Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring 200k - Lots of lessons learned

The SIR (Seattle International Randonneurs) first 200k brevet was held today, March 14, 2015.  This is the first of 4 qualifying rides for the PBP.  Each rider wanting to ride the PBP must complete a 200k, 300k, 400k and a 600k during the year. This is know as a Super Randonneur series, and merits its own award.

I met my friends Zach Carter and Jennifer Hodgdon at Patty's Eggnest on Northgate for breakfast.  Fortunately they opened a bit early for us and we had great food.  They came over from Spokane,and Zach was going to be riding with me today  Sadly we left the restaurant a bit late, and arrived at the start line with less time than we needed to get checked in and ready to ride so we missed the mass start: (picture credit: Keith Moore)

We got rolling at 7:15, instead of 7:00 and that was one of the delays that would haunt us.

The ride heads uphill and north from the Greenlake Park-N-Ride and then swings down Perkins lane past a bubbling rushing stream, intersecting the Burke Gilman trail.  From there it goes east to Bothell, then north to Snohomish.  There used to be a control (time recording stop) in the bakery there but not this year.  I surmise it might have been a conflict with the "Chocolate walk" that was going on the same day.

We found our way up hill and down hill to Granite Falls, 77km into the 200km ride where we made the  control with about 15 minutes to spare.  Then it was more hills and flats to get to Carnation at 147km and a welcome stop at Sandy's Espresso.  We made that one with 30 minutes to spare, spent 15 minutes there, and then headed out with just 15 minutes "in the bank".  It was just a few blocks when I (Geoff) hit a pothole and got a pinch flat, requiring a tube change and there went our 15 minutes.

From Carnation the ride gets a LOT hillier, including the Issaquah-Fall City road which goes up gently, then steeper, then really kicks in with three lifts separated by short resting flats, only to plunge down to a dip and then you climb back UP again - the first 'summit' is a false summit.  Dang!  But rejoice, now you're on "The Plateau".  Except this plateau is not flat but full of hills!  Three big rollers and climbs brings you to the Highlands shopping center.  We checked our time and now we have just barely enough time to finish.

I had been feeling stronger than Zach, and while I'm riding to qualify for PBP, he is riding to just ride, hang out with me, and provide moral support.

Oh, I forgot to tell you one thing: I had locked my keys in the van at the Park-N-Ride. I knew this when we took off.  I had a spare key at the house which would be just a few minutes off the router later in the day, so when we got to Snohomish, I called Fran and had her put the spare key out so I could grab it any time I could swing by.

And also when we fixed the flat in Carnation my pump would not seal properly due to hardened rubber in the head, and I could only pump up about 30 lbs of air where it should have been 100.  The tire was rideable but soft and out of round so I couldn't go down hills as fast as I would like.

And finally, it was going to be dark soon and my GPS unit needed auxilliary power to turn the backlight on. I had left that at home.

So I had LOTS of reasons to go home, even though it would cost me a precious 15 minutes.

Back to the ride: We are in Issaquah, there is 40km to go, and about 2 1/2 hours to do it.  Minus 15 minutes gives me 2 1/4 hours to do 40 km, which is do-able but tight.  There are still hills a plenty between Issaquah and the ride end.  Zach and I had posted a 17 kph average time, so that's not fast enough to finish.  We had a discussion and agreed that I would go ahead, stop at home to get my van key, batteries, and more air for the tire and try to finish, and Zach would follow at his pace and see if he could finish.

The plan worked for a while. We split up, I rode ahead up the long grade of Newport way, and then went home got the stuff and then back to the route, across the I-90 trail to Mercer Island and then the rest of the I-90 bridge to Seattle, up a steep hill and then north on Lake Washington Blvd.

Here I met another rider who was a bit confused on where to go. I was following my Garmin and said "this way" but then the Garmin led us astray down a big hill.  At the bottom I realized the error and said "gotta go back up" and I did - (turns out I didn't even need to do that!).  I find the route again and  then lose it -- I'm just 5km from the finish but might as well be 100km away - I'm lost and nearly out of time.  I call in and tell the I'm not going to make it and they say 'well if you can find Lake Washington blvd, just get on it and head over here, we still have chili and beer and we'll be here a while."  So I program my phone to take me to my car, and shortly thereafter, the route overlaps the ride route and the Garmin wakes up and leads me to the finish - just a half hour late for the official end time.    But there WAS chili, beer, and friendly faces all around.

Here's a shot of the finish line a bit earlier in the evening (photo credit: Mark Roberts)
My buddy Zach rolled in about 5 minutes later and we sat around for a bit eating chili.  Jennifer had come to the Park N Ride with the car, drove to the finish, loaded us all up with Zach's bike and then dropped me back at the Park N Ride where I retrieved my van, went back and retrieved my bike and then drove home, stopping at the QFC to get some Breyer's vanilla ice cream to top off the evening repast.

Lessons learned:
1. Have a checklist for everything you need and use it before driving away.  Don't leave critical things behind.
2. Double check GPS routes before using them.
3. Do a "virtual ride" on Google Maps street view to familiarize yourself with a route.
4. Get gas for the car the day BEFORE the ride.
5. Make a hard timeline that will get you to the start line 30 minutes beforehand. If there is anything to be done to get ride-ready at that time, add that time to the 30 minutes.
6. Have and use a checklist of things to have in hand before locking the car doors!
7. Day before: check all equipment for functionality. Have a backup for critical things, for example CO2 AND a pump.  Three spare tubes.
8.  Mind the time on the ride and leave a cushion for getting tired or encountering tough conditions near the end.  Don't assume you can maintain early pace late in the ride.

That's it!  300k coming up soon!

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