On February 3rd I did the 300K brevet out of Casa Grande, AZ with my Mesa, AZ dwelling Tri buddy Andy. During the course of a 300K brevet you have a ton of time to consider many, many things. I may split this post across days but I’ll just start with the standard rate report type post.
I pulled into Mesa, AZ at 11:00 pm to stay at Andy’s place. After a very brief night’s sleep Andy and I awoke at 2:50 am, got our gear together and drove the 45 minutes to Casa Grande. The morning was a comfortable, by my standards, 38 degrees but all the Arizonans agreed that it was bitterly cold. The ride began at 5:00 am and we headed out into the darkness of the early morning Arizona desert.
First off I can tell you that it is a real trip riding at 25 mph in a pace line in the dark with nothing but bike head and tail lights. Just the sounds of occasional breaks shishing and wheels rolling on the pavement, all encompassed by a thin tube of light overlaid by a shroud of darkness. I could not believe that this group started out so fast! I had kept telling Andy how slowly we would be pulling out and that we would probably maintain a pace of around 16 or so to mile 30 or 40; boy was I wrong.
By the time we had covered 35 to 40 miles it was light enough for me to tell that Andy and I were part of the lead pack of maybe 8 cyclists. Doh! I thought immediately recalling my great Texas 200K adventure. Well, there is nothing left but to pedal. One of the main problems of riding of the front of the main pack is that you are surrounded by some real studs, and indeed, studetts. However, that’s a problem all lead cyclists have. My specific problem is that I’m a 6’2, 213 pound man.
Let me clarify with a couple questions. How many super cyclists weigh 213 pounds and are 6’2” tall? What is the purpose of a pace line? What is it that makes a cyclist a good climber? On a windy day, what attributes do you not wish to have? Nuff said?
It was a VERY windy day and the first 60 miles was a gradual climb, followed by about 20 miles of gradual descent followed by maybe 30 miles with some serious climbing and the rest of the ride was simply flat of minor up and down grades. The other attribute of yesterdays ride was not just the wind but the particular habit of the wind. I don’t know how it is elsewhere but in both New Mexico and Arizona the wind tends to blow in one direction in the mornings and the exact opposite direction in the afternoon. So…wind in the face in the morning…wind in the face in the afternoon.
Anyway, so much can be said about the day but let me leave you with a few highlights.
As I said earlier, about mile 30 – 40, discovered I was once again in the lead pack.
About mile 65 we finally finished up our first climb and got to do some downhill screaming, which by the way covered the last half of the Tucson Marathon.
The third checkpoint in which I discover that, among others, the lead pack I am riding with include a guy who qualified for and raced Kona last year and another guy who is a perennial finisher of the Planet Ultra Grand Slam series of double-century races.
Around mile 80 I eat some cliff Shot blocks, to become relevant later.
Around mile 90 I climb Gates Pass just prior to heading into the Saguaro National Forest.
Around mile 120 my stomach goes seriously bad and I throw up the earlier mentioned shot blocks, which I have concluded I can not tolerate.
Also around mile 120 I discover that I can quickly pull out of a pace line, throw up on the fly and rejoin the pace line all while slowing no more than 3 or 4 mph.
Fourth checkpoint, about 132, I get some great advice from experienced Randonneur Sandiway Fong. “Drink some Ginger Ale, it will make your stomach feel better.”
About mile 140, after having had some Ginger Ale, I discover my stomach feels fine and I’m riding strong.
About mile 150 I become a cyclist by being involved in the kind of wrecks only real cyclists become involved in. The guy in the pace line in front of me stops pedaling suddenly and for no apparent reason. Because of the wind he slows rapidly as he is the lead rider. My front tire clips his rear tire and I go down. The rider immediately behind me runs over me and then also goes down. I get some serious road rash and another chance to apply a critical Randonneur skill, fixing bike problems in the middle of nowhere.
About mile 170 I become so sick of riding in a pace line that I begin to feel claustrophobic and can’t stand the constant watching of wheels and looking at people getting up out of their saddle to push the pace a bit.
About mile 171 I pull out of the pace line and immediately bask in the glory of my new found freedom.
About mile 172 I pick the pace back up to about 18.5 mph but this time gloriously alone all the way to the finish line of my first 300K brevet.
Total time, including stops etc… 13:12
Finish placing (not a concern of true Randonneurs mind you) 10 of 60
Time had, great.
Philosophical musings and other thoughts…many, which I will recount later.