Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Hardest 600

San Diego Randonneurs 600k, April 9-10, 2011

If my count is correct, this was my 13th 600k brevet. I had committed to it as soon as it showed up on the calendar; the good memories from last year's 600 out of Borrego Springs and the desire to ride again with my friends Kelly and John M. on those Southern Californian roads that I always found so attractive made it a priority for this year as well.

Due to the high density of organized brevets in this PBP-year Spring, only 11 riders (myself included) were at the start in Temecula; and ten of them were known to be (much) stronger and faster than myself. Sadly, John M. was missing - he didn't feel ready for a 600; but throughout the first half of the ride he volunteered on several controls and intermediate water stops together with his charming spouse, and this was a nice compensation.

I felt in good shape. Since the Arizona 600 three weeks earlier, I had participated in the second edition of the Santa Cruz "Buena Vista 300" the weekend before and was an hour faster than in February on the same route, while riding nearly all alone this time.

Soon after the start in Temecula, the road went up into a chilly altitude, and I performed quite well in staying with the second half of those strong riders. The 3rd control in Warner Springs was particularly memorable with its snow-covered trees under the blue sky; I wish I had the photos to prove it - it felt like a magical winter ride, just before we plunged down to the warm desert floor and then rode South-East to Ocotillo and back West along the Mexican border. Kelly and I still caught close to half a dozen other riders at the Ocotillo control, but we left after them and were now the last on the road, even though several hours ahead of my projected pace. On the dreaded 12-mile, 3000-ft climb on I-8, Kelly was tempted to chase down Nicole H. and Jim Swarzman who were less than half a mile ahead; but I was unable to follow and Kelly resigned himself to staying with me. This climb came much later in the game than last year, and in conjunction with my earlier big efforts and the unrelenting and forceful headwind, it brought me to my knees. Trying to do my best, I went temporarily into the red zone and knew I had soon to stop and "walk it off" for a little while. Kelly felt what was coming and stopped before me at a roadside SOS phone, stone-facedly pretending to make a call to request SAG for me ...

The violent headwind stayed with us until the evening in San Diego. As long as I could hide at Kelly's rear wheel, this somewhat evened out the disparity in our strengths. Still, I was determined to make this a "Hard 600" and see how far and how fast I could go - Kelly should be proud of me! On the other hand, as so often on a long ride, both of us together lost the ambition to keep stops as short as possible. But we were still ahead of schedule and would have no trouble arriving in Oceanside early enough for a restful sleep break (Kelly had reserved a Motel 6 room there). Kelly was a little worried about getting too sleepy around midnight, and I teased him into controversial discussions on training methods which kept him alert. In retaliation, he teased me into believing we were on top of the Torrey Pines climb out from San Diego when we weren't.

We arrived in Oceanside much, much later than anticipated. I don't want to write about what happened - those of you who don't know are referred to this page. Suddenly, this brevet was not just a "Hard 600" - it had became my hardest 600 ever.

Chris H. (I must have mentioned him several times on this blog, for example here, and I have met him on the roads many more times since I started randonneuring) joined Kelly and me overnight and decided to stay with us. I finished the brevet in company of two true gentlemen under good conditions on Sunday afternoon in Temecula. - It was hard; no: hardest.

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