R10: Old Cazadero 300K

IMG_3173

My general goal in doing an R-12 this year was to maintain discipline and keep in shape in order to work up to a full Super Randonneur series (one each of a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k, all ACP-sanctioned brevets) in 2014. After riding the 400k this year, I knew that simply riding 200ks each month would not be enough to make me ready for a 600k next year, so I wanted to do something longer this fall. But when John suggested we do the Old Caz 300k permanent, I was not so sure it would be a good idea. Max, the route owner, says of this ride that one should add 30% to one’s average finishing time on the regular SFR 300k in order to get an idea of what to anticipate on Old Caz. That would put me outside the time limit by almost an hour. So, I started jogging again a few weeks before we planned to ride, and established a routine of stretching exercises in the morning. I also took care of groceries, etc. to make sure I had no reason to skip meals like I sometimes do when I’m hard at work. I also did some research on the route to see if I could figure out some goals to set for myself as far as timing for each control (ha! I am pretty naive). In studying the Old Caz route, I compared finishing times (according to the SFR website) among a sample of ten riders who finished the SFR Russian River 300k this year and the Old Cazadero 300k. John P’s results had the least variation: 15%. The greatest variation among finishers was an increase of 40%.

Old Caz is a challenging route by all accounts. There are several grinding climbs, and yet, the rewards are great: lots of natural beauty, and country roads empty of traffic. There are some dirt sections, rough pavement, and even a stream crossing. I have read numerous discussions on the SFR list about the appropriate tire size, gear etc for a ride of this nature, but I stuck to the usual plain old 700C Pelican with the same 32mm Panaracer Pasela tires I always ride. Mr. Potis rode his old standby red custom 650B Pelican.

Chileno Valley was still in the morning... We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available

Chileno Valley was still in the morning… We had perfectly clear weather the entire day: no clouds to obscure each and every beautiful view available. Unfortunately, there was little time to stop and take lots of pictures; we needed to stay on the move to finish within the time limit.

I haven’t yet figured out what exactly makes one route more difficult than another. Some routes have similar amounts of elevation gain, but one seems much harder than another. There are several blog entries with ride reports on Old Caz, and most of them scared me into keeping up my training routine. Of course, the one that echoed through the vast caverns of my vacant mind as I rode Old Caz was this. For the most succinct and accurate description of the Old Caz route, I look to the route owner himself, here.  Most SFR brevets and permanents will have at least one or two mean climbs over a 200k, and most of the standard brevet routes try to keep us away from trafficky highways as much as possible. But Old Caz is part of the SFR Adventure Series: a group of brevets that have more strenuous routes, go to more remote places, and (wait for it…) No Safeway Controls!!!!!

I always thought the Adventure Series would be something nice to do after finishing PBP a few times. As exciting as PBP is, I’m sure there’s a certain segment of the randonneuring population that needs a new horizon. In fact, there are brave and noble randonneurs in my area who have accomplished multiple 1200ks in one year, and continue to ride afterwards, too. I have not even attempted a 600k, so what am I thinking in trying any of the Adventure Series rides? Just blind ambition, I guess. It was also very nice that John invited me to join him, and that he believed I would be able to complete the ride. I trained as hard as I could in the short time available to prove him right.

Any time I ride a route that is unfamiliar to me, it’s a bit of a gamble. I worry about getting lost, but more importantly, it’s difficult to pace oneself when you don’t know what to expect. Difficult sections are made easier for me by knowing when they’ll be over. I can eat extra food and know it will digest before a tough climb if I give myself at least 20-30 minutes. If I run out of energy in the middle of a climb, I usually just give myself indigestion by eating in the middle of it. I prepared as much as I thought possible for this one, and then, I had to resign myself to the adventure.

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

To pace myself, I printed out the elevation profile in addition to the cue sheet

I thought it would be a great idea to carry extra water along in a platypus bladder like I use when camping, but the sealant loosened while inside my handlebar bag and turned John’s lovely Alps bag on loan to me into a little swimming pool for all my stuff. In case you ever doubt the waterproofing of plain cotton canvas duck, I’m here to tell you it holds water, yes it does. In feeling that I was packing too much stuff, I left my wool mittens at home, a decision I regretted deeply later on.

But a lot of things went right on this ride, long, slow slog that it was. Most of the controls for the Adventure Series routes are info controls–you have to answer a question about an intersection or a street sign to prove you didn’t take a shortcut. Info controls, hallelujah, are not timed, so you have a bit more leeway in your pacing. Receipt controls are timed. Jenner is a receipt control on this route which happens to follow the two main climbs: Fort Ross and Old Caz. I had been pretty sure throughout those two climbs that we wouldn’t make the Jenner control in time, but tried to keep the pace constant anyway. When we arrived in Jenner well before close, I was shocked. The next timed control was Point Reyes Station, another control I was pretty sure would cause a DNF for us, but we made that one too. I don’t think John has ever ridden this route so slowly; in the end, we finished the ride with 45 minutes still on the clock. I am currently the record-holder for the slowest finisher on this course at twenty hours and one minute. John and I kept joking throughout the ride that if we DNF’ed, I would have to do the Jittery Jaunt permanent to fulfill the October installment of my R-12… so, at least there was no Jittery Jaunt for me.

Doing this ride in October meant there would be less daylight for us while riding. Some of the later hours were the most memorable for me, such as riding around Bolinas Lagoon in the dark, and the climb out of Stinson Beach. The only sound was the surf hitting the shore, so incredibly peaceful. Motorists at that hour were more likely to be locals and gave us a wide berth on the road. Riding our usual rando bikes meant we had our nice, bright lights and of course we always wear good reflective gear.

In the final analysis, I am so glad to have done this ride, and so grateful for a patient and generous riding companion like Mr. P. When my Platypus broke open, he offered to carry a couple of my things to take some weight off during the Old Caz climb, and although we rode more at my pace than his, he never complained. I think I have finally convinced him that he is a much stronger rider than I, a point I’ve been arguing for some time now unsuccessfully, so I’m glad we’ve put that to rest.

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

Thank you, my friend, for a long and beautiful day on the bike

I am also grateful to Max, the creator of the Adventure Series rides. To some he is a sadist, to some an evil genius; to me he just seems like a guy with an extraordinary aptitude for endurance sports who wants to enjoy greener pastures than those of the typical (though also, it must be said, not too shabby) SFR routes. To enjoy the beautiful, sweeping views, you must work for them. Being at the top of Fort Ross and looking over the coast toward Jenner and Point Reyes Seashore was like being in an airplane. Only at the top, looking down over the coastline, did I realize what I had just been doing for the past few hours.  It’s a very tangible feeling of accomplishment. At that point I also realized there is no way to fully prepare for an experience like that; you can only do the ride, and hopefully keep doing rides like it. So… ’til next time, Old Caz.

Advertisements

R9: Davis Night 200k

SFR RBA Rob Hawks gives the pre-ride schpiel and oath

SFR RBA Rob Hawks gives the pre-ride schpiel and oath

I was very happy to be able to ride this unusual brevet held each year at night. It begins in the evening and takes riders through quiet rural roads from just north of Berkeley to Davis (ouside Sacramento) and back. In my preparations I got a little nervous when I realized that all the Google Streetview pictures of the intersections were taken during the day–what if I didn’t recognize them at night? It’s not easy to read a cue sheet in the dark, either, nor my poorly-backlit cheapo odometer. I think that getting lost, and riding alone in the dark (cyclists are more visible to cars and trucks when in groups) topped my list of anxieties about this ride. Well, as usually happens on these ride thingies often called brevets, my worst fears end up being answered with a resounding call to stop worrying. My primary riding companion was none other than the King of Conspicuity, Jack Moonbeam! Jack earned his title last year by volunteering to sew 4″ wide strips of orange or yellow retroreflective material on the wind vests and jackets of many grateful randonneurs. He also has given informative talks on the importance of being visible in traffic, and it seems to be an idea that is gaining ground among us. Several randonneurs have publicly admitted to wondering “What would Jack Moonbeam do?” when choosing their bike attire when randonneuring or commuting. So, you can imagine the peace of mind I felt upon running across Mr. Moonbeam! I also assumed (though incorrectly) that he knew where we were going. In any case, between the two of us and more we gathered along the way, we had a grand time reaching our destination of Davis and heading back as well.

Aaaand we're off!

Aaaand we’re off! Over the Carquinez Bridge

Raccoons, stray dogs, who knows what-all will cross our path

Raccoons, stray dogs, who knows what-all will cross our path

I come across a curious figure

I come across a curious figure

On this stretch, I saw a rider stop far ahead and tell us later a raccoon ran between his front fender and his pedal! Several miles later, a stray dog ran out from the roadside, inches from my front wheel. I think my blood curdling scream may have scared Jack more than the dog scared me… sorry Jack.

At the Davis Safeway, I steal away to the mailbox

At the Davis Safeway, I steal away to the mailbox to drop an unofficial postcard in the mail to my sweetie

Taking a break at the intersection

Taking a break at the intersection

Retroreflection comparison

Retroreflection comparison

Bob P, Mark B, and Jack M compare tales of PBP 1898 and the Davis Night Brevet

Bob P, Mark B, and Jack M : circa 5:15 am, Cordelia Denny’s… is that un maillot Alex Singer?

Hazy first light of morning

Hazy first light of morning

This stretch seemed endless

This stretch seemed endless. I was so grateful for Jack’s company and his stories about the early SFR 1200k grand randonnées in which 4-5 riders participated. Jack was one, and Willy Nevin was another, though Willy DNF’ed for some unknown reason…

Back on the bridge

Back on the bridge; I didn’t think my vest would pass the Moonbeam test, but Jack approved.

We made it! Thank you Jack Moonbeam.

We made it! Thank you Jack Moonbeam. That’s a very stylie Singer maillot.

Oh What a Beeyooteeful Morrrrninggg

Oh What a Beeyooteeful Morrrrninggg

R8: SCR Dart

The Santa Cruz Randonneurs’ Dart event was the highlight of my 2012 riding year. (A Dart is a 200k team event similar to a flèche, but it is shorter, and teams do not ride through the night.) The finish control dinner was held at the Tied House in Mountain View, with great food, beer, and company. It’s a large enough venue that all teams could show up at more or less the same time and all sit down together to eat, drink, and swap stories. To commemorate the occasion, the Dart organizer commissioned this poster from a fellow randonneure who also happens to be a very talented artist. IMG_0445

This year, I would be sure to participate. John had been trying to arrange a way to get several teams together on the same route, yet with slightly different start times, so we could have a big movable party along the way, but we couldn’t get enough people together for it. I thought it was a brilliant idea, one I hope someone uses sometime! But for this year, John assembled just one team, comprised of everyone from last year’s team except Heath–replaced by the creator of the above poster: Alice Stribling!

It was fun to get the chance to ride with all of them. I haven’t been able to ride with Ely or Jim too much, since both have young families. Despite Jim’s pre-ride moaning about his lack of being in shape, I was pretty impressed with how he rode.

IMG_2688

Jim enjoying the coast

The weather was slightly cloudy for most of the morning, though it cleared up later on the climb up Soquel-San Jose Road. We used the same route as last year, Jesse Marsh’s Coastal Cruz permanent.

Me n Capitaine Quelle Heure Est-Il at the Half Moon Bay wayside...

Me n Capitaine Quelle Heure Est-Il at the Half Moon Bay wayside… photo courtesy of Alice

Randonneuring is soo classy

Typically classy randonneur behaviours on display at Arcangeli’s. Visible in front is Alice’s war wound in her recent battle with the train tracks near Townsend Street in SF

As far as city limit sign sprints, I think John took most of them, though I do recall an intense early-morning contest for Daly City between Ely and John. For some bizarre reason, John and Ely arrived at the Pescadero sign before me but did not cross it, so I won that one. That was odd. But then I stole a really good one at Davenport from a completely unsuspecting Jim, and decided to stop and reward myself with a pint of roadside blueberries, being so far ahead and all…

ride to eat to ride to eat to ride...

ride to eat to ride to eat to ride…

There was a very unfortunate bike crash near the city limit sign: a woman had gone over the railroad tracks at the wrong angle, gotten her wheel stuck, and flipped (according to the blueberry vendors); then, unable to find assistance in Davenport, she got back on her bike to go back the way she came and tripped over the tracks a second time. Agghhh we saw her being loaded into an ambulance as we passed (she still seemed conscious), and the guys at the fruit table spilled the whole story to me as they gave me testers of the honey they were selling. Alice had just taken a dive in SF due to some misplaced railroad tracks, so I’m sure it gave her extra shivers.

The weather was even nicer than last year, a bit more sunny but about the same temperature. Typical coastline views made me think that the SCR strategy of placing most of its brevet routes along CA1 is not such a bad idea after all.

Laid back at the Ugly Mug

Laid back at the Ugly Mug

You can't take riding too seriously.

You can’t take riding too seriously… If you do, it could drive you crazy!

After leaving our old haunt The Ugly Mug cafe in Soquel, we began The Climb. This is the longest climb of the route, an elevation gain of about 1600 feet in ten miles. I started off with my team, Jim taking the lead, and Senor Captain dropping back. I just kept riding at my own pace. I caught up with Jim and we agreed to stop and catch our breath at Stetson Road, about seven miles in. Soquel-San Jose Road is shaded through most of the way, but it was a hot day. The rest of our team were nowhere to be seen, but we figured we’d all collect ourselves at the Summit Store.

Climbing pain...elevation gained.

Climbing pain…elevation gained. We heart Summit Store!

We did! It is truly all downhill from there, so we savored the beautiful downhill stretch of the Old Santa Cruz Highway. Alice, Jim, Ely, and I all took the bike handling skills classes last year, and I still constantly think about putting into practice good cornering and handling techniques. I love how my bike handles descents… like buttercream frosting. mmmm. Not too much later I got to eat some buttercream frosting at Great Bear Coffee in Los Gatos at our penultimate control.

Everybody wave!

Everybody wave!

We.enjoy.riding.bikes.

We.enjoy.riding.bikes.

When it was time to leave Great Bear, we wound our way through the odd Silicon Valley suburbs to the beautiful Mary Avenue Bike Bridge and took some glam shots of ourselves and our bikes.

Setting up the shot

Setting up the shot… the pedals must be in the correct position

Dramatic angles

Dramatic angles

Les Wotnaughts

Les Wotnaughts

We picked up some weird dude on the way to the Tied House

We picked up some weird dude on the way to the Tied House

Another biketastic California day thanks to the Santa Cruz Randonneurs. John and I got wind vests from the SCR group order to remember how happy we are they put on the summer Dart. Next year they’ll be holding the Central Coast 1000k/1200k instead. Will this be my first 1200 or 1000k? Only time and mmmmbike will tell.