On Sunday I was fine cycling up Mount Saint Helen’s until I wasn’t. My legs mutinied during the last few miles before the top, cramping so badly that any pedaling was tough. Five salt tablets, gels packed with more sodium, a protein bar, and four bottles of gatorade weren’t enough when the cramping went from bad to worse on the return.
From the top of the volcano you descend very quickly for about 6 miles and then climb about 8 more before descending another 23 to the start (74 miles total, 6,900′ of elevation). For the first time in 15-20 years I had to stop on a mountain climb about 3-4 miles from the last top at Elk Rock. I found some shade on the other side of Spirit Hwy and attempted to sit down on the shoulder and I don’t know what, stretch I guess. Problem was my knees wouldn’t bend so I basically fell over while holding my bike which end up resting on my shoulder and neck.
A car stopped. It was the Park Ranger/Angel who topped off our water bottles at the closed Visitor’s Center at the top 45 minutes earlier. “Are you alright?!” “Yes,” I lied, “but I have 3-4 miles to go to meet up with my friends and I’m a little worried they’re gonna wonder what happened to me.” He took off and informed them that I was near dead on the shoulder 3.5 miles below, but would be along eventually.
Time will tell what the Cosmos will extract from me for lying to the best Park Ranger ever. In my defense, he was driving a Honda Civic, so it wasn’t like he could transport Blanca and me to the top of the climb. He did ask if I had water though and although I had one bottle left at that point, it was dumb (even by my standards) not to take him up on the offer of more.
Without my friends shepherding me down the mountain, I would’ve been in trouble because I would’ve been in the hot sun another 20 minutes without enough liquid. Pro-tip, if you ever SLAM into the wall on your bike in the mountains, do it in the company of Mark, Allen, and Dennis.
How many salt tablets does a guy need to take?