An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride -- bigger and better in 2015

The humor wasn't lost on me -- last year's Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride was done on the first weekend of May, and we got rained on for almost the entire ride. So I decided to move the date out two weeks this time around, figuring it would at least increase the chances of good weather.

Two weeks ago I did a recon ride of the course, to make sure everything was okay with the route. And the day was beautiful, sunny and warm.

I kept watching the forecast as ride day approached,the day's rain chance bouncing between 80% and 20%. By Thursday, though, it was settling into the lower range, with occasional forays to 10%.

Fortunately, the day proved to be rainless, though cloudy, and with some wet and muddy roads.

The whole point of this being a "multi-strada" ride is that it's on mixed surfaces -- both paved and unpaved roads. For this ride, though the gravel sections represent less than half of the distance (18.9 of the 47 total miles), they truly BECOME the ride. Pavement is only the means to link up the sections of gravel road.

This year's edition lengthened the off-pavement by a couple miles, and extended the overall distance by some seven miles, with a nice run back into Elbe on the Mountain Highway.

Joe loving the view.
The course was marked, as well as having the Garmin and RidewithGPS files available to everyone, and cue sheets were handed out to the dozen riders who braved the morning. At 9:00, a few final cautions were imparted, and we headed out.

Nine plus miles in, we turned off the highway and into Pack Forest, a large parcel owned by the University of Washington and used by the Forestry department. It's laced with trails and gravel roads, making it a great initial foray off the tarmac. One long climb, followed by another shorter ascent, and the views are astounding. Assuming you have the oxygen and mental wherewithal to enjoy them.
Russ attacking in Pack Forest.

The descent in Pack Forest is one long downhill, which this year claimed several inner tubes.The surface starts as dirt/mulch, but later becomes a nice gravel surface. But there are many exposed larger rocks, so pinch-flats are possible. And as witnessed this past Sunday, likely. There were at least five flats in the group on the way out of Pack Forest. More were to follow.

Back out onto the road we made the short hop into Eatonville and our food stop for the day at 21 miles.

Mark's Santa Cruz,
before 3 flats.
The road out of Eatonville begins climbing almost immediately, and for our chosen route, doesn't stop until the 33 mile marker. The Alder Cutoff Road is a fairly high-trafficked byway linking Eatonville to the eastern route through Elbe and to Mount Rainier. Our route followed this road for a mercifully short distance before taking a shallow left onto Scott Turner Road, a quiet "dead end" road that meanders slowly up the foothills. But the dead end is in pavement only, as the road continues on, and on, and up, and up, all on a fairly nicely maintained gravel surface.

Some custom stickers to the KOM
winner -- bragging rights. Only
KOM winners will ever get these.
This year's ride featured a KOM (King of the Mountain) prize over an unknown segment (I had just created the segment the evening before the ride). And this included a leg-breaking half mile stretch of incline that tests one's ability to turn over even an almost 1:1 gear. My own 34/32 set-up was barely low enough, and I was fortunate to be able to keep going after (for the following mile to the summit). It took me a long time before I could shift out of that lowest gear.

The descent back to the highway was wet and a little sticky at times, but the washboard sections had mostly been smoothed (though included some fairly-freshly-laid gravel). The riders had strung out over quite a distance by then, so I made the descent mostly alone. And it behooved us to keep our speed in check. Brakes in good working order is a must. There are some nicely level-ish sections for relief, though. A final right-hander, and the pavement arrives once more, with the highway just ahead. It was so fun to just open it up on that last downhill, speeds back above 30.

Within a mile of reaching the highway and the final seven mile slightly downhill stretch back into Elbe, I came across a cadre of our group gathered around one of the riders. He was just finishing up changing a flat which had occurred some three miles before. Having run out of spare tubes, and no one else around him at the time, he decided to run, in his mountain biking shoes, pushing his bike. After changing that flat and joining the group again, he helped us along nicely for the 25+ mph paceline back to Elbe. The Hard Man award definitely goes to Chris Wood for that feat.

After some clean up and clothes changing we headed over to the Elbe Bar and Grill for some fantastic burgers, fries and brews. Just what we needed to refuel from the day's efforts.

After riding the whole course
twice in 2 weeks, plus 2 trips
around Pack Forest for marking,
my own flat on the next morning.
The final tally -- 12 riders, 12 flats, and 100% good times.

The day's KOM award went to Russ Clark, for a free burger and some custom frame/helmet stickers by That Sticker Store in Puyallup.

Every one agreed that it was a great ride, and they're looking forward to doing it again next year.

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