Sunday, June 26, 2011

Three Amigos in Iowa - plus skunks

I have said it many times and will say it again.  The 400k is my favorite distance.  Nearly always requires some night riding, long enough to really see the countryside, the words "250 miles" just sounds impressive...  It's just about as far as most people will really go without at least some kind of sleep stop (though I have known a few to do it and it's 275 miles to Loudeac on PBP).  But a good 400k is always a thing to savor and enjoy.

I hadn't done a 400k since the very far-out Titanic 400k in Arizona.  That ride had almost every weather challenge possible (50 mph winds, storms, sleet, etc).  I had skipped the Apple Valley 400k and done the 600k instead.  So the Rochester 400k was a good place to catch up with friends.  Besides, both Bob and Gary were going and the weather was supposed to be really nice.

Okay, the weather forecast slowly deteriorated to looking downright nasty, but nothing was going to beat the last one so I was committed.  I headed down and spent the night before near the start and kept the room for the following night as well.  Even though Rochester is a mere 2 hours from my house, getting up at 3:00 am, driving to the start, riding 250 miles and driving home is a recipe for disaster.  Much better to just get a room.  Besides, Bob and Melisssa, the Super Domestique, were sharing.

The day started out with a nice temperature in the 70s.  Only 5 people were doing the 400k (the Rochester 600k was also going on) so many of the riders would be using different controls and a different turnaround point.  The big pack of us started out down CR20 in a big rush (we always start that way).  I was willing to keep up as long as I didn't break a big sweat, but the trip through Rochester is a bunch of big rollers and we finally got to one that required some tempo climbing.  I just wasn't willing to go and redline myself so early on so I dropped off the end.  About 30 seconds later Bob dropped back as well, "I saw you dropping off and wondered if you were really my conscience telling me to slow down," he said with a smile.  The two of us took a more stable pace (15-17 mph) as we continued on.

Just outside the first control at Stewartville, we caught up with Gary who also decided not to do the Speedy Gonzales phase for too long.  The three of us wound up together for the rest of the day which was really lots of fun.  While not particularly sunny, it wasn't raining and the temps were down in the 70s, very comfortable, but with a bit of a headwind blowing from the southeast.  But there were clouds and I was glad to have brought my standard rain arsenal including some new rain legs.  As we passed through Chatfield, rain started to spit at us, but seemed to pass as soon as it showed up.  The section from Chatfield to Rushford is very rolling with a steep descent (later to becomes an ascent) down into the Root River Valley.  We chatted and rolled along very well and it seemed like we got into Rushford (100k) quite quickly.  At this point, it was 11:30 and we grabbed a sandwich before heading on.

The next 30 miles to Harmony are probably my least favorite stretch of road.  For the most part, it's nice rolling country with a big ascent out of the valley.  This time, the road was in the process of being patched and we all were forced to ride across ribbons of fresh tar.  Fortunately, we didn't have any flats.  The climb was a good one for me, I've been working on my climbing and it shows.  Then comes the bad part - a 3 mile stretch of road on CR115 with so many cracks and holes that it would probably be easier to ride gravel.  This infamous stretch is made worse by the fact that the cracks are parallel to the road so hitting one could through you off the bike.  There are also lots of horse patties from the many Amish buggies that pass this way (ever run your bike through a nice pile?)  There is another control in Harmony followed by one only 17 miles later in Cresco.  I haven't figured out why the Harmony control is really necessary, but we dutifully got our cards signed and moved on.

At Cresco, the rain still spit from the clouds.  Not really enough to put anything on and somewhat refreshing.  As we neared Decorah, the sun made a slight appearance and the descent down was very fun.  Pole Line Road is infamous for kamakazi attack black birds but neither they, nor Tippi Heddron was in sight.  We passed Rob E and another rider (the other two 400k riders) at the top of the hill and rolled into Decorah at about 3:30.  At this point, we sat down and had a little longer break, the sun was out and we enjoyed the time.  I called IronK and told her were were just about on schedule.

At 4:00 pm, we rolled back out, this time with a slight tail wind, though of course, it had died down.  Back to Cresco we went, a short 20 mile jaunt.  More food was to be eaten in Cresco.  For some reason, I was always hungry on this ride.

We turned north to head back to Minnesota.  The road has recently had its shoulders repaved so I was quite happy.  Then....there they were directly in my path: MOTHER SKUNK AND ABOUT 8 BABIES.
I realize that there might be more fear instilled by running into a grizzly bear and 8 cubs, but there can't be much more.  I frantically crossed the road, something that normally I would not do.  Mama skunk glared at me like I was the distasteful one, but she didn't look interested in showing her other end - it could have been the fact that 8 babies were piled on it.  The three of us quietly rode by on the opposite side of the road and breathed a big sigh of relief.  How nasty would it be to walk into a control after being hit by a skunk!

We rolled back into Harmony and several people commented what an awful day for biking it must be with all the rain.  Come again?  We had yet to see hardly anything at all.  The roads had been dry all day.  We cleared out and repeated the ride down 115.  I almost lost my bottles and I've never been so happy to hit a turn.  We finally hit enough rain to get wet for about 5 minutes at around Highland, but by stopping to put rain gear on, we undoubtedly averted a major downpour.  We got to Rushford just as it got dark (around 8:30 pm).  Another sandwich and we were ready for our assault on CR30.  The hill we descended previously now became a 3 mile climb.  Bob spun up it on his triple while Gary and I followed about 30 seconds behind him.  The moon was really nice at this point, a little crescent in the sky.  The temperature started dropping at this point and the roads were wet, but it was a gorgeous night ride all the way to Chatfield.

We got to Chatfield around 11:00 pm and this time period is always a sleepy time for me.  I took a caffeine pill and we started out, but I was almost dozing and Bob suggested a power nap.  I agreed, but wanted to make it after the climb out of Chatfield so that it would be warmer and dryer.  About halfway up the hill, a pickup truck full of goons drove up behind us yelling obscenities.  The noise just about made me jump out of my skin and the combination with the caffeine put me in overdrive.  I stepped on it and powered to the top of the hill, the proceeded to pull my two compatriots along for the next 10 miles at 22 mph!  Yowsers, I was on fire.

We pulled into Stewartville about 12:30 and I was already coming down from the high.  After a quick stop, we went a little more reasonably back to Rochester.  Coming in at that hour is somewhat dangerous since it is bar close and we got several honks including a yell from a guy already in a taxi.  Really, to yell at someone on a bike when you are drunk in a taxi is a little rich even for me.  We attempted to avoid traffic by riding on a wet bike trail full of freshly cut grass.  I decided to buy fenders afterwards - what a mess.

Amazingly, it had poured rain all day in Rochester and most of the time we were gone from Minnesota.  We did nothing but ride around the rain all day long.  I never even put my rain legs on.
We pulled into the Kwik Trip about 2:40.  Gary was quite pleased.  He said he could easily have ridden another 200k.  Behold the power of good pacing.... Ironically, I got an email from one of the faster riders that passed us near Decorah, "What foods do you use, I seem to just run out of gas halfway through".

So there we go, another 400k

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blazing Saddles in Apple Valley

They rode their blazing saddles
They were the lantern rouge
They dabbed with Lantisceptic
When parts were looking blue

They rode their pace and they pulled their friends
They rode the night into day

They were a flaming spandex
torch for 600k!

Rando Version of "Blazing Saddles Theme Song"
For the real thing:

This ride was all about Bob.

After watching him painfully abdicate last week in Wisconsin, I have added to my list of things never to do for a 600k.   The master list now reads.

1.  Try out new critical gear on the ride (like a brand new saddle or shorts)
2.  Outride your headlight on a nightime descent
3.  Try new foods that you are not certain you can digest
4.  Look at your ass during the ride because it won't show you anything good.  <= New

I was happy that Bob declared himself fit to ride for the AV600k and drove to the Twin Cities from Madison just to do this ride.  How could I not go?  He totally hauled me through the Rochester 600k last year.  Time to cheer on a fellow rider.

The weather forecast for this ride was about as perfect as you could possibly hope for which was good because last weeks 600k made me feel like a roasted chicken.  50-70 degree temps and tailwinds on BOTH days.  It was like the stars were aligning.  Of course, I had planned on doing the 400k, but switched at the last moment.  This had some consequences for others which I will always wonder about.

We started out on a cloudy, somewhat chilly morning with dry pavement and a nice tailwind already coming from the northwest.  I saw Renee, Ed and my pal Gary at the start, all of them were doing the 400k.  For this ride, I had a brand new reflective vest from Mavic.  It satisfies the EN1150 standard necessary for riding in France and holy cow, it's like wearing a flourescent orange billboard.  It's also a very nice wind vest, has a good pocket and good ventilation.  Well worth it if one is planning a trip to PBP.

Road Pixie left, Bob right - which one looks like Gene Wilder?
 I was happy to be riding, but having just finished a 600k only 6 days previously, I can't say I didn't have a little trepidation.  I've never done two such large events so close before.  It was a test to get a little closer to what PBP might be like.   But I really wanted to see Bob finish and be set to go to Paris himself.

There were actually 3 rides, 300k, 400k, and 600k going on at the same time.  This led to some confusion after a bunch of riders on the 400k accidentally followed the 600k riders, who had a different route to Cannon Falls.  Bob and I were almost immediately at the back of the 600k pack, going about 17-19 mph.  It reminded me of the previous weekend, minus the heat.

We had a lovely ride to Cannon Falls with the wind giving us a nice push.  Several were already there and we said hi to a couple on our short stop.  It was slowly warming, but we left all our clothes on just the same.  CR25 had just been repaved and what a difference it makes!  That section is full of long, steep rollers and its fun to just fly up and down them without fear of cracks or potholes.  The sky began to clear at this point and as we approached and passed Goodhue the sun started peaking out.  Even though we haven't had much rain, everything was very green and the corn was about 6 inches tall so the fields were mossy looking.

We made it to Lake City easily and did another quick stop.  Jim Joy was leaving as we came, a reoccurring theme on the entire ride.  A couple of other riders were still at Lake City and we ate a few things and quickly were back on the road.  Lake City to Plainview is probably the hilliest part of the entire route, but it went very well.  Bob and I pace well together and we climb at almost exactly the same speed.  We're both spinners and prefer to recover while climbing (sounds nuts, but it really works).   We got to Plainview (100 miles) a little before 1:00 pm which is a decent pace in my book.  There, we stopped for sandwiches and ran into Dan from Iowa who turned out to be on his first 600k.

The Estrogen Advantage?
Just outside Plainview, Dan started talking about my Estrogen Advantage.  "It gives you the ability to focus on  greater goal than beating the guy next to you".  Hmm, though I haven't noticed any estrogen doping at the Tour de France, I'm sure there is a market here.  While Dan proceeded with some real foot-in-mouth moments, I gathered my own personal list of estrogen advantages in randonneuring:
  1. Cramps?  Been there done that every month for 30 years, bring them on baby!
  2. Line at the control restroom? Nah.
  3. Increased resistence to early hot-dog pacelines.
  4. The most important thing in the shorts are the legs, no distractions.
Just my opinion here. Randonneuses of the world, feel free to speak up here.

Moving on...
We hit 200k in less than 9 hours at an average speed of about 15 mph.  There was a very gentle tailwind, but noticeable enough to make me happy it was not in my face.  In fact, the tailwind slowly rotated for the next 24 hours and remained a tailwind for the entire ride.  After the Titanic 400k, storming in Louisville, and extreme heat in Wisconsin, the weather gods paid up their debts.  It was just a gorgeous, sunny 75 degree afternoon when riding is nothing but pleasurable.  We chatted about PBP, riding, bicycles, all the important things for randonneurs.

At Rushford, we pulled into the Windswept Inn parking area to a somewhat depleted food table.  Bill, one of our randonneurs on the injured list, was running it and was amazed at how fast the food was going.  We grabbed a sandwich and took off quickly for La Crescent.  It's very tempting to waste lots of time at the Windswept, but we resisted.  Dan pulled up a few minutes after us and the 3 of us left together.  The next 12 miles are along the Root River Trail and are generally flat and very scenic.  Bob really pushed through here, it isn't often one rides a trail at 18 mph.  Dan had a hard time keeping up at times, but we emerged at Houston in only about 40 minutes unscathed.  At this point, Dan was recovered and went ahead - the testosterone effect no doubt.

At La Crescent, I had to eat more and we rested about 20 minutes before starting back.  Jeff, who we had lost track of in Cannon Falls, finally showed up having had to back track 9 miles to find his brevet card (behind the toilet at the control).  "I finally caught you" he was elated.  Then he left us in the dust.  Riding alone for that long had the T factor really pumped up - I think he pretty much ignored everyone else for the rest of the ride and finished in about 29 hours.  Cheers! 

Our ride back was really a highlight, at dusk there were lots of animals out and on the trail a doe crashed across about 30 ft in front of us.  Riding into the sunset in a big, green valley with a peach sky and a rising half moon is something to see.

We came back to the control to about 8 people looking really tired and wiped out.  We felt really good and Bob had a shower.  The Windswept had little space this time and with 6 people crammed into 1 tiny room trying to stay warm in the dropping temps, I wound up stripping in front of all of them so that I could have a new set of clothes (I did warn them first).  I'm certain my goddess like form was an inspiration for miles.  They left shortly aftewards and I had a quick 45 minute nap - it was down in the 50s and ditch napping would have been unpleasent.  Bob, who doesn't sleep, waited for me watching countdowns on the weather channel (top tornadoes, top hurricanes, top floods, etc).  We left at midnight with about 300k to go.

The Night Ride
Both of us have a real love for night riding and this was a great night for it.  Temps were very cool - in the 50s - but we had clothing and the climb out of the Root River Valley warmed us up.  The fires in Arizona made the moon look pink at times and the stars were lovely.  The 38 miles section to Eyota was a real treat.  At about 25 miles, was a 24 hour truck stop along I-90 and we made a 5 minute stop to use the facilities and buy water.  We also picked up a sleepy looking rider, Richard, who had stopped to warm up.  The 3 of us would ride together for the next 50 miles or so.

My GPS was an asset riding in the dark and we easily made Eyota for some food and coffee.  At 3:00 am, convenience stores are much more laid back.  The following stretch to Zumbrota is 43 miles, so filling up is a good idea.  I even had some donuts (I normally loathe them).

At sunrise, Richard and I were weaving and at the top of a hill we found a warm spot.  We stopped next to a construction sign for a nap/roadside savasana.  Richard and I used sandbags as pillows and Bob assumed the classic yoga pose for deep meditation.  Really, this kind of Frontier Rando Camp is the kind of thing I wish someone would take a picture of someday.

The final push...
The last day of riding on a 600k is a bittersweet thing.  First, you are really tired and want to be done.  Second, if the weather is nice, you are wishing it doesn't end.  However, by this time, all the mistakes you made early come back in triple to haunt you.  The other thing that starts to haunt is your backside.  For this, Bob had several options, being a well-prepared randonneur.  Here we started the "little dab will do you" with a tupperware of Lantisceptic.  If you haven't used Lantisceptic, it's well known in circles not only for its ability to curb bed sores, but saddles sores too.  A real jewel of a product, yours at most pharmacies (though you have to ask the pharmacist for it).

At Zumbrota, both of us were having some stomach issues.  Probably a case of the digestive track saying, "gee, why do you insist on eating all this junk food".  I've got my routine down to chocolate milk, sandwiches, cashews, cookies and the occaisional V8.  Food is usually the last thing people work out.  By this time, it was 7:30am and the sun was warming things up.  We were finally able to strip away the jackets.  The wind had conveniently shifted to the west for our westerly jaunt to Faribault.  Richard took off outside town.

The next 37 miles were a real pleasure.  We lost the sun due to an approaching front, but the tail wind kept our speeds up in the 16-18 mph range.  The few fast riders who slept at the Windswept Inn passed us and one even slowed down to say hello.  He had a really cool bike too by Vincent Dominiguez, a local frame builder and fellow rando.

By the time, we hit Faribaut at about 10:30, rain was threatening and several others were at the control putting on rain gear.  They had seen Richard ahead of them, but failed to find him at the control, so he was thought to be lost.  The others took off and we slowed slightly waiting for him but eventually gave up.  The rain started in earnest just as we left the control.  As rains go, this one was so minor as to be almost not worth having rain gear.  We put it on, but got wetter from sweat.  The band was short and after about an hour, the roads were once again dry.  At this point, we turned north to Lonsdale and the wind conveniently shifted to the south (thank you weather gods).

We pulled into Lonsdale shortly after 1:00 pm and made the appropriate phone calls to our rides.  Only 28 miles to the end.  I put away some more gear and had a Starbucks Double Shot (good caffeine boost with some B vitamins for energy).  No sign of anyone.

The last 28 miles were very pleasent and fast, except for the nasty pavement on 280th street.  This section is in desparate need of repaving.  I'd call my congressman, but our govt is about to shutdown so it might be pointless.  I pulled a giant piece of metal out of my tire, which did not puncture.  Ever since switching to Specialized Armadillos, I find myself surviving for longer and longer without flats.

Pillsbury, Dodd, and Holyoke Roads are all freshly paved and mainly downhill so we flew to the end at about 18-20 mph, good recovery for the legs.  We rolled in a 3:45 for a grand total of 33:45.  My fastest 600k ever and Bob's second fastest.  After last week's debacle, Bob is finally PBP qualified.  Cheers all around!  At least the clerk in the AmericInn was impressed.

A few others were at Old Chicago doing some stumbling, my estrogen advantage allows me to easily resist drinking beer when I am already in a compromised state.

IronK was late getting me having forgotten her phone.  Bob's girlfriend, Melissa, had a pizza waiting which I was really thankful for.  Melissa is the supreme rando-spouse; she does all the driving and happily does neutral support when needed.

This was my second 600k in 1 week and considering the fact that the previous week's oven had netted a 40% DNF rate, the fact that I finished it and had my strongest 600k on this ride give me lots of confidence for PBP.  I'm debating trying the Hawkeye 100k in mid-July.   But the big thing now is to build fitness and strength.  The hard part has just begun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Easy Bake 600k

After having such a nice ride last year with the tornado and storms, it was time to go back to Delavan and ride again with the Great Lakes Randonneurs.  I decided this only 7 days from the start, just short enough to pre-register.  IronK had gardening to do so I reserved my room and drove down alone.  I notified my relatives in Madison that they might be required to scrape me off the pavement in her absence.

This has been a cold, wet spring in the upper Midwest, so of course the predicted temperatures continued to climb until the night before and the weather channel proudly predicted oven-like temps and a high wind from the west.  Hmmm, to bad a west wind is a cross wind or headwind for the first 200 miles.  But, I am philosophical on weather.  There is no such thing as an easy 600k no matter how you slice it or dice it.

Of course, stepping out into 75 degrees and high humidity at 6:00 am was still a shocker.  I saw a bunch of people I knew.   Well, they knew me and I am sure I knew them too on some level (hard to recognize sometimes after the weather last year).  We rolled out of the parking lot into the surpisingly high winds at a fast clip, about 19 mph.  Within 1 mile, I dropped off, no way I was going to pace like that.  I saw Kurt, who I rode with last year, he went ahead, but it was nice seeing him again.

For the next 50 miles, I rode alone in the very hot, windy flats to Kirkland, IL.  I'd never ridden in Illinois before, but darn, the part was flat.  Many farms and a few trees, but unremarkable scenery.  I got to Kirkland at about 9:00 am and it was already very hot, one rider was leaving as I came.  Sweat poured off me as soon as I stopped the bike.

After Kirkland, the ride got nicer with some rollers and more interesting farms and scenery.  I went along around 15 mph listening to birds and looking at flowers.  I passed the rider I had seen in Kirkland, he was having issues with the heat, but had done PBP so a tough cookie.  I continued on regretting that I had forgotten my camera and could not take my first picture of a nuclear reactor as I passed by.

I passed quite a number of riders on the way into the next control and at the control was a familiar bicycle, a Velo Orange with a Brooks saddle and some classy fenders.  My friend Bob from last year's Rochester 600k.  He came around the corner with two others looking rather peaked from the heat.lamenting having ridden quite hard for the first 50 miles in the paceline. “I’ll be paying for it tonight”, was his response. He was glad to see me and I was rejoicing that my blog might not be called the Lone 600k. I’ve only done one 600k completely alone before and I distinctly remember my brain having significant anxiety at certain points (along with the swelling, but that’s another story).

We rode out of town at post-food pace and started into rollers with a steep upgrade on Mix Rd. Up to this point, the route had been flat as a pancake and I was doubting that it was very PBP-like. Everything I’ve heard says the hills in PBP are relentless. By this time, we were about 90 miles in and it was early afternoon, the temperature was somewhere in the 90s and the winds were crossing at about 20 mph. We passed directly in front of the nuclear power plant, closest I’ve ever been to one. Being in nuclear medicine, Bob had cool stuff to say about nuclear plants.

The next stretch was almost 65 miles to the control in Brodhead. That’s a long way on any day and on a day this hot it was really long. We stopped at a small town about halfway for ice cream and darn did it taste good. We had hot dogs too; salty and full of carbs. Bob had big streaks of salt on his legs and my face was crusted over. I washed in the restroom and reapplied sunscreen. At this point, it was about 2:30 and the hottest part of the day was approaching fast. The wind continued to keep us cool at least even if it wasn’t helping us go fast.

Outside town, we caught up to Ed, another rider who was also looking as though he might melt into the pavement with his tires. Up and down the rollers we went until a secret control by Mike Orange Legs of the GLR. By this time, his water was warm, but it was water nonetheless. Another rider caught up but took the opportunity to take a nap in the shade. Ed, Bob and I headed on for the Wisconsin border. We remarked how the myth that Illinois is flat is now dispelled. We lost Ed around State Line Road, the heat was really hard on him. It’s an advantage to be smaller when it’s hot and I was thankful for smallness.

The approach into Brodhead is frustrating because the route winds about 2 miles west before turning back east towards the control. You can see it in the distance, and yet you turn away. Not fun. But that section was actually genuinely pretty with many flowers and older farms. We rode into the control at about 5:00 pm. A number of riders were still there drinking profusely. So we said hi and had some food. One of them remarked that a cool front was moving in for the night and that temps might drop considerably before we finished.

About 5:30, we left the control and remarked that it seemed cooler then we passed a bank thermometer that read 88 degrees. So much for cooler, but it turned out that the least the worst heat of the day was past.  The next couple hours were quite pleasent, but got hillier and hillier as we approached New Glarus.  The sun went down just a few miles from town and we donned our night gear.  Clouds were rolling in and dusk didn't seem to last very long, but the sun looked like a big orange blob for some time.  Possibly the Arizona fires might have been providing color.  New Glarus is a really cool town with most of it decked out like something out of a Swiss Miss commercial.  We rolled in around 9:30 pm.
Unfortunately, it was dark, so I didn't get to see the quaint town.  In addition, we were pestered the entire time by a very drunk German man.  I try to be very polite, but I missed doing a bunch of stuff at the control and we were fairly chased out of it.  I'll have to go back later as a tourist.  200 yards out of the control is a long, very steep hill called "Hill Street".  Standard procedure to curse the RBA on any climb right after a food stop.  This particular hill is also on the Horribly Hilly Hundred, but at least those guys are only going 100 miles.  We had to stop near the bottom to check directions, where we were harrassed by drivers "Ride in the day." they shouted.  That's a new insult on me.
The next few miles were substantially easier with the day's wind finally giving us a push from behind.  The roll into Oregon was very quick and we were there by midnight.  We kept seeing the same two guys at nearly every control, they were pretty much 15 minutes ahead of us.  I took a caffeine tablet as I was feeling sleepy.
The section out of Oregon had horrible pavement and I found myself nodding off.  I finally gave up on the caffeine and Bob waited for me while I slept for 15 minutes on the side of the road.  I did sleep face up which works much better than face down.  This also gave the last 3 riders time to catch up to us so that we could all bunch up for the rest of the night.
We hit Edgerton and I again laid on my back, this time with my arms crossed over my chest, kind of like rando-Elvira.  The last section was full of more bad pavement and we rolled in at 5:00 am.  Not a great time, but considering the amount of time the heat had forced us into the controls, I was happy.  Bob and I agreed to a 3 hour stop.  I went in my room in Delavan, drank about 3 cups of chocolate milk, downed some cookies and vitamins and was asleep in minutes.  I awoke 30 minutes early to the sounds of pounding in the room above.  I showered, changed, ate as much food as possible and went to take some caffeine pills.  I flipped the blister pack that I had used the previous evening and discovered that I had mistakenly taken Sudafed (expired in 2009) instead of caffeine the previous night.  No wonder it hadn't helped.  At least my head felt clear.
Bob and I left at 7:45 and rolled out into another warm day.  This day was supposed to be much cooler (mid 70s), that was not to be.  It was another scorcher so we were lucky to make it out early.  The first leg was pleasent with one good climb and lots of flats.  After East Troy, it got hilly and though my energy was very good and I was riding well, Bob was having some issues.  Apparently, he had decided to break in a new Brooks saddle - instead the saddle was breaking him in.  We hit Whitewater around 10:30 and ran into Ed again who left ahead of us.  Only 16 miles to the turnaround in Jefferson.
The 16 miles included one very bad road again and we pulled into Jefferson at around 12:45 in the heat of the afternoon.  I got a hot dog and drained a bunch of extra pickle juice from the pickle self service.  Bob bought an arsenal of painkillers and some spray. 
About 10 minutes later, Bob came out of the men's room an announced he was DNFing.  I was astonished (for the record, I watched him finish a 400k once passing a kidney stone at a control), it must have been quite a frightening sight of a saddle sore to stop him, but sometimes, you are just done, and he was "just done".  Ed appeared and the two of us agreed to ride back together, I bade Bob a sad goodbye.  It's hard to leave someone on one of these rides.  I'll always wonder if I could have convinced him to continue, but I respect his choice.
Ed and I had a good ride back to Delavan.  We made the 62 miles in only 4:45 pedaling time with about 45 minutes at the last two controls.  The heat was again bad from about 2:00-5:00.  My final time of 36:58 is my best 600k yet that included a sleep stop.
I stayed overnight in Delavan and met Bob in Madison the next day for lunch ( I had his overnight bag to return ).   We are both planning on doing PBP so he may be in Apple Valley this weekend for the 600k there.  One happy result, I might get to ride with him again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

200k Adventures in May

Sure there were the floods that submerge two separate sections and then the start/finish burned to the ground, but I like to think they just made the route better.  The floods have turned everything green and while I will miss the YESMart (only starting location to sell bongs and hookahs), the Target store seems to work okay too.

After finishing the Louisville 600k, I had some serious thinking to do.  It completed my Super Randonneur series, gateway to 1200ks around the world.  Now I had my pick.  After much deliberation, I will hang my hat on PBP which happens only every 4 years.  I've seen it said many places, "I guess I would rather do PBP now when I am X years old instead of waiting until the next one when I am X+4 years old".   Besides, riding in France has been a life goal since I was 5 and watching the Tour de France.  Sure they don't let the ladies in the tour, but hey, I can do PBP and be part of an elite 6% of riders (percentage of females at PBP in 2007).  I speak French and have a degree in French Literature so I will hopefully not be reciting the poetry of Baudelaire or Rimbaud on this ride.  Maybe some Verlaine might work or some Mallarme.  Doubtless by the end I will be hallucinating and will have a surrealistic experience in the veins of Sartre or at least a little Deirida.

Back to Minnesota, a rainy month with horrible weather (the Minneapolis tornado missed my house by only a couple of miles and did 165 million in damage).  I skipped every one of the May brevets with the knowledge that 1) I didn't need them for qualifiers and 2) I've already ridden in so much hideous weather that clouds may actually form in front of me.  I said no to the 400k to ride with my friend, Gary, on his Hills of Wisconsin permanent with 7,500 feet of climbing.  Throw in a sustained 20mph headwind for hours and an emergency reroute and it was an excellent training ride.  I can excuse quite a bit for the sun making an all day appearence.

This past Memorial Day looked like a bust, 2 riders were going to do the new DHC and I thought I would go along.  Gary said yes at the last minute, then the other two became alarmed at the weather report and backed out.  The remaining two of us stood in the parking lot for a 7:30 start and a radar picture that looked like a thermonuclear blast right over the course -best delay for a couple of hours.  Like two hobbits, we trode off for our second breakfast.  We launched at 9:30 with only a small amount of fallout left on the radar. 

The rain re-started just as we left the parking lot.  By 1 mile, it was a downpour, but after the nasty cold rain, a warm rain just didn't seem all that bad.  At 8 miles, the hail started.  Well, that stings quite a bit, but I had sun-blocking knee warmers and a jacket on so that wasn't really awful either (Gary might have differing opinions on this point).  Sure it was hailing, but really the suburbs aren't the highlight of the ride, so just keep going.  Finally, after about 20 miles, the rain stopped.  And the big, warm, south wind started up.

Ever felt like you were riding in a preheating oven?  I had that sense riding into Chaska, but hey, at this point, it wasn't hailing and there was sun!  So this really picks up my spirits.  We ride through historic Carver (recently opened) and I start pulling rain gear off.  Luscious!  The next 30 miles are rolling along the Minnesota River, which is 1 foot below flood stage.  Virtually no traffic and we don't really even have too much issue with the wind until just before Henderson.  Only 2:56 to go 47 miles - a personal record.

We stop brieftly and head up to Green Isle.  Now the monster headwind is a monster tailwind!  For the next 55 miles with a few interuptions, we have a fabulous 20-30 mph tailwind.  Unbelievable!  We land in Delano, only 28 miles to the finish at about 4:30 on a 6 hour century pace.  At this point, it's hot!  We eat ice cream and I drink an entire liter of water at the Shell station.  It's been at least 9 months since I have ridden in such heat (and I rode in the desert this winter).   At this point, with a few cramps setting in, we slacken the pace and have a more orderly ride back to the start.  Somehow my tire mojo gets out of control and we have to boot Gary's tire; he only flats when riding with me.  The wind has died slightly which is okay since the sun is high in the sky and we are riding east.  Back at Target by 7:30.

Despite blowing lots of time at controls and with the flat, we have a 15.6 mph pace for the entire ride!  8:08 total moving time which is really very good for me.  So now I have my sights on another brevet this weekend, a 600k no less.  Time to try out yet another person's opinion of terrain that is "similar to PBP".