Sunday, March 25, 2012

200 Things About Riding a 200 KM Brevet

On the 200 kilometer Brevet.

I rode the 200 this past weekend in 10 hours and 10 minutes, pulling into the controle at Shawnee, Kansas, just after 5 o’clock. I made it, Gentle Readers of This Blog—but as you know, it was not easy. I did many right things but then I made some errors that could have cost me. The mistakes I made were right at the first and then right at the last—the rest of the ride went well and I’m pleased.

First up I started packing and getting my gear together during the week. It has been a year since I rode a brevet, and that brevet was back in Arizona—a 200 that I’ve ridden many times. This Kansas City Brevet would be all new—new people, new course, and new challenges. The unknown would be the weather—it had been raining for days, and the forecast was finally for sunshine on Saturday. Still I wanted to have everything I’d been buying up since January for tough weather conditions—new gloves, rain pants, booties, etc.

I also needed new tires as the back tire on the Mighty Trek was bald from Celebrity Spin Class. The two local bikes shops in town had sold out on almost every tire in stock. All that was left were a set of Continental Hard Shell 28mm—I could have bought the 23’s—but what I really like are the 25 mm Gator Skins but there were none. So I went ahead and bought the 28’s (they were expensive, mes amis--$117.00) and glad I did as they worked fine.

I rode a 68 mile “dress rehearsal” out and around Perry Lake last post—but I changed over and added my Caradice Bag for this brevet—there would be no drop bag service like on Susan’s brevets—and no wraps either I’m sad to say. This brevet was get your cue sheet and your brevet card and off you go. The weight would be a little bit more but not much. I could carry everything I needed but not too much stuff all crammed in one bag—so I had room for an extra empty water bottle—just in case, and room to stow my arm and legs warmers. I also brought just basic “legal lights” if I was to drag this ride out late—but turns up it was a cold and foggy morning and I needed those lights for the first hours until the Sun burned that chilly grey patch away.

Okay—the start, mes amis. It was very dark and the lights of the Phillips 66 –slash-Subway were not on. But riders were gathering and I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to get any kind of information as most of the guys I talked to when I was there had never done these brevets, and none of them knew Bob Burns or Spencer Klassen. So it was a bit confusing but I finally found Mr. Burns and checked in—Bob Burns is a legendary brevet rider—an ex-military officer—and stone deaf they told me later. But he managed and got everybody set up. I guess what I’m saying is that things were a bit unorganized and the regulars indifferent. If somebody would have said, “Hey Bob is over there and that’s where you check-in.” That would have helped a lot of us new guys out.

We started and I did not know this but the first half mile was a huge climb. I don’t know what happened but my heart rate, within the first quarter-mile, if that even, shot well up over my max which is 172—it was like 180 and I was thinking I was going to blow a gasket! I thought I was going to puke then die! It was confusing and scary and I felt like I had a gaping wound such that I was rapidly bleeding to death—or something! So pulled my butt over the side and slowed down and put it in the third “Mt. Lemmon” ring, if it wasn’t there already—and tried to get my heart-rate down—and tried to calm myself down—while everyone appeared to drop me. What had I done? What about all my training? Not even the first mile of this brevet and I am dead!!!

Head clearing and vision coming back—I got to the top of the hill to see everyone gone. Sweat dripping down my face and breathing hard, suddenly something must have re-booted; the heart-rate was normal—I was taking deep even breaths—I was still alive… Then blast off and I was tearing down the road at Celebrity Spin Class Speed. Within a few miles I was catching up—then in a pace line. Then advancing to the next pace line—then the next. Finally I found myself riding with the boys from St. Joe at a good clip, still thinking about how I freaked out at the start of this ride.

When I pulled up a few miles from the hardy and friendly boys from St. Joseph, Missouri, I saw two riders up ahead and just kept them in my sights and followed. When we were out of the twists and turns of the suburbs, I slowly picked up my pace on a long stretch of “country-fried” road to gain on them. I was feeling good—my heart-rate was in perfect sync with my cadence,
and I was gaining on the two randonneurs ahead of me. As I was about 50 yards behind them, a big German Shepard, fiercely sprang from the tall grass and lunged at me—but rather than yell at him—I said, “Good Boy! How ya doing?” and he suddenly was like a happy puppy and just wanted to play. I slowed down so he could joyfully run beside me—because that’s all he really wanted to do was run and play. I gave him a pat on the head and was off.

When Brian and Arils had heard the dog, they slowed up—wondering if I had made it past that farm in one piece. They were very glad to know that said dog was friendly and we had a light-hearted encounter. Brian and Arils, both from St. Joe’s as well—were happy to have me along, and I must say Gentle Readers I hung with them for almost the entire ride as their pace was strong and I was just able to push myself and keep up.

I can tell you that the rest of the ride was the three of us taking turns drafting—but it was mainly Brian who did all of the work. He was strong, and when Arlis would tire she would drop back and I’d follow him. I ate lunch with them at the half-way turn around controle, and with all their friends from the rest of the St. Joe’s group I had met and ridden with so far. One thing about Brian and Arlis—they didn’t waste any time at the controles—it was get in get out. I grabbed what I could and shoved it in my face. One thing that really worked were these things called shot blocks, by Cliff Bar. Each one was about 100 calories, with about 6 or 8 shots in a pack. They were easy to squeeze out of the wrapper and eat. I had two packs of them and they certainly kept me fueled—just enough—and kept me from bonking a few times. I did not eat enough mes amis, and as the controles were so fast, I didn’t buy enough. I also didn’t want to waste a lot of money—things were expensive! Better to take more with you than buy it.

I should have eaten more at the turn around, Gentle Reader of This Blog—but good thing I didn’t. Everyone had bought these little personal pizzas, and they looked good. I looked around where people got them but I never saw them. This was luck because on the way back Arlis was not feeling so well—so they had to drop back to rest; I rode on ahead.

I want to tell you that all of our spirits sank when we realized that we were going to have a headwind coming at us from the North. This is very rare, mes amis, there’s always a tailwind pushing you back. Well that was not going to happen. And the wind was getting stronger and now I was out there on my own and it was hard. After a few miles going up and down on smooth rollers, I saw the St. Joe’s Boys up ahead. They had pulled out ahead of us at the turn
around controle—and it looked like I was gaining on them. I pushed it up a few notches and I was getting closer—but the headwind stronger. I had to slow it down and eased into a little town (can’t recall the name) and while trying to figure out the cue sheet, Brain and Arlis were coming up behind me, so I waited for them and we rode together.

The thing I did right was ride with Brian and Arlis—the other guys were too fast for my anyway. I like riding with Brian and Arlis because they were steady, and I have to say that in a headwind it is good to be in pack and get some draft to save energy… We would need it because the whole 60 plus mile back were rough in that head wind. At times we started to spread out and I struggled to stay with Brian. At one point I think Arlis had to pull back the pace and slow up to recover. I pushed on ahead.

With my spin training and weight training now at the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center on my lunch hour at Haskell, I felt like I was able to ride often 16 to 17 mph in the headwind. When it was really hard, like toward the end of the ride with the last eight miles or so, we could all of us only ride 9 to 11 mph—mes amis it was that brutal!

All that work and all that pushing in the headwind, and by myself—I suddenly had to pee real bad. When you’re kind of in the suburbs of somewhat affluent Kansas City, Kansas, you can’t just pull over and check the tire pressure if you know what I mean. Finally I saw a gas station right before one of the last turns on the cue sheet, like at mile 109—and I stopped to take a leak. What I didn’t do because I wanted to save time, was buy some more food and fill my water bottles—that was a mistake! I was hungry all right, and I had about half a bag of Doritos—and had those. I had a few shot blocks—and I had just over half a water bottle left on the Mighty Trek. I should have got more water.

The last miles were the toughest, Gentle Reader—Brian and Arlis had ridden past me because soon up ahead I could see them. It took some time, but finally I caught up with them when they had to hold for a stop light. We were back together again and I was able to recover in the pace line. The wind was bearing down and we slogged our way the last six to seven miles back—each time having to crest yet another hill top—it was relentless, mes amis. And my water supply began to slip away with each much-need gulp. I was down to my last 100 calorie shot block. But there was no way we were stopping!

Finally—yes finally we were pulling into the controle at the finish. I turned my card in, uttered a few sentence to Bob Burns who was at the controle talking to riders—and with my few last gasps of what energy I had left, I got next door to the Subway and got me a Cold Cut Combo ordered up. I cannot tell you how beautiful the Coke-Cola tasted as I drank it down. It was like the movies where some poor bloke, after crawling through the desert, is at the oasis of cool water—he is saved! That was me.

I should have got water and a bite at my stop at mile 109. The last 16 miles were hard and I almost about dropped to the pavement. I would have had to stop—tried to recover with only miles to go—while the clock ran away. Instead I just barely made it to the last. But I did make it, Gentle Reader—I made it…

The 300 is April 7th and that’s not far away. It seems like the ink here’s not even dry and its time to roll to the start. Many said they want to ride it but have not signed up. Arlis says she’s signed up but Brian has not. Whatever this means is that I may or may not have people to ride with. I’ve got the 200 under my belt and now there’s the 300—186 miles—to ride with my dynamo hub. It works but there’s gonna be that drag on the wheel. And then I heard that the 300 has lots of hills.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, mes amis—with no photos this time I thought I’d give you the details best I could. Cheers!



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update Bruce, way to rock the 200!! Glad you still have that Mount Lemmon gear. You best get yo ass in the saddle for that 300 and rock out with your calk out.


Anonymous said...

Well, way to go despite a hard start, relentless headwinds and poor food supply. Boy, finishing like you did is the real deal. Congrats!
Jim Duncan

Ryan said...

Good job, mate. Can't wait to hear about the 300!