Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Revival of Fond Memories

Santa Rosa Cycling Club 400k brevet, May 8th, 2010

Four years ago, my son Sebastian and I drove to Santa Rosa to attempt our very first 400 km brevet. We felt somewhat prepared for it through a handful of double centuries in 2005 and wanted to extend the distance in preparation for our goal to participate in PBP 2007. As usual at that time, I was hanging all day long on Sebastian's rear wheel and still felt very weak on the climbs, making my designated pacemaker often slow down and wait for me. Despite my struggles, we finished properly in a little more than 20 hours - the course is among the easier ones, and we were trying hard to limit the time off the bike. But after the wake-up alarm on the next morning we easily agreed that we were "not ready yet for 1200 km!" - we felt pretty much broken.

Since then, I went to the SRCC Randonneurs for their 200k and 300k brevets and finally to a second run of my first-ever 400k, this time with John C. for whom this route was a first. I was eager to get back on this beautiful route and to revive memories from four years ago (meaning: to find out how much easier a 400k brevet has become for me since then). But also, I was a little apprehensive and curious how it would feel to ride this distance only six days after the finish of my 1000 km. That's something I would have considered a "don't even try!" until not so long ago; and that's why I decided to look at it as a social ride and not to worry (so much) about lengthier stays at controls, this time.

Nevertheless, I didn't really try to save my legs either and enjoyed the fact that I could stay with a bunch of good riders and even stick my nose in the wind for a little while.

For some time, my group consisted (from left to right in the above picture above Lake Mendocino, after climbing up from Ukiah) of John C., Theresa, Matthew and Tom. Theresa and her bicycle were already featured here. Tom and I exchanged memories from our previous SRCC 400 experience, four years ago; and I was happy to ride with Matthew and reconnect with him; he had come up from Southern California where he lives and where I had seen him in various brevets over the last years. Our first common brevet (the Santa Cruz 600) goes back to 2006 as well - more memories!

On the fast (although not always very flat) Hwy 20 to California's Lake County, John was the last one to be able to follow Theresa, and I ended up being the last one, period - until Matthew let me catch him and form a 2-man team into Nice.

I borrowed these pictures from Roland

Matthew and I missed the store where our friends had stopped for their "receipt control" and so we didn't even know they were still hiding there when we picked another little store further down the road. We were sure they were all way ahead of us and we, being slower, had of course no chance of catching them before the turn-around in Clearlake. We were both thoroughly confused when they arrived in Clearlake at about the time we had finished our Subway sandwiches and were ready to go! After some standing around, Matthew and I told John and Tom we would "soft-pedal" ahead - the legs were getting stiff, and we wanted the extra minutes to be able to take it easy over the return climb on Sulphur Bank Road .

Looking back from Sulphur Bank Road to Borax Lake

We did take it easy, talked about things in life and enjoyed the views and the perfect temperatures; but later, while riding back around the lake where the wind was now often unfavorable, and with rested legs, it appeared to me that Matthew unconsciously found pleasure in temporarily forgetting about the "soft" in our pedaling. Still, we stopped to take a picture of a somewhat presumptuous town sign:

Matthew and I stopped at the same Nice Market as on the outbound leg, and within a minute, John and Tom caught us there, grumbling something about "good you were soft-pedaling ..."
I felt guilty and remembered my intention from the morning to go for a social ride. But, I just couldn't help it: I still wanted to get back to the Ukiah Safeway before nightfall. And so, after I had listened from the side for long enough to a friendly local who admired our stamina and didn't want to believe it when John mentioned to him that I was 65 (which I modestly corrected to "no, later this year only"), I silently grabbed my helmet, put it on, and readied myself for departure. The friendly local watched us intently and noted, pointing at me: "You must be the chief of the team, a Napoleon of sorts!"

With this new nickname, I had no choice but to work harder on the way back to Ukiah; and my friends decided to humor me by letting me cross the first major uphill in first position (trust me: "Once doesn't make a habit!") For a while, John and I had lost Tom and Matthew, but they came back before we arrived in Ukiah where we stayed for a major dinner control - that soup from Safeway was gooood!

I felt flattered when Tom and Matthew suggested I should take it easy now for the remainder; they didn't know that I was still worried about not being able to follow them. But I took it as a permit to stay behind them from now on, and as expected, both rode faster than I would have been able to on my own in front. It was a wonderful ride through the calm night with its gentle tailwind - at least as long as the road surface was smooth enough. Very often, in particular towards the end, it was definitely not smooth enough.

We relaxed again leisurely at the last control in Cloverdale, less than three hours from the finish, and my legs started getting cold and stiff and itchy again. Clyde arrived and was visibly happy to join us, but - sorry, Clyde! - I had to leave. I pretended to walk my bike from now on ... until John joined me and we started cruising. Tom and Matthew stayed and finished with Clyde. We were still at the finish location (RBA Bob's HQ at the Hilton Garden Inn: first, he rode the brevet himself and came in after 16h44; and then he stayed through the night to check in everybody else!) when they arrived.

Two things stand out from this experience:
a) I can now safely go on a 400k brevet just six days after riding a 1000k distance (although I was sleepier than usual on the following two, three days)
b) The SRCC brevets under RBA Bob are top-notch in terms of luxury at the finish (and elsewhere, too) - Thanks, Bob!

No comments:

Post a Comment