Groupthink is a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 to describe one process by which a group can make bad or irrational decisions. In a groupthink situation, each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. This results in a situation in which the group ultimately agrees on an action which each member might normally consider to be unwise.
It hit me about mile 50 on Friday. There was really no other explanation. I was riding north along highway 9, in the rain, as I had for the past three and a half hoursm, and it hit me.
There was something wrong with me, with us, with all the riders around me. As I've mentioned in the past, there has to be at least something wrong with you to willingly put yourself on bike for 7 hours of riding, but granting that that is normal behavior, it's certainly less normal to do it in the kind of weather we had.
But the majority of the riders not only decided to continue, they decided it was a good idea to continue. And continue we did...
It had initially looked like a great weekend to be riding - the 90 degree weather had departed, and we were in a nice mid-70s pattern. Thursday was perfect, but the forecast was for showers. I trolled around to different news sites (what is King 5 TV thinking? - do they actually believe that I'm going to register just to get a weather forecast?), looking for better news. I finally ended up on the NOAA site, which said, "Likely to be the rainiest day of the summer".
It's not that I hadn't ridden a fair bit in the rain this spring - I had. The problem is that when you're exercising hard, there's really no such thing as "breathable" clothing. You either have clothes that breathe well, but get wet quickly, or you have clothes that don't breathe well, hold in your sweat, and you also get wet quickly. Cycling makes this especially bad because you don't only get the rain, you get the spray off your tires. I put on my SKS Race Blade mini fenders Thursday night, which will keep the spray from my back tire off of my back, but it's won't keep the rain off totally.
Friday I woke up to dry streets. Cool. But as I drove across the 520 bridge a few drops started to spatter on the windshield of the truck. Bad news. I got there at around 5:30, hoping to meet up with a friend to leave by around 6:00. For various reasons, we didn't get around to leaving until right at 6:30AM, as it started to rain. The first big hill of the day was up out of Woodinville, and I rode in my smallest gear, standing up here and there. Most of the riders were in pretty good shape. Along the segment from Snohomish to Lake Stevens, one of our team flatted, another went back to help her, and we rode on to wait at the stop. By this time I was really wet and cold on the arms (didn't put on my arm warmers), but relatively dry on my torso, and my leg warmers and neopreme boot covers were fairly dry. We waited at Lake Stevens (mile 30) for about 25 minutes, and by that point I was starting to shiver in earnest, so I told Bill that I had to bail, and rode really hard to get warm again. The ride to Mount Vernon wasn't much fun - I was reasonably warm, but you could either ride by yourself, or you could draft, and get a stream of road water into your face. I did a bit of both, and with my rear fender, I was pretty popular as a group leader.
The last couple of miles into Mt. Vernon (70 miles) were over ground down pavement, and I think I got a big of taste of what it might be like to ride on cobblestones. Not fun at all, especially uphill, so I ended riding down the center turn lane. Suffice it to say that it was not the only time that I bent the traffic rules over the two days.
The rest stop was a challenge. I needed to grab some food to supplement what I had brought alone (I get tired of sports bars and fig newtons after a while), and take a "nature break", but every minute off the bike I was cooling off. I got back on the bike after a bagel, a banana, an oreo, and a refill of my two litre camelback (I sweat a lot when I have my shell on). I was *really* cold when I left, and rode hard for 15 minutes to get warm again.
And then something miraculous happened. As we rode to the west, the rain stopped, the skies cleared a little, and as the roads slowly dried, we did as well. I arrived at the base of Chuckanut drive - the last series of big climbs - in a group of 3 in good spirits, and rode the whole section with a rider who was doing RSVP as a training ride for a tour around Oregon. There are some painful climbs there, but none were too steep, and I made it into the finish at Bellingham in good shape, grabbed my backpack, and rode the 4 miles to my hotel (109.4 miles).
Saturday dawned with drying streets, and I rode back up the hills to drop off my backpack (note to self - book your hotel early), and headed off towards the border. I hooked up in two or three good pacelines and we flew across the flats to Lynden at around 20 MPH (which is quite a bit faster than I'd ride by myself). There are two interesting things about the border. The first is that there's a road named "boundary road" that we rode on the US side, across the ditch, another road, this time in Canada. The second was my exchange with the Canadian customs officer:
Her: Where are you going?
Her: Where are you staying?
Me: At a hotel, downtown.
Her: What hotel?
Me: I don't remember
Her: Who made the arrangements?
Me: I did. I just don't remember the name - it's in my bag.
Her (shaking her head): Thanks. Enjoy your stay.
The problem was that I was in the zone, and when I'm in that mode, I'm not spending a lot of time on rational thought - I'm just riding.
The ride to the next rest stop (35 miles) was uneventfull, except for one really painful climb. I tanked up on water, ate a banana, and a bagel with peanut butter. The sun was intermittent, and it was wonderful. After the ride comes a short ferry trip, and then a ride up north, all the way to the Burrard inlet, for a final short rest stop (60ish miles). After a quick gel, I got on the Barnet highway, and realized two things.
First, I only had an hour or so left. That was nice.
Second, my legs felt really good. That was nicer.
So, I decided to hammer (or do my best approximation) for the last hour. The Barnet highways is mostly up, with only a few downhills, and bears a striking relationship to one of my training rides in gradient, so I rode it hard, uphill from 10 to 15 MPH, and passed a lot more people than I expected. The remainder of the ride was up and down on the crest of the hills, down into Chinatown, where a group of 10 of us got lost together, and then finally screaming along the waterfront and up a hill to the finish.
Overall, the ride was great. I felt good most of the time (with the exception of the rain), and the organization was really good, with the exception of a few marks that washed off in Vancouver. Kudos to the folks at Cascade.
My training was about right, though I would have like to have ridden a bit faster (I averaged about 14MPH the first day, and the mid 14s the second day (lots of stop and go)). I may do it next year, and I have this crazy idea that I might want to do STP in one day next year...