I done it
Yesterday I finished a RUSA 200k with the closet rando club to my area. It`s been quite a roller coaster leading up to the event. To begin with, I was really excited about the whole idea when I sent in my RUSA membership and registration for the brevet. Then things started to fall apart. First, my resolve to keep myself in shape through the winter went out the window about the end of Oct when the temps dropped and the overtime season hit at work- I kept riding to work and back, but that was all. Then I started getting antsy because the club hadn`t cashed my check, and a number of emails to the club and the administrator went unanswered. Finally, the week before Christmas, I came down with a nasty flu and the mid range forecast looked like doo-doo. Called for rain most every day down where the event was scheduled and probably have to chain up for the drive there and back. A few days before Christmas, I had decided for sure to just skip the whole thing.
Well... I think it was Christmas Eve when I got an email confirming that they had my registration stuff and all was hunky dory there, then I started feeling a little better, and the day after Christmas I was able to ride to work without going into a coughing spasm (that`s always good!) And then a window of nice weather opened up in the forecast, so the show was back on!
But the roller coaster wasn`t over. The ride was only about a three hour drive from me, but the climate there is totally different, and I`d only ridden that area in the summer, so I had no idea how to dress. In the end, I stuffed a big front bag and a rack trunk bag full of anything I might possbily want, rigged a way to manage my cue sheet, and hit the road with an invitation to stay the night before on my cousin`s couch, only 45 minutes from the start point. Somewhere on I-80 I looked over at the pile of crap on the passenger seat and noticed that my helmet wasn`t in there. When I got to Cuz`s house, I unloaded the bike and saw that my headlight had snapped off at the mounting lug and was just dangling by the wires! It had broken about amonth ago when I went down on the ice, but I epoxied it together and thought all was well- guess not Fortunately, I found a bike shop still open (wouldn`t have been able to do that in my town) and bought an extra helmet and a cheapo headlight and blinkie. $90 that I hadn`t planned to spend, but I was still able to do what I went down there for.
There was only one minor catastrophe on ride day, and that was really more funny than catostrophic. The start was at a shopping center that was still closed (early morning) except a supermarket and a coffee shop. I arrived a little before check in was supposed to start, so headed straight to the coffee shop figuring that would be the unofficial hangout until things got going. Had a couple cups of coffee and went to look for the bathroom to "de-coffeenate" myself and found out they didn`t have one available for public use. What the heck kind of coffee shop doesn`t have a bathroom for customers!?! Well, I hated to do it, but I managed to find one in the back room of the supermarket and bought a couple bananas to eat while I was waiting to start.
By then the check in table was up and running and people were milling around yacking and checking out each others bikes. Not as much variety in the bikes as I had expected- quite a few sleek carbon jobbers, an equal number of Riv-esque steel frames with canvas bags, a couple tandems, two SWB recumbents, and my touring bike. Nobody else seemed to be packing as much "just in case" clothes as I was, but it was a really flat route, so no big penalty there. Flooding on the planned route forced a last minute change for about five miles worth, but the new way was actually simpler (though more traffic) than the original, so I was a little relieved.
I have to guess there were about 30 riders, and we all kept together for a lot longer than I had expected. In fact, I stayed at the back of what looked from my perspective to be pretty much everybody all the way through the confusing navigation part and onto the long bike trail that provided about half the total mileage. Around mile 30, I finally had to drop off. It was nice rolling as part of a freight train, but we were moving a bit faster than my natural pace, so I decided it was time to pull the plug on that before I burnt myself out. I rode the rest of that bike trail by myself, then climbed my way up to the turn around on a busy road with pretty scenery and a lot of very patient drivers. It took a while before I started seeing other riders comming back down, so I guess they found a restaurant and hung around there for a full lunch. When I got to that point, there were just three people outside the convenience store that was designated as a receipt control, and they were just about to start back. Since there didn`t seem to be any party going on there, I just bought a bag of chips and left. Saw the last two riders going up about five minutes later, which surprised me because I had thought I was the last one.
About 3:30 PM I passed the point where I had more or less guestimated I`d be when it got dark. That was VERY good because I didn`t have the foggiest idea who long the AA batteries in my new emergency light would last. A bit later I surprised myself by remembering the "exit" where we had gotten on the bikepath. Then it went wacky for a while. Somehow I ended up riding through a homeless camp on a side spur of the trail system, then through a rather extended homeless camp in some kind of warehouse district. It vaguely felt like I should be a few blocks over to my left, but train tracks, fences, and dead ends wouldn`t let me get over that direction. I eventually got myself back on course, and got over to turn where we had come up that morning, only to notice that it was a one way street. Okay, just go to the next block and run parallel. Nope- dead end. It took me a while to get onto the official route beyond that one way street, but after riding a few sidewalks and cutting over the lawn in a park I was done with my adventuring and on the original route, and knew there wouldn`t be any more mixups.
It was time to light myself up by then. The blinkie went on my seat stay and I wasn`t happy with it because my rack struts partially blocked it- very nice (and very dead) tail light on my fender, though. Then the LED light went on my bars, just as nicely as it had when I tried it out the night before. Except I had tried it out without my front bag. The front bag blocked that light. Tried to mount it on my fork, but didn`t trust that, so it went back on my bars- it was going to have to work for the next 20 miles, then I didn`t care. Fortunately, about half of the remaining route had decent street lights. For the unlit places, I just went slow and careful. I`ve liked my CYO since I bought it, but now I have even more appreciation for it. Not much else to say. When we had left, the organizers told us to sign in if somebody was there, or get a receipt and mail it in with our cards and our turn around receipts if nobody was manning the booth. I didn`t expect anybody there, but sure enough I heard a cowbell calling me over when I pulled into the parking lot. I made it in 10:40, so plenty of time to spare, even though I was almost last.
I`m looking forward to a few more, still not sure if it`s for me. Considering yesterday`s route had very little climbing, no rain, and hardly any wind, it really beat me up. The regular season for that club starts in Feb. I`m going to do the next 200 and probably the 300, might volunteer to work one of the longer ones. February gives me a little more time to get myself together, but it`s still going to be rough- Sep or Oct would be much better! I live about 4000 ft higher than all the California clubs, so I`m thinking they have it a bit easier keeping up in the winter. Then again, they have to deal with rain, which I only see once in a blue moon- what a whiner I am!
Post ride thoughts and comments:
I had previously ridden the bike path part of this route (invariably with unplanned detours, but I just blame my stoker), have driven the climby section many times, had no idea about Davis and downtown Sac. Before leaving, I followed the whole route on Google Maps at different zoom levels and made notes on some aspects such as where I`d have to cross mulptiple lanes to get a LT lane, where "turns" were really just following the same obvious road, other oddities, and a few landmarks. A lot of that was for the part that was deleted for flooding, but I`m still really glad I did it.
I think I need to work on my speed, or at least consider it. While I made the cutoff, it was obvious tht most of the other riders were much faster than me. Could come in handy to be able to keep up for longer with a group.
Riding with the group had worried me a little bit, but didn`t present any issues. Some of the people rode glued together, but most were not in race formation type paceline. At least, from what I saw.
My cue sheet holder was very simple but it worked well. I just used a vinyl envelope from an office supply place and clipped it on top of my front bag with those butterfly clips.
The cue sheets that I had so carefully annotated weren`t worth a damn. Well, on the roads they worked okay, but there are no streetsigns on bikepaths. And of course I hadn`t made notes for the parts that appeared the night before the ride. Also, I learned that I can`t read them from my saddle- maybe get a computer guru to set me up with a bigger print copy next time? There was plenty of room to each side of the printed section, so I`m sure it could be made bigger if I knew how to make a printer do that.
As stated, only start and end controls and one turn around control yesterday. Anyway, I can see that I needn`t have worried about them- piece of cake there.
After I dropped off the back of the stampede, I rarely had any contact with other riders in the event. I had read so many ride reports where the people seem to join up and split again, meeting up at this control or that, that I expected a more group type thing. Maybe this was different because it was a short course and not many controls?
Questions for the pros:
Do you keep a map or a cue sheet on top? I kind of think a map would be easier in most cases, but I get the idea that most keep the cues closest at hand.
Can you read your map/cue sheet while riding?
If you often ride MUT systems, any tips for navigating them? With no signs, I got in a lot of bonus meters (not KMs, at least).
Since I finished a RUSA event in 2012, I`ll be eligible for a 2012 200K pin, right? I want the damn pin! How do I know when I can order one?