SF Randonneurs 2007 200 km Brevet - 1/27/07
Pt. Reyes Lighthouse to Finish - Approx 71 Miles
(Part One appears here)
Update 2/7/07 - The expanded version of this report is now here
Riders continue rolling into the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse checkpoint and upon locating Todd and the truck, gather into little knots of ride buddies and new found route pals. There’s a pretty constant dribbling of riders away from the Lighthouse parking lot as well, and suddenly I just know it’s my turn to leave. After double-checking to be sure my brevet card is stowed safely in the front pack, confirming that everything detachable has been reattached, and giving another careful examination to the tire sidewalls, I step forward and regain my saddle for a bit more riding. Within a couple hundred yards, I’ve stepped off the bike and am putting on my wind vest again - though I’d been heated up pretty nicely behind the knoll near the parking lot, the temperature suddenly felt a bit cool once back on the roadway.
You don’t really appreciate the luxury of coasting until it is not an option. As planned, the flip-flop remained flopped to the coastable side of the drivetrain, and being able to level out the cranks and swoop over the cracked and bumpy road surface, complete with metal cattle guards, was like having a decadant dessert. I tried to ride light and smart, seeking the smooth singletrack line hidden in the abused asphalt, enjoying every bit of cush that the tires afforded. A few riders worked their way up the final pitch and I tried to jabber some encouragements through my rattling jaws.
I continued to coast through the “A” Ranch, which got the award for the most consistently slimy road surface, and caught up with a couple of riders who had passed me while relayered after my restart. As they had gone by initially, the one woman had been saying that she didn’t want to fall down in that section and I’d laughed before my manners could stifle the reaction. I mean, there were not a lot of other conversations going on, so it was hard not to overhear. But, as we all successfully negotiated the sticky and slippy bits, we ended up relieved and happy at about the same time. The other woman asked if I had encountered a particularly noxious smelling truck earlier, and I responded that I’d been spared that pleasure. Actually, I said something clever like, “um…no.” before commenting that we were definitely out on the farm here. I’m always more articulate in retrospect. Oh well.
We chatted a bit more before separating a on the next incline. I always feel a bit rude when climbing on the single geared beam-beast, because I get quiet and have to honor the momentum when it starts to happen. The downside of running a single/fixed system is that you can’t easily sit and spin your way up, keeping conversations going as the topography changes. That section leaving the Lighthouse rises and falls a bit, and I continued using the freewheel. On the last little pitch near the turn for South Beach, I kicked it down into the small chainring, and enjoyed the low/low combination. Since I’d spent a lot of time adjusting the fender stays to permit this end-of-the-forkends rear wheel position to spin rub-free, I would’ve used it even it I didn’t need it. But, fact is, I pretty much needed it.
Once up on the plateau again, I commenced flopping to the flipside and got the Quickbeam “fixed” again. A few other riders went past while I executed this move, and I heard the phrase “…Rivendell shift…” dance past on the breeze. Didn’t look up to get the attribution, and I’m not even sure it was directed at my activities, but it seemed to fit the moment.
Before heading off again, I double-re-checked all the brake connections. Nothing overlooked this time, so I started spinning out on my way through the step-downs back toward the flats. This kind of riding is always a bit reinvigorating, as just a hint of power to the pedals seems to gain much more momentum than it should. As the roadway flattened for good, a group of 4 or 5 riders zipped past me, enjoying the fruits of 100 or so gear inches. If they’d just held back for a couple more of Todd’s Vanilla Wafers, it would have worked better for me, as their momentum slowed just a bit further up the road and we moved forward at a similar pace. Unfortunately, you can’t draft from a quarter mile back, and as the road jogged right, the crosswind became a headwind. I slowed, and they slowed a bit, but had the collective to spread the load and steadily began disappearing around the bends as they worked together.
The winds themselves were a bit interesting. By all rights, it should have been a headwind as we left the Lighthouse, but now seemed to be blowing offshore. By the time I got into the cover of the ridges and trees past the Oyster flats of Drake’s Bay, they became less noticeable, but weren’t really following the normal pattern.
By now, the road was easing upwards before the drop back down to the Tomales Bay side and Inverness. This side of the incline lent itself perfectly to fixed-gear climbing, and I found a nice cadence, rolling past a cluster of riders which included the two Atlantis riders who were decked in the most stylin’ duds of the ride. Hours earlier, I’d chatted a bit with one of the riders as we eased through Larkspur - recognizable by his “Box Dog Bikes” wool jersey. This time though I was just thinking about an Odwalla Protein Smoothie at the Inverness store, and didn’t really do much more than gasp a “hidy”. Miss Manners would simply be appalled.
Inverness appeared reasonably suddenly after the downhill, so I crossed over to the store and happily clomped to the back coolers to ferret out my drinks of choice - water for the bottle, mango “Vitamin” water (pretty much sugar water, but it said “endurance” on the outside and I like the taste) for the other bottle, and the aforementioned Odwalla. The latter went down in about three quick swallows, and I dug into one of my sandwiches. Ate about half and walked around a bit outside the front of the store, wandering back to recycle the bottles in the marked container. I had the very clear and detached thought that recycling plastic doesn’t really fix the core flawed assumption of using the plastic. Funny what pops into your head.
As I refueled, the bunch of riders who I’d leap-frogged on the incline buzzed past and waved. Then a tandem I’d seen earlier rolled up and eased off the gas across the street. One half of the team wandered across to the porta-a-loo on the far side of the parking lot. The other person took off some gear and stayed with the bicycle. The tasteful blue-grey Berthoud rear bags were noticeable, and we’d actually crossed the Golden Gate Bridge together at the day’s start. Restarting again, I rolled past him, asked how things were going and wished him luck.
Since my dance card had been punched at Inverness, I decided to skip Pt. Reyes Station. A good-sized knot of riders had formed in front of the Bovine Bakery, and while it was tempting to drop in for a cup of coffee and some sugary goodness, I still had some thin hopes of catching Carlos and JimG. If they had stopped here or there, we could still reconnect, but I really had no way of knowing just where they were. As I slogged up the incline from town, I tried to work the math on the possibility of seeing them on the Marshall leg of the route. In order to miss them, they would’ve had to have gotten 16 miles ahead - so maybe 45 minutes to an hour? While feeling that I’d lost some time coming back from the Lighthouse, it didn’t seem that I could’ve fallen that far back. Still as the mile markers increased on Highway One and I still hadn’t seen them, the possibility loomed larger.
I did notice that I was making fairly good time on the road to Marshall But it was a cheap gain, as the waves out on Tomales Bay indicated that the winds blew at my back. They weren’t whitecaps, but there would be some interest due on this loan once the turnaround point came. Some other riders finally began appearing on the return leg, most waving but noticeably gritting their teeth. Almost all were in their drops. Yep, it was a headwind return, that was for sure.
Just shy of the turnaround point, a red jacket caught my attention. Two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl… wait, that’s a different song. JimG and Carlos crisply turned over their pedals towards me. Wasn’t quite quick enough on the draw to record their passing with the pencam, but we hollered and waved and somehow all knew everyone was fine. And just ahead of me now stood the boatworks and the Marshall store, which seemed to have become a bike dealer in addition to a sandwich and clam chowder bar.
Loads of fine cycling hardware had been shoehorned in and laid up against every available surface outside, and all manner of riders banged in and out of the front door, clutching soup, drinks, muffins and other snacks. I found a drink from the cooler and queued up to get my card stamped. 1:20 pm. Things seem both too crowded and too comfortable inside, so I retreated back towards my bike, where I drank a bit, downed the other half of my sandwich and stretched my back out a bit. I figured that the worst thing I could do would be to sit down and get settled, especially with a headwind looming .
I tried to get my business done reasonably quickly, but kept ogling the bikes - finally breaking down and snapping a quick shot of the Berthoud-clad Erickson tandem, which had arrived and was now leaning riderless against the side of the building, plus a nice looking orange Rambouillet. Looking over the other machines, it was hard to find one that hadn’t been Rivendellized, either from the addition of Brooks saddles, rational bar height, Rolly-Poly or Ruffy-Tuffy tires (and even a set of Speedblends - dang I miss mine…), or by being an actual Rivendell frame, by design or name. And carrying bits? Sure, Carradice was well represented, but most of the bikes were totally Baggins Bag-alicious - Candy Bar bags, Banana Bags, Adams, Little Joes and more hung almost everywhere you looked.
Highway One rises and falls a bit as it heads south, and I try to recall what it felt like a week earlier, when Carlos & I did a Marshall run, and then got blown home by the winds. The southbound leg feels easier, with one small exception that finds me walking for 20 or 30 paces. But, before I know it, I’ve made the left hand turn inland towards Nicasio and am heading upstream next to Lagunitas creek, in the wide valley which contains horse pastures and a couple farm houses. A couple roadies ease past me, and comment favorably on the Quickbeam. I’m pretty sure they aren’t part of the brevet crowd, as they seem to favor tiny seat bags , minimal extra gear and have nothing on that reflects. They pass by another couple of riders ahead of me, who I soon recognize as the women I’d met while surfing the “A” Ranch effluent. We talk briefly and then separate again. When riding solo, I tend to moo at cows, caw at crows, mimic the piercing whistles of hawks and snort at the horses. The horses always tend to look at me like I’ve badly mispronounced something.
Another left turn at the Continually Repainted Bridge has the road climbing up through the canyon where the Nicasio Reservoir is held back by the earthen dam. For some reason, this little uphill always gets me singing. On this day, it was a medley of early Elvis Costello songs, with a couple of Joe Jackson tunes from the “Look Sharp” album. Don’t worry if it was before your time, but the live bootleg version of “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” has an excellent climbing rhythm to it. “No Action” (studio version) works pretty well here, too. Joe’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” clicks in and out with a hyped-up live version of “Mystery Dance” driven by a baritone Elvis and the young and hungry musical drive of the 1979 Attractions. All that early English new wave gets me up on level ground, and I see that the two roadies have lost a little ground. I throw a mental noose around them and use their progress as a carrot for the open and breezy section around the choppy waters of Nicasio Reservoir. managing to keep them in sight until the town proper, where they pull in to Rancho Nicasio. I roll around the baseball diamond and snap a photo next to the church and a discarded “Walton’s Saw Works” hat, which gets sent to my wife and the Flickr site. Again I fail to look at the clock.
The next section will jump me over the last steep climb of the day and start retracing the route which we all took many hours earlier. At this point in the ride, it doesn’t even seem to be the same week that occurred - so much seems different; the weather, lighting, my own wobbliness. I take a moment to dig out my flecto-vest. The next stretch of road is dark under the best of circumstances, and folks usually drive too damned fast there.
It begins easily enough, rolling past the Arabians ranch just past the turn to Lucas Valley. Then the roadway edges up a bit and I realize the bacon cooking smell is related to my legs. I’ve ridden this section a great many times, and honestly didn’t consider the mild incline to be that challenging, but now things are a bit different. Flipping up and down through sitting, standing, sitting while wrenching, standing and leaning on the pedals, I finally opt for the 20-paces fix. It becomes a good 40 pace segment before I feel like stepping back over the bike. Even back on the bike, my legs feel pretty dopey. Time for “La Bomba”…
Normally, I try to avoid non-food items, but now dig out one of the “Honey Stinger” GU-equivilents that I’d stashed in the front bag. GU actually had been my glob of choice, but recently I’d been unable to find the caffeinated version. Honey Stinger tastes like a dollop of honey, but sneaks in a bit of the what-makes-coffee-fun extract, along with some ginseng. After making sure that it isn’t the mini-pack of Chamois Butt’r, I tear off the top and down the stuff. The worst part is actually the wrapper, but my folding-fu is good, and I crease repeatedly with fixated intent to make sure that the extra stickness remains well sealed.
I wish I could say that the crows all broke into singing parts of “Carmina Burana” while the horses in the next fields stomped out the cadence to “Ride of the Valkyries”, but fact is, I bonked as the climb got serious and hoofed up the last bit of steep pitch to the crest. Near the top, the gradient eased a bit, and I was able to ride through the narrow section where Cece Krone was killed by a drunk driver. As gravity took over, I spun quietly past her memorial which stands looking over a beautiful part of the San Geronimo valley.
Double and triple checking the cross traffic, I swing back onto Sir Francis Drake and begin the serious push for home. The rise up out of the valley at White’s Hill tries to humiliate me, but I keep my eyes down and take it one pavement expansion crack at a time, until the flashing 25 MPH sign eases past. Just for old time’s sake, the sky drops rain for about 30 seconds, honoring the fenders, I reckon. But that thought quickly whisks away, for now it’s spin like a madman time down the face of the hill. The momentum carries me all the way into Fairfax, where the Java Hut sings its siren song. With a bottle of water, a double shot of espresso and a hand-sized maple scone, I sit for a few minutes to mix in the new fuel. This time I pay attention while snapping a photo, and find out it’s 4:05. It would be difficult to pull off a :54 minute time to the City from here , so my secondary goal of “finishing before dark” notches into place.
My wife had texted me a couple times during the day, and I take a moment to check in with her and let her know my location, condition and mood. I wouldn’t jinx things by saying it’s a done deal, as there remained a few variables between where I sat and where I needed to be, but optimism and excitement continued to increase. A few brevet riders went past, unaware of the need for espresso ritualizations and I roused myself back to the bike.
Things became a bit blessedly auto-pilot at this point, with a strong lookout for drivers about to do stupid things while I’m tired. Before long, I’m rechecking chain tension at the base of the Camino Alto climb, and then pushing my way up the last bits. As I crest the hill, the sun is still evident, though in a bit of a haze. I snap a quick photo of my idiot grin and whump-whump my way down the far side. Mill Valley Bike Path, Bridgeway, bark at an oblivous motorist who parks in one of the many “NO STOPPING” sections of tourist-end Sausalito and causes a cyclist pinch point between traffic and his front bumper. Then I’m up from the waterfront, swooping left and climbing, swinging around a guy on a mountain bike who is doing his level best to destroy his drivetrain by shifting wildly on the first pitch while he stands on the pedals. Squeezing all the momentum I can find, the Quickbeam jumps me up the narrow steep pitch and we all pop out, panting a bit, where the road widens once more and finishes the climbing to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Two weird things happen. First, the road visibly flattens before me. It’s an incline, obviously, but it just seems flatter and almost downhill. Now, I’ve always stated that momentum is a fickle mistress, but I’ll take this hallucination. The bike finds a pace and we escalate upwards. Parallel to this is the thought that I need a rear light. My stylin’ Bruce Gordon single LED stopped working reliably some time earlier, and the Planet Bike eye burner is the backup. Except one of the batteries from that is in the pencam. I envision this horribly detailed scenario of some sort of required bike check - a mini technical trials if you will - at the finish, in which it is discovered that my rear light doesn’t work, and they strip me of my brevet card and stamp a “DNF” on my forehead.
To quell this irrational outburst, I pop up the little rise that leads to the bridge crossing, snap the final two photos for the day and replace the battery in the light. Just then, the red tandem zings past with a shouted hail, so I jump on my bike and try to catch them. We all scream across the bridge and come together as we negotiate the second abutment, chat a bit, then make our way underneath and into the finishing plaza.
Todd stands about 20 feet away from where we left him just over 10 hours earlier. JimG and Carlos are hanging out nearby and a dig out my brevet card, which Todd checks and has me sign. The time immediately pops out of my head (I think it was between 5:20-30) as Jim and Carlos tell me they ended up coming in at 4:45! Those kids were on today!
I’m loopy and tired, but enjoying the serious buzz of finishing my first brevet. We hang out and chat a bit, but both of them look a bit cold - I still can’t believe they hung out there for another 45 minutes to greet me at the finish! Other riders come in steadily and I throw on my jacket for an extra layer. We continue talking a bit, and I suggest an easy ride up to Marshall for the next day. Carlos’ eyes widen a bit before he realizes I’m talkin’ guff and agrees to the “ride”. Jim looks at us like we’re nutty and then realizes the put-on and we all get a good laugh.
It would be nice to stay and watch more folks finish, but the temperature continues to quickly drop and calories call. Jim breaks into some jumping jacks while we talk and I begin to feel really bad for keeping them out in the cold. So I bid my friends a good bye and thanks , turn on my headlight and pick my way along the Golden Gate Bridge walkway, heading north again on the eastern side. The pedestrian traffic is quite heavy, and I find there’s no polite way to be heard over the traffic. So, I bide my time behind a few oblivious walkers, and cheer on a few more finishers - who themselves are coming in under the lights - and reach the subway back to the parking lot. I stow the bike, make another call to my wife and I wolf down the remaining sandwich before heading homeward. 125.6 miles according to the route sheet, plus a few more to jump across the bridge and back. A heckuva day.
Further References -
SF Randonneurs “Alt” Site by Carlos D. - Aggregated Photos
Official SF Randonneurs Site
SF Randonneurs Yahoo Group
SF Randonneurs Flickr Page
JimG Flickr Set
Carlos D. Flickr Stream - Ride Report
My Flickr Set - Ride Report
Joe Gross’ Photos
If you have photos or a ride report from this, please let me know.