Brevets: 2007 SFR 200K:


SF Randonneurs 2007 200 km Brevet - 1/27/07

SF to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, Marshall Store & Return - Approx 125 Miles

Through a misty and hazy pre-dawn my tires rolled southward over the asphalt of the Golden Gate Bridge walkway. Normally, bicycles are restricted to the western side of the span, and it is only in darkness hours that we get herded over to the "City Side", so it's a treat to see the first glimmers of the day illuminate the outlines of San Francisco. Not another person walked or rode, and even the auto traffic was reasonably light.  The bridge seemed as deserted as it could be.  It was odd then to roll onto land at the other end and see a large moving cluster of reflecting, glowing, blinking and lit cyclists, gathered near the Strauss statue, chatting and conversing admist all variety of bikes - a virtual oasis of reflective gear and protective headwear which confirmed that this was the gathering for the San Francisco Randonneurs 200 km Brevet.

Skirting the gang, I took the road under the toll plaza and found my way to another small knot of riders, clustered around Todd Teachout's white pickup.  Out of the darkness, JimG appeared, and introduced me to another rider who was planning to cover the ride on a fixed gear. I promptly forgot his name (and was reminded later that it was Mojo Cosgrove), as I had to remember mine so that they could sign me in.  Normally I'm not quite that mentally challenged, but it was still around 6:45 am, and I was recovering from panick about losing my car key at home and the nervousness about just what the heck I had gotten myself into.

Weather reports kept decaying during the week preceeding the ride, and rain had fallen in measurable amounts on Thursday and Friday. It began to seem pretty clear that there might be some less than perfect conditions, but nothing on the scale the of last year's deluge. I managed to miss that ride (though I'd heard about it from JimG and Carlos and read through Rob H's writings more than once).  In fact this would be my first brevet attempt. Cleverly, I also had decided to ride it on my Rivendell Quickbeam, rigged with a 14T fixed gear cog and an 18T freewheel on the flip-flop hub.

The Quickbeam had gotten the nod as it seemed to be my most comfortable and versatile bicycle. Of my other bikes, the open-wheeled racer didn't have much room for fenders,  my cross frame (probably the bicycle I would've ridden) had cracked through it's headtube welds and was awaiting a new fork, and my commute beasts were fine for the basics of to-and-from-work, but I ultimately didn't trust them for the full circuit.  I'd been doing segments of the planned route over the last month or so, and knew I could get up and over the topography with the Quickbeam's manual gearing.  The worst of the bits could always be covered by foot, if it came to that, and I knew of a couple stretches where it probably would.

JimG accompanied me back to the start, and we found an open spot near the curb, and looked around for Carlos, who rolled up just moments later. I had to leave the hustle-bustle to pass back some coffee rental, and took the opportunity to swap my jacket for a wind vest.  Although cool, the temperatures were nowhere near where they'd been during previous weeks, which had meant ice on the roadways

Returning to the gang, all were reasonably quiet as Todd gave warnings and instructions to the riders.  Couldn't hear a thing.  Too much rock'n roll as a youth. Oh well.  I caught some bits about stop signs in Ross and following traffic rules, figuring that if anything was really important and different, someone would've asked for clarification. Of course, I do get these recurrent dreams of stewardesses plucking the oxygen mask off my face and saying, "You didn't LISTEN, did you? NO oxygen for you..."

And with nary more than a cessation of the speech, plus a "Good Luck", riders rolled away towards the bridge.  It was 7 am and the brevet had begun.

JimG PhotoJimG & I immediately lost site of Carlos, who had gotten swept forward with the tide of the riders.  The two of us threaded through some other cyclists, avoided the odd runner and daybreak pedestrian on the bridge. Nothing but courteous riding and clear hand-signals in the group, though the speed didn't agree with our early morning antsiness. We stop-n-go'd our way around the two bridge towers and rolled clear of the span.  As we were still riding on the east side, our route took us through the Vista Point parking lot on the north end of the bridge.  Some poor but patient couple in a car got to watch us all roll through the crosswalk, and most people gave them a kind wave.  Even by this point, the lead riders were well clear of the bunch, and JimG posited that Carlos was probably already over Camino Alto hill.

Riders spread out as we dropped down into Sausalito, came together as we hit traffic and signals, and stretched again as we worked our way north.  JimG and I took turns in finding good wheels to follow, as folks hit the end of their initial adrenaline and eased into the rythmn of the day. I could tell that Jim was feeling pretty frisky, and we motored a good pace until the end of the Mill Valley Bike Path.  From there, we found Carlos, who had been caught up at the light, and hopped up and over the Camino Alto hill.  Mounting fenders on the Quickbeam had already paid off, as the roads were damp and splashy in places.  The miles passed quickly to Fairfax, which was the first of my time checks for the day.  According to Carlos' clock, it was 8:08 as we waited for the light to change - pretty much right on target.  We had coalesced into a group of about 12-15 riders as we continued to the first real climb of the day - White's Hill out of Fairfax.

Roughly speaking, there are four usable climbing gears on a fixed gear bicycle. First, you kick your tuckus back slightly and drive from a seated position.  This is a strong way to climb, but does take its toll on one's leg muscles.  Second, you can hitch your chamois off the saddle and use your body weight.  Luckily, I have some of that, and it allows you to rest a bit as you climb. Third, you stand and push a bit harder, with a tightened upper body to transmit the energy to the pedals. Fourth, you are driving with the legs and wrenching with the upper body.  This last method, as the coaches like to put it, means you're burning matches, and you've only got so many in the box.

Me & JimG on White's HillFrom my earlier rides, I knew that I needed to minimize the match-burning, and take it easy where others were smart enough to bring along appropriate gears.  Carlos moved easily away as we headed upward, climbing his Miyata with a smooth, seated cadence that looked easy but always meant you were going to be dropped.  Further on, the be-fendered RB-1 of JimG eased past me.  Jim looked fresh and spun nicely as he headed upwards.  There was no question - he was on today.

At the White's Hill crest, Carlos pulled off to doff a jacket and told us not to wait, so JimG & I hooked into a two-man paceline which took us through the San Geronimo Valley.  We work well together when we ride, and this morning it felt even better, trading pulls and moving past a huge flock of wild turkeys, masticating cows and a couple of golfers who got the early-bird tee times for the day.   We hit the curvey bits past Lagunitas quickly and found ourselves at Ink Wells Bridge, which was where we planned on picking up the unpaved end of the Cross Marin Bike Trail - a legal option on the route. In the past, Jim has enjoyed a pinch flat and fender-ripping stick on this section of trial, so he said he was going to take it easy as we hit the wet dirt.  I rolled onto the spine of the trail, and hit a nice cyclocrossy pace. There's a speed which tends to make the bumps easier, which I maintained until splashing through a puddle which soaked my foot pretty well. Drat. Looking back, I realized that JimG was no longer to be seen. Double-drat - I should've kept him in sight. Well, at worst, Carlos would be coming through in a few minutes, so I figured that he was covered if something bad had happened.

I decided to pause to use the Samuel P. Taylor Park facilities, refilling my water bottle as well.  After remounting the bike, I could hear some voices across on the roadway - riders who had stayed on Sir Francis Drake - but saw no one until reaching the terminus of the trail at Tocaloma Bridge.  Popping out of the bike bath, I ended up in the middle of another small band of riders, and we all started sawing away at the climb towards Bolinas Ridge.  This one is a nasty "mental" sort of climb, which starts dead straight for its initial pitch and then steepens a touch.  It isn't all that tough, but it tries to psyche you out. Rising out of the Lagunitas Creek valley, the temperature became a bit warmer, with sun breaking through, and my riding apparel felt warm for the first time in memory. We crested out and I enjoyed my first real downhill spin-out, hoping to relax my legs for the climbing which remained.

Once hitting level ground again at Olema, I found myself curiously alone. The two riders in front of me had eased into the parking lot of a roadside business and the other riders hadn't caught up yet. Turning left on Bear Valley road, I snapped a "timestamp" photo with my cameraphone and pedaled onward. Though I knew I was on the route, I had a very real pang of "you're going the wrong way" head-messing. It was wrong. I knew it was wrong. But, it didn't fully force the thought away.

Approaching Inverness, Carlos' bicycle sat in front of the coffee & pastry shop on my left, with a number of other rides and riders. One of them clutched a muffin that looked as big as his head and waved a cup of coffee at me as I passed by. Just ahead over the next rise, JimG framed up a photo of his bicycle in front of the Inverness store and hailed me. It seemed like a good time to enjoy not pedaling, and so stepped off the bike and we traded notes. They saw my bike back in SP Park.  I saw Carlos' bike at the cafe.  Our hands are both nasty clammy from soggy gloves, even though there's been no rain.  I was not quite ready to take a real break yet, and so eased forward toward the post-Inverness climb.  It's kind of a bitch, one I had to walk when I rode out to the Lighthouse before, and both anxious to get it behind me and aware that Carlos and Jim will both probably catch me on it.

The road hugs the edge of Tomales Bay here, rising and falling slightly.  The winds have not yet touched the water yet, and for the most part it remains silent and calm. One of those magical times when you feel blessed to be experiencing it.

Further on, the road cuts away from the water, and the upward trend begins in earnest.  I'm feeling a little less blessed and more gravitationally challenged as I flip quickly up through the four climbing gears, find a new one called "Seated, Wrenching and Gasping", then decide to see if the "20 paces and remount" trick will work.  I walk my bike and try a cyclocross hop-on trick, then the momentum fades quickly  further up the climb. Swinging off into a driveway, I decide that it's a good time to doff gloves and make sure everything is situated correctly.  About that time, JimG and Carlos roll past, make sure I haven't thrown a rod or cracked the block, and spin upwards. Waving them on, my breathing settles down and I use the slope of the driveway to reenter the roadway and chunk my way to the crest.

From there it's a long steady spin down to sea level again, with the final approach to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse now within realistic consideration.  A series of "step-ups" follow, and way off in the distance, someone appears who looks a bit like Carlos, so I pretend it is and try to slowly reel him back.  We slinky a bit, as I regain on the climbs and he slips away as I recover on the flatter bits.  I dink around with the pencam a bit and take photos of the roadway  to distract myself.  Rolling upwards, I'm enjoying a gorgeous view and warming sunlight when a new sound suddenly occurs  - "Tick-tick-tick-tick" in time with my front tire rotation.  I look down to see the front sidewall bulging out enormously, and tube starting to stick out.  Crap.  Steering quickly to the side of the roadway,  I try to dive for the stem to let air out, but the sounds of nature are punctuated by an ear-ringing "BLAMM!" which just as suddenly dissipates with the winds.

Ok.  I've got tubes and a pump, obviously.  What I'm worried about is why the tire decided to lift off the rim.  I'd installed new Paselas earlier in the week, did a little test ride, but hadn't really pushed them too hard before this ride.  If the bead was bad, or severed, I could be in a bit of trouble.  Removing the tire was pretty easy, as nearly the entire left side bead had come off. The tube had a 20" split with a clear "X" where the blowout began.   I lined tube up with tire and can see no specific flaw in the bead or tire, and the casing seems happy throughout. Upon closer scrutiny, I can see a few little bits of light tan rubber on the tube, near the initial point of failure.  It seems that I managed to catch the tube with the bead, and it held on for a while until the stresses of riding finally jostled it to freedom. That'd be "user error".

Some riders sweep past during the repair, and every group makes sure I've got necessary tools and gear.  I start thinking about the downhills and swoopy bits already covered and get a shudder at how good my luck really was. Nothing safer than an uphill flat.  Heading off again, I descend and then realize after a nice sweeping turn and ascent that I've neglected to reattach my front brake cable.  I sheepishly pull over, quickly connect things and head off again. I decide that maybe I should stop screwing around with the camera and pay attention to things, and chew through the lettered farms on the way to the final climb to the Lighthouse.

My plan was to flip the rear wheel for the last steep pitch up to the Lighthouse, those extra four teeth on the coastable side being pretty helpful.  I've done this many times, but with the addition of the rear fender, and my hands being tired-dopey, it just seems to take hours.  I get it set and tensioned only to get on, start pedaling and find that the chain is not on the teeth of the freewheel. I fix this and start again, only to realize the rear brake is still disconnected.  I get chain grease everywhere. In short, I am doing a succession of Really Stupid Things, and it gets to me.  

To top this off, as I get near the top of the climb, the pencam, which has been around my neck on a cord, taps the stem just right, opening the cover and causing the batteries to drop out.  I see one rolling back down the road, set the bike down and nab it, but the other is nowhere to be seen.  I start foraging around the thick grass near the road edge, and suddenly realize I've worked my way 10 or 15 yards back without finding it.  Some inner clear voice finally points out that this is not the best use of my time, and I admit defeat, further vexed that I won't have the camera to use for the rest of the ride.

Coasting (ahhhh....coasting...mmm!) the rest of the way to the Lighthouse, a knot of bikes and riders hover around the Control Station, making short work of available water and a Costco-sized box of Nilla Vanilla wafers.  They stamp my card at 11:18.  I see Jim's RB-1 against the bushes near the truck, but need to hit the restroom on the other side of the lot and so walk over there.  I'm tired, hot, feel like I'm wearing too much and am grumpy about losing the battery.  It finally dawns on me, after I scrape the grease off my fingers and munch a Clif Bar, that the efforts had gotten to me a bit more than I'd realized and I've gotten more than a little cranky.. 

By this time, Jim's bike has gone, though I never saw him (and find out later that he thought I'd already left, and upon catching up to Carlos without seeing me, wondered if something had happened to me.)  It dawns on me that my backup blinkie has AAA batteries, so I steal one and get the pencam working again. My arrival time is about a half hour behind plan, so I try to get going with a minimum of additional fuss.  Physically, the most difficult sections are behind me, and now that my core temp has cooled and some calories are pinging around my innards, my thoughts clear and calm a bit. The front tire has held together and shows no signs of moving now, the bike is working well, and although I'm tired, it seems more as a direct result of the recent efforts rather than any kind of physical cave-in. I snap a photo with my newly-repowered pencam and get ready to roll.

Leaving the LighthouseRiders 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 feeling comfortable 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 32 mm 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 I 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 the bovine output 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, "" 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.

Last part of the freewheel indulgenceOnce 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.  

Quickbeam at MarshallLoads 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.

More riders arrived and I once again got the ticky-itchy feeling of needing to be moving again. A visit to the personal plastic room and one more quick back, arms, quads & calf stretch cycle and I rolled away the finishing leg of the ride. I didn't have high hopes for catching Carlos and JimG, as they seemed to have passed by hours ago.  One thing this all-day biking adventure seems to do is mess with my very tenuous grasp of linear time passage.  I may actually have to break down and put some quantitative electronics on the bike, so I can have some reality check. Though I'd been using my cameraphone to zap "timestamp" photos up to my Flickr pages, I seem to send them and snap the beast shut before I focus on what time it is.  A curious quirk, but a real one.

Highway One rolls and sweeps 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 quicker than I would have guessed, with one small vertical 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. Alone again, I lapse into self-induced entertainment behaviors; 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 roads again, 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 Arabian horse 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. This slowing doesn't seem to warrant flipping the rear wheel, but 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 messy, post-squeeze 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 swung back onto Sir Francis Drake and begin the serious push for home.  The rise up out of the valley at White's Hill tried to humiliate me, but I kept my eyes down and take it one pavement expansion crack at a time, until the flashing 25 MPH sign eased past.  Just for old time's sake, the sky dropped rain for about 30 seconds, honoring the fenders, I reckon.  But that thought quickly whisked away, for it becomes 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 rising 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 almost downhill. Now, I've always stated that momentum is a fickle mistress, so I'll take accept 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 (turned out to be a battery issue), 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 south tower, 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 (Turns out it was 5:31 pm) 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.

Epilog & Other Considerations:

Physical Response:

The week which followed the ride was a bit interesting. Woke up reasonably sore on Sunday, and took it pretty easy - enjoying a day off the bike. I stayed off the bike Monday, but took the Dawes (fixed-gear) out for an easy commute and errands on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. My legs were noticeably sore on Tuesday, and it felt damned uncomfortable to be on the bike - especially a different bike - for the first 5 or 10 minutes.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a serious afternoon crash, and probably would have been found drooling onto my desk sound asleep if I hadn't gotten up and splashed some cold water on my face. But, the following Saturday, I took the cleaned and lubed Quickbeam out for an early morning ride, maybe 45 miles or thereabouts. Funny how that seems like a "short" ride now.

During the ride itself, my hands were a bit of a problem. My gloves (full fingered and reasonably cool weather) were just sopping wet, so I removed them and strung them through the elastic on my front bag, riding no handed for most of the way out to the Lighthouse and up to Marshall. (I actually try to ride without gloves whenever possible, and my commute bikes have very thin tape on them.) But during the day, I could feel my hands swelling up a bit - especially the meaty bits by my wrists. Even with the gloves back on for the latter third of the ride, they didn't really feel comfortable. I think if I'd had a lighter pair of gloves for the first part of the ride, or even a dry pair to switch into, that would've been helpful. Also, with my hands held on the bars (below my heart) for most of the day, that might have led to blood pooling up. Althought I stretch legs, neck, arms, shoulders and back, I didn't really do anything to flush out my hands. Gotta think about that next time.

The squeamish might want to skip this paragraph... it's about the saddle contact points. Things went very well in all respects but one - the outside seam on the Pearl Izumi shorts I've always worn comfortably tattoo'ed me pretty good on the cheeks. I reckon that as I tired, my posture shifted a bit more upright, which caused the chaffing. Didn't use the Chamois ButtR that I'd brought, and it never really seemed an issue when I was riding (ok, there were a few twinges, but nothing actually painful). The worst of it correspoded to an area on the edge of the chamois where three seams intersect. Not sure how I'm going to deal with that, but I will be looking at trying different shorts.

The only other unexpected pain was in my right ankle, which was sore the day or two after. Hadn't really had any issues there before, so I'm not sure of the cause. The only thing I can think of is that the cleats I've been running are seriously worn down. I didn't want to replace them before the event. The ATAC's which I used on the ride have also seen some miles, so there may be a slight bend in the axle, or wear to the pedal body.

Items needed but didn't have:

Extra batteries for the camera.
Extra set of gloves.

Items brought but not needed:

Still considering

Things to refine:

First Aid Kit - probably a little too much in the bag.

Gear that failed:

Bruce Gordon rear light - battery issue.
Neck strap for camera - caused camera to hit stem while leaned forward climbing.


Further References -
SF Randonneurs Site by Carlos D. - Aggregated Photos - Sortable Results
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
Rob Hawks - Ride Report


If you have photos or a ride report from this, please let me know.





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updated: February 7, 2008


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