For my July contribution to the R-12, I humbly submit the Double Brevet Ride Report: To Cloverdale Best Western Swimming Pool and Back in a Jiffy.

The work week prior to this ride was very busy, not to mention all the hill sprints I’ve been doing in the Presidio with Ely, Gabrielle, and Alice, so I started out already feeling pooped. In fact, I was nervous about this ride and questioned whether it was a good thing to attempt.

Foggy and a bit blustery starting out… Not feeling great about this ride so far…

I’ve come to recognize the feelings of anxiety about doing these long rides, though, and now that I’d successfully completed six of them, I let those feelings pass and just showed up, open to whatever might happen and willing to do my best. And in the end, I completed both the weekend’s 200k rides successfully this time too, one in record time for me.

I don’t think I could have done it without all the super people I rode with intermittently along the way. After having missed a turn, becoming totally lost on the wrong road on the first day, I ran into Kimber Guzik and her crew, also having missed the turn… We logged a few more bonus miles together and then finally, she was able to get reception on her mobile phone and get us back in the right direction to make it to the penultimate control.

Westside Road… Beautiful, if a bit too much of it

They had sandwiches at the control, but I just refilled my water, ate some food from my pack, and kept going. I don’t know what fire got under me on this ride, but I surely wasted no time at any of the controls.

In fact, because I got through the first control of the day on day two so quickly, I somehow had the good fortune to catch up with another super person with whom I got to ride for a bit, Gabe Ehlert. Gabe designed my bike frame, recommended the parts for the build, and assembled my bike, something I have gotten many happy miles out of, so I have a lot of respect for the guy. Oddly enough, I rolled over something spiky right after we started riding together and blew my front tire. This was the first flat I’ve had on a brevet. I felt a little self- conscious about my repair skills, but Gabe was cool as a cucumber about it and we got back on the road in short order to enjoy an uneventful stretch to the next control.

Heading out along 116 to the coast… the fog awaits

Another unusual thing that happened during this double brevet series, though on day one, was that I came upon a rider I knew who turned out to be having a mild heart attack. A very strong rider, he had just finished riding his bike with two others across the US via the southern tier through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana etc. I had followed his blog as he went and even posted a link to it here on my own blog– you can still read his account of that ride. Anyway,  I was just leaving Guerneville on the morning of the first day, and saw him walking his bike by the roadside. Just to check, I asked him if everything was ok, and he said he wasn’t sure, and that his chest hurt. Once I stopped, he also told me his right arm and hand felt numb for a moment. Of course at that point, I encouraged him to sit down in the shade. By all appearances, he seemed perfectly normal, but I knew this was not a normal situation. He told me how worried he was about not finishing the brevet since he had had to ditch the 1000K a couple weeks before, to which my kneejerk response was, “F*ck that!” All I could think was, “This guy just rode his bike from the Pacific Ocean all the way across the continent to the Atlantic Ocean, and he’s worried about not finishing a 200K?” From his point of view, though, I can see that it is hard to accept that one moment, you’re enjoying a beautiful day of cycling on the Russian River… and the next, you have to give up the brevet and find the nearest hospital. Especially when you’re not sure what’s wrong with you, or if the feeling will simply pass. Personally I have a lot of mistrust of the medical profession and he seemed to as well, but I was pretty firm in the feeling that he get checked out, and did my best to talk him out of continuing the ride until he get checked out. I walked him the few blocks back to the center of town where we thought there was a clinic, but it turned out to be closed. By that point, he had repeatedly said he felt bad about taking up my time, and wasn’t I worried about my finish time (obviously he didn’t know me well, I could not care less about my time!) etc etc. I actually started to feel I was infringing on his time– I didn’t want to tell him what to do. He did seem to be less shaky now, so we talked about him finding a place with air conditioning to cool down for a while, and he said that he could call Brooks, who was driving our drop bags, to come get him if necessary. That sounded like a good plan to me, so I left him there. Once I got to the Best Western in Cloverdale, I heard that he had in fact had gone to the hospital, had a blockage in his heart which resulted in a mild heart attack, and they were holding him there until Monday. So it turns out that going to the hospital instead of trying to finish the brevet is a good idea.

There is no sag service for these rides, so in my view, we all have to provide a sort of sag service for each other to some extent when necessary. I do not enjoy the idea of a sag wagon following me around while I’m just trying to have a good day on the bike, but then again, I felt grossly unprepared for the situation I just described, particularly if the situation had been more urgent. When I got to the hotel in Cloverdale, some people said to me that it was a nice thing I did for him to convince him to seek medical attention, but I felt guilty for not staying with him until he left for a hospital. Of course, if the situation had been more immediate, the way to respond would have been more obvious. Maybe a first aid class is in order.

Okay. One more shout out to some fun randonneurs. After the Point Reyes Station control on the second day, I ran into two riders with whom I finished the first day, and we agreed to finish the second ride together as well. One was Chris Eisenbarth, a very seasoned randonneur, the other was one for whom Saturday was his first brevet (Doug… ? Doug E Fresh?)! Fun! As we rode into Fairfax, I caught sight of the inimitable John Potis, probably heading back to San Francisco from an afternoon of holding down the couch at Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station.

Chris and John sprinting to the bubbler

John is the captain of my dart team, so we had a lot to discuss along the way! More on that to come in the August installment of mmmmbike!

R3 (belated post): SFR Russian River 300K

With this ride, I really pushed the boundaries out. I entered into the experience wanting to know how far was too far, and… I think I found out! It was a difficult ride for a good reason, though: work had become very busy in the week leading up to the ride, so I wasn’t able to get enough good food, sleep, or practice-riding to prepare.  As luck would have it, the day before the ride, the choir I sing with had a concert, too! In spite of my higher instincts to go straight home afterward, my friends prevailed upon me to go out with them. I even had a Beer. Whoops. But somehow I managed to make it to the start control early enough to check in and get my act on the road.

I wanted to ride as fast as I could at the beginning to avoid losing time or getting too far behind. On the first two brevets, I took a pace that would allow me to finish within the time limit and no faster. It’s a brevet, NOT a race! Anyway, this time I ran into some very sweet guys toward the beginning of the ride– Brian Oei, Carlin Eng, and Robert… did not get his last name. We rode together until they dropped me on the last hill going into Petaluma. It was terrific riding with them on the trail through Samuel P. Taylor park instead of the bumpy road, and they were so nice to chat with as we rolled along. But their pace was just slightly too much for me, just slightly hung over as I was and a bit sleep and carb deprived.

After passing through the first two controls, riding through the vineyards was just heaven. The weather couldn’t have been better. Rob had warned us all about combustible-engine traffic in the vineyards region due to wine tastings that day, but the traffic was not too bad. I rode with Charlie Jonas for some time, and we got stopped by a jerk in a pickup truck who wanted to take his bad mood out on us by shaking his finger and scolding us. That dampened my mood in turn for several miles. Once we entered the forested area around Gurneville, though, I started to get more energy. I love the fresh air you get to breathe when riding through a forest! I also anticipated reaching the coast before long.

At some point, Charlie and I ran into Jim Gourgoutis. I was glad to see another rider as it was starting to feel like Charlie and I were the only randonneurs left in the world! The three of us continued on until we reached the next control, a small grocery store on the coast. I was starting to feel pretty sapped of energy by this time, yet I did not realize at that control how many calories I was burning– I should have eaten much more. I did refill my water bottles, dropping nuun tablets in each. Apparently the caffeinated tablet went straight to my head, and I’m quite embarrassed to say I dropped both Jim and Charlie on the rollers after we pulled out of the control! Rather stupidly I kept pointing out hazards in the road, thinking they were just behind me. Charlie finally caught up to me just before the Marshall control to say that Jim stopped in Valley Ford to refill his water and catch his breath… I always feel I am the slowest one in any given group, so when it was my turn to pull, I would really pull to avoid letting the group slow down. Well, no more of that! Once we regrouped in Marshall, we agreed we should stick together. It was starting to get dark, and riding alone is much more dangerous.

The rest of the ride from Marshall was familiar territory for us, and though it was getting late, and though we were all pretty worn out from just about 12 hours of riding by that point, I had no doubt we’d make decent time back to the finish. Strangely enough, that actually did happen. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that we somehow lost Charlie–in Nicasio, Jim wanted to stop and drink some Ensure, but Charlie just kept going. I’m not sure if he missed our cues to turn off or just needed some personal time. In any event, Jim and I had both independently had the expectation from the beginning of the ride that it would take 17 hours, and our official time was 16h20.

In the end I met some really strong riders and had terrific fun for most of the ride. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually did it! The countryside was exhilaratingly beautiful, and riding around Nicasio Reservoir in the dark was so quiet and peaceful. The last few hours, though, were really tough. My hands were aching from resting on the handlebars all day, and road vibration as well as the vibration from the dynamo hub were taking their toll on me. I had worn thick wool socks that day, and toward the end of the ride my shoes started to seem tighter. Most of all, though, I was burning calories faster than I could digest them, and though I didn’t bonk exactly, I felt an incredible gnawing hunger that would not go away. I have a very high metabolism, so I have to be a lot more careful to eat more during the week leading up to a ride of this length. Eating a big meal the night before is not enough.  Jim and I also remarked, as we struggled toward the finish, how it can be difficult to get in enough time to train to accomplish longer and longer rides when work and other responsibilities are competing for one’s time.

Another thing I learned was that front and rear lights and a reflective belt, though helpful and “RUSA Kosher”, are not enough for safe, confident night riding. I was impressed with Jim’s brightness at night– it was really effective. If I’m going to do more night riding, I have to put more effort into the lighting scenario to be seen better. Since that ride, Jack has put his famous Moonbeam reflective material on my jacket, but I know it’s not going to end there.

I did not take any pictures during this ride. I knew it would take all my effort just to complete it. Nancy Yu has a fantastic photo series of this ride on her blog, here (she was riding on a tandem, so she was able to get some great shots!). The next day when my roommate was cutting open a red pepper for her lunches for the week, it caught my eye and for some reason, the shape of it seemed to encapsulate my feelings about the ride I had completed the day before……lots of winding roads, I guess was what I saw.

R6: Coastal Cruz part deux

This was a delightful ride, and I got to meet for the first time and ride with two super people. Lots of chill time and lovely weather. Rather uneventful in a good way. I was sort of on the fence about whether to actually do the ride, since I had been planning to do a double brevet overnight permanent to Healdsburg and back with Ely. We had planned to do the first 200K (out) on the last day of June, and the second day’s 200K (back) on the first day of July, thus making each leg count for one month of the R12. But I had a feeling that we weren’t going to end up actually doing that ride for whatever reason… which ended up being justified. So I’m glad I did decide in the end to ride with Jesse and Gabrielle! What actually clinched the decision for me was when I woke up, my clock radio was playing Joni Mitchell’s song ‘California’. Awww.

As usually happens, we ran into some interesting folk at the Summit Store, at the top of the climb out of Soquel. One guy had some Adventure Cycling stickers on his pack, and Jesse chatted with him for a bit about touring, and another guy complimented me about riding with platform pedals… which seems to only rarely escape comment of one kind or another when I’m out riding. But this guy was nice about it.

Full photo coverage of the ride, including pictures of all our bikes, the socks of the lady at the Ugly Mug, the pastry rack at Arcangeli’s in Pescadero, &c can be found on my flickr page.