As I plodded through Sea-Tac for the third time in as many weeks (changing planes from Anchorage, to Seattle for STP) I came to appreciate, once again, how spoiled I was to have grown up in Seattle.

Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) is so cool! Lots of great public art, prominently displayed. Bronze fish in the floor. Talking water fountains. Really great food and shops. A Starbucks at every gate. Well, every terminal, with extras. Don’t like the line at B3? Try B10!

20130828-205438.jpg

I arrived at my gate a little early, and the nice people at Horizon Air were happy to put me on an earlier flight to Spokane, at no extra charge. Which was good, because if I’d had time to contemplate the plane I was boarding…

P1010243

Yes, that’s a propeller.

But at long last, I could get the shots of the Cascades that had eluded me the entire STP weekend:

P1010244

P1010245

And there was coffee with real half-and-half! And cookies!

P1010246

I picked up my rental, requesting something small with good gas mileage, as I still had many miles to drive to Sandpoint, Idaho. I got an SUV, and directions to the Spokane REI. I needed new sunglasses and I had a coupon.

Sunglasses, a new thermal, and some snack treats later, I was Idaho-bound on I-90, but contemplating spending more time in Spokane on the way back.

IMG_2508

I found Sandpoint and Greasy Fingers, which outfitted me with a terrific rental bike!

P1010247

Then I picked up my rider number and headed back to the hotel, knowing that I’d need to be up before dawn.
IMG_2512

IMG_2513
At the 150 mile start (the 80 mile riders were bussed to their starting line), it was clear that this wasn’t the first CHAFE for many of the participants:
P1010248

P1010249

The jerseys provided not only a route map…
P1010250

…but also elevation!
P1010251

I felt as if I’d gotten off to a strong start, but by the time I reached the first mini rest stop (porta-potty, gear drop, water), my right knee was in pain. Lucky for me, one of the Greasy Fingers techs was there (lesson: always rent your bike from the SAG team). I overheard someone say, “there’s only three after her.” While the tech was adjusting the bike seat, those three riders passed by. I was now the lanterne rouge. Less than an hour before, my goal had been to finish the longest ride of my life. Suddenly, it was to avoid finishing DFL, which does not mean “degree of financial leverage” or anything to do with the Minnesota Democratic Party in this context.

As I rode, the heat continued to rise. I kept attempting to befriend the bike mechanic’s dog at rest stops. You know how I love a good puppy photo op!
P1010252

Around the 50 mile mark, we crossed the Montana border. The SAG vehicles were keeping a close eye on me and the other stragglers, making sure our water bottles were filled between the far-and-few-between (but awesome) rest stops.

P1010253

I was probably the last rider to roll into lunch; the 80 mile riders had left hours before. A long twisty hill followed, and my speed dropped into the single digits. I started to worry about finishing before the cutoff. I wasn’t worried about my Montana miles; I knew most of the hills were behind me. I just wanted to avoid the broom wagon. Over and over, I’d do the mental math, and try to pick up the pace.

The support trucks and motorcycles were doing their best to keep me hydrated. I was doing my part, and was on my fifth Nuun tablet of the day. That, and the onion residue on my sandwich from lunch, started to catch up with my stomach. Then, a support motorcycle called out to me to watch out on the upcoming descent.

Here is where the picture of the mountain goat would go.

If I’d taken that picture.

I reached around to my jersey pocket and realized that I didn’t have my camera. I groped some more before turning my attention back to the goat and the descent.

At the next rest stop, I confirmed the truth. No more camera.

Oddly, I didn’t freak out. I knew my mom would be disappointed (moms are always disappointed when you lose things they bought you), but there was nothing to be done. I wasn’t biking back to the Montana state line, even if I’d had the strength. All I could do was alert the ride support staff and hope someone found it. And get back on my bike and ride another 60 miles or so.

I learned that the heat was prompting many riders to abandon. I was starting to overtake the 80 mile riders. I pulled into the last rest stop. Home of the bobcats. I vowed to name my next cat “bob”. My stomach was so twisted in knots that I turned down ice cream. I just wanted to finish.

As dusk approached, I saw a sign for the Idaho state forest. And then the Idaho state line. And then, a miracle:

My Garmin gave me back an hour. I’d crossed back into the Pacific Time Zone.

I would finish in time!

I could smell the finish line. I could taste the asteroid storm of gnats that had emerged at twilight. Kamikazes all, doing their best to keep me from the finish line, which I crossed, according to my Garmin, in 12 hours and 59 minutes.

Gnat graveyard:
IMG_2514

So, my longest ride ever and hundreds of dollars raised to help students with Autism in the Sandpoint schools.

Official results here

But, as you can see from this? NOT DNF, AND NOT DFL!!!!

20130904-174452.jpg

Just a little chafed, and missing a camera… Nothing that a little Ruby’s Lube and the kindness of strangers wouldn’t fix…

Advertisements