Thursday, June 23, 2011

A belated SIR 400K recap

So -- almost a super randonneur. With a 200, 300, and 600K under my belt, plus a DNF on the Covered Bridges 400K, I caught a train up to Olympia last Saturday evening.

The ticket was $29 (bought fairly last-minute), plus another fiver for my bike. It was a nice and relaxed trip, rolling through plenty of greenery as we headed north.

And I was well-prepared for entertainment, with an old copy of Slaughterhouse Five and some cheesy bagels and a flurry of text-messaging.

Unfortunately, that same old reliable cell phone would bite me in the ass the next morning, as its alarm (with the help of some user error) didn't go off properly, leaving me to wake up on an Olympia couch at 6:45 a.m., with the brevet starting at 5:00. Whoops. So, I packed up my shit promptly and rode to the start point, where I ran into the ride organizer who said I'd probably be DQ'd due to lateness (unless I could cover the first 25 miles into Centralia in about ten minutes of riding in order to make the control time).

However, he was happy to hand me over a cue sheet and send me on my way for an unofficial-but-on-course 400K ride; I even grabbed a control card, in case there was some unlikely ruling in my favor from one of the rando higher-ups.

Being 2.5 hours late (official start time: 7:22 a.m.) meant, of course, lots of solo miles on the road. Lots of terrain like this, as I navigated back roads into Centralia then south onwards to Toledo.

Thankfully, the route then went off for about a 40-mile (20 each way) out-and-back from Toledo to the Hoffstadt Bluffs. I saw ten or twelve oncoming riders and greeted each with a wave and a bell ring, but my side of the road remained otherwise unoccupied by cyclists. The last rando crossing took place maybe four miles from the turnaround point; this, combined with the fact that I made it to the Hoffstadt control just ten minutes outside of the time limits gave me some hope that I'd be with some riding company at least later in the day (and, perhaps more importantly, through the night).

However, I was still solo when I passed through Toledo the second time and my odometer hit the century mark. My body felt fine in most regards, but my brain was a little tired of the solitary conditions (as I realized that the only words I had spoken in the last seven hours were to order a stale donut at a Chevron station, then ask for the restroom key).

Still, I pressed on solo, and took a more leisurely break at a campground store near the Barrier Dam. I sipped on a red Mountain Dew, chatted with the cashier, munched on some honey roasted mixed nuts, and sat on something other than my well-worn Team Pro saddle.

Shortly after that, I turned onto US Route 12, which the brevet followed for some 50-plus miles. I was still rolling comfortably and happily, but now six or so hours had passed since I had last seen another randonneur. Thankfully, when I pulled into Morton at mile 132, I saw a familiar sight parked in front of the Subway store -- it was Vickie, the recumbent rider whom I had seen in passing near the summit at Hoffstadt. We ordered and ate sandwiches together, chit-chatted, then rolled out back onto the 12.

We were far from an ideal partnership -- not surprisingly, I'd pull ahead on climbs, then she'd make up that ground and then some as her rig ripped through the wind on descents. Still, we pushed each other to keep riding strong into Packwood, the last daylight control and a nice rest before climbing up over Skate Creek Road.

Afterwards, other riders would remark that Skate Creek was one of the most scenic parts of the ride; but, for us two lantern rouge types, we saw only what our dynamo-powered lights pointed at. Also, I confirmed something I had noticed in last month's 400K -- at night, I lose most of my sense for elevation and speed. What my mind perceived as a 12mph cruise on a flat section was actually half that rate, spinning leisurely up a hill. Ah well.

Then it was just a bunch of night riding*, and we got back into the Tumwater start point in a gray pre-dawn glow, at five-twenty-something in the morning. My meaningless finish time was 21:58; Vickie's was somewhere around 24:20. I ate, texted my loved ones, hopped in a shower, slept for four hours, then was able to catch a ride back to Portland with Susan O.


* = I'm sure this is a well-known phenomenon in the randonneuring world, but there's quite a disconnect between the favorite-thing-in-the-world feeling I have at mile 80 or 150 or 220, and the rather pedestrian recaps which my brain produces after-the-fact. Then again, maybe this is a good thing -- it's one thing to be known as someone who begrudgingly rides for longish distances, but you're truly crazy if you can make a coherent argument in favor of this sport/hobby/pastime.

Anyway, no real changes to the bike since the 600K... added a bell, put in some free BONTRAGER BUZZKILLZ, moved my rear (USPS corrugated plastic mail box) mudflap from inside the fender to outside in order to prevent rubbing, and fabricated a new front flap out of a USPS tyvek envelope and duct-tape. Those damn flaps must help me channel the riding spirit of 2002-era Lance Armstrong, or something. But they didn't really matter -- cuz dry and mild.

And I think I packed a little bit less than last time, too. Thanks to my new bike industry job, I tried a variety of new-ish science food... caffeinated Gu berry shots were pretty delicious and effective, whereas orange-vanilla Perpetuem was some vile, vile shit.

The end!

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