Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Learning something new ...

Davis Bike Club 400k Brevet, April 17, 2010

The subtitle in my blog header says "Learning something new on each and every brevet." However, in looking back, I did not often spell out what it was that I had learned on a given brevet. You may suspect that I didn't want to embarrass myself by publicly admitting the mistakes I had made (and learned from), and that's a fair suspicion. While I was on the way back from the turnaround point at the DBC 400k brevet, I promised myself to become more upfront about this.

This is the outbound route. The inbound route differs slightly around Winters/Vacaville

As all the other DBC brevets, this one started out with the usual flat stretch where riding in a swift pack allows to put some good time in the bank. Although there are some mountain ridges to be crossed, the overall elevation gain (well under 10000 ft) is moderate for this distance, and I consider this one of the easier 400s in the area. I did it once before in 2008 and it became my only 400k finish under 20 hours. Of course, I hoped to do even better this time.

Everything went well, and I was happy to notice that I could stay a little longer than in the past with groups of faster riders - until a well-known feeling in the legs told me to let them go. Still, I was far ahead of my planned schedule at that point and could realistically hope for a sub-19 hour finish, which was very motivating for me.

But then came the lesson of the day: "Always read the info control instructions on the brevet card before you get there!" (Or: don't be shy to pick up the latest route sheet at check-in and use it when in doubt ...)

The turnaround point was some uphill distance beyond the Lake Sonoma Recreation Area Park. My route sheet (which I always reformat and print from an earlier electronic online version if available) only indicated "continue 1.7 mi to turn-around cone at Rockpile Rd" and so I started climbing and looking for the cone that would indicate the turn-around and presumably offer some secret code to be entered into the brevet card at that point. Well, that cone never came. The 1.7 mi distance passed, and still no indication of a turn-around "info control." I have often seen incorrect distances on route sheets, and so I didn't mind and kept climbing. The scenery was spectacular, the weather wonderful (now, at the warmest time of the day and with all the climbing, I actually did get a little too hot), and I was not even particularly surprised that the RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) was sadistic enough to put the turn-around point at the very top of the climb, which kept adding yet another steep pitch, and then yet another even steeper one ...
By the time I decided to stop (nearly at the top of it all), pull out the brevet card and read the definite instruction for the info control (which was in fact less than a mile from the park and did not have a cone, only a street sign at a junction), I had wasted more than half an hour with killing my legs on hills much steeper than anything else on the actual route. - That's when I remembered my motto to "Learn something new on each and every brevet."

I allowed myself some temporary disappointment and a more generous rest at the park, but recovered well enough to still finish two minutes earlier than two years ago and be satisfied with it.

Earlier in the day, I had met again Tom Milton of Selle An-Atomica fame (more background here; also mentioned here) - repeatedly, because he was fast enough that I could not stay with him for very long; and each time after he had spent more time than I socializing at control stops and elsewhere, he came back to pass me again, joking that there were more than one Tom Milton on the ride. He was particularly upbeat and joyful on that day, even singing at times; and he treated me like an old friend. While I myself somehow forgot to take pictures, he didn't: his album is here; please, check it out. I didn't see him any more after the half-way point; he finished over an hour before me. - One week later, I was devastated to learn that he was felled by a presumed heart attack. A tribute to Tom in form of collected memories can be found here. Borrowing from Willy's contribution there: I will ride the rest of my brevets with him in my heart.

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