STP Rookie Rider: Lessons Learned
By Sasha Aslanian
I’ve had a few days to savor the sore muscles I earned on the ride. I wanted to do a wrap-up of sights and sounds of the Seattle to Portland Ride (STP), and leave future rookie riders with some advice. (See how Sasha’s ride went on Day One and Day Two.)
Sounds: The clicking of tens of riders snapping cleats into pedals when the light turns green. Mini-bike concerts: I noticed a bunch of teen or 20-something riders who’d strap little sound systems to their bikes. I’d hear a little snippet of something as they’d pedal by. One guy had some experimental music screeching as he passed, and his dad came up beside me and said, “Something wrong with his bike.” Overheard conversations from passing riders (my brother thought a woman was calling him a f^@*a$$*% and looked up in surprise. “Oh sorry, I was talking to my husband,” she said.) , whirring gears on the long coasts, mist from sprinklers at water stops. I should have stopped for the kid playing guitar at the lemonade stand 5 miles before the end of day 1. Sorry kid.
Sights: Pointy Mount Hood against a blue sky as we pulled into Portland, ponies, horses and llamas on farms along the way, lumber trucks, the guys wearing the ridiculous matching orange rain booties who bounced up and down like jesters and made me laugh during a particularly dark patch of my ride, the woman who flipped off the red pick-up for passing too close and almost blowing three of us off the road, the mom and son passing me on a tandem at mile 94, his red sneakers pumping the pedals, crossing over the steel bridge in downtown Portland, feeling the bubbles blown in my face at the finish line.
Here are my closing thoughts for Rookie Riders:
1) Train. The training schedule called for back-to-back rides on weekends. It was tough for me to steal more than a whole Saturday from my family, but it would have increased my endurance. It was crazy the number of people we met who had not trained AT ALL for the ride. One woman admitted her seat was so sore she felt like she had just given birth and she had welts “bigger than the padding on my bike shorts.” Yikes. Don’t do this to yourself.
2) Be part of a team, and ideally, be the worst one. We sort of stumbled into a team because this group of my brother’s friends was doing the ride together. We didn’t really know how long we’d hang together. Each of these people helped pull me through. They let me draft off them, they distracted me with interesting conversations so I kept pedaling, and I just didn’t know them well enough to be my real self. I kept a good attitude on the ride because I thought, “you can’t be the worst rider AND have a bad attitude.” Cheerfulness counts.
Over margaritas with my team at the finish line, I toasted to the riders who stuck with me even though I knew it killed them to be passed by far weaker riders. Thanks Joel, Sandy, Leif, Butch, Jim & Allison.
We have a lot of unanswered questions: What happened to the two Russian guys who tried to sleep overnight in a space blanket (those crinkly tinfoil wrappers) wearing bike shorts and shoes? Did the woman who told us she hadn’t been on her bike since last year’s STP actually make it over the finish line? How did that unicyclist do the ride in one day? There were many triumphant finishes ahead of us I’m sure, and stories about each of the riders whose bikes were piled on cars miles from the finish line. 10,000 stories from 10,000 riders. Thanks for reading mine.