Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dale Brigham's 1000k Saga!

Posted by Dale Brigham, Columbia (Missouri) Bike Club, RUSA #0772

Day 1 (250 miles) started at 4 a.m. with the big group (36 in total) of 400, 600, and 1000 km brevet riders screaming along the net elevation loss route segment to the Platteville checkpoint. It was like being in a road race. Fellow Columbia (Missouri) Bike Club rando Rod Geisert and I slowed down after that checkpoint to a more sane rando pace, joining up with a few riders in route to the Niwot checkpoint, and then after that stop, heading west and north to the Lefthand Canyon climb up to Ward. I had forgotten how steep the last few kilometers are at the top of that climb. Ouch! After lunch at the Ward checkpoint, we descended from the Peak-to-Peak Highway down to Lyons, stopped there for ice and fluids, and then headed north and climbed up to the Carter Lake checkpoint and on to Horsetooth Reservoir (I had no idea that there were that many boats and pickups in Colorado). After passing by Horsetooth, we descended eastbound, turned north and went through Ft. Collins, and then made a big clockwise loop through Wellington and Johnstown before arriving back at Louisville at about half past 11 p.m. It was hot (temperatures on the plains exceeded 100 degrees F), it was hard, my legs were jello, but all was well.

Day 2 (204 miles) took us up north and east to Ft. Morgan, with the route noodling around in many directions, followed by a fairly direct route back to Louisville that included a stint along the I-76 shoulder and frontage road. My riding buddy, Rod, had a very bad heat-induced episode that threatened to stop him at Ft. Morgan. Rod courageously got back on the bike and miraculously rallied after we were drenched by a cooling rainstorm that hit us soon after leaving that checkpoint, which doubly helped us by morphing into a nice tailwind. After about 50 miles of up-and-down plains and foothills riding, broken up by a checkpoint stop in Hudson, we hit our home port at the Comfort Inn in Louisville around 1 a.m. Having to moderate my pace at times to stay with Rod left me relatively "fresh" that day. And, I was never really bothered by the heat. To me, the low humidity more than offset the high temperatures. I felt as good as I can hope to after over 450 miles in the saddle in two days.

Day 3 (175 miles) took us up north to U.S. 34 and the Big Thompson Canyon climb up to Estes Park, with our new rando friend Mark Gunther of San Francisco leading the way. We encountered a microburst storm at the base of the canyon, which tried to bring us to a dead halt and/or blow us over the guardrails. Fortunately, we rode through the storm until we passed it by, and then it was simply a long, hard slog up to Estes Park. We had a nice lunch stop there in the Safeway parking lot, waited out a brief mountain shower, and then descended via Devil's Gulch Rd. to Glen Haven, rejoining U.S. 34 at Drake. Descending is nice!

On the descent, Rod broke a spoke on his rear wheel (it was a low-spoke count/high tension wheel -- a broken spoke was potentially catastrophic), so we limped on to Masonville, where we had a checkpoint and a support vehicle waiting. (My wife, Jo, and Rod's wife, Susan, could meet us on the route only at designated checkpoints, which is the standard brevet rule.) Being Dr. Contingency, I had a spare set of wheels (Open Pro rims/Ultegra hubs/32 DT spokes) and a bunch of tools and other spare parts in the car. Mark helped me change out the spare wheel's 9-speed cogset to Rod's 10-speed cogset, along with changing the spare wheel's tire to Rod's (my Conti touring tires were too large for his racing-type frame). Working together, we got Rod's bike ready to go. At this time, Rod was very cooked by the mid-afternoon heat, so I rode with him in survival mode on south and east to the Platteville checkpoint while Mark motored on ahead.

We had a great revitalizing dinner at Platteville (Susan bribed a local restaurant into cooking up eggs, hash browns, sausage patties, and pancakes), and then we forged on into the sunset, heading west and south toward the Niwot checkpoint. There was a minor navigation glitch on the route (cue) sheet, so we had to backtrack, which meant lots of cursing (by me) and spirited riding to Niwot, arriving there a bit after 11 p.m. We had a brief refreshment stop there, and then after another 15 miles of lumpy foothill riding, we hit the finish line at the Comfort Inn just a few minutes before 1 a.m., for a total brevet time of 69 hours for 629 miles. Mark had finished about an hour prior to us. The time limit is 75 hours, so we all had a nice safety cushion. We had celebratory beers and chips out on the Comfort Inn portico, and then we headed off to showers and bed.

Lessons Learned (or Reinforced):

1) Motorists in Colorado are generally very good around cyclists, compared to most places in the U.S., and almost every road has at least a foot-wide ridable shoulder or designated bike lane. Folks in the small towns we had as checkpoints were very nice to us. Colorado is a great place to ride a bike.

2) Reliability and toughness in equipment trumps everything to me. My heavy touring tires (Conti Touring Plus) were reassuring on the debris covered highway shoulders. No flats. The index function on my right (rear derailleur) bar-end shifter went away on the morning of Day 2, so I simply changed it to friction shift mode, meaning no down time or repair needed on the route. (I did make lots of noisy mis-shifts until I relearned how to shift by feel, but it was kind of fun to go to "old school" shifting for a change.) Fenders were nice to have during the rain storms. My wheels (32 DT spokes/Open Pro rims/Ultegra hubs) stayed true despite lots of potholes, expansion strip gaps, and other wheel-eating road features. The Surly Pacer was good to me.

3) My recently added small handlebar bag was a revelation on this ride. I previously carried everything in my jersey pockets, but moving my energy bars, billfold-in-a-bag (ziplock bag with meds, ID, money, first aid, and other stuff), brevet card, rain jacket, and reflective clothing into the handlebar bag freed up my jersey pockets for extra water bottles. I carried at least one, but most often two, 24 oz. bottles filled with ice water or Gatorade in my jersey pockets during the hot portions of the day. Those bottles, in addition to two 24 oz. insulated bottles filled with ice and water and carried on the bottle cages on the frame, meant that I had up to 3 quarts of ice-cold fluids to start every segment. That made a big difference in the mid-day and afternoon heat. As a bonus, an ice-cold bottle in the jersey pocket has a nice cooling effect on the lower back.

4) Full-zip jerseys are a must for making restroom stops more convenient. Unzip and take off jersey, hang jersey on restroom door handle or other handy hook, pull down bib straps, drop shorts, and you are off to the races. More restroom stops means happier GI tract. Which means happier randonneur.

5) Checkpoint support can mean the difference between finishing a brevet or not. If not for the spare wheels in our support car, Rod would likely have had to abandon the brevet. Besides that, having Jo and Susan at the checkpoints saved us time and effort, and guaranteed that we started every segment fed, watered, and ready to ride. Finally, the morale boost of having someone on the route who cares if you make it is tremendous. I realize that many randos feel that having support on the route is just not kosher, but I am simply too much of a weenie on the multi-day (1000 and 1200 km) brevets to eschew it. Call me the world's laziest randonneur -- I don't mind. Chapeau to the unsupported riders who completed the brevet. You are tougher than I am.

6) Lanacane is super for taking the sting out of sitting on the saddle. Apply liberally and frequently when troubles below arise.

7) Making new friends during a brevet is the best part of the sport. Meeting and riding with Mark Gunther of San Francisco and Todd LeBlanc of Colorado was well worth the price of admission.

8) Having a rando buddy is priceless. On this ride, I was able to assist Rod. On other rides, he has assisted me. On all rides, we are mutually supportive. Having a dedicated partner on the ride makes it all better.

9) Rocky Mountain Cycling Club is a great outfit, and John Lee Ellis is a top-notch RBA. I would recommend your brevets to anyone. Thank you for welcoming us to your event.

10) I am very lucky to be married to a supportive, energetic, and resourceful wife, who helps me do these crazy rides. Thank you, Jo!

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