The Ohio Randonneurs 1000K was this past weekend, with a start at 0500 Saturday and the riders permitted until 0800 Tuesday to finish. Ten of us started the 1000K (others were riding concurrent 600s and 400s), including 4 riders from Maryland (two of whom were on a tandem!). Nine finished; an outstanding rate for such a tough course. We had to deal with almost 29,000 feet of climbing (measured by GPS) although the weather was spectacular -- sunny, dry days for the weekend followed by a cool, overcast Monday with some rain. One rainy day out of three is real nice weather in this part of the world.
This would be my second-longest ride ever. I rode a 1200K last year but I raced it. This would be a totally different experience. The course was three loops -- a 400K followed by 2, 300Ks -- that all returned to the starting location. No bad drop. No SAG. But you could easily ride it as a three-day ride, sleeping two nights at the start/finish, and carry minimal gear on the route. This was the plan.
It was one of those rides where the plan actually works out perfectly. I rode predominantly with three other folks at a conservative (for us) pace. We finished the 400K at 2250 which permitted 4 hours of sleep and a Waffle House breakfast before setting out Sunday AM at 0600. The first 300K was completed by 2048, which permitted a Chipotle dinner, six hours of sleep, and another Waffle House breakfast before an 0600 start on Monday. The final 300K got done by 1914 (it was flatter than the first one!), which meant a good night's sleep before work on Tuesday. It also meant a 62:14 finish time, which I was very happy with for only my second ride over 400 miles.
The route was epic -- the three loops pretty much toured all of southern Ohio, which is very rural, hilly, and has good, lightly traveled roads. We had to deal with one bridge that was unexpectedly out (the vote was to walk the I-beams over the 20-foot drop rather than add considerable distance finding a more sane route across) and some of the roads had recently been chip sealed, but otherwise the course was great. Saw too many deer to count, two wild boar, a heron, and a good-sized hawk. Also saw a juvenile opossum that unfortunately dashed under my front wheel for some suicidal reason. I didn't go down, but I fear the opossum didn't fare so well. Southern Ohio is a haven for dogs (although it's not Kentucky!), but surprisingly we had few that were interested in chasing us. The ride visited numerous state parks, traveled ridges, meandered along rivers, creeks, and through fields filled with a record soy and corn harvest. It climbed some very difficult hills, including two monsters with pitches over 20%. It had some fast down-hills (I'm a tentative descender and I still hit 48mph!).
As for the lessons.... What made the ride so successful was the pacing. I'd ridden brevets very conservatively all year with the result being that I'd had a lot of fun, got to meet more people, and felt great after the ride. I'd hammered on the 1200K last year to break 65 hours and although I was very pleased with the result, it took a solid month to recover fully from the experience. This time I finished on Monday night and felt well enough to ride competitively with the "A" group at the local club ride Thursday night.
Also, until this ride, I'd though it impossible to have negative splits (faster at the end than at the start) in a multi-day event. This ride really proved that wrong. The last 300K of the brevet was by far the fastest and the strongest and I was able to ride the last 50 miles of the 1000K in 2:20 -- a whopping 21.4mph average! And that was without drafting. And with a calm wind. By comparison, on last year's 1200K, I couldn't ride more than 12mph for the last few hours of the ride on completely flat terrain. I'd burned up all my matches already. Does sleep make a difference? I imagine so, but I had only 1 hour more of sleep on the 1000K than on the 1200K. I think the real difference was going out at a pace that I could maintain forever. Part of that was never drafting. I rode beside folks or behind them enough that I was out of the draft. I'm thinking that riding my own ride completely forced me to focus on pace a lot more than when I'm contributing to a common pace that's usually more aggressive than that which I can sustain entirely on my own.
This 1000K really has my rethinking how to do long-distance races -- at least those 24 hours and longer. I'd always gone out hard, expecting to slow down, whereupon I'd rely on the cushion I'd built up, determination, and prayer to hang on until the finish. I think there's still a place for going and blowing it out in 12-hour and double century events. They're relatively short. And I doubt you'll win a 24-hour event that permits drafting without drafting. But for riding the Tejas 500 next month, I'm thinking of drawing on my experience with randonneuring this year, especially on the 1000K, and going out at 17-18mph, rather than trying to ride sub 5-hour centuries for as long as I can. I think I'll have more fun, be less destroyed at the end of the ride, and will be more likely to achieve my goal.
We have a 200K and a 300K left in October and that's the end of the randonneuring season. I'm already looking forward to France!