154 miles and 10,000 feet up Mt. Rainier

Thirty Islanders entered the 25th annual Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day (RAMROD) race held last Thursday. The Reporter contacted the cyclists and asked if they could share their story and a photo or two with readers.

The event is considered to be the Pacific Northwest’s premiere one-day, ultra-marathon cycling event. It combines the scenery of Mount Rainier National Park with a challenging course featuring 10,000 feet of climbing over 154 miles. The course starts in Enumclaw, Wash., at an elevation of 720 feet with a gradual downhill to the lowest elevation of the race at 300 feet, near Orting. This is followed by 40 miles of rolling hills through the towns of Eatonville, Elbe and Ashford, with a gradual climb to the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. The climb really begins at Longmire, where riders begin the 12-mile ascent to Paradise, which has an elevation of 5,420 feet. A 12-mile descent through Stevens Canyon follows, and then a quick three-mile climb to Backbone Ridge. This leads to an enjoyable descent of the course, a swooping five-mile run to the Grove of the Patriarchs and the intersection with Highway 410. What follows is generally considered the most difficult section of the course; at the 100-mile mark, riders make a nine-mile climb up Cayuse Pass at an elevation of 4,694. The rapid descent from the pass ends with about 30 miles to go. These last miles are gradually descending or rolling except for one final, fast descent down Mud Mountain Dam, just five miles from the finish in Enumclaw.

In November of 2006, the park suffered extensive flood damage. Many of the roads became impassible, campgrounds were destroyed and scores of trails were wiped out. RAMROD riders, through the Redmond Cycling Club, raised over $12,000 in donations to help rebuild the park.

Islander Jim Stanton wrote to tell the Reporter about his group of six Islanders (Bob Olson, Kirk Griffin, Dave Schiffrin, Cliff Chirls, Mark Clausen and I) who rode together along with several friends from Bellevue. The weather was almost ideal because of the cool temperature and cloud cover for most of the day. RAMROD covers about 154 miles, starts and ends in Enumclaw, and includes 10,000 feet of vertical climbs over three passes. The climbs take riders up to Paradise on Mt. Rainier, over Backbone Ridge and up over Cayuse Pass, which is the hardest part of the ride. Once that is over, the remaining 50 miles are long but relatively easy compared to the climbs. We left just before 6 a.m. and got in about 6:30 p.m. Taking out food stops, stops to fix flat tires and stops to reassemble after climbs, the actual riding time was about 10 hours; about 15 miles per hour over the course. Sometimes, we would get split up, but we reassembled periodically so that we could ride together. Some of us had ridden RAMROD before, but it was the first time for Kirk Griffin and Dave Schiffrin. RAMROD is so popular that it runs a lottery to pick who is allowed to participate in the ride, so not everyone in our group who applied for admission to RAMROD got in. We were among the oldest riders participating. Bib numbers are assigned by age. My number, 27, meant that I was the 27th-oldest rider out of the 800-plus riders in RAMROD. Dave Schiffrin was No. 30, Bob Olson was No. 34, Kirk Griffin was No. 66, and Cliff Chirls and Mark Clausen were in the low triple digits. Two of our friends from Bellevue were numbers 7 and 8. We met the fellow with No. 1; he is 79 years old, and this was his fourth RAMROD.

Our group has been riding together regularly on Saturday mornings in a group begun and organized by a Mercer Island resident, Frank Buty. The group rides most Saturday mornings when it is not raining or too cold. Rides range from 45 to 105 miles and take us all over the Puget Sound area. A larger group of us is riding RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, and Party) on Aug. 15 and 16.

Islander Kirk Griffin was also lucky to be selected to ride. But there were challenges for at least a couple of riders from the start. He wrote that Dave Schiffrin has been riding and training all summer for RAMROD and RSVP with a shoulder that needs surgery for a torn rotator cuff. He rode unable to stand up on his bike. His surgery is scheduled for late August, after the RSVP. At the start line for Ramrod, at 5:30 a.m., Griffin broke his left index finger (don’t ask how). At first he thought he had just dislocated it because of the odd angle and popped it back in. Luckily, his friend, Dave, had lots of ibuprofen, and the residual pain took his mind off of being tired, he said. He biked with his finger straight out, pointing the way he explained, and only got it splinted after he finished the ride. But the scenery was beautiful and the weather excellent, except for a headwind during the last 35 miles.

Terry Caditz wrote that her husband, Bryan Caditz, and their son, Steve Caditz, 17, got up at 3 a.m. on July 31 to head to the course start in Enumclaw. Terry Caditz did not ride, as her number was not picked in the lottery for race tickets. The pair started around 5:45 a.m. and finished in the mid-afternoon. It was an extremely cold early morning start, but the participants were lucky with the weather. The sun came out that day, and the rain did not start until after the two finished the course. This was the fourth RAMROD that Bryan Caditz has participated in, and training for and finishing this year’s RAMROD was Steve Caditz’s MIHS Senior Culminating Project goal.

It was a tough ride, but Steve Caditz was up to the challenge and certainly felt rewarded when he crossed the finish line. It is a long day of riding — the most difficult part of the course being the nine-mile climb up Cayuse Pass, 100 miles into the ride. The last 30 miles of the ride were tough as Steve and Bryan Caditz pedaled into a headwind to the finish.

Steve Caditz saw only one other rider with a number higher than his. He certainly was one of the youngest participants on the ride that day!

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