Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SRCC Healdsburg - Pt. Reyes 300K 2014 Ride Report

Rolling along Hwy 1 Photo: Sarah Schroer
On April 12, 2014, I participated in the SRCC Healdsburg - Pt. Reyes 300K Brevet, with Sarah Schroer, on the tandem. Sarah and I have done two very successful 200K rides so far this year, and we decided to take the leap and ride a 300K. We had a fast ride to Pt. Reyes, with some excitement along the way, then on the return, we had some difficulty, mostly with the Captain's legs. However, we persevered, and still finished the ride in 10 hours 23 minutes overall time. This may have been a course record if not for our companions, and good friends, Marc Moons, Carl Sanders, and Miguel Sanchez, who finished just a bit in front of us. Also along with this motley crew, were Scott Duncan and Eric LaFranchi. The support from Bob Redmond and his staff of volunteers was superb. And the weather and winds were kind. Here's how it went down:

The group assembles at Scott Duncan's work place in Healdsburg (Thanks Scott!), we collect our brevet cards as usual from Bill and Evelyn Ellis. Bob Redmond gives a few instructions, and we're off at 6 A.M. sharp. I choose to use only a minimal lightweight headlamp, and this turns out to be a questionable decision. I figure it will be dark for maybe 15 minutes, but due to the somewhat heavy overcast layer, we have close to an hour of riding before it is really light. This is a concern, especially on the tandem, when roads are in bad shape. A big pothole can cause a pinch flat, which isn't a good way to start the day.

We stay with the group and follow behind those with bright lights. The pace is modest, but fine for the early miles. After about an hour of riding, it's sufficiently light, so Sarah and I roll to the front and begin to tow the group of about 35 riders along. While we increase the pace, I feel that we'll keep it mellow enough so that the majority of riders can stay on for the first 30 or so miles out to the coast. Give 'em a good tow, as they say! On West Dry Creek, I look back and am shocked to see that we've gapped the group, except for Marc Moons, Carl Sanders, Miguel Sanchez, Scott Duncan, and Eric LaFranchi, a.k.a."The Usual Suspects."

The "Usual Suspects" follow the McKenzie/Schroer Tandem Photo: Sarah Schroer
We converse about the weather, and Sarah announces she feels the overcast will burn off by the time we get to Guerneville. I say something about liking her optimism. We are later to learn she is right, however it is the second time through Guerneville, on the return, that it is sunny! Sarah has a new Smart Phone, so we decide she'll take a few photos to document the day. She's having fun playing with the camera and getting shots of the group.

As we roll toward the coast on Hwy 116 something very interesting happens. A 4WD pickup passes, and a fellow in full Camo Outfit, leans far out the window, torso fully out of the vehicle, while his driver slows down, this Gent calmly gives us a thoughtful dissertation on why bicycles ought not to be on the road. It creates a danger, he says, and cyclists always seem to choose the busiest roads, etc. etc. When he is done, he punctuates his monologue with an emphatic middle finger international salute. The truck then speeds off.

We're all flabbergasted! What just happened? Usually it's just a few four letter words followed by the finger. But this guy felt he had to explain himself. We all decided to give him a little credit for at least fully letting us know why we were about to receive the finger. We also theorize that perhaps they'd had a bit of difficulty passing the larger group behind us and we were then the victims of that frustration.

Rolling down the coast past Goat Rock, the views are incredible. While it is overcast above, we can still see the water, the rocks, the sand, the surf, the sweeping curves, and everything else that makes this stretch of road so incredible to ride. The traffic is light as it is still early. I truly love this stretch of road, in either direction.

We roll into Bodega at mile 50 just a few ticks after 8:30 AM. We stop and take care of business, a little food and water, receipts, bathroom stop, etc. After maybe 10 minutes, we are on our way, our group still together, the tandem towing the rest of the crew along.

The group at the control in Bodega Bay
Later, down the coast, we have a harrowing incident. A box truck passes us, then suddenly cuts off the tandem at the front of the group. Sarah and I are maybe a foot from the white line, there is no shoulder. As the van cuts us off there is nowhere to go. Just as the van is about to hit us, I make a violent correction to the right. I remember going on instinct, looking down at the front wheel, and the white line, while watching the van with my peripheral vision. I place the front wheel literally 1" from the edge of the jagged pavement while the van brushes my shoulder. I see we have bushes on the right, and should the van bump us off the road, that's where we'll go. I have an escape plan, and we'll eject if we have to. I know if that happens, it'll be a soft landing, but it'll be a crash, and we'll have at least a few twig scratches. So I elect to thread the needle and keep the bike upright. The coolest thing about this incident, is that Sarah is perfectly composed. She is silent, just stays with the bike, stays balanced, and within a couple of heart beats, it is over, and the box truck is gone. Phew, we made it. We're not sure if this was an intentional move. More likely, it was a car coming the other way, and the van realized it was either a head on with the car, or run the cyclists off the road. He chose the latter.

Looking across the Lagoon near Pt. Reyes. Photo: Sarah Schroer
The group's enthusiasm is in no way diminished by this incident and we roll through Pt. Reyes Station, still making good time. I mention to Sarah that this may be the first time I have ever ridden right past the Bovine Bakery without stopping! We then head out toward South Beach and the views are splendid. The overcast skies create such nice saturated colors. The road is rough here and there, but traffic is light - a worthwhile compromise. We roll into the lunch stop and Bob Redmond and Jean Martin have a wonderful feast set up for us. Sandwiches, fruit, veggies, chips, pretzels, Cokes, V8, Hammer Nutrition drinks... everything! Incredible! Is this really a Brevet? And even chairs to sit on! Truly amazing, and we all take some time to settle in and enjoy this stop! Thanks Bob and Jean!

Bob Redmond and Jean Martin at the Lunch Stop. Photo: Sarah Schroer

Scott Duncan and Carl Sanders enjoy a civilized "sit down" lunch. Photo: Sarah Schroer
Eric LaFranchi and Sarah Schroer fuel up while Bob and Jean look on. Photo: Paul McKenzie
After a bit we start to get a little cold and decide to head out. After towing the group for most of the 100 miles to the lunch stop, Sarah and I are feeling a bit fatigued. I realize I am not fully recovered from the previous Sunday's Nifty Ten Fifty. We struggle a bit and fall behind Marc, Carl, and Miguel. Eric dabbles with chasing the group ahead, while Scott stays with us. A highlight of our day is seeing Bill and Evelyn on their Red Tandem, rolling out toward the lunch stop as we returned. They are doing a shorter route out and back to the lunch stop from Pt. Reyes after checking everyone in at the start.

We also see the next group of riders on the way to the Lunch Stop. Near the front is Lisa McPhate, and I give her a loud cheer, as I'm delighted to see her riding near the front of the next group behind us! Out 'n Backs are fun because we get to see the outbound riders as we begin our inbound leg.

Marc and Carl end up drifting ahead quite a bit, but then decide to ease up and wait for us. When we catch, Marc asks, meaning no harm, "Did you guys have a mechanical or something?" "No." I say, "This is just about as fast as we can go!" I have much respect for Marc Moons. A very strong rider but always willing to wait and help. Same with Carl.

Marc, Carl, and Eric make a gallant effort to try to tow the tandem along, but it's nearly impossible for single bikes to tow a tandem along the type of rollers we find on the coast. It's a dark time for me. I feel I have no power, legs are done. When I push hard to make it over the tops of the roller climbs, the legs just scream in pain. I try the Jens Voigt "Shut Up Legs!" routine, but that doesn't seem to work. I let out some grunts and groans of displeasure and frustration, which I later find may have been misinterpreted by my stoker!

We are slow as molasses up the climbs. I feel like I don't remember them being this big on the outbound. Rollers aren't rollers anymore. Bob Redmond warned us about the climbing on this ride:

"...we would hate to classify the ride along the Pacific coast and out to the Lighthouse as just rollers. Maximum elevation is only 500', but it adds up." 

These words turn out to be prophetic, as the tally from doing "rollers" all day is in excess of 9,000'. Bill Ellis refers to this type of terrain as "Above Category Rollers."

My feet are killing me from "hot foot". Sarah and I are both silent. All I want to do is make it to Diekmann's Bay Store at mile 150 and get off the bike for a bit, massage my feet, stretch, drink a Coke, and eat something.

Sarah tops of liquids at the Control. Photo: Paul McKenzie
It seems like forever, but we finally make it there and the break feels just great! Back on the bike I feel rejuvenated. The coastal views on the return are just as spectacular as the sun breaks through, although harder to enjoy with the increased afternoon traffic.

Marc, Carl, and Miguel drift off the front, while Scott and Eric elect to stay with the Mother Ship. We roll up the coast, and I'm now feeling a bit better, while Sarah continues to ride strong. I figure once we get to Goat Rock, it's pretty easy going to the finish.

After Goat Rock we descend toward Jenner, then up and over the small climb on Hwy 116. After that we have good speed along the Russian River. I figure with a good effort, we may be able to close down on the leaders. I fancy Carl and Marc will likely drop Miguel and perhaps we can at least bring Miguel back onto our sight. We pedal the final miles and all of us are ready for this 300K to be over.

Marc and Carl finish in 10:14, Miguel is about 10:20, and the McKenze/Schroer team, along with Scott Duncan and Eric LaFranchi finish in 10:23. I believe these are the fastest times ever for this course. This is due to great team work and cooperation within the group of good friends, enjoying the ride while moving along efficiently. Sarah again rode brilliantly, a great tandem stoker, and she has also adapted well to the duty of getting some good photos so that we can provide a proper ride report!

At the finish Richard Anderson checks us in with a most friendly manner. Following that Bridgette DeShields and Bonnie Hogue serve us up a great meal, while snacks are available on the tables. I remember being kind of delirious, standing there with my plate, and not knowing what to do. Bonnie kindly suggests I pick up the serving utensil and help myself. I do, and she helps me construct a plate of great food. 

Richard Anderson checks in a rider at the finish while Bob Redmond looks on. Photo: Paul McKenzie
We hang around for a couple of hours, cheering in the other finishers, and just generally enjoy the company of this great group of hearty, spirited cyclists. There is great energy in the room.

Thanks to Bob Redmond, Bill and Evelyn Ellis, Richard Anderson, Scott Duncan, Bridgette DeShields, Bonnie Hogue, Jean Martin, the SRCC, and all the riders who made this a great day.