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.