STP is the acronym that most locals but all cyclists know as Seattle to Portland. For most people, it is a two day cycling event that starts at the University of Washington in Seattle and ends at Holladay Park in Portland, Oregon. By car, pending there is not traffic, it is about a 3 1/2 hour drive, but on a bicycle, depending on your back country route, it is a 200+ mile ride! This ride has always been on my bucket list ever since an old family friend shared with me her stories about riding this event many years ago. I always considered her a "hardcore" biker because not only did she finish the event, she did it in 1 day. For me, that always seemed like a distant dream, something I always wanted to do but never felt confident that I could do. I felt like just finishing it in two days would be a stretch for me.
STP was not a ride that I had set out to do this year. In my mind, it was a BEAST that I would have to train long and hard for. I had just started biking in March so it felt like a ride that was definitely not for an amateur like me. At least that is what I thought. A week and a half before the big event, my good friend and super dooper experienced friend Ravi posts on Facebook that he is giving away his STP ticket because he had to take a last minute trip for work. Intrigued, I messaged him about it and he told me that someone else was also interested in the ticket but if he can't figure out his scheduling than the ticket was all mine. I thought "eh, I probably won't get it but there is always next year." To my surprise, the next morning I woke up to a text message that said the ticket was available if I still wanted it. I was thinking, "I have only ridden one century (105 miles) before and that was in May for Reach the Beach. I also had never ridden such high mileage back to back....Could I do it? Possibly!” That was enough for me, so I took the ticket.
As I did with Reach the Beach, I did a lot of research before the STP event. I had to find a ride to Seattle the night before. I had to find housing accommodations for a mid way overnight. I had to drive out to my parents house and borrow camping gear. I had to prep my bike for the long commute. But most importantly, I needed to make sure I had enough nutrition packed for the two day ride. I had a lot to do in a very short amount of time. By some miracle, I was able to figure out all the details and was ready for the big ride!
The Wednesday before the big ride, I met up with a good friend of mine Kathleen to chat and prepare. She too has ridden the event many times but unlike me, she too typically did it in one day. She said, “ My best advice to you is 'ride your own ride'. Don't try and slow down or speed up for others. Ride the pace that is most comfortable for you because 200+ miles is a really long ways." She then ask me, “ Are you riding the event in one day or two?" My response was, “Are you crazy?! I just started riding in March, I can't do it in one day." What I didn't realize in that moment was that she had just planted the first seed of inspiration in me, for a one day ride.
The morning of the STP, my friend's mom from Seattle dropped me at the start line. Surprisingly, I ran into two friends that I knew from Portland. I was soooo excited to ride with them but Kathleen was in the back of my head saying, "don't do it Rachel! Ride your own ride!" So I decided to start with my friends but knew that might be the only time I saw them on the road. I knew that for me to be successful with this ride, I needed to do exactly as Kathleen said, "ride my own ride." To my surprise, I was naturally forced into that because I lost my friends in the first 5 minutes of the ride within the sea of other cyclists. By the time I reached the first rest stop my friends were no where to be found but because I was riding at my own pace, I was feeling super AWESOME!
When I reached the 50 mile marker, I was feeling at the top of my game. I felt like I could ride further than 100 miles in the first day and I wanted to try. I called my dad and said, “If I continue to feel good and want to ride past my planned overnight location, would you bring me a sleep bag wherever I decide to crash for the night? He said, “Yes, just let me know where you decide to stop." So I continued riding.
And Riding. And Riding. And Riding. And Riding. And Riding.
When suddenly, I realized that I was in Castle Rock! I was now only 62 miles from the finish line and it was only 4pm. I asked myself, “Can I really finish this today?" With adrenaline pumping, I said to myself, “Go big or go home!" Which is exactly what I did.
I crossed the finish line in Portland at 9:35pm on Saturday evening! I had rode 204 miles on my bike in 1 DAY! It took me 16h accumulative and about 14 hours spinning on my bike!!! I did it!!! I accomplished my BIG ASPIRING DREAM!!!
When I woke up the next morning, everything felt surreal. Later that afternoon my dad took me back to the finish line so that I could cheer on the two day riders and really soak in the emotions behind what I had just done. What I had accomplished.
Looking back on it now, the decision to ride it in one day was made on the road. I did not prepare months, weeks or even days ahead of time. I trusted my body, training, instincts and head to carry me through. I did not let fear, doubt or anxiety keep me from accomplishing my big dream. I am so glad that day, I choose to trust my instincts and believed in myself that I could do it! I accomplished what I once thought was impossible.
I challenge you today to not over think the decisions in your life. Live in the moment and trust your instincts. Ask yourself, "what is the worst thing that could happen?" For me, I would rather try than wonder what could have been.