The first part of this ride report is here
Part 2 - Lighthouse to Marshall to Home
Carlos and I headed off from the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Control, the road dipping slightly below the parking lot and blessedly sheltering us from the winds for a moment or two. Within 20 more yards, we came to a stop, the wind halting our momentum with a strong, sudden gust. There was nothing to do but laugh and try to stay on the bike. We both recovered, dove for even lower gears and pushed on. As we edged along, we passed JimG, who had elected to walk his bike through this nasty section. There wasn’t even the thought of trying to fetch a camera out for a photo. Two hands on the bars was a must. On the most exposed section, I got blown from the right gutter of the road off the left hand side in an instant. Clicking out, I had to wrench the bike to keep from going over. The blown sand from the roadway stung the right side of my face.
In some places, folks pay good money for dermal abrasion therapy. Here I was getting it for no extra charge.
Finally, we dropped down the steep and nasty pavement to “A” Ranch, and with the wind more or less at our back and somewhat buffered by the topography we compared notes a bit. The Beato brothers and Robbins had been leaving the lighthouse as we ascended, looking pretty strong and smooth as always. Though the wind had been pretty sketchy, it was going to push us north for a while, which was a good thing. As we hit the rises going home, Carlos began feeling a bit better, and eased away on the climbs. The protein drink would be of some benefit soon, but right now it was playing the sloshy dance in my belly.
I could see Carlos a rise or so of the road ahead, and tried to keep him in sight. The thought “find the small efficiencies…” burbled up again and reminded me to relax, pedal smoothly and make every motion count. The open miles of the Pt. Reyes peninsula continued to pass, and I soon found myself heading inland once more. Working along the easier incline of the climb towards Inverness, I felt rain, though couldn’t actually see it. It passed once or twice, but never seemed to hit the ground.
It helped to break down the efforts a bit, and some of the techniques from long, fixed, Quickbeam rides helped here - I played the 40/40 trick, standing for 40 pedal revolutions, then sitting for the same number, then repeating. It got me into a rhythm, distracted enough by the repetition to find a nice balance of focused and detached. I found myself cresting out again, then dropped quickly down through the turns to the Tomales Bay side of things. Those gently rolling curves took me back to Inverness, then to Inverness Park, where Carlos’ bike stood propped up against the curb.
He had just picked up his sandwich, and was setting up a chair under the eve. We thought this would probably be a good place to have lunch, particularly after the efforts out to the Lighthouse. I bought some salty pretzels and dug my sandwich out of the bag. It took a fair amount of force to eat - I just didn’t feel that hungry, even though there was no question that calories were being burned at a brisk clip.
As I nibbled, I pulled out the phone again, and after pulling the battery, restarting it and poking at it a bit, determined that the keypad was fried - none of the buttons worked. Ah well…something for Monday. It also seemed that there was a flaw in my Brooks baggie design - I’d carefully sliced slits for the bag loops of the saddle, reinforced with heavy protective tape, but neglected to do anything near the nose of the saddle. As I’d been pushing back on the climbs, the front had begun poking a hole into the heavy bag. Further, I was starting to experience, um, hot spots in the saddle/rider interface - something which is generally never a problem. I suspected that the heavy plastic was creating a much different environment - a lot less air flow and more humidity. Chamois Butt’r became my friend.
We enjoyed the time to sit and eat, and saw a few riders ease past. Calories thus stowed, we were just starting to get up and stretch when JimG rolled up. The winds had been pretty tough on him, and he said that he just needed to sit down for a while. We stayed and talked with him for a few minutes, just to make sure he was OK, and then pressed on.
I’d been jokingly referring to the flood section as a “two-headed” decision. From the beginning, I’d planned on at least rolling out to take a look at the conditions before backtracking. But, before I did something really, really stupid due to wanting conditions to be safe, it was important to have an agreement between all parties that conditions were actually safe. Hence the “two heads.” The idea was that both parties needed to be in agreement in order to act. If one said no, it was a “no-go”. This was sort of a check on the system.
As it turned out, cars were using the stretch despite the “ROAD CLOSED” signage. Water still moved across, but it was only a few inches deep and not moving perceptibly. Before we reached the area of flooding, we saw a couple vehicles move through, and got a good sense of the depth and strength of the water. (Didn’t snap a photo, but Masayoshi did) Then we moved through. I managed to dip one pedal into the water before following Carlos’ example of “level ratcheting” to keep dry. Just as quickly, we were out the other side and rolling into Pt. Reyes Station, then just as quickly grunting up the rise out of town. (Well, here I know I was grunting - Carlos looked pretty comfy…)
Heading north on Hwy 1, we were on the 8 mile stretch up to Marshall and the second control. I will refrain from obvious 8 Mile/Eminem reference. Not because I’m above that sort of thing, just that things could get too ugly, too quickly…
Tailwinds, tailwinds, tailwinds. Rolling bits on the way to the Next Control. Sudden warmth. My legs were tired, but they’d been that way since the turnaround at the Lighthouse. Carlos, as he tends to do on long rides, was seeming fresher and just a hair quicker with each additional mile. He edged out as the road swung up, I closed down the gap a little when it went down.
Then, on about the fifth little rise, I was suddenly covered in sweat - face-drenching, eye-twitching, soggy-headed sweat. It was as though someone opened a spigot. Perhaps the calories from our lunch break suddenly kicked in and fired things up again. All I knew, as I squinted and swapped eyeports against the perspiration, was that I needed to be wearing less, immediately. I pulled off on a wide spot in the road to regain comfort. Carlos had edged out of voice range, so I figured he’d find out up in Marshall. As I pulled off my jacket, stowed it under the Country Bag cover and remounted, John-from-Cool rolled past. I caught up with him and we rode together. He’d eased by us in Inverness Park, and I figured he’d enjoyed some of the Bovine Bakery specialities back in Pt. Reyes Station. Actually, he’d been riding some over-miles, having not attempted the flood crossing. I felt a little sheepish admitting that we’d rolled past the “Road Closed” signs.
Even with the help of the winds, it was a relief to see the boatworks and moorages at Marshall appear. Very close to where I’d seen him last year, Carlos appeared on the roadway heading south. He must not have even gotten off his bike to get his brevet card signed! We had talked about turning around quickly, but his execution was flawless. I yelled “jacket” as he went by and he nodded and waved.
A few riders were in evidence at this northernmost point on the route. Leaning the bike and clomping inside, I got my card signed at 1:50 - a little later than hoped for, but within my “slow time” estimate. Food still didn’t sound good, and I decided against the chowder. It’s kind of a tradition at this control, but so far in my life I have not indulged. I may someday, but first will have to try the stuff when the clock isn’t running. Instead, I found an iced tea and downed that - hoping that the trace amounts of ginseng and caffeine might be of use.
It seemed worth trying to mimic Carlos’ fast turnaround time. But, as I stretched a bit it became clear that it was time to layer down so I could drop the straps of my bib shorts. One of my rules for longer rides is that you take on water and fuel whenever you have the chance. The opposite is certainly true, and there wouldn’t even be the luxury of a blue plastic room for many miles, once leaving Marshall.
As I huddled behind a tall fence, relayering and beginning once more to think about riding, the red vest of JimG astride his Vent Noir flashed past as he arrived. I caught up to him as he exited the store, a small cup of chowder in his hand. Alex who we rode with in December also had arrived, and since we knew we faced a significant headwind for a while, we decided to stick together. I wish I’d taken a second trip into the store for some hot tea or coffee - any warm liquid probably would have done me some good at that point.
We got rolling fairly quickly, and I took the first lead into the winds. Layered up once more with my jacket, it now didn’t seem like I’d be doffing it anytime soon. Our little troika began the grind southward, now heading well and truly home for the first time that day. It would be work, but because of the topography, the winds did not have quite the force that they did out at the Lighthouse. Still, it was work.
Alex moved past to take the lead after a bit, as the road moved from the flat section to the first risers. He stood on the first incline and immediately pulled up and zigged off the road. A bad cramp had found his leg and he made us leave him while he stretched and recovered.
Now down to two, we slogged southward. It was, as they say, a bit of a grind - pedaling the downhills to retain speed, trying to hold the momentum up the rises and not getting too depressed on the uphill that always seems deceptively flat. A honk and a wave from the opposite lane broke into our conciousness, and we realized Mike B. had made his way back from the Lighthouse Control, probably heading up to Marshall now. Then about two minutes later, he appeared ahead on our side of the road, shouting encouragement and snapping a photo. It was a little mind-blowing, as we never saw him turn around or pass us again. JimG and I came to the conclusion that it was either Mike B’s evil twin, or a cloning experiment gone horribly awry… Nevertheless, he got a frighteningly happy-looking, posed-seeming photo of “The Jims” heading south on Highway 1.
Between the winds and appearance of several Mike B’s, I must have been getting a little loopy. When the big green sign appeared back near Pt. Reyes Station, I wouldn’t really let myself believe it was so - in fact, I remained convinced that we had another climb to go before we could turn left and start heading inland a bit. But, there it was, large and looming. We swooped left and worked our way towards Nicasio, passing one or two riders and offering encouragement.
I had to focus on JimG’s wheel for the rise up to the reservoir, then we traded pulls against the winds into Nicasio. Again with the goal of finding small efficiencies. It was becoming a helpful mantra, making me aware of useless tension I was holding in my shoulders, and helping me relax my hips. Of course, the pedals seldom turn themselves, and by the time we rolled into Rancho Nicasio, a rest sounded good. It seemed as though Jim hadn’t been eating all that much, and I tried again to force down some food. It wasn’t so much that I felt bad - just not hungry. Nothing I’d brought sounded all that good, and after a bite, it didn’t have much taste. Still, there were some caloric expenditures between us and the finish, so I tried.
As we sat on the benches and looked out on the empty parking lot, I checked my time sheet. One of the many helpful bits of advice that appeared in Jan Heine’s Intro to Brevet article series in Bicycle Quarterly was to preprint the route sheet and block in estimated times at certain points. He had recommended both “expected” times and “slow” times at each point. In a worst case scenario when you were running slow due to mechanicals or biologicals, you could refer to the slow time to confirm that you had enough to finish. Might be just the mental lift you need when it was late in the ride and you were feeling as if there was no hope.
We weren’t in that neighborhood, but we were both tired, a bit cold, and “feeling it” at this point. The ride from Marshall had been slowed by the winds, and for me at least, I hadn’t planned on taking a break at this point. It was about 3:45 pm. On my sheet, my “best conditions” time had me making the turn back onto Sir Francis Drake at 3:10, and it we were maybe 20 riding time minutes shy of that. So, with no break, we were running about an hour behind a hoped-for 5 pm finish. And it was, I said aloud, mostly to convince myself, all home-turf riding - we knew the route, we’d done it many times in the past, and we were awfully close to the finish. As we refeuled, Alex rolled up, having pushed the wind solo for the entire distance. He seemed a little drawn by the experience, but sucked down a Gatorade from the store and pushed off before us. Drawing on his momentum, we hit the restrooms once more, greeted an arriving bunch of randonneurs as we swung back onto the roadway.
This section had been a real struggle last year. I ran out of gears, walked, sucked Gel, walked and pushed. This year, the first incline nipped but didn’t bite, and with JimG edging out ahead on the steep bit, had a carrot to follow. In fact, we even engaged in short pencam duel as the roads began to edge upwards. Soon, I’d crested out near the Cecy Krone Memorial, swooped down the turns to the golf course, and howled up to Jim once again. Thank goodness for high BMI. With a double-double-check for cross traffic before a left turn onto Sir Francis Drake, we began finally to retrace our steps from that morning. We saw another non-brevet rider ahead, and Jim pressed the pace for a bit to catch up to him. I’ll admit that at the time, I wanted to stick a wrench into Jim’s back wheel for increasing the speed, but it worked pretty well to distract us from the distance. In my mind, the last “ride” of the day - Nicasio to SF - was getting broken down into smaller and smaller bites. Right now it was the White’s Hill Crest, which even had its little nibbles of expansion cracks to the top. Jim had crested and descended out of sight, but the high-speed drop revived me a bit. He waited down at the western edge of Fairfax, I zoomed by and then eased up so we could spin down the blessedly descending roadways to town.
The commute route was automatic, but it was begining to get dark. Our lights went on and hopefully our awareness was heightened. I certainly was aware I needed to use a restroom, and we made another stop in San Anselmo, at a convenience store that was kind enough to share its facilities with customers. I bought a “Double-shot” coffee drink and some water, then we headed off again. Ross. Kentfield. Larkspur. We saw Alex in a bus stop and hollered to see if he needed help - he hooted “NO!” and we kept rolling. By the time we hit the tree-covered climb of Camino Alto, it was pretty danged dark. And for some reason, my specific gravity had increased noticeably over the past few miles. Jim edged upward again on the climb disappearing around one of the turns, and I became an interstellar traveller in my own minor bubble of light for a while.
Momentum was beginning to help by this point. I wasn’t catching Jim, but the waypoints ticked past quickly - the turn where Steve used to live, the double wiggle, the bump before the right turn, the long sweeping left, the trailhead on the right and finally - summit. As gravity began its subtle tug, I began to question my lighting choice - basically a “be seen” 1w bar light and my Black Diamond spot headlamp. There are no overhead lights on this stretch. Luckily, this side of the hill is more open, and as repeated aloud, I knew the road very well. No doubt Jim had turned on his homemade cyclotron illuminator scorchers and blazed down the curves without touching his brakes.
He was waiting for me down at the traffic light, and we made the little left-turn/right-turn jog to pick up the bike path once again. On the path, we started talking about lighting, stopped for our last hydro-refill and pressed on again. He was talking about the programming of the microprocessor, the lenses he’d chosen and what changes he’d make if he did it again. It was a lot like the easy chatting we have on regular rides, and I was so grateful for the distraction from my own whimpering thoughts, I can’t begin to express it. I think it may have helped him a bit too. Concentrating on anything other than our tired condition was a good thing.
At the end of the Path, we set up for a left turn onto Bridgeway. Unless you get really lucky with light timing, you normally have to hope that some vehicle is leaving the marina so that they can trip the light. As it turned out, one had just rolled up and we wheeled around quickly behind it. As we waited, another well-appointed bike emerged from the darkness, revealing John-from-Cool once again. We hailed one another and he said that he’d gotten a bit off-course towards the end. I couldn’t quite remember where we saw him last - possibly the stretch before the painted bridge on Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Rd., or he may have slipped past us when we stopped in Rancho Nicasio. Regardless, we were on final approach by this point, and JimG and I announced the few tricky bits on the way back to the Bridge. We also walked him through the someone quirky access procedure at the electric gates. By the time we’d hit the last climb up, we started to stretch out a bit, and he encouraged us to go ahead.
Jim found some climbing legs that I pretty much lacked at this point, and his tail light kept getting further up the road. We edged over to the east side of the bridge again, now looking into the headlights of the traffic heading north. He was kind enough to wait at the top of the hill - pretty much the land of no visibility as my lights were overwhelmed from the glare. His double-barreled plant-wilter visual-cortex-scorcher picked out the path and we rolled up to the gate at the north end of the bridge. A button push and a buzz later, we were inside the fencing, suddenly racing as we pedaled hard to be directly above a fully-lighted cruise ship which was steaming out the Golden Gate. It was a good excuse as any. Didn’t quite make it, but it brought us to the rise of center span, so our fickle mistress of gravity helped us the final stretch home.
The last 30 yards follows the curve of an old roadway, and there’s something perfect about the way that the finishing scene gets revealed - we were back at the start, now the Final Control. Our time was 6:37 pm, for an 11:37 day. Rob checked us in and had us sign our cards, and that ended the official part of our ride.
A number of folks had hung out - Mike B. snapped a few photos, the flash etching its way deeply into my retinas. Another person kindly picked up the Rainlegs which had fallen off my bike. I think I said “thank you”, but if not, it was just the loopiness of suddenly not having to be anywhere. Jo, who I met back at the Marin Century was assisting at the Final Control. And, Carlos had been patiently waiting for nearly an hour and a half to see us cross the finish. An act well above the call of duty. Although it was not raining, it was certainly not the warmest evening, as the winds still pushed through this semi-sheltered area.
Jim and I hung out for a while, and not too long after, Alex and John rolled down the last bits. Alex was openly psyched to be finishing his first brevet, while John had that solid smile of knowing he’d done it. (I realized only after his post to SFRandon that it was his first official brevet - he definitely had that long-ride confidence about him…) Some more riders rolled in, and then I realized that Patrick had pulled up on his way home from work. He’d come along on some mixed-terrain rides, and had made a PBP attempt this last year, before having to pull out due to arm trouble - in his words, he just couldn’t hold the handlebars any longer.
I passed on the pizza dinner - really ready to head back home and steam myself back to existence in a hot shower. Patrick was heading across the bridge again as well, so I said my goodbyes and we rolled northward together. He entertained with some PBP stories as we headed over the span, and then we headed our separate ways once past the gate. I rolled my bike down the steep undercrossing stairs and plodded my way back up the other side. There my car sat in the dark lot and I fumbled for my key, wrestled the bike into the back, found my warm, dry knit cap and sunk down into the seat. Then I realized that a police car had been sitting back in the shadows, kinda watching things. As happy as I was to be sitting, it was time to go.