Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Road to PBP/ 300 k brevet

The 300km Brevet:Where Pain Makes Gain

With a rather uneventful 200k in the bag, I figured an extra 100k (62 miles) would be a piece of cake. I'd done the double century a couple times and finished strongly, so no problem right?

Famous last words...

Another early morning start found a pretty large group starting off at a good clip, but keeping a good position in the pack allowed for little effort and the chance to pump PBP veterans for more info. The turn up to Putah Creek Road was a welcome change too, as I really hate the long straight slog of the Tremont Rd./Seivers Rd. combo. Ah but that's cycling in the valley for you. I guess I should have counted myself lucky we didn't have the ubiquitous stiff valley wind to go along with it.

Climbing Cardiac early in the ride was a nice warm up since the legs felt decent, and I'd climbed it so many times that I could have done it in my sleep. Come to think of it, maybe I was. Or maybe I was just being lulled into a semi-conscious state of oblivious self satisfaction so I wouldn't recognize the foreboding background music for what it was, and what it would bring.

Somewhere on Pope Valley Road I was feeling sluggish and wound up loosing the group I was with on the meager hills, rises really, that I can normally power over. It wasn't till a little while later, a little under 1/3 into the ride that I realized it was a little bit warmer than I thought and all the layers were constricting my legs. So I stopped and got down to just shorts on bottom. Nice! I felt better instantly. That would prove a valuable thing to learn for PBP.

Somewhere around there, or at the Pope Valley control(108km in), I hooked up with Lee Millon, who had been doing a lot of really quality miles and some racing and, as such, was pretty fit. The ominous background music was getting a little louder, but I was still not paying attention. We settled into a nice mellow pace until we noticed a guy up ahead and proceeded to prove Pavlov was right about cyclists too. Yeah, we kinda picked it up. You could say. We did eventually catch the rider, Ken I think, who I had chatted with earlier, but not without cost.

Cobb Mountain loomed ahead, and as the telltale music got louder, I finally had some idea of the beginning of things, though not really putting it together yet. I could simply tell that an effort was just put in. Now people had told me Cobb was steep, but, on the 200k I had done the steep side of George in my 39/21 and now had a 39/27, so I blithely and somewhat impetuously figured I was okay. Ha, ha.

We went up, and I blew up, to put it succinctly. It only took about 1 mile. It was warm, I was running out of water, and I just couldn't seem to turn the pedals. So I stopped. I took off my helmet to cool off a bit, which helped, but when I took off my sunglasses, it was like white out. I could barely see. It was like whiteout conditions. that's when the musis moved from the background into full Dolby SurroundSound(tm). So I finally realized I had allowed myself to bonk, but there was no turning back, because the closest control was just a few miles off. All uphill unfortunately. I actually got worried about not finishing and, if I couldn't finish a 300k, how could I ever do a 600k, let alone PBP itself.

A cooler head prevailed though, and I made a deal with myself that I could ride a mile and rest, ride and rest, for as long as it took to get up. I saw Lee on his way down and felt a tinge of competitive dissatisfaction but quickly quashed it, realizing that was what brought me to this lowly state of bonkage in the first place. I think my relief, heck, joy, at reaching the control was just shy of that experienced at the successful deployment of a stuck parachute. The second part of my deal with myself was to stay as long as it took to recover, no matter who I saw come and go. So I ate and drank and ate and rested and ate and stretched and ate and drank....then ate and drank some more. As I came back into myself I could see I was not the only one coming in a little worse for wear. I saw Steve and Peggy Rex come in and I could only imagine what that climb was like for a tandem!

I was feeling ready to go, and as luck would have it, so were Steve and Peggy. A second benefit of fully recovering was that I could thoroughly enjoy a fun descent. I felt pretty sluggish on the flats after the descent, but figured that was the full belly taking precedence over the legs and that once digested, all that fuel would be a welcome addition. It was. I finished the rest of the ride pretty happily. I don't remember my time, but it was well under the limit, and that's all that really matters.

So I wound up learning what would be one of the two most important lessons to take to PBP: when the going gets tough, the tough may get going, but the smart get something to eat and take a nap!

Up next, a tale of a soggy 400k.


Monday, November 19, 2007

PBP story continued...the training

So I figured I ought to write a bit about my randonneuring education and the buildup to the PBP to give some sense of how things got going.

The financial commitment to doing was one thing, and possibly the easier part of preparation for "the ride". I kept my expenses as low as possible, dutifully contributed to the "greater goal bottle" and, probably most importantly, just hoped everything on that end would work out. The riding however, would be a real eye opener. 200, 300, 400, and 600 km. rides were a concept, when looked at all at once, that seemed, well, daunting is way too gentle a word...

Brevet #1; 200km

The 200k would pose little problem. I have done enough centuries, and a couple double centuries before with no problem, so the 200k (+/- 125 miles) looked like a good warmup. It pretty much turned out to be that. The weather was nice as I recall, and the day passed by quickly as I met veteran randonneurs and PBP anciens (someone who has finished a PBP) and enthusiastically pumped them for info. My learning curve needed to be as steep as Mix Canyon (20% + grade) if I were to do well at this.
I would learn something from every brevet, which is quite the point, and from this one I learned about how hard it is sometimes to start out again after stopping. Each ride had a series of controls where you had to have your brevet card to prove you were there and within the time limit. The control at the turnaround was at the base of the Napa side of Mt. George. As befitting a DBC event, the volunteers were great and food plentiful and yummy. I ate well, and when I saw Lee Millon pulling in, I stayed a bit longer to leave with him. That would prove painful, as starting back out on a 6km climb with some steep sections didn't really agree with my legs. But what can you do except keep pedaling? Well, that's the best thing to do anyway. I felt better after a little while, and the sizable lunch gave me plenty of fuel to finish strong.
One quick 200k down, bring on the 300!, where a more painful trial was waiting...

Brevet #2; 300km

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Paris Brest Paris 2007

The first chapter in a serialized version of my journal from my first Paris Brest Paris.

First off, some background. Go here: http://www.rusa.org/pbphistory.html . This is a good history and info about the ride.

So how does an otherwise normal-seeming person get involved in something like this?

It started in the later years of my kid-dom, when the Coors Classic stage race came through Davis, and I was watching from my 2nd storey window. Some subconscious switch in my head got tripped and activated the heretofore dormant "cyclist" chromosome to start abnormally reproducing.

Fast forward to some years later, as an active cat4 racer with the Davis Bike Club. The DBC has had a good long tradition of long distance cycling, seemingly made up entirely of older, "looking-down-the-barrel-of-retirement" guys (and some ladies) who sucked wind at the back of the race rides but would cheerily grind you younguns into a pulp on a century or a double century. It was from them that I first heard of the PBP. It sounded amazing. Not just the distance, but the fact it was in France. You see, that part of it scared the bejeezus out of me. I'm not in the right kind of shape. Too costly. Language barrier. I'd get lost. I wouldn't know what to do. I'm sure I came up with many justifications for not doing it.

Fast forward some more and I had sold my bikes and stopped riding. It was the right thing to do at the time, but it left me never feeling quite right. After about 4 years I was treated to an amazing surprise when my mom and sister combined to buy back for me my Innerlight (my first and as yet only custom built bike).

There is a great side story there. I was doing a gutter cleaning job for a friend to earn some extra cash which would give me just enough to finish buing back my bike. The address was out west of town at a semi-rural house with a barn. As I came up to the house I recognised the barn as the workshop where Kimo built my bike and the last time I was there was many years earlier when I went to pick it up for the first time. Later that day I would go to pick up my bike for a second, and last time.

So I started riding again and I felt right. By and by the thought of the PBP came up again, and I actually found myself thinking about it. This was 2005, and being off the bike for the better part of 4 years really left me out of shape. Oh back to excuses right? I began thinking maybe I could look into it. Maybe if 2007 was too soon, I could try in 2011. In 2006 I was thinking more and started my "greater goal bottle", a 5 liter wine bottle that I began to save my change and the odd bill in, and refused to touch no matter what in order to save for the greater goal of going to the PBP. but still, ot was not until December 2006 that I made a form commitment to go for it it 2007, no holds barred. And wouldn't you know it, but once I set that form goal, things started to fall in line. I guess the old axiom of cylcling that you go where you are looking fits for life too.

Soon enough I joined RUSA and started my first brevet series to qualify for Paris. Each of these qualifying rides taught me lessons that would serve me well in the PBP. Everything from what to pack, how to not bonk-and recover when you do, push through pain, enjoy the beauty around me, help others in need, push my own limits, ride in terrible conditions, and generally perservere and be able to put things into perspective.

Each of these brevets gave more stories than I could go into, but the overall effect was that I truly believed that I could go to France and do the ride. And that I could finish it for that matter.
The pctures at the top are; me, Phil, and Elmar at the finish of the 600km brevet; me, very tired at Cloverdale deep into the 600k ride; and me, happy to be at the top of the big climb between Ukiah and Booneville on the 600k. Sooner or later I'll figure out how to insert pics and caption them.