Sunday, May 10, 2015

So how was it?

How was your 600K? After years of riding 600Ks, a dozen or more of them, it's still nice to be asked.

A 600K is basically 2 double centuries on consecutive days. Saturday and Sunday, a weekend spent almost totally on the bike.

During this one we rode from the Golden Gate Bridge to the former lumber town and seaport of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast... and back again. Yes it is a long way, long enough to defy summaries. Long enough to go off-script. Long enough to feel euphoric, then wretched, then come out the other side and finish feeling good.

In short, it was everything. 

Many riders want to ride it fast, as fast as they can. The other riders talk about the fasties, sometimes wistfully. But this is not a race. Instead it is a gateway to the longer brevets. The main goal for me is not to ride for time but to practice the right behaviors: eating and drinking (and eating and drinking) and taking a sleep break, and making it through the low times. They must become ingrained, reflex.

Happy to report I did great on that. Finally!

Sometimes you ride with others, sometimes you ride alone. This distance forces the issue. Come prepared to ride the entire 600K solo, that's the only way. Then when I need to stop and the others need to ride on, everyone does what they need to do. Chances are we'll see each other down the road. There are no guarantees; I practiced riding my ride.

One not-so-proud moment: disassembling a Big Mac in Fort Bragg and trying to scrape off the special sauce and reassemble everything on an Udi's gluten-free bun. Yuck. It is really, really hard to be gluten-free and mostly dairy-free for 600K.

A proud moment: on the shoulder of Highway 128 in the dark, 17 miles west of the campground, fixing a flat. That new headlamp is handy. Feeling for a little sliver of glass, working the tire with a fingernail. I'm a demon for root cause. No point in putting everything back together until you've found it. Kitty says do you happen to have tweezers? I reach down to my heavy toolkit on the road and from a mini Swiss Army knife pluck a set of tweezers. Bingo! Nothing better than the right tool in the middle of nowhere, having carried it for literally thousands of miles.

A not-so-proud moment: for some reason, the pump only wants to put 50 pounds of pressure into the tube. Riding 17 miles uphill, with a sore back and tired legs, on a squishy tire. After a stressful week at work, too sleepy to ride through the night. Just want comfort.

Up and down. And so it goes...

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Lately, moderation has been in short supply.

Beginning March 7th with a 200K in Davis. I ride fast but blow up ~15 miles from the finish.

Eight months. It hasn't been that long since the 3CR 1000K (worker's version), not objectively, but apparently long enough to lose all the self-management tricks, especially staying on top of water and food.

All those days have been broken up into smaller chunks. I've been shuttling 4 miles back and forth to work, bushwhacking tasks and interactions and errands, waking up at oh-dark-thirty to climb Page Mill as fast as possible and thence to shower and breakfast and work. Drinking and eating before and after, no multi-tasking required.

Thus the patterns of daily survival completely displace the long-term strategic habits that are essential to making it through a brevet.

And that is why we have brevets: to remember how it's done. Reincarnate the patterns of last summer so they become habits again. You stop and fill the water bottles instead of stubbornly riding past Lake Solano County Park because you don't want to lose time. And empty water bottles are lighter.

With Kim, apr├Ęs 300K
Your hand goes to a pocket for a snack, and you don't even notice whether it's exactly the right flavor of Larabar; you can chew and swallow it, that's the trick. The little incremental things can head off a wall of dizziness and nausea when you run out of fuel on Putah Creek Road. To keep riding, it helps to remain conscious and upright.

A little more practice, maybe not a bad idea. So the next weekend, another 200K in Santa Cruz. Same story, with heat and adversity in the afternoon. Eating and drinking not dialed in. Heat exhaustion and gluten-freedom making everything worse.

The following weekend, Pescadero. The weekend after that, a 300K. Hard, but things mostly go well.

April 4, up before dawn to get to the base of Mt. Hamilton in San Jose. Do a 104 mile loop with friends, 8600 feet of climbing. Good! Fun, too. Carry an Udi's hamburger bun for a pulled pork sandwich at the Junction.
The lone photo from a 400K

Then a windy 400K with little sleep and an upset stomach. Manage the eating and drinking OK, porting GF bread. Speed not great. Impaired at work and home that week; Sunday starts are officially a bad idea. I nap in bed, on the couch, in the car. Sleep is officially important. I make friends with the espresso machine again.

The next Saturday with Danny, force myself up Old La Honda. April 18? Something like that... My legs feel dead. Almost can't stand to be on a bike. No destination sounds appealing. No ride sounds like fun.

If this is Friday, it must be the top of Kings Mountain
Meanwhile, the ride-before-work buddies have been ramping up their speed for weeks. They're fresh and impatient,  legs coiled like springs. Time for Skyline, 5 Ways in 5 Days. From south to north, all the paved routes up to the ridge from Silicon Valley. Similar to the Death Ride, but during the work week.

Redwood Gulch and Highway 9 (crawl w/ zombie sweat), Montebello. Page Mill, Old La Honda (miss, have meeting), Kings Mountain. With 1000 miles on my legs, the others rabbit on up the hills, leaving me behind.

All week I have wicked mental clarity, which helps at work, and vivid dreams every night, which do not. My dreams are stories, sagas that go on and on. I bail out of dinner and we get Thai food. The laundry piles up. I fall asleep watching TV. I wear the same jeans 3 days in a row.

But I survive...and in a few weeks maybe I'll even be fast.