Another R9: The Solo 300K, a ride in sixteen or so pictures

Almost before the September 1 200k was over, Ely and I were scheduling another ride. I pride myself on never turning down a ride unless I have to work, so when Ely proposed another September ride, I immediately told him of my desire to do another 300k before the year was out. So of course, because Ely rarely turns down a good ride idea either, we scheduled it for the last Saturday in September. We even did a tough Marshall wall training ride to lead up to riding 100k longer than to which we were accustomed.

foggy morning headed into the sun

that last tree before the top

we did it… though I still don’t know what this ‘wall’ is all about. maybe going clockwise? anyway a very nice other cyclist who happened to be out took our picture.

Perhaps as karmic retribution for my having to turn down several good ride ideas in September for work, Ely found out he had a work obligation on that day. Hm. It is easier to ride with friends in most cases; the time goes by faster, and you do too, particularly on a route with a lot of wind. However, I had already gone through registering for the ride and my brevet card was in hand, really a fait accompli if you ask me. This is something I like about the Randonneurs and their rules… Pretty often, good ride ideas get abandoned or the time and date changes too much when several peoples’ schedules are involved. When you have to formally recognize the start time of a ride, you’re more likely to stick to it. So, in the interest of maintaining a sense of discipline, I decided to do the ride anyway by myself. I didn’t want to invite anyone to ride with me, since it was too late to ask the permanent owner to process a new brevet card.

To keep myself focused throughout the ride, I decided to take a photo each hour of the ride as close to the hour mark as would be practical. So… here they are. I finished the ride in about 15 and three quarters hours, and since there were just a few shots I took in between hour-marks, I have photos here in the quantity of sixteen and change.

0500 hours: Marina Safeway potted plant offerings. Pelican is ready to go! 5 am start time worked great to get lots of good riding in before the fog burned off or people with monster trucks awoke and rumbled around.

0600 hours: Camino Alto, partying with the owls, coyotes, deer, and raccoons

0700 hours: golfers are starting to appear close to Nicasio Valley Road

0800 hours: fog is still around on the way to Petaluma, dripping like rain and the front of my bag is soaked with it; man in bakery delivery van is sleeping in his van parked by the side of the road (not in picture)

0900 hours: thought the 7 eleven was the control for Petaluma; opened handlebar bag and discovered the drink powder I had brought in a ziplock bag had distributed itself all over the inside of the bag. Got handi-wipes, cleaned the bag, read the cue sheet and discovered the 7 Eleven is not the Petaluma control grr.

1000 hours: ok, the whole Petaluma disaster is over and I’m moving on. I pass my bookbinding mentor’s studio in Penngrove and ponder the connections between bookbinding and bicycling. Also practicing rolling my r’s and reciting Carter Family songs.

I pause to photograph the jackelopes frolicking in front of The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for my Field Museum friend in Chicago, Ken Grabowski.

1100 hours, I am getting close to Healdsburg. Vineyards abound. The fog has finally abandoned and I am readying the sunscreen. My butt hurts and I am wondering where I will find some bag balm or something in Healdsburg– I don’t think Safeway, the location of the next control, carries it.

1200 hours: Westside Road. This is the third time this year that Westside Road and I meet, and it’s not unpleasant. I am getting used to the ups and downs and the broken pavement. Having found a little tub of carmex at the safeway in Healdsburg, my posterior is feeling much better, so the bumpy road doesn’t bother me.

1300 hours. Ten hours into the ride and I am in Guerneville! It feels like a real accomplishment until I remember I started an hour earlier than the typical 300k brevet.

1400 hours: I had to take a long break in Guerneville. I hadn’t really stopped to take a meal break, and was pretty hungry and needed to just wash the road dust off my hands and face. So this picture is at the mouth of the Russian River, not too far from where the last picture was taken, but ah well. If I hadn’t been on a formal brevet permanent, I would have headed north to Jenner at this point just to check it out.

1500 hours: I encounter the riders of the Levi’s Gran Fondo, happening that same day and sharing my route for several of my favorite and most beloved miles of this area: the stretch between Jenner and Bodega Bay. I chat with a nice old gent who likes my bike and thinks I am fast in spite of my giant handlebar bag. I am surprised he doesn’t know about randonneuring and doesn’t seem to be too interested. He peels off into a sag tent and we ring our bells in a bike-style fare-thee-well. As I continue, there are crowds lined up cheering cyclists along the sides of highway one. There is a group of women with a bedsheet spray painted with something about supporting the Gran Fondo because of all the good looking men rolling by in tight shorts. They enthusiastically cheer me on anyway, even though I’m not a dude and not in the Gran Fondo.


1600 hours: from Valley Ford to the coast. My least favorite stretch of road. Headwind city. No shoulder and no shade. Broken pavement on steep grades.Some cute farm animals to look at, though.

1700 hours: taking a break at the Marshall Store yayyyyy! I come so close to buying a t-shirt this time, I am so happy to be greedily guzzling chowder. The people who work here are always nice to us randos, and this is no exception. I am particularly glad I made it in under 12 hours, what would be the cutoff time for this control on the 300k brevet.

1800 hours: my shadow on Point Reyes Petaluma Road as I round the Nicasio Reservoir. I am smelling the barn…

the same bridge I crossed under at 0700 hours

1900 hours: the top of White’s Hill outside Fairfax. The moon is up!

2000 hours and I am in Sausalito, looking over the moony San Francisco Bay. The final control is within reach, and as I arrive there before the turn of the next hour, I do not take any more pictures.

This was a great ride for me. I enjoyed the route very much, and it felt like a big accomplishment to do by myself. I felt tired, but happy at the end of the ride,  ready to take on a 400k next year. There were some definite improvements I had wanted to make over the 300k I did in March, such as eating more overall and stretching at breaks. There is still more room for improvement.


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.