Thursday, January 5, 2012

PA Dutch 200K - My First Brevet

Friday evening, the 30th of December, I piled in the new Subaru Impreza with Kris and the boys, with the Xpedition Rack on the top, slightly modified to hold my bike, and headed for Summit, NJ to stay with Kris's cousin Chris and his wonderful wife Brenda, who happens to also be 5 months pregnant. Amazingly we were able to smash everything we wanted to take into the car! Being that the only trips we have made as a family have all been in a Suburban or a pickup truck with a cap, this was truly impressive! I used my new seat cover, to cover my Brooks leather saddle, and some Saran Wrap worked for the time being on the leather handlebar wraps till I get my Bike Skinz in.

We arrived in Summit some time after 10, being notified along the drive by Chris that they're flight was delayed, and we were given instructions at how to get into the apartment. The apartment was 2 hours from the start of my ride, but it was a long weekend, it was a great opportunity to see Chris and Brenda, and have the boys see NY City for their first time, including Times Square on New Years Eve Day! Anyways, we got in, got unpacked, and hit the hay. Chris and Brenda got home some time during the night, and we all caught up in the morning and headed out for a day on the town in NY! Fortunately, the apartment is only a block from the train station, and the trip was uneventful, and fun. We were out of the city and back by 5, with stops at Times Square, Toys R Us, Rockefeller Center, Lego, FAO Schwartz, and Penn and Grand Central Stations. Kris got to check an item off her bucket list with Roasted Chestnuts from a street vendor, and we all had a great time! In bed by 9:30, after watching Mr Poppers Penguins with the kids.

The morning of the ride, I woke up at 4, about 1/2 hour before I planned, and decided there was no use in trying to get back to sleep, so I grabbed what I needed and headed out the door. 2 hours later, I arrive in the parking lot of the first control for the ride - the West Penn Diner, to find that the other fools there that early were Bill Fischer, and Blaine Chamberlain, two guys I ride with from NY! Bill made a comment about the NY guys always showing up early, and we got things ready, and went in for some breakfast.

Nearer to 8AM we went outside, parked our cars where we wouldn't be a nuisance, and listened to Andrew Meade give us the lowdown on the expectations of the day. The weather man said it would be a 50 degree day, and Andrew said the start of the ride was actually warmer (about 36-37 degrees out) than any time during the pre-ride that he and 3 others had done on Thursday. We were warned of possible ice spots in the shady areas near the beginning of the ride, and sent on our way.

17 of us left the diner at 8AM, and 17 returned at different times throughout the afternoon and early evening. 100% of us finishing! The course record was broken, and the riders saw a lot of sun, some rain, and a little wind, but nothing to slow us down too much. RESULTS 

I had purchased a new toy a couple of days before the ride and was trying that out. A SPOT personal tracking device. It worked well, but it missed tracking me in the beginning of the ride, because I am pretty new at operating it. But, it sends a signal every 10 minutes of my location, and gave some friends the opportunity to watch my progress from home, while recovering from their New Years celebrations.

The ride was great. It seemed like a lot of downhill at the beginning, which I remembered thinking I would be paying for near the end, if only I knew to pay more attention to just how much down hill! The course is a 124 mile loop, which starts and ends on the same stretch of road. There were farms along the route and I rode most of the first half of the ride with Ron and Barb Anderson and Bill Fischer, with Doug Haluza doing indian sprints around us for most of the ride. That guy reminds me of the Tazmanian Devil!

At the Second Control (first stop), I was feeling great! I got my card signed and signed in, took a leak, grabbed a chocolate milk and a couple of payday bars, eating one, and drinking half the milk, and saving the rest for about 45 miles into the ride, because we were at mile 23.5, and the next stop was at mile 68.5, a pretty good stretch.

Right around that 45 mile mark, I was really feeling the effects of the ride, a little nausea, starting to feel some leg fatigue, and getting hungry. We were just coming into Intercourse, PA, and Bill and I were commenting on how they could have been more creative with the name for the fire department.  I was falling back a bit, so I passed on the payday, which I would have had to stop to dig out of my bag, and drank the 1/2 bottle of milk I had left. Hindsight says next time to stop and eat the damned Payday, but I probably wont. Hindsight also says to bring a couple of Banana's no matter how much you don't like them, because they save your ass! Well, the milk hit the spot, the wind subsided some, and the train kept rolling. Bill held back with me, and we crested one rise to see Ted Straub a volunteer with some snacks and water to top off our tanks at the Conestoga Wagon Wheel at mile 55. I have to say, I am not a huge fan of pitted dates now that I have had them, but much like Banana's, the stuff that I don't like is normally a big help, so I forced a couple down and we got on our way.

Pretty much right after leaving Ted, we started a 2 mile descent towards the Conestoga River. I knew what was coming, because nothing is free. If you're riding down hill, you have to ride uphill. Sure enough, right after crossing the river, you start a 1.8 mile climb ascending 431 feet. (4.5% grade average), but after that, it's pretty much all down hill to the Control at Columbia, PA at mile 68.5

 During that stretch, after passing the Turkey Hill plant, the route follows along the Susquehanna River, where I truly enjoyed the flat terrain.I remember looking at the river, seeing the chop on top of the water from the wind, and seeing a kayaker, thinking, that guy is crazy! Then laughing at myself thinking that if he looked over at me, and knew what I was doing, he would undoubtedly be thinking that same exact thing!

The ride along the river was peaceful, and as I mentioned, I enjoyed the opportunity to relax a little and just pedal without much wind or climbing, being super satisfied that over half of the ride was behind us, and we were making decent time. 

We rolled into the Columbia control at 1:25. Blaine Chamberlain was already there with some others, and he went inside with us while we grabbed supplies. He found me the "perfect" sandwich, which actually was perfect! It was a turkey wrap, and it was delicious. I also grabbed two banana's, thankfully, and a Dr. Pepper and got my card signed by the cashier.

I went outside to sit in the sun with the others, and a group rolled in behind us, with Ron and Barb on the Tandem. They had stopped along the way for nutrition, and we had passed them unknown to us.

Blaine was wanting to get on the road and try to get in without too much riding in the dark, and Bill told me that he was going to join him. I told him I was going to relax for a few minutes, so I sat down, ate half my wrap, the banana, and half the Dr. Pepper, the other half of which I poured in one of my half empty water bottles. As the next stop was less that 20 miles away, I decided to get on my way. I told the others I would likely see them soon enough when they caught up to me and pulled out of the parking lot.

As you can see in the pictures, Columbia was sunny with very little sign of rain. Well that stopped not 5 miles out of town, after climbing back up away from the river, the skies darkened and the rain began.

It spat and sputtered for the most part, and then there were a couple of good bits of rain. I reached back shortly after it started and turned on my taillight since I wasn't wearing any reflective gear at the time,  and I didn't want to get run over, and I continued on down the road.

I felt great! I had taken in good nutrition at my previous stop, and I was making decent time, going at the pace that I expected for the most part. I enjoyed my solitude, and though I love riding with others, I always feel like the anchor, and that I am holding them back. So a little guilt free me time was welcome.

I pulled into the Control in Lititz just 2 hours after arriving at the stop in Columbia. I was feeling great, and the others pulled in just minutes behind me. I signed in and got my card signed, and skipped going into the store, ate a bite of my wrap, took a swig of Dr. Pepper and got back on the road. Heck, it was only 36 miles left, how bad could THAT be. I was about 3/4 done, and flying high!

Shortly after leaving Lititz, my Garmin quit giving turn by turn directions, because I was now overlapping with the Route that we took on our way out in the morning. It was then just using the fastest route back to the finish line, so I had to resort to my cue sheets for directions (these rides have very specific routes, that have to be followed EXACTLY) while using the Garmin for distance cues.

Bill had told me to save something for the Hilltop around mile 100. He said it's the other doozie of a climb, like the one on River Road that we had already completed. I kept pedaling, and watching my cue sheet for the upcoming turns, and right around mile 105 I hit the hill Bill must have been talking about. It was a mile long and 205 feet of climbing. I pushed up it, and when I crested it, I thought whew! That's it! All clear sailing from here on in!

Wrong..   I turned the page on the cue sheet and saw up ahead, at mile 109, there was a turn onto a road called "Hilltop Road". Ugh..  Oh well, there's no stopping now.

I should have stopped right then and had the other banana, and the rest of the sandwich, but I did what you're not supposed to do, thought about the fact that I was still slightly ahead of the others, and I should keep pushing to stay in this position. Mind you - this is NOT a race. Well, not in the concept that it's against anyone else. You're racing the clock, and I was WELL within my time limit. Anyways, I turned onto Hilltop Road, and started to climb..  2.5 miles and 463 feet in elevation later, with a couple of 13 and 14% grades in there, I topped out, and breathed a sigh of relief! That's it! only 12 miles left, and it has to be all flat, right?

3 wrong turns later, all demanding me to backtrack to the course, I came across a headlight coming towards me while backtracking. Doug was rounding the corner and we chatted for 30 seconds, and he slogged on. He told me that the Tandem was behind me, and at the next T in the road I waited.

I was at mile 122, and pretty sure there were no turns left, but I just to make sure I wasn't going to go any "extra" distance. Ron and Barb were cheery, but Ron was also whooped, Barb was quiet, and I was doing all I could to keep going. We were quite the group!

I remember saying something about, heck, we're only 2 miles from the finish, and we should be able to EASILY finish by 7:00, which would be under 11 hours. There was no response, which I thought strange, but I figured it was just because we were all shot. Then at mile 122.5 I knew why. For the next mile we climbed, and climbed, 288 feet to be exact (well according to RWGPS). It was slow climbing, SLOW, but I knew how close the finish was, I knew that in less than 10 minutes I would be off my bike and sitting down to have something to eat in a warm Diner, but it was tough. When we crested the top I had trouble keeping the bike straight. I actually went off into someones gravel driveway, and then back onto the road. I quickly regained my composure, and fell in behind the Tandem, and then slowly watched it pull away. I just didn't have anything left to keep up.

About 2 tenths of a mile before the finish, I saw Ron and Barb pull over and wait for me. Really? WOW!

This wasn't a race, it was a ride with friends, old and new, and though it was what seemed like a small gesture, I greatly appreciated it. It kept me from riding in alone, and we rolled into the last Control together at 6:59..  My Garmin said that I had been riding for 10:59:48, when I shut it down.

I remember sitting down at the bar and ordering a milkshake, and then another, and then a Bison burger and fries and a water..  I was asked to join the others, Ron and Barb were in a booth with Bill Olsen, but I couldn't move. I was spent. So I respectfully declined. Though this meal looks amazing, I only finished one of the shakes, and part of the second, most of the burger, and half of the fries. I was congratulated by everyone still there, Maile took a picture of me signing my brevet card after my very first brevet, and I actually was smiling in the picture. I personally wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see the photo. It was truly a great ride.

Maile's photo album is posted on Flickr. I hope she doesn't mind me linking to it. Maile's Flickr PA Dutch 200K

Now - what I learned.. 

Nutrition is KING - even though I know this, and don't know everything I need to eat that will and won't bother me, I refused on this ride, while I had the opportunity to eat something that would have made the finish of this ride much more enjoyable. I should have stopped at Control 4, eaten the whole remaining sandwich, and forced myself to finish the banana. Not only because of the upcoming terrain, but after 7.5 hours of riding, you don't have anything left in the tank. I have to get it straight, and I will. Each time I suffer it reminds me a little more. I will have to get it figured out before I do a 300K, 400K, and 600K that I hope to do this season.

Though you have to train for these rides, and train some more, as the old saying goes with respect to how hard it is, 80% of it's mental, and the rest is just in your head.

My next ride is with the PA group on February 4th, and is promised to be a somewhat flatter route, on roads with wide shoulders in case of inclement conditions. It's for the most part an out and back on the same roads, so you will see riders going the other way that are ahead of or behind you. Sounds like fun!