Ride report for Saturday April 16, 2011: http://srcc.memberlodge.com/calendar?eventId=238063&EventViewMode=EventDetails
This ride started weeks before with planning. I had decided to tackle a 400km Brevet. If you are like me, your first question if probably WTF is a Brevet.
A Brevet or Brevet de Randonneur is an organized long-distance bicycle ride in the sport of randonneuring. Brevets are often colloquially called randonťes or audax rides. (The term randonťe is correct, but can also be applied to other types of distance cycling event. Audax is short-hand for Audax allure libre, and should not be confused with the original team-riding version of the Audax sport, which has distinct rules.)
In a Brevet, cyclists - who, in this discipline, may be referred to as randonneurs - follow a designated but unmarked route (usually 200 km to 1400 km), passing through check-point controls, and must complete the course within specified time limits. These limits, while challenging, still allow the ride to be completed at a comfortable pace - there is no requirement to cycle at racing speeds or employ road bicycle racing strategies.
Randonnťe is a French word which loosely translates to 'ramble' or 'long journey' (in French the verb 'randonner' originally means 'hiking', but is nowadays also used for bicycle and even motorized tours). Brevet means 'certificate' and refers to the card carried by randonneurs which gets stamped at controls; it is also used to refer to the event itself, ie: a certificated ride.
The second question out of your mouth is probably why the hell would you want to do that? Well the answer to that is a multi-part response.
I really enjoy cycling (note: I said I like it, I didnít say I was good at it)
After a couple years of trying to run triathlons and Ĺ marathons and the like I came to the stark realization that I was never going to be fast, and the idea of a long distance endurance event that was based on completion not speed was right up my alley. 40 years of morbid obesity cannot be erased by a couple years of activity and some exercise. My body has suffered under the effects of all that weight and I fear that I will always continue to pay the price for those sedentary years.
I wanted a challenge. I am inspired by the accomplishments of my friends and I wanted to do something epic.
So on to the ride report. My planning started the day I signed up. What was I going to need, what was I going to do for food/water supplies, how fast did I need to ride, would there be anyone else to ride with or would I be doing this solo? Well I planned for the worst and that planning was the worst. I packed way too much stuff in my trunk bag. I had 2 spare tubes, a foldable tire, a multi-tool, a couple spare spokes, extra batteries for the lights that I would be needing for the night riding, food for the day, cold & warm weather clothes as well as rain gear, and if I looked real hard, I probably could have found that kitchen sink that was acting as an anchor on all of the major climbs. Being an unsupported ride, I wanted to make sure I didnít have any mechanical issues out in the middle of nowhere. I have a history of very bad luck with flats and broken spokes. I had one ride last year where I flatted twice and sliced a tire open. I didnít want to experience a similar event 100+ miles from home in the middle of the night.
I estimated that I would complete the ride with a 15mph pace, with 3 stops of 30 minutes or so to refuel and resupply. That meant that with a 6 am start time and a finish around 12:30 pm that night give or take an hour or two unaccounted for breaks or mechanical issues.
Unfortunately the ride broke up pretty quickly and there was no convenient pace-line to draft off of, but I was still making good progress. There was one particularly nerve wracking section where we actually had to ride on the side of the freeway for about 8 miles. Luckily there was construction, so we could ride in the closed construction lane, but itís still interesting having cars blast past you at 65+ on the freeway. I arrived in Ukiah a little bit ahead of schedule, but definitely behind the rest of the riders. I was able to purchase some more fluids and take some Tylenol and electrolytes. I didnít get to rest as long as I wanted because the rest of the riders were leaving and I wanted to try and hook up with a pace-line and reap the benefits of some rest.
The climb from Ukiah around Lake Mendocino was beautiful, but was also the first real difficulty I had. Iím not a great climber and a missed shift for me spelled a bit of disaster, I had to get off the bike or risk falling over. Once off the bike, it was so steep that I couldnít get back on and get clipped in without falling over. I tried it a couple times without success. I was resigned to the walk of shame. I pushed my bike up the hill until I found a driveway leading up to someoneís home. I pushed the bike up their driveway, clipped in and used the driveway momentum to get going again and resumed my climb. The ride down into the lake was great, 35+ mph without pedaling. The only real surprise was the speed bumps at the bottom of the hill. I thought this was supposed to be a road cycling event not a BMX event, but both the bike and I survived the freestyle jumping that followed. Thankfully the climb back up out of the lake and onto Hwy 20 was not nearly as hard as the climb to get into the lake.
The next big challenge came from Sulpherbank road. I was again forced to do the walk of shame, but this time due to my own physical failings, I just couldnít get up and over that hill. I was really starting to question my packing choices at this point. It felt like I was dragging an anchor up the hill. I was able to walk up the hill almost as fast as I was riding and with a lot less pain and no chance of crashing due to slow speed. I think that all of the protein bars, gels, and electrolyte drinks were taking their toll on my G.I. tract, because I was forced to find some discreet bushes on the side of the road. Luckily I had prepared for that, and unlike one of my friends, I did not have to sacrifice any pieces of clothing to the roadside restroom gods. The ride down the other side of the hill was awesome. Itís too bad that you donít get to spend as much time riding downhill as you do going up.
I arrived in Lower Lake and refilled my water bottles, topped off on Tylenol and electrolytes. My next goal was to find some real food. Man cannot live on Cliff bars and gels forever. I was actually ahead of schedule, so I sat down in fast food restaurant and had a chicken pita sandwich. That has to be the best and worst tasting thing I ever ate. That hot food was a welcome treat after almost 11 hours of steady riding. However it upset my already troubled stomach and would cause me issues for the remainder of the ride.
The ride back from Clear Lake towards Ukiah was horrible. To steal a quote from another rider ďI will remember this yearís ride for those stinking headwinds coming back along Clear Lake for almost 32 miles. There were white caps and the sound of crashing waves on the shore. I was SO glad to finally make the turn into the Mendocino Lake marina and get the shelter of the hills.Ē
I didnít make it quite that far. I stopped about 10 miles short of that, so I only got to experience 22 miles of the headwinds. Mile 165, I pulled into a gas station/convenience store to rest. It was very dark out at this time and lights were absolutely a necessity. If it wasnít for the radar warning signs along hwy 20 I would have had no idea what my pace was like at this point. When I had managed to find a group to ride with, the three of us were only managing 14 miles per hour top speed, and when I was riding by myself it was down to 9 mph. That meant I had at least 2 more hours of riding just to get back to Ukiah, and another 60+ to get to the finish.
I might have made it back to Ukiah, but I knew I was never going to make it back to Santa Rosa. The thought of riding those remaining miles in the dark, by myself and into a headwind were not enjoyable. The decision was made easier for me when a random customer at the gas station asked me what I was doing and why I was riding at night. After I explained to him about the ride, he said ďIf I was you, I think Iíd be looking for somebody with a truck so that I could throw my bike in the back and get a ride.Ē Well thatís exactly how I was feeling at that time, and his words just validated it for me. I called my wife and asked her to come rescue me. I was admitting to defeat.
So what did I take from this event?
I have a wonderful supportive wife who came to my rescue, who supports and encourages me, even when I should be sitting on the couch instead of out trying something like this.
I pack too much crap. I would have been better off with just two tubes, some co2, an inflator, and me. After looking at several of the other riders, I think I will try it with a Camelback for my hydration purposes and whatever parts I can fit into the small pouches on the camelback or in my cycling jersey.
I was able to ride twice the distance I had ever completed before, so I am happy with that progress. Iím a bit disappointed that I am the only person who didnít finish the ride, and that is something that I will have to live with. Iíll never get that back. Someday I may be able to complete that 400k, but I will have always ďgiven upĒ on the first one. I know I tend to focus on the negative parts, but thatís just the way Iím wired. I could have completed that ride without incident and Iíd be complaining that I came in last. I do appreciate the positive points, but they just kind of get overshadowed by the negative bits.
Two days later and Iím more sore and tired today than I was following the ride or the day after. I have mounted the old bike on the indoor trainer and I plan to get back at it in another day or so, once everything quits hurting. Weather permitting; Iíll be back out and riding again next weekend. I still have some unfinished business with my riding, there is still a challenge that I must bend to my will. I just havenít discovered it yet.
Anyhow here are some pictures from my ride. Itís mostly just scenery shots and one picture of me at the Ukiah check in.http://www.flickr.com/photos/8282527@N08/sets/72157626399037503/