Before we got to Washington, Patrick had predicted that it would start raining as soon as we crossed the border. I was eager to find that out. Portland is right across the Washington state border, but it turned out to be 45 miles before we crossed the border since we basically followed it along as it curved north. On to the border race recap.
The Washington border race was the first one to have a new amendment I added to the rules that Dan made up in Lubbock. Beforehand, the idea had been that all the racers must stop at every aid station and leave them all together. That had been loosely enforced to say the least, though the Oregon one had followed it well. I thought that basically handed the race to people who were better at distances of less than 20 miles, so my amendment was simply that the first one to each aid station gets to decide when to leave. That way there’s at least some incentive to make an effort the whole time, rather than save it all for the last 10-15 miles.
Dan and Paul set an intense pace from the beginning and it took a lot just to keep them in sight. I could’ve probably stayed right on their tail if I had really wanted to, but I knew that would leave me nothing for the last few miles. Dan and Paul basically arrived at the aid station together, while I pulled in a minute or two later. So Dan and Paul got to decide when to leave, and since Dan is one of the biggest supporters of long aid stations, we were there for a while.
A long while.
We were there so long that not only did everyone on the team show up, but they all got a chance to eat all the McDonald’s we had gotten donated and were well rested by the time Dan decided to leave. As a result, Bobby decided to take a whack at the race. This would be the last leg before the border, which was on a bridge. Bridges are unsafe even when you’re not racing, so we decided that the race would end at the beginning of the bridge rather than at the physical border on the bridge.
Dan and Paul once again set a solid pace, but this time I made sure to stay on their tail. Once you let them get away from you, there’s no way you’re going to catch up. I kept drafting off of them for several miles, pumping my legs close to their limit and still just barely keeping up. Bobby actually moved to the front of the pace line at one point and started pulling, and the pace noticeably slowed down. It gave me a chance to recharge a little bit, but it seemed like it took its toll on Bobby. Only a mile or two later, eight miles after we’d started, Bobby fell off the pace line.
The pace picked back up and I once again had to grit my teeth and push myself just to draft off of Paul and Dan. We kept a steady, swift pace for about another five miles. Just when I was starting to wear down, Dan stood up and started a breakaway that Paul was right on top of. They took off so well together it looked like it was coordinated. I stood up as well, telling myself aloud not to let them get away with me, completely ignoring all the pain in my legs, but they were just too good. That breakaway was a thing of beauty.
Knowing Bobby was still behind me, I kept pushing myself like I had been for the past 13 miles. My pace was slower since I had no one to draft off of, but I figured the same was true for Bobby, so I’d be OK as long as I didn’t bonk or he didn’t make a major comeback. I managed to keep Paul and Dan within sight for a few miles, so I knew I was moving fast. At about 20 miles since the aid station, I could see a big white bridge. It took a few more miles to get there. I pulled up to it to find Paul and Dan drinking some water at the foot of the bridge and comfortably came in third. Once again, Dan had outsprinted Paul at the end for first.
We let the rest of the team catch up and moved on to our destination. Sadly, there was no "Welcome to Washington" sign for us to take a group photo at. Our destination was only a few miles over the border, making it a short day. As we rolled across the bridge and into town, we didn’t see any rain.
We stayed in host families that night. Patrick and I went to the house of a nice old lady who fed us salmon for dinner. We went to a library after that to do some email and keep in touch with the folks back home. It was in walking distance from her house, so we walked back afterwards, but we were pretty hungry. Spying a donut shop, we walked up to it and found that they were selling a dozen donuts for $4. We felt a little gluttonous, so we got that. When we did, the guy even threw in two more for free. We took the box, sat down, and started eating. Amazingly enough, we each finished six donuts for a total of probably 2,000 calories. We showed some restraint and threw away the other two. On the way back to our host’s house, Patrick remarked, “That was enough donuts to feed half the team. And we ate them all.”
We were headed to Olympia the next day, the capital of Washington. As it seemed to happened every day in Washington, the mileage was way off. Just about every ride was thought to be 50-60 miles the day before we rode it, but the morning of, we’d hear it was 70, then discover during the ride that it’s actually 80. The other theme of Washington had to be green. The whole state was completely overgrown with tons and tons of trees.
The ride to Olympia was longer and much hotter than expected. With all the trees and shrubbery around, the sun hitting them would release a lot of moisture in the air. At times, it felt like the trees were exhaling humidity onto you. Upon arrival, we got a wonderful reception. A church in town came together and cooked us a fantastic meal, and there were enough people there for us to do a program. As it turns out, this church had made the arrangements for us in Longview the day before. After the program, we once again split up into host families. Athan and I went with a somewhat young couple with a son and daughter both in their preteens. As it turns out, the couple is both into running, and the husband was a cyclist also. We spent a lot of time talking to them about that, and a little more about Washington. They admitted that Washingtonians are indeed pretty snobby about their coffee and mentioned that it wasn't as good when they visited Texas.
Having grown up in Texas, it never occurred to me that sweet iced tea isn’t normally served at every restaurant. According to these folks, they couldn’t find good coffee in Texas, but were flabbergasted at how common iced tea was. Their thought was the difference in climate: Washingtonians drink something to warm up, and Texans drink something to cool down. I suppose either way, we also want caffeine.
Frustrated at the lack of good coffee shops in Texas, they finally went to Starbucks, because at least it was familiar. But in their mind, even Starbucks wasn’t as good as it was in Washington.
“Are you sure it was that different?” I asked. “I mean, I’m sure they were using the exact same ingredients, the same coffee machines…”
“There were ice chunks in my frappucino…” chimed the 13-year-old daughter. Athan and I couldn’t keep ourselves from laughing.
After Olympia, we set out for Snoqualmie, a city outside of Seattle. The directions that day were long and complicated, and many of them changed on the fly during the day. The distance also turned out to be a lot more than expected. Not only that, but it was hot again that day, something we hadn’t expected in Washington at all. At one point, Athan, Jay, Krista, and Alex were all following me and I led them down the wrong direction, adding ten miles to Krista, Jay, and Alex’s ride, and twelve to Athan’s and mine. I felt really bad, especially since it came late in the day when we were already really tired and at the hottest part of the day.
At the last minute, we changed course from Snoqualmie to Sammamish, another outlying town, where another host would be. To get to Sammamish, we had to do some intense climbing at the end of the day, including a very short stretch of a ridiculously steep hill. It was probably one of the steepest grades we’d tackled all trip, but it was short enough that you could just grunt for a few seconds and push your way up. The house was right at the top.
We were driven to Snoqualmie where we were fed yet another excellent dinner and had some good company. The host had a house next to a stream with plenty of room in her yard for all of us to camp. Pretty cool setup. Some of us were staying with some friends in the area, and some others stayed in a hotel, so we were pretty split up. Enough so that I got a tent to myself. We slept well and slept in since we had a day off in Seattle.
After I woke up, I had to go for a five or six mile run around the neighborhood. No days off for me! When I got back, a few of my teammates were watching Floyd Landis blow away some competition in the Tour de France and all but claim the yellow jersey. After that was done, we got in the van and headed to downtown Seattle.
We parked next to a football stadium and walked around some old market. I got to see some people throwing fish and took a visit to the original Starbuck's. I liked that one more than most since it felt like some random coffee shop. Plus the original logo had nudity, which makes everything better! I don't drink coffee, but I had to order something from the original Starbuck's. We chilled in a little park area for a while listening to a lot of street musicians. Then we had to go.
That afternoon some of the team took a visit to a children's hospital that included a cancer unit. It was good to go, especially since I hadn't made the visit to M.D. Anderson in the spring. This facility had a school, games, activities, a pool, bikes, video games, the whole nine. I just liked the idea that they went the extra mile to let kids be kids, even if they're sick. I was lucky enough to get to talk to Natalie, a seven year old girl who had cancer and no hair. She seemed to be doing alright and had a good attitude about the whole thing. We talked with her for a while and gave her a wristband. It felt good to think that the money we raised went to something like that.
Later on we had dinner and went downtown to see Seattle at night. Mostly just killed some time. I did see the Space Needle, but I sincerely think it needs a way cooler lighting system at night. We hung out at a bar for a while and called it a night.
We took the van back from Snoqualmie to Sammamish to start our ride the next morning, then left from there to head for Mt. Vernon. Once again, the ride was longer than expected, and it was hot and humid. I noticed my shifter was acting funny that day. It would often skip over a gear, and it wouldn't go down to the lowest one in the back. Was more of an irritation than a problem, but I decided I'd have Dan look at it that night or the next morning.
We were fed by a church again, and once again split up into host families. Some stayed at the church because it was one of the only buildings in town with air conditioning, a concept foreign to us Texans. Athan and I went with a young couple that was expecting their first child. On the way to their house, we had to stop and get a milkshake so Athan could fulfill his pledge of drinking a milkshake in every state. Their house was a little warm, even at night, so they opened all the windows. That points out something strange: people here don’t have air conditioning. That’s entirely foreign to me. The way I see it, you mostly buy a house so you can stay in the air conditioning. Otherwise, you paid six figures for the ability to lie still at night and keep your stuff somewhere.
We just talked for quite a while and found out that one of the folks organizing our hosts at the church is a world-class triathlete. I talked to him the next morning and asked how he trained. His answer was simply "I run, swim, and bike a lot."
from Texas 4,000