Capped off a fine birthday week by joining about a 100 new and old
randonneurs on the 2013 SF Randonneurs Fall Populaire. Starting in San
Fransisco’s Crissy Field, we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge,
hopped over a hill or two and looped out around China Camp Village
before heading westward (back into a mild headwind and increasing fog)
to the most distant control at Nicasio. Then headed back through the
San Geronimo Valley to Fairfax and the obscure but direct route back to
San Francisco. Course was about 70 miles, punctuated by appropriate
stops for controls and caloric intake.
Had spent a too-long
chunk of Friday running down some technical anomalies on the Quickbeam.
The chain was too worn to trust for the course and after removing it, I
realized what a thought was a bent guard ring proved to be a more
ingrained issue. I’m still not completely sure of the cause, but the
whole arm/spider has a bit of a wobble to it. The working theory had
been a bent BB spindle, found that the same arm wiggled no matter which
bicycle it was mounted on (had stripped off the cranks from the
Hilsen, assuming I’d be swapping the BB over). Cursed and pondered and
decided to clean up the Hilsen and swap over the saddle from the QB.
And the Hilsen ended up in a nicely stripped down mode - with the
recently cleaned and rewaxed Baggins Banana Bag attached, it would hold
my ritual two-tubes-two-patch-kits offering for any brevet ride, as well
as appropriate gear for a mild, mid-September ride. So, all that
remained was getting up, getting the dogs walked and fed, and
hightailing it into the city for the ride.
Which pretty much is
where I started - sipping strong coffee from a thermos cup as riders
gathered in the fog on the generally unpopulated East Beach at Crissy
Field. I’d arrived past some significant parking infrastructure -
mobile gates and grates and cones and hi-viz folks with flags and
flashlights. No, the Populaire does not typically generate that much
traffic, but they’ve been racing these sail-driven projectiles within
yards of the shore over the past couple weeks, and in another few hours,
parking would become absolutely nonexistent.
Signed in and got
my card. Realized I had absoutely nothing to write with - DOH! - so I
would be relying on the kindness of others to supply a pen at the
Nicasio Info Control. After returning the coffee rental, I saw that a
larger pack had amassed, and RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob
Hawks welcomed the new riders (about half the group) and led us in our
pledge “not to do anything stupid” before sending us out on the course.
Just about that time, I darned near stepped on ride buddy JimG
(yojimg.net) and we greeted one another warmly. He was anticpating the
inaugural ride on his Box Dog Bikes Pelican.
Of course, we
immediately got separated as everyone picked up their bikes and wove
their way to the road. I had decided to under-do things for the first
bits, as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. For some reason, the switch from
fixed-gear (the Quickbeam) to a many-geared-coastable setup can mean a
very clunky first ride, as I overdo it in the big gears and feel a loss
of momentum when climbing. And I also realized it was probably my
longest ride of the year so far. At least I’d managed a couple of 50+
rides on the QB, even though some of the steeper climbs were prone to
cussing and stopping.
Rolled up to the bridge with a variety of
SF Jerseyed folks and well-appointed rigs. Counted at least 3 or 4
Hilsens without even looking for them. Coughed and woke up and worked
my way over the span and down into Sausalito with a minimum of extra
Seemed to just make every yellow light on Bridgeway, which put
me alone along the Mill Valley Bike Path to the base of the first hill.
But as the light turned green JimG and a gang of folks joined me. The
Camino Alto hill kind of worked out the kinks, and I found some comfort
climbing seated, which is not generally an option afforded by riding
fixed. Then buzzed down the descent while thanking the density of my
bones. Caught up to the JimG group and promptly lost them on the climb
to San Rafael, but by then I was feeling pretty good on the bike, almost
like someone had flipped a switch. As we headed around China Camp to
the first control, I managed to tack onto a triplet-led (y’know, like a
tandem but built for three) train and boogied along happily. Fell back
in with JimG and we found a mutually compatible pace, so we rolled to
the first control, had RBA Rob sign/timestamp our cards and headed
As we pressed slightly uphill and upwind in Lucas
Valley, JimG admitted he hadn’t eaten anything for a while (turned out
to be dinner or breakfast, so… yeah.) We deli-stopped and stretched
out, chatted with a rider (whose name I forgot) on a custom ~75 cm frame
and watched a few pods of riders work their way up the valley. The
chairs were in the warm sun, blocked from the cool wind by the building,
and it was tempting just to enjoy the warm offerings of the morning.
But, we figured the miles wouldn’t ride themselves, and remounted after a
15 minute break for food and drink.
Climbed to Big Rock Ridge
and collected a couple of other riders, then spread out once again on
the long steady down valley run to Nicasio. At the store, the
randonneurs had arrived, ordering sandwiches, buying drinks and seeking
the answer to the Information Control question. Yes. I did have to
borrow a pen.
Since the weather was still overcast and windily
cool, we set off again. JimG still seemed at a bit of caloric deficit
but we plugged along, picking up a few riders and benefitting from the
energy as our group swelled and other riders joined us from behind. The
climb out of Nicasio to the San Geronimo valley spread us out again,
but we swelled back up to 8-10 riders as we enjoyed the now-tailwind
towards the White’s Hill descent to Fairfax.
The sun greeted us
in town, and JimG and I peeled off to honor the siren song of Java
Hut. Strong coffee and gooey pastries awaited. But, even better, they
had broadened their offerings of late to include breakfast burritos.
Mmmmmm. Potato, egg, black beans for me and the simple cheese/egg
muffin for JimG. Such caloric density perked him up (as did the iced
coffee) and we hummed our way back to the start. Got to help with a
small roadside repair (rattling fender) for another SFR member. Met a
few new randonneurs on the final miles to the last climb up from
Sausalito and then went by everyone in the world who seemed to have
shoehorned themselves to a vantage point to watch the sailboat race.
Dodging a few errant pedestrians and the expected rental bike
erraticness, we dropped to the final control, were greeted with cheers
and had always-smiling Carlos D. log in our return and verify our
Done, we found plates of food and fine camaraderie! And I was happy to feel much better than I thought I would.
My photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclofiend/sets/72157635540840952/
More photos of pretty much everyone on course - courtesy of Deb Ford - http://goo.gl/H8UBBL
Rough Route Map - http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1798411
All sorts of big and small cycling things occurred this past weekend, and I missed every one of them. Alas. Sometimes the best laid plans and all that….
The big-ticket event was the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Lighthouse 200K - a magnificent and reasonably challenging route which kicks off the brevet season each year (yep, January!) The weather is always the big question on everyone’s mind - it can be gloriously clear and sunny or intensely nasty. Winds can certainly be a factor, but the common direction is a WNW direction, which mostly blows you home. I’ve completed the ride three times, but didn’t really have the mileage base to consider it this season.
A number of ride buddies and internet cycling denizens shared their images - Estaban (up from San Diego), Manny (who broke a shifter and finished the ride short a few gears), D Yu G, Campy Only Guy, and One Happy Cog all have photos to enjoy. PlattyJo has a ride report here. Franklyn has his here.
There was also a Populaire along a portion of the same course. This is a lower mileage (114 km) “intro to randonneurring” designed to introduce newcomers to the conventions and quirks of brevet style rides. Briefly thought about engaging in this, but after a ride the previous weekend which covered ~40 miles, decided that adding the White’s Hill climb in addition to the mileage was also not in the cards.
What was looking good was the potential Bay Area arrival of David “Cyclotourist” - who had similar goals and realizations to me regarding the 200K and the Populaire. Still was part of a rideshare, he had plans to ramble up Mt. Tam in mixed-terrain mode. BikeTinker Philip had planned on connecting, and I threw my iron in the fire to join up. Alas, Friday’s stomach cramps made it pretty clear that the bug which bit my wife had gotten some talons into me as well. So, I sat at the computer and napped my way through the weekend. Gino managed to connect with them, and they managed an excellent day in the windy sunshine, capped off with one of Avatar’s punjabi Burritos.
I rode and enjoyed vicariously. Ahh well… next time gentlemen!
Two news items also cropped up in the local cycling news - one is the continued hashing out of the proposed Corte Madera Creek overpass project. It’s a potentially massive project on one of the remaining confusing bits of Highway 101 in marin county. The full project involves fixes and corrections from the Paradise Drive exit to north of the Sir Francis Drake exit.
There have been a succession of minor changes and tweaks, most of which seem only to confuse things more. The suggestions ranged broadly, dating back to some public meetings in probably 2007 or so which I attended. At the time, it was clear that the various forces of homeowners, city managers and developers were going to hash things out for some time , so it was hard to react to anything directly.
Since that time, they’ve more or less focused on the solution that is now being presented. One outcome is the demolition and elimination of the Hwy 101 pedestrian overcrossing structure which has been around since I was in high school (used to ride over it to get to crew practice, in fact). It’s a nasty, generally glass-strewn structure with a ridiculously dated “round about” approach (I thought I’d snapped a photo of it at some point in my Commute Bits set, but cannot find it…though here I do make reference to it as “The World’s Stupidest Overcrossing”). Ah - here:
aerial view via the MCBC website
And yes, that is a full 2 1/2 times around on the entrance/egress, with no line of sight to speak of.
Now, I certainly get that it is desirable to provide direct access. I’m an absolute proponent of that. But, it seems to make more sense to develop a viable bicycle route using the Wornum undercrossing. Right now, it’s OK, but lacks night time lighting and the section which runs in front of the Cost Plus shopping center is generally pretty hairball. But, in terms of battles for the MCBC to pick, I have to hope this is only a initial position so they can regroup to a stronger focus on developing a more sensible connector from the Redwood Hwy frontage road to Wornum Undercrossing to connect to the High Street Bridge path (the one which uses the old railroad right of way to connect to Corte Madera / Magnolia Ave.)
That whole discussion is going on here:
The one which surprised me was the nascent beginning of a Marin County Bike Share program.
If you will permit me a moment of snark, I’d say that there are a whole bunch of “Team Postal” Treks, neglected Lightspeeds and forgotten Serottas hanging in carports and garages throughout the county. I say “FREE THE BIKES, MAN!” Collect those things and distribute them around the county or to county-based employers who can assist their workforce in riding.
ahem…. sorrry about that. I watched a bit of Portlandia last night…
But, you have to admit, a whole rack of “need a ride?” steeds like that might actually induce some folks to give up their car. Yeah, I know, they’d end up chopped and stripped and sold, but it would be a glorious day and a half.
The one error the article makes though is the idea that marin is “hilly”, precluding most people from riding. There is a great deal left to improve, but the MCBC projects have helped a great deal already. With the Cal Park Hill tunnel project, you can ride from Larkspur to downtown San Rafael without significant elevation change, for example. The new connection between Ignacio and Novato has dramatically changed the nasty climb which used to be required. The routes are there. They just continually need to be cited and explained.
Excuse the double-barrel blog posting of this, but for some reason, I’d thought it was the 23rd. Since I think I told a couple people that incorrect date, I wanted to make sure the word got out correctly!
Wow! Where did the time go? This Saturday, June 2nd is the (hopefully rain-free) running of the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Summer Populaire.
Owing to rain, the March 31st Populaire had a small, but very enthusiastic group of riders. To share the enthusiasm under potentially better weather, the SF Randonneurs added another Populaire on June 2nd.
consider joining SFR for the Populaire on Saturday, June 2nd. If you
haven’t ridden with us in a while, this is the perfect opportunity to
rejoin us. If you are looking for a ride to keep your momentum going
between longer rides, this ride is perfect and will still leave you most
of the afternoon for other events. Come on out and join us, and bring a
friend or two.
Newcomers to brevets and randonneuring
more than welcome as well! You’ll seldom find a nicer group of folks
with whom to while away the time. It’s a great way to learn about
brevet cards and controlles and route finding/following.
Registration can be done here: http://sfrandonneurs.org/registration.htm#
With a fair degree of trepidation - potentially challenging weather is not a problem, but I’m definitely still a bit under-miled… Ahh well, how can you not get excited about a ride when it has such great artwork?
The artwork is by Alice Stribling, which can be viewed in its original form (but seemingly not linked to or downloaded) here.
Anyway, the San Francisco Populaire rolls north from the Golden Gate Bridge at 7 am this Saturday - check in and/or sign up is required, so don’t show up at 6:59 - the hearty band of randonneurs will be rolling north to Pt. Reyes Station for the first controlle, then heading back down to Crissy Field for a triumphant finish. The SF Randonneurs website has more info.
The Populaire is a great way to feel out the idiosyncrasies of brevets and randonneuring. It introduces the format of non-competitive self-sufficient distance riding, and uses control cards and time limits like the longer rides. For more general information, see the RUSA.org website.
Hope to see you there! Please mock me gently as I suffer up the hills.
In the cold of Bay Area January, the rides begin - the San Francisco Randonneurs 2011 brevet schedule is online at: http://sfrandonneurs.org/home.htm
I’ve been a member for a few years now, and have nicked the “Lighthouse 200″ three times. (It’s listed ast the “Point Reyes 200K” on the schedule below. (Reports) It’s a grand ride, and remains a excitement-causing/daunting challenge when I consider it. Unfortunately, a current work project which began in earnest during December has prevented the mileage necessary to consider it, so I won’t be toeing the line when the 2011 season fires up on January 22nd.
As this is a PBP year, folks will be coming out of the woodwork to qualify, so if you’ve been thinking about giving this odd and challenging discipline a try, you should get on it for this ride. The Lighthouse 200K is the only SFR ride which imposes a rider
limit (due to NPS rules) and while it isn’t full yet, it more than likely will fill up
before the date.
Registration can be done online or via paper/mail: http://sfrandonneurs.org/registration.htm
The calendar below is just the start. We are in the planning
stages to add four more events for 2011, two of which will be at the
100km Populaire distance - a great way to get a sense of how brevets run over a shorter course (Proposed Populaire dates under discussion are in late
June and in October. Check the SFR website soon for exact dates.)
|Distance||Date||Start Time||Time Limit|
|Point Reyes 200k||Sat, 01/22/2011||7:00 AM||13.5 hours|
|2 Rock/Valley Ford 200k||Sat, 02/12/2011||7:00 AM||13.5 hours|
|Russian River 300k||Sat, 02/26/2011||6:00 AM||20 hours|
|Healdsburg/Hopland 400k||Sat, 04/09/2011||6:00 AM||27 hours|
|Fleche (360k +)||Thu, 04/21/2011 *||8:00 AM||24 hours|
|Ft. Bragg 600k||Sat, 05/07/2011||6:00 AM||40 hours|
|Davis Night 200k||Sat, 06/04/2011||8:00 PM||13.5 hours|
|TBA 200k||Sat, 08/06/2011||7:00 AM||13.5 hours|
|Winters 200k||Sat, 10/08/2011||7:00 AM||13.5 hours|
Lighthouse 200K Ride Report - Pt. 2
“Pt Reyes Lighthouse to Marshall and Return”
(continued from Part 1)
The beauty of the scene at the Lighthouse parking lot was compelling. I could have sat there for an hour, soaked up the sun and been totally happy. It was a rare and gorgeous day. Other randonneurs - One Happy Cog, The Box Dog Boys and a few others I recognized rolled up to the control and all was well in the world.
Luckily, the flow of riders in and out of the lot set off my “get moving” alarm, and after half-filling my empty water bottle (the big SFR thermoses were getting low), I commenced the pre-flight ritual. On the return leg, those little pitches that climb up to the main mesa always seem to bite after the short time off the bike at the control. Plus, the initial downhill from the Lighthouse has an incline and surface conditions that fixed-gear nightmares are made of. So, I elected to keep the rear wheel flopped onto the coastable side of things for a few miles, though I did notch it back up to the 40T chainring, assisted by a helpful guy in a Freewheel SF vest, who has riding a really nice Hunter.
It’s pretty disorienting to be able to suddenly coast. Sort of mucks things up for the first few hundred yards, but I got spinning fairly quickly, dropped down to the first ranch and got stuck in a scrum of oncoming cars, farm equipment and randonneurs. We sorted things out reasonably quickly and commenced cussing our way up the first climb. While it’s good to use the lower gearing of the freewheel, you do lose the momentum of fixed-gear climbing. However, it did seem prudent to allow my legs to rest a bit.
I even dropped back down to the low/low for the final pitch up to the mesa. Then misjudged the QR setting when I reclamped it and immediately pulled the axle forward on the first pedal stroke. Ack! It’s the simple things that catch you. Just as I was messing with it for the second time, another rider on a Miyata checked to make sure there was nothing wrong. Admitting to user error, I got spinning along again.
Reaching the mesa, where Drake’s Beach Road angles off to the south, I commenced to reflipping the gearing. The next section is a fine dividend for the suffering bits encountered earlier. While there are still a few inclines to resolve, the road drops down ever downward in a series of steps, limited solely by how fast you want to pedal. The smooth road surface hummed under my tires and I enjoyed every moment.
As things leveled out, I had a curious feeling - that of being very hungry. I’d had oatmeal at breakfast before leaving the house, and I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but for me, oatmeal just evaporates. I go from full to empty in about a second and a half.
Here’s the other thing. I’ve been writing and erasing, rewriting and chucking out those sentences for a while now - which is why the second half of this ride report has been so damned tardy in getting posted. It’s been very hard to write about the second part of this ride, because things are about to go really well and very poorly. In the hopes of smoothing things out for the future, I’ve been thinking about where things really bottomed out, and tried to backtrack to the point where I wish I’d done something a little bit different - where I’d been alert enough to recognize I was making an error and smart enough to do something about it.
And here is one of those places where I should have recognized a budding issue. All the articles I’ve ever read encourage pretty much the same thing - eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. And I was hungry - growling-empty-stomach, “dang I gotta get some food” hungry. Luckily, I’d packed a sandwich, and as the roadway stayed roughly level, I commenced to dig it out of my Zugster Rando Bag and nibble away. It made me feel very rando-ey. I tried to take reasonably small bites, as it seemed as though there wasn’t too much extra saliva in the system, and the reasonably dry food was not doing anything other than sucking up any moisture to be found. That would indicate that I was also a bit thirsty. After getting about a third of the sandwich into me, things felt OK, and I stowed it back into the bag.
Wearing the stylin’ Elvis glasses of hindsight, this was the time not to be dainty, foodwise. While it might not have been the brightest move to cram the whole thing down my throat as quickly as possible, it may have been prudent to keep nibbling away, a bite or two every five minutes or so until I’d finished the whole thing.
As it was, I worked my way upwards towards the Inverness Ridge pretty steadily. During my first time on this course back in 2007, I’d used the distraction of standing and sitting to go up this longer but easier incline to the crest. 20 standing pedal strokes, followed by another 20 in the saddle. It had been a grind then, but it broke things up and kept the pace up a bit. Today, I did the same thing, but had some oomph and was able to do “40’s”. That result was more than likely a direct benefit of the recent caloric intake. Before the top, I managed to catch up with Franklyn again, after he’d eased past while I was flopping my wheel back on the mesa.
Before I knew it, it was high alert mode, zig-zagging down the descent towards the Tomales Bay side of things, dodging sketchy pavement patches and howling through the turns. Again at bay level, if I’d been clever, the sandwich would have come out again. But I wasn’t and it didn’t.
Here is the benefit of consideration after the fact. At the time, I was spinning along strongly over the rolling roadway with a specific goal in mind: stopping once again at the grocery in Inverness Park for some fluids. While it may have been considerate to not drain the common igloo of water at the Control back at the Lighthouse, it would have been smarter to walk a ways up the path to the actual water source and refill my bottles completely before shoving off. They were both pretty empty at this point.
And if I, Current Self, could time travel back to chat briefly with the slightly under-watered and low-caloric Randonneurring me, I think I might have suggested that since Inverness Park was only about 2 miles away from the Bovine Bakery, it might have been a better move to suck it up, stick it out and proceed to the sunnier destination (passive solar recharge), which has high caloric hot pizza (thermal/caloric assistance), in addition to coffee (”Hi, I’m Jim and I am a Caffeine Addict…”), which would give me access to their sink for water refilling (hydro-sustenance), just to name a few points of concern. Which, if I’d been smarter and eaten up my whole damned sandwich back a while before that, would have been a simpler idea to come up with, rather than the too-easy decision of “Stop. Buy water now” which cycled through my brain.
Got some water and such, spread out and nibbled away, listening to the bleating goats and watch the odd randonneur ease past. The rider I’d seen earlier on the Miyata had stopped and opted for a run on the bakery next door. We chatted a little bit and I think I was able to form reasonably coherent sentences. At this point it was about 12:45, and I was happily within my “good” time for the day. I finished off my sandwich, but didn’t really want to do too much more eating.
There is a difference - stop me if I’m wrong here - between a 5 hour ride and a 10 hour ride. One big difference is the whole refueling aspect, which I mentioned earlier. At the former, you can push the gas tank needle past the half-full mark, even let it drop down until the warning light goes on. On the latter, the trick is to keep the calories coming in while the exertions of the day are using them up.
And that trick strikes me as one I have yet to really master.
Which is, of course, a thought that I wish had occurred to me quite that clearly as I was sitting there as the clock edged into hour six, nibbling the slices of tangerine I’d packed along. I’d marveled a bit at the way that the sandwich seemed to fuel me over the ridge coming back - just didn’t seem able to draw any larger conclusions from that behavior.
I packed up and rolled out again, coming up on a couple of riders on Rivendells as we reconnected to Highway 1. Another half a mile up the road in the town of Pt. Reyes Station, the familiar figure of One Happy Cog appeared before me. I caught up to him as we finished the rise to get out of town, and chatted a bit on our way north to Marshall. The winds had remained reasonably still, and though a few clouds sat to the west, the sun shown on our path.
It was good to share the miles with another rider. Even better, it was a chance to ride with him a bit. Although we’d crossed paths a few times, we had not ridden together before. Our pace seemed well suited to one another, his range of gears helping to entice me up the rollers on the way to the second Control. We traded the lead now and again, chatted a bit and hailed the randonneurs who had reached the turnaround point and were heading back to San Francisco. At some point, he dropped back and snagged a little video footage of me.
Can’t quite recall what was hanging out of my back jersey pocket…
We rolled up the final bit to the Marshall store, and upon stepping inside, found a goodly line of sweaty brevet riders all queued up to buy some food and get their card stamped. With the gorgeous weather, a fair number of folks had driven out there as well, and were seated along many of the outside tables, sampling the chowder. The place was about as busy as could be, and I tried not to fret about time being lost while standing in place. As it was, my purchase time was 13:45, frighteningly spot on to where I’d hoped to be for the day. This whole having a timepiece easily accessible on the bike was not at all bad.
It made me realize too that I’m normally not very time or distance oriented when riding. Riding without a computer, as I’d been doing for recent years, you become a bit reliant on your own, highly fallible, internal clock. Segments of a ride which required the most effort often times felt like it also took the longest. Putting a timepiece against it makes you realize that while mentally you range from “all hope lost” to “dang, I’m good!”, it may have only taken 2 or three minutes to move from one place to the other. (One of the reasons that Kent P’s “Keep Pedaling, It Will Get Better” mantra works.) There are times on that some stretches of roadway and incline become endless, relentless cycles of turmoil. But, then you can’t replicate that combination of exhaustion and timelessness ever again, rolling over the spot that held you for hours, according to your recollections. There’s a tendency of the mind to become a bit unhitched sometimes, and when doing so it tends to assume the worst. Recognizing that the last year of purgatory took only 2 minutes can sometimes snap you back a bit.
Back on this ride, what was assuming the worst was my taste buds. I don’t know if it was the sudden thump of boiled oysters and seafood on my nostrils, or just the combination of a few too many Clif Blocks combined with Vitamin Water, but when I tried to drink the fruit juice I’d bought, my throat was having none of that. One the one hand, I wanted to trust what my body was telling me, but felt like I needed to get some calories somehow. I didn’t really think that hanging around in Marshall was an ideal game plan - so I used the facilities, failed once more at sipping more than a smidgen of juice and then just decided to roll on out of town.
There was a small group of three riders ahead, so I eased my way up to them. Unfortunately, the curse of the fixed-gear system raised it’s head, as they - equipped with a range gears and coasting mechanisms - tended to climb and descend at a considerably different pace than I did. I’d ease off the front on the short rollers, and they’d zip past me on the sharper downhills. It was actually nice, though, as it took my mind off of the effort being made. Then they all pulled off the road together, and I noticed that there was a strong pitter-patter sound of raindrops hitting my helmet.
Ahead I could see sun on the hills. Behind I could see the sparkly white clouds to the north. But, for some danged reason, there was a reasonably thick cloud overhead intent on doing nothing other than pissing down big wet drops of rain. The only concession I made was to quickly stash the camera into the front bag, choosing to focus only on the sunny bits in the distance. When the splashing started coming up from the roadway as well, I finally decided to protect my saddle and stopped to haul out the cover which was rolled up in the back bag.
Leaning over the saddle to keep it out of direct rain, I positioned the cover, worked out the slack and tightened down the cord to keep it in place. One Happy Cog rolled past with a wave. I remounted and tried to find momentum once more.
About 20 pedal strokes later, the rain stopped for good. Nature has a heckuva sense of humor. But, it did get me laughing.
The last little pitch on Highway One is near the Pt. Reyes Vineyard. This one bit a little harder today, and for the first time for the day, I got the distinct negative message from the legs when encouraging them to give it a little more. Luckily, the group of three caught up with me just then, observed politely that fixed-gear riders might be a little off their nut, and eased ahead just slowly enough to give me a carrot once again. I cut down the distance a bit on the flatter mesa that followed, and by the time the left turn came up for the Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Road, we were more or less nearby.
At this point again, I started thinking a bit about food. I suspect that somewhere down in the operating system, the word had gone out that the reserves were getting a little thin. The wind had freshened slightly, and the last molecule of boiled seafood had removed itself from the olfactory system. As we rolled along the river valley, the clear thought manifested that I should dig out something and eat it. I couldn’t figure out what to eat however, and somewhere the big dumb animal instinct that seemed to be taking over was getting a bit transfixed by the idea of pedaling strongly, rather than opening up the front bag and rooting around for calories. The Hunter/Gatherer was not strong with this one.
Things got worse as we made the turn up towards the Nicasio dam. The problem was that I was actually feeling rather good, and the bike was moving well. The three riders pulled off for a natural break out of sight of the roadway, but momentum pulled me forward. Even though I stood on the pedals for a portion of the incline to the reservoir level, things felt strong. Once on the flat, there was just a hint enough of a headwind that I could push the speed up towards 20 mph. Meanwhile, my voice of reason was tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “Hey! Dummy! Eat something!”
The Rouleur brain was saying, “yeah….got it… uhhh…just a sec….ummm… in a minute…” Maybe it expected the team car to ease up next to it and pass over a croissant and some other goodies. Its non-linear counterpart was egging it along, saying we’d be in Nicasio before too long, and that would be a good place to stop and recharge.
If I find myself in this situation again, I hope I will recognize it for the error that it was.
Somewhere on the way out to the Lighthouse, the phrase of the ride popped into my brain - “Discomfort is Temporary.” Typing that now makes it sound a little bit like the more macho statement, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body” and I really want to distinguish between those two ideas. Discomfort is the condition when you ask yourself to do a little bit more. It pushes the needles a bit into into the red zone, but you are within what you can do. Pain comes from telling your body to do something. It’s your brain asking for more than you can reasonably do.
This isn’t to say that you should let your lazy body off the hook. It’s knowing the difference between enabling what you can do versus doing damage.
This phrase, “Discomfort is Temporary” had cropped up a few times so far since then, helping me to remember that the roadway would crest out soon, and though I’d be a tad uncomfortable for another minute or so, that would soon end. Here though, as I spun past Nicasio Reservoir with some momentum, the phrase misled me, and I continued to keep both hands on the bars and pedal along. I wonder if I wouldn’t have been more cautious if the sun hadn’t been out and the winds so moderate.
Nothing I had seemed too appetizing. Maybe I should have trolled through the store once more, looking for crunchy/salty. Finally, in anticipation of the rise and pitch to get back over to the San Geronimo Valley, I squeezed a GU-analog into my mouth and followed it up with some water. I chatted briefly with a couple of other riders, one of whom was riding a tan Bob Jackson rigged up as a fixed-gear. He was talking about a group of single-geared who were doing various centuries together. They rolled out a minute or two before I did.
Even though the sun still shone, the temperature felt cooler, and with the next few miles under the redwoods, I added my windvest underneath my flecto vest. At some point, I’d also put on my wool gloves, and correctly reckoned that this was a good time to switch out of the cotton cap back to the wool, and add a little ear coverage.
Oh, and for those of you playing along at home, feeling suddenly cold is a good indicator that you are not eating enough.
Now, I’d made Nicasio at around 15:25, and was hoping to get back into Fairfax at around 16:10 or thereabouts. Though it felt like I was crawling up the first incline, I didn’t have to walk. In fact, when I hit the pitch that crests out at the Cecy Krone Memorial, I only stopped once. With auto traffic at zero here, I managed to tack my way through the steepest section while remaining on the bike, and just like that, was looking down at the valley below.
I always like this point in the ride. My feeling has always been that I can limp home from here. Clipping back in, my cadence got a hair past the second “hop” in my technique - one goes through right at 25 mph, and the second one comes in at about 32 mph. Perhaps someone with more of a math background can explain why. By the time the road ended back at Sir Francis Drake, a few of us had collected waiting for a gap in the cross traffic. We were finally beginning to truly backtrack on the initial course we’d headed out on this morning. Chatting a bit as we swung left and eastward onto SFD, the Cooper rider noticed that we were non-coasting kin. I hung along with them for a while, but was feeling the unmistakable condition of marshmallow legs setting in.
Things were OK as long as the roadway was dead flat, but as soon as any topography introduced itself, there was just nothing there. The slight rise near the treatment plant got to me, and the incline up to White’s Hill bit pretty well. The two riders I’d met in Nicasio had stopped here as well. One set off again pretty quickly, but the other hung back. Here, I took a few moments to focus a bit before the descent. Auto traffic back from the coast had picked up a bit, and I wanted to make sure that my brain was going to be ahead of me. Riders have been hurt here on brevets, and I did not want to break my earlier pledge to “do nothing stupid.”
It proceeded without fanfare, avoiding several nasty spills of loose gravel to the right and taking the lane when conditions and speed warranted. Squeezing every bit of momentum out of the slight decline into Fairfax, I kept the pedals turning, hooked into the town proper with a quick right and left, avoiding a driver who didn’t understand STOP when applied to their direction and rolled down Center Ave again. Though I looked longingly at the Java Hut, the lure of momentum and progress kept me on the path. I slugged a little Vitamin Water down and immediately felt the worse for it. It started doing the slappy dance with whatever bits of GU (technically “Honey Stinger”) were attached like moss to the inside of my stomach.
Log that combo for a definite “No, Thank you.”
As already admitted here, I know better than that. Once you start the GU packs, you need to keep chaining them. Or, you need to throw some real food in there to absorb the artifacts. And you need water, not more sugary sippy juice. By the time I was halfway to San Anselmo, my helpful brain was trying to recall the last time I actually threw up. Swallowing and breathing helped a bit, as did focusing on not hitting pedestrians or getting run down myself. Finally, I took a small sip of water, and things calmed down slightly. This seemed to reactivate some shard of logical behavior, so when the stomach started churning again a half mile up the road, I sipped a little more water.
I’d like to apologize to anyone who passed by me, or rode near me between San Anselmo and Corte Madera. If you said something cheery or encouraging and I just sort of stared past you, I’m sorry. It was just that I didn’t really want anything other than air passing in or out of my mouth.
That’s really the way I got to the base of the Camino Alto hill - sipping and hoping that I wouldn’t get sick. As the road began easing upward, I pulled over and tried to assess things a bit. I remembered that I’d tucked a package of dark chocolate into the front of the bag, and finally decided that a couple bites of that would send me one way or the other very quickly. The funny thing is that it wouldn’t really melt when I put it in my mouth (how’s that core temperature workin’ for ya?), and when I finally started chewing on it, the bits just kept seeming drier and drier (see Dehydration: symptoms of). There was about thirty seconds of “hmmmmm” when it hit my stomach, but by then I’d remounted and was leaning on the pedals in a slow-motion effort to get the Quickbeam moving once again. Considering I’d been standing in front of a pizza restaurant, it seemed that barfing while moving would be a better option.
Happily, my stomach started to settle. Less encouragingly, my legs felt like dry capellini. It was about the ugliest climb I’ve ever done up that hill. I might have stopped once or twice. Must have once, because I recall biting off a little more chocolate. A couple riders passed me on a turn, said something upbeat and eased passed. If my eyes were focusing correctly, my speed was somewhere in the 3’s. “Walking speed” thought I. “Faster than stopping!” suggested another voice. “Discomfort is Temporary,” offered another.
I just concentrated 10 feet ahead of the bike, shifting all my body weight onto each pedal in succession. I knew that would get me to the top.
Sometimes, a brevet is about faith.
At this point, it was not about optimism. Optimism implies a future. My brain was having none of that. The moment was just lean, weight, pull with the arm, shift to the other side and repeat.
Then, on one pedal stroke, it was just a hair easier. And again.
This is the blessing of the fixed-gear - the intimate connection with incline, traction and gravity. I looked up just a bit to confirm my location. The hiking path on the right meant the top was near. I could even sit for a few pedal strokes now, using different muscles and finding a slight glimmer of momentum. And suddenly, at the top, there was only the pull of the descent.
Looking at the above photo, I see a couple of things. First, my recollection had been that I looked at the camera when taking the photo. But, the image shows a weird thousand yard stare. It also shows another inattention to detail item - my wind vest is clearly unzipped. It’s even a bit outside of the flecto bib. And I was wondering why I felt cold at this point… I wouldn’t zip it up until after I’d finished and hung around for a few minutes at the final control.
Though the climb was disheartening, the descent brought my spirits back once again. Since I don’t get to coast on the downhills, there’s little chance of letting my mind wander. Working the rough pavement and easy curves of the descent into Mill Valley sharpened up my outlook a bit, and upon reaching the bottom I remembered how close I was to my goal. The pie-in-the-sky hope had been for a sub-10 hour finish, and that had pretty much evaporated when I crested on Camino Alto at 16:56. The realistic goal had been to match my 2007 finish time of 10:31.
Back in Nicasio, I’d rigged up my headlight - a NiteRider MiNewt USB - so when the sun dipped behind the clouds at the horizon while rolling over the Mill Valley Bike Path, I flicked a switch to stay as visible as possible. At the traffic light on the far end of the path, I bumped up with a couple of other randonneurs. We all rolled out when we got the green, and I saw that One Happy Cog had slipped into our midst. I was in serious pit bull mode at this point - clamping down with a death grip on anyone’s wheel and trying to hold it.
Between chocolate kicking in and the vagaries of the Bridgeway traffic and lights, I held on almost to downtown, when a gap appeared and half the group made a yellow that we didn’t. We threaded our way through increasingly erratic drivers and then swept uphill for the final climb to the Bridge. Unfortunately, the combination of sugar, cacao and enthusiasm was not a match for the realities of the incline. The first pitch upwards did me in, so I eased over and caught my breath, crammed another bite of chocolate and focused for the next and steepest bit. Here also, we were begining to intermingle with the return migration of light-less, bike-renting tourists.
Slaloming and grunting, I got up the worst bit, then just tried to be a machine for the rest of the climb. Reaching the Bridge level, I saw a few riders ahead pull left to cross on the east side. I continued under the narrow tunnel, whooped my way up the final insulting pitch, eased over and dropped down to the west sidewalk. By midspan, I could see several randonneurs learning the hard lesson about crossing on the east walkway - the folks on that side can’t hear you and don’t care. On the west, it was cool runnings.
Enough light remained from the setting sun that it felt like daylight on the Bridge - an extremely uplifting condition. Before I knew it, I swung below the roadway and chicaned down to the Final Control. A couple other riders were negotiating paperwork with RBA Rob Hawks, who aimed his pen at me and said “16:43.” Signed my card when he finished with them and passed it back to Rob.
I would have loved a strong espresso or even a scalding hot chocolate. Alas. None to be found. Nibbled on some pretzels and potato chips which seemed to turn to dust in my mouth. Dug out all my layers and zipped everything up. About that time, One Happy Cog appeared, stood me up and we posed for a photo:
Unfortunately, the flash didn’t fire, and I misjudged the 1890’s era portrait exposure timing, so my features are slightly doubled.
But, the act of standing together in a photo reminded me that brevets are about camaraderie. We’d passed some beautiful miles together on the roads today, and now we had both arrived at roughly the same time where we’d left some ten and a half hours earlier.
I whooped and hollered for a few more folks easing in under the dwindling light before realizing that heat was escaping like air through a nicked tube. Said a few goodbyes, and rolled back onto the Bridge, in search of a car with a heater that would soon be blasting.
Rolling down towards the north tower, I think I glimpsed Franklyn again as he made his way on the other side walkway. I waved but could tell he hadn’t been looking. I can’t imagine riding that course with a cold.
I reached the car, sore and chilled. Recontacting the saddle on the way back had not been a positive experience. My feet hurt a bit and I was just really happy to be done for the day. This ride had gone both very well and reasonably poorly in spots. A few more miles, a bit more concentration on climbing, a lot more awareness about food all would have helped.
Brevets are about learning too, I reckon.
The one last thought I had, before calling my wife to let her know I was done and heading home, was that after brevet number three, I feel as though I’m more of a beginner than before my first one.
Not really sure what that means, but it was clearly in the jotted down notes from later that evening. It will be interesting to see where that thought leads.
San Francisco Randonneurs - Lighthouse 200K - 1/23/10
~125 miles - finishing time: 10:43
Lighthouse 200K Ride Report - Pt. 1
“San Francisco to the Pt Reyes Lighthouse”
Brevets are sometimes about faith and confidence.
I had faith - and I was confident - at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, that the rain pounding the roof would pass. I was so confident, in fact, that I turned on the computer - something I said I wasn’t going to do - to check the Doppler radar image of the sky above the SF Bay Area. The screen showed several big clumps of green and yellow moving east and south. As near as I could tell from the resolution, the trailing edge was directly over our place. And almost just like that, it stopped raining. In the range of signs, this had to be good.
There really wasn’t all that much to do. Quaff some strong coffee and stuff down some oatmeal. As I have been more or less obsessively documenting, this past week has been a series of short checklists and scribbled notes. The bike was ready, the clothing had been laid out, the options winnowed down and items that made the cut packed. Nothing to do but ride, really.
So, I sipped the last bit of coffee, loaded the bike and got out the door. It was pretty clear from the standing puddles on the roadway that a good deal of rain had fallen in the night. Not a lot of other cars on the highway, but up ahead, I noticed a small white car with a bike on a roofrack.
Just guessing here, but I thought possibly, the only other auto on the roadway splashing through large puddles towards the Golden Gate Bridge at 6 am with a visible bicycle strapped on just might be another randonneur. As I got near enough, it was even more odd - the bicycle on the roof rack was clearly a Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. My Quickbeam was lying down out of sight in the back, so the poor driver probably never quite figured why someone was shadowing him so closely down the freeway at that early hour. Still, it seemed another good sign.
He continued over the Bridge, while I turned off to save the toll and ride the last couple of miles to the start. A couple other reflective outfits flashed from across the otherwise vacant lot as I angled in. Again, a pretty safe bet we were all heading to the same place.
The only thing left was to change into proper riding shoes and get going. I ended up opting against wearing my new rain booties - the only piece of gear I’d brought that was untested. The clearing skies made me think that they were just not necessary, and I’d just end up carrying them for the whole day. Did pop on the toe covers, though.
The solitude of the crossing ended as soon as I rolled down the ramp to the area around the Strauss statue. Bikes and riders were everywhere. Somewhere in the scrum, volunteers were checking folks in as fast as possible, but for some reason that didn’t register in my brain. Ended up rolling past that gang down to the dirt parking lot, seeing no one and turning around again. This time I saw an obvious line in the middle of the sea of yellow jackets and reflective gear, stowed the Quickbeam and worked my way in. Within a few easy minutes, I confirmed my information, had my brevet card stowed in a fresh ziplock bag and was only 200K or so short of my goal for the day.
Many riders I recognized by bicycle or face hopped in place a bit to keep warm, or enthusiastically greeted friends and swapped stories. Whatever else, randonneuring is definitely for morning people. I looked around, spotted and greeted Carlos, chatted briefly with our RBA Rob and enjoyed a bit of bike watching, spotting another Quickbeam that was prepped for the day.
I knew JimG was out of town for this ride, but figured I’d run across a few folks during the course of the day. The breezes were still pretty damp, and I kept my rain jacket on, listened to the instructions provided by Rob, fretted that it surely must be past 7 am, put my hand on my heart and pledged not to do anything stupid and we were off, rolling northward under lightening skies.
Since my flash went off (new camera, y’know), it kind of skewed the lighting balance a bit. A more accurate feel of the day’s start can be found via One Happy Cog’s video of the rollout.
I’m always a little hyper-concious during the first miles, as everyone can get bunched and your reflexes may be too taut or not quite grounded enough to react well to the unexpected. But, it reminded me again why I like brevets - folks rode steadily, predictably and alerted one another to their movements. It was 180 degrees difference compared the the sketchy, bunched miles of the Marin Century this past August (a great ride in its own right, but as we moved through the descent on Lucas Valley just a few miles from the start, there was a near-perfect-storm of nervous/erratic slower riders and swarming hyper, “what’s wrong with jumping a double yellow line on a blind curve” proto-racers which went on for too damn long. This year, on that ride, we start earlier! But, I digress…). We skimmed down into Sausalito under clearing skies and wet pavement. Even among the randonneurs, a few folks ran relatively narrow tires and no fenders, and they seemed most ill at ease here. Hopefully, they’d remember to keep their lips together when we passed through the farm effluent on the way to the Lighthouse.
All that lay a bit in the future, of course. As the riders grouped and strung out along Bridgeway, it seemed like I had the traffic light charm, and managed to hit every green light change without losing a bit of momentum. When we hit the Mill Valley Bike Path, I even had the presence of mind to unclip and raise my feet while rolling through the deep, floody puddles in front of the bike shop. The sky continued to gain shades lighter than we’d seen all week, and I felt well rested and better with each turn of the pedals. Even a pit stop at the restroom didn’t knock my mood. I doffed my rain shell, rejoined the route and managed to perfectly catch the tail end of the green light at the end of the bike path, transitioning towards the Camino Alto climb.
Another easy, curving descent on wet pavement, everything feeling rock solid with feather bed comfort on the new Jack Brown tires. As I’ve written before, descending on a fixed gear can kind of mess with your technique, as you can no longer just drop the outside leg and carve. One of the great things about the Quickbeam is that Grant’s designs corner exquisitely for my riding style, even when your feet are whirling about and the pavement is soaked.
As I reflexively twisted my way through the lower portion of the route (which takes up so much of the 200K cue sheet), I’d been mentally ready to feel kinda cruddy. Between the rains and deciding to err on the side of low miles in the week before the brevet, I’d managed to ride pretty much not at all. Yeah, I’d whirled around the neighborhood a bit after installing the new chain and tires back a couple days before the brevet, in that brief moment between the showers. Not much else though. I was not really sure how that would work out, as I’ve always had the feeling that things go better when the riding is more consistent.
For the couple nights before the ride, I’d been having to get up and stretch at o’dark thirty. Maybe they call it excess energy. Whatever. But sometimes, that ends up with a fairly clunky start to the riding day. When work or other commitments has cut down on my rides, the first hour or so of the first ride back can be pretty blocky, and things feel better as the distance increases.
On the other hand, Carlos has written before of taking time off the bike before his long rides - his “not training” training. While I may not have felt super smooth yet, there was a certain amount of latent energy in the system.
As my mind churned these relatively useless thoughts and comparisons, it made me realize once again that using the fixed-gear system of drivetrain does tend to isolate one on a ride. You don’t really climb at the same pace, and you certainly don’t descend in the same manner. I’d been aware of some other riders in the general vicinity, but I wasn’t really going the same pace as anyone.
This was pretty cool. Not only were there others with the same mental affliction as myself, they were moving at roughly the same pace. They were also chatting with the geared, coastable rider seen in the above image, so I held back a bit as we negotiated the stop signs and pedestrian traffic in town.
Then, just as suddenly, they were gone. One of the back road connectors between San Anselmo and Fairfax. They had gone straight and would have to go right a couple blocks up, while I went right and followed the road as it veered left. We’d end up in the same place, but I think they added an extra zig-zag to the route.
On the way out to White’s Hill I came upon a couple of riders here and there, but grunted my way up the first big incline pretty much solo. I recall passing a pedestrian on the way up, which struck me as reasonably odd - probably the first I’ve encountered over the years.
The hill was kind of the first real test of the day. While the riding has been consistent over the past couple months, there hasn’t been a lot of extra climbing involved. This would really be the first goodly chunk in memory, though I’d gone up it a few weeks before when Esteban was in town. Climbing is funny. It gets easier each time you do it. But, it still hurts. Since I knew I hadn’t been doing it, I tried to keep things as throttled back as you can when you’ve elected to ride away off for the day with no shifty bits. It went pretty well, with a pause-for-recharge near the summit.
Dropping down into the San Geronimo Valley, a couple other riders had passed me, and I tried to keep them in sight. Spinning along on the flats here things actually began to feel pretty good. Moving through the straight section of the main valley, then easing into the twisty and narrower sections under the redwoods, it made sense to stay on the pavement until reaching S. P. Taylor State Park. Here, I steered the Quickbeam into the campground, crossed Paper Mill Creek and connected with the Cross Marin Path. Under the towering trees and rushing waters, large drips fell and a consistent mist made it feel as though I were under water in places.
(I’ll digress here briefly as I’ve already read a couple of accounts of this ride by others. For some reason, folks are associating rainbows with unicorns. Please, speaking from the strain of Irish blood in my heritage, it’s “pot o’ gold” people! Rainbows and unicorns are an 80’s marketing phenomenon…)
Up until this time, things had been mostly in solo mode, which was ok. But, it did make me wonder if through some quirk of momentum, I’d be spending the day by myself. Rejoining the roadway, I saw the Box Dog Boys a quarter mile up ahead on the climb over Bolinas Ridge. They climbed steadily and disappeared around the dogleg near the crest. On the descent down the over side, I came upon a solo rider on an Ebisu.
This turned out to be Franklyn W, who I’ve “known” for a while via Flickr and his submissions to the Gallery (1, 2, 3). It was great to finally meet in person, especially while out enjoying a day which seemed to be growing more gorgeous by the minute. He said he had been overcoming a cold this week, but decided to roll out on the 200K anyway.
I’d seen some of the images of this newer bike, but they really don’t do it justice. The Ebisu has such a wonderful, understated quality to it, and seeing them on the road is always a pleasure. In my mythical Barn of Bikes I Want, the Ebisu is definitely on the list. By the way, the Barn is well sealed against the elements, heated, has wooden floors and looks conspicuously like either Peter Weigle’s or Richard Sachs’ places. It does not currently fit in my backyard.
We chatted a bit, separated slightly on the slight rise past the Earthquake Trail, and passed the Box Dog Boys, who had pulled up to fix a flat. They waved us on and we skimmed along the wet pavement, pulling into Inverness Park fairly quickly thereafter.
I topped off and shifted some fluids, anxious to get going again fairly quickly. One of the differences between the 2008 (geared) 200K and the 2007 (fixed) edition had been briefer stops. The time difference had been about an hour between the two years, and although I’d been a bit under-miled in 2008, and there had been strong winds to deal with on the course, my motto this time was to be efficient off the bike as well. I bought some sugar - uh - “Vitamin” water (though I had to ask the clerk to take my money) and got rolling.
The other reason I wanted to get on the move had to do with the climb up from Inverness, which skirts the shoulder of Mt. Vision. It’s deceptively steep and it hates me.
OK. Maybe it doesn’t hate me. It is deceptively steep in a couple spots. You realize this on the way back, when the descent invigorates your senses and fills your sails, but there’s something about the way up which is a bit mind-crunching. It bit pretty well on the first section, and I rolled to a stop to regain my breath. The incline had collected some other riders - most of whom were smart enough to bring a wide array of gearing options - and we chugged upwards, giving thumbs ups or encouragement when we met eyes.
I used the lack of auto traffic to tack my way up some of the pitches, which helped quite a bit. Somewhere in my brain, I wondered what that would do to my cue references, had this been a brevet on an unknown route. But, since realizing I can’t quite focus on the odometer while riding anyway, it’s a bit of a moot point. The crest came a bit quicker than anticipated, and momentum began to work its magic on the bike.
Pedaling down a moderate grade is always such a recharge - it makes me think of the phrase “blowing the ballast” (as in submarines, not fluorescent lighting fixtures). The sun was out, reflecting off the wet pavement and roadside trees. My Jack Brown tires hissed along and the pedals seemed to pull my feet. This was a great section.
This is also where the route wants to make sure you are serious about going to the Lighthouse. It starts with a couple little pitches to get onto Pt. Reyes proper, then you turn south towards the Lighthouse and it shows you where need to go.
These are not bad climbs, but if you click through and view the full size version, you’ll get a little better sense of the scale. I had worked my way back to The Tandem With the Hypnotizing Tail Light, a couple other riders and Franklyn, who had eased past me on the Inverness climb. We worked our way along, the tandem climbing like, well, a tandem and then descending like a peregrine falcon. The rest of the single cockpit bikes found and lost momentum and we wheezed along the road like an accordian bellows. The pain was temporary and even with the efforts, I was actually feeling pretty good.
Somewhere up on the mesa, a group of 3 + 1 riders came towards us - the Fast Kids moving along to what would be a sub-8-hour 200K. I looked down at the fuzzy font of my odometer, maybe to work out some math or another diversionary project. If I saw it, the number didn’t stick. What ever the equation, they rode fast.
Another rise and fall of the landscape and the point appeared.
…again, the embiggened version is helpful.
This view is always both depressing and invigorating. You’ve been
climbing a bit and thinking you have made some progress. The you come
up a rise and see the far-distant-seeming point of the Lighthouse,
remember the angle of the last pitch and go “unnghh!”. Then you
remember you’ve done it before and realize you have a goal - especially if
you are near the time you’d hoped for.
And as the slow-ly switch-ing, reh-ed, mon-do, home-brew, tail-light mount-ed up-on the-uh tan-dem a-head forced me to admit, my time estimate was pretty spot on. I may have also spewed my social security number, PIN code, various passwords and admitted my involvement in any number of crimes. But, I chomped down on the bit, followed the light up soul-crushing S-turns up from “Historic B Ranch” and made it to through the swill (actually, not bad on this day) at A Ranch, before pulling up a the Y (not a Ranch or a workout locale, an actual “Y” in the road) for the “Rivendell Shift.”
Here, another rider was coming back from Chimney Rock. I figured he was not on the brevet, as that’s quite the wrong direction. Then he laughingly said, “That’s not the right way…” and I had to agree. It’s gotta get better, right?
As I flipped the wheel and rerigged the chain to the freewheel side, riders hit the 20% last pitch to the Lighthouse, grabbed the wrong gear and wobbled to a stop, or motored up cursing Zeus and the gods of topography. A few riders screamed down at what I would describe as dangerous speeds, pebbles skittering and tires scrabbling for adhesion. Most dropped down under control, aware that things get sketchy right there, between autos, bikes, cattle effluent and metal stock guards. Franklyn checked in as he went by, offering to hold the Quickbeam as I went through my ritual.
Soon it was butt down, bars up and try to stay stuck to the roadway. As I wondered inwardly why it was exactly that I liked cycling in any form, another rider edged up to my side. It was Barley, one half of the fixed gear couple I’d seen back in San Anselmo. He was thumping his fixed Specialized upwards, and the effort was evident. As we hit the tougher sections, I eased up a bit faster, feeling like the consummate slacker for bringing a coastable option.
However, this would be an example of the maxim that old age and treachery usually trumps youth and enthusiasm. (Well, only briefly - they would finish a chubby half hour ahead of me on the day).
This was my third time out here under the clock of a brevet. The first was 11:18, after a flat, and I felt like crap and really, really needed to sit for a spell, calm myself and refocus for the rest of the ride. The second was 11:01, after pushing hard into a headwind which wrung me out pretty well. Today, I felt, strangely, good.
The weather was utterly perfect. The bike acted well. I’d tightened up the cue sheet to just show pertinent info for my ride. Since I knew the route, that meant waypoints with Good and Slow times. Plus, as I noted at the start, my bike computer was 15 minutes fast. In other words, optimism was high and I was, well, confident…
Please Continue to Part 2
As I’ve said before, momentum is a fickle mistress. Sometimes it’s emotional, other instances it’s physical. In cycling, there are palpable moments when things slip easily through your grasp. When it’s your brain, thoughts or attitude that betrays you, all you can do is try to recognize the patterns, the ease with which your will unhooks its fingers from the goal and learn to trick yourself past that crucial moment of choice.
“Ease up” “You’re going too hard” “Too far to close it down” “You can’t sustain this” “Don’t try to climb with them”
One trick seems to be limiting the options. The singlespeed removes the choice. It forces you to maintain momentum. It lets you strip past the fluffy, brain-induced crap and give you nowhere else to go. Nothing to do but pedal. Maybe that’s why I like it.
“Keep pedaling, it will get better.” - Kent Petersen
Kent, as usual, nails it. That simple sentence has gotten me past tough spots a number of times since I read it. The brain creates that Dead Spot - the place in the pedaling stroke where no one really puts in any power. It’s how you move through that portion that separates folks. And that’s always a helluva lot easily to write about than achieve.
And sometimes, it’s subtle. The Dead Spot encourages you rest longer, take an extra break, lose track of what you are supposed to be doing. That’s where the Framework comes into play. Back when prepping for my first brevet, one of the really helpful things that Jan Heine wrote was in his series of Randonneuring Basics which appeared in Bicycle Quarterly. He wrote that having a written plan with both “goal” and “slow” times was a good idea. When things were ebbing away in 2008, seeing that I was still within the “slow” time was a mental lift in the last couple hours of riding.
You never know how things will go out on the road. Flats, weather, road conditions, cattle grates - all sorts of unforseen variables even before you take the engine into account. I blew a tire off the rim in 2007 - never have I done that before in my life. The Framework gives you a plan, a direction, a timeline. Then, when stuff happens, if you start pedaling squares for an hour or so, if you want to help another rider along for a bit, if the hot pizza at the Bovine Bakery calls, you’ve got a chance to adapt and mitigate.
It’s still raining today, though the patter on the roof is lighter and steadier than yesterday, which brought tornado warnings to the San Jose area, clattery hail to this neighborhood and produced some pretty danged impressive shower storms through the day. The neighbor’s cats are wicked pissed. There’s an actual tideline of flotsam in the backyard from yesterday’s puddle. Even the dog is sniffing a little too carefully at the rug rather than heading to the back door to go out.
I got through the bike tech list last evening. Discovered that the rear axle nut was actually loose, cleaned the grunge out of the chainrings, retrued both wheels, put new tires on (checking the bead veerrrrrrrryyyy carefully and then overfilling the tires to make sure everything was seated correctly) and got everything happy. Measured the old chain at 12 1/8″, so swapped that out. Added a couple of reflective chevrons to the fenders, finally using the strips of 3M Reflective Tape which I’d bought from the RUSA store last year. (That stuff is reasonably tricky to play with, I’ve now learned…) The bike’s pretty much set up at this point.
Sketched out the Framework this morning over coffee. Interesting to see that in 2007, I got to the Lighthouse 18 minutes slower than 2008, yet ended up finishing a little over an hour faster.
I’ll be running with a computer on the bike this time, which is a change from the last two events. It got me thinking about the ride from the standpoint of “rolling average” - data I haven’t really had access to until after the fact. Since you have a known quantity of miles to cover, your actual average speed lets you know how long the riding time will be. (Yeah, I know this isn’t higher mathematics, but I went through a bit of a data fast while riding over the last few years, and well, I guess I’m just reapproaching it now.)
To wit, on a 200K (13.5 hour time limit) actual riding time:
17 mph - 7:25
16 mph - 7:49
15 mph - 8:25
14 mph - 9:00
13 mph - 9:41
12 mph - 10:30
Therefore, TTFA (Time To Fart Around):
17 mph - 2:36 (10 hr finish)/1:36 (9 hr finish)/:36 (8 hr finish)
(Since 9 and 8 hour finishes are in my Realm of Magical Unicorns, we’ll focus on a 10+ hr finish)
16 mph - 2:11
15 mph - 1:35
14 mph - 1:00
13 mph - 1:19 (11 hr finish)
12 mph - 1:00 (11:30 finish)
We’ll see how that plays out, but I’m going to keep that info with me on the Framework sheet. It probably means that in 2007, I was rolling around 14 mph, because I figured about 1:30 in break time.
Also in 2007, there was another phrase banging around my head, thanks to Finding Nemo. It was Dory (Ellen Degeneres), melodically chanting
“Just keep spinning! Just keep spinning!…”
Which actually helped quite a bit.
Today (Wednesday) is supposed to be the big thump of this week’s storm session. That’s easily confirmed by the size of the puddle in the back yard, which is actually beginning to develop a wave pattern under the steadily increasing winds. However, the sump pump hadn’t gone off since I rose this morning, so I sloshed my way around to see what was up. Sure enough, the pump had slipped just a hair on it’s soaked mounting and the trigger rod had gotten jammed. It’s now happily thrumming away.
Last night, I decided to get the official forecast, and found my old NOAA link no longer worked. They had actually upgraded things significantly, with a cool little click-to-find-the-forecast mapping applet which I played with relentlessly for a while. It’s particularly fun to click out at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse to see what will probably be the worst of things, as it’s the most exposed section of the SF Randonneurs 200K route scheduled for this Saturday.
It was forecasting 20-30 mph winds with gusts up to 48 mph. Today, they’ve updated those estimates to gusts to 65 mph. That’s a little staggering.
But, the important thing is really wind direction. It’s been a steady SW wind for the last 24 hours or so, which would mean a bit of a push out to the point, but probably more of a quartering headwind as we came back from Marshall on the return leg. Although, working the mouse around to Pt. Reyes Station and Marshall shows those winds are holding SSW, which puts them in one’s face.
Again, that’s today’s numbers, and whatever else I’m going to get done today, it’s pretty clear that riding won’t be one of those things. There’s no point other than making things rough on the equipment, both biological and mechanical. The plan had been to do little riding this week anyway so that the tank would be full for the weekend’s effort. I did manage to get myself up early, wrenching by bio-clock forward another hour so that the shock of the 4:45 AM alarm won’t be quite so shocking on Saturday.
And Saturday, it still seems, may be day of the slight break in this weather front. The forecast has been holding steady at 20% chance of showers and relatively mild conditions.
Took lunch yesterday down at the laundromat, re-TX-Direct-ing my rain jacket, wind vest, non-cycling rain jacket (the instructions did say up to three garments per bottle), new rain booties and toe covers. Today is wool washing day. Tonight I’ll swap to the new tires and get the hub fixed and new chain installed. Probably need to tweak the fenders slightly. Then I’ll just have to fret about packing and such. Find some zip-lock bags. Charge batteries. That sort of thing.
Yes, I have been compulsively making lists on little pieces of scratch paper for the last week or so - “Tech To Do”, “Clothing to Wear”, “Things to Check/Find”, “Food”. Last night I baked a batch of pumpkin sugar cookies.
Here’s the thing - the lightning is freaking me out.
The lighting came rumbling in Monday night, sounding like a passing freight train. Yesterday AM, we had a sub-second blast that light up the windows and gave the house a mighty thumping. Haven’t heard too much today, but every time it echoes, I think of that long open road out to the Lighthouse and back.
Hmmmm….that’s not too helpful, now, is it?
Kind of a slow paced day today. No riding this weekend, though Saturday would’ve been about perfect - no wind to speak of, glimmers of sunlight here and there plenty of folks seemed to be out enjoying the day. I was in an advanced voice acting workshop with Tom Pinto on Friday night and all of Saturday, focusing on fine-tuning auditions and enjoying the company of a great teacher and several stellar VO contemporaries. It’s the first class of the this year, and always good to see folks in person.
It also worked me like a long ride, as it’s a day and a half of pretty high concentration, focused efforts and extreme attention to very intangible things. And although I had vague intentions to get a little leg stretching ride in, I must admit that the alarm got quickly thwacked and I rolled over until the rains hit, worked a Sunday crossword with my wife and generally bumped around for the morning.
Hey, sometimes you gotta just recover.
I also began fretting a bit about next Saturday’s San Francisco Randonneurs 200K, as I realized that, curiously enough, it was going to take place next Saturday. Add to that the fact that no one has shown up for an intervention, despite the fact I seem to be favoring the Quickbeam for this year’s ride.
Things do feel a bit better this year, though that may have more to do with not doing last year’s ride. Memory can be soooo subjective.
On the other hand, there are some issues to deal with before setting off at the Golden Gate Bridge, mostly minor tech issues. But they all begin with the bikes being clean enough to deal with, so when the morning rains subsided, I threw on the Grundens bib and rubber boots and pretended to be a pit wrench on the cyclocross circuit. The hot, soapy water felt good on my cold hands, and I scrubbed both the Quickbeam and the Hilsen down a bit.
The Quickbeam is pretty much ready to go. It’s feeling as comfortable as ever these days, and between the Zugster Rando Bag afore and the Keven’s Bag aft, it can carry enough in the way of jackets and bits to be perfect. I’m going to double check the sprocket teeth for wear and see if I can’t remove the slight play that’s in the rear hub, check the chain (which I think may be worn) and replace the tires, which are just a bit thinner than I like them to be on what is shaping up to be a damp ride.
I decided that the Hilsen needs to be ready as well, if only as a spare so that if I freak out late in the week and decide I need a coastable many-geared setup, it will be ready at a moment’s notice. There are a couple of issues there - first, the bottom bracket started making some very crunchy sounds the last couple times it was out, especially when I was out of the saddle. This makes me just super-happy, as you can guess, because it’s an excuse to pull the Ritchey Cross Cranks off the bike. As much as I like the gearing and the lightness and Q-factor of these cranks, it’s just hard to trust them entirely any longer. I’ll be interested to see if they have started to slip a bit. (More on that story here.)
However, the slightly taller gearing has been nice, so I’ll probably pull the chainrings off and change the Sugino XD2 triple to a 48/38. That way I won’t have to move the front derailleur (though it will be interesting to see what that does to the shifting, since I’ll be leaving the 26T inner ring in place.)
Other than that, it needs fenders remounted. Since riding with Gino a couple weeks back and enjoying the shiny smoothness of his Honjo fenders, I’m feeling a need to upgrade. However, that’s probably not in the immediate budget, so the SKS’s in the garage will have to do in the meantime. I did get a set of Sheldon Nuts to simplify the mounting, but that’s going to skew the position a touch, so I’m not sure I’m going to mess with those yet.
The other things to resolve will be giving the saddles a treatment with the Nikwax Aqueous Wax, and hoping that the new style of Brooks saddle cover which came with my Swift will do the job in terms of protection in case of torrential rains. The downside of using the Quickbeam in fixed mode is that you do tend to be out of the saddle more, especially on any type of climbing, so that the saddle gets exposed to rains. This one does look pretty sturdy and “Grunden’s-like”…
One area which concerns me is my feet. I finally retired my old solid lorica SIDI shoes for new ones, which have a couple of mesh panels on them. Didn’t really need those under summer conditions, and now that rain and cooler temps prevail, mitigating the damp is key. I’ve got a set of Pearl Izumi “CalienToes” which are OK for cool, but pretty useless in the rain. Though I’ve silicone-sprayed them, they just don’t really cover all that much acreage. I do have an old pair of neoprene booties, but find that those get pretty danged hot over the course of a day, and they tend to collect rain at the top. I’ve got a little credit at REI right now, and was looking at the Pearl Izumi Soft-Shell Shoe Covers (as opposed to the Barrier model, which seems to be heavier neoprene.)
For the rest of the outfit, I’ve got Rainlegs and my trusty old eVent Jacket, which I’ll probably retreat once more before the ride. If I really think the rain will be torrential, I could always swap in a pair of GoreTex rain pants I have, though I’ve only ridden in those for shorter commutes.
I also spent some time forwarding route options to RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob, who had asked for those of us with local knowledge to comment on what to do if the creeks rise.
Mill Valley Option #1 (Hwy 101) -
Mill Valley Option #2 (via ) -
Kentfield Flooded Option -
San Anselmo Flooded Option -
Then, in the last hour or so before it got dark, I cleaned out the gutters before the rains returned, slicing my palm on the sharp edge of a connector. Good thing I got a tetanus update when the I was in the ER back in June. Took a while to clean out properly, and it made me realize that I should also pack a pair of danged glasses on the brevet, just in case I need to do detail work at any point in the day. But now, as the winds rattle the windows and the rain begins in earnest, I’m glad I did the prep work.
Finally, I’ve been looking at times on the course in the two times riding the brevets. (Though I’ve filed my danged brevet card from the 2007 ride and can’t lay my hands on it…going by timestamped photos on Flickr.) Finding it interesting that the difference of about an hour between 2007 and 2008 completion, all took place in the latter part of the ride, and just averaging another mph faster over the last 40 miles or so would’ve been helpful. But, when you are out there and doing it, you give what you’ve got. This is the first time I’ll actually be using a computer on the bike, so we’ll see if that helps to keep me on track a bit better.
“What we just experienced is a harbinger of a major change in the
weather pattern from what we’ve been experiencing over the last few
weeks,” said Warren Blier, the science officer for the National Weather
Service in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. “We’re looking at
a series of storms over the next week to a week and a half that will be
consistent with an El Niño event.”
Read more yonder.
Nothing like considering long rides when you are finishing up a month when you’ve been on the bike a grand total of three times. But, hey, optimism is born of denial, eh?
Here in non-Northern California, as the Chico-ians like to call it, we’re blessed with four active clubs putting on brevets. This gives us no excuses for rides in excess of 100 miles. There are no less than 24 brevets on the tentative calendar, which can be found here.
So, what are you still doing looking at your computer, anyway?
San Francisco Randonneurs Fall 2009 Populaire
The San Francisco Randonneurs would like to invite you to participate
in our first ever Fall Populaire, to be held on October 3rd, 2009.
This is a free event.
The Populaire is intended to introduce riders to the sport of
randonneuring. Most of our brevets are 200km in length, but the
Populaire, at 115km, is only slightly more than half that length.
More information, and a link to the registration form is here:
Whether you want to challenge yourself with the 115K or have been itching to try the longer series of brevets, it’s a great excuse to get some miles in and enjoy the ride!
The last couple weeks were a bit hectic and scattered. Through it all, I sensed that fabric was being folded and needles were coursing along seams. Sure enough, the Zugster Rando Bag 002 appeared via the electronic imaging machine. I kept looking at the photos and wondering how I could shake loose for a Quickbeam loop into the city to pick it up. After pretty much giving up hope of seeing my new bag in anything other than Flickr sets, Adam and I managed to connect late on Sunday at an undisclosed location where the delivery occurred. After shaking his hand about 23 times, we went our separate ways and I poked and prodded at the bag, which seemed a wee bit nervous about its future.
Just to assure it that it had nothing to worry about, I bumped around a little later than usual, rigging and setting the bag onto the Nitto Camper “Mini Front Rack” on the Quickbeam. I gotta say, as nice as I’d hoped it would look, Adam’s workmanship just made it sing -
The rack setup is not really ideal for it. It would easily work, mind you, but the rack has an angled loop at the rear which pulls it a bit toward the handlebar and makes it slightly tricky to work the cord release on the top flap (More precisely, it makes it a bit tricky to secure the loop - it’s doable, but there’s just things to work around.) The bag is maybe an inch shorter than the rack platform as well. I don’t want to make major modifications to this rack, because the Nigel Smythe Lil Loafer is sized perfectly for it.
And, as I ponder these two images, it seems that it would be a reasonable thing to consider cutting the loop on a Mini-front or Mark’s rack, then reattaching it. And, since I’m cutting it anyway, it would probably make some sense to create a purpose-designed release system, such as the one Alistair Spence used on his Paramount -
Which seems to be a lot about racks and not much about bags. Which wasn’t really my point when I started. One does tend to lead into the other, and I must admit, I hadn’t really thought much about the rack yet. I was just so psyched when Adam said he had a space in the queue that I just dove in.
Still, there are worse problems to have than pondering those possibilities.
In the meantime, with the regular bits that I bring on my commute - U-Lock, keys, snackies, mini-pump, a vest and some arm and knee warmers, my “be-seen” kit of reflective bits and a spare light and some other odds and ends - it seemed to very happily sit proud and square on the rack on the route to and from work. There’s a light coroplast stiffener which helps in the rigidization.
The bag itself is a custom Medium size - Adam sized the width down slightly from the standard dimensions. It fits just as hoped for, and once I move it slightly forward, things will be even more accessible. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the heck out of this bag -
Got home late at the end of a longish week to see the full studio set of images of the Zugster Waxed Cotton/Canvas Rando Bag -
This week has ended on a very nice note.
Adam at Zugster bags just posted the “hot-off-the-needle” photo of my new front rando bag.
Can’t wait to see it in person…
More pix (and info) to follow, both from him and from me when I pick it up. Just had to post something.
Best laid plans of mice and men go awry…
Men plan. Goddess laughs.
Ah well, that just makes it sound epic. Fact is, there warn’t a whole bunch I could do.
First off, everyone at work had been getting sick starting the week before last. Some damned cold/flu thing. My wife had gotten sick this past week, and I played the delicate dance of tending to the infirm while trying not to get too close. I think I pulled it off OK - at least in the relationship side. I know I was going through hand soap and Purell at a pretty brisk clip. Trying not to get breathed on at work. Guarding my computer keyboard with a machete. Trying to watch my sleep so I didn’t get run down. Tending to the items on my list for the Davis 200K. My working theory was that I had been fighting something the week after the CXSR race that I’d passed around.
Got caught in a pretty hammering downpour on the way into work last Monday, but had warm duds at work and access to a handy heater vent, so everything was actually toasty by the time I got dressed for the return ride. Another shorter ride on Tuesday felt good. The tires arrived from RBW, got mounted and everything bikey was teched and tuned by Thursday evening.
On Friday evening, I packed the bags with food, made the ride sandwiches, filled the bottles, made the coffee, rode the bike a couple miles to make sure everything was still dialed, lubed the chain, sat down for dinner and suddenly began to feel very, v-e-r-y, vvvveeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy tired. Like falling asleep with my fork in midair kinda tired.
I was pretty sure this was not a good sign.
It seemed that everything was ready to go except for the rider. And I was really too damned tired to care. Which was good, I reckon, as it brought out a more zen acceptance line of thinking. My thought on Friday night as I set the two alarms for 4:30 AM, was that it was going to be pretty clear one way or the other. Either it was a momentary discharge or there was going to be no way of riding.
It must’ve been about 4 am when I woke up. It was before the alarms went off. All I knew was that I could barely swallow and some weird spherical antannae had formed where my nose used to be. Clearly a “No-Go.”
Turned off both alarms. Fumbled around and found my phone, which was set as a backup alarm and turned that off. While that was opened, I tapped out some twitter thing, erased the cursing and then tried again.
Back in bed. Slept until 1-ish on the first sunny and reasonably warm Saturday we’ve had in a while, caught parts of some VH-1 documentary on the history of Heavy Metal (music, not the magazine) went back to bed until Sunday noon, watched part of some movie that didn’t make any sense when you fell asleep through parts of it.
Tonight (Tuesday) most of the other symptoms are gone, though my coughing bursts are becoming legendary. I’m not quite energetic enough to be antsy, but that’s probably the next step.
Did the Nikwax treatment last night on the jacket.
Which insured that the skies grew clear last night and today sunlight came over the hills with the morning light. And I just want to be very clear that I’m OK with that.
Had planned to vote the straight Nikwax Ticket, but REI was out of the wash (computer showed three…) so I opted for a generic “SportWash” which the cashier helpfully agreed was pretty much the same thing. Washed the jacket* (and my non-breathable shell and windvest, plus the cute-but-dumb Voler “Rain” Gloves). Then, continuing to follow the directions to the letter, ran the washer on Warm/Heavy, filled it the absolute minimum, dumped in the TX.DIRECT and locked it down.
Upon completion, my initial reaction was “What the HELL did I just do to my jacket?” as it came out looking like a horribly grimy, misused, stained and see-through version of itself. Every seam tape, underpiece, zipper reinforcement and dit-dot of color (at some point my red wool jersey must’ve bled into it) that wasn’t the basic yellow seemed to be contrasted in high relief.
Luckily, I’ve had the jacket for long enough that it was not going to really bother me in its new condition. Ok, it was. But, it isn’t like a new jacket is in the budget right now.
After hanging it in the shower to drip-dry a bit, the fabric s-l-o-w-l-y began to return to its more uniform tone. By bedtime, it was about halfway there. This morning, it actually looks better than it has in a while - though my impression may be skewed by how grungy it looked fresh-from-the-washer.
Of course, in the short time it has taken me to type this, the showers have begun again, so I could probably test it if I wanted to…
Tires showed up on the doorstep last night. While I was rummaging around REI, I found a few road snackies - a couple packs of the Clif Cider electrolyte drink mix, a couple packs of the Clif Shot Blocks and something called “Java Juice” which is coffee extract in what appears to be the world’s largest soy sauce takeout packet. According to the packet, you add the contents to 10-12 oz of hot or cold water and you have a cup of coffee. It’s even shade grown and fair trade.
You never know when you might need that little kick of caffeine, and it’s best to be reasonably self-sufficient in the Big Valley.
*The jacket is a Pearl Izumi model, the name of which escapes me. It uses eVent waterproof/breathable fabric and was purchased maybe six years ago on a trip to Portland.
Sort of in “List Mode” today for some reason. Well, the reason is simple enough - there’s a couple hundred K to ride on Saturday and there are things to do. Sent off the check yesterday morning. Sadly, no one has offered up a pro contract for my brevet riding, so there’s still a week o’ work between here and there.
Deeply bummed to get word from Gino that he’s not going to ride.
Last Saturday’s ride produced the first flat I’ve had on the Jack Brown-Greens. One moment everything is rolling along nicely, the next I’m wobbling on a poorly padded rear rim. I’d been expecting it - the JB’s were original equipment on the Hilsen, which was new-to-me on September of 2007. When swapping them out and back for the CXSR adventure, they felt like the paper-thin Vittoria’s which lasted all of one ride (many moons ago, on a different bike).
As I waited for the vulcanizing fluid to dry, I worked my way around the tire more carefully. There were definitely a few nicks and gouges, and I could see the beginnings of casing at a few more. Luckily, replacements were already on order.
Everything else felt pretty good on the bike. It needs a deep cleaning. There’s also a slight rear hub looseness that I haven’t eliminated. Need a bench vise for the hub issue. My longest wrench won’t budge the freewheel. Probably Thursday AM for the scrubbing, which should give me enough reaction time if I find some other bit that needs replacing.
The greasy residue on my fingers also reminded me that I wanted to pack a little vial of Gojo. One of the downsides of derailleur-less systems is that you end up handling the chain more. And it’s amazing how few bathrooms now seem to have soap dispensers.
On Saturday’s ride, my cleats popped out a couple times while climbing. I’ve been breaking in a new set of SIDI’s, using a fresh set of new-version Time ATAC cleats. The Quickbeam has had the oldest set of ATAC pedals I own - gen 1’s, I reckon - the kind with the composite body (I’m pretty sure they were OEM take-off’s from something…). The old SIDI’s were worn down almost slipper-like, nearly smooth as dress shoes on the soles. I expect from the ten or so years of pushing pedals, they had molded a bit to the shape of the pedals. These new ones were working two variables, and I suspect the freshly-molded shape combined with the B-class fit of the new cleat design with the old pedal bodies caused it.
However, momentum is always such a fickle mistress. On longer rides, so is attitude. While it didn’t bug me on Saturday, I suspect that over the longer distance from Davis to Pope Valley, a few of those forced-single-legged-riding incidents and I’d be pretty grumpy. So, on Sunday night I swapped in the newest ATAC’s from the Hilsen.
This worked well for Monday’s commute. Curious thing, using the pedals with the cleats that were designed for them.
Monday exposed some other issues as well. Namely leaky bits. A couple weeks back I’d ridden off into a rainy headwind for a while to go see the Tour of Calfornia cross over the Golden Gate Bridge -
My feet - in the new SIDI’s - were soaked within a mile of leaving the house. My “rain” gloves were uselessly sodden within a half hour. Water seeped into my front bag (mostly from the bottom - spray off the front of the fender). I’m pretty sure my jacket leaked (and I had bought it in Oregon!). Though I brought a bag to cover my saddle while it was parked, I figured my ample hams and the Rainlegs would cover it appropriately while riding. It mostly did, but the results were evident -
Since we’re enjoying yet another late-but-torrential rainy season, these things are important. It seems I’m now in wet conditions test-mode on the Brooks. Will advise as more data comes in. I let it air dry completely. Gave it a little daub of Proofride where it was bone dry. Let that sit for a day. Then tightened things up about a half - three-quarter turn (first time on this saddle - another with-the-Hilsen OEM bit).
But, that all was a couple weeks back. Yesterday, I headed off into what looked to be clearing conditions, looped out the long way to work and was promptly caught in a heavy, wind-driven shower which lasted all the way there. Damp feet (new socks which seemed much, much better), sodden gloves, the silicone spray seemed to work on the front bag (though now it pooled on the top rather than seeping directly in), and the vague feeling that my jacket wasn’t quite doing its thing. And I pondered about 9 more hours in such conditions. Not the best set of thoughts.
Rainlegs would’ve been much better than the non-waterproof pants I was wearing. Even though my upper parts were damp, I was comfy. Might’ve even been happier with one less layer and a warmer hat. I’ve decided that my Voler Rain Gloves aren’t - though they make dandy wind/damp gloves. The simple wool gloves work better the wetter it is.
The shoes/feet thing is probably the worst. Anything that gets that uncomfortable that quickly will not correct itself easily. I have toe warmer things for cold and old, old neoprene booties from more open-wheeled racer days - neither one quite right. Road spray is a bit of an issue, and I’m going to try running some flexible wire down the fender flap. Someone at the SFR 200K was running shower caps on their feet, which struck me as reasonably brilliant. Riding along in both the recent sloshy outings, it was also clear that a significant amount of water drips down off of my arms right onto my feet.
I’m going to try to leave work a bit early and loop down to REI - first to pick up some Nikwax stuff to revitalize the jacket, and then to take a look at lighter weight shoe covers or waterproof socks. Leaning towards the covers, with maybe a spritz of silicone.
The Niterider is heading down for warranty work - my disco light
condition frequent enough to be noted in the FAQ. In a wonderful
world, I’ll be finished and off course well before needing
illumination, but decided on a little bit of “see” lighting in addition
to my “be seen” bar light. First, I removed the front of the rack mount, then P-clamped a Coast V2 Tac-light LED flashlight to the side of the rack. It’s supposed to have about 100 hours on 3 AAA’s, and throws a decent amount of light. Could only get black through my distributor at work, but it’s good for now.
Though all this the bike is working great. One of the grand things about a derailleur-less system. Riding home last night, the winds swirled and howled Since my revelation about cross-wind reactions, things have seemed even more solid on the Quickbeam.
Sat at the desk last night trying to get my mind around “equivilences”. Y’see, the other issue here is that I’ve actually not ridden any of the roads upon which the Davis 200K is routed. The two brevets I’ve done have been over a true home court advantage. I’m looking at elevations to the dam at Berryessa and thinking it’s roughtly the same as White’s Hill. I’m thinking that 54 miles to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse will be similar to less climbing and the 67 miles to the Pope Valley control. I’m estimating speed on the flats, on the climbing section, then the undulations to the turn around point. Estimating where I’d like to try to take a break as suggested by topography, mileage and the presence of stores. In other words, I’m fretting a bit.
But, it’s a good kind of fretting. Planning in redundant systems of failure. Analyzing variables.
I’m also thinking that winds will be an issue, and as such am happy that the last few rides had a goodly amount.
Ok. Gotta get going. Warned you this was “Nattering”…
Spent part of Saturday afternoon hanging out just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoying the cool but not-raining weather, waiting for riders to finish the San Francisco Randonneurs 200K. The first batch showed up around 14:35.
They had started off at 7 am, so if my quick calculations are correct, that means that they rolled over the 200K (~125mi) course, which has just a tad over 7,000 feet of climbing with a rolling average* of 16.48 mph. That’s truckin’ right along.
My official volunteering gig ended at 16:00 (randonneuring time), but I hung out to see ride buddies Carlos, JimG and Gino finish up. I didn’t have to wait long as both Carlos and JimG finished under 10 hours. Unfortunately Gino suffered a biomechanical and dnf’d. He did, however, snag one of the all-time great photos from the ride -
I’ve kind of been ignoring the fact that I was going to not ride this event, but being there and seeing folks finishing up just made me miss it that much more. My long-distance riding has been pretty minimal, and after the last cross race this year, I had some work issues coming to a head that pretty much assured that January, February and probably March were nixed as far as having extra time (let alone energy) for considering brevets. As December wound down, things changed, and although it doesn’t now leave me extra time, it could mean with a little judicious planning, I might be able to engage in a brevet or two.
Hanging out, watching riders finish, knowing something of the feeling of accomplishment they had, seeing them enjoy the post-ride buzz… all definitely stoked that feeling a bit more strongly.
It also helped to crystalize some errant thoughts which had been bandying about my brain in the past few months, about riding, about training to ride and lighting systems. I think these will more or less end up in the right order, but if not, please bear with me.
- The Anti-Costanza Training Method has worked well in terms of keeping healthy. This weekend is actually the first time I’ve felt like I was fighting something, and when I first noticed it, I backed off even more. For the first time in a long time, it actually feels like I have some resistance.
- The 2008 200K was hard. I finished about an hour after I had the previous year. The returning headwind didn’t help, and we took a break at Nicasio where I hadn’t the year before, but I suffered more. I know my mileage had been down - or had it….?
- And that leads us to the whole “Numbers” issue. At some point over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve ended up with mostly computer-less bikes. The only one I have right now is on my Specialized Stumpjumper. What? You didn’t know I had one? Probably because the last time I actually rode that was mumble-mumble-mumble… “Um, your honor, I cannot recall at this time.”
Let me explain that a little bit. I do own a heartrate monitor, and there was a time when I dutifully set target zones and tried to stay within them. That info was recorded along with reasonably precise distance measurements. I even used to check my waking (pre-coffee) pulse rate fairly regularly. When setting up my first singlespeed - the Bridgestone MB - I didn’t have a bike computer for that, so since I more or less knew the distance of most rides, it didn’t matter. Then I started leaving the HRM at home, since I was pretty much maxed when riding the singlespeed. When the battery on the thing died, I just never sent it in to get it replaced.
It was kind of freeing, actually.
I set up the cross bike without a computer, since CX is basically if-you-can-focus-on-a-computer-you’re-not-going-hard-enough. Besides, such things get reasonably inaccurate when you are running around with the bike on your shoulder and the front wheel isn’t spinning.
The Quickbeam and the Hilsen just never got rigged with one. I mostly looked at the ride time by the wall clock, estimated out the long breaks and figured out the mileage. Since the 200K was on local roads, I certainly didn’t need one to key out the route sheet.
Along the same time, my record-keeping edged into slacker mode. Using the VeloNews “Training Diary” was getting a little embarrassing for some reason, and the pre-printed information areas for “meals” and “sleep” and other specifics became a bit onerous. I’d jot down commute miles, and longer rides, but then a smidgen less frequently as I’d often already recorded it in Flickr on here on the blog. Then, taking more classes meant a bit less time time for reflection, and bob’s your uncle, alluvasudden, I’m working without a net.
Which is kind of my personal shorthand for not taking the time to write things down, keep things ordered. (As pedantic and obsessive as I may come across here, I’m really not. Ok, I may be. But, it may also be that I’m fundamentally right-brained and need to keep some definite structure to maintain a node in the common time-space continuim. All I know is that there’s often a lot of arguing back and forth…) It meant I was trying to recall if I’d looped out the long way from work the previous Monday commute home, or if that was the night I stopped by the burrito place because I’d had to stay a little late. It got a bit frustrating, often more time-consuming, trying to reconstruct things.
Then (Not So) Large Fella On A Bike tacked up a post with a link to a John Francis clip. Noted the bit about how we end up walling ourselves into certain stances and behaviors. Though that clip (and post) resonated much more deeply that this example, it solidly clicked a tiny switch, made me realize that my own idiosyncrasies were once again sticking out a limb to trip me up. Somehow I wanted to be the guy who didn’t have a bike computer, no matter if it helped or didn’t.
And it wasn’t really helping either. So, I think it’s time to stick ‘em back on. A bike computer can be used for reference without obsessing about it. Oh, I still might do another long loop around the block if it’ll kick a distance up from Something-9 to a larger, rounder number. But at least I’ll be laughing at myself when doing so. Making it easier for myself to track some mileage just may make it simpler to focus attention where it is really needed.
- Numbers don’t lie. There’s a certain distance that needs to feel comfortable before it makes sense to toe the line for a 200K, and especially next month’s 300K. Which I really, honestly think is mostly out of the question. Really. SFR manages to kick off their season much, much earlier than most, and so folks like Davis Bike Club don’t even start their series until March (Santa Rosa in late Feb). And I keep thinking about doing the Wildflower, though that weekend is already a bit crowded. But, the fact is I played a bit fast and loose with prep for last year’s 200k, and it was less than pleasant at certain points.
- As an odd parallel thought, there’s the whole fixed versus many-geared issue for the longer rides. This is a much longer topic than I can even consider tonight.
- Speed. Momentum. Two essential components, obviously. There’s a good rule-of-thumb which is that you tend to ride at the speed you train. Two years ago, I had a longer CX season which then eased into longer rides. Last year, I couldn’t stay healthy or uninjured during CX, which meant that I didn’t do much hard work. After cross, I rode long, but usually ambled along at the same speed. This year, I definitely did more short, sharp work, and feel better on the (fewer) longer rides so far.
- Seeking Illumination. Which more or less will tie off this evening’s nattering. Long rides (300/400k) or a Fleche or a Night-200 (and hits on a bad weekend…grrrr…) require reliable lighting. My NiteRider has again gone flaky, clicking out of gear entirely on a commute last week. And even if it were healthy and I were careful with power usage, that would be a bit sketchy for the run time needed. With the newer LED technology trickling into generator-driven systems, it’s time to sell off some gear and get a SON wheel built up. Plus, there’s the new - and light - 20R hub which will drive the LED’s just fine (even though it’s supposedly a hub for a 20″ setup). I’ve read and re-read the Bicycle Quarterly article on both the hub and the Edelux light. I’d purposely held off the last couple years as things just have been changing so fast with LED technology, but it seems like the stuff that’s coming out is pretty slick. Of course, I could always sign up for Cyclotron Scorcher Build-Your-Ultimate-Lighting-System Seminars which JimG ought to put on…
Anyway. Thanks for reading. Here’s hoping everyone gets more or better miles this year.