S2: 300k SFR Russian River

The day before this brevet, I happened to be on my way into my local bike shop and glimpsed a Really Nice Bike leaning against the counter. I thought, “Wow, I wonder whose bike that is…,” looked up, and it was E Protorio! I rode with him on and off during the Lighthouse brevet, and after chatting a bit he said he’d be riding the 300k as well and was in the shop looking for a decaleur. I took care of my business there and we said “See ya tomorrow!”

I had a feeling when I saw him that this would be a great ride, and it was: for me, for Protorio, for many other riders I saw that day, and even for the club itself. There were around 120 riders, the biggest roster SFR has had for the 300k.

at check-in, with the Bridge looming overhead in the mist

at check-in, with the Bridge looming overhead in the mist

lots of us out riding today

lots of us out riding today

at the secret control, still quite misty

at the secret control, still quite misty

whew! at the secret control after holding the wheels of some of the speedier crew

whew! at the secret control after holding the wheels of some of the speedier crew

I did not take too many pictures for much of this ride, since I was desperately holding on to some of the faster group with Protorio, led by the Dixon tandem. This helped me make an early time goal to Petaluma. I didn’t waste time there, set out with Jack H, and caught up with another fast-ish group. I led the paceline… then got dumped by the paceline… and was on my own for a while. It was kind of nice to stop hammering anyway, and I enjoyed a peaceful stretch to the Healdsburg Safeway. Seeing many of the people I rode with in the morning still eating their lunch made me feel like I hadn’t lost too much time, and I didn’t want to eat a big meal. Some yogurt, iced tea and chips sufficed, and I filled out my card, slapped on some sunscreen, and was off again through the vineyards of Westside Road.

in bloom

in bloom

open sky toward Mount Saint Helena

open sky toward Mount Saint Helena

lovely in the shade

lovely in the shade

At this point, I encountered Theresa, and we discussed cameras and photography. It was very nice to see her, and when we ran into Jack and his cohorts pulling out of the Guerneville Safeway, we developed a full-on paceline out to the coast.

P1000273 P1000274 P1000275 P1000277I let them go ahead of me on the climb after the mouth of the Russian River, since I knew that the pace would be too much for me. I enjoyed a lovely stretch of coastline southward to Bodega Bay and the next control: Diekmann’s General Store.

pretty view off the deck at Diekmann's

pretty view off the deck at Diekmann’s

we pause for a mouthful

we pause for a mouthful

When I’ve done this as a permanent in the past, I’ve enjoyed the pizza at Diekmann’s very much, so I was looking forward to having some again.Of course, they were out of pizza, but just like on the Lighthouse brevet this year, I discovered something better (breakfast burrito! eggs, potatoes, cheese, and bacon–perfect for long distance bike riding!) and kept moving.

At this control, I saw Jesse and French, who I have ridden with before. This was a terrific ride for seeing many of my rando-friends. Lots of great people out riding on this gorgeous day. And as it turned out, I kept making my time goals for the various controls throughout the ride! First time that has ever happened, really. I think it was the weather. Yes, the weather… (or the paceline after paceline I hopped on…) But I did hear of many people having a great day. And I finished fifteen minutes under my most optimistic goal. So weird. Another weird thing about the finish was running into Jesse and French again just before the Bridge! French really got jazzed once he got on the Bridge, and we all followed him, going FAST. I went over one of the seams in the pavement, and wouldn’t you know my cell phone popped out of my bag… unfortunately it did not drop into the water, but instead the very kind Jesse doubled back to look for it for me. Ah well, maybe next time.

My sweetheart John P was there working the finish and had brought me some special vittles on which to dine. I sat around eating and chatting with people for a while then finally had to make my way towards home. Part two of the SR series is complete. What a great day! I hope it doesn’t make me feel too full of myself as the hardest rides are yet to come.

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SFR Hopland 400k: Snack to win??

I was never brought up to eat between meals. I know that potato chips, cheetos, doritos, M&Ms, and so on are a major part of most every American’s way of life, but it just was not in the program for my family when I was growing up. My grandmother was a stubborn home cook who eschewed processed food of every type, and was suspicious of the growing tendency of people towards snacking. When I first started doing randonnees, a friend loaned me a book: Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, which I vaguely remember had a passage encouraging endurance athletes to engage in snacking. Whaaaat?!?! Three regularly-timed square meals seemed like the axis on which the entire world spun. Well, unfortunately for me on the Hopland 400k this year, I discovered that snacking is the axis on which my axels spin, and in the future I will avoid it at my peril. That was one lesson I learned on the ride, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself; this route has some amazing scenery unlike the other rides I’ve done, and I got to spend most of the ride quite unexpectedly with my sweetheart– the real bonus. Not least, I successfully completed the only ride goal I had set for myself for this year.

I arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge plaza a few minutes after Rob began his pre-ride talk. I had read the info docs emailed to all riders before the ride, so I didn’t miss too much. I quickly checked in with volunteer Steve H, fresh off the flat-tire-plagued worker’s ride the week before, and decided to spend what I thought would be the last few minutes I would see my sweetheart that day standing next to him. We had decided not to ride together that day. I wanted him to enjoy riding at his own pace, and I wanted to take my first 400k slow. He had stationed himself and his gorgeous black Toei right at the entrance to the bike path over the bridge, so as soon as the RBA called time, he would ride out in front of the crowd. Randonneurs sometimes ride like a pack of lone wolves, and when confronted with a narrow passage and a crowd of us, you can never be quite sure what you’re going to get. Anyway, since I happened to be standing next to John to give him a smooch before the ride started, I ended up at the front of the pack. Somehow I held with the lead group, or maybe the second-to-lead group, all the way to Fairfax.

Dizzying array of reflectivity and tail lights' behinds; green lights ahead!

Dizzying array of reflectivity and tail lights’ behinds; green lights ahead

I got dropped on White’s Hill by Theresa L, my flèche teammate, and others, but I was pretty happy to be starting the brevet so much farther ahead than I am when I employ my usual strategy of letting most of the riders go by before starting out. I had no idea what the day would bring, and had been startled to pass John when I was riding with the fast group in Ross. Some riders advise to keep in mind the phrase “This too shall pass” while going through bad or difficult stretches in a ride. I would modify it slightly: “As ye pass, shall ye too be passed.” So, I had a feeling I would see John again. I knew I would get tired before too long and he would pass me.

We saw each other on Petaluma-Point Reyes Road, on the way to Hicks Mountain. I fell in with John’s cadence for a while, a cadence to which I’m well-accustomed by now. He wanted to take a nature break at the top. While he did, I got some snapshots of the beautiful view.

Misty morning Hicks Mountain

Misty morning Hicks Mountain

Walking back to his bike, he said, “Why don’t we ride together for a while? It might be nice to ride the whole day together–it’s going to get windy, and you can draft me.” So I did. We rode together for the entire remainder of the ride, which was fantastic. He was right; before too long, we began to encounter some massive headwinds. The winds were not as strong as the ones on the fleche outside of Salinas on the way to the Great Artichoke. They were a lot more constant, though, and persisted through the next near-hundred miles.

Bodega Bay, CA, home of The Birds

Chapter the First: Bodega Bay, CA, home of The Birds

Me 'n John at Control 1: the Bodega Country Store

Me, John, and our fashionable sunglasses at Control 1: the Bodega Country Store

IMG_1523

Happy cows near Joy Road

IMG_1525

Yes, it is called Joy Road. Another one of life’s little ironies? Well, I like a climb, so not for me

John valiantly allowed me to draft him nearly the whole duration of the rest of the day, Velocio bless him. I attempted to do my part by speeding up my necessities at controls and, um, laughing at his jokes. I also tried to ride out in front for a while, but I couldn’t keep a constant speed due to an equipment malfunction in my cyclocomputer having something to do with putting fresh batteries in it.

I did pull a little bit of the way through Westside Road, when Willy N. started drafting us.

Lookin good today, Westside!

Lookin good today, Westside!

Willy is one of the most experienced randonneurs I know, and I’ve had many pleasant exchanges with him in regard to the permanents he owns that I ride from time to time, but when he started heckling John about his mudflap and about the fact that he was riding in his shorts liners, I started to feel a bit turned off by that. Oh well. Before long, John started heckling me about the fact that I can’t take pictures backwards with my camera!

nice shot of my hair... a little out of focus

nice shot of my hair… a little out of focus

nice shot of John's handlebar bag

nice shot of John’s handlebar bag

hm, something is a bit off here

hm, something is a bit off here

OK, maybe he was right. No matter, we were not far from the most beautiful part of the ride: CA128 and Mountain House Road. Quiet and lovely.

treees! wheeee

treees! wheeee

A constant climb through moss-laden trees.

mmmmoss

mmmmoss

Shady and sweet. Lots of QT with the BF, listening to his silly jokes, but also riding quietly.

This is JP's favorite part too.

This is JP’s favorite part too.

There’s a fun descent in there, a quick stop in Cloverdale, and I know I am confusing the order of things but eventually at the top of a climb we see Hopland in a valley not too far away. I am greeted in Hopland by a table covered in a cool old handmade rug and full of well-treated spokeshaves!!!

IMG_1553

Oh. hello?

Spokeshaving is my favorite part of bookbinding, and although I do not need another one because mine is perfect, I’ve often pondered collecting spokeshaves for a potential class I could teach on the topic… John calls out to remind me why we are here at the Hopland Valero Gas Station, and I run over to get my slice of delicious pizza. It really was delicious. However, it was only one piece, and liquids were the only other thing I felt like downing. So I had a few kinds of juices with my pizza, and then our time at the Valero was up. I got back on my bike in somewhat of a daze, eager to begin the portion of the ride with the wind, once in our faces, instead at our backs.

And oh yes, that was a sweet, sweet tailwind. We rode with that tailwind down Highway 101, IMG_1554back through Cloverdale, IMG_1558and all the way down to Petaluma and more. What was even better was we picked up another rider on Chalk Hill Road who was so pleasant, we stuck with him all the way back to San Francisco!

Twilight in the vineyards on Chalk Hill Road

Twilight in the vineyards on Chalk Hill Road, we run into Andy from Mendocino County

Thanks Andy for being so fun. Unfortunately, my stomach had completely soured by the time night fell; I was starving, but no food seemed appealing. We even stopped at Denny’s in Petaluma and got hot coffee, milkshakes and fries (now established for me as a power meal) and I still did not feel better. I remember going to the ladies’ room at the Denny’s and catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and feeling a little frightened. Frightened at how I looked, and frightened that there were still over 40 miles to go! I also remember sitting in the booth and watching the occasional randonneur pass by the Denny’s without stopping, and thinking, “My boyfriend is a genius for having the idea to stop here.” (The control in Petaluma is the Safeway, but at that time of night– 10:00 or so– the Safeway has no deli or soup, and even during daylight hours, no booooths.)

It was a tough shlep for me from Petaluma to San Francisco; I felt really bad about dragging behind John and Andy on that climb out of Petaluma. Usually I try to keep my spirits a bit brighter in spite of difficulty on a ride. Some random cop car slowed down next to me on the climb up Red Hill and seemed to want to make small talk about the fact there were bike riders! on the road! at night! what are we doing! and so on. I really did not feel like chatting in any way whatsoever, and thankfully he rode off. I would have to define that as the ride’s low point.

I believe Andy gave me an Ensure at some point just past Nicasio and I started to feel a little better again. There was no making up for lost calories, though, so by the time we finished I was pretty well-cooked. It is hard for me to imagine, knowing my always-inexhaustible appetite, how I could have had no appetite at the finish for any of the food they had there, but there it was: all I consumed was peppermint tea, thank Jehovah they had it. John and I snuggled for a bit in a double-wide camp chair, but eventually had to part ways.

Another long day with a lot of ups and downs… But seriously, this was an important ride for me, another milestone. Last year when I did the 300k after having done two 200k rides, I felt totally whupped, but I have done two more since then, and now I enjoy that distance very much. I was lucky that first time, in that I met a good friend (Jim G) who also gave me an Ensure around Nicasio! The week after the 400k, John and I went on a short bike tour with some friends, and for whatever reason, discovered some great snacks: pretzels, dried pineapple, and dried mango slices doused in chile powder-mmmm! Snacking is ok if it’s not junk food, right? I just hope Grandma Roz is not rolling in her grave right now.

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.

sheep!

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.

R7x2

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!