This 600k represents my conclusion of the “Super Randonneur” brevet series, which consists of a 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k ride.
I completed the San Francisco Randonneur 400k in late April, which gave me a little over a month to train for the 600k. I also planned on using my new brevet bike, which is a Rivendell A Homer Hilsen bike, as well as using an SP Dynamo hub, Rivet Pearl saddle, and Pacenti Pari Moto 38 mm tires. The SP PV-8 Dynamo hub is supposedly as or more efficient than the venerable Schmidt dynohub, but costs about half the price. I did have some concerns about the Pari Moto 38mm 650b tires because some people claimed it flatted every 25 miles, while others rode thousands of miles without flats. I decided to go for it, but added plenty of tubes and spare tires in the drop bags in the event of multiple flats or tire problems. The Rivet Pearl saddle felt very comfortable right from the start, and although it wasn’t fully broken in, I did feel pretty dialed into my position on my bike. All in all, I got about 150 miles on my new setup, so I would over double my total miles on my new bike on a single ride. That was a pretty daunting thought!
Much of my training was done with my kids, and my big ride in May was the Grizzly Peak Cyclists metric century, which I did with my daughter: http://ttoshi.net/bicycling/blog/?p=104. Other than that ride, I stuck to my usual regimen of trainer rides and got in the occasional ride with my new bike along the Pinehurst/Wildcat/Grizzly/Skyline loop and a few rides up Tunnel Rd. with my family triplet bike, which I rode with my son and daughter.
The day before the event, I dropped my daughter off at pre-school, and as I was going back to the car, my left foot hit a crack in the sidewalk, and then my right foot hit the same crack and I went flying down head first. I managed to get my hands in front of my chest and the impact fell on my hands, which thumped into my chest and knocked the breath out of my lungs. I imagine I was experiencing what it is like to experience an asthma attack because I was wheezing trying to suck air into my lungs, and I was stumbling trying to get up off the sidewalk. I sat down by the side of the sidewalk taking stock of what happened and was hoping my ride wasn’t ruined by the fall. I had trouble squeezing both my right and left hand, although my right hand seemed worse. After I got to work, I applied an ice pack to my right hand and it seemed as if squeezing a brake would be okay, so I was hopeful that I would still be able to do the ride.
What did I learn from the crazy mishap a day before the big ride? First thing is that you can get hurt doing something as simple as walking down the street. I realize there are dangers with riding big events, but in the big picture, keeping fit and healthy is better in the long run for me than trying to avoid risk and potentially being overweight and getting high blood pressure etc…
The second thing the mishap can do is to remind me to keep changing my hand position and avoid numbness/circulation problems etc… I noticed that on my new bike, even on some short rides, my circulation was being cut off a little bit on my left hand, so I definitely wanted to keep an eye on that.
I made it through the day icing my hand, and then I drove to Santa Rosa to stay in the hotel the night before the ride. As I was driving up, I hit Friday evening getaway traffic, and it was basically a standstill through Petaluma. Since I’m no longer used to suffering through commute traffic, I was probably tense gripping the steering wheel with my left hand, and then I noticed that my left hand was hurting pretty badly and it hurt to open and close my hand. I focused hard to lightly grip the steering wheel as I crawled on to the hotel. Now I was icing both hands, and I popped an Aleve right before I went to bed, hoping that I’d be ready to ride.
Fortune smiled on me and didn’t want me to end before I started. My hands felt fine after the rest and I would take care of them as I rode.
My goal for the morning was to make it with a group to the Hopland grade, which is an 8-mile climb to the summit. I would go slowly at my own pace up the climb and then meet up with others afterwards if I could.
At the start I met Peg as well as Bassem and Metin, who also rode Rivendell bikes. Deb and Phil were friendly faces from previous rides, including the DMD, which we finished late at night after an epic day for me and my buddy Randy http://ttoshi.net/bicycling/blog/?p=61. I also recognized Linda because I met her when she was attempting her 50th double century!
We rolled out of the hotel and the pace was pretty reasonable at the start. Robert Choi, who is famous for completing the Terrible Two at the front every year was off the front of our group pretty quickly with another rider. We had a good group of riders that stayed pretty together through Cloverdale, but Bassem wanted to get more water so and Metin and Bassem dropped off. The pace started to pick up, and by the time we reached the 101, I think we were down to 6 riders.
At this point Robert Buntrock moved to the front and really laid down the hammer. I was starting to suffer when we were flying uphill into the headwind at 22 mph. I was just hanging on waiting for the 101 to end. There is a reason that Robert finishes all the rides I do at least 5 hours faster than me. I had no business being in that group, but I managed to make it to the first stop in Hopland, where I had no intention of following anyone else at that point.
In expectation of the temperature rising significantly, I pulled off the extra layers and brought out my bare bones camelback and filed it with some water. A couple of locals told us to watch out for the grooves in the road up the Hopland grade. Grrr, boy they weren’t kidding about the road! The road was ground down and ready for repaving. Of course, it wasn’t repaved, so it was pretty annoying on the way up, but of course we were going slowly on the way up. Hah, just wait for the descent on this road!!! Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
In Lakeport it is pretty darn hot, and I ask a hot dog stand if he has bottles of water. He says no, but the guy says there’s water being sold over by what looks to be a mini flea market. I buy a couple of ice cold bottles, which makes me feel much better.
I’m putting along Scott Valley Rd where there’s a stiff headwind, and Peg comes along and kindly offers to pull me, and we work well as a team. It was nice to swap pulls and get some rest from the wind. We get to CA-20, and it starts out with a nasty section with about 2 feet of shoulder next to a rumble strip and the cars are flying by at about 60 mph. It was nice that there was a tailwind, but the bad thing is that Peg was clearly stronger than me, and I wasn’t getting as much rest when I was drafting. I managed to keep up the pace ok, and we made it through the 27-mile stretch pretty quickly. However, there was a climb coming up on Sulphur Creek Rd. I told Peg I was going to rest and take it easy on the hill. After the next stop, I continued on my own to recover some more while I ate on my bike. I passed Metin and Bassem when Matin had the first of his flats (a screw). I then passed Peg who had a flat too. I was just lucky not to get a flat and continued on to the Pope Valley staffed rest stop.
The Pope Valley stop was great. I had a great smoothie and turkey wrap sandwich. There were several 200k riders who were happy to be done for the day, while I tried not to think about being done for the day yet, since I still had about 60 miles to go before my sleep rest. There were a bunch of us here. I remember seeing Michael, Clyde, Aaron, Phil and Deb, Bassem and Metin, and Peg and Linda.
On the next leg, I went off on my own trying to gain time to get more sleep. Of course, in situations like that, the opposite usually happens, and sure enough, I speed down a descent too quickly and miss a turn. I descend another two miles before I realize that I’m off course, and I start hammering back up the hill. I put in some extra effort trying to catch up to everyone and trying not to be alone and the last one on the course. On this leg I see Robert Choi and another rider on their return leg. A little later I see Robert Buntrock and Gintautas, and I think the last person I saw was Tim. I continue on to Winters and at the halfway point, I see all of the same suspects from Pope Valley there. Luckily I hadn’t missed the bus back home yet.
Metin, Clyde, Phil, Deb, Michael and I leave together to march back to Pope Valley and Clyde is suffering from a bad stomach and drops back. Cardiac spreads us out a little, and Deb and Matin catch Michael and head off, while I decide to not try to keep up and go at my own slow pace. Phil passes by wondering if I’m ok, since I’m going pretty slowly, and decide I’m feeling good enough to ride with him. We catch up to Metin and Deb who are taking a quick rest stop. We ride back to Pope Valley and are greeted to some great Heart music–I never knew they did covers of Elton John and Led Zeppelin! The food was also top notch. The tortellini, chicken and tri tip were perfect. Bassem, Peg and Linda make it in, and I decide to hit the sack. We were going to wake up at 4:30, which gave us about 3 hours of Zzs.
I panic at the sound of my alarm going off and wrest myself out of my sleeping bag. Three hours may not sound like much, but I felt so much better than when I initially went to sleep. Tim is stoking the campfire flames and I got some
warmth in my bones. Aaron heads off at his own pace, Bassem, Metin and I head off together, and Tim flies by off to get some McDonalds food. Deb and Phil are close behind. Things are pretty mellow as we make our way back to Clearlake. There are a couple of hills but they aren’t bad. Peg meets us in Clearlake after she woke from her hotel stay in Middletown.
We get lost in Clearlake and Peg and Tim are close behind. We all continue on for a bit until we all decide we are lost. Along the way we get some bonus potholed 15% pitches on the road. We finally get on track, and I’m happy to hear that Metin and Bassem want to take a rest on top of the Sulpher Bank climb because that gives me the opportunity to do the climb super slowly and enjoy the scenery.
Now we get to the worst sections of the ride in bunches. We have 27 miles of rumble-strip shoulders and super fast cars on Highway 20. Metin, Bassem and I decide that it would be best to break it up with 1 mile rotations–9 pulls and we should be done. We manage to get to about 3 miles from the end, and I finish my pull and pull out of the shoulder, but up ahead are a couple of big rocks in the shoulder that Bassem gets around but Metin unfortunately hits one with both tires and flats them both! I check my bag for boots, but then realize that as I changed saddlebags before the ride, my toolkit never made it in my saddlebag! I have plenty of tubes in the event of flats, but I don’t even have tire levers! I was fortunate that I didn’t have any flats or mechanicals.
Metin manages to boot his tire with duct tape and we continue on to the staffed rest stop in Lakeport. The boiled eggs really hit the spot for me, and I am looking forward to getting away from highway 20. On Scotts Valley Rd., one of Metin’s patches fails on his tube and we stop to replace the tube. Right now we are all mentally and physically preparing for the climb up the Hopland Grade. The first pitch up the Hopland grade gets pretty steep ~10%, but the second climb is not as steep and we eventually make it to the top.
The descent of the Hopland grade was worse than anything else on the ride combined. I was glad to have 38mm wide tires, and my ride was surely more comfortable than most of the other riders. However, I probably would have needed motorcycle tires to avoid feeling jarred by the 10 miles of rumble-strip road. When we finally reached Hopland, we met Tim, Deb, Phil and Peg at the little market. I was able to eat most of a chicken salad sandwich and we all left together to tackle the last horrible section of road on the debris-filled 101 shoulder.
Phil had a flat just before we left Hopland, and Tim got a fish hook in his tire on the 101. Tim was being everyone’s savior by doing big pulls and pulling us together if the pack broke apart. We were very grateful for his company and his willingness to hang out with us slowpokes! I was feeling ok, but I wasn’t able to eat too much due to a sour stomach and some acid reflux. Peg gave me some Tums and Deb gave me a Prilosec and I was starting to feel better. We made our way to Geyserville and had a break at the grocery where we
had some ice cream bars. The chocolate ice cream bar helped fuel me up too.
We slogged through the final miles, and I was super happy to be a 600k finisher. The food and beer at the finish was great. I especially want to thank Peg, Bassem, Metin, Deb, Phil and Tim for their great company and help with the ride. I want to thank the SRCC for the amazing support and especially Bob who was at almost every supported stop along the ride. I wonder if he slept at all?
My new A Homer Hilsen Rivendell bike was awesome. The Rivet Pearl saddle was great, and my butt felt better than after the 400k. The Pari Motos didn’t have a single flat despite all of the debris all over the road. The SP PV-8 dynamo hub performed flawlessly.
I felt pretty good after the 600k and could have continued to ride, although another 600k is impossible to imagine though! However the one thing giving me pause is the sour stomach. I had almost two V-8s at every control, but that didn’t seem to be setting it off. It was the raspberry Hammer gel that was giving me the most problems. Has anyone else had a reaction to Hammer gel? I wonder if the chocolate Hammer gel would be okay. I switched away from chocolate because it was much thicker than the other gels, but if it doesn’t cause sour stomach I would be much happier! Thanks for any advice! I am definitely still motivated to try PBP someday…