Monday, March 29, 2010

March Goes Out Like a ...

Some say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. John Belushi claimed that in Honduras "March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a salt marsh harvest mouse." I've never been there, so it could be true.

In Kentucky this Saturday, we finished March with a 300K. March went out like a lamb. This kind of lamb:

Alright, maybe it wasn't that bad. We actually had temperatures in the upper 60's, and it didn't rain on us ... much. And the wind was actually at our backs for a few miles ... sort of. I'm probably just tired from the last five months of crappy weather.

Anyway ...

Jeff Bauer and I drove up that morning, leaving Brentwood at 4:30 am. This means that I had to get up at 3:30 am.

Here's something that nobody should really have to say, out loud: I do not like getting up at 3:30 am. It's kind of like saying, "I don't like hitting my big toe with a ball peen hammer."

Leaving Brentwood at 4:30 paid off, however, in that we made it to the start in time. Actually, we got there before 6 am, so that the only other vehicle at the brevet's starting location was George Hiscox's Volkswagon Vanagon, a wonderful contraption that George drives to most of these brevets. He sleeps in the built-in pop-top camper, and is thus daisy-fresh when starting time rolls around. Jeff and I, on the other hand, could only let the seats back in the RAAMinator and try to catch some extra Zs.

Here's George getting ready to ride, after the sun had finally come up.

Eventually, Jeff and I climbed out of the RAAMinator, unloaded bikes, figured out what we would need for the day, put on more warm clothing, and got ready to ride. Kevin Warren, who designed this route, gave us some last-minute instructions.

Kevin was not riding, of course. He would instead man the Lake Malone control on the return leg. He and Jersey Mike would save my life there.

Although it was only 40 F, the sunshine felt great as we rolled out. At first, I hung with some of the fast guys, including George and Tom Gee. Tom's calves are huge -- think Popeye's forearms. Riding behind him, you can't help but think "I'm not worthy!"

Since I'm not worthy, and because I wanted to ride with Jeff Bauer and Bill Glass, I eased off the pace. Soon, Tennessee RBA Jeff Sammons came up, and we rode together to the first control.

By then, the wind had clarified its intent: It was going to blow pretty steadily at 15 mph out of the SSE. As we were primarily heading ENE, you would think that this would make for a cross-wind all day. Unfortunately, unlike sailing a boat (sigh), when bicycling you have to follow the road or trail (or avoid the trees, if you're mountain-biking). And Kentucky roads meander all over the place.

They also tended to roll up and down a lot, which left us shifting, stomping, cresting, spinning, shifting, cruising, and coasting. Repeat. Forever.

I left the first control with Jeff Bauer and Bill Glass, who was still suffering with a cold. Bill made it about another 25 miles, coughing almost constantly, before he succumbed to the inevitable and turned around. Fortunately, we still have another 300K in Tennessee in July, so Bill should be able to complete his series to get into the Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 pool.

At the second control, Jeff Bauer and I ran into Barry Meade and Jeff Sammons. They were pretty tired of working their way through the wind, too, so we all headed out together to ease the burden in a paceline.

Yeah, so randonneurs aren't always good at riding in a paceline.

Just after the Dunbar control my first leg cramp hit, going up a pretty steep climb. I was able to get the rest of the way up, and then massage it out on the subsequent mini-descent, but the cramps persisted for the next 60 miles. They never forced me to the side of the road, but they were not pleasant (see above big toe + ball peen hammer analogy).

About 10 miles from the turnaround control in Morgantown we saw Jim Finger from Georgia heading back on his recumbent. You really have to admire someone who can do a route with between 13,000 - 14,000 feet of climbing -- much of it horribly steep -- on a 'bent.

Just behind Jim was Chris Quirey, and then George who told us to peace out.

A couple of miles further, Tom told us that we were about to enjoy a one-mile descent (meaning that he had just done a one-mile climb). In the fierce cross-wind, it was still not that much fun.

At the Morgantown control we saw Jon Pasch starting back, followed by Phil Randall. We quickly refilled bottles at the store, grabbed some food, and began the ride back. We were in time to chase a bunch of pheasants off the road.

At the Lake Malone control, Kevin had gotten a room in which he had water, Jersey Mike subs, and other snacks. I lay down on the floor to elevate my legs, and was soon seized by more cramps. I got some Tums from Jeff Bauer, and also drank a bunch of pickle juice. One of these, or the fact that we eased off as evening came, cured me, since the leg cramps never returned.

Right after 6 pm, we were all running low of fluids and stopped at a convenience store in Clifty. They had just closed, but we were able to coax some drinks from the Pepsi machine (the Coke machine just ate Jeff Sammons's money). This served to once again validate one of my maxims of bicycling: Never go more than five miles from home without at least three one-dollar bills.

Since dusk was approaching, we went ahead and put on reflective gear and our lights. Here's Shaun White showing how bright his helmet light is.

Not only was night falling, but the skies were looking ominous. We had hoped that evening would bring lighter winds, but such was not the case, so we continued to work hard in an attempt to beat the rain.

At the Crofton control, we caught up with Phil Randall. By then, it was very dark, so we all rolled out together for the last 24 miles. The rain finally hit us near the Pennyrile Forest State Park, but the evening was not too cold and we only rode in that for about 15 minutes.

The last five miles of the route were flat and, surprisingly, blessed with a tailwind. Smelling the barn, we all put the hammer down and managed to get to the finish before 11 pm.

Of course, Jim Finger had finished almost three hours before us. But randonneuring is not a race (ha-ha), and we were just glad to have finished the ride in time, uninjured, and reasonably dry.

Now I just need to find room in my bag for a jar of pickles.

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