The SIR 100K Unpopulaire

Sunday 9/23/01

A ride report by Kent Peterson

The Autumn SIR 100K Populaire took place on Sunday September 23, 2001. Sometime long ago I'd volunteered to lay out a 100K course for this event and last spring I'd sat down with some maps and mapping software and laid out a course that wound it's way back and forth over the "Issaquah Alps". The Alps are actually the foothills of the Cascade Range and while they're small by mountain standards, they offer some nice climbs and descents to challenge a bicyclist.

Some people think that we should make our populaire courses easy, to encourage new riders looking to get into randonneuring. They figure that it's best to ease riders into the idea of riding long distances over challenging terrain. I hold the view that it's best to let people know what they're getting into, so while I can't make a 100K course long, I can at least make it hilly. Mark Thomas looked over my course and declared that it should probably be called the Unpopulaire.

I'd pre-ridden the course a couple of times and there had been road construction in a couple of places, so I figured I'd pre-ride it on Saturday September 22 just to make sure everything was OK. Much to my surprise as I rolled into the Issaquah Park & Ride a bit before 9:00 AM, I saw Ken Carter and Alex Taylor getting their bikes ready to go. Ken looked positively shocked when I told him he was 24 hours early for the ride. Since I wasn't planning on this being an official pre-ride, I hadn't brought spare route sheets. Alex, a plucky seventy-something-year-old Brit, had ridden the course a couple of times previously so he gave his route sheet to Ken. I'd suggested we could stick together for the pre-ride but Alex said he doubted that we'd want to stick to his pace.

We took off at 9:00 AM and once we hit Zoo Hill (a nasty little 900 foot switchbacking climb that hits 2 kilometers into the ride), we split up. Ken hung back with Alex, but I wanted to get this hill out of the way. I waited up at Lakemont Boulevard but when we rejoined Alex again insisted that Ken and I go on ahead and this time he convinced us. Ken and I finished out the ride together, taking a good long break at Sandy's Espresso in Carnation. Ken got ahead of me on the flat ride along the Snoqualmie Valley and managed to take a wrong turn.

I met Alex coming the other way. He'd amended the order of the ride in order to be certain of intersecting with us. He just wanted us to know he was OK and that we shouldn't wait around for him. Shortly after my brief chat with Alex, Ken caught up with me and we rode back over the Issaquah Plateau and I showed him the last climb of the ride, a run up Mountain Park Boulevard. Coming at the 101 kilometer mark, this steep climb is what Phil Liggett would call "the sting in the scorpion's tail!" Ken and I finished up a bit after 2:00 PM.

On Sunday it was very foggy at the start. We had sixteen brave riders including Ken Carter who'd decided to come back for the real ride. Andy Fuller, Derek Bently and newcomer Larry Niday were there with their mountain bikes. Jan Heine and Mark VandeKamp rode in from Seattle and they knew what lay ahead. Mark had ridden this route with me a few months ago and Jan had been one of the original proponents of the hilly route, especially Zoo Hill climb up Cougar Mountain. Mark's custom all-round bike was actually clean and Jan's Rivendell was looking like a text-book example of a randonneur's bike. Trent Hill was new to randonneuring and he looked a bit nervous. Most of the rest of us did little to console him and and his wife took a spare route sheet just in case she'd have to go out later in search of him. We all hoped it wouldn't come to that.

I hadn't seen Frank Cordell or Jeff Tilden on our previous rides but they seemed ready to try this one. Peter McKay was his usual smiling self on his yellow Cannondale mountain bike and our fearless RBA Mark Thomas seemed eager to get this ride over with so he could head over to the Issaquah Brew Pub for the post-ride SIR officers meeting. Fellow SIR officer Bill Dussler was also ready to ride.

Rounding out our brave crew were two tandem teams -- Kevin Humphries and Sicihal Azzam and Duane Wright and Max Maxon. Max gave me hard time about the hilly course and Duane presented me with the stash of 100K pins that I'd be giving out at the end of the ride. In addition to the pins, I had some little medals that I'd bought off of Ebay and I'd be awarding these as well to all the riders. I gave a some quick instructions, "follow the route sheet, don't get lost, and you're on your own!" and everyone took off. I'd ride the first half of the course and then position myself up on Mountain Park Boulevard to hand out medals.

The main crew rocketed out. I lingered for a bit in the parking lot until I made sure everyone was out. Duane and Max got off to a slow start and at Zoo Hill I'm pretty sure Trent was asking himself what he'd gotten himself into. He was walking his bike when I saw him and I tried to reassure him, pointing out that this was probably the longest hill of the ride and that Duane and Max were behind him. I climbed up and out of the fog and caught up with a few of the other riders including Peter and the tandem team of Kevin and Sicihal. Once over the crest of Zoo Hill, we all started moving much faster but we couldn't catch the really fast folks.

The fog had completely burned off now and we swept down past suburban housing developments and out into the country. Jones Road is a tiny little road that rolls past horse farms and along side the Cedar River. After a short section on the busy SR-169 we turned onto Cedar Grove Road for yet another climb and then onto a little side road before joining the Issaquah Hobart Road for a bit.

Since we'd already conquered Cougar Mountain, it was now time for Tiger Mountain. This was a gentler climb that Zoo Hill and it paid off nicely with a long, swooping descent. Then we turned north for the gentle downslope all the way to Issaquah. I peeled off here, grabbing some groceries and stopping by my house before climbing up Mountain Park Boulevard to take up my station on Squak Mountain. By the way the old Issaquah joke says that "if you were between a Cougar and a Tiger, you'd Squak, too!"

I settled into my spot at the 103.5 kilometer mark to wait. I had a book with me and thanks to Jan, I didn't have long to wait.

Jan is fast and this was his kind of course. Plus, he'd heard that someone had expressed the opinion that Jan's only fast when he has someone to draft. So to avoid any misconceptions today, Jan broke away at the start and stayed at the lead for the entire ride. At 12:47, I was presenting him with his finishers medal. He'd even stopped for a cookie at Sandy's and had managed to tack a little extra distance on by heading the wrong way out after the coffee stop. And then he rode down to the Park & Ride, picked up his cereal and soy milk and then returned to keep me company on my mountain perch. 3:47 might not seem like a fast time for 103.5 kilometers but when you add in the 4773 feet of climbing, it's a pretty darn zippy time.

At 1:24 PM Derek, Larry, Andy and Ken pulled up and got their medals. A minute later Mark Thomas pulled in and Frank arrived a minute after that. Everyone expressed the view that the course was sufficiently hilly. One of Jan's tail lights had bounced off his bike early on, but Andy had retrieved it. This precipitated a general discussion of bits that fall off at inopportune times.

Mark VandeKamp finished at 1:44 PM. Jeff came in at 2:00 PM and Kevin and Sicihal came in three minutes later. Bill finished at 2:12 and with Peter McKay finishing five minutes later.

At 3:28 PM Max and Duane finished. Trent was only two minutes behind them. This meant we had a 100% completion rate and everyone finished within "rando time" for a 100K. There isn't actually a set pace for a 100K, but the time limit for a 200K is 13:30, so a reasonable limit for 100K would be half of that or 6:45.

Here are the final results:

Heine, Jan3:47
Bentley, Derek4:24
Niday, Larry 4:24
Fuller, Andy 4:24
Carter, Ken 4:24
Thomas, Mark 4:25
Cordell, Frank 4:26
VandeKamp, Mark 4:44
Tilden, Jeff 5:00
Humphreys, Kevin (T) 5:03
Azzam, Sicihal (T) 5:03
Dussler, Bill 5:12
McKay, Peter 5:17
Maxon, Max (T) 6:28
Wright, Duane (T) 6:28
Hill, Trent 6:30