Monday, August 18, 2008

High Country 200 Km Brevet

Thunder, lightning, wind, rain, hail, and climbing to 9,100 feet--welcome you to the 10 Year Anniversary of Randonneurs USA.

This 200 Km Brevet was to commemorate RUSA's 10th Anniversary, and was coined the High Country Brevet of 200 Km, by Paul Layton, Randonneur of Note.

The words "high country" and "Paul Layton" should make you a bit nervous because as of late, Mr. Layton's idea of a brevet begins with hills for breakfast--a short break--and then a few mountains for lunch. He'll grab a monsoon storm lightning bolt to use as a toothpick to remove any chunks of asphalt still remaining in his teeth.

I did this brevet thanks to Arizona RBA Susan Plonsky hooking me up with Gerry Goode. A bit of history, Gentle Reader of This Blog: Gerry Goode was there when RUSA was born in Massachusetts--and he got to pick any RUSA number he wanted. He chose 60--that's how old he was back in 1998. Everybody wants to ride like Gerry Goode. In fact, I want to be Papa Bear when I grow up--minus that peanut-butter thick Boston accent of course!

This is Salt River Canyon. Gerry and I drove through Globe, Arizona on Hwy 77 on our way to Show Low. Believe it or not, there's some crazy road that runs through this canyon--and you can ride your bike up and down it--like Gerry. The man amazes me. Of course now I have to take a stab at it since Papa Bear has given me the in's and out's of the ride.

Okay--so we're about to Show Low, the town where the Brevet will start tomorrow. It's raining cats and dogs. This certainly makes me think about plan B and what I'll have to carry to 9,100 ft tomorrow. Oh, and Paul Layton--he should be about to pull into Show Low right about now. Paul has ridden Friday so he can be at the controles tomorrow.

It was 102 degrees when we drove through Mammoth, Arizona a few hours ago.

This is one time I was happy to over-packed. I brought all my rain gear and warmers. I'll probably need them.

Hail Yes!

It hailed like a mo fo in show low--here's what's left. Locals at the hotel told us there was three inches of hail on the ground at one point during the storm.

Gerry and I checked-in to our hotel and unloaded the bikes. Gerry has ridden these roads with friends and by himself many times, so he knows the best places to eat. We simply walk over the the Mexican place--and its packed on Friday night--and while we wait for our table, I call Susan to see where she's at and how Paul's ride went. Susan calls right back, will join us in a few minutes for dinner. We've just missed Paul as he's getting things ready for us for tomorrow.

I'm glad Susan was there, because mes amis, you know Gerry Goode will waste no time showing this bad boy brevet who's the boss. Susan and I make our plans to ride together. Riding with Susan, like riding with Steve Star of the Blog, means that no matter what--we'll finish the ride--plus Susan has blazed this course a few times and knows what's around each bend. So when she says just one more hill, just one more hill--chances are there's just one more hill to climb before the descent.

Gerry Good and Tom Baker--check the cue sheet and the outfit one last time.

Okay--Gerry picks the hotel that has the Continental Breakfast. It opened at 6 a.m. which was the start of the brevet, but I sneaked in an open back door that the cook left open--I stuffed my face with scrambled eggs and sausage--packed bananas and bagels into my RUSA Jersey--ran into Bigger Than Life Tom Baker, Hero of Paris Brest Paris--among other Heroes of PBP I know and admire...

Paul Layton, Gentle Readers--looks remarkably 100% after riding through fire and ice yesterday. He will be at the controles, and on the course should we need anything.

Mick McCombs and I rode together a few years ago on another 200 Km brevet back in Casa Grande.

Gerry, and Kris Kaufman, who will ride along with Tom and Mick.

Susan and I grab a quick cup of coffee at the start--and we're on our way.

I've been commuting to the office for base miles, and training with John, Kathy, Larry, and Eric all summer. This ride I'll test my fitness level; where I'm at in terms of riding Cochise in October--and where I'll need to fill in any gaps in my training. I feel strong and confident today. I've lost 12 pound as well, so let's see if all the hard work has paid off.

Susan and I are on Hwy 60, heading East to the first controle. We have a slight tailwind and a brilliant sunrise. Everything is green and fresh.

Susan has been riding with pals in Camp Verde, AZ, Colorado, and Utah. She's become a cross between antelope and mtn goat.

Paul greets us at the 1st controle, Vernon, Arizona. Thanks Paul!

This is what it's all about--the freedom you feel when you ride in open country.

A ride like this washes away the routine of where you live and work, and puts you back into blue skies, fresh air, and living things besides yourself.

But it takes effort--and often, you must face storms and climb mountains to do it. Susan and I take a break just outside of Springerville, at a rest stop.

Springerville, Arizona.

On the way back, we'll make a left to take Hwy 260. Just marking the McDonalds as a mental landmark--so I don't miss the turn on the way back from the New Mexico State Line.

US Post Office, Springerville, Arizona, Main Street, USA.

Roughly 12 miles to the New Mexico Border.

Paul rides to greet us about six or seven miles out from the controle.

Dude, slow down so I can get a picture of you!

Land of Enchantment! And the turn-around. Now the ride begins...

On Hwy 260 to Show Low.

On the ride back, we had some steady climbing. Climbing to 9,100 feet--as the climb got harder, the altitude and the thin air began to slowly strangle me. I couldn't breathe and the blue sky and green pastures began to seem a hue of black and white. The tall black pines were like jaws of some monster about to swallow me whole. It was very tough going for me. I had to stop, it seemed, every mile, to catch my breath and rest. My chest heaved and my heart pounded hard--92 miles into this brevet and I was taking everything the mountain could give me.

Just have to get over the next hill, and the next hill--the promise of the descent is just around the corner. For ten miles I had to force myself to stay on the bike and crawl my way to the top of 9,000 feet. I have to say my limits were tested--my body was begging to stop but in my mind knew there was but one choice--keep pedaling!

Susan stayed with me, encouraging me along--had she not been there to keep me on track to get up that mountain, I would have surely given in to the situation.

I must tell you, the top was reached--and we began to descend.

Slowly at first--oxygen flooded my lungs and then made it to the legs. Oxygen enriched blood suddenly bulging into your every being--then your heart free from the incline of a gut wrenching mountain climb--the instant turbo-charge to your muscles is incredibly surreal.

We rode 35-40 mph on the curvy switch-backs. Miles were flung into the pines, which on recovering from the lack of oxygen, became deep dark green again against a vivid blue sky. My soaking wet sweat drench jersey cooled and dried in a matter of minutes.

It just seems that when all seems to fail and you must quit, you reach the top and sail down--your body recovering and your mind allowing itself to take a quick rest from its struggle with heart, lungs, and blood.

92 miles at 9,100 feet quickly become 102 miles, which quickly becomes 116 miles and the controle. The controle is just in time because body and mind--and your ass--need a break, and a few minutes off the bike is welcomed.

The last controle here at the Casino. Apache can be heard spoken by the patrons of the store where we buy water and we eat a few carbs--just enough to get us to Show Low, 20 miles ahead to the finish.

Susan and I have been riding at a very fast pace--25 to 30 miles an hour. As we blaze down the road, we encounter a bit of traffic--and now a few stop lights. It's also getting harder to keep that fast pace we've had for almost 30 miles. Now all we have to do is make one last left turn, which arrives suddenly--and then look for the hotel where we started this morning.


Paul and Gerry--ready to have dinner! I'm ready too...

I'm happy I did this ride--it was just what I needed to continue my momentum as Summer seems to be burning off quickly. September is right around the corner, and then October and the Cochise Classic. The success I enjoyed must be attributed to Paul--having him at controles was a real morale boost. The snacks were just enough, and I could fill my water bottles and not have to carry a camelbak. Paul also sacrificed himself to the Gods of Rain--which means they were satisfied making him suffer and therefore ignored said Randonneurs and Randoneuse this day.

Susan and I rode well together and her pace and drive are what gave me confidence. Riding with someone much more experienced than yourself takes that edge off the ride. You're not so worried about missing that important turn, or when times get really difficult, reaching for that bit of will you know you don't have--but she does, and its enough for you both!

I will give myself some credit for what went right--and what I did wrong. This summer I got off my ass and did the commute. Forcing myself to live car-free was challenging; its work. Taking the tough route to the office by adding an extra mile climb made a difference--and riding 25 miles in each morning (15 easier mile home) toughened me up.

A few weeks ago I broke my seat post clamp, and Phil at Pima Street Bikes got me a new one. I may have set my saddle to high--like by about 3 millimeters--which caused me to have to hold my head at a slightly different angle. I ended up with a very sore neck and unable turn my head to the left without a great deal of pain. I know I have a bit of arthritis in my neck and shoulder, so I'll have to figure out where my saddle height needs to be finally adjusted. Gerry Goode has suggested a spacer on my headset that would put me in a slightly straighter position. He feels I'm in too much of a racing position and bent over too far. He thinks I should be more upright. What ever it was, that small difference in saddle height made a big difference in my neck. During the ride I was unable to turn my head and look over my left shoulder without tons of stabbing pain. That could be dangerous, and now I feel I really do need to get a mirror to wear on my glasses to be able to see behind me.

Thanks for reading about my 200, the 10th Anniversay Randonneurs USA event.

Allure Libre!


Sir Bikesalot said...

Nice write up. I just wish I would have remembered to put my bib suspenders up when I rode out to meet you guys so I didn't look like so much of a dorkus letting it all hang out. Well, I'll just have to remember that for next year (hint hint Susan ;) ).

Ryan said...

Good job, Bruce. It sounds like you really battled it out and are certainly stronger for it. Excellent pictures as well...

Sal Ortega said...

Great job Bruce!- I sense a mountain lion in the making. I missed all the 10th anniversary rides; hate it when work gets in the way of riding.