Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Big Nail

San Francisco Randonneurs 600k, May 7-8, 2011

This was my third participation at my home club's 600. The previous two experiences (here and here) were rather satisfying, despite the route's prestige of being "not easy." As it happens, I didn't feel very well at the start without knowing why; but based on my previous experience with this route and my generally better conditioning this year, I didn't worry. Rather, I intended to ride alone and still try to improve my previous times, which implied in particular to ride through without sleep stop. I wanted to train my sleep-deprivation tolerance a bit more in prevision of the upcoming more ambitious goals, this year.

After not much more than three hours, however, my intentions were discouraged by a nail. Not just any nail, but a big hand-made soft-iron nail as they are used for horseshoeing. The specific problem was that the wheel made several turns with the nail before I came to a stop, and that at each turn the tip of the nail hit the rim (from inside the tire) to the effect of spiraling it up: it was impossible to pull the nail without destroying the tire! - I was so disgusted by this situation that I forgot to take more pictures from the spiraled-up tip inside the tire.

The situation could have been a deal breaker right there, if I hadn't put a small plier back into my saddle bag, shortly before the ride, thinking "why didn't I carry it along throughout the last year?" I still had to work hard (and nearly break the pliers) for what seemed like half an hour before I could somehow unwrap and eventually break the nail such that it could be removed. But, of course, now I was last on the course, and not in a good mood at all!

I replaced the inner tube, booted the tire, pumped it up and went on my way. About half a mile later, pfft - another (unrelated) puncture ...

The attempt to find the address of a friend's weekend house in Boonville to say "Hi!" (just before it got dark) failed as well, not without costing me another wasted half-hour. Oh well.

I was still determined to make the best out of this ride. I already felt better than in the morning, had the impression that I was stronger than in previous years on this route, and kept going at my preferred pace.  On the way back from the turn-around in Fort Bragg, we had a little rain and wet roads, but I didn't mind. I arrived later than ever (maybe around 1:30 a.m.) at the Dimmick campground rest stop, restored myself  and relaxed for about 45 minutes, but didn't sleep. I performed satisfactorily on the remaining climbs back to Cloverdale, where I saw two bicycles outside a coffee shop - breakfast time!

During the uneventful remainder of the ride, I had the pleasure to meet many faster riders who were still not quite awake from their extended sleep break (but who I couldn't follow for long regardless), and who I met again at the Point Reyes Station control where they stayed even longer than myself. I used the last well-known climbs from there to the finish to test my legs and compare with how I felt there in the past - the result was reassuring. 

I got a picture taken when handing in my brevet card (with Alcatraz in the background), called home, and felt fresh enough to join my family at a dinner invitation by our Scottish friends where I continued my sleep-deprivation training successfully until well past midnight.

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