RAMROD Stories: RAMROD Training Series

An introduction to the training series designed for RAMROD or other challenging rides



The RAMROD Training Series (or RTS for short) is enjoying its eleventh year helping riders prepare for endurance climbing rides like RAMROD. RTS is the brainchild of a husband and wife cycling duo: Per and Shana Sunde. Per and Shana have been fixtures in the local Puget Sound cycling scene for two decades. If you don't know either, chances are you know someone who knows and rides with Per and Shana.

Per and Shana began leading rides in 1998. Back then, there were no regular cycling rides on the Eastside. Most regular rides originated and followed routes in and around Seattle. To fill the void, Per and Shana started the Eastside Tours Ride with the goal of leading a regular weekly ride that explored the Eastside. This ride has continued and is still going strong at age 17 and is now led by Eric Gunnerson. (For more information about the current Eastside Tours Ride, click here.)

RTS founders: Shana and Per Sunde

Per and Shana began riding the first of their many RAMROD events in 2000. Although training rides existed for rides like the STP via the Cascade Training Series, there was nothing to prepare cyclists for challenges that combined big distance and hill climbing. As with the Eastside series years earlier, Per and Shana decided to fill the void and established the RAMROD Training Series on their own in 2004.

The first year of RTS featured a total of 8 rides, every other Saturday. The following year, the ride schedule was modified to 15 rides and has pretty much remained the same every year since.

The RTS Formula
The formula for RTS has been nurtured and honed by Per and Shana based on their years of experience as cyclists and ride leaders. The ride schedule begins in early April and runs through the week before RAMROD. The only break in the weekly schedule is for the 4th of July holiday weekend.

Planning for an upcoming season actually begins in November with Per and Shana reviewing cycling and non-cycling events scheduled for the upcoming year in the RTS months. Paying attention to road conditions and road work is an ongoing effort and routes can be adjusted the week of a ride to minimize inconveniences.

RTS routes stretch up and down the Eastside - here are three routes from different weeks

The distance and elevation of RTS rides ramp from 50 miles and 2,000' feet in April to 110 miles and 6,000' by the middle of July. The final ride in the last week is a taper ride of 50 miles and 2,000'.

RTS Cyclists
Although the training series targets RAMROD, the ride encourages any experienced cyclists to participate. While many riders are signed up for RAMROD (or are hopefuls on the RAMROD Waiting List), many riders participate in RTS to augment their personal training or help them target challenging cycling events like a one-day STP or multi-day tour.

At any given RTS ride, you'll find 90-120 cyclists at the start ready for the day's ride. The typical RTS rider is experienced and comfortable with cue sheets, group riding and self-supported rides.

"We have two major groups of riders: the Rabbits and the Turtles" says Per. The fastest Rabbits are the speed demons who push for a high-20 mph average. From there, riders will naturally group based on speeds between 20 to 14 mph. No matter what your conditioning level or ride goals are for the day, you'll be able to settle in with an appropriate sub-group to share the ride.

Ride Day
Each ride begins and ends at an Eastside location. As riders assemble, Shana is responsible for rider sign-in and collecting ride waivers.

Shana checking riders in before the ride begins

Per can be found talking to riders and making himself available to answer questions about the day's route. As the ride start time approaches, Per gathers the group to provide an overview of the route, point out highlights and to share his expectations for safety and etiquette out on the course.

Cyclists gather to listen to Per's guidance for the day's ride

Along with Per and Shana, you'll be riding with an additional 2-3 ride leader volunteers out on the route. The ride leaders assist cyclists with the route and help ensure that the ride's goals for safety and good riding are upheld. Because of its training goals, RTS does not utilize re-grouping or sweeps.

Staying on Course
Routes are published the week of the ride which gives Per the chance to review road conditions and events to make any last-minute adjustments to the route. Electronic cue sheets and gps files can be downloaded to bike computers or printed by cyclists.

"The adoption of gps-capable bike computers has transformed the ride over the years. They've helped riders enjoy and tackle the route at their speed and conditioning level to meet their training individual or group training goals." says Per.

Despite the excellent cue sheets, bike computers and attention to detail, Per says that each year there's always at least one rider who will admit that they followed another cyclist home because they were leaving the chore of navigation to the followed rider.

Keeping It Fresh
Per designs the RTS routes to 'keep it fresh' throughout the training year and across the years. This benefits regular RTS riders as well as Per and Shana who have led over 160 RTS rides by now. One example of keeping the routes fresh: as the training season progresses, the starting location changes. While the rides typically begin between Redmond and Renton, the courses can reach as far north as Granite Falls and south to Enumclaw to achieve variety and mileage goals. (Starting locations also change over the years as the ride series grows in popularity and the ride outgrows locations which can't easily support the number of cyclists.)

Per is easy to spot in the pre-ride crowd

Tapping into their years of experience riding routes on the Eastside (Per jokes "I get accused of being a walking map"), each ride can feature new sections and highlights that keep rides fresh and interesting. Chances are that on any RTS route, you'll discover a great new road or section that you've never taken before on the Eastside.

RTS Links
For more information about RAMROD and the RAMROD Training Series, here are a collection of useful web links.

- To learn more about RTS and a list of the year's rides, clickhere.
- To stay up-to-date with the latest ride information and cue sheets, visit the RTS page on Facebook here.
- Keep up with the latest information about RAMROD on Facebook here.

In addition to leading RTS with Shana, Per Sunde also volunteers on the board as Vice President for the Redmond Cycling Club. RAMROD is an event that is only possible thanks to the hundreds of passionate volunteers who contribute in a wide range of roles year in and year out. We'd like to thank and recognize Per and Shana and the other RTS ride leaders for their time and effort to produce the RAMROD Training Series for the benefit of cyclists everywhere.

Published: May 22nd, 2015