Monday, February 09, 2009

Brevet of 300 KM Casa Grande, Arizona

Riding a Brevet is also about accuracy--although I know most of course from training rides and fun rides with the lads, I keep the cue sheet handy.

I finished the 300 KM Brevet this weekend with 45 minutes to spare before the controle in Casa Grande closed at 2 a.m.

This brevet I knew I would be riding alone unless I got lucky enough to ride with some other Randonneurs. That’s okay because I was prepared—anyway, I would have to make a stop at my house which was on the course, to check on my dog Callie. That would be important—Callie is 13 years old and pretty fit—but she requires our constant attention.

Susan, RBA of Arizona Randonneurs, at the start of the 300.

With permission from RBA, I was allowed to go off the course one mile, let Callie outside, give her her medication (she has Valley Fever) and then get back on the course. Little Egypt had Nat’l Guard Drill and would not be home until late. My neighbors were out of town, and other friends had commitments as well.


I would quickly switch out my wheel for the hub generator, and eat the left over spaghetti I had waiting in the fridge—I’d fill up the water bottles and be off.

Flat tires are part of this sport. The more flat tires you get, the better you are at keeping your wits as you fix them. I've noticed I'm using less swear words to express my emotions when I'm in this situation.

I rode out with Leslie, Tom, and Mike, and all was going well. The sun would be up soon and we’d be warm. Conversations were about breakfast at the controle, funny close calls on training rides and brevets—like being chased by dogs in Picacho—about the photo in my blog of that screw that went through my tire in Saguaro Nat’l Park—Callie barking at Gerry Goode and not letting him out of his car (if Superman's weakness is Kryptonite, then cranky old dogs are Gerry's) when suddenly! Wham-O!

Our group has it's first flat--not to worry--we set out to make quick work of the repair. A new tube is put in, CO2 fills the tire--but there is a problem! Leslie's tire is cut deep and long on the sidewall, and the tube is beginning to stick out. A boot might do the trick--but the tire I'm afraid has seen its last brevet.

Okay, I have a spare tire that I carried just for this scenario--it's been folded up for about two years, and there's no guarantee that it will work--but let's try it--we all agree.

So again we're changing a tire--and this folded up tire, made in France, fought me, fought Leslie, and fought Tom--it was still like new and not wanting to go on the wheel without a fight. Finally one of us was able to force the tire on the rim.

We took turns pumping up the tire with my hand pump--but as we were about to finish, we broke the tube's stem--and the tire was flat as a pancake.

Another tube goes in, and again, we fight the tire back on the rim. I was able to finally get the tire on, but I think I damaged the tube, because when Leslie used her last CO2, the tire went flat as soon as it had inflated.

A group of randonneurs, riding strong, passed us with a flash. The sun was up and the new tube was put in the tire--and the tire fought us yet again--but finally we had done it--we were back on the road.

After the controle, we were on our way down what I would say is the toughest part of this course. We ride East on Hwy 77, climbing gradually to the Junction of Hwy 77 and Hwy 79. I was unable to keep the pace with the other riders--they were just riding a little to fast for me. A few years ago it was snowing here, and bitter cold. Today I was fighting a leg cramp and a headwind.

A bent rim caused my wheel to rub slightly--making me work very hard the first half of the ride.

After I checked on Callie, I switched out the wheel for the Schmidt hub--and I noticed the wheel I’d been using was slightly bent—at the start Dave Glasgow told me he thought he heard something rubbing on the wheel but I didn’t notice anything—no wonder the day was so tough! I bet I’d bent the rim commuting to work or on my pre-ride with Susan last week.

Now I felt that I had my legs back and everything was running smoothly. I was making pretty good time. The wind was blowing hard but I felt confident I would make the controle in Saguaro Nat'l Park.

Point of No Return.

With over 100 miles on my legs, and with the drag of my Schmidt hub and all my gear, this would be a long difficult climb to the top of Gates Pass. I put all that out of my mind and recalled how my training efforts and taking this Pass head-on prepared me mentally to reach the top.

The reward for reaching the top of Gates Pass--awesome scenery! Saguaro Nat'l Park by bike is the only way to go, Gentle Readers of This Blog.

Thanks to Carl for this bike stand at the controle!

I made the Lunch controle in Saguaro Nat'l Park with about 30 minutes to spare. From here I knew I'd finish this brevet. Susan met me, filled my water bottles, slapped a wrap in my hand, and told me to eat, drink, and rest a few minutes.

With a Full Moon, I will be able to ride fast out of the Park.

I am going to finish!

My ride to the Picacho Peak DQ was fast and furious, and I made good time. I must give credit to my good friend and training partner, Steve Star of the Blog--he helped me gain confidence riding at night. Plus, we've ridden this part of the course so many times, I think I could ride it in my sleep. That's what I had to do once I got to the Plaza--I had to rest and did so for about 20 minutes. Now there was a steady headwind, and I could see the storm front gradually moving in like it was a thick carpet being put down by some huge invisible giants. I needed to eat the wraps Susan had stashed for me, and drink up--I still had to keep moving--the window of time to make the last controle was getting narrow.

I rode against a strong headwind to Eloy, Gentle Readers--it made for slow going, and if you were driving back to Tucson after the finish, you no doubt saw me on the Frontage Road. Know that I was okay, in good spirits, and feeling strong--just had to keep going. Dave Glasgow had seen me, drove up the Frontage Road, and stopped to encourage me--I also reassured him that I was going for the finish and that I would make the time cut off in Casa Grande.

Going through Eloy, the bars were in full swing. Music spilled out onto the street, and party goers cheered and waved as I rode past. At the Circle K at Eleven Mile Rd, the friendly clerk wished me well--she gave me the sports section of the paper to put in my jacket--that would keep out the cold and wind as I jumped on the Brookes and pushed off.

That was Midnight and that's when the rain started. The eight miles to SR 287 were fast--the wind and rain were fierce and pushed me right to the Yellow Flashing Sign. There had been not one car on Eleven Mile Rd and in the rain and darkness, my Schmidt hub and Lumotec lamp had served me well.

At Eloy, I had made it a point to read my brevet card so I would know the question to answer when I arrived--I will not reveal the matter, only let you know that I personally intended to deliver by by bike the item back to Susan when I saw her at the end.

Now riding West on SR 287 the last leg of the 300, it was rain full-force. With just seven miles to go to the finish I could just make out the white line of the road. Every so slowly, the lights of Casa Grande appeared, and began to reflect on the low rain clouds. I turned around and noted the street light way back at Eleven Mile Rd and then the lights of I-10 up ahead. It was an strange feeling that not one car had come either way. At this point I had to stop and take a bite of one of Susan's wraps--I was starving. I used my red flashing light on the back of my helmet to see the time on my bike computer. It wasn't quite 1 a.m. Time was on my side.

Quick work of the last few miles and I saw what I believed to be Susan pulling out, probably coming to look for me--but she stopped suddenly when it dawned on her that it was in fact me pulling into the finish. I made it--my bike computer said 1:11 a.m. Sunday.

Cheers! Bruce


Doohickie said...

Very cool. I haven't done near that distance.


Sir Bikesalot said...

Sorry to have missed you at the finish line! I miss the long rides. But it won't be long before I am back out there.

bikingbrady said...

Well done Bruce! Sure you don't want to come up for the Hwy 212 Gut Check in August?