Sunday, February 28, 2010

Catching Up

Sometimes, real life gets in the way not only of my bike riding, but more particularly of my blogging about it. This might actually be a good thing (as in "You mean you have a life?" - interjected at the finish of some brevet last year by another dedicated ultra-cyclist when I listed some excuses for having been - once again - slower than I expected). To be honest, it's not only real life, but also the fact that over the last two weeks I preferred watching the Winter Olympics to writing a blog post. Watching anything from British Columbia reminds me of the good memories I have from my visit there in July 2008. If the purpose of having the Olympic Games in Vancouver was to attract tourists, for me it works the other way around: I watch the Olympic Games only because I was in British Columbia before.

As for my weekend rides, I cannot even complain: it went all as planned - or better!

Mindful of my heavily loaded calendar for 2010, I decided to stay relaxed on January 23 and - for good karma - help check in the participants of the San Francisco Randonneurs Lighthouse 200k at the finish control, instead of riding it myself. This should serve as an alibi next time somebody declares me as being obsessed with my sport. The decision was made easy because two weeks later, I could do the nice Two Rock/Valley Ford 200k to make up for it.

If I had had the time to write a special report about it, I would have titled it Ham and Cheese Croissant because that's what I bought to accompany my coffee at the Peet's control in Petaluma. It was excellent and very likely the reason that John C. and I had such a good day - and this despite quite some water in the air and on the ground. The one in the air is called rain, and the other is called flooding. Shortly after the start, there was a stretch where the road was flooded deep enough to dunk the feet if you kept pedaling; and I heard that one rider went down after touching a curb hidden under water. Luckily, he didn't drown. As for myself, I was overdressed as usual and worried about getting wet from perspiration if I rode too hard on the uphills, and so I didn't. In addition, a welded joint on my rear rack broke open within ten miles and I had to fix it with two zip ties; this put me further behind. But I felt good and couldn't believe it when other randonneurs questioned our collective sanity, only because it still rained on arriving in Petaluma. We (in particular myself) stayed a little too long at that Peet's and left a little too many puddles on the floor; but when we went back on the road, the rain had stopped. Thanks to my Ham and Cheese Croissant, I then rode fairly strong (by my standards) into the headwind to the Valley Ford control where I caught up with John C. to finish the ride together with him, barely half an hour above the average time of the 82 finishing riders. Results are here, with the blue links leading to ride reports or picture collections.

For Valentin's Day Eve, one week later, I had invited my daughters Valerie and Fabienne as well as John C. to form a "Dad & Daughters" team for the spectacularly named Mega-Monster Enduro race, which is kind of a sidekick of the Low-Key Hillclimb series. What can I say: we won! (It's not our fault if there was nobody else competing in our category). We did the 100 km distance, which was still more than twice the longest ride Fabienne and Valerie had done before; so, certainly a stretch and not trivial! I had imposed a goal of doing it in under six hours (all rest stops included; yes, we had rest stops in this "race"), and we achieved our goal with 11 minutes to spare.

(from )


My first "serious" (i.e. more than 200 km) brevet this year came up one week later, on 2/20: the Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs Santa Barbara 300.

The route was similar to last year's edition, with the difference that a) we started from Moorpark and finished in Moorpark, more precisely in the backyard of the RBA's residence, and b) that it didn't rain. After about 30 miles, I found myself riding with Nicole H. and Tom M., determined to enjoy my good legs while they lasted (I knew I would not be able to stay with them for long). Tom felt even more exuberant than myself and joyfully pulled us along - until he entered a tight left turn a little too confidently. We couldn't see it, but there was a thin layer of sand on the surface in the turn, enough to make his wheels slip out from under him, and his hip hit the ground, badly. I was barely ten feet behind him and scared myself (and Nicole behind me) while sliding around, trying to avoid bumping into Tom or going down myself. I was lucky enough to escape both, but wasn't proud of it. Soon a bigger group including medical experts arrived, and Tom was on the phone with his wife. I felt helpless and superfluous and eventually rode on, slowly and somewhat disheartened. I learned in the evening that Tom's hip was broken and required surgery.
I knew nearly all of the remaining roads from past rides with the PCH Randos, except the short variant which brought us down from the Montecito hills above Santa Barbara to the control at the Cantwells Market on State Street, and which let me take a picture of my bike in front of the Mission:
(No, the dark clouds stayed behind us as we went down to the coast and the blue sky!)

On the way south-east through Carpinteria, Ventura and Port Hueneme to the turn-around point not too far north of Malibu we enjoyed a pleasant tailwind and I advanced well. As usual, I found it impossible not to stop for a picture of the sunset at Point Mugu:

Consequently, I expected a punishing headwind on the way back and feared to be slow on the lengthy uphill stretch to the finish. Curiously, I only remembered the times when I had difficulties there, and forgot that I did pretty well each time last year. Somehow, I was hesitant to admit that I might have become stronger. But neither the headwind nor the uphill presented a problem, and I arrived in the RBA-backyard 25 minutes before the time I had previously announced to my wife and daughter - who had spent the day in LA at the hairdresser and with shopping: talk about the benefits of having a randonneuring husband and father!

A big Thank-You! to Greg and Lisa for their generous hospitality at the finish - it's always incredible.

Other ride reports are here, here and here; results will show up here.