Vicious Series #4: The Hell that was Ellensburg

Beautiful bike riding day! FOR SOME OF IT.
I went into Ellensburg knowing it was going to be totally rough... I just had no idea how rough. Ibie's been out of commission for a week or two because of a brake failure and we're waiting on the warranty (first time I understand the argument for having two race bikes). I've been riding Jim Jim and Frederick (mountain bike) lightly because of work and allergy issues... so the stage is set - a not prime Lo with her 30 pound 'chubby' commuter Jim Jim going into what ended up being a 93 mile gravel grinder.

After a 5 AM wake up call and seeing Jamie briefly at the start line ("Hi Jamie!", also on her commuter bike haha) we set off. Jamie was gone ("Bye Jamie!"). I literally had no idea what I was in for - all I knew is that Ellensburg had a big hill climb... I didn't know when it was, how big it was, etc. From my perspective, it was impossible to hang momentum wise with my relative strength and the ebbs and flows of the pack. I hung in the pack the best I could - slowly moving backwards in the pack until I found myself hanging on the back at mile 5 or so.   In fact, I turned around and there was no one. Oh no.

Then an angel appeared also falling off the back of the back, struggling like I was to hang on to the accelerating pace of the pack. She seemed to give up too and drifted backwards in the sea of fish - I grabbed her wheel, introduced myself, and thus began a beautiful Fondo friendship of survival - my new best friend Jill.

Jill and I chatted and decided to make a ride out of this - we'd survive. This was her first major fondo and her boyfriend was also doing it (he stopped and waited to check and see if she was alive at mile 10 or so... he saw she had an equally a-fib friend and was like "awesome! Enjoy your ride ladies!" and darted off into the mountains). At this point in the ride, it was just beautiful and pleasant, country lanes still paved, talking about our hopes and dreams and we passed fields of flowers and aromatic pine trees. We referred to these times later as "those happy times we shared together".

A cut through town led us in the first water stop right before the climb (but we didn't really know that). At this point, some people caught up to us from behind (...!) - apparently we weren't actually last, a stop light had stopped 20 people or so behind us (whew!). At this stop, I told Jill how glad I was to have found her and explained the heavy bike... she said "well my boyfriend says my bike is heavy too...". I picked her bike up at the stop (her one bike!), and it weighed as much as Jim Jim. I had found my fellow Fondo steel masochist!

Jill contemplating WTF we signed up for
We then started the climb... slowly... and then we hit gravel, with a > 20% grade bump out of now where which we ended up walking up after a valiant attempt. I should add Jim Jim had total slicks with no traction (gahhhhh) and Jill had road tires on. The climb ended up being 3000 feet alternating between 10% and 18% grade gravel in full sunshine. We walked, we swore at the gods, we died a thousand internal deaths as our water supplies and morale dwindled. But we kept trekking. One god-fucking-damn foot at a time... my heart rate was continually over 170 bpm for over 2 hours as we were in our smallest gear just begging our bodies for one pedal stroke more (it actually was this dramatic).

When we made it to an impromptu water stop at the "top", we almost wept for relief as we refilled our empty water bottles and chatted with the guy giving us water. He told us the leader was on a single speed (what the actual fuck?). The guy also told us we were at 'the top' and there were just a few more rollers. This was a total lie. We had another 2000 feet of climbing to go after a brief descent. The agony. Jill at this point told me "I'm sure glad you're on Jim Jim today", aghhhhhh.

I really wanted to throw Jim Jim off the cliff and curl up in a ball and cry
The brief descent though... was terrible. There was snow, it started to lightly rain, and the full sunshine was gone. I was shivering pretty fiercely on the way down, considering my short sleeved kit was totally soaked. Jill, my sweet angel, saved me at this point - she gave me her red vest, which was just perfect to keep my body temperature above 'death'. Then we started up again... hopelessly. Up and up and up for another 2000 feet. I blacked out most of this part of the climb, as most normal humans putting their body through extreme distress would. But then the descent began.... bumpy and rough and maybe a little terrifying. Jim Jim hated every moment of this, and his Strava suffer score was like 3 billion here.

The most perfect descent
At the food stop, we binge ate and chatted with the organizer's family and friend's for a while. For the first time in Lo history, I waited for someone when they took a pee break (...!). Jill's pee break was actually 30 seconds so it was fine! But then we were back... back to climbing. Thankfully, this time it was a slow 3-6% grade for another 1500 feet (whew!). We made it to the top, and high fived, beginning the most perfect, glorious descent of the Vicious series yet. Even more fun, there were these like pot-hole rollers that made it feel like white water rafting.  We literally yipped and happily screamed multiple times on the way down - back in the sunshine and good times!!

#Survivor, thanks Ivy for the photo!
The last 20 miles were paved rollers. In some ways, this was also a particular form of terrible because we had no idea how long this course was or where it would end. In fact, they threw us on a borderline sand horse trail for the last 3 miles, which was terrible. I got to watch myself be beat by the unicycle, but HEY, WE MADE IT!

Jill and I then happily binge ate tacos and relished being alive after that venture. I don't think I could have done it without her help -- both mental, emotion, and the critical life-saving vest! I would NEVER recommend doing one of these fondos on a Jim Jim like bike. I basically went into shock the next day (seriously electrolyte and water depleted), and it took two days before walking didn't completely exhaust me. Just glad to have the Ellensburg finisher patch... only Winthrop left now in September!

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