R11: The Black Friday Christmas Miracle

So here it is, month eleven of a twelve month commitment, and I am not feeling anywhere near 100% health-wise. Various work and other commitments have prevented me from fulfilling my November ride until nearly the last weekend in the month. Then, an impulsive decision to ride to Point Reyes Station on a weekday before my 200k was scheduled (to test out the road resurfacing in Samuel P. Taylor Park– which was indeed smmoooove) turned out to be a very bad idea. I knew it was going to rain that day, so I have only myself to blame, but the ill effects from that ride linger even still, two 200ks and a full month later. Ugh.

Having followed through 83% of my goal, what was I to do? Luckily (and I attribute my thus-far success with the R-12 to favorable luck as much as anything), I had scheduled this ride with someone willing to take an easy pace, a solid rider with a lot of miles under his belt and someone with whom I’d done a few rides with previously so there would be no surprises in terms of pacing, mechanicals, or personality conflicts! John P.! John had already done two 200k rides in November (one of them being the sopping- wet Davis Dart), so it was very sweet that he kept his commitment to ride with me at the near-end of the month.

One other great thing in terms of a lack of surprises was that we would be riding the Jittery Jaunt, a route I had already completed twice successfully. Oddly enough, in spite of it being Black Friday, ringing in the Christmas shopping season, the roads were peaceful and relatively car-free. We also had fantastic weather– the thermometer at the Valley Ford store read 70 degrees!


We really lucked out that day in other ways too, finishing with about forty minutes to spare. I’m not kidding when I say I was sick that day! I have never ridden that slowly, even on my very first brevet. Of course, since John had just done the Davis Dart, he was used to taking the entire allowed time for a ride, but it made me feel more than a little nervous at the penultimate control with so little time in the bank, and having a cracked rear fender to boot. Thanks again John, for stopping in Black Mountain Cycles and braving the testosterone- laden atmosphere to get me some washers so my fender would not make goose-honking noises all the way back to town. (I should add that the fender was still under warranty, and Gabe at Box Dog replaced it for me the following week. I should also say that for the amount of tough mileage I have put on my Pelican, only a fraction of it reported here, my bike has had very, very few mechanical problems in its first year. And in fact, I probably would not have wanted to keep up with the R-12 if it weren’t for my sweet, sweet ride, all thanks to Gabe and Box Dog Bikes, really.)


my sweet, sweet ride, only a week old!

I don’t usually like to spend (waste?) a lot of time and word count tooting my own horn about how great my bike is, but hey, this is my blog. If you don’t want to read it, you can go read someone else’s! But seriously, I’m not kidding now, my bike is so dope. It is always ready for adventure, it even cheers me up on rides like this one when I’m not feeling my best. Before you suggest that maybe I have a slightly unnatural attachment to an inanimate object, I would point out that I’ve noticed a lot of people who ride their bikes too much (!) also have this same feeling toward their bikes, and frankly, why would you spend ten to upwards of eighty continuous hours with an inanimate object if you didn’t really, really like it? I think the difference with my bike is that I did not try to get the cheapest possible bike and then later realize I need to add things to make it functional. When I decided to get a Pelican, I knew I needed a lot of help with the build list, and fortunately (again, I benefit from good luck!), Gabe was there to come up with a superior build list for me and for the style of riding I said I wanted to do, and not too far from the budget I had to work with. Well, maybe a tad over, but I do not regret a single penny. Anyway, there are way stupider things one can spend money on, a point not lost on me on Black Friday, the World’s Most Pointless Shopping Day. These are the kinds of things that rolled through my mind on this penultimate ride of my 2012 R-12 series, as I struggled though and eventually accomplished the ride in twelve hours, fifty minutes… lots of thinking-time. Oy.

R5: The Jittery Jaunt

By all projections, this should have been an easy ride, but it ended up being a tough one. Both Ely and I had done the route before, and it’s not a difficult one– there is little climbing, only a couple short stretches with no shoulder or uneven pavement, and good opportunities for water and amenities along the way. Ely had projected we should be able to finish in nine or ten hours. This seemed reasonable, though slightly ambitious, to me. When I did essentially the same route as a brevet in February, I finished in 10:40. Since it was no longer a new route to me and I have kept riding and training since then, I thought it would be easy to shave off at least that forty minutes!

Ely waiting patiently for me at my corner. A good friend is he!

How did we make it to Safeway in under 15 minutes??

Well, the fates were just not with us that day. After fighting a nasty headwind all along Point Reyes- Petaluma Road, we fought some more headwind all the way from Petaluma to Valley Ford and beyond to the coast. We had tried pacelining to conserve energy, but traffic along the highway was thick that day, and in several stretches the shoulder was too narrow.

Hip-hop comedy flavors of Ely “mousetail-on-your-booty” Rodriguez… Singing Missy Elliott all the way to the Marshall Store is how we roll.

The bright sunny day was wonderful and exhilarating, since I was diligent in applying plenty of clown makeup (a.k.a. sunscreen:  I am learning a bit about the California sun in relation to my WASPy Wisconsin- bred skin). There were gorgeous green hills, deep blue skies, and lazy black and white cows everywhere I looked. I now have a completely different perspective on ‘pink’, ‘purple’, and ‘yellow’, having seen the bursts of roadside wildflowers in May. Ely pointed out the stretch of road where, when he did the same route last year, the embankments next to the road were covered with blackberries. Yet… I felt my energy severely sapped in sections where no shade was to be found, and where the wind was as diligent in pushing against us as we were diligent in pressing forward.

I was so thrilled to reach the buoyant rolling hills on the coast– finally, a tailwind!! But by this time my riding companion was exhausted and out of water. When we reached the iconic Marshall Store, we made a brief stop for water and quickly moved on to Point Reyes Station.

I nearly tip over a bunch of carbon fiber bikes like dominoes at Bovine Bakery while trying to get a glam shot of our rando-rific ones… sigh.

This is about the mile marker in a ride when I discover my second wind. I love to reach the familiar territory of Samuel P. Taylor Park, Fairfax, San Anselmo, and so on, and get the feeling that the finish line is nearly within my grasp. I really haul ass at this point, excited that I’m about to accomplish another brevet.

Unfortunately, Ely was not feeling that way. Riding into tough headwinds for so much of the day under the hot sun had worn him out (and now I feel guilty as I realize he was out in front most of the way; although I wasn’t drafting him, it still takes more effort to be in front), so we took it easy getting back to town. This turned out to be a huge plus, because we took the scenic route through Samuel P. Taylor Park, and took a chill break at the San Anselmo town hall, where the public library was having a book sale that day. Bicycling books, anyone? Aaaagh!

I have never been less tempted at a public library booster sale

I have never been less tempted at a public library booster sale

Now I fondly recall riding through the beautiful park in the afternoon with the soft pine needle-strewn path below and noble redwoods towering above, not to mention all the giant, prehistoric- looking birds of prey swooping around, and I’m glad we didn’t rush to finish. If we had ridden hard in the final section, all I would have remembered of the day would have been solid work, instead of what I understand randonneuring is supposed to be: pushing one’s limits to be sure, but in the spirit of a fun day out on the bike in good company. And in the end, I believe we both rode well, we ate well and drank our water and made sensible decisions about how to spend the day. It was another great learning experience for me, this time about pacing and my limitations. I rode harder than I usually do at the beginning, and I wasn’t able to keep that pace throughout the day. We ended up checking out at the Starbucks across from the Marina Dateway (which was so congested with people on a Saturday night, I guess living up to its nickname, that we had to go to Starbucks for our receipts) at 18h18, finishing in 11h18. I guess it’s going to be some time before I can finish a brevet, even a straightforward route like the Jittery Jaunt, in nine hours. But that’s the point of my doing an R12: just keep at it, and for one year, don’t be attached to the result. Keep riding, keep good company, be mentally as well as physically prepared for anything, and ride just enough that you want to keep doing it. Experiment with different kinds of nutrition and gear– as Rob Hawks says, “Do your homework,” with a view to going even longer in the future. I am grateful that Ely stuck with me through this ride, and thank him for his great company and for sharing ideas about riding.

In that vein, here is a list of what I ate that day, my gear choices, and our rates of speed broken out by section. Just for the record. Who knows when it might be useful?

Breakfast: oatmeal, two scrambled eggs, coffee with hot milk, 1/2 liter water
1st section (before Petaluma): Perpetuem-maca-Inka-honey shake, water with lemon wedges, 1 t. salt & 1 T. honey
Seven Eleven at Petaluma: Breakfast sandwich, small light blue Gatorade
Valley Ford: Clam chowder (pint), dark blue Gatorade, banana, It’s-It (shoutout to Brian Oei!)
Point Reyes Station: Peanut butter and nutella sandwich, dates and almonds, refill water bottles with water and Nuun
Top of White’s Hill: 1 Ensure
Finish Control: One cookie and another Ensure
2 hours after finish: Odwalla protein shake
8 hours after finish: Homemade apple bread pudding, and pasta

just made a new ss wool jersey for myself & pretty proud of it!
cotton undershirt
cotton shorts with no chamois
soft soled sneakers (yes, still no cleats or toe clips and not really wanting to change that. I hate how toe clips grind on the ground at a stop, and I like having the ability to change my foot position on the pedal throughout a ride. Am I from a different planet?? I feel compelled to change to cleats, but as it feels so akin to mere peer pressure, my stubbornness with the pedal issue reigns for now.)
dollar store sunglasses (since my glasses with changeable lenses fell out of my pocket one day, never to be found again, I have used plain sunglasses on the last two brevets. They’re working just fine so far, and actually those changeable- lens Serfas glasses were really awkward to change the lenses, not to mention them being a safety hazard because they completely cut out my peripheral vision)
head kerchief to keep the sun off my scalp (worked well compared to other rides when I did not wear one)
thin wool socks
cotton arm warmers and blue windbreaker (though these were taken off by 9 am and unfortunately carted around all day somewhat unnecessarily)
Panaracer Pasela 32mm tires, I love you. 1700+ miles and not even a flat. Potholes, sticks, glass, rocks, you climb over it all, thanks to the heavens for that. I know that soon enough I will start the learning experience of roadside repairs, but I am grateful I’ve had some time before those lessons to learn some others.

Speed (mph)
SF to Petaluma &-Eleven: 13.89
Petaluma to Valley Ford: 10.30
Valley Ford to PRS: 11.42
PRS to SF: 9.35
We would have had to maintain an average speed of 13.89 to finish in 9 hours, 12.5 in 10. This includes time at controls, which I need to work on shortening.

Bilenky rig with new dyno wheel. Hm. But check out the swank new kicks!!

Ely’s shooting-from-the-ankle curbside shot. I’m just thankful for not getting a massive sunburn!

I’m not sure yet what my June R12 installment will be. I am really busy with work at the moment, so I’m glad May is out of the way early, so I can get back to work (remember bookbinding?? oh yeah…). Stay tuned!