2011 SCR Mixed Terrain Dart

This ride was actually a week ago, but I’m finally getting around to posting some notes today. Super busy week.

I signed up for my first dart with the Santa Cruz Randonneurs. The format was to ride in teams of three to five and converge on a single destination at once. There were 11 or 12 teams riding from all around the Bay Area to the final destination, a brewery in Palo Alto. There were time restrictions placed on the teams so that teams would ride at a leisurely pace and arrive all at the same time. Oh, and the distance was a 200k or longer.

Our route started in San Francisco, meandered down the coastline, over Skyline, out to Pescadero, and through the hills again to Palo Alto. The weather was ideal and the climbing was brutal. There was one climb, Purisima Creek, that was about 1,500 feet in elevation gain on gravel and dirt pack with slopes of 11+ degrees. I had to get off of my bike twice just to catch my breath. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to do that. The total climbing for the day was close to 12,000 feet with a respectable portion of it off road.

The nature of the ride allows teams plenty of time to regroup at controls or so we thought. The dirt sections had slowed us down more than we anticipated. At our second to last control in Big Basin, we did a time calculation and figured we would have to hustle to our final control just so we didn’t miss our time cutoff.

Memorable quote: “We can make it. We’re randonneurs!” – Carlos

Strava Deets

04/2011 SFR Hopland 400k

Today was the first time I turned in a DNF (did not finish). I feared that some day it would happen, but it wasn’t quite as disappointing as I would have imagined. Almost all of the brevets I have ridden up to this point have been with my good buddy Tom the Dane. I’ve been slowly building up my tolerance for longer and longer rides over the past few years and for me it’s very comforting having a friend that will slow down and wait for me if I bonk or keep me company when it’s dark, cold, and wet or talk about nothing while he’s waiting for me to change a flat.

Leading up to this ride, I never quite felt prepared. I had ordered a generator hub and light specifically for this ride. (During the Santa Rosa Randonneurs 300k my battery powered light had unexpectedly died five miles from the finish leaving me with only a headlamp. This was hours before I had anticipated I would run out of battery.) Tony over at A Bicycle Odyssey built me an amazing all black Schmidt generator wheel, but because I ordered on such short notice it was ready just days before the 400k. Life’s been a little hectic feeling lately, so long story short, I ended up not packing anything for the ride until the night before. I usually pack for a ride at least two days in advance giving me the night before to double check that I’m not missing anything.

Rolling out of the apartment this morning, I ended up riding down the block just to turn around to grab something I forgot…twice: once for another layer since it was colder out than I thought it would be and a second time to grab my helmet. I finally arrived at the start just at 6AM as everyone was rolling out to start the ride. I checked in quickly and as I was doing the light and reflector check…yeah, I forgot the reflectors too. Tom’s girlfriend, Lauren, rushed me back to the apartment to get the reflectors and I was ready again to roll out.

I picked up where I left off on the 300k. “Tom. Two miles down. 248 to go.”

We kept a good pace for most of the day. Despite the early setbacks, we were not far off of the usual 10 hours per 200k pace we usually set. I had thought to myself earlier in the week that if all goes well, we would finish the ride by 3 or 4AM. The course was hillier in parts than I had anticipated, but we still kept it steady and on pace. By the way, who’s the twisted person behind the name Joy Road? Obviously not a cyclist.

As we closed in on the halfway point we approached a hill that felt like it would never end. We just kept climbing and climbing only to find more climbing around the bend. Then finally we would reach what felt like the top and begin a descent…only to climb back up the elevation we had just dropped. Then finally again we began to descend and this time it felt real.

Tom began to separate on the descent. I kept my speed in check and around each turn I would see Tom further ahead until I no longer saw him as I rounded each turn. It was a long, fast descent.

As I came around the last bend at the bottom, I saw something really bizarre. Tom was sitting next to his bike on the shoulder of the road with another randonneur standing next to him. I rolled up and casually asked if he had flatted and he responded that his front tube blew out and that he crashed. And to add insult to injury, he crashed in a patch of blackberry bushes.

I swapped out his tube and straightened his fork and asked him to sit for a while just to make sure that nothing was injured severely. Fellow randonneurs passed by each kindly offering assistance. One even stopped to pick the blackberry thorns out of Tom’s face. The front wheel, although still rideable, looked far from ideal. It had collided with a street marker and bent part of the braking surface and went out of true about a millimeter or two. A blowout in the sidewall required two tubes and a spent Clif Bar Shot wrapper to fix.

After a little while we got back on the road…and began to climb a final time. No use waiting there since Hopland, our turn around point, was only five miles away.

We had discussed that there would be no shame in turning in a DNF, and honestly, I was thinking that sitting down to a hamburger and pint of beer would make me really happy since I had been running a little low on energy at that point. We decided in Hopland, the absolute furthest point that we could call for a ride and also the furthest Tom and I have ridden from San Francisco, that we would call for a ride. (By the way, thanks Lauren for dropping everything to come and rescue us!)

Strava Upload

03/2011 Santa Rosa Randonneurs 300k

Enjoying Cup O Noodles at the lunch control

These were easily the toughest conditions I’ve ever ridden. Morning hail, rain in some form pretty much all day, mudslides with temporary road closures, flash flooding, stiff headwinds at times, temps in the 40s (not sure it made it into the low 50s, but possibly). Here’s the weather report for this particularly non-conducive day for cycling.

Like pretty much every other big ride I’ve participated in, I was an anxious mess the night before. Even after tuning the bike earlier in the week and setting aside all of my clothes, tools, nutrition, etc. a couple nights prior, I was still up until past 10PM organizing all the final details. Closely monitoring the weather forecast for the week leading up to the ride, I was hoping desperately that the 70% chances of rain was a mistake, but lightning strikes at dinner said that these conditions were going to be real. Hardly asleep the entire night, I woke up about once an hour: a couple times to pee, once awaking from a dream that I had overslept (and was more relieved than upset about missing the ride), and a time or two to check my clock.

The alarm rang at 3:30AM and it was time to get ready.

My friend Tom and I did the morning ritual: oatmeal drenched in maple syrup, banana, a big glass of water, teeth brushing, and dressing. I was really on the fence about bringing my extra long sleeve wool jersey, but when I add it to everything else I was wearing, it was pretty insignificant. I put on (in this order) arm warmers, leg warmers, wool knicker bibs, a Hot Chillys thermal top, wool short sleeve jersey, SF Randos long sleeve wool jersey (to be seen by no one that day, unfortunately), another long sleeve wool jersey, and two pairs of wool socks.

We got in the car to make the drive from San Francisco to Healdsburg. On the ride up, the outside temperature read 43 degrees and the wipers were set to a steady speed. The inside temp was set to 72 and I tried to occupy my thoughts by picking some good music for the hour long drive. After shuffling through a few albums, I finally settled on Chromeo. A little neo-80s pop/dance beats were what I needed to get me pumped for this ride.

Driving up to the start, Tom and I were still not fully committed to the idea of riding 188 miles in miserable conditions. We though of all of the options to bail. “We can turn around now and go back to sleep.” “We can ride 30 miles and if we decide it really sucks, we can just turn around…and tell people we did it.” “When we get to Pt. Reyes Station we can just ride back to the city and ask someone to drive us back to Healdsburg to get the car. That’ll still be over 100 miles.”

The closer we got to Healdsburg, the more committed I felt to riding.

We arrived in Healdsburg, pulled the bikes out of the car and put on the final articles of clothing. For me, they were rain booties (they should call these sprinkle booties by the way), kayaking gloves, rain jacket, rain chaps, neck warmer, hat, and helmet. We checked in and did a quick pre-ride meeting. Moments later, around 30 tail lights rode off into the morning night.

I rode alongside Tom until just past dawn about an hour later. He separated with a group of riders that were slightly faster than my pace. I felt a sprinkle turn to rain and then for a few moments to sharp hail stinging my face. I didn’t see Tom again until just past mile 50 at our first checkpoint. There went the idea of riding 30 miles and turning around.

For much of the ride, I felt myself asking, “why do randonneurs even ride on a day like today?” Or even, “why do randonneurs ride the distances they do when conditions are good?” I kept asking myself the same questions for miles and miles and miles. There were moments when I came to the conclusion that these guys are all a little mentally ill or that they get serious bouts of depression when they don’t exercise or a number of other possibilities. (At some point in any long ride, I have moments of frustration towards myself and towards the people that think riding in adverse conditions, distance or weather, is a good idea.)

I began to ask myself, “why am I riding today?”

As sad as it sounds, I’ve been feeling like lately my life doesn’t have tons of purpose. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that I think pays well and isn’t overly demanding, but my day usually starts and ends with “okay, just another 8 hours.” I think my boss has become aware of this as well. I donate some money here and there (probably not enough) to causes and countries in need, but in reality that’s only a moment or two of my life. I semi-recently ended a four year relationship and find myself pretty depressed about that still and now with more time to myself and those thoughts.

So back to the question: “why am I riding today?” I’ve been finding that I am searching out what I am passionate about. Lately, this has entailed asking others what their passions are. Whether it be their job, their hobbies, or anything else, when I see someone genuinely passionate about something, I see that they sense their purpose.

Riding in the cold, wet, and challenging conditions the only thing I could gather that made it enjoyable to me was the fact that I was having a life experience. At times being more miserable than I had ever been on the bike, for what it’s worth, I thought that I would never forget this ride. Those hours on the bicycle with only one goal, one simple goal of arriving at your destination with little time to afford spent on distractions; I find are rare moments when I can actually really focus. I do sense passion and purpose in my life when it comes to cycling, but sometimes I wonder how passionate I can be about something that can make me feel so miserable on a fairly consistent basis. Maybe that’s just life.

Back from my digression.

The rest of the ride was fairly consistent: wet and challenging. I felt pretty strong most of the day and contribute it to the 12 scoops of Perpetuem alongside the three bananas, thousand or two calories in prepackaged bars/gels/candy, electrolytes, and actual real food including Cup O Noodle. The further along I got in the ride, my thoughts changed from “where can I bail” to “let’s get home.” Some people along the way gave us crazy looks and asked us if we were crazy, but I just attribute that to the fact that we all were just a little crazy.

When dusk turned to night, Tom and I were on highway 116 and it began to pour rain again. On fairly regular intervals I would call out our remaining mileage: “less than 30 miles left,” “less than 25,” “less than 20,” “18,” “still 18,” (to myself) “fuck it’s really still been less than a mile?”

A woman alongside 116 pulled over her BMW SUV with bike racks and offered us a ride home. She was a little puzzled that we refused the ride in the downpour probably thinking that we were a little insane. Oh, did I mention that along with the ability to focus on just one task, Chromeo’s Bonafied Lovin was stuck in my head for about 100 miles?

We arrived back in Healdsburg to a warm room in the Best Western full of tired randos, warm food, and stories from the day. Just another epic!

Santa Rosa Randonneurs
Strava Upload

2011 2 Rock / Valley Ford 200k

Honestly, I need to get a camera or something. This is the only photo I have that has anything remotely to do with this ride…and as you can see it does little justice to how beautiful the ride actually was.

Compared to last year, the weather for the opening brevets has been incredible. I’ve already managed to get a forehead tan line and it’s only February. I’m ramping up this year to hopefully complete a Super Randonneur series. Despite only being back on the bike for the past couple of months, I’m feeling pretty good. I learned a bit from last year’s rides about nutrition and bonking, and luckily I haven’t had to experience the hurt of not eating properly before and during a ride. I am pretty sure though as the distance increases, I’ll have a few more run ins.

Two short weeks to go until the SF Randonneurs Russian River 300k. Last year I was really intimidated about this ride and now I am feeling a bit more comfortable with the distance.

Here’s my Strava upload, which is an awesome service by the way! I can’t wait to see my year end stats.

2011 SFR Lighthouse 200k

Yesterday was the first brevet of the San Francisco Randonneurs 2011 brevet calendar. It also marked one year since my very first brevet with the SF Randos. It’s been a little over a month since the surgeon gave me the okay to get back on the bicycle and I was really pleased to feel like I was in shape enough to give this brevet a go. It’s a beautiful course that starts at the Golden Gate Bridge, heads north then a little west through the Pt. Reyes National Seashore then meanders back to San Francisco.

On a sad note, this ride was dedicated to Don Mitchell who passed away in November after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle. The SFR 200k was Don’s favorite brevet. I had the chance to meet Don while he was volunteering at the finish control of last year’s Russian River 200k. He had just completed the Devil Mountain Double Century the day before which is over 200 miles and over 20,000 feet of climbing. Despite such a great accomplishment, Don was very humble about his achievement. He also politely declined when some friends and I offered to make him a peanut butter, jelly, and potato chip sandwich. Don left us too soon and will be missed.

All in all, this was a great 200k to start off the season. There wasn’t a single drop of rain (last year it rained a little) and the weather was absolutely ideal. It was also the largest brevet the SF Randonneurs hosted in history with 150 riders attending and another 20 on the wait list. (This is the only ride with a rider cap because of restrictions imposed by the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.) My left leg is still a little atrophied and my pedal stroke is a bit lopsided based on the fact that my right (stronger) leg started to cramp up while my left leg never did. I think I was also a little under gunned because I noticed on most of the climbs, my pedals wouldn’t spin nearly as fast as anyone else’s. But despite all these factors, my friends and I still managed to finish in just under 10 hours, besting last year’s attempt by about an hour.

This year I would really like to attempt a Super Randonneur series (200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k in a calendar year). There’s a lot of talk of this year’s Paris Brest Paris which is a 1200k ride in France that is kind of like the Olympics of randonneuring and happens only once every four years. I’m going to focus on the Super Randonneur series first, which is an intimidating task, then we can talk.

Here’s the Strava upload by the way.

Russian River 200k

En route to Valley Ford

Sunday’s 200k started on a sadder note. The San Francisco Randonneurs RBA, Rob Hawks, had informed us during the pre-ride meeting that a fellow randonneur and avid long distance cyclist, Tom Milton, had passed away of a heart attack during Saturday’s Devil Mountain Double Century. I had not met Tom personally, but I could tell that he was admired by many and incredibly accomplished. Tom was the founder of Selle An-Atomica and is credited for stirring up the waters of leather bicycle saddles influencing Brooks to bring back their Imperial model after retiring it for many years. In 2009, Tom Milton was inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame for completing 50 Double Centuries in the California Triple Crown Series.

Rob spoke of a conversation he had with Tom and how they shared the excitement of all the new riders coming out for the 2010 brevets. Being a new rider with the San Francisco Randonneurs, I am incredibly excited and privileged to have found such a dedicated group of cyclists.

So far in 2010, this has been my fourth brevet ridden. The conditions were ideal. Leaving the rain gear at home and bringing nothing but arm and leg warmers was a sigh of relief. This is usually the time of year when I start ramping up the mileage on weekend rides in preparation for something long, but thanks to the SFR schedule I can say that I am feeling really fit and have gained a lot of confidence in my riding abilities.

I have learned a lot so far this year. I’ve ridden roads that prior to this year I had only been on in my car; I’ve learned about the importance of a big breakfast; and I’ve met some really great people who love bicycles.

Thank you to those who ride and those who continue to inspire us to ride.

More photos from this ride can be found on my Flickr page.

Russian River 300k

The view from our control in Bodega Bay

Last Saturday (02/27/10), I rode the Russian River 300k. To date, this has been my longest ride. Converted to miles and with the addition of the ride from my house to and from the start, I calculate it was just over the 190 mile marker.

It seems like each brevet that I’ve ridden with the San Francisco Randonneurs has provided a new challenge on the bike. Prior to the last two 200k brevets, I had not done much riding in the rain aside from short inner city rides and the bike commute to/from work (SF to Mill Valley). This ride pushed me over the 200k mark for the first time and required a pretty decent amount of bicycle headlight on the way home.

The ride started out in a similar fashion to the prior two 200k rides. I monitored the weather closely for the days leading up to the event and awoke to rain…again. We lucked out and only had AM rain.

Another thing on my mind leading up to this ride was nutrition. I did some reading on Ultra Marathon Cycling Association‘s website and asked a couple of people for some nutrition advice. A friend’s girlfriend said I absolutely needed to have a big breakfast. I had learned my lesson during the prior two rides and ate a big breakfast hoping that I would not bonk at mile 80 (again) and have 100 miles staring me down. I ate to the point that my mouth could not produce enough saliva to swallow my food, and I took huge gulps of water imagining I was Kobayashi or Joey Chestnut competing in the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. I will never skip a big breakfast the day of an event ever again. It works.

And a coworker recommended I try Perpeteum. I’ll just say that you can get a lot of calories in your body without feeling too full. Nice.

The big breakfast and Perpeteum didn’t replace my normal energy bars, gels, electrolytes, and solid foods (sandwiches, bananas, etc.), but instead was supplementary. Energy wise, I felt pretty fresh throughout the ride and I know the extra calories made a huge difference.

I think if there was a theme for this day of riding it was setbacks. We started our ride 15 minutes late, I had a flat tire and two non-functioning pumps, and my friend’s bike had brake and derailleur problems. We made a few roadside adjustments and also had to stop into a bike shop for new pads. Based on the 10 hour time of my previous 200k, I had anticipated finishing this one in about 16 hours. At the nine hour mark, my cyclometer read just over six hours on the saddle, but we ended up finishing around 17.5 hours after we left. So all in all, I was pretty pleased with our overall pace. (Honestly, I was just happy to finish within the 20 hour limit. Actually, I was thrilled to finish…period.)

The ride went from SF to Petaluma to Healdsburg to Bodega Bay to Marshall and back to SF. There was nothing really notable about the ride until around Bodega Bay. We hit Highway 1 south (somewhere near mile 110) around mid-afternoon and it was incredible. The tailwinds were in effect, the waves in the horizon were huge, and it was warm. Shortly after that, the sun set.

Around Valley Ford, evening turned into night. This was the furthest from home I’ve been on bike and in the night. Luckily for us, the conditions were ideal. It was a full moon or near it and the skies were clear and starry. Although we were kind of out in the country, the roads felt familiar thanks to the 2 Rock/Valley Ford 200k just two weeks prior. We rode through a couple of towns that had closed down for the night and stretches of Highway 1 where aside from the occasional car passing, our bike lights were the only artificial lights on the road. I had the comfort of a friend to chat with and surprisingly my legs and body felt relatively energized for the number of miles I had already put in that day.

One final checkpoint at the Marshall Post Office and it was the home stretch. The roads felt more and more familiar as the towns grew bigger and we got closer and closer to SF. Being a Saturday night, I had to dodge a drunk man in Fairfax, but after that it was smooth sailing. Once we hit the final climb out of Sausalito and up to the Golden Gate Bridge, I started to feel a soreness in my knees. I think this was my body telling me that it was happy to be home.

We rolled into the final checkpoint around 11:30PM, chatted a bit about our ride, and grabbed some cookies and soda. We were all smiles.

At the end of the month, the 400k is coming up. I’m pretty sure I’ll be sending in my registration soon. And again, I’m both nervous and excited.

200km is just the beginning

The view from the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse.

…or so it is for the seasoned randonneur.

I’ve ridden the first two brevets in the San Francisco Randonneur‘s 2010 schedule. Being only February, I am feeling a lot better about my cycling fitness level as this is usually the time of the year when I let the shorter days and wetter weather dictate my cycling regimen.

I did my first century and rode AIDS LifeCycle in 2006 and since then I’ve tried to make it a habit to train for at least one century (100 mile ride) a year. Up until this point, I had only done one 200km ride. And honestly, I felt pretty bad ass after I had completed it. I just finished my second 200km of the year and I am feeling both proud about working toward new fitness goals and also really intimidated about what randonneuring offers.

Looking forward on the SF Randonneur’s schedule, the next two rides are a 300km ride at the end of this month and a 400km ride at the end of next month. That roughly translates to 180 and 250 miles, respectively. After about 80 to 100 miles on my bike, I have been feeling like the tanks are running close to empty and can’t help but monitor my mileage closely as we approach the finish. Not only that, but I have bonked (everything feeling a lot harder than it should be) at some point on both rides and have also had some sore areas that I wouldn’t notice on shorter training rides.

Moving on, I am pretty sure that I’ll need to make some changes in my preparation. I’ve found some really good reading material at Ultra Marathon Cycling Association‘s site about training and nutrition. I really can’t call myself an ultra cyclist, but the idea of being one sounds pretty cool I must admit. From what I’ve read so far, it sounds like I have a lot of room for improvement.

I will probably sign up for the 300km and will have the 400km in the back of my mind. Wish me luck!

San Francisco Randonneurs

A coworker, JC, suggested riding in a brevet this upcoming Saturday with the San Francisco Randonneurs. I had heard the word randonneur thrown around in different cycling conversations, but was a bit clueless of its significance.

From what I’ve read on Wikipedia and on the San Francisco Randonneurs’ site, I’ve learned the following. A brevet is non-competitive: there is a maximum time limit to finish the course, but no prize for first. The rides are usually minimally supervised, relying on honesty and check-point controls such as recording a mileage marker on a certain sign or receiving a time stamped receipt from a particular store, etc. And I believe you have to pack your own gear, especially if you plan to stop and sleep.

This Saturday’s ride is only a 115k, also known as a Populaire, and should be a good intro to the sport. The categories of rides go all the way up to 1200+ km spread over multiple days, the most famous being the Paris-Brest-Paris.

It’s really good having an event to look forward to. And we’ll see where this journey goes!


Here’s a picture from checkpoint 2 of the ride: Nicasio General Store.

Me, Eric, JC, Adrienne, and Meli