Monday, May 24, 2010

A Mother's Day Gift

San Francisco Randonneurs 600k, May 22-23, 2010

No, the brevet was not a Mother's Day gift; I did that for my own benefit only. Instead, the Mother's Day gift idea came up towards the end of the Clambake 1000. I ordered the toy two days later and carried it on the SFR 600, this past weekend. When people asked me what it was, I replied that it belonged to my wife (being her Mother's Day gift), and that it's called "Where is my husband?"

Before, I used loopt on the iPhone to "check in" every so often, and it made Ghislaine happy - as long as I had cell phone coverage. But much of the route of the Clambake 1000 carefully avoided areas with cell phone coverage (as do many other brevet routes - they all try to go through unspoiled regions), and instead of helping out with letting Ghislaine track my progress on the road, the phone just drained its battery.

In contrast, the orange-colored "Where is my husband" thingie above runs on replaceable batteries and transmits the GPS coordinates via satellites, regardless of phone coverage. There is the inconvenience of having to strap it on the forearm if I want to use it while riding, because it needs to have visibility of satellites. Pulling it out of a bag or a pocket each time before using it would not be practical. It takes a minute or more to transmit a spot, and I wouldn't want to have to wait for it on the roadside.

I admit that I am interested myself in keeping track of when I was at a certain point in my ride. That's easy to forget, and then I don't have the information when I want to use it in my blog. Now I can interpolate the time stamps of the messages I generate; they are kept on a shared page and I can download the data into a GPX, CSV or KML file. But, of course, the main purpose of the system is to keep the loved ones up-to-date on how the ride goes. They receive optionally a text message on their phone, or an e-mail that contains something like

GPS location Date/Time:05/23/2010 17:38:04 PDT

Click the link below to see where I am located.,-122.47507&ll=37.80771,-122.47507&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

(Extra credit for those of you who can guess what "TVB" stands for. And don't ask about the special red button on the device - I sure hope to never use it. It would bring 911 into the game with my location).

I rode this brevet a year ago for the first time. It is probably the hardest of all 600s I have done so far, not only because of its demanding profile (total elevation gain is over 27000 ft), but also because of its tendency to dish out unpredictably difficult atmospheric conditions (wind, rain, extreme temperatures). Last year was one of the easier years, they said; so who knew what I was getting myself into this time? At least, I would not be alone: first, I was glad to see that John C. could come along with me; and second, there were nearly twice as many starters as in the last years (about 60). That's a big number for this difficult 600 km distance.

John at our lunch stop at the Healdsburg Safeway (mile 88)

It has become a bad habit of mine to ride on the first half day of a long distance as if there was no tomorrow - I did it again. Eventually, on the way to Cloverdale, with the intensifying headwind, I remembered how weak I had felt there last year and finally decided to save my legs for the big climb on Hwy 128, around mile 110. There, John couldn't ride slow enough or wait long enough and drifted ahead to our next stop in Boonville, while I settled in my own rhythm into the headwind. I enjoyed the views and the clean air which stayed wind-chilly despite the sun.

The rest in Boonville was very pleasant in the company of a bigger bunch of "social" riders; but I knew that I shouldn't stop for too long if I wanted my legs not to get stiff. And so I left before them, alone into the continued headwind towards the Paul Dimmick campground. A couple of miles later, Maryann passed me and let me draft. I didn't expect to be able to stay with her; but the strong headwind made the difference between the required efforts of first vs. second rider so big that I managed. Now I owe her a beer!

The following four photos are courtesy Jack H. - one of the top-notch volunteers at the campground (together with Bruce, Tom and his spouse Alayne: heartfelt thanks to all of them!):

As so often, I had set up my route-sheet with projected times that reflected my experience from last year. Despite harder and faster riding this year, we were behind schedule: together, we had been much more relaxed at all stops than I was the year before, alone. I appreciated the opportunity to spend more time talking, but was a little concerned when I became distracted enough to forget setting up my helmet light (among other things) at the Paul Dimmick campground, and had to make John wait for me before we could continue towards Fort Bragg. After all, I wanted to arrive at the finish not later than last year, such that I would still be able to join the party with our Scottish friends Mandy and Katie on Sunday evening in time!

But despite pretty good riding, John and I came back from the round trip to Fort Bragg (about 54 miles) nearly an hour later than I did last year (towards 1 a.m.). It was also much colder than last year - while at the turn-around point in Fort Bragg, I had started shivering and needed to "borrow" a Safeway paper bag to stuff under my vest. The crew of volunteers at the campground had their hands full caring for close-to-hypothermic riders - again, three cheers for them in gratitude!

But there was not just the campfire, the excellent coffee, the hot soups, etc. - there was also a little makeshift shrine to honor the memory of Tom Milton (see the end of this post).

He had registered for this brevet, and his brevet card was carried by several riders in turn until over the Golden Gate bridge into the finish. We also had black wrist bands imprinted in memoriam. And, knowing Tom Milton, the congenial thing to do was to have a coupe of champagne available for each rider coming through the rest stop on the way back - and that's how it was done.

Aaron L. joined John and me for the remainder of the night and the 50-mile return trip to Cloverdale. After about 15 miles, we agreed to stop at the Philo post office to lie down on the floor, protected from the biting outside temperatures, for a recommended shut-eye period of less than an hour to avoid the risk of dozing off on the bike. To be more specific about "biting": some riders had thermometers among their equipment and reported minima of 35 F! It's all part of the adventure ...

Warming up in the sun outside of the Guerneville Safeway control

We were lucky that the wind from the day before was there again without having changed directions: now it was mostly in our back, and if anything even stronger. This allowed us to win back the time we had spent at the Philo post office, and to maintain me in the race for making the (supposed) time limit for joining the party with our Scottish friends in the evening, even though John and I eventually arrived at the finish over an hour later than I did last year.

John and I carpooled back to his home; but (after having coordinated with Ghislaine) I accepted the couch there for a little power nap before going onto the remaining 30 minutes of boring driving. I set my wristwatch alarm, and John informed me that he might sleep himself in the otherwise empty house by the time my alarm goes off, and that I should just sneak out then. Well, we both woke up when the phone rang - but that was much later than my alarm which had gone off unheard. Did I miss the party? Hell no - I joined them late, but there was enough left of food and drinks and laughter. And if I had missed the opportunity of fully testing my sleep deprivation tolerance the night before (because of that Philo post office), I made up for it by staying late at the party. After all, I needed to celebrate with Ghislaine and our friends that I had completed my 10th 600 km brevet:

5/26/2007: "Brevet Week", Beloit, WI
6/2/2007: "Surf City", Santa Cruz, CA
5/17/2008: Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs, Ventura, CA
5/30/2008: "Taylorsville 600", Davis Bike Club, CA
6/5/2009: "Taylorsville 600", Davis Bike Club, CA
5/22/2010: "Fort Bragg 600", SFR, San Francisco, CA

1 comment:

  1. Bravo Joseph! Que de longues distances en si peu de temps! Je suis entrain de rattraper mon retard - je n'arrive plus à te suivre!
    J'espère que TVB
    A bientôt