Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SFR Lighthouse 200k: First Brevet of 2010



After completing a 200k on the same route in November, I looked forward to this first event of the year. The lighthouse 200k that San Francisco Randonneurs put together in January kicks off the brevet season with a nice roll from San Francisco through south and west Marin County, passing through redwood forests, quiet coast lines, quiet lagoons and estuaries, and charming towns and neighborhoods. It isn't too hilly, but the timing--early in the year--and the weather can all make it less than trivial. As my experience proves, it is as much as preparation for the weather as fitness for a event in rainy bay area weather.

I consciously try to keep my fitness level up after the November event so I won't suffer too much in January. I have kept my weekly mileage at about 80-90 miles; I spent much of the holidays staying active biking and hiking; and my wife and I joined a climbing gym where I not only climb to build up other parts of my body, but also do some yoga and spinning.

I also learned from my experience of doing the same event in November in my preparation. I took the Inujurishi handlebar bag in favor of the combination of the lil' loafer front rack bag and the Acorn small saddle bag that I have. The Inujurishi bag is large, and has a 2-layer map case. It is also very water resistant. I was able to loosely pack my cargo--3 energy bars, 5 servings of Hammer Expresso Gel in a small flask, a wide-mouth drink bottle filled with Hammer Perpetuem drink, 4 servings of Perpetuem powder in a ziplock bag, a small bottle for electrolyte, Dinotte battery-powered front light and extra batteries, Quicker Pro mini pump, tool pouch including spoke wrench, multi-tool, tire levers, patching kit, and a chain tool, spare tube, sunscreen lotion, a handkerchief, and my rain jacket.

I also carried two large stainless steel water bottles on the bike and the simplified cue sheet and my brevet card in my map case.

To get ready for the weather, I wore a merino base layer, and then put on a medium-weight fleece exercise shirt (quarter zip) from REI. Outside the REI shirt I have a reflective vest, which doesn't provide any warm by itself but acts as a slight wind-shield for my core. I also have a rain jacket in my bag. I wore a merino long tight, and a pair of shorts outside of it--I didn't wear any padding. I wore two layers of socks--a pair of regular pearl izumi cycling socks and a pair of thick wool socks that I got from Rivendell. I brought a pair of full-fingered glove-liners but opted to start with my half-fingered cycling gloves instead of the wool gloves that I usually wear--trading warmth for added dexterity.

I have a couple of cycling caps, but wore a Shimano-branded thick baseball cap for extra warmth.

I caught a cold riding in the storm just 3 days before the event--and thought seriously of not showing up on saturday morning. I try to cure myself with tons of everything--hot water, vitamin C, hot soup, whatever stuff I can ingest without serious side effects--and it seemed to work. By thursday evening i was beginning to dry up and not have any significant symptoms. My plan was that if it wasn't pouring when I wake up on saturday, I will head to the start at the bridge.

I went to bed early on friday, and woke up on time at 4:15AM. Darn it, it's pouring out. I turned on the computer and checked weather along the route. Weather.com forecasted dry weather after 7AM. I woke up my wife after getting ready and ate breakfast and she kindly took me to the start. The weather eased up as we crossed the Bay Bridge into the City, and I took the bike out the car and headed to the Strauss Statue.

I had 5 minutes to spare as road constructions near Crissy Field delayed us on the road. I quickly signed in and grabbed my brevet card. We swore not to do stupid things and headed off.

I didn't plan on riding with anyone, so I kept a pace I find comfortable. Even though the rain did stop, it was wet everywhere. I had my rain jacket on at this point and find it very useful. It kept me warm from the cold damp air and wind. People proceeded cautiously but briskly through sausalito toward mill valley. The path next to mike's bike was completely flooded with about 5" of water. We rode through the patch slowly. I got sprayed by a few participants without fenders and decided to pull back and ride by myself or only behind folks with fenders.

I felt stronger than I did in November, and was going at a good pace--all the activities seemed to have helped. At the top of Camino Alto, I made a mental note to descend with caution, as I haven't really tested Hetres on winding descents in wet weather. I braked a little more than usual, but the tires seem to be doing just fine. At the bottom of the hill, a rider came by and asked if I were Franklyn, as he recognized my bike from flickr land. I have seen One Happy Cog's pictures online a few times and it was good to meet him. He has a Merckx bike that has a wicked green paint. We chatted for a while, but parted ways as I was still coughing and spitting from my cold and not able to talk too much and keeping a faster pace.

The rainy weather also kept folks in bed, it seems as us randonneurs seem to be the only people on the road as we rolled through Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. Sir Francis Drake Blvd was also fairly devoid of cars. I begin the climb on Whites Hills and heard my fender rubbing the tire slightly. The bike was sitting in my back seat without a front tire, and the fender must have been pushed slightly out of position. Since my Ebisu has a tight clearance with Hetres, a slightest movement makes for some rubbing of tires on off-the-saddle climbs. Nothing serious, and I made a mental note to adjust it somewhat when I stop next.

I had an easier time getting up whites hill, and enjoyed the descent and the long flat stretch that ensued. I opted for the paved road through Samuel P. Taylor State Park instead of the slightly unpaved bike path as I figured cars are relatively absent in the morning and my wide tires can handle the bad pavement relatively easily. The creek in the woods has grown to full-fledged rivers, and small waterfalls seemed to be flowing down walls everywhere. It was quite nice through the woods except it was very foggy, and quickly the fog turned into rain.

Rain continued to come down after i exited the forest and climbed up the hill before HWY 1. I saw a quickbeam on the descent toward Olema and recognized the rider to be Cyclofiend Jim, whose wonderful Cyclofiend website host beautiful bikes--mostly steel bikes with classical designs--is a regular destination for bicycle enthusiasts. After turning left onto SFR again I introduced myself and we chatted our way to Inverness Park. I stopped to adjust my fender a little and used the facility. Jim took off first and I was back riding by myself again.


In November, it was during this stretch between Inverness Park and the lighthouse when I began to have some problems with cramps. I took an electrolyte pill and regularly ingested energy drink and gel. I actually felt pretty good, and didn't have any problem going up the climb before the intersection to Pierce Road. The road was a little flooded, but the weather definitely has dried up. The section between Pierce Road to the lighthouse is extremely scenic, and today especially with the clouds doing a number to the sun light. I rode comfortably as my clothes became dry. Several other randonneurs are in sight, and several passed me on this stretch. Toward the base of the hill to the lighthouse, I began to see the fast riders coming the other way.


It was not nearly as windy today as when I rode it in November. After passing through several graze guards, I started the climb to the lighthouse control slowly.  I saw Jim at the bottom of the hill changing the gearing on his quickbeam. He seemed to have the procedure down so I told him I'd go on. I was using 36/26T combination almost the entire way. The lack of strong head or cross wind made the climb much easier and actually enjoyable. After the section where you can see ocean off both sides of the road, a parking lot emerged and I have arrived at the first control around 11AM.


Looking at my brevet card from the november event, this is actually about the same time I got here last time. The time saving from going over the east sidewalk of the bridge and going through the paved section of Sir Francis Drake in the park was probably offset by the time I stopped in Inverness Park to use the facilities and check my fender alignment. However, unlike in November, I actually still felt pretty fresh at this point. I got a bottle filled up before the buckets seemed empty. I only have 20 miles of rolling downhill before lunch at Pt Reyes station so I don't need much more water. I grabbed a few packs of energy gel, stretched a little, and left.

Last time on the way back toward HWY 1 I kind of bonked a little, and had to sit on the side of the road to wait for the leg cramps to subside. I believe that's a result of insufficient electrolyte and calorie intake. This time I was prepared to throw calorie at the problem to get me to lunch. I ate gel, drank energy drink, and swallow a couple of electrolyte pills as I traced my way back east. The strategy seemed to have work, as I didn't need to get off the bike to rest and generally felt OK. Just as I approached the intersection of Pierce Road and about to roll downhill, I began to feel really hungry. I took another serving of energy gel and continued on.

It was kind of miserable to be hungry on the bike. Somehow I didn't want to stop, maybe fearing that I'd have lost momentum and time in the process. Good thing the stretch to Pt Reyes Station from Inverness is very flat. I got to Pt Reyes Station at about 12:45, after leaving the lighthouse control at 11:17. After parking the bike near the end of town, I dashed into Bovine Bakery and grabbed a vegetable roll and a soy chai. I ate in earnest, though I chewed carefully to avoid indigestion down the road. I found a bench near my bike and stretched a little after the roll went down, and sat there to watch other cyclists and randonneurs stop and pass. I got up and began rolling toward Marshall at 1:10, after a 25-minute break, which is a good 25 minutes shorter than the break I took here in November.


Usually a head wind greets a rider going north on HWY 1 between Pt Reyes Station to Marshall, the rider then enjoys the tail-wind on the way back. Today no strong head wind was present. It began to rain shortly after I passed the Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road intersection. The rain was cold (I later read report from another rider of hail on this stretch) and significantly reduced my comfort level. Along the way I saw and waved to faster folks on the return leg. I got to Marshall Store just before 2PM. The store was full of patrons, with a large portion being randonneurs. I grabbed a orange juice, got my card stamped, and walked outside. The rain has stopped by now and the sun was out. I saw One Happy Cog and Jim here. I quickly drank the orange juice and finished some bread I bought at Bovine Bakery.

After reshuffling my bag to consolidate all the remaining food in the side pocket, and mixed another bottle of Perpetuem, I got on the road again. A fellow randonneur, who told me that he'd blew his top and needed a little drafting tagged alonog. Since I didn't mind riding by myself, I didn't mind it that much. I got back to Pt Reyes Station quickly and stopped to take a break and let the fellow go on his own. It was about 2:45 at this point, and I figured I should get back just around 6pm.

I was getting cold, as both my base layer and the outer shirt were soaked with sweat and rain. I was also beginning to feel tired and hungry. I stopped before Platform Bridge to take in some calories and drank water. I was certainly going at a slower pace now than in November. I am half an hour to 40 minutes ahead of the time at the same place, but most of that time-saving came from a significantly shorter break at lunch. I did eat less lunch, but have been more methodical in taking in calories in smaller increment all day. Maybe my cold, which prevented me from breathing deeply and required me to spit out fluid, is finally catching with me, with the dropping temperature exacerbating its effects. I rode the next 5 miles with a negative mind state, and doubting if I can finish.

As I rode by the reservoir, I looked down on my cyclometer and I was still pushing a modest 15mph and the sun was still out. I told myself that I had to get back to the City anyway, so I might as well enjoy it. I stopped at the baseball diamond in Nicasio, and lied down on the grand stand for a while. I phoned home to tell M. where I was and when I might likely me home. That 10-minute spell really helped me. I headed out energized. Climbing up Nicasio Valley and Whites Hill seemed relatively easy, as I wasn't pushing myself to go very fast. I put on the rain jacket at the top of Whites Hill and that immediately made a difference.

It began to rain a little in Fairfax again. The folks that stretched along the route are bunching back together again and heading for the finish. I bumped in to Bonnie, whom I rode with on the bike path in Samuel P. Taylor Park in November, near Camino Alto. We rode together from Camino Alto back the the base of the bridge in Sausalito. I waved her and her friend on as I needed to stop to put on new batteries in my Dinotte light. The cold weather must have drained the battery faster. Climbing up to the bridge, being the last of the day, was rather satisfying. The west sidewalk of the bridge was most likely still open (and I confirmed it later as I saw cyclists riding on it), but it was dark at this point so i headed to the East side walk. Many bell rungs later, I got back to the Strauss Plaza, checked in at 6:11PM--a full 33 minutes earlier than when I did it in November, even though I felt notably worse in the second half of the ride.

I got back to BART and went back to Berkeley. It was a great day and I learned some good lessons.

- I need to keep my core temperature up in the wind and rain
- I still didn't bring enough food. I like real food better on these rides, and will bring some real food next time
- I am more more familiar with my Ebisu now, and am very comfortable on it. I didn't wear padded shorts, and have zero saddle sore--laced Brook saddle is great!
- I need to come up with a better way to transport my bike to the start as the slight tire/fender rubbing really bugs me

I look forward to do it in another two weeks, on a slightly different route!
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