After breaking his leg during Ride The Lobster (follow the link for necessary technical details and back story) Joe Myers was out of commission for this year’s STP (Seattle to Portland bike classic), and the bicycling community counts on there being a unicyclist every year, so at the last minute I bought a bib number and went for it. Training? That’s for wimps. The RTL as training and a guni (geared unicycle) is all that I need.

The good:

I started at 6:05 am and began with some strong riding. With typical speeds from 13-15 mph I was able to pass any cyclist who was taking it easy, riding a slight uphill, or taking too many breaks. Throughout the day I continued to see many of the same riders – they had trouble pulling away from me. When going up the hill into Napavine, 112 miles and almost 14 hours into the day, I passed a tired cyclist who had started at the same time as me! The extra speed from the geared 29” was really noticed by the cyclists, even if they had no idea where it was coming from.

My overall average riding speed for 122 miles was 11.5 mph (faster than my 11.4 mph for the first 40 miles during STP 2005; my first 40 miles this year averaged 12.4 mph) with a distinctly higher average (well over 12.0 mph) in the first half of the day. I broke my personal record for fastest 70 miles. The whole 122 miles took about 14 hours and 45 minutes.

Many cyclists rode by saying “I was hoping I’d see you again this year” or similar comments, and it really felt like having a unicyclist in the ride was an important part of the STP. It’s amazing that with no coordination or planning the Seattle unicycling community has managed to have one (and only one) unicyclist in the STP every year for at least five years. I’m glad I did the ride just for the wonderful interactions I had with other cyclists.

As usual my family was wonderfully supportive. They met me at several points along the way to replenish my food and water supplies, give encouragement, and ultimately pick me up and drive me to our hotel.

The ‘shower’ from a hose at Centralia was, quite possibly, the best shower I’ve ever had. Feeling the caked salt sluicing off of my overheated body was a sublime experience.

The bad:

I didn’t finish. Saturday’s heat kicked my butt. By 65 miles in I was feeling constantly nauseous, and no amount of salt pills and bananas could fix the problem. My legs were tired and my butt was sore also, and the combination gets rather dispiriting. I’d really wanted to ride at least 140 miles the first day so that the second day would be manageable, but at 121 miles (one mile farther than 2005!) I called it a day. I actually came very close to pulling the plug at 99 miles in Centralia, but I decided I at least wanted to set a new personal one-day record.

I probably could have finished the ride Sunday, but I didn’t feel enough drive to get up early and push through the discomfort. I succumbed to the siren song of sleeping in and swimming in the hotel pool. I did no riding on Sunday, but I’m hopeful that most of the cyclists don’t realize this.

The improbable:

I wanted to start Saturday with porridge and coffee and I was planning to make them both the night before and microwave them in the morning. Sarah said that was gross and she volunteered to make them fresh for me. So, she got up ten minutes before I did (at 4:10 am!) to make fresh porridge and coffee. Very cool.

One cyclist suggested that I should knit while riding. Several cyclists (or the same cyclist several times?) said that I must have abs of steel. And, of course, I was called a stud, their hero, and awesome -- par for the course when unicycling this bicycle ride. The constant praise is a bit addicting, and the standing ovation I got as I rode out of Centralia was quite emotionally powerful. The one random “you go girl” comment took me aback, but I’m sure it was just my long flowing hair that confused them.

Predictably, since apparently all unicyclists look alike, I was mistaken multiple times for Joe Myers (51 years old, rode the STP in 2006 and 2007) and for Jack Hughes (24 years old, rode the STP in 2004 and various previous years). I was frequently asked if I had done the ride last year, and if I was that guy from Bellingham (Joe). I think I might have been mistaken for myself once, but probably not.

This graph shows my speed over a two mile segment near Napavine. I like it because the Napavine hill (a three quarter mile long hill that some cyclists apparently walked up), or at least its affect on my speed, is so obvious.

I wish I’d finished. I wish I’d felt better. But, I don’t regret riding. There were some wonderful moments, I’m happy to have showed up for the unicycling community again, passed a lot of unsuspecting cyclists, and at least I managed to break my one-day riding record and do a second century.