second time I started worrying about whether this was going to
work.

When I got to the 53 mile mark my wife Helen and my daughters were
waiting for me. We sat on the grass in the sun, ate the food that Helen
had packed, and loaded my backpack for the next section. My leg was
still bothering me a bit, and Helen said I looked terrible. I made it
about ten miles before deciding that I needed to do something to improve
my energy levels and reduce my seat discomfort. I stopped and added air
to my seat, took an ibuprofen, and slurped up a package of Lava Gu. One
of these changes—combined with a few minutes out of the saddle—did the
trick. I resumed riding and I felt like a new man. My pulled muscle
stopped hurting, I was riding fast, and I was back on track.

At a couple of minutes past 7:00 PM I rode in to Centralia, the halfway
point on the ride. At 102 miles this was my longest ride ever, on a
bicycle or a unicycle. Helen and my daughters Maria and Sarah were there
waiting for me with barbecued chicken, watermelon, and other tasty food.
Many cyclists had set up tents in the park and were getting massages,
drinking beer, watching the Tour de France, and generally having a great
time. However, with my slower average speed I couldn’t afford to stop
for long. I needed to get a head start on the second half of the ride if
I was to finish. So, after a brief rest I remounted and headed off.

I was now one of the few riders left on the road. I didn’t see a single
rider the rest of the day. For the first time I had to pull out my map
and pay attention to the Dan Henry’s painted on the road. There was a
brief period where I was convinced I had missed a turn because I’d been
riding for several miles and had yet to reach a turn that was supposed
to happen about two miles earlier. It turns out that that the STP
mileage calculations are not completely accurate. I suspect they fudged
the numbers in order to make Centralia’s park exactly the midpoint. It’s
really only 100 miles, which is confusing, and a discouraging discovery.
Despite the worry that I’d missed the turn I didn’t turn around and I
soon realized that I was still on the route.

A lone unicyclist in the middle of nowhere sticks out more than a
unicyclist surrounded by bicyclists so I started getting more random
comments from pedestrians. In Napavine I managed a brief and amusing
conversation with a young man loitering in the center of town.
Loiterer: Hey, it’s a unicycle!
Me: (wave)
Loiterer: Dude, are you totally crushing your radial vein?
Me: (wondering if his question is anatomically accurate) Yes I am!
Loiterer: Dude, you’re never going to get wood again!
Me: (heading around the corner out of town) It’ll be fine in a few
days!
Loiterer: (laughter fading off into the distance)

Male bonding--it's a wonderful thing.

My destination was the outskirts of Winlock: 119.6 miles into the ride.
Helen and I had discussed this on our cell phones and I expected that
she was there already. About four miles out of Winlock I got a call from
Helen--one of those useless calls where each person says a garbled
“Hello” a few times before the connection is lost. I’d managed to
unicycle out of coverage just as the call started. I didn’t worry about
it because I assumed she was just checking to see where I was, and I was
fast approaching her.

Around this time it started getting dark. I turned on my flashing rear
light, held a bike light in my hand, and continued on. Two STP safety
patrol cars pulled alongside to make sure I had proper lighting and to
check that I was okay. In order to ensure my safety--and probably
because not much else was going on—one of them followed me all the way
to Winlock, lending extra light, and ensuring that nobody ran me over.
I’m sure I would have been fine--my light was sufficient to see
obstacles, and my rear flasher made me feel relatively safe--but I
certainly didn’t complain. Riding at night is more stressful and
dangerous, and it was good to know that if I rode into the ditch I
wouldn’t lie there until morning.

I got to Winlock and found that Helen wasn’t there. Oops. Apparently she
had been calling to say that she was lost. I still had no coverage so I
borrowed a cell phone from the volunteer car that had been tailing me
and called her. We talked for about thirty seconds before--surprise--she
drove into the cone of silence that surrounds Winlock. In our brief
conversation I told her that I was half a mile into Winlock but I wasn’t
sure how much she had heard. After fifteen minutes of waiting the
volunteers started driving me back along the route, looking for Helen.
We found her at a gas station using a pay phone to call my cell phone,
and feeling quite frazzled by being lost and then thinking that she’d
lost me. It was a powerful reminder of how valuable cell phones are on a
ride such as this, and how frustrating it can be when coverage fails you
just when you need it.

My final stopping point was 120 miles, and I suspect this will be my
all-time one day unicycle record.

It was close to 11:00 PM by the time we got to our hotel, so by the time
I’d showered, eaten some more, had some more to drink, figured out how
to jury rig my laptop as an alarm clock (what kind of hotel has neither
wake-up calls nor an alarm clock) it was pretty late. I set my laptop to
play “Walking On Broken Glass.mp3” at 5:30 AM and did my best to
sleep.

Annie Lennox woke me in the morning and I had a quick breakfast,
including toast from the toaster that Helen had helpfully packed. Then
Helen drove me back to Winlock to resume the ride. Our hotel was
actually about 20 miles closer to Portland than Winlock and it was
*awfully* tempting to skip that section. Who would know? However, I
decided that I didn’t want to disappoint me, Helen, or God, so to
Winlock we went.

I hopped on my unicycle and rode about half a mile before deciding my
seat had too much air in it. I’m not sure how I’d managed to ride it the
previous night, but it was lifting me up so high that I was worried
about getting calf cramps from stretching my legs so much. So, I stopped
to let out a bit of air. I was careful to stop on a downhill in order to
make remounting easier. It was a good idea, but not sufficient.

As unicyclists we all know that a failed attempt to mount a
unicycle--especially a Coker--doesn't count as a fall. If you go on a
long ride and have a few failed attempts to get on then you can still
say, with a clear conscience, that you had no UPDs. Well, I tested the
limits of this rule that morning. Despite my perfect downhill mounting
point I managed to have probably my worst Coker fall ever, while
mounting. At roughly zero miles per hour I fell suddenly and violently
forward, landing on my hands and knees. My hands were lightly scraped
and both knees were bleeding. Helen was right behind me at the time and
she said that at that point she was very skeptical about my doing the
remaining 84 miles. I was feeling a bit shaken, but too stubborn and
proud to admit any weakness. However, after a couple more failed tries
to mount I used the van as a leaning post to get on. Mounting a Coker
with 5” cranks when you’re tired is a real pain, and this reality guided
my dismounts for the rest of the day. No matter how tired or sore I
felt, I would never stop unless there was a steep downhill, a well
placed leaning post, or a burly cyclist who could help me get on.

Other unicyclists have done the STP before, especially Jack Hughes, and
throughout Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that all unicyclists look
alike. I was greeted several times with comments like “it’s good to see
you again”, “I was wondering when we’d see you”, or even “Hi Jack”. I
even had a long conversation regarding this with the official
photographers. They started by greeting me with “you’re later than
usual” and then, after I’d pointed out that they were confusing me with
somebody twenty years younger, they started listing various other ways
that they then realized I was different from Jack--shorter hair, taller,
more handsome, etc. It’s amazing how long a conversation you can have at
10 mph if the road is quiet.

If The Hill is the defining terrain of Saturday then The Bridge is the
equivalent for Saturday. The Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia
has a reputation of being harder than it looks, and it is a huge bridge
with a fair chunk of vertical climb. Because the bridge is narrow and
crowded the organizers make cyclists wait until there is a huge
group--probably 500-1,000 riders--and then they shut the bridge to
traffic in one direction and escort the riders across. My one concern
was about riding on a reasonably steep hill (some sources claim it’s a
9% grade) packed in with a thousand cyclists. It certainly could have
been a bad ride, and if I’d fallen on the uphill there would have been
no chance to remount. But, it went well. It was a bit slower than I
would have liked, definitely crowded, and occasionally I had to dodge an
unpredictable and slow biker, but overall it went smoothly. On the
downhill side I just kept to the right and let the lazy cyclists coast
past me without pedaling. Wimps.

Throughout the day I kept reminding myself how far I’d gone. One tenth
of the distance for the day. Two thirds of the total distance. Half of
the distance for the day. But it was still sometimes hard to keep going.
My average speed was down from Saturday which meant it was taking me
more saddle time to make the distance, and some estimates were showing
me not making it to the finish line until 7:00.

At 175 miles, after hours of rolling hills, I decided I needed another
performance boost. At a food stop where I met up with my loyal family in
the support mini-van I pulled out my secret weapon: longer cranks. It
takes just a few minutes to switch from 5” to 6” cranks (having pedals
pre-attached to the longer cranks helps) and the extra 20% of torque was
a godsend. Suddenly I could free mount on level ground again, I didn’t
feel like I was constantly on the edge of falling, and my speed actually
*increased*. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense. Short
cranks are great when you’re going fast. They really come into their own
at 12 mph and higher. At 9 mph they are completely pointless because
your speed is no longer cadence limited, and the longer cranks force you
to waste more leg strength on balance. I probably should have switched
to longer cranks earlier--like at the beginning of the day, or maybe
even Saturday evening. I am still learning how to best adjust the myriad
variables in endurance unicycling.

At the beginning of the day, faced with riding farther than I’d ever
ridden in one day prior to Saturday, I sometimes wondered whether I
would be able to finish. With less than thirty miles to go and a brief
burst of enthusiasm from the shorter cranks there was no longer any
doubt: I was going to finish this ride, and my only concern was wrapping
it up as quickly as possible. The last thirty miles were long and hard,
but basically uneventful.

Just a few blocks from the end began the highlight of the ride. My
daughters Maria and Sarah were waiting, with their unicycles, ready to
ride to the finish line with me. It was an amazingly powerful moment. As
we rode through the blocked off streets the crowd was cheering us
wildly. They were cheering everybody, but a unicyclist who makes it to
the finish line gets an extra loud cheer. A unicyclist with two
beautiful and talented daughters as a unicycle honor guard drove the
crowd completely wild, and I felt like I was the king of the world as I
rode triumphantly, giving high fives to my subjects. It was
indescribably powerful, and I still get choked up thinking about it. I
was again incredibly grateful to Helen for being there to support me,
and thinking of bringing the girls’ unicycles. I was also thankful to
her for being there to greet me, and for handing me a bottle of
champagne to pop up open and sloppily drink.

The moral support from the crowd at the finish line was amazing, but the
moral support along the ride was no less important. A huge number of the
cyclists that passed me--and many of the cyclists that I passed--had
powerful words of support. Throughout the ride I had hundreds, or
perhaps thousands, of people say “you’re amazing”, “that’s incredible”,
“you’re my hero”, and “you go boy!” If such comments make you feel
conspicuous or uncomfortable, don’t do a ride like this. But if they
buoy you up, as they did me, then they can be the force that sustains
you and pushes you to keep on going. These comments, and the dozens of
brief conversations about the realities of endurance unicycling, helped
to distract me from the discomfort, and focus my thoughts on the
monumental personal achievement of each pedal stroke.

Of course the support of my family was crucial. Unicycling the STP is
hard, and it would be foolish to do it without a personal support
vehicle. My family was incredibly understanding and selfless and I
couldn’t have done it without them.

Throughout Saturday I fielded a wide range of questions, but the number
one question was “Are you riding all the way to Portland?” To this I
answered some variation of “yes”, “I think so”, or “here’s hoping.”

On Sunday the questions continued, but the number one question shifted
dramatically to “Did you ride all the way from Seattle?” It made me very
happy to be able to answer with an unambiguous “Yes!”

Another very common question was whether I had difficulty on the
uphills. This shows a shocking lack of understanding of the difficulties
of unicycling. I would quickly explain that the inability to coast made
downhills and flats difficult, but that uphills were where I crushed the
spirits of weakling bicyclists by maintaining my speed while they slowed
down. Usually I phrased it more politely than that, but you get the
idea.

When people asked me if I had done the STP before I replied that this
was my first time--and my last time. The ride is so demanding, and so
long, that I’m not convinced I want to do it again. The last fifty miles
was incredibly brutal. If I did it again it would be to do it faster and
better, but the equipment limits how much improvement I could achieve.
If I were to do it again I think I would use a 1.5:1/1:1 shiftable 29”
unicycle. This would give me a 20% higher top speed, while letting me
cope with hills and tired legs more easily. Perhaps most importantly,
the lower seat would let me get on more easily, thus removing a
psychological barrier. This is all speculative--I don’t have enough
miles on Blue Shift to say for sure--but I think that a Purple Phaze
style unicycle is too much for endurance riding, and a lower seat is
very tempting. Purple Phaze is an awesome sprinting machine, but
inappropriate for endurance.

I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t encourage others to do it.
Specifically, I wouldn’t encourage harper, tomblackwood, or Lars Klausen
to do it, because I think I might be the oldest person to unicycle the
STP and I’d hate to lose that distinction. It is a really tough ride,
the training demands are substantial (I didn’t train enough), and you
have to be pretty compulsive or foolishly proud to stay in the saddle
for the ~20 hours that it takes a mere mortal to finish the ride.
114,000 pedal strokes in two days is not a normal thing to do. I have a
whole new respect for Lars Klausen and Ken Looi, who did STP level
distances in less than twenty four hours, and for Jack Hughes, who does
the STP on a unicycle most years.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, after an adequate nights sleep. My
body is gradually returning to normal, and I feel strong, healthy, and
ready to face any challenge.

And now, off to London (on a plane, not a unicycle).

P.S. I just heard back from Lars Klausen. He said congratulations and
then said "Maybe we can do it together sometime".

You know, it actually sounded kind of tempting...


--
Bruce Dawson
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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View this thread: http://www.unicyclist.com/thread/41811

 




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