This 400k ride represents the third ride of 4 rides in a randonneur series (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k). The 400k would be the longest ride of my life, so it would surely be a challenge! Training time has always been an issue for me, but this year I’m getting a little more than my usual (mostly) trainer only fare. I’m prepping to ride the GPC metric century with my daughter on the tandem, so in the last month, we did a couple of 40ish mile hilly rides as well as some triplet rides with my son and daughter. All told, I probably got 140 miles of rubber on the road since the 300k, and I did my usual twice a week or so trainer rides after the kids go to bed.
The one development on my trainer rides is that my legs felt fit enough to do some all-out intervals, so I cut back on my movie watching and went back to the ~30 minute suffer-fests. All told, I probably peaked 2 weeks before the ride, which is before I took a week off the bike on Spring break with the kids, but hopefully I maintained enough fitness to do the ride. For the SFR brevets, they aren’t the hilliest of rides and I haven’t encountered rain, so finishing simply meant survive the hills and ride strong on the flats. That strategy was the same one I would take for the 400k.
Of the GPC/SFR folks, Kirk Hastings and Rob Hawks were at the start (and Rob at the finish, although on an earlier
shift than my return). I saw Bruce Marchant at the start, but not much on the ride. I was very fortunate to have the company of Jack Holmgren and his buddy Kevin for probably 3/4 of the ride, but I’m getting ahead of myself. As we started the ride, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, and I rode with Jack for what I thought was just before he took off like a rabbit (he finished the 300k a few hours ahead of me). However, he and Kevin were recovering from a big Fleche event, and Jack was busy taking pictures, so as the ride progressed down Nicasio Valley, I was very fortunate to ride with Jack as he pulled me up to a big group of riders. I talked to Carlos Duque and reminded him that he took a great picture of Tomo and me on our first brevet as we finished the SFR populaire a couple of years ago. That was still one of my best rides ever! http://ttoshi.net/bicycling/blog/?p=37
I was able to stay with this pack of riders all the way to the first control in Bodega. At Bodega I bought 2 V-8s and chugged them as I was in line and a big bottle of water to refill my bottles (with Perpetuem) and part of my camelback that was empty until then. I knew that there were two big hills on this ride: Joy Rd. (or perhaps more aptly “Joyless Rd.” as someone commented to me) and HWY 128 and Black Mountain Rd. I took it easy on Joy Rd. where parts of that were really steep (over 15%?) then rode on and off with a couple riders till I got to the second Safeway control where I had more water and gatorade. It was really starting to heat up and after a couple of turns off River Rd. I got confused and went for a couple of miles and thought I was off course and turned around. Luckily Gabe and a couple more riders came by relatively soon and I was more or less able to keep up with them for a little while, and we took a water break at an air conditioned bar. There was a super nice bartender who filled up all of our water bottles and we got cooled off before continuing on.
I was going super slow in the heat and Roland rode past, although he also had some issues with hot foot later, but passed me while I rested in the shade and ate a couple boiled eggs that I brought with me. I finally made it to Cloverdale where I saw Jack and Kevin getting ready to leave and I got some more Gatorade and water and I got to talk to Gabe, Ian, Brian and one other rider (I’m sorry I missed your name!).
At this point, I was riding pretty slowly in the heat, so I went off on my own, figuring that the others would easily catch up. Just before HWY 128, I ran into Kevin and Jack who were doing some derailer adjustments. I rode with them for a little while until I was nearing heat exhaustion and decided to slow down and try to cool down. For the rest of the climb I took it slowly and rested at nice shady and breezy locations.
I managed to make it to Hopland without completely withering and bought a clammato (should have bought 2!), gatorade and slice of pizza (yum!). I took off, and Eric Larsen and I went to find our way, but managed to get lost when the road we were supposed to turn on had a different name (Old River Rd., I think).
The lucky thing was, as Eric and I retraced our route, we ran into Jack and Kevin, who also seemed to miss the turn too. Lucky for us we were 4 strong as Kevin organized our 0.5 mi pulls down HWY 101 to get us efficiently past any dangers on that road. We made it back to Geyserville, at which point there were a bunch of us, including Ian, Gabe, Brian and gang and we teamed up to go to Petaluma. For some reason, nobody wanted any bonus hills on the Geysers so we continued down 128 and climbed a hill, but on the descent, Brian flatted(–those Grand Bois tires), so we all stopped and rested. Just as the flat was fixed, Kitty, Eric and another rider came along and we all continued our way to Petaluma.
At this point, the paceline speed varied depending upon how badly the rider in front wanted to get to Petaluma, so we lost a few riders, but in the end we did all manage to get to the Petaluma Safeway, where I got some hot chicken fingers and more water for perpetuem.
The end was within range, so Jack and Kevin kindly waited for me while I finished my preparations and we took off for the final leg. All in all, I was actually in pretty good shape. The heat was gone and it was starting to even get a bit chilly, but with the decreasing temperature, my strength returned. My butt hurt like crazy and I was getting sleepy tired, but luckily my legs still had enough energy to ride, and Kevin was expertly pacing us through the hills and flats. –I was extremely fortunate to have ridden with these super experienced veterans of 1200k events! We basically counted down the hills until we made it back to the finish.
The GG bridge was shrouded in mist and while it was a nice view, it wasn’t so nice on the bridge. My glasses misted up and I just followed Kevin’s tail light hoping that I wouldn’t crash on the last mile of the ride.
At the end, Sterling and another great volunteer helped us out and got us warm fluids and sustenance. I rested and caffeined up before my drive home. My finish time was 21:39 or so, and my original goal was 22-23 hours, assuming I rode alone. I had a ton of help and despite the heat, I still finished with a good time, so I am very pleased with the outcome of the ride. As I was leaving, Brian Chun followed by several others from the Petaluma gang showed up, including Gabe, Brian, Ian and company. Thankfully my butt recovered after a few hours of sleep, and I am having amnesia over the pain of the heat, so it looks like I will make an attempt to do a 600k next. Thanks to all the volunteers and friends both new and old for making it a great ride!