Tuesday, February 9, 2010

SFR Two Rock 200k Brevet

I didn't plan on riding this 200k brevet by San Francisco Randonneurs (SFR), especially since it was scheduled only 2 weeks after the lighthouse 200k. However, several of my Internet bike buddies--Jim, Lee, and Esteban--were planning to do it, and Esteban is coming all the way from San Diego, so I sort of decided that I was going to do it. I waffled all week as the rainy forecast for saturday didn't change. I finally sent in my registration form on friday after sending an email to Rob Hawks, the SFR's brevet coordinator on thursday telling him that I plan on showing up on saturday. Friday night the 4 of us were shooting emails planning on the meet-up at the start, and also stipulated the conditions under which--pouring rain in the morning--we would bail out. I woke up saturday early morning and it wasn't raining, even though the ground was wet. I checked the weather for one last time and it still showed high chance rain all day. I packed up my Kogswell--so I don't have to take off my bottom bracket and seat post to let the water drain on my Ebisu in case it poured all day--and headed for the bus station.

The F bus showed up on time, and took my promptly across the bridge to the transbay bus terminal--I was the only passenger. This brevet starts at Crissy Field near Sports Basement under HWY 101, which is about 1 mile closer to Embarcadero than the usual starting place near the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center. I got off the bus at 6:22 and got to the start (about 4 miles away) at about 6:45. I knew I was at the right place as many cyclists with reflective gears and bright light were standing around. I checked in with Eli and grabbed my brevet card. I also found Jim and Lee there but no Esteban yet. We chatted a little before Rob began the pre-ride meeting. I was putting sunscreen as Rob went through his list of things. Esteban rolled up at this point and checked in. At 7, we pledged not to do stupid things and began rolling. Jim wanted to wait until the people were all gone, so we don't get caught in the initial wave of adrenaline-fueled dash and unnecessarily expand our energy. So after a 3 more minutes we were on the road, too.

Just as we approached the bridge sidewalk, the rain began to come down. Even though we all anticipated the rain and expected to get wet, there were still mutters of "here we go" all around. We crossed the bridge and rolled down hill toward Sausalito. Near the base of the hill, I saw a rider on a Rivendell Romulus. He turned out to be Nathan, to whom I sold my Romulus last year (and he was riding it today). From there we--Jim, Esteban, Lee, Nathan, and Tom on a Atlants--rode together on and off most of the day.

The rain came down at different level of forces as we rolled up Camino Alto and through the Marin towns of Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. Jim stopped to put his rain legs on after Camino Alto to scare the rain away, but that didn't seem to work, as we continue to get soaked. We climbed over White's Hill and turned on Nicasio Valley. After the descent down the other side on Nicasio Valley, it actually began to pour for a while. We stopped in front of the general store in Nicasio because several folks wanted to use the facilities. The rain has stopped at this point, but the sky still looked threatening. We stretched and wrung our wet gloves, ate some food and rolled on. It was drizzling as we made a right turn on Petaluma-Point Reyes Road. The climb before Cheese Factory is always a challenge, as the otherwise flat terrain doesn't give too many clues that such an ascent awaits riders at this point.

(Photo Courtesy of E. del Rio)
We continued on past Hicks Valley Road--usually where I turn go go toward Two Rock, and hints of blue sky began to show. We weren't holding our breaths, but welcome the development. A milder climb began shortly after the intersection with Hicks Valley. It has become quite pleasant at this point, as we got the vista on the climb of the lush-green valley below. I dropped my hammer energy bar as I crested the summit and had to apologize to folks following me up the hill as I was pulling in the front. I stopped and ate the bar before descending a very nice downhill. 3/4 way down I saw Esteban on the side of the road. Apparently he had a leak in his white Hetre tires. He was pumping it up to see if it would hold up to Petaluma, at this point 5 miles away. I continued to go down, and enjoyed the slightly downhill roller toward town. As the road became D Street, signal lights began to show up and I had to stop several times to push a bike button. The run-in to Petaluma is very nice, with stately, well-maintained houses lining the road.

At the intersection of Petaluma Blvd, I caught up with Jim as he waits for a left turn signal. As I turned I spotted a Subway Sandwich store and told Jim to wait for me at Peet's as I wanted to pick up a sandwich for the road. I headed for Peet's Coffee on the next block as it is one of the two designated stores for the first control. I leaned my bike against the glass window among the line of bikes that are already there. Lee had rolled in just ahead of me. I went inside the store and bought a vegan blueberry scone and got a receipt. I noted the time of 11AM on the brevet card and initialed the receipt. I stood outside and ate half of the sandwich and mixed up another serving of Hammer Perpetuem. A few minutes later, Esteban showed up and explained that he got a nail and had to change the tube.

We got on the road at around 11:30 again, and it at this point the sky has cleared up considerably, and the sun is out. My wet clothes were actually drying up somewhat already. We exited town on Washington Street, which soon became Bodega Way. From here we had a slightly uphill roller with several noticeable uphill through Two Rock to Valley Ford. Soon after we left town, we began to encounter a headwind. At first it was manageable, but quickly it became a full-on blast. I held on to my drop pretty much for the next 8-10 miles, rolling up more than down, and dodging flood puddles of different sizes along the way. Esteban pulled ahead of me after we rode together for the first stretch. This stretch was kind of monotonous, but still pleasant, as I cherished the dry weather.

Just before Valley Ford, I saw Jim pulled up behind me, apparently he and Phil (whom I know from my GPC days and bought a roof bike rack from) traded pulls to save some energy in the vicious headwind. I was quite exhausted as I pulled in front of the general store in Valley Ford. I got in and wanted to see if they had bike energy food--I still have enough but thought I should grab some as an insurance policy, as this last windy section took more out of me than I expected. The store didn't have any energy food so I bought a bottle of water to fill up my bottles. We sat outside the store as Nathan, Tom, and later Lee pulled up. Several randonneurs were already sitting there. We all marveled/lamented the phenomenal headwind. I ate the rest of the sandwich and gulped down some Perpetuem and Hammer Gel.

We have 23 miles to get to Pt Reyes Station at this point, and just about half way through the Brevet. I felt a little weak as we left Valley Ford, but told myself that I would catch some tailwind as we headed south and west. After a couple more mouth of energy gel, I was riding in earnest again on HWY 1 toward Tomales. The climb up was very scenic, and the color of day has completely changed as the sun is out, and nice white clouds dotted the blue sky. The 5 miles between Valley Ford and Tomales disappeared quickly, and soon we were riding along a creek and the marshes west of the town going toward the coast. The water in the creek was quite full and I was enjoying myself at this point. After eating another energy bar--my last. I pulled to the front of the line and pulled for a little stretch just before the coast. I stayed ahead and now have caught the south tailwind. The section all the way down to Pt Reyes Station has only gentle rollers, and with the tailwind aiding my effort, I glided south and the miles seemed to have gone away easily.

Just after Marshall I felt pretty hungry. This is kind of a good sign, as it tells me that I am doing OK with electrolyte (as the lack of usually leads to loss of appetite and desire to drink), but I don't have too much food left. I still had 8 miles to ride before I can get some food at Bovine Bakery in Pt Reyes Station. I remembered that I still have the blueberry scone I got in Petaluma. I ate the scone slowly, not wanting to cause any indigestion as I rode. This is such a nice stretch I coasted a few long stretches to look at the Tomales Bay and  some of the marshes.

Esteban caught up with me about 3 miles away from town and we yo-yo'ed all the way into Pt Reyes Station. This was an open control and I headed for my usual destination--bovine bakery--to get a vegan veggie roll. The shop clerk told me that many cyclists showed up today and asked for receipts, and then promptly gave me one. I took care of control business and began to chow down the roll. Jim rolled up at this point and went and got a Pepsi from the supermarket, and told us he had been hankering for one since Marshall. I got a text message from Lee saying that he decided to stop at Point Reyes Station. Jim, Esteban and I all thought that it was a bit of a shame as we were relatively close to finish, and Jim and I both thought that if Lee had more familiarity with the route he might have opted to finish. I left them for a while to get some energy food at Black Mountain Cycles and get my chain lubed up a little. I have read Mike's blog on and off and it was good that I had a chance to visit today.

(Photo Courtesy of E. del Rio)
Lee showed up shortly before we were heading out and said that He had call his wife to come and pick him up. The three of us headed out of town toward Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road. We rode at a decent pace past the Nicasio Reservois, which was spilling its overflow. We still rode in a group on Nicasio Valley Road when I felt some sign of bonking. I wasn't able to stay with Jim and Esteban as they pulled away. Soon Nathan and Tom rode by behind two others on the brevet. My legs felt heavy and I didn't have any power. Just before entering the woods, I saw Jim at the side of the road eating. He said that he also was fading a bit. He pulled ahead of me again on the climb before Sir Francis Drake. I struggled up the hill and the dragged myself up Whites Hill.

After rolling downhill I stopped in Fairfax to call home and sucked on a couple packs of energy gel. The 5 or so minutes off the bike and the food seemed to have helped. With no one to ride with but feeling of a second wind, I rode at a comfortable but brisk pace through the hamlets. I was even able to maintain a good clip up Camino Alto. At this point I have the cateye small LED front light and the Dinotte 200 LED front light on. Toward the summit I saw Jim and Esteban standing on the shoulder. Jim apparently also bonked a little and had to get some donuts and drink a can of Ensure. I was grateful that they waited for me, as the last miles back to the city in the dark can be a little lonely and discouraging, especially if I had to ride by myself.

We got back to the bridge pretty quickly, and crossed it on the east side sidewalk. Jim had to push a button to open the gate on both side of the bridge. Soon, we were back at the starting point and handed over our brevet card and receipts to the wonderful volunteers and Rob there. After resting some and drank a can of soda. I headed for BART station and got home at around 8:30pm. The total time for my brevet today was 12:15; my total mileage was 134 miles, including riding from and to bus/BART station. Even though on the group list people felt that this route is slightly easier than the lighthouse route, the wind and the wet weather early clearly took their tolls, as I took one more hour than 2 weeks ago to finish, even though strangely I felt fresher at the end than I did two weeks ago.

Reflections on Gear, Bike, and Food
I took the Kogswell today, and it performed well. I think the frameset, tires, and the hubs are slightly heavier than the corresponding parts on the Ebisu. I also took an extra saddlebag as the front boxy bag--VO Campagne--is smaller than the Inujirushi bag on the Ebisu. I put my rain jacket in the saddle bag but actually next took it out. In hindsight I probably could have done without the saddle bag. When I rode out of the saddle and holding onto the drop--an option afforded by the shallow drop of the on-one midge and the tall headtube on the Kogswell--my knees would knock on the handlebar. This doesn't seem to happen on the Ebisu. The Hetres on the ebisu is noticeably better than the Fatty Rumpkins on the Kogswell. The slower tire might have something to do with my longer event time today, but I suspect that was not the main reason.

The fit on my Ebisu is just about perfect. I did not feel any noticeable physical discomfort on the 200k 2 weeks ago, even though I didn't wear padded shorts. I have a different handlebar--on-one midge--from the Jitensha Randonneur bar on the Ebisu. Overall I felt OK, with only light amount shoulder numbness toward the end of the ride. I actually like the MKS touring pedals with my addidas running shoes. I think the combo of crank brothers clipless pedals and shimano mountain bike shoes work fine on my Ebisu, too, but MKS half-clip with touring pedals are hard to beat.

The Dinotte LED headlight worked really well this time. Maybe the last two times when I used them, the batteries weren't charged fully, so the light crapped out quickly. I will give it another chance to prove itself. But I am thinking about putting on my SON wheel and B&M Cyo anyway.

I brought 3 energy bar, 3 packs of energy gel, and 5 more in a flask. I also brought perpetuem energy drink powers. In total, I brought almost 2000 calories of energy food, and I bought 450 calories more worth of gel in Pt Reyes Station on the way back, and consumed 2 out of 5 packs. At the end, I still have one serving of perpetuem powder that I didn't use. I should probably have been better to eat more frequently, as I always began to feel the effect of low calories (I usually feel some slight cramping in my legs when that's the case) before frantically trying to take in more. I bought a 12" veggie subway sandwich in Petaluma, and I should probably have bought an additional 6" sandwich as I knew no good option exists in Valley Ford.

My clothing worked well, mostly. I had a merino base layer and merino long tights. I then wore a Fox thin fleece jacket on top of the base layer. I had some wool socks from Rivendell and used a pair of neoprene toe covers from Performance Bikes. The only mistake is the pair of casual knickers I had on. They got wet and stayed wet for a while, and became heavy when soaked. They kept wanting to slide off my body. I would wear something different next time.