Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Very Good Day

Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs 400k Brevet, March 7-8

On Friday afternoon, during the 5-hour drive down to Ventura, I had some doubts. How reasonable can it be to travel such a big distance by car just to ride the bike at the destination? Then again, the time spent on the bike will be at least twice the time spent driving; does this make it any more acceptable?

All those doubts vanished as soon as about twenty of us rolled out on Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. for a long day. The route was the same as the 300k route from four weeks ago, with additional out-and-back pieces added to the northern, southern and eastern edges to bump the distance up to 250 miles. What was not the same was the weather: this time, the sky was blue, and the sun did its very best to make the outburst of spring wildflowers sparkle all over the place.  I kept repeating to myself "It was all worth it" (the long drive that is).

In addition, I soon felt that I had a good day. At first, I thought it was just a side effect of the nice weather and environment; but when I was able to stay with Chris and Isabelle for over 50 miles, I understood that there was more to it. Regularly, I shouldn't even try to ride with them! I was so impressed with myself that I started searching for reasons why I had such a good day. But the only possible explanation I could find was the bottle of AlleyCat I had enjoyed on the evening before in terms of prehydration and carboloading. So, who knows?

Meanwhile, we rode above Montecito/Santa Barbara for the first time since the Tea fire catastrophe from last November through the burnt area. (The roads were closed four weeks ago for the 300k brevet). It was sobering and very impressive.

After the downhills to the northern end of Santa Barbara, I started thinking about how to say "good-bye" to Chris and Isabelle. Each time the road presented a little roller, my legs started talking to me to the effect of not overdoing the enjoyment of my good day; and the day was still long! Eventually, I didn't have to say anything. I was lagging behind just a little bit during a downhill, when a stop light turned red between them and me. OK, now I could fall back on plan B: ride according to my own pace and enjoy the trip! It turned out that I would ride the remaining 200 miles all alone - which is not anything I am worried about, luckily.

I was still pleasantly surprised about how well I progressed northwards to the control at Rifugio State Beach - must be a tailwind! Will have to fight the corresponding headwind on the way back, then. But I was even more pleasantly surprised when the wind appeared to be mostly favorable again during the trip back - how cool is that? In a sense, it's bad news: I would not be able to blame the wind for being slow. But I didn't complain, and I wasn't slow (it's all relative...), and I arrived at the traditional Shoreline Park lunch stop control well ahead of my pre-calculated estimates.

By the way: time to express a big compliment and thank-you to Linda for her exceptionally delicious wraps: they really transformed the good day into a super-good day! I know, because they allowed me to continue with renewed stamina to the half-way point which I reached after barely nine hours, back at the start/finish location in Ventura. I was quite happy with that, and upbeat about the second half of the event.

The sunset over the Pacific started soon after I passed Point Mugu, and I had to stop several times to look back at it and to take pictures.

A flattering tailwind helped me reach the southern turnaround point in Trancas in good condition and in sixth position, as I could determine from crossing the riders ahead of me (and I mean: far ahead of me). It's not a race, of course; and I knew very well that many riders behind me were stronger and faster than I. Still, it motivated me to find myself in the first half. At the control station, it was a pleasure to see Foster and David - thank you, guys!
The next milestone was the "Pizza control" at the Jones residence in Moorpark (how many brevets on the RUSA calendar have that? Yet another justification for a long drive...). Before getting there, however, I had to go back where I came from; and this time, the wind wasn't flattering any more. At times, it was even frankly unfriendly, and my legs showed their resentment. It was good I had built up a time cushion during the first 160 miles, because now I needed it. By the time I reached Santa Rosa Road in Camarillo, I started becoming pessimistic about my time estimate for arriving at the Moorpark control. It helped that I knew the route already; but the anticipation of the uphills did nothing to cheer me up. For the first time in the day, I felt tired and weak - and cold. I learned later that I was not alone with this type of experience at this point. I stopped several times under street lights to rummage in my handlebar bag for some forgotten power food - found some and ate it. And apparently it helped, because in the end, I arrived at the 200-mile mark at the Pizza control 15 1/2 hours after the start. That's still a very acceptable double century time, for me.

Only 50 miles left - but they included some lengthy climbing to the top of Grimes Canyon road, and some more pesky uphills on E. Guiberson Road eastwards to Piru. The generous hospitality offered by our RBA couple Lisa and Greg certainly had recharged my "batteries," but didn't bring back the fresh legs from the morning. When Jerry passed me shortly after leaving the control, there was no way in heaven for me to hang on to his rear wheel on the flats, and of course even  less to accompany him on the uphills. Oh well - I have been there before. This teaches me to become modest and honest again.

But it's not over yet: on the way to Piru I gradually warmed up and got some spring back in my legs. I arrived at the 24-hour control station in Piru in good spirits, chatted for a long time with the friendly but lonely cashier, and when I was about to leave and Foster arrived (he seemed to be everywhere!), I think I was able to convince him that I felt really good. The remaining 30 miles to the finish were ever so slightly downhill (if not rolling), and the barely noticeable wind was favorable. I realized that I could maintain a pretty good average, and kept revising my anticipated finishing time in the good direction. This encouraged and motivated me even more, and made me derive a deep and subtle pleasure from the observation that I could still ride pretty hard towards the end of the distance. And I had time to ponder the paradox of enjoying the ride - while at the same looking forward to when it's over. In the end, I arrived 20:17 hours after the start. I fulfilled my goal of staying under 21 hours; and the good conditions on this memorable ride made it appear (mostly) easy.

Checking in at the finish: "This was fun!"
(And I can let it appear as if it was easy)

More pictures from the Santa Barbara area:

(another victim of the economic crisis?)

It's called "Palm Drive"

1 comment:

  1. Début mars et déjà un 400 dans la musette!
    Bientôt un nouveau Ken Bonner?