Sunday, April 19, 2015

The 300k Brevet

The plan:
Simply put...get up at 4:45am, Wait for my friend to drive us 20 miles straight east out of town, then at 6:00am ride our bicycles 97 miles from his parked car, and back to his car (194 miles).

I've ridden many "Century" rides (100+ miles) before, but never more than 130 miles. anymore Century rides are generally not about competition, but about adventure (This reminds me to remember "The Drop Ride"). They are about experiencing landscapes during different phases of a day. A "Century" ride takes me between 5 to 7 hours to ride. Last August some friends and I rode 104 miles in a little over 6 hours. While 6 hours is a long time to ride a bicycle, it's not long enough to experience all phases of the day. So the reasoning for something longer.

"Let me enlighten you, this is the way I pray
Living just isn't hard enough, burn me alive inside
Living my life's not hard enough, take everything away"
- Disturbed, Prayer

I've been aware of the Brevet series since the late 80's, but I have never participated in one. A Brevet is one of a series of qualifying rides for another ride in France called Paris-Brest-Paris (1200 kilometers / 745 miles) . To qualify, you need to complete a series Brevets with distances of 200 km (124 miles), 300 km (186 miles), 400 km (248 miles) and 600 km (373 miles) in one year. There are also 1000 km and 1200 km Brevets. Brevets are not races, but they do have check points that have to be completed by certain times. Unlike other organized rides/tours, Brevets are unsupported. That means you are responsible for everything to make the distance. The organizers are not going to help you out unless something serious happens. It's a cross between racing and touring so to speak.

People who participate in Brevets are regarded as "Randonneurs". The time limits really add an important element that makes a "Bike Rider" a "Randonneur". A Randonneur has to manage rest stops, food stops, clothes, parts, and tools based on experience so the ride is seamless and consistent. Knowing when to stick to a plan, and when not to stick to a plan. It's this element that can cost you hours of time on the road. 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there can add up quick as I found out.
I planned the ride breaking down the route into 7 sections varying between 24 and 31 miles. I've had two rides over 12 miles this year, 28 miles and 36 miles. So I'm relying on experience rather than fitness to make it the distance. Right now I know I feel pretty good after 36 miles and it works it's way naturally into the schedule.


A 17 Mph effort with 7 x 15minute breaks turns out to be 12 hr, 24 min; or really 15.6 Mph start to finish, or as I say, "Close the car door to open the car door".

If you notice I didn't make the halfway point a "Stop". If I was in better shape, I might have skipped a stop in Glasgow, going from Marshall to Fayette 38 miles. I'll still probably stop in Fayette for a while, standing around and saying, "Why did I ride 97 miles from my car"?

Don't fix it if it's not broken! This goes for both the bicycle as well as the body. It's a bad idea to experiment on rides that can leave you stranded 100 miles from your car. If you need new parts, its a good idea to do it a week or long enough to get in a few rides in making sure anything new doesn't need re-adjustment. The only thing you should have to do the morning before the ride is oil the chain and air the tires.

Speaking of tires, it's also a good idea to give them a once over to make sure they don't have holes and cuts. It usually takes a while to get a flat on a new set of tires, but after the tires wear, and you get that first flat, they seem to come on at an exponential rate. My tires are rated for 120psi, but for this ride I'll run 95psi in the front and 100psi in the rear. Sure they may have a little more rolling resistance, but the added tire compliance and comfort over the long should prove better.

In the week leading up to the ride I made sure I was eating regularly and staying hydrated. I didn't do anything extra. You don't want to start the ride become a constant search for "Facilities". Plan to eat 300 calories an hour. You might burn 1000 calories on hour, but "They" say you can only digest 300 calories an hour. The motto is, "Drink before you are thirsty, Eat before you are hungry".

My friend picked me up on time at 4:45am and we went to the Corner Café to fuel up for the ride. I always choose biscuits and gravy with hash browns. That combination makes me feel solid on the ride, so I can get into the rhythm of the ride. Start off with a good base because everything after is maintenance.

"Where you are going, you’re not coming back from".
- The Thin Red Line, Private Dale

Part 1: Oak Grove - Higginsville, 28/28
The start temperature was 48 degrees with predicted highs in the 70's. Since the temperatures were not going to vary much (very lucky this time of year), my plan was to wear shorts, short sleeve jersey, wind vest, with arm and leg warmers. When I get hot, I'll take off the arm and leg warmers, then roll them up in the vest and put it my jersey pocket. Most people ...errrrr a "Randonneurs "will be using a rack and bags (Panniers) to store extra clothes in instead of over stuffing their jersey pockets. Panniers are better in 2 ways. You can store more stuff, plus it's better to carry/hang weight on your bicycle, than on your body. I was still a little uncomfortable so I experimented with a wind breaker that lead to us starting about 5 minutes late. I ditched the wind breaker because it would take up too much room, and I forgot to put back on my vest, so I ended up being colder than my original plan. But it only lasted 3 miles as things warmed up real well on the hills of D Highway.

Most of the time of this part is spent on FF or also known as Truman Road. Who knew Truman road went from Bartle Hall to Higginsville (About 50 miles)? It's a nice little stroll. At this time of day were pretty much had the road to ourselves. I think we got passed by 2 cars.

We reached the first checkpoint in Higginsville and got the news of a detour going from Glasgow to Fayette. We will continue on 240 then go south on 5 to Fayette. This will add about 3 miles or 6 miles to the 194 miles to make it 200. Not that we mind because my friend and I had talked about going another 6 miles to make it 200.

Part 2: Higginsville to Marshall, 31/59
A little jog East, then a little jog North to Corder, then East to Marshall. If you want a car to fix up into a hotrod, Corder is your town. I should have taken pictures. This is also where you get on Hiway 20, For some reason this leg seemed to last forever. I'm not sure what I was anxious about in those early hours.

Also take note there is a Convenience store 5 miles east of Corder on 20 highway and 23 just outside Alma. (Foreshadowing)

Part 3: Marshall to Glasgow, 26/85
About 13 miles away from Marshall is Slater. When we reached Slater we caught some other riders. (Commuter Dude) made it a stop, so we made it a stop. I didn't consider it, but maybe next year we will work it in the rotation. It's an unplanned stop, but at 72 miles out, with 128 left it seemed like a good idea to top off the fuel tanks again just 13 miles out of Marshall. Slater is also the home town of Steve McQueen. I didn't see any celebration of that fact.

"I'm about challenging people. Like, properly challenging them and their assumptions".
- Steve McQueen

Going from Slater to Glasgow the ride is spent on 240. On 240 they put rumble strips on the white line/ shoulder. So you have to make a choice. to ride to the left of the white line taking up space in the car lane, or to the right on the shoulder that could vary between 12 inches wide to 1 inch in some places. I will say if you chose to ride to the right, 98% of it is about 8 inches wide. You just can't really work a pace line.

"Pay no mind to the battles you've won
It'll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands my son
Or you'll never make it over the river"
- Puscifer, Humbling River

The highlight of this section is that highway 240 will go over the Missouri River. There is always something exciting about big bridge river crossings, specially when they cross into a town. Glasgow looks like a great place to spend a day looking around.

Unfortunately this isn't going to be one. We didn't stop as planned because we had just stopped 13 miles ago after stopping 13 miles after the stop before with just 15 miles to go to Fayette. At 85 miles we have gotten into the pace of the ride. The biscuits and gravy I ate at the start has been burnt through and I'm now on the familiar robotic process of eating when I start to feel like I'm slowing down, but not hungry; and drinking before I get thirsty. You can't teach this, it comes from experience. Keeping this balance is the key to making it long distances.

Part 4: Glasgow to Fayette to Glasgow, 24/109
This is where the detour begins. I don't have a map, but I've got an idea of where to go. I stopped to take pictures once we reached Fayette, and my friend continued on to the stop/Control #3. I missed the fork where 5 separates from 240 and continued on 240 south out of town looking for Davis street. For some reason I missed the street sign, but luckily I saw it (Davis) going back into town and took Davis to Church. This cost us a little bit of time. A mistake caused by fatigue, or just an honest mistake?

looking at my computer with 99.9 miles on it, "What have I done?" I'm tired, We are running late because we took too many "stops", and because the wind was coming out of the South East...mostly from the East. I know it wasn't 99.9 miles of headwind, but at the time (tired and sun beaten) it's hard to distinguish the difference. However there is encouragement knowing I will have the wind at my back soon. Since this is an out and back route, I know exactly what the ride back is going to be like. It's a real flat ride, any hills can easily ridden seated, except for the last 8 miles on D highway. 

"You see things in life and you’re a bit surprised what you see
 Life, your whole life, is changes
 You go through changes in your life
 One second you’ve got it made
 Next second you’re down in the dumps
 And it goes back and forth
 Throughout your whole life
 One second you’ve got the most beautiful girl in the world
 Next second you don’t even have a girlfriend no more
 And it goes back and forth
 And back and forth, you know
 And this is life man, it’s changes
 This is what you gotta go through throughout your whole lifetime"
 - Robert Alan Weiser

With the wind at out back, we are now moving at 24 to 26 Mph. It's a lot better than the demoralizing pace 15 to 18 Mph we had been facing. It was a lifting experience. In fact so much I had to settle myself down. From experience I know right before I "Bonk", I feel my best...powerful...explosive. With just over 90 miles to go, this is a long way from home to test if I'm going to start cramping up. Just settle down and embrace what is the essence cycling.

"So whistle as the wind blows
Whistle as the wind blows with me
If the wind were colors
And if the air could speak
Then whistle as the wind blows
Whistle as the wind blows"
- REM, Wendell Gee

We decided we would stop in Glasgow and fill the water bottles. I'm going through the water fast (about 1/2 a bottle left). We went under the bridge, but there was not a convenience store obvious to us, so we decided skip it for sake of time because Slater is just down the road.
There is also a place in Glasgow called "The Rolling Pin", a lot of the riders stop there for what they consider the best cinnamon rolls anywhere. We didn't know where it was, so we didn't bother looking for it, but maybe next year.

Part 5: Glasgow to Marshall 26/135
Back to Slater. Otherwise know as the unplanned stop. With 126 miles down I'm into unknown territory.

"I learned that life is a long and difficult road, but you have to keep going, or you'll fall by the wayside".
- Steve McQueen

Oh how things change (..."and it goes back and forth"). Highway O goes Southeast from Slater. The sun has gone by over head and setting in the West, and the wind changed direction and is now coming from the South/Southwest. Back to 15-17Mph averages.

Part 6: Marshall to Higginsville 31/166
Higginsville is the 3rd checkpoint on the ride. It's also just 28 miles to the finish. For some reason there is a feeling that if we can make it to Higginsville, then we got the ride in the bag.
At this point we have settled into "our" pace. It's basically the same pace we settled into 80 miles ago. We could ride faster, and riding slower seems to be more annoying than riding faster...(Yea make sense of that).

"Historically, cycling is a hard guys sport."
-Steve Tilford

We caught a rider and he wanted to just wanted to ride behind in the slip stream as long as he could. He had done several 600k rides...600k!. He said his fastest was right around 30 hours. This ride is a 300k. It would be hard to get back to the start, then go back out for another 300k lap. It's one thing to read about it in your chair, but quite another to hear it in the moment after riding 150 miles with 50 to go. I remember looking at him thinking, "He's not like us, we are passing him, but he is so far ahead of us". He was a "Randonneur", we were simply "Cyclists". let's also not forget I'm doing this in almost perfect weather conditions, not 30 degree temperatures, driving rains, winds or snow.

"The Edge...There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others-the living-are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still Out there.”
- Hunter S Thompson

It's about this time I think the mental fatigue starts to set in, as the sun sets. You have to make good decisions, it's not a good time to gamble as I typically do...but I did anyway. For some reason 12 miles from Higginsville I find myself without food, or water; and I'm starting to feel it...a little. I'm not hungry yet, or thirsty, but I could get that way quick.  What I don't realize is I have a Cliff bar in my jersey pocket, and a 1/2 bottle of Gatorade. I don't know why I can't feel the Cliff bar in my jersey pocket, and I don't see the Gatorade because I switched from Lime and Orange to frost which is the same color as the bottle. Normally I would have grabbed a bottle trying to squeeze every last drop, but not at this late hour. If I don't see it, it must not be in there. Also about this time we past that convenience store that is just outside Alma on 20. We can't really tell if it's open because the store front is facing West the direction we are riding. Rather than investigate, I just carried on. Also we past a coke machine in Corder. Didn't stop there either.

Luckily I didn't get punished for my indiscretions, but If the weather was colder, or raining I would have. The cold weather makes your body burn more calories than usual. I made it to Higginsville and stuffed myself for the final 28 miles. I think I had 3 pieces of Casey's pizza and two bottle of water, and topped off the bottles on my bike. I'm not sure what's wrong with pizza on bike rides, but I always get looks when I do. Like biscuits and gravy it makes me feel solid.
The directions are simple now. FF/Truman Road to South on D to bates, then West on Old 40 to Oak Grove.

Part 7: Higginsville to Oak Grove 28/194

"Breathe deeply
Breathe in the healing love of the universe
And breathe out the sickness which has taken you
I am with you
It's easy, it's like breathing
It's like a heartbeat, it's easy"
- Dj Shadow "Blood On the Motorway",  Mark Zimmerman, Josh Paul

I have to agree with Commuter dude when he says the ride down FF at night is "Magical". The sun has set long ago. There is no wind. There are no street lights. You are simply riding through a prairie at night. The only sounds are those of the bikes. It's pretty close to riding in the middle of nowhere. The only thing to do is look out for Highway D going south. Like I said FF is Truman road. This road will take us to Bartle Hall if we don't watch it.

Found D going south and proved to be the stinger in the tail. I call them choppy hills, they are just short steep hills, or at least steeper than the last 192 miles of hills.

The finish going down Old 40 to the finish was bitter sweet. I like riding at night, and this night was a good night to ride, but I've been on the bike for 16-1/2 hours and I'm kinda ready to get off of it.

We made it back in really good shape. With detour we ended with 200 miles on the dot. I had 12hr, 49min time on the bike, and 16hr, 34min total. Leaving 3hr, 45min of rest time during the ride. We were overly cautious, but for the first time I think it's better than the consequences. Now I have a bench mark, something to improve from. I feel a lot better than I imagined. Too bad it's a year till the next one. I'd like to run this course in the fall, after I get some miles in. I'd like to get to where I'm riding 60 miles in about 3 hours and feeling good at the finish. I think that would be a good level of fitness to bring to the 300k.


Keith G said...

Great write-up! I'm still waiting for some free time to finish my report... and the one from the ride before that... little behind? LOL. Excellent pace and time - though, I know its all relative, its humbling to know we finished nearly 3 hours adrift of your time. Reminds me to get training! Hope to see you on the road again - also, if you want to do this in the Fall, contact Spencer K. - I believe this is available to ride as a RUSA permanent (see their webpage for details); if you're a RUSA member, you can schedule this for some random weekend in October, or late September. Also, maybe the construction on "AA" will be done, and you can see the hills we missed because of the detour. He,he... fun!

dmar836 said...

Pizza is great! Just stay clear of those Casey's potato poppers or whatever Keith eats!