Q&A: Dave “Corky” Hathaway

Dave “Corky” Hathaway of Aberdeen, at age 70, completed the 204-mile Seattle-to-Portland bicycle ride in one day last month. A graduate of Ocosta High School and Grays Harbor College, Hathaway earned a degree in accounting at the University of Washington. He still works part-time preparing financial statements for the Westport Shipyard. He and his wife, Linda, have four grown children — Dave, Dawn, Dan and Crissy. Corky also has a grown stepdaughter, Natalie.

Describe the Seattle-to-Portland bicycle ride.

The STP is the largest organized bicycle ride (not a race) in Washington, limited to 10,000 riders. It can be done in one or two days. The ride is mostly rural, passing through such towns as Yelm, Rainier, Tenino, Bucoda, Napavine, Winlock, Vader and Castle Rock. The mid-point of the ride is Centralia. The last 50 miles of the ride from Longview is in Oregon. Except for distance, the consensus of opinion seems to be that the STP is easier than most organized rides due to smaller hills. I usually am 1 to 2 hours faster on the STP, compared to other rides. This year, 26 percent of the participants were female and nearly 27 percent completed it in one day. Less than 1 percent of all the riders were over 70. I would expect only a handful of those completed it in one day. The oldest rider was 85 years old.

How many times have you completed the ride in one day? What’s your fastest time?

I have completed the ride eight times since 2000. All have been in one day except for 2001 and 2002. I missed three rides, 2007-09, as a result of blood clots from one of my complete knee replacements and a stint replacement in 2009 as well.

My fastest time was the first year, 2000. I started the ride at 5:30 a.m. and completed it at 6:30 p.m. That year, I was able to complete the ride with three rest stops of about 20 minutes each. My peddle speed average was near 17 mph.

Has your completion time/performance changed as you have aged?

The steep hills are getting harder every year. My average peddle speed has remained near 16-17 mph., but the rest stops have become more frequent and longer. In 2010 and this year, my rest stops totaled more than 2 1/2 hours per year, with a resulting completion time near 8 p.m.

How do you train for it?

Admittedly, my training is probably overkill. Almost daily from April until the ride in mid-July, I either ride an exercise bike at the YMCA of Grays Harbor or do outdoor riding. Outdoors, I do six or seven 100-mile bike rides with my friend and bike partner Wes Toda, three of which are organized rides (the Lewis County Historical Ride in early May, the Flying Wheels ride from Redmond and the Double Metric century of 126 miles from Tumwater in June).

The other 100-mile rides include Aberdeen to the Lake Quinault Lodge and back and from Centralia to Longview and back and an extension of the Chehalis Western Trail loop from Lacey to include Tono Hill between the Centralia Steam Plant and Bucoda. For shorter rides, I do the 30-mile Wishkah Loop 20-25 times, 55 and 70-mile loops in the Satsop area and the 60-mile Chehalis Western Trail Loop from Lacey.

To be able to maintain my highest cruising speed, I have to attain a fitness level where I can keep the bike in its highest gear, except for significant hills, without exerting too much effort.

What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?

The strengths are endurance and reasonable cruising speed. The weaknesses are definitely steep hills. And I’m a slow starter.

How do you keep physically refreshed and mentally focused during such a long ride?

During the first 100 miles, I try to stop only at the Spanaway food and rest stop. I know that if I can leave Spanaway by 8:30 a.m. and Centralia by noon I will be able to make the ride in one day. So I focus on that.

To conserve energy, I shift way down and take my time on the major hills. Other than that, I consume energy food and assure I stay hydrated, apply Ben-Gay to a sore back and lubrication to the portion of me that comes in contact with the seat. After Centralia and a rest and usually warmer weather, I try to ride at a fast, yet comfortable pace and enjoy the ride as I pass various landmarks with the thought in mind I am getting closer to the destination. If and when I get very exhausted, I shift down and ride at a slower pace until I am able to recover.

What was the toughest part of the ride for you this year?

It was actually the first 50 miles. At the start line, I met a bicyclist and ended up doing almost the entire ride together. His pace was rather brisk and, for the first 25 miles, we averaged nearly 19 mph. For the next 25 miles, I was in recovery, slowing my pace. That section also includes the ride’s hardest hill, at Puyallup.

What can cause you to not meet your goal of completing the ride in one day/

A bike maintenance problem, extremely hot conditions or illness. This happened in 2006, when I contacted a cold shortly before the STP. That year, I only did the last half of the ride, so I instead I did the two-day RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., and Party) ride held in August.

Do you have a ride support team?

My wife, Linda, has been my support. In 2005, for example, I rode from Aberdeen to Newport, Ore. Our schedule each day was for me to start riding at 6 a.m. and for Linda to leave at 10 a.m. in our car. Wherever she caught up with me (usually by noon), we would enjoy the rest of the day at that location. Our stops were at Long Beach, Wash., and Tillamook and Newport in Oregon.

During recent STPs, we have slept in the back of our Jeep Liberty at the Husky Stadium start point. Before the earliest scheduled start time, I just get up and go. She sleeps in and meets me at the 142-mile point at the Kelso food and rest stop at about 3 p.m. with cold, refreshing drinks. She then continues to the finish line at Holladay Park across the street from Lloyd Center. Without her support, I am sure I would have done the STP only a few times.

Is this your last STP?

For a long time, my major goal has been to complete the STP in one day at the age of 70. After that, I felt I would do the ride in two days and select the lesser distance choices on the other organized rides.

However, if I can take the time to do the training, I feel I could do the ride one more time in one day. We’ll see.

Would you recommend the STP for others?

Absolutely, providing they do some training. It’s a do-able ride for most people. I guess I am an example of that, an old man who is somewhat overweight with health issues.

It’s possible to do the two-day ride without training. There are some local riders who do just that. I have seen skateboarders and unicyclists do the ride. In face, several years ago, we had two local people do the ride in wheelchairs. Now that’s an accomplishment.

The ride itself has a party atmosphere. There are riders in costumes. The finish-line celebration is tremendous, with lots of food vendors, a beer garden, free bicycle-related stuff as well as items to purchase.