Monday, February 18, 2013

SFR Valley Ford 200k: Workers' Ride

sequoia and golden gate bridge

I planned on riding the San Francisco Randonneurs' Valley Ford 200k brevet this month. However, the event was actually on the same weekend as M's birthday, and I didn't want to be away for the whole day. So I signed up to work as a volunteer and rode on the workers' ride instead. The workers' ride follows the same route and requirements as the actual event, and needs to fall within a week of the actual event.

Sunrise Skyline
I woke up early to get on a transbay bus to San Francisco. It is still dark at this time, but the sky was more a spectrum of grey than black, and getting brighter. I got to East Beach of Crissy Field on time and waited for the handful of others who are also doing the workers' ride today. After getting the brevet card we got on the way, and it is bright at this point. The first part of the course is the same as the Point Reyes Lighthouse 200k I did 2 weeks before--through the southern Marin towns of Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax to get on Sir Francis Drake (SFD) Blvd. Two weeks ago when we were riding on the Mill Valley bike path, the light was barely grazing the top of Mt Tam. Today daylight was in full effect as we passed through the same stretch. Camino Alto's gentle gradient always helped to get my warmed up and stretch my legs some. However, the descent on the other side, though not steep, brought the temperature back down. As I was riding through these towns I remarked to the others--Tom, Steve, and Lisa--that it was colder than two weeks ago. Even with two pairs of gloves on I constantly blew into my hands to keep them warm, and the wooden bridges on the Mill Valley bike path had frost on them in the morning.

Point Reyes-Petaluma Road
Whites Hill on SFD always presents a challenge to me. The climb is of medium gradient, but not short enough that I can get off the saddle and power myself through. Also, the shoulder is pretty narrow at times so I have to constantly keep myself out of cars' way. After Whites Hills, we tackled hills on Nicasio Valley Road and Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. The hillside pastures are glowing green, with dots of early spring yellow wild flowers mixed in. By the time we rolled into Petaluma at a quarter to 11, the temperature has risen to be quite comfortable. Peet's Coffee served as a nice spot to sit for a bit and get some warm fluid in my body. I also got a burrito at the nearby hi-tech burrito for an early lunch.

Peet's Coffee Control
Lisa decided to call it a day and turned back. Steve, Tom, and I headed for Valley Ford. At this point, the day has mellowed out to become a nice winter day in the Bay Area--sunny, breezy, just warm enough so that a thin jacket is sufficient, but not too hot to make you sweat. The road to the coast tends to come with consistent headwind, though today it was pretty calm. Though I was doing OK, I couldn't keep up the pace of my companions. They graciously waited for me and pulled me for a couple of stretches. We covered the 20 miles to Valley Ford in a little more than 75 minutes of riding.

World touristBesides getting a receipt for the control, eating some food and using the facilities, we also chatted with a bike tourist who is on a world tour on bikes and sailboats only. She told us some of her adventures as well as how she handles the logistics of transporting herself across oceans and surviving on less than a shoestring budget. As we spoke she was on her way down the coast to Los Angeles to catch a sailboat to Mexico, then onto Australia. We wished her the best of luck. What an adventure!

HWY 1 outside of Tomales
Besides two smallish climbs on HWY 1 before Tomales, this next stretch to Point Reyes Station consisted mostly of rollers and flat roads. Just outside of Tomales, on the stretch with a creek running along side the road, I saw an owl sitting on the side of the road. I tried to get as close as I can to take a picture. It was slow to respond, but was definitely alive. I hope it was OK, and not sitting there because it was injured. The mid-afternoon sun is not slanted toward the horizon, and water in the bay is glittering with golden reflection from its rays. Now the weather was perfect! I passed Tom as he caught up with the tourist, who left Valley Ford ahead of us. They were chatting about the best route into the City. Steve has motored ahead at this point. Though I speculated that the tailwind between Marshall and Point Reyes Station wouldn't be as strong as usual as it was calm on Bodega Highway heading west, we still got a decent push from behind all the way into Pt Reyes Station at not quite 3PM.

Sequoia in Nicasio

We sat in the sun for a good 20 minutes and ate some food. I was definitely doing better than 2 weeks ago. Even though I was on similar timeline as two weeks ago, I had taken more and longer rest today, which means my average speed was higher. I kept a moderate pace through Nicasio, then Woodacre. Tom and Steve were kind enough to wait for me again in Fairfax after descending Whites Hill. We rode all the way back to the City today. After getting a receipt at Sports Basement for the final control, I headed for BART as it was getting cold again. The time on our receipt was 6:45pm. It was certainly an improvement, and we did take quite a bit of breaks today. I think I should be ready for the 300k in a month.

Sequoia in Nicasio
I took the newly repainted Specialized Sequoia for the ride today. I added a small wedge saddle bag to hold the tools and create more space in the VO front bag. The combined capacity was adequate for the ride. I lowered the stem when I built it back up, and though I was mostly doing OK, toward the end I had to consciously shook my hands to prevent them from going numb. Otherwise I was pretty comfortable. I have bar-end shifter on the right hand side, and downtube on the left, and it worked out well as I spent 90% of the ride on my 46T big chainring, but used all 8 gears on the cassette. The drivetrain was quite even on the big-big cross gear. The bike felt lighter than the Kogswell from two weeks ago--both of them respond to my pedal strokes in a "planing" effect, thanks to their standard-size tubing. The other major new components were the handlebar and the fenders. The rear blinker's attachment was not super solid, and made a rattling sound. The handlebar provided ample space behind the brake levers to rest my hands; the bar tapes were too short for the bar so as not to cover enough metal. On this cold day I couldn't put my hands closer to the center, but that's a minor complaint. The drop was deep, which makes a better aero position, but reaching for the levers from the drop was not as easy as was on the midge bar. Overall, this was a great set up for me, and the ride was very enjoyable.
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