Last July my cousins invited me to join them to ride 340 km from Seattle to Portland in one day, among the other 10,000 people who participate in STP annually. Seattle is a long ways away and it seemed like it would have been difficult to swing it, so I didn't go. Then I saw all the evidence of their epic ride come streaming through Strava and Facebook and I was super jealous. My cousin Aimee had intended to do the whole ride in a single day, but it was so smoking hot that day that she ended up having to bed down at a hotel that night and finish the next day. My cousin Eric had gotten so dehydrated during the ride that he said he ate most of a watermelon and drank about a gallon of water at one stop. Anyways, Aimee said she was going back in 2015 to finish the job, so I said I would come, since I wouldn't miss something like this twice.
Back in January, when the ride was starting to sell out, I leaned on my cousin Charise to join in and we both signed up. Then my aunt Margo took the plunge and signed up, saying she was doing this to celebrate turning 60 years old. With 2 out of 4 siblings already in, plus Aimee's husband Aaron and me, and now his mom, Eric finally gave in and signed up. They are all part of a cycling club in Boise, Idaho, and the group grew to 25+ and it was shaping up to be a big party. Sadly, that's when Eric had the crash. It was only a few weeks before the event, so it seemed unlikely that his collarbone and ribs would heal up in time. Then on top of that his broken ribs caused all kids of problems and he had to go back to the hospital several times more for pneumonia and then to have more than a litre of goo drained out of his chest cavity. Instead of cheering us on from the support vehicles, he was in the hospital. But we were tracking our rides with Strava, which let him follow our progress online throughout the day. Afterwards, we all gave our reports via Facebook, which I have copied here, with some minor editing / condensing:
Ok, we need the reports from 2015 STP now :) My day included sitting in a hospital bed watching goo drain out of my chest tube. I also ate some licorice and watched the Tour de France. Very exciting and action packed.
You ate licorice? Lucky.
I wish my story had more drama. It hardly compares to the insanity of last year's bake - off.
The shuttle from the airport was really slow departing. That was tough, but I stuck it out with the help of a college kid from Pittsburg, who may still be waiting there.
Met up Friday afternoon at our Seattle hotel with my roomies Aimee and Aaron, and with Charise, Margo and Margo-BFF-Michele. The pit crew did wonders helping reassemble and polish my bike. We had a fab Italian dinner with a firm 7pm deadline because another reservation was coming in. Then Charise loaded me up with a HUGE stack of super - delicious - healthy snacks like quinoa carrot bars and mini salted potatoes. We bunked down just after 9pm to be ready for the morn.
Fitful sleep, maybe because of pre-game jitters. Before the 3:30 am alarm I had a dream that I woke up and started getting ready, but it was super weird. (MORE SOON - BOARDING PLANE)
(CONT'D) In this dream I was prepping everything normally, but then I noticed that the floor was totally soaked with water and my stuff was wet, and the water was getting worse. I was getting my phone out to take a picture of the windswept waves between the beds when I realized the water was coming from the bathroom, where Dream-Aaron had decided to take a long bath, but the majority of the water was spilling onto the floor. That was about the point where I woke up for real and realized I needed to get ready all over again. Real-Aaron did not take a bath this time around, so this one went better.
I was promised a hard-boiled egg but somehow that got missed, yet I soldiered on to the muster point in the parking lot. With the aid of a few headlamps, we finished pumping tires and prepping, before the team of 28 pedaled off through the dark a few short miles to the starting gate, near Husky Stadium at UW. (PLANE TAKING OFF)
(CONT'D) I had heard numerous horror stories about what a mess it would be to be on a mass start with so many riders of varying abilities on roads that were not closed to car traffic. In fact, this first part of the ride was fairly uneventful. We went over some cool bridges and along the waterfront there in Seattle near dawn, although the weather was so cloudy you wouldn't see the sun anyway.
It was nice and cool outside, which was much preferred by all those who had experience the hot weather the previous year. One downside to the weather is that I didn't sweat that much, so I had to hit the honeybucket every hour. In fact, if a food/water break lasted more than 20 minutes, I would already start feeling the need go again. (GOING TO BED)
Derek Wake up! Eric, I'm so glad you're home. I hope you can keep it that way!
Derek are you finished?? I'm riveted by your travelogue and I was there! Keep going!
Well I will just say that for this 60 year old girl who just last year said that she would never do such a thing, I am pretty dang happy that I changed my mind! Not that it was easy by ANY means...but it just proved to myself that you really can do more than you think you can...and more than others and your own mind tells you sometimes. It also verified to me the lesson that you absolutely never can give up...that even when you think there is totally nothing left in the tank, that really there is a reserve somewhere and if you "just keep swimming" you'll eventually get there. I had trained more for this than I had ever trained for anything so even though you always feel like you could have done more, I knew that I had put in the work so now it was time to see the benefits.
I absolutely LOVED the weather...perfect Margo weather (I think Aimee Denning Hauer is related to me)...60's and 70's. I didn't even mind the rain that dumped on us briefly. The first 50 miles were wonderful.....beautiful scenery...watching the sunrise....drafting off very large guys in front of me....moving at a fast clip and watching the miles tick off on my Garmin. We rode thru a very cool Army base and along a very long bike path so not much traffic. After Charise Denning McMullin had a flat (which she changed in record speed) we kind of naturally drifted into two groups....with sadly me, being the slowest denominator, regulated the speed. At about 115 miles I kind of hit a wall....not the kind you want to...but the kind that try as you might you can't ignore and you can't stop crying...the kind that you just cry more when others are so kind so they don't ask, but just let you cry. It was at that point that I thought "I don't want to quit...but everything hurts...I'll just keep riding until I can't ride anymore." ....thus the "just keep swimming" philosophy and where the reserve tank kicked in. I also knew though that the last 100 miles were going to be a lot tougher riding than the first 100 so that messed a little with my mind. But another law of riding is that with every hill climb up there is a DOWN...that's my reward! So when we hit the rollers that everyone had told me about, I told Derek and Charise (who were leading out front) to "kick it!" on the downhills so that we could go as fast as we could to make up time and help us up as far as we could on the next hill. Those blasts of speed were very good for my psyche!
By this time we had about 8-10 (which included Charise, Derek, me, Michele (my friend), Aimee, and Aaron) in our group with a few others from our team. There usually was a few others not from our team tagging on the back as well...I was never sure how many people were behind me. Derek got a a few lessons (whether he wanted them or not) from Charise as to how to lead a draft line...and he was REALLY good at it! Thanks Derek for the much needed help you gave me! It was kind of humorous to see others (men) see Charise out leading our little pack and feel that they needed to help her out and only last a few minutes before turning it back over to Charise. Speaking of that...I must tell you a little back story.
Way back in February when I was making my decision of whether I was really going to do this thing.....I called Charise and asked her if she would agree to stay with me. I knew this would be a sacrifice for her because she is such a competitive and good rider that to hold back would drive her crazy! But she agreed and kept her word...she was with me every pedal of the way...adjusting her speed so that I could make it. I also knew that Aimee would be doing STP again so she could reach her goal of doing it in one day. Then to top it off Eric succumbed to the pressure and signed up too. So I knew this was the year to do it....with 4 of my kids+spouse, my bff (Michele who has joined me on other crazy adventures and was with me when I turned 50 and did my first triathlon). Of course with having the horrible happen and Eric having to drop out, it also made it a bittersweet experience, thinking of him all day...knowing that he was tracking us from his hospital bed...and him giving us encouraging texts. Derek lived up to his agreement that at every railroad crossing he would yell out "FOR ERIC!". That also became the hashtag of the day! And how could you go wrong with a sweet husband and 3 adorable grandchildren (Izzie, Elliott, & Abby) yelling you on!
So after I got it back together things went a LOT better. I got over the rollers and pretty much just set in my mind to just go the next distance until the next rest stop. Then I'd just do it again...and again. When I hit 160 that was a big moment because in my mind pre race, I thought that it would be cool to at least do 160 (for me turning 60), but when I actually did it then I thought well heck I've only got 40 to go so let's DO THIS!! When we were entering Portland the adrenaline started to take over. We had one more bridge to cross coming into the city and there was a bit of a hill before it...which I climbed in my slow speed by myself so as not to back people up on the bridge...so when I crossed the bridge by myself and looked at the city I was a little in awe because it was so beautiful with the sunset. I was the only one on the bridge and it was a moment that I don't think I'll ever forget...one of those snapshots in your mind kind of moments.
Then we regrouped on the other side of the bridge and put the pedal to the metal because we needed to make it across the finish line by 9:00 pm and we were running it close. After all this there was NO WAY that we weren't going to get our one day patches! So with lots of red lights and dodging of cars and people we started to get close. At the last red light before the finish line, everyone said that I needed to be in the front to lead us across the line....dang another teary moment...and that's what I did! It was like running a paparazzi tunnel!
There were people lined up on both sides of where we rode in with cameras flashing, people yelling and cheering and high fives all over the place. When I'm 80 and trying to race my wheelchair I will never forget that welcome! Of course after that there were lots more tears and hugs all around. Thanks to all who helped me accomplish something that I never thought I'd even try! (sorry it was so long :)
It's all a bit surreal... I just rode STP in ONE day.. What the what?? Is this for real? I've been pushing for that one day for two years. I was a wee bit heart broken last year when I stopped at 141.
This year I never let the thought of me NOT finishing enter my head... My gf (we were planning on staying Saturday night with) asked me where we were planning on staying if we didn't finish. It almost took my breath away.. NOT finish in one day?? Uhhh that's not happening. I will drag my almost dead body across that line no matter what! Dang it. It's happening!!
I was like Derek... Very fitful sleep.. Minus the dream about the hotel filling with water from Aaron's bath. ;). I was up a lot in the night. Got up twice to potty (sorry tmi). Woke a good 40 min before alarm went off and just laid there waiting for it to go off. Woke and started stuffing my face so the food could settle a little bit before getting on the saddle. Went downstairs and joined the rest of the team. So cool to see all 28 of those Team Reel riders in the parking lot ready to go. Even cooler to see my mom, twin, husband and cousin. Seriously was soooo jazzed to get on my bike at this point and get this party started. I had the biggest smile and I kept thinking over and over "this is really happening!! We're doing this!!" Headed to U-dub husky stadium to the start line. Then it was time to roll.
There was lots of smiles and good times were being had those first few miles. Rolling down the road. Making good time. No issues. Feeling goooooooooood. Then I hit that 100 mile mark and it was my wall. It reared its ugly head. I was waiting in the longest line ever to use the honey bucket and I couldn't get out of my head. So much doubt. I was by myself and tears where starting to fall when I heard my name screamed. I looked up and it was Charise's daughter Abby! She jumped on me and gave me the biggest hug. Then dad was there and he gave me a big hug and told me I could do it! I was back! YEEES. I CAN DO THIS. Got some more love from my cheerleaders Izzie and Elliott and we hit the road. "Hey guys.. Wanna go ride another century ride??" Let's do this!!
Sporadically from mile 140ish till 13 miles before the finish dad, Leah, Abby, Izzie and Elliott would be on the side of the road cheering for the whole team (thanks to my MIL Leah for bringing izz and Eman along the way) Game changer for me and would bring me to tears of happiness. Pumped me up big time!
Mile 172 to 208 was sooooooo freaking painful. Like give birth to a baby painful. I got a new seat a month before the ride and I should have gotten properly fitted because it felt like I had knives in my wrists and pads of my hands. I was just watching the miles sloooooooooowly tic by. Longest 36 miles of my life. The food at mile was 172 was hands down the best of the day... Cooooold watermelon and grapes. Turkey wraps and chocolate chip cookies?? Umm yes please. Get in my belly!!
The bridge towards the end in Portland was ridiculously gorgeous. Jaw dropping pretty. The sky filled with pinks and purples! Gorgeous. Wish you all could have seen it. Wanted to bust out my phone and take a pic but i was too much in awe of its awesomeness.
Crossing the finish line hands down the best moment of the day! I got to watch my mama and twin sister cross the line in front of me!!! WE DID IT. I remember last September when mom and dad came to visit. We were eating lunch and talking about big scary goals. I mentioned STP and how rad it would be for her to do it for her 60th. I could see the wheels turning... Wait a second.. Was this really a possibility??? She *might* pull the trigger?! I pushed a little more and told her I 150% believed she could do this. I remember her tearing up... Fast fwd to Saturday.. Seeing her get back on her bike. Just kept swimming. Her crossing that big scary finish line in front of me?? I don't have words for how proud I am of my incredible mama. She AMAZES me.
I gotta say... Having Derek there... SCREAMING.. "FOR ERRRRRRIC" every time we crossed railroad tracks and seeing those Canadian twizzlers hanging out of his jersey pocket the whole time... Beyond epic.
Another awe inspiring moment(s) was seeing my sister smile THE ENTIRE TIME. That women is a tank and nothing can stop her. Cycling behind her as she put her hand on my mom's back as they climbed rollers together at the end... She never left my moms side. I wanna be like her when I grow up. You're a beautiful beast twin.
My friend Steph in Boise messaged me saying how in awe she was that she woke up that morning and I was already on my bike.. And she was laying in bed about to go to sleep and I had just crossed the finish line. Really hit home when she said that how long we had been riding!!
So there you have my rambling thoughts... Haha. All and all a killer ride. So stoked to do it with so much family.
Awesome Aimee and Margo! I loved every single word! Absolutely inspiring! The part about Charise putting her hand on Margo's back made me teary and the part about Derek's war cry for Eric made me smile! What a great experience! Thanks for sharing it! Ok, Charise and Aaron let's hear your take. And Derek, you need write your last installment too.
Wow, see everyone else can write it better than me. smile emoticon Great tributes Margo and Aimee. That's a new one I haven't been called Aimee...a beautiful beast. Haha. It was a fun day and I was ecstatic that it was overcast and cool. So much better than last year! I mentally prepped that I was getting my Mom across the finish line no matter what. We had a great pace line for the first 60 miles or so and then broke into 2 groups where we all worked together to finish together. I felt like a slave driver at all the stops to get everyone to use the honey buckets pronto, eat and get back on the road. I knew the time constraint and had to keep us on track. The highlights were wheeling in on the Air Force base...the best and smoothest roads with no traffic, riding with an awesome cousin (licorice carrier) who could hammer anything at a seconds notice, and finishing with 2 minutes to spare with tears of joy for Aimee, my Mom, and bff Michele to complete such a tough goal. I also impressed myself with throwing my chain back on after it came off, all while riding. Skillz I tell ya! A great ride and one of a first that I didn't have total butterflies before. That was nice. I prepped a lot of food that everyone ate on throughout the ride that gave me warm fuzzies knowing they were all well nourished. I know I'm forgetting some things but that was my take. Great job everyone!
Charise is always feeding and taking care of her people! Her food....mmmmmm. Who knew salted mini potatoes were so dang good cycling?? That Banana bread? Mmmm Quinoa carrot bars.. nomnomnom. AND those muffins? Get in my belly!!
(CONT'D - sorry for delay) So, I can't really tell you how I felt at such-and-such mileage because I have no idea about the distances or the places or anything. I use my phone as my bike computer and I had the screen off to preserve battery so I had zero clue how fast we were going, how far we had gone, or where we were. Place names meant nothing to me. Even the distances people talked about meant little because they were all speaking in miles and I cycle in metric. I would just look at my watch occasionally, knowing that I shouldn't expect to arrive anywhere until nightfall. I would just ride for an hour or more, stop when they told me to stop, hit the honeybucket, eat a bunch of quinoa bars, slam a bottle of water, then fall back in line. Repeat that like 12 times (except for the time that I got a cheeseburger from a girls volleyball fundraiser BBQ and ate that just to shock Charise).
I really liked riding in the draft line with the big group, watching how it works. I mostly ride solo or with 1 or 2 other guys, so that was new and sort of inspiring. I got my turn at the front of the line and promptly screwed it up. Someone behind said "let's pick it up a bit" and I obliged. Apparently, you are supposed to pick it up slowly. I looked over my shoulder and found myself alone ahead of the group. Rookie. Even with my race-tight Team Reel jersey I wasn't fooling anyone. I think I was a dead giveaway, what with my unshaven legs and my seat that was set too low, etc.
My plan had been to hang with Team Margo and help pull along, but Charise doesn't need to draft behind anyone pretty much ever. Witnessing how she physically put her hand on Margo's back and PUSHED her up the hill was proof of that (I almost got a picture of that -- too slow on the draw). Plus, I didn't know how fast I was going, so I whenever I did get out front to pull, I would slowly drift away too quickly and then slow down too much. Total rookie. I finally determined that I would just sit right behind Charise and create as large a draft as possible for Margo to sit in. That seemed to work pretty well.
I don't know what mile it was, but there was this big hill just before halfway and that's where Charise pushed Margo up and then Margo cried at the top and I heard her say that she just needed to get it out. I think that's where she said she had her darkest moment. I think I did too. You see, Charise found this really big pickle at a food stand at the top of the hill and gave it to Margo to help her get her energy back, but Margo had just been eating a honey-energy-gel so the sudden pickle taste was super gross and made her clench her fists down tight and shake back and forth with this puckered expression. Man, tears or none, that was the funniest thing I saw all day. Because I was laughing at her (and posting a pic of it to Instagram), she told me to try it. I said that I NEVER eat Pickles but we were all in this together so I grabbed it and took a huge bite. That was my darkest moment, I think.
Seriously though, the furthest I had ever ridden before was like 110 km (maybe 70 miles?), and all this was new territory for me. My mind and my body were like, "hey, we've been at this for a long time - we should be done now, right?" I said as much to Margo and she narrowed her eyes and said, "Don't you dare give me any ideas." She was pretty determined.
So we just hopped on our bikes and we kept churning out the miles. My derriere was sore after 100 miles, so I got a bit squirrelly on the seat for the 2nd 100 miles. My big toes went numb on both feet at some point from the constant pressure, but other than that, my steady stream of food and water (and whatever those pills were that Charise gave me at lunch) kept me feeling strong all day.
It was really cool to be there and see everyone make to the finish together. To see Aimee conquer this personal summit was awesome. A bunch of Team Reel people said I reminded them a bit of Eric, being the same size and having my white bike and white helmet. Maybe it was the Twizzlers hanging out my jersey pocket too, which were sort of a tribute to Eric. It was sad he couldn't be there, but his constant stream of online comments and texts let us know he was at the command center, keeping tabs on our progress along the way.
Oh man, I am laughing so hard at your darkest hour. Hilarious!! Had to be there.
Oh and now everyone knows I'm a drug dealer.
Loved your take on things D!!
This STP was so rewarding and incredible. I have so many thoughts running in my head and no real way to express them all properly....but I'll still try smile emoticon First of all, I can not tell you in words how proud I am of my beautiful wife Aimee Denning Hauer! Your determination is incredible! I remember last year when you raised your fist at the finish line....it was awesome and a tremendous accomplishment. This year to witness you complete the ride in one day with your mom, sister, cousin and friends is simply amazeballz.
Very cool. Aaron, you and Aimee make a great team. What an amazing memory to have together.
Oops I hit post before I was done...I feel so lucky to have such an awesome family. My mind is seriously going in happy circles trying to express all the positivity, love, and determination I saw. From Charise putting her hand on her mom's back, to Derek living up to his promise, "for Eric!" Margo you are an amazing person! Who sets a goal of a double century for their 30th birthday???? Apparently you! (Yes I still want a pony ) It was so great to have my mom, Bob, Abby, Izzie, and Elliott along the way. Seeing the decorated cars, cheering and love really motivated us and kept us focused on the prize. It was an emotional and exciting moment to cross the finish line. My heart and soul are so fulfilled and happy to see Aimee complete this challenging goal. At one time people put her down and laughed at her when she said she's doing a 200 plus mile ride. Well who's laughing now? Me in joy that we did it!!!! I you beautiful!! It was so awesome to see all our friends and family at the finish line!! I am missing so many details....I simply wish to express what an incredible journey this was with incredible people.
Aaron is such an awesome guy. Other than the dreamy bit where he flooded the hotel room, this guy was always out there cheering somebody on or helping somebody out. He was right there for Aimee every inch of the journey. The only times I looked back to see Aimee riding without Aaron, it was because he had dropped back to go make sure someone else was doing okay and keeping up. One of my favorite moments in the whole ride was right near the end when he and I were waiting at a street corner in Portland to see if one of our team riders was coming in from the big bridge. When we figured out he had a flat farther away and the van was coming for him, we rushed off to catch the group. The two of us were just hammering through the empty streets of Portland, flying along. It was awesome because we were almost done, we still had it in us to sprint and it was a beautiful evening. You're the man, Aaron.