Almost Epic Muni Ride Round 2

Yesterday I did a repeat of my Amost epic muni ride. Same route. Same trails. Same evil climb.

Why would I do it again after suffering through it once already last year? Well I like the challenge and I wanted to see if I could do the distance and climbing better this year. It’s a long hard ride. A good test to see how my fitness is.

The Ranger Creek ride I did is an 18.1 mile loop with approximately 4100 feet of cumulative elevation gain. The good news is that since it’s a loop, every foot you climb you eventually get to go down. That’s a lot of descending.

The ride took me 5 hours 30 minutes in total this year compared to 7 hours 15 minutes last year. I got a late start this year and had to hurry to get back before dark. The threat of darkness kept me motivated to keep on going.

I felt better during and after the ride this year than last year. But I was still pretty wonked for the last two miles. I don’t know if I needed to eat more, drink more, or take more salt. Whatever it was, I was starting to have a hard time on those last two miles. I’ll have to figure out what’s going on so I can keep my energy up for long rides like this without hitting some sort of wall. That’s part of the challenge in doing a ride like this. The good news is that I can still walk just fine today.

My goal is to be able to do the entire Palisades loop which is 21.7 miles and 5100 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Based on how I was feeling during the last two miles of the Ranger Creek ride, I’m not yet ready to do the full Palisades loop. I rode the Palisades trail last year, but I took a shortcut to get there which cut 6 miles from the ride and a couple thousand feet of cumulative elevation gain. I need to do the ride without taking the shortcut. I also need to actually ride more of the Coral Pass Road climb instead of hiking it.

The climb up Coral Pass Road is still a bitch. 5.2 miles and 2600 feet of climbing. The grade is over 10% in places and the steep bits tend to have the washboard braking bumps which makes the steep bits even harder to climb. I climbed more of the climb this year than last year, but I’m still a long long ways from climbing all of it. My strategy this year was to keep on moving because I had limited time to do the ride before darkness. If I wasn’t riding I was hiking. No time to just stand around. It took me 1 hour 45 minutes this year to do the climb/hike compared to a little over 2 hours last year. I rode more of the climb this year, but I’m still not able to sustain the steeper parts. It might be able to ride the entire climb, but you’d have to take it slow and take frequent rest stops. I was feeling a lot better at the top of the climb this year than I felt last year. Last year my legs felt like they were made of out lead after the climb. This year the legs were saying “Hey, time to hit the singletrack”.

So on to the singletrack. The trail starts with about 3 miles of up and down riding near a ridge. If the day wasn’t so hazy I would have nice clear views of Mt. Rainier. After that, the trail is mostly downhill switchbacks. It’s an endless downhill. The trail is mostly buff with a few roots and rocks. It’s no gonzo downhill run. Just a nice XC trail out in the backcountry. The trail is cut into the side of the mountain. There is usually a very steep dropoff on one side of the trail. You certainly don’t want to fall down the dropoff and you don’t want your muni to fall off that side of the trail either. The uphill side of the trail creates pedal strike hazards. The trail is pretty skinny, so between keeping away from the uphill side to avoid pedal strikes and keeping away from the downhill side to avoid falling down a steep slope, it’s like riding a 6 inch wide skinny for mile after mile. Because of the skinny trail and the threat of pedal strikes you cannot just let it fly going down. You’ve got to go slow and keep it in control. I had a couple of good pedal strikes that sent me flying. Fortunately nothing that caused me or my unicycle to fall down the steep side of the trail.

I took a couple of pictures and put them in my Palisades gallery from last year. The Ranger Creek ride and Palisades ride are right next to each other so I figured they’d go well together in the same gallery.

I’ll have to do a better job next time of picking a day that isn’t hazy so I’ll have better views of Mt. Rainier. On the plus side, there were wild flowers in bloom this time and I feel that the flowers make up for the hazy views of Mt. Rainier.

I still need to do a muni ride that qualifies as an epic. I’m getting close to being able to handle the physical end of a big epic muni ride. I’m just not quite there yet. Maybe if I find an epic ride where the climb isn’t as steep as the Coral Pass Road climb…

John “still need to do an epic” Childs

Didn’t your Gazz have a flat you had to repair on last year’s epic ride. Or was it an airseat flat?

Anyway, congratulations. I’ve seen you climb…always from behind for some reason. You’re an energizer bunny. I can’t take stuff from you; you’re not weak.

Last year my air seat went flat during that ride. This year I had no mechanicals or other problems. I was smart this year and brought an extra 16" tube for the air seat just to guarantee that it would not go flat. My theory is that they only go flat when you don’t have a spare on hand. The only problem this year was that I got a late start and had to hurry to make it back before dark.

I can’t take stuff from you either because you can pedal grab and I can’t. That makes you stronger than me. I guess we’re at a stalemate till one of us gets injured.

Awesome ride John, give yourself credit where credit is due. My feeling is that anything with that kind of climbing is EPIC. And the time out on the trail is EPIC as well. You have to prepare for a ride of this kind, or else… It is an adventure as well, which is why I personally like long rides. Do you mix any kind of powder with your water, e.g. my favorite is Cytomax Go Grape. What about Glutamine supplements, I really think that helps as well for the endurance. Make sure you get L-Glutamine in powder form, then mix it with the Cytomax. What about protein, do you keep up on protein intake during the ride. I’m sure you must carbo load before, during and after the ride.
That’s super that you are getting stronger each year, who say’s age matters? The singletrack sounded really fun and challenging. I would say you are doing EPIC rides, nice work! Just keep pushing your goals further and further, like is too short not to.

Oops, The last sentence should read “Just keep pushing your goals further and further, lifelife is too short not to”.

I’ve been injured for the last two years so you win already. And thanks for another great write up. You need some other power rider to go with you sometime. It’s still nice to hear about places I’ll never get to. I have to go try to cross the street now. I can get there.

It is a fun ride and just being out on a trail that’s away from it all is a nice feeling. I saw one SUV going down the Coral Pass Road as I was climbing up. Other than that, there were no other people out there that I saw. That’s a nice benefit of doing a ride like this on a weekday. On the weekends this ride can attract a lot of riders.

I’ve been reluctant to put drink mixes like Gatorade or Cytomax in my hydration packs. It’s hard to wash that stuff completely out of the bladder afterwards and the sugars will cause yucky stuff to grow in the bladder. I probably should use a drink mix when I go on longer rides and just make sure that I rinse the bladder out immediately after the ride and wash it when I get home.

I’ve been using just plain water. I bring Lava Salts for electrolyte replacement. The plain water and Lava Salts have been working well for me on shorter rides. For this ride maybe I didn’t take enough salt. I only took three Lava Salt caplets during the ride. I probably should have taken four or five. I’ve noticed that I tend to need more electrolyte replacement than most people. I must sweat out more salt than the average person. I started the ride by drinking a lot of Gatorade to make sure I was fully hydrated before starting the ride.

For food I brought Power Bar Harvest bars and Clif Shot gels. They’re easy and convenient to carry and to eat. I can’t remember how many of the bars and gels I consumed. But I probably should have eaten more. Balance bars are also good, but I didn’t bring any on this ride.

For long rides like this I should pay more attention to how much I’m eating and drinking. I’ll pay more attention to the nutrition end of things next time I do a big ride.

John, I always enjoy reading about your rides. They sound beautiful. Also, they seem to fully qualify as epic in my book.

The “six inch skinny for miles” doesn’t sound too relaxing though. Keep up the great rides. --chirokid–

Not sure who that power rider is is, although we established clearly today who it is NOT :D. I tried in vain to stay with John on Tiger Mountain, a not quite so epic 11.6 mile mix of fireroad climbing and rooty, rocky single-track descents. John has an internal oxygen source, and has no need to breath or pant on long ascents. He likes nothing better than to give long-winded verbal dissertations on spoke tensioning theory while simultaneously chugging up a 5% grade gravel fireroad, then ask you detailed questions knowing you’re barely capable of a croak in response, much less an entire word or sentence.

But it was still a great ride and I can’t wait to do it again. A minor gallery of shots is here: