Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another Experiment

Santa Rosa Wine Country Century, 200 km option

This was the third time in the last two years I conducted the same experiment; and the results are always the same, and always as unpleasant. So why keep I doing it? The experiment consists of not touching (and not even looking at) the bicycle for four weeks, while indulging excessively in all kinds of unhealthy lifestyle options. And then suddenly go for a bike ride of 200 km or more.

When we came back from the 600 km brevet in Oceanside, I barely had the time to move the bike from the car to the shed - there was some pressure at work (not really a lifestyle option!) during the five days before the take-off for our SFO - JFK - NCE flight. The following two weeks in Europe included extended wedding festivities (with excessive indulging) in northern France and a family reunion (with even more excessive indulging) in Bavaria.

All in all, I gained six pounds and had to loosen my belt by two holes. When we came back home, I had reasons to worry about my ability to resist the swine flu "pandemic" (that's how it was called, for all of its 28 cases) - just reading about it made me feel sick. After all, we had been on nine different flights in two weeks, with pretty bad memories from spending hours waiting for delayed planes in overcrowded, noisy and otherwise unhealthy settings. But then again, I didn't have time to worry about it; instead, I had to benefit from the jet lag to go to work earlier in the morning - something had piled up during my absence.

It felt a little awkward on Friday evening to open the shed and find my bicycle still dirty from the 600k brevet from four weeks ago. I only put lube on the chain; it wasn't worth cleaning the bike now, because it would get dirty again in the predicted rain. The alarm for Saturday morning was set to 4 a.m.

Santa Rosa's Wine Country Century is very popular, and the 2500 entries sold out in the beginning of February. I had done the ride in 2006 and 2008 and I like the roads and the scenery.

Because of some imponderables, I got on the road shortly before 7 a.m. only - and turned around after half a mile, because I had forgotten to put plastic bags around my shoes. Even though it was dry at that time, I didn't trust the grey sky and figured that I was not robust enough to endure wet and cold feet. Of course, I must have been the only one among the 2500 riders with plastic bags as booties; I told those who questioned me about them that it was my magic to keep the rain away.

The magic didn't work: it started to drizzle after about an hour, and the drizzle turned into rain soon afterwards. But the plastic bags did work nonetheless, and I was grateful that they kept my feet dry. I also rolled out my Rainlegs; and while they are not perfect, they did keep my knees and quads dry and warm throughout the next seven hours of rain.

Beyond the rain, another memorable feature was the fog on Coleman Road, out to the coast: at times, visibility was less than 20 yards. The brake levers got quite a workout while I cautiously edged my way from one turn to the next during the hairy descent. All this, rain and fog, explains easily why I didn't take any pictures: there was nothing to see, and I was worried about letting water seep into the ziplock bag where I kept the camera.

I find the first half of the WCC route much harder than the overall fairly modest elevation gain of 4500 ft suggests. Some climbs really are extremely steep (close to 20% by my estimates), and this put more stress on knees and leg muscles than I was prepared for, this time. After about 50 miles, I felt cramps creeping up in various places around the upper and lower legs, which slowed me down substantially. There I had it: the experiment yielded the same result as previously. Note to myself: Don't stop riding the bike for four weeks! (As for the indulging: don't know about it just yet).

The route offered several opportunities to short-cut back to the finish, and volunteers who protected us at certain road crossings were eager to try to redirect us onto the bail-out routes. They wanted to prevent the SAG drivers from being overwhelmed by requests from disgruntled and disgusted riders to be sagged in. The result was that the shivering volunteers at the remaining rest stops were waiting for customers: no lines anywhere! Only deep mud on the approach to the covered tables...

Obviously, with all of the above, this was the slowest of my three participations. I even missed the cut-off time for the extra five-mile detour of the 200 km option before Geyserville and finished with only a little over 190 km on the odometer. I didn't mind: it's not a brevet; and I was happy enough about getting in 10 hours of riding on a day where otherwise I would have continued to do - nothing.

At the finish, I enjoyed the post-ride meal offered by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club; and when I came out from the big tent and looked for my bike to bring it to the car in the parking lot, workers started to clean up everything. One of them approached me and said "I want to tell you something: among all the riders I have seen arrive, this afternoon, you are the only one who seems happy, smiling and in good shape!" - I said "Thank you for a wonderful compliment," and pointed at the plastic bags around the shoes, the Rainlegs, and my wool jersey. I didn't tell him that I would have been even happier if my experiment hadn't failed so miserably; and that the cramps had been pretty bad during the day. Instead, in walking away, I made a big effort not to let appear how stiff my legs were.

1 comment:

  1. Merci pour ton petit mot. Je vois que tu as repris l'entraînement et que ton séjour "gastronomique" en Europe s'est bien passé... c'est vrai que la reprise est dure mais ces kilos seront vite perdus, alors, bonne continuation!