to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, Marshall Store & Return - Approx 125
are sometimes about faith and confidence.
had faith - and I was confident - at 5:30 am on Saturday morning,
that the rain pounding the roof would pass. I was so confident,
in fact, that I turned on the computer - something I said I wasn’t
going to do - to check the Doppler radar image of the sky above
the SF Bay Area. The screen showed several big clumps of green
and yellow moving east and south. As near as I could tell
from the resolution, the trailing edge was directly over our place.
And almost just like that, it stopped raining. In the range
of signs, this had to be good.
really wasn’t all that much to do. Quaff some strong coffee
and stuff down some oatmeal. As I have been more or less obsessively
documenting, this past week has been a series of short checklists
and scribbled notes. The bike was ready, the clothing had been laid
out, the options winnowed down and items that made the cut packed.
Nothing to do but ride, really.
I sipped the last bit of coffee, loaded the bike and got out the
door. It was pretty clear from the standing puddles on the
roadway that a good deal of rain had fallen in the night. Not a
lot of other cars on the highway, but up ahead, I noticed a small
white car with a bike on a roofrack.
guessing here, but I thought possibly, the only other auto on the
roadway splashing through large puddles towards the Golden Gate
Bridge at 6 am with a visible bicycle strapped on just might be
another randonneur. As I got near enough, it was even more
odd - the bicycle on the roof rack was clearly a Rivendell A. Homer
Hilsen. My Quickbeam was lying down out of sight in
the back, so the poor driver probably never quite figured why someone
was shadowing him so closely down the freeway at that early hour.
Still, it seemed another good sign.
continued over the Bridge, while I turned off to save the toll and
ride the last couple of miles to the start. A couple
other reflective outfits flashed from across the otherwise vacant
lot as I angled in. Again, a pretty safe bet we were all heading
to the same place.
only thing left was to change into proper riding shoes and get going.
I ended up opting against wearing my new rain booties - the only
piece of gear I’d brought that was untested. The clearing
skies made me think that they were just not necessary, and I’d
just end up carrying them for the whole day. Did pop on the
toe covers, though.
year, the gate was open on the west side crossing, so I didn’t
have to use the pedestrian subway. Rolling along felt good,
especially after a week of virtually no on-the-bike time.
solitude of the crossing ended as soon as I rolled down the ramp
to the area around the Strauss statue. Bikes and riders were
everywhere. Somewhere in the scrum, volunteers were
checking folks in as fast as possible, but for some reason that
didn’t register in my brain. Ended up rolling past that
gang down to the dirt parking lot, seeing no one and turning around
again. This time I saw an obvious line in the middle
of the sea of yellow jackets and reflective gear, stowed the Quickbeam
and worked my way in. Within a few easy minutes, I confirmed my
information, had my brevet card stowed in a fresh ziplock bag and
was only 200K or so short of my goal for the day.
riders I recognized by bicycle or face hopped in place a bit to
keep warm, or enthusiastically greeted friends and swapped stories.
Whatever else, randonneuring is definitely for morning people. I
looked around, spotted and greeted Carlos,
chatted briefly with our RBA Rob
and enjoyed a bit of bike watching, spotting another Quickbeam that
was prepped for the day.
knew JimG was out of town for this ride, but figured I’d run
across a few folks during the course of the day. The breezes
were still pretty damp, and I kept my rain jacket on, listened to
the instructions provided by Rob, fretted that it surely must be
past 7 am, put my hand on my heart and pledged not to do anything
stupid and we were off, rolling northward under lightening skies.
Since my flash went off (new camera, y’know), it kind of skewed
the lighting balance a bit. A more accurate feel of the day’s
start can be found via One
Happy Cog’s video of the rollout.
always a little hyper-concious during the first miles, as everyone
can get bunched and your reflexes may be too taut or not quite grounded
enough to react well to the unexpected. But, it reminded me again
why I like brevets - folks rode steadily, predictably and alerted
one another to their movements. It was 180 degrees difference
compared the the sketchy, bunched miles of the Marin Century this
past August (a great ride in its own right, but as we moved through
the descent on Lucas Valley just a few miles from the start, there
was a near-perfect-storm of nervous/erratic slower riders and swarming
hyper, “what’s wrong with jumping a double yellow
line on a blind curve” proto-racers which went on for too
damn long. This year, on that ride, we start earlier! But, I digress…).
We skimmed down into Sausalito under clearing skies and wet pavement.
Even among the randonneurs, a few folks ran relatively narrow tires
and no fenders, and they seemed most ill at ease here. Hopefully,
they’d remember to keep their lips together when we passed
through the farm effluent on the way to the Lighthouse.
that lay a bit in the future, of course. As the riders grouped and
strung out along Bridgeway, it seemed like I had the traffic light
charm, and managed to hit every green light change without losing
a bit of momentum. When we hit the Mill Valley Bike Path,
I even had the presence of mind to unclip and raise my feet while
rolling through the deep, floody puddles in front of the bike shop.
The sky continued to gain shades lighter than we’d seen all
week, and I felt well rested and better with each turn of the pedals.
Even a pit stop at the restroom didn’t knock my mood.
I doffed my rain shell, rejoined the route and managed to perfectly
catch the tail end of the green light at the end of the bike path,
transitioning towards the Camino Alto climb.
easy, curving descent on wet pavement, everything feeling rock solid
with feather bed comfort on the new Jack Brown tires. As I’ve
written before, descending on a fixed gear can kind of mess with
your technique, as you can no longer just drop the outside leg and
carve. One of the great things about the Quickbeam
is that Grant’s designs corner exquisitely for my riding style,
even when your feet are whirling about and the pavement is soaked.
I reflexively twisted my way through the lower portion of the route
(which takes up so much of the 200K cue sheet), I’d been mentally
ready to feel kinda cruddy. Between the rains and deciding to err
on the side of low miles in the week before the brevet, I’d
managed to ride pretty much not at all. Yeah, I’d whirled
around the neighborhood a bit after installing the new chain and
tires back a couple days before the brevet, in that brief moment
between the showers. Not much else though. I was not really
sure how that would work out, as I’ve always had the feeling
that things go better when the riding is more consistent.
the couple nights before the ride, I’d been having to get
up and stretch at o’dark thirty. Maybe they call it
excess energy. Whatever. But sometimes, that ends up with
a fairly clunky start to the riding day. When work or other commitments
has cut down on my rides, the first hour or so of the
first ride back can be pretty blocky, and things feel better
as the distance increases.
the other hand, Carlos has written before of taking time off the
bike before his long rides - his “not training” training.
While I may not have felt super smooth yet, there was a certain
amount of latent energy in the system.
my mind churned these relatively useless thoughts and comparisons,
it made me realize once again that using the fixed-gear system of
drivetrain does tend to isolate one on a ride. You don’t
really climb at the same pace, and you certainly don’t descend
in the same manner. I’d been aware of some other riders
in the general vicinity, but I wasn’t really going the same
pace as anyone.
reaching San Anselmo, that is, and finding myself behind a couple
of fixed-gear randonneurs.
was pretty cool. Not only were there others with the same
mental affliction as myself, they were moving at roughly the same
pace. They were also chatting with the geared, coastable rider
seen in the above image, so I held back a bit as we negotiated the
stop signs and pedestrian traffic in town.
just as suddenly, they were gone. One of the back road connectors
between San Anselmo and Fairfax. They had gone straight and
would have to go right a couple blocks up, while I went right and
followed the road as it veered left. We’d end up in
the same place, but I think they added an extra zig-zag to the route.
the way out to White’s Hill I came upon a couple of riders
here and there, but grunted my way up the first big incline pretty
much solo. I recall passing a pedestrian on the way up, which struck
me as reasonably odd - probably the first I’ve encountered
over the years.
hill was kind of the first real test of the day. While the riding
has been consistent over the past couple months, there hasn’t
been a lot of extra climbing involved. This would really be
the first goodly chunk in memory, though I’d gone up it a
few weeks before when
Esteban was in town. Climbing is funny. It gets
easier each time you do it. But, it still hurts. Since I knew I
hadn’t been doing it, I tried to keep things as throttled
back as you can when you’ve elected to ride away off for the
day with no shifty bits. It went pretty well, with a pause-for-recharge
near the summit.
down into the San Geronimo Valley, a couple other riders had passed
me, and I tried to keep them in sight. Spinning along on the
flats here things actually began to feel pretty good. Moving through
the straight section of the main valley, then easing into the twisty
and narrower sections under the redwoods, it made sense to stay
on the pavement until reaching S. P. Taylor State Park. Here,
I steered the Quickbeam into the campground, crossed Paper Mill
Creek and connected with the Cross Marin Path. Under the towering
trees and rushing waters, large drips fell and a consistent mist
made it feel as though I were under water in places.
halfway along, the sun broke through in a meaningful way, adding
to the fairyland feel.
it was damp and drippy, but not rainy.
I seemed to be making pretty good time. The appearance of
the rainbow was just icing on the cake.
digress here briefly as I’ve already read a couple of accounts
of this ride by others. For some reason, folks are associating rainbows
with unicorns. Please, speaking from the strain of Irish blood in
my heritage, it’s “pot o’ gold” people!
Rainbows and unicorns are an 80’s marketing phenomenon…)
until this time, things had been mostly in solo mode, which was
ok. But, it did make me wonder if through some quirk of momentum,
I’d be spending the day by myself. Rejoining the roadway,
I saw the Box
Dog Boys a quarter mile up ahead on the climb over Bolinas Ridge.
They climbed steadily and disappeared around the dogleg near the
crest. On the descent down the over side, I came upon a solo
rider on an Ebisu.
turned out to be Franklyn
W, who I’ve “known” for a while via
Flickr and his submissions to the Gallery (1,
It was great to finally meet in person, especially while out enjoying
a day which seemed to be growing more gorgeous by the minute.
He said he had been overcoming a cold this week, but decided to
roll out on the 200K anyway.
seen some of the images of this newer bike, but they really don’t
do it justice. The Ebisu
has such a wonderful, understated quality to it, and seeing them
on the road is always a pleasure. In my mythical Barn of Bikes
I Want, the Ebisu is definitely on the list. By the way, the Barn
is well sealed against the elements, heated, has wooden floors and
looks conspicuously like either Peter
Weigle’s or Richard
Sachs’ places. It does not currently fit in my backyard.
chatted a bit, separated slightly on the slight rise past the Earthquake
Trail, and passed the Box Dog Boys, who had pulled up to fix a flat.
They waved us on and we skimmed along the wet pavement, pulling
into Inverness Park fairly quickly thereafter.
topped off and shifted some fluids, anxious to get going again fairly
quickly. One of the differences between the 2008 (geared) 200K and
the 2007 (fixed) edition had been briefer stops. The time
difference had been about an hour between the two years, and although
I’d been a bit under-miled in 2008, and there had been strong
winds to deal with on the course, my motto this time was to be efficient
off the bike as well. I bought some sugar - uh - “Vitamin”
water (though I had to ask the clerk to take my money) and got rolling.
other reason I wanted to get on the move had to do with the climb
up from Inverness, which skirts the shoulder of Mt. Vision. It’s
deceptively steep and it hates me.
Maybe it doesn’t hate me. It is deceptively steep in a couple
spots. You realize this on the way back, when the descent invigorates
your senses and fills your sails, but there’s something about
the way up which is a bit mind-crunching. It bit pretty well
on the first section, and I rolled to a stop to regain my breath.
The incline had collected some other riders - most of whom were
smart enough to bring a wide array of gearing options - and we
chugged upwards, giving thumbs ups or encouragement when we met
used the lack of auto traffic to tack my way up some of the pitches,
which helped quite a bit. Somewhere in my brain, I wondered
what that would do to my cue references, had this been a brevet
on an unknown route. But, since realizing I can’t quite focus
on the odometer while riding anyway, it’s a bit of a moot
point. The crest came a bit quicker than anticipated, and momentum
began to work its magic on the bike.
down a moderate grade is always such a recharge - it makes me think
of the phrase “blowing the ballast” (as in submarines,
not fluorescent lighting fixtures). The sun was out, reflecting
off the wet pavement and roadside trees. My Jack Brown tires hissed
along and the pedals seemed to pull my feet. This was a great
bottomed out at the turn to the Oyster Farms, having skimmed through
a section of flooded roadway. This was 0′ elevation
is also where the route wants to make sure you are serious about
going to the Lighthouse. It starts with a couple little pitches
to get onto Pt. Reyes proper, then you turn south towards the Lighthouse
and it shows you where need to go.
are not bad climbs, but if you click through and view
the full size version, you’ll get a little better sense
of the scale. I had worked my way back to The Tandem With the Hypnotizing
Tail Light, a couple other riders and Franklyn, who had eased past
me on the Inverness climb. We worked our way along, the tandem climbing
like, well, a tandem and then descending like a peregrine
falcon. The rest of the single cockpit bikes found and
lost momentum and we wheezed along the road like an accordian bellows.
The pain was temporary and even with the efforts, I was actually
feeling pretty good.
up on the mesa, a group of 3 + 1 riders came towards us - the Fast
Kids moving along to what would be a sub-8-hour 200K. I looked
down at the fuzzy font of my odometer, maybe to work out some math
or another diversionary project. If I saw it, the number didn’t
stick. What ever the equation, they rode fast.
view is always both depressing and invigorating. You’ve been
climbing a bit and thinking you have made some progress. The you
up a rise and see the far-distant-seeming point of the Lighthouse,
remember the angle of the last pitch and go “unnghh!”.
remember you’ve done it before and realize you have a goal
- especially if
you are near the time you’d hoped for.
as the slow-ly switch-ing, reh-ed, mon-do, home-brew, tail-light
mount-ed up-on the-uh tan-dem a-head forced me to admit, my time
estimate was pretty spot on. I may have also spewed my social security
number, PIN code, various passwords and admitted my involvement
in any number of crimes. But, I chomped down on the bit, followed
the light up soul-crushing S-turns up from “Historic B Ranch”
and made it to through the swill (actually, not bad on this day)
at A Ranch, before pulling up a the Y (not a Ranch or a workout
locale, an actual “Y” in the road) for the “Rivendell
another rider was coming back from Chimney Rock. I figured
he was not on the brevet, as that’s quite the wrong direction.
Then he laughingly said, “That’s not the right way…”
and I had to agree. It’s gotta get better, right?
I flipped the wheel and rerigged the chain to the freewheel side,
riders hit the 20% last pitch to the Lighthouse, grabbed the wrong
gear and wobbled to a stop, or motored up cursing Zeus and the gods
of topography. A few riders screamed down at what I would
describe as dangerous speeds, pebbles skittering and tires scrabbling
for adhesion. Most dropped down under control, aware
that things get sketchy right there, between autos, bikes, cattle
effluent and metal stock guards. Franklyn checked in as he went
by, offering to hold the Quickbeam as I went through my ritual.
it was butt down, bars up and try to stay stuck to the roadway.
As I wondered inwardly why it was exactly that I liked cycling in
any form, another rider edged up to my side. It was Barley, one
half of the fixed gear couple I’d seen back in San Anselmo.
He was thumping his fixed Specialized upwards, and the effort was
evident. As we hit the tougher sections, I eased up a bit
faster, feeling like the consummate slacker for bringing a coastable
this would be an example of the maxim that old age and treachery
usually trumps youth and enthusiasm. (Well, only briefly - they
would finish a chubby half hour ahead of me on the day).
you could say, “Cough up a lung”, I found myself in
front of a cheery SFR volunteer, getting my card signed for 11:03.
was my third time out here under the clock of a brevet. The first
was 11:18, after a flat, and I felt like crap and really, really
needed to sit for a spell, calm myself and refocus for the rest
of the ride. The second
was 11:01, after pushing hard into a headwind which wrung me out
pretty well. Today, I felt, strangely, good.
weather was utterly perfect. The bike acted well. I’d
tightened up the cue sheet to just show pertinent info for my ride.
Since I knew the route, that meant waypoints with Good and Slow
times. Plus, as I noted at the start, my bike computer was 15 minutes
fast. In other words, optimism was high and I was, well, confident…
mean, how could it not be, on a day like this?
beauty of the scene at the Lighthouse parking lot was compelling.
I could have sat there for an hour, soaked up the sun and been totally
happy. It was a rare and gorgeous day. Other randonneurs -
Happy Cog, The
Box Dog Boys and a few others I recognized rolled up to the
control and all was well in the world.
the flow of riders in and out of the lot set off my “get moving”
alarm, and after half-filling my empty water bottle (the big SFR
thermoses were getting low), I commenced the pre-flight ritual.
On the return leg, those little pitches that climb up to the main
mesa always seem to bite after the short time off the bike at the
control. Plus, the initial downhill from the Lighthouse has an incline
and surface conditions that fixed-gear nightmares are made of.
So, I elected to keep the rear wheel flopped onto the coastable
side of things for a few miles, though I did notch it back up to
the 40T chainring, assisted by a helpful guy in a Freewheel
SF vest, who has riding a really nice Hunter.
pretty disorienting to be able to suddenly coast. Sort of
mucks things up for the first few hundred yards, but I got spinning
fairly quickly, dropped down to the first ranch and got stuck in
a scrum of oncoming cars, farm equipment and randonneurs. We sorted
things out reasonably quickly and commenced cussing our way up the
first climb. While it’s good to use the lower gearing of the
freewheel, you do lose the momentum of fixed-gear climbing.
However, it did seem prudent to allow my legs to rest a bit.
even dropped back down to the low/low for the final pitch up to
the mesa. Then misjudged the QR setting when I reclamped it
and immediately pulled the axle forward on the first pedal stroke.
Ack! It’s the simple things that catch you. Just as I was
messing with it for the second time, another rider on a Miyata checked
to make sure there was nothing wrong. Admitting to user error,
I got spinning along again.
the mesa, where Drake’s Beach Road angles off to the south,
I commenced to reflipping the gearing. The next section is a fine
dividend for the suffering bits encountered earlier. While
there are still a few inclines to resolve, the road drops down ever
downward in a series of steps, limited solely by how fast you want
to pedal. The smooth road surface hummed under my tires and I enjoyed
things leveled out, I had a curious feeling - that of being very
hungry. I’d had oatmeal at breakfast before leaving the house,
and I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but for me,
oatmeal just evaporates. I go from full to empty in about a second
and a half.
the other thing. I’ve been writing and erasing, rewriting
and chucking out those sentences for a while now - which is why
the second half of this ride report has been so damned tardy in
getting posted. It’s been very hard to write about the second
part of this ride, because things are about to go really well and
very poorly. In the hopes of smoothing things out for the future,
I’ve been thinking about where things really bottomed out,
and tried to backtrack to the point where I wish I’d done
something a little bit different - where I’d been alert enough
to recognize I was making an error and smart enough to do something
here is one of those places where I should have recognized a budding
issue. All the articles I’ve ever read encourage pretty much
the same thing - eat before you are hungry and drink before you
are thirsty. And I was hungry - growling-empty-stomach,
“dang I gotta get some food” hungry. Luckily,
I’d packed a sandwich, and as the roadway stayed roughly level,
I commenced to dig it out of my Zugster Rando Bag and nibble away.
It made me feel very rando-ey. I tried to take reasonably
small bites, as it seemed as though there wasn’t too much
extra saliva in the system, and the reasonably dry food was not
doing anything other than sucking up any moisture to be found. That
would indicate that I was also a bit thirsty. After getting
about a third of the sandwich into me, things felt OK, and I stowed
it back into the bag.
the stylin’ Elvis glasses of hindsight, this was the time
not to be dainty, foodwise. While it might not have been the
brightest move to cram the whole thing down my throat as quickly
as possible, it may have been prudent to keep nibbling away, a bite
or two every five minutes or so until I’d finished the whole
it was, I worked my way upwards towards the Inverness Ridge pretty
steadily. During my first time on this course back in 2007,
I’d used the distraction of standing and sitting to go up
this longer but easier incline to the crest. 20 standing pedal
strokes, followed by another 20 in the saddle. It had been a grind
then, but it broke things up and kept the pace up a bit. Today,
I did the same thing, but had some oomph and was able to do “40’s”.
That result was more than likely a direct benefit of the recent
caloric intake. Before the top, I managed to catch up with Franklyn
again, after he’d eased past while I was flopping my wheel
back on the mesa.
I knew it, it was high alert mode, zig-zagging down the descent
towards the Tomales Bay side of things, dodging sketchy pavement
patches and howling through the turns. Again at bay level, if I’d
been clever, the sandwich would have come out again. But I
wasn’t and it didn’t.
is the benefit of consideration after the fact. At the time, I was
spinning along strongly over the rolling roadway with a specific
goal in mind: stopping once again at the grocery in Inverness Park
for some fluids. While it may have been considerate to not
drain the common igloo of water at the Control back at the Lighthouse,
it would have been smarter to walk a ways up the path to the actual
water source and refill my bottles completely before shoving off.
They were both pretty empty at this point.
if I, Current Self, could time travel back to chat briefly with
the slightly under-watered and low-caloric Randonneurring me, I
think I might have suggested that since Inverness Park was only
about 2 miles away from the Bovine Bakery, it might have been a
better move to suck it up, stick it out and proceed to the sunnier
destination (passive solar recharge), which has high
caloric hot pizza (thermal/caloric assistance), in addition
to coffee (”Hi, I’m
Jim and I am a Caffeine Addict…”), which would
give me access to their sink for water refilling (hydro-sustenance),
just to name a few points of concern. Which, if I’d
been smarter and eaten up my whole damned sandwich back a while
before that, would have been a simpler idea to come up with, rather
than the too-easy decision of “Stop. Buy water now”
which cycled through my brain.
my brain for some reason thought Pt. Reyes Station was a bit further
away. So, I pulled on the reins and stopped.
some water and such, spread out and nibbled away, listening to the
bleating goats and watch the odd randonneur ease past. The
rider I’d seen earlier on the Miyata had stopped and opted
for a run on the bakery next door. We chatted a little bit and I
think I was able to form reasonably coherent sentences. At this
point it was about 12:45, and I was happily within my “good”
time for the day. I finished off my sandwich, but didn’t
really want to do too much more eating.
is a difference - stop me if I’m wrong here - between a 5
hour ride and a 10 hour ride. One big difference is the whole
refueling aspect, which I mentioned earlier. At the former, you
can push the gas tank needle past the half-full mark, even let it
drop down until the warning light goes on. On the latter,
the trick is to keep the calories coming in while the exertions
of the day are using them up.
that trick strikes me as
one I have yet to really master.
is, of course, a thought that I wish had occurred to me quite that
clearly as I was sitting there as the clock edged into hour six,
nibbling the slices of tangerine I’d packed along. I’d
marveled a bit at the way that the sandwich seemed to fuel me over
the ridge coming back - just didn’t seem able to draw any
larger conclusions from that behavior.
packed up and rolled out again, coming up on a couple of riders
on Rivendells as we reconnected to Highway 1. Another half
a mile up the road in the town of Pt. Reyes Station, the familiar
figure of One
Happy Cog appeared before me. I caught up to him as we
finished the rise to get out of town, and chatted a bit on our way
north to Marshall. The winds had remained reasonably still, and
though a few clouds sat to the west, the sun shown on our path.
was good to share the miles with another rider. Even better, it
was a chance to ride with him a bit. Although we’d crossed
paths a few times, we had not ridden together before. Our pace seemed
well suited to one another, his range of gears helping to entice
me up the rollers on the way to the second Control. We traded the
lead now and again, chatted a bit and hailed the randonneurs who
had reached the turnaround point and were heading back to San Francisco.
At some point, he dropped back and snagged a little video footage
quite recall what was hanging out of my back jersey pocket…
rolled up the final bit to the Marshall store, and upon stepping
inside, found a goodly line of sweaty brevet riders all queued up
to buy some food and get their card stamped. With the gorgeous
weather, a fair number of folks had driven out there as well, and
were seated along many of the outside tables, sampling the chowder.
The place was about as busy as could be, and I tried not to fret
about time being lost while standing in place. As it was, my purchase
time was 13:45, frighteningly spot on to where I’d hoped to
be for the day. This whole having a timepiece easily accessible
on the bike was not at all bad.
made me realize too that I’m normally not very time or distance
oriented when riding. Riding without a computer, as I’d
been doing for recent years, you become a bit reliant on your own,
highly fallible, internal clock. Segments of a ride which required
the most effort often times felt like it also took the longest.
Putting a timepiece against it makes you realize that while mentally
you range from “all hope
lost” to “dang,
I’m good!”, it may have only taken 2 or three
minutes to move from one place to the other. (One of the reasons
that Kent P’s “Keep
Pedaling, It Will Get Better” mantra works.) There are times
on that some stretches of roadway and incline become endless, relentless
cycles of turmoil. But, then you can’t replicate that combination
of exhaustion and timelessness ever again, rolling over the spot
that held you for hours, according to your recollections. There’s
a tendency of the mind to become a bit unhitched sometimes, and
when doing so it tends to assume the worst. Recognizing that
the last year of purgatory took only 2 minutes can sometimes snap
you back a bit.
on this ride, what was assuming the worst was my taste buds.
I don’t know if it was the sudden thump of boiled oysters
and seafood on my nostrils, or just the combination of a few too
many Clif Blocks combined with Vitamin Water, but when I tried to
drink the fruit juice I’d bought, my throat was having none
of that. One the one hand, I wanted to trust what my body was telling
me, but felt like I needed to get some calories somehow. I
didn’t really think that hanging around in Marshall was an
ideal game plan - so I used the facilities, failed once more at
sipping more than a smidgen of juice and then just decided to roll
on out of town.
was a small group of three riders ahead, so I eased my way up to
them. Unfortunately, the curse of the fixed-gear system raised
it’s head, as they - equipped with a range gears and coasting
mechanisms - tended to climb and descend at a considerably different
pace than I did. I’d ease off the front on the short
rollers, and they’d zip past me on the sharper downhills.
It was actually nice, though, as it took my mind off of the effort
being made. Then they all pulled off the road together, and
I noticed that there was a strong pitter-patter sound of raindrops
hitting my helmet.
I could see sun on the hills. Behind I could see the sparkly
white clouds to the north. But, for some danged reason, there
was a reasonably thick cloud overhead intent on doing nothing other
than pissing down big wet drops of rain. The only concession I made
was to quickly stash the camera into the front bag, choosing to
focus only on the sunny bits in the distance. When the splashing
started coming up from the roadway as well, I finally decided to
protect my saddle and stopped to haul out the cover which was rolled
up in the back bag.
over the saddle to keep it out of direct rain, I positioned the
cover, worked out the slack and tightened down the cord to keep
it in place. One Happy Cog rolled past with a wave.
I remounted and tried to find momentum once more.
20 pedal strokes later, the rain stopped for good. Nature
has a heckuva sense of humor. But, it did get me laughing.
last little pitch on Highway One is near the Pt. Reyes Vineyard.
This one bit a little harder today, and for the first time for the
day, I got the distinct negative message from the legs when encouraging
them to give it a little more. Luckily, the group of three caught
up with me just then, observed politely that fixed-gear riders might
be a little off their nut, and eased ahead just slowly enough to
give me a carrot once again. I cut down the distance a bit on the
flatter mesa that followed, and by the time the left turn came up
for the Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Road, we were more or less nearby.
this point again, I started thinking a bit about food. I suspect
that somewhere down in the operating system, the word had gone out
that the reserves were getting a little thin. The wind had
freshened slightly, and the last molecule of boiled seafood had
removed itself from the olfactory system. As we rolled along the
river valley, the clear thought manifested that I should dig out
something and eat it. I couldn’t figure out what to
eat however, and somewhere the big dumb animal instinct that seemed
to be taking over was getting a bit transfixed by the idea of pedaling
strongly, rather than opening up the front bag and rooting around
for calories. The Hunter/Gatherer was not strong with this one.
got worse as we made the turn up towards the Nicasio dam.
The problem was that I was actually feeling rather good, and the
bike was moving well. The three riders pulled off for a natural
break out of sight of the roadway, but momentum pulled me forward.
Even though I stood on the pedals for a portion of the incline to
the reservoir level, things felt strong. Once on the flat, there
was just a hint enough of a headwind that I could push the speed
up towards 20 mph. Meanwhile, my voice of reason was tapping
me on the shoulder, saying, “Hey! Dummy! Eat
Rouleur brain was saying, “yeah….got it… uhhh…just
a sec….ummm… in a minute…” Maybe it
expected the team car to ease up next to it and pass over a croissant
and some other goodies. Its non-linear counterpart was
egging it along, saying we’d be in Nicasio before too long,
and that would be a good place to stop and recharge.
I find myself in this situation again, I hope I will recognize it
for the error that it was.
on the way out to the Lighthouse, the phrase of the ride popped
into my brain - “Discomfort is Temporary.” Typing
that now makes it sound a little bit like the more macho statement,
“Pain is Weakness leaving the body” and I really
want to distinguish between those two ideas. Discomfort
is the condition when you ask yourself to do a little bit more.
It pushes the needles a bit into into the red zone, but you are
within what you can do. Pain comes from telling your body to do
something. It’s your brain asking for more than you can reasonably
isn’t to say that you should let your lazy body off the hook.
It’s knowing the difference between enabling what you can
do versus doing damage.
phrase, “Discomfort is Temporary” had cropped up a few
times so far since then, helping me to remember that the roadway
would crest out soon, and though I’d be a tad uncomfortable
for another minute or so, that would soon end. Here though,
as I spun past Nicasio Reservoir with some momentum, the phrase
misled me, and I continued to keep both hands on the bars and pedal
along. I wonder if I wouldn’t have been more cautious
if the sun hadn’t been out and the winds so moderate.
Nicasio, I parked, used the blue plastic phone booth and dropped
into the store to get some water.
I had seemed too appetizing. Maybe I should have trolled through
the store once more, looking for crunchy/salty. Finally, in
anticipation of the rise and pitch to get back over to the San Geronimo
Valley, I squeezed a GU-analog into my mouth and followed it up
with some water. I chatted briefly with a couple of other
riders, one of whom was riding a tan Bob Jackson rigged up as a
fixed-gear. He was talking about a group of single-geared
who were doing various centuries together. They rolled out a minute
or two before I did.
though the sun still shone, the temperature felt cooler, and with
the next few miles under the redwoods, I added my windvest underneath
my flecto vest. At some point, I’d also put on my wool gloves,
and correctly reckoned that this was a good time to switch out of
the cotton cap back to the wool, and add a little ear coverage.
and for those of you playing along at home, feeling suddenly cold
is a good indicator that you are not eating enough.
I’d made Nicasio at around 15:25, and was hoping to get back
into Fairfax at around 16:10 or thereabouts. Though it felt like
I was crawling up the first incline, I didn’t have to walk.
In fact, when I hit the pitch that crests out at the Cecy
Krone Memorial, I only stopped once. With auto traffic
at zero here, I managed to tack my way through the steepest section
while remaining on the bike, and just like that, was looking down
at the valley below.
always like this point in the ride. My feeling has always
been that I can limp home from here. Clipping back in, my
cadence got a hair past the second “hop” in my technique
- one goes through right at 25 mph, and the second one comes
in at about 32 mph. Perhaps someone with more of a math background
can explain why. By the time the road ended back at Sir Francis
Drake, a few of us had collected waiting for a gap in the cross
traffic. We were finally beginning to truly backtrack on the initial
course we’d headed out on this morning. Chatting a bit as
we swung left and eastward onto SFD, the Cooper rider noticed that
we were non-coasting kin. I hung along with them for a while, but
was feeling the unmistakable condition of marshmallow legs setting
were OK as long as the roadway was dead flat, but as soon as any
topography introduced itself, there was just nothing there. The
slight rise near the treatment plant got to me, and the incline
up to White’s Hill bit pretty well. The two riders I’d
met in Nicasio had stopped here as well. One set off again
pretty quickly, but the other hung back. Here, I took a few
moments to focus a bit before the descent. Auto traffic back from
the coast had picked up a bit, and I wanted to make sure that my
brain was going to be ahead of me. Riders have been hurt here
on brevets, and I did not want to break my earlier pledge to “do
proceeded without fanfare, avoiding several nasty spills of loose
gravel to the right and taking the lane when conditions and speed
warranted. Squeezing every bit of momentum out of the slight
decline into Fairfax, I kept the pedals turning, hooked into the
town proper with a quick right and left, avoiding a driver who didn’t
understand STOP when applied to their direction and rolled down
Center Ave again. Though I looked longingly at the Java Hut,
the lure of momentum and progress kept me on the path. I slugged
a little Vitamin Water down and immediately felt the worse for it.
It started doing the slappy dance with whatever bits of GU (technically
“Honey Stinger”) were attached like moss to the inside
of my stomach.
that combo for a definite “No, Thank you.”
already admitted here, I know better than that. Once you start the
GU packs, you need to keep chaining them. Or, you need to throw
some real food in there to absorb the artifacts. And you need
not more sugary sippy juice. By the time I was halfway to
San Anselmo, my helpful brain was trying to recall the last time
I actually threw up. Swallowing and breathing helped a bit, as did
focusing on not hitting pedestrians or getting run down myself.
Finally, I took a small sip of water, and things calmed down slightly.
This seemed to reactivate some shard of logical behavior, so when
the stomach started churning again a half mile up the road, I sipped
a little more water.
like to apologize to anyone who passed by me, or rode near me between
San Anselmo and Corte Madera. If you said something cheery
or encouraging and I just sort of stared past you, I’m sorry.
It was just that I didn’t really want anything other than
air passing in or out of my mouth.
really the way I got to the base of the Camino Alto hill - sipping
and hoping that I wouldn’t get sick. As the road
began easing upward, I pulled over and tried to assess things a
bit. I remembered that I’d tucked a
package of dark chocolate into the front of the bag, and finally
decided that a couple bites of that would send me one way or the
other very quickly. The funny thing is that it wouldn’t
really melt when I put it in my mouth (how’s that core temperature
workin’ for ya?), and when I finally started chewing on it,
the bits just kept seeming drier and drier (see Dehydration: symptoms
of). There was about thirty seconds of “hmmmmm”
when it hit my stomach, but by then I’d remounted and was
leaning on the pedals in a slow-motion effort to get the Quickbeam
moving once again. Considering I’d been standing in front
of a pizza restaurant, it seemed that barfing while moving would
be a better option.
my stomach started to settle. Less encouragingly, my legs felt like
dry capellini. It was about the ugliest climb I’ve ever done
up that hill. I might have stopped once or twice. Must
have once, because I recall biting off a little more chocolate.
A couple riders passed me on a turn, said something upbeat and eased
passed. If my eyes were focusing correctly, my speed was somewhere
in the 3’s. “Walking speed” thought I.
“Faster than stopping!” suggested another voice. “Discomfort
is Temporary,” offered another.
just concentrated 10 feet ahead of the bike, shifting all my body
weight onto each pedal in succession. I knew that would get
me to the top.
a brevet is about faith.
this point, it was not about optimism. Optimism implies a
future. My brain was having none of that. The moment
was just lean, weight, pull with the arm, shift to the other side
on one pedal stroke, it was just a hair easier. And again.
is the blessing of the fixed-gear - the intimate connection with
incline, traction and gravity. I looked up just a bit to confirm
my location. The hiking path on the right meant the top was near.
I could even sit for a few pedal strokes now, using different muscles
and finding a slight glimmer of momentum. And suddenly, at the top,
there was only the pull of the descent.
at the above photo, I see a couple of things. First, my recollection
had been that I looked at the camera when taking the photo. But,
the image shows a weird thousand yard stare. It also shows
another inattention to detail item - my wind vest is clearly unzipped.
It’s even a bit outside of the flecto bib. And I was
wondering why I felt cold at this point… I wouldn’t
zip it up until after I’d finished and hung around for a few
minutes at the final control.
the climb was disheartening, the descent brought my spirits back
once again. Since I don’t get to coast on the downhills,
there’s little chance of letting my mind wander. Working
the rough pavement and easy curves of the descent into Mill Valley
sharpened up my outlook a bit, and upon reaching the bottom I remembered
how close I was to my goal. The pie-in-the-sky hope had been for
a sub-10 hour finish, and that had pretty much evaporated when I
crested on Camino Alto at 16:56. The realistic goal had been
to match my 2007 finish time of 10:31.
in Nicasio, I’d rigged up my headlight - a NiteRider MiNewt
USB - so when the sun dipped behind the clouds at the horizon while
rolling over the Mill Valley Bike Path, I flicked a switch to stay
as visible as possible. At the traffic light on the far end
of the path, I bumped up with a couple of other randonneurs.
We all rolled out when we got the green, and I saw that One Happy
Cog had slipped into our midst. I was in serious pit bull mode at
this point - clamping down with a death grip on anyone’s wheel
and trying to hold it.
chocolate kicking in and the vagaries of the Bridgeway traffic and
lights, I held on almost to downtown, when a gap appeared and half
the group made a yellow that we didn’t. We threaded
our way through increasingly erratic drivers and then swept uphill
for the final climb to the Bridge. Unfortunately, the combination
of sugar, cacao and enthusiasm was not a match for the realities
of the incline. The first pitch upwards did me in, so I eased over
and caught my breath, crammed another bite of chocolate and focused
for the next and steepest bit. Here also, we were begining to intermingle
with the return migration of light-less, bike-renting tourists.
and grunting, I got up the worst bit, then just tried to be a machine
for the rest of the climb. Reaching the Bridge level, I
saw a few riders ahead pull left to cross on the east side.
I continued under the narrow tunnel, whooped my way up the final
insulting pitch, eased over and dropped down to the west sidewalk.
By midspan, I could see several randonneurs learning the hard lesson
about crossing on the east walkway - the folks on that side can’t
hear you and don’t care. On the west, it was cool runnings.
light remained from the setting sun that it felt like daylight on
the Bridge - an extremely uplifting condition. Before I knew
it, I swung below the roadway and chicaned down to the Final Control.
A couple other riders were negotiating paperwork with RBA Rob Hawks,
who aimed his pen at me and said “16:43.” Signed
my card when he finished with them and passed it back to Rob.
would have loved a strong espresso or even a scalding hot chocolate.
Alas. None to be found. Nibbled on some pretzels and
potato chips which seemed to turn to dust in my mouth. Dug out all
my layers and zipped everything up. About that time, One Happy
Cog appeared, stood me up and we posed for a photo:
the flash didn’t fire, and I misjudged the 1890’s era
portrait exposure timing, so my features are slightly doubled.
the act of standing together in a photo reminded me that brevets
are about camaraderie. We’d passed some beautiful miles
together on the roads today, and now we had both arrived at roughly
the same time where we’d left some ten and a half hours earlier.
whooped and hollered for a few more folks easing in under the dwindling
light before realizing that heat was escaping like air through a
nicked tube. Said a few goodbyes, and rolled back onto the
Bridge, in search of a car with a heater that would soon be blasting.
down towards the north tower, I think I glimpsed Franklyn
again as he made his way on the other side walkway. I waved
but could tell he hadn’t been looking. I can’t
imagine riding that course with a cold.
reached the car, sore and chilled. Recontacting the saddle
on the way back had not been a positive experience. My feet hurt
a bit and I was just really happy to be done for the day.
This ride had gone both very well and reasonably poorly in spots.
A few more miles, a bit more concentration on climbing, a lot more
awareness about food all would have helped.
are about learning too, I reckon.
one last thought I had, before calling my wife to let her know I
was done and heading home, was that after brevet number three,
I feel as though I’m more of a beginner than before my first
really sure what that means, but it was clearly in the jotted down
notes from later that evening. It will be interesting to see
where that thought leads.
San Francisco Randonneurs - Lighthouse
200K - 1/23/10 ~125 miles - finishing time: 10:43 Results
Epilog & Other Considerations:
be updated from my notes, whereever they wandered off to...)