Monday, March 29, 2010

A New Saddle and Two Good Brevets

Davis Bike Club 300k, March 20th
San Francisco Randonneurs 400k, March 27th, 2010

For the last seven or more years, I have been using fi'zi:k (excuse the funky spelling) Arione saddles (yes, more than one). They have a longer nose which allows to easily change the fore and aft position and upper body angle while riding, and the narrower sit bone area does not get in the way of pedaling.

I know it's not for everybody; but for me this turned out to be the best saddle choice so far (and I have tried many since the early 60's). I never had any problems with it - other than that the thin cover gets rubbed through every ten thousand miles or so (i.e. too often). Typically, it opens up at the nose, but sometimes also on the side (which then allows me to joke "Wanna see my saddle sore?" and laugh at the bewildered reactions I get). Because Superglue can only go so far, I had to consider buying yet another saddle, this year.

You could say I was too comfortable with my fi'zi:k Ariones, because I suddenly decided to experiment with a new, completely different model, to see what happens. I ordered Tom Milton's An-Atomica, for about the same price as the Arione. Tom rides the SFRandonneurs brevets with us (he has been mentioned here already), and so I would at least get a chance to complain to the designer if the experiment didn't turn out satisfactorily.

After just a little bit of adjustments on a 40-minute ride on Thursday evening, I took it out onto this year's Davis 300k brevet. I certainly should have known better than using a brand new saddle for a 300 km distance; but that's how cocky I felt.

It was the first time I went onto this DBC 300 route, but I knew all the roads from the Davis Double and various other Davis Bike Club brevets. As usual, I took advantage of a fast group (including not one, but two tandems) during the first 30 flat miles; and as usual, I found myself alone as soon as the route entered the hills (the tandems had made a stop in a park just before, and everybody else was way ahead). I was lucky enough to benefit from more drafting a little later in Pope Valley; but the road is not so flat there and I decided to save my legs for the upcoming big climb to the turn-around point at the top of Cobb Mountain instead of struggling to stay with the group.

The Cobb Mountain climb is respectable; it averages nearly 10% for over two miles (the units above are metric again), and the "flatter" portions of, say, 8%, are being compensated by steeper pitches in between. The temperatures stayed cool enough all day long and yet I was sweating profusely and breathing hard while watching the bike computer display slower and slower speeds, down to under 4 mph.

On arriving at the lunch stop control and turn-around point at the top, I was happy of course and didn't feel uncomfortable, just a little "worked up" by the climb, with the voice affected by the hard breathing and the appetite momentarily lacking. But people asked me if I was ill ... ?? No, quite the opposite, I said. After all, seven hours is a good time for me for 150 km and I was perfectly satisfied with it. Now I could still maintain hope for my silent goal of *maybe* finishing in less than 14 hours, if the winds were not too unfavorable on the way back, or if I could find again a tandem or a group of stronger riders to draft.

I did find them (no: they found me), and this certainly made me gain some more time. But not too long later I gave up. The tandem just was too fast on the downhills, and I didn't have a big enough gear to follow them. Also, I got tired from the jostling for the best place to draft and from the heightened concentration which is required when riding tightly in a group; and so I decided to ride the remaining 70 miles alone to the finish. Now I could adjust my pace to what my body wanted, relax and enjoy the scenery, and play the numbers game with average speeds and the anticipated arrival time. The realization that I could arrive in 13h50 (my fastest 300 ever!) made me exuberant and upbeat, and I didn't disguise those feelings when I checked in at the finish. That's when I noticed that the three pages of sign-in sheets (about 70 starters) were nearly full with signatures of people who had finished already, and I said incredulously: "... but nearly everybody arrived before me!" -- "Not everybody" the volunteer said, helpfully.

In the end, it wasn't even so bad, as the graph of the distribution of the finishing times shows. I am not quite where I'll want to be, eventually (in the middle!), but I am calling it a "good brevet" anyway:

And the saddle? you ask. Well, it certainly could have been much worse. It did feel more comfortable in the second half, but not enough to be enthusiastic about it. The fi'zi:k was better in allowing varied positions, like bending forward more deeply when working into a headwind or at higher speeds, and seating more upright for relaxed riding or climbing. And each time I was standing and then got back down into the saddle, I was surprised by how much saddle exactly I suddenly had between my legs - way too much for my taste!

Over the following days, I had time to think about it and to decide that I wanted to give it another try one week later at the San Francisco 400. After all, it is supposed to take more than a day of riding to get used to a new saddle, right?


I didn't feel very well the following Friday afternoon and evening, and I was worried about having caught a cold virus. I felt better on Saturday morning (at 4 a.m.) and drove to the start of the SFR400 at the Golden Gate bridge. This was going to be the first 400 of the season, and I decided to "take it easy," mindful of how tired I had been the day before. While the forecast promised a sunny day, the temperatures in the morning (and later at night) were more than chilly; I was happy I had brought my complete low-temperature equipment - I needed it.

Serendipitously, Tom Milton showed up at my side during the first hour in darkness from Sausalito to Mill Valley and I had the opportunity to describe my experience with the new saddle. He recommended to tension it some more (based on my experience with leather saddles in days of yore, I had been very cautious with tensioning) and to slide it back in the rails. I hadn't thought of it, but now it made sense. When I switched the saddles, I had measured the position of the saddle nose; but the fi'zi:k has a longer nose, and so the An-Atomica needs to be further back. Also, tensioning the leather will make the saddle longer and straighter and remind me better of the previous seat. Unfortunately I waited with the adjustment until past the halfway point in Hopland (km 214); I could have saved myself some discomfort by doing it earlier. As soon as I left Hopland, I knew that with the correct adjustment my new saddle was preferable to the Arione, and that I was now well equipped for the longer distances to come. Thanks, Tom!

This is the outbound route; the return trip goes more directly from Healdsburg to Petaluma via Santa Rosa. Total elevation gain is around 7500' on the way up and less than 4000' on the way back.

So, why was this another "good brevet"?

First, the scenery: we went through some of northern California's finest, in springtime: birds, wildflowers, vineyards, cows (yes, I like them, too: the cheese, you know!).

Veronica at the top of Wilson Hill. Photo by Greg M.

Happy cows thinking of cheese. Photo by Roland B.

Mountain House Road - a dream!

Of course, in order to get there, we had to pass by the Bodega Country Store control where I took a picture of the grown-up Pippi Longstocking (also known as Veronica):

From there, we had to pass over Joy Road. Ever since I encountered it three years ago for the first time in the uphill direction, I felt more than a little intimidated by it:

At that time, I had "decided" to walk a bit of the 18% section. This time, I made it to the top without walking - progress!

But, even though there was some progress, it was not nearly enough: I got passed by many people who had stayed longer at the controls; they expected me to join them and ride with them. But their rhythm was too far above mine and I had to excuse myself and continue at my own pace. Some time in the future, maybe ...
And so, the 214 km to Hopland took me around eleven hours - too much if I wanted to arrive in less than 21 hours, because there would be headwind on the way back, and the last 70 km after Petaluma included some major climbing again, not to speak of the slowdown due to the distance. I made an effort to keep the stop in Hopland short, but was disillusioned about my abilities when I set out for the remaining 186 km.

Veronica and Chuck had left the control shortly before myself, but had the same doubt about the turn onto East Side Road as I did three years ago, and so I could catch up. I knew Chuck from October 2008 when we crewed for a two-man team at the 508 - a very good experience. Chuck is himself a solo-508 finisher; he is able to ride into a headwind much faster than I could ride in the opposite direction with the wind in my back. And I knew Veronica as a strong rider ever since I met her at the Santa Cruz Randonneurs 600k brevet in 2006. I could only hope to hang on to their rear wheels as long as the terrain was flat enough. It never occurred to me that I might be able to stay with them to the finish.

So, here comes the second reason why this was a "good brevet": Veronica, Chuck and I finished together, barely a minute past 3 a.m. (or: in 21 hours)! Agreed, I had to dig deep for this to happen. Never ever did I storm up the Red Hill after Petaluma so fast, always staying in the middle chainring, close to breathlessness! Chuck showed his strength in front, and Veronica stayed behind me even when I temporarily lost touch with Chuck, so I didn't feel discouraged by being dropped and instead sprinted back to catch him, repeatedly. The situation (and the cold temperatures) reminded me of the second night at the Endless Mountains, when I discovered for the first time that I could ride hard on a long distance without "blowing up."

I was still cautious and doubtful because I knew well all the remaining climbs to the finish, and I remembered all too well the many times when I crawled after a long day with juiceless, painful legs over the Corte Madera ascent and from Sausalito up to the bridge. But - not this time!

Of course, I am paying the price for that extravaganza now, as I am writing this: the muscle soreness is quite lively and much stronger than it has been in a long time. But it's a sweet price to pay: I am thrilled to finally have evidence that I am progressing in my apprenticeship. At least, I am getting better in the second half of long distances. And that's what matters to me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barrel Tasting and Piano Concerto No. 2 by Camille Saint-Saëns

Santa Rosa Cycling Club 200k brevet, March 13, 2010

No, we didn't go barrel tasting (note how the webmaster had a little too much already by the time he typed line 7). As much as I appreciate fine wine, it's not a good fit during a bike ride (ask me how I know - oh, I mentioned it on top of page 5 here). And I am happy to report that other barrel tasters apparently all had designated drivers during that wonderful day that led us from Healdsburg to Napa and back.

(This is the outbound route only; on the way back, we took a shortcut to Healdsburg towards the end)

A big crowd of well over 80 randonneurs showed up at the start, and the joy of seeing many old and new friends was shared by everybody. John and I parked our carpool-van next to a well-proportioned although anatomically questionable horse statue:

The first miles were chilly, with the consequence that all those who were not overdressed set out at a very brisk pace to "warm up." I had warned John that this was a fast course (I did it two years ago already and finished then in 8 1/2 hours, somewhere in the middle of the result sheet sorted by times), and so I didn't hesitate to stay in touch with one of the groups among the faster half of the participants, at least for the first ten miles. Then, the control stop at the northernmost point of the route broke the group up, which allowed me to shed a layer and to continue alone. Not for long, because on the Canyon Road climb I caught up to the tandem (one of seven on that day!) of Spencer and Joann and stayed with them; they helped me make a good time on last year's SCR 300 already. Soon, the tandem attracted more singles and combined forces with the tandem of Ken and Lisa, and so we covered the next twenty miles or so in good speed and without undue effort. I decided to stop for some short personal business during the uphill north of Calistoga and to let the group go. This way, I could negotiate the following curvy downhill and the last stretch into Calistoga alone. The road surface there tends to rattle tooth fillings loose and makes riding in a group more stressful than necessary.

As expected, a substantial part of the group stopped in Calistoga anyway, whereas I was set up to continue on my way alone, chewing on some bone-hard energy bar of unknown brand and origin left over from last year. Only over an hour later, one by one, other riders caught up and allowed me to form a little pace line with them. Sometimes, one or the other showed how strong he was by pushing hard on the shallow climbs of the Silverado Trail with its large bike lane and super-smooth surface, and I felt compelled to demonstrate that I was also willing (at least in spirit) to do my share, take the lead for a while and try to kill my legs to make them stronger for some other day. All this made that we arrived at the lunch stop and turn-around point at the Skyline Park above Napa, mile 70, in less than four hours (3h59, to be precise), which was unexpectedly fast for me and put me at the end of the first third of riders arriving there.

The offerings of the SRCC Randonneurs group there were overwhelming - I called it a "gourmet control." For somebody like me who has some ideological roots in randonneuring as long-distance unsupported endurance cycling emphasizing self-sufficiency, this generated a little bit of a mixed feeling which I was tempted to articulate. But given that the stomach always is overruling all philosophizing (at least for me) and that I had a flawless appetite, I just indulged.

John joined me barely ten minutes later; he had been riding alone without benefitting from drafting tandems and faster groups. I decided to stay with him for the return trip and to have a good time in priority over a fast time. This left me more lunch-break-spare-time to talk with randonneuring friends, and to take pictures of Theresa's jewelry-like restoration of a genuine 1969 Peugeot lady's porteur bicycle:

Needless to say, seeing Theresa nearly effortlessly gliding along through Napa Valley in the middle of a group of racing bicycles was a sight to behold! She left the lunch stop a little before John and I, and finished over ten minutes earlier, even though John and I certainly didn't waste any time on the return trip.

The reason for our not wasting time - as I had explained to John several days earlier - was the ECYS Benefit Concert in the evening which I desperately didn't want to miss. But I didn't want to miss my beer from the Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg (the traditional location of the finish control of this brevet!) either, and in particular didn't want John to miss it. So, the only solution to the dilemma was to ride faster. Gabe and JimG joined in the fun; and this time, both John and I found reasons to mention our sore legs (we typically don't do that) while fighting the headwind. For a while, I felt weak enough to let the others take much longer pulls in front than I could afford. In the last 20 or 30 miles, however, I surprised myself with a decent recovery, and there was no holding me back on the last six miles when we finally had the wind in our back again, and when I smelled the brewing company.

We finally had our beer (despite slow service), and after a couple of hearty handshakes mounted the bikes again to get back to the van and to the grazing horse. The sun put it in a new light, and I wanted John to take a picture of me with it:

Obviously, the horse had grown since the morning: there was no way I could have mounted it without a ladder. - Note how John put himself into the picture as well.

Now we were on the way back to the South Bay, and I started counting the minutes while we were in dense traffic around Santa Rosa and through San Francisco. I dropped off John at his house, and still continued scrupulously observing the speed limits - the pedagogic value of my speeding ticket from a year ago hadn't been lost on me. I arrived at home at 7:05 p.m. and didn't have time to double-check the time of the concert - I just assumed it was 8:00 p.m., because otherwise I would not make it. I showered and dressed into my concert-going outfit in ten minutes, needed a little over ten more minutes to the Flint Center parking garage in Cupertino, and presented myself at 7:35 p.m. at the entrance - without a ticket. I got a little shuffled around by zealous ushers, until it became clear that I couldn't buy a ticket any more. One of the male ushers (who was even older than I) empathized with me enough to let me into the concert hall at 7:42 p.m.. The moment I pushed the door (it was already dark inside), everybody started clapping. No, that wasn't for me, but for the conductor. The concert was scheduled for 7:30 p.m., but they were running late. I sank into my seat:
- William Tell Ouverture, Rossini
- Piano Concerto No. 2, Camille Saint-Saëns: soloist Claire Huangci (wow!)
- Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov.

Truly a fitting evening for an exceptional 200k brevet!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

High Five to my Daughters!

Death Valley Spring Century, March 6, 2010

It has been in the making for over a year (not this blog post, which is overdue since last Monday only). But at the end of last year's Weekend in Death Valley, my younger daughter Fabienne wrote "And yes, I would do anything for my little brother. Even sign up for the next century in Death Valley." which should have given me a clue. By August of last year, I was finally cued in, at least regarding the bicycling plans and ambitions of my daughters, which included Valerie's initiative to make me set up our old and nearly forgotten Santana tandem again. But following the training plans I had come up with for them (you know, the "don't increase distance by more than 10% in a week" rule of thumb) encountered the usual obstacles and difficulties, and it was definitely not a given that they could pull off the Century distance by early March. Both of my daughters had managed to do some not-bicycling-related damage to their knees while they were even younger than now, and they certainly felt their knees each time they exceeded their longest distance up to then. The dress rehearsal (scroll down to "Mega-Monster") however went mostly according to plan - the knees started acting up only during the last miles.

Still, they were somewhat nervous during the days before the trip, in particular Fabienne who was under pressure with midterms and what have you. And I am not very good at pep talks ...

Well, meanwhile the results are up, and we also got pictures taken (the first three are from the AdventureCorps website):

The "Family Team" at the start ...

... and on the climb up to Jubilee Pass.

I'm holding back (for now) with sharing more insights into how we lived those 9 1/2 hours on the road (and how we celebrated after the finish!), because I still hope that Fabienne will get a chance to write up her own account which I would like to include here, then. From my side, I can only say that I am mighty proud of my daughters: Hi 5!

At the finish in Furnace Creek - with Fabienne showing some (sore) knee


And here comes (with some delay due to finals) Fabienne's recollection of the day:

Ballerinas on Bikes

The week before our big ride, I could not sleep. I was pretty pessimistic. I felt way undertrained and had suffered excruciating knee pain for over two weeks. I had not had a single workout since my 100k a few weeks earlier, and hesitated even driving to Death Valley with ice packs on my knees. On the way there, my Dad bought some Bengay which he recommended I use immediately and said, "you'll feel better tomorrow; the desert heals such things." I was excited to ride alongside the tandem of my sister Valerie and my Dad but I expected that I would not be able to keep up. I kept silently telling myself that I'd sign up for the next one, and that I would train much harder until then.

I planned to take the much anticipated cyclist Yoga class the afternoon before, but following The Tandem team's advice decided against it, to make sure I did not add to my knee injuries before the big ride. We goggled at the beautiful, sculpted muscles of the cyclists around us, and Valerie chuckled "They're simply overtrained! Don't worry. We're well rested. Let's go tan at the pool." Although it had been our ongoing joke and motto, hearing her say it twelve hours before the ride perturbed me. And seeing my pessimism, I think Valerie got pretty anxious too.

Our best friend Katie came along for the trip to cheer us on. She told us to keep our thoughts on the finish line. My mother said, "You two are ballerinas. I know you can handle the pain. You just smile through it and you cross to the finish. I've seen you do much harder things."

I chuckled thinking about Mom's "ballerinas on bikes" as we climbed the first uphill towards Furnace Creek Inn, right after the start. She clearly had no idea how different this felt. I looked up to the top of the hill by the Inn, and wondered if that would be my grand finale, 10 minutes in. I realized I was unable to stand on my pedals "en danseuse" without pain shooting through my knees and up my spine and silently took it as a sign of my defeat.

I arrived last in Badwater, but left only a few minutes later, leaving a dozen or more cyclists behind me. I started thinking that my knee injury was actually a blessing in disguise. I would learn to ride smoothly and lightly without ever pushing myself to pain. I felt gently warmed up now, and decided to venture out onto part two before the Tandem.

Before I knew it, the three of us stood below Jubilee Pass. I "bengayed" while Valerie fed me and refilled my Camelpak. I had anticipated the 5 mile climb at mile 47 for an entire year! If I made it to the top, Florian had promised I would find "a God-sent water stop." I kept thinking about how daunting it looked last year driving up and asked my Dad if pushing the bike was allowed. He recommended that I shift to the smallest gear to gently float up. So we did, and smoothly, lightly and carefully, never adding any stress to my knees, I enjoyed watching the fastest riders coming back down smiling. I kept wondering what the big deal was with this Jubilee... Until I finally reached the top, and realized that God had forgotten to send me my water; all I could find was a brown sign in the middle of nowhere. So Valerie and I decided to go kiss it and make our jubilee official. Without delay, we started the way back to the finish with our well-deserved 20 minute descent which was not as rewarding as anticipated. Not only did I almost freeze to death from the wind chill, but the tandem team vanished; and now I wasn't sure I would ever find the rest stop "where Jesus hung out for 40 days" according to Florian's comments from a year ago.

As a devoted disciple of The Tandem, I was relieved to find that it had decided to wait for me at MY God-sent hangout. I spent 440 seconds there demolishing 2 PBJ's, 1 Chocolate Brownie Clifbar, and 1 banana. Not only did God remember to send me a few extras for the road, in the 7 days during which He created the beautiful scenery of Death Valley, He remembered to dump a delightfully fluorescent green guest house there. I spent another 140 seconds enjoying the accommodations while Valerie and Dad refueled my bike. What a sensational five-star service! I did wish I could have afforded a longer stay, but knew my Subway turkey sandwich was waiting in Badwater. Looking back, I think the sandwich could have waited an extra 140 seconds in exchange for letting me apply some more Chamois Butt'r to my tender bum.

A couple of times, I felt riders drafting our little group, and I felt pretty honored. Who would have thought anyone would want to ride behind two awkward looking, first-time-riding ballerinas? When Val and Dad stopped to take pictures of the beautiful reflection over Lake Manly, I decided to keep going because I did not want to push my luck and attempt walking on water. I honestly did not know if I would be able to get back on the bike if I stopped.

But a few minutes later, my left knee completely locked, and for the first time on the ride, I panicked. I was so close and yet too far. I could not turn the pedal, and had trouble un-clicking my right foot. I saw myself plunge towards the pavement when all at once, the descent to Badwater was right around the corner, which gave my legs a rest while I coasted down and Val and Dad caught up to me, which helped me relax. In Badwater, I applied my last coat of Bengay and got so high from the fumes and the actual possibility of my finishing the ride that I completely forgot about my rear-end (and about leaving the rest-stop). Val came to pull me away from my chatting, and I felt ready to drive it home. I decided to entertain The Tandem with my singing (it kept my attention off of my increasingly hot saddle). My chain derailed twice in the rollers, which was frustrating; but thanks to riding with a pro, the interruptions never took more than a minute. The countdown mile markers on the road could not have been more encouraging.

There is nothing more rewarding in life than spending a day in the desert cycling with family, especially when you're with someone who has done it so many times before. Mom and Katie were waiting cheerfully. I wondered whether I should be smiling or pretending to be miserable, to make it seem more believable to myself and others. A few people even asked Valerie and I if we had actually done the ride! We were so thrilled to have finished that our energy levels were much higher than others' I guess... (until we reached our showers and nearly fainted).

That night, my knees caught up with me. I tossed and turned and could not stop the throbbing. I worried that my decision to do the Century with my bad knees was a mistake and that I would suffer the consequences.

But other than a sore, scabbed derrière and trouble squeezing the tube of toothpaste with my right hand, I feel great. For the first time in two weeks, I went to school on Monday without an ice-pack for my knees. I was more than happy to have traded in a "God-sent Jubilee water stop" for my three miracles in Death Valley: We finished the century, we beat Florian's time by 31 minutes, and we healed my knees. Oh, and one fourth miracle when we celebrated at dinner: Dad (assisted by the waiter) turned water into wine!

I guess I got too spoiled with this year's cool temperatures and my father's wise guidance. I'll have to return to experience the "real pain" of doing a century in Death Valley. And since my brothers are up to doing it again in the future, maybe they'll show the ballerinas what it really means to suffer.

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!