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.

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