Monday, March 1, 2010

Pleine Lune

San Francisco Russian River 300k, February 27, 2010

During the last weeks before this brevet, the SFRandon mailing list was busy with suggestions of how to learn/practice French in the perspective of PBP 2011, culminating with Greg's question "Qui veut faire le 300k en Français?" - which explains why the title is in French again (for beginners: "Full Moon"). And yes, Greg and I had a nice little chat in French during the first part of the ride.

This early North-Californian 300k brevet has acquired a pretty bad reputation in 2007 when it set a record in terms of "worst brevet ever" regarding the atmospheric conditions (hard rain together with extremely unfavorable winds for the last two-thirds, countless punctures, cold, etc.). This type of experience is always very helpful in other uncomfortable situations during a brevet which then can be brushed off with "it was much worse at the SFR300 in 2007." I repeated this route last year, without miracles and without rain, but also without my regular ride companion John. This year, we were at it together again, starting in a huge crowd of well over 100 participants.

Of course, the roads were all wet and slippery, and we were prepared for some drizzle during the first hours (which we received). But the rest of the day was dry and at times we could even see something blue in the sky.

I was pleased to ride for an hour or more in the company of Andrea (the same whose name appeared in this post, over a year ago). I don't have so many opportunities any more to talk in the Bavarian/Austrian dialect of my childhood, and I appreciated it so much that I must have set a personal record on the Camino Alto climb just so I could stay with her at least until White's Hill.

Of course, I compared my times with those from a year ago and was dismayed that I didn't do better. On the other hand, I did feel stronger and more confident, and didn't have to go through the occasional period of weakness. From the Petaluma Safeway control (around mile 50) onwards, John C. and I stayed nearly always together until the finish. My main goal for the rides we are doing together is (and has always been) to minimize the time he is waiting for me, and at least to let it appear as if I would sometimes share the pacemaking and not just draft him all day long. (He cannot really benefit from drafting me anyway, because he is twice as tall). In a word: I am still not quite there yet - John still floats ahead on all the climbs if he wants it or not - but I am making progress!

We were so happy to be done with the less attractive portion of the route between Petaluma and Healdsburg that we allowed a generous 45 minutes for the lunch break there. We were also happy to notice that the sky promised to keep us dry for the second half of the distance. And finally, we were happy to meet Tom Milton and to ride with him amidst vineyards out to the Russian River, talking about many more things than just saddles.

The happiness took a small hit when I punctured, and when the repair had the consequence of a second puncture (I had overlooked that a little stone had introduced itself between tire and rim). John watched me pump, pump, and I watched my arms getting tired and loosing their strength before the second tube was pumped up sufficiently. In the end, I had to let him finish the job, or we would have lost even more time and I would have risked more pinch flats with not enough pressure in the tire. - Clearly, I need to work on my upper body strength...

We stared in amazement over the wild waves at the coast and enjoyed a consistently sustained pace on our way to the Diekman's Bay Store control in Bodega Bay (around mile 120), very much encouraged by a substantial tailwind.

Ideally, we would have liked to reach the Marshall control (about 25 miles further down the road) before the store closure at 17:30; but with the extra time we stayed in Healdsburg, and in particular the time lost with my pumping (all in all more than half an hour I'm sure) this had become very unlikely now. Consequently, we were not in much of a hurry at the Diekman's store either. First they kindly let me use the sink and soap to clean my utterly dirty hands from working on the tires - which took a long time; and then John and I found renewed strength in two slices of pizza (last time I had a pizza on a big ride was here). Some more time spent chatting with other riders, and we had not even the intention any more to still try to get to the Marshall store while it was open (even though we knew they had announced to stay open beyond their regular hours - just for us crazy long-distance cyclists).

On the last ten miles before Marshall, however, I could tell that John was determined again to try. The wind had been favorable, we had made good time, and John didn't wait for me any more on top of the most difficult climb of the day (if you have ever ridden from Valley Ford to Tomales, you know which one I mean). I did my best as well and arrived at 18:05 to the half-open doors, with John and a handful other randonneurs inside - big satisfaction!

We stayed about half an hour there and enjoyed the time in good company. When we left, it was night, the temperatures had dropped considerably, and a big full moon (there you go!) was in the sky. I felt reasonably strong and John and I had a fairly brisk and rewarding ride to the finish where we arrived shortly after ten. Somewhat exuberantly, I blurted out that the full-moon-ride was so nice, I wish I could ride on through the night!

I am sure I will get opportunities to do just that, later this year.

Picture credits: Thanks, Greg, for letting me borrow some of yours from here!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Joseph
    Sur deux continents différents, nous avons roulé sous la même lune, toi le 27 février et moi le 1er mars... et c'est vraiment un pur bonheur... Je te souhaite encore beaucoup de belles nuits sous la lune, une de nos richesses à nous, les randonneurs!