|Long shadows, Long bike, Long ride. Photo: Sarah Schroer|
|The Start at the Lighthouse in Santa Cruz, 5:00 AM Sharp|
|Picking up the Brevet card and chatting with the volunteer at the start. Note the reflective vest and ankle bands. Paul goes full Rando! Photo: Sarah Schroer|
|Bill Bryant, SCR RBA, gives excellent instructions just prior to lift off.|
It isn't long before the entire field is shelled off our wheel, save for 3 riders. Over the rollers on Hwy 1, the tandem really flies on the downhills, so if riders are not attentive, and let a small gap form, it's like putting out a parachute, especially in a head wind situation, and there's no getting back. Our climbing pace is modest... we have a long way to go. As expected, we are pushing a 10 mph headwind all the way up the coast.
|All smiles, rolling North on Hwy 1, noses in the wind, at 20 mph, on the big bike, the right tool for the job.|
On our wheel are Peter Morrissey, Carlton Van Leuven, and one other. Carlton is a big, strong lad, riding with aero bars and a flat back. Carlton is an RBA in Phoenix, AZ, with a great deal of experience in long Brevet rides. With his position and power, he can plow through the headwind quite effectively. Carlton is perfectly willing to take some pulls at the front, but then quickly acknowledges how difficult it is in the wind as he takes a turn and gives up the tandem's draft for just a short spell! He asks if we want the help, and we tell him that we do appreciate any contribution, though Sarah wisely tells him to be sure to get the hell out of the way on the downhills, although not with that exact choice of words.
One rider succumbs to the pace, so we're rolling with just Peter and Carlton in tow. We take Gazos Creek and Cloverdale Rd en route to the first Control at Pescadero (mile 33.9). At a Control, we are required to buy something at the store to get a time stamped receipt. We have a somewhat leisurely stop here, taking longer than we should. Peter then rolls out solo, followed by the tandem. Carlton and a few others that arrive as we are leaving, are left behind. We figure they'll catch on the upcoming climbs, but are surprised when they don't.
|Peter Morrissey, a highly accomplished and strong brevet rider, climbs on Old Stage Road near Pescadero, CA.|
|Nice vista on Old Stage Road.|
We make it to the Half Moon Bay Control (mile 61.1) a bit before 9 AM, and are just a few ticks behind our projected time. We then turn around, and head down the coast to Hwy 84, where we climb all the way up to Skylonda (mile 90.1). Peter had complained about a couple of things earlier, and I remind him that he's burned through two of his complaints, so he'd better use the third, and last one, wisely. Then, on Hwy 84, he says something like, "Boy, this climb sure is long." We're like, "Peter, how could you burn your final complaint so early in the ride, with such a trivial matter?" To his credit, he complained no more, despite the fact that there would be much more to complain about down the road!
We gain the summit and bomb back down Hwy 84. We see Carlton on his way up, followed by a fellow that Sarah refers to as, "an older gentleman." I point out he's probably my age, and wonder if Sarah refers to me as "an older gentleman" in conversations where I'm not present. I conclude she probably does, but substitutes something else for "gentleman."
Hwy 84 is a perfect tandem descent. Peter knows he will likely get dropped and kindly tells us to forge ahead if that happens. He does drop off, and we work our way back to Santa Cruz solo, with a glorious tailwind down the coast after revisiting Cloverdale Rd. and Gazos Creek in the reverse direction. We know Peter will be fine in the tailwind, as he'll be just about as fast as the tandem. We've got 139 miles done now, and a good chunk of the climbing is out of the way. We finally feel like we've put a dent in this project.
|Poppies along Cloverdale Rd. Photo: Sarah Schroer|
|Heading South on Hwy 1, a fast run with a tail wind. Photo: Sarah Schroer|
|A nice, long break for lunch and a wardrobe change at mile 139.|
As we are about to leave, Peter rolls up after his brief stop, and we re-group. We head South through town, hitting every red light possible. After a bit, my condition worsens. I ask Sarah how far to the next Control in Marina, and it's still something like 30 miles away. Hmmm, I'm not going to make it. Not to go into too much graphic detail about my stomach problem, but suffice to say, I'm wasting probably an extra 5-10 Watts of precious muscle power just keeping the back door shut tightly.
I can't stand it any longer so we stop at a gas station and I make full use of the rest room facilities in Soquel. We carry on to Marina, but the problem isn't going away. At this point I fear if it gets any worse, our day could be over. Again, I keep it to myself and just keep going, taking care of myself as best I can. In Marina, it's another visit to the rest room. Uggghh. Probably some sort of food poisoning, and not a stomach flu bug fortunately. The problem continues to plague me — I'm really not sure I can continue...
|Cruising the farm land on Molera Rd. Peter Morrissey in front.|
|Rolling along Metz Rd. near King City, in the early evening light.|
|All smiles as we roll into King City. Time to get off the bike and enjoy a nice sit down dinner.|
We see Peter on the return leg, and realize we are not that far behind him. He's certainly slowed a bit as he goes into night mode, and plugs away at a comfort pace. We arrive in San Ardo, a tiny oil/cattle town. Of course nothing is open. It's 9:50 PM. Most riders will arrive at San Ardo during the 9:30 PM to about 5:30 A.M. window. To prove we've been there, the Control is actually to mail a supplied Post Card at the mailbox outside of the San Ardo Post Office. Doing this in the deserted, dark town, at night, is an absolutely surreal experience. I can't even describe it. But I did get some photos...
|Our Brevet Card for the event. Note the Post Card that we are to fill out, and Send from the San Ardo Post Office.|
|Sarah mails the Post Card in San Ardo at 9:50 P.M. The scene is absolutely surreal.|
|One final shot of the San Ardo Post Office. I will never forget this scene, as long as I live.|
We take a very long break in King City, eat a little more, clean up, and sleep for 4 hours. We had hoped for a bit more sleep, but in order to stay on schedule, we cut our sleep time. There is no messin' with the winds in the Salinas Valley. We need to make the "light wind" window. At 4 AM, we rise, put on a fresh kit for the 100 mile return to Santa Cruz, the last leg of the trip. I wisely leave the bib straps of my shorts down, such that I can drop 'em quickly if needed. Problem isn't fully solved yet... but on the bright side, it isn't getting any worse.
We hit Denny's for a full sit down breakfast a few ticks before 5 AM, remember, this is a "Civilized" 600K, so a proper breakfast is indicated! The Manager sees us and invites us to wheel the big tandem into the restaurant, and park it by our table. How cool is that? We thank him profusely. We order up pancakes, eggs, bacon, and coffee and tea. Seated next to us is Yogy Namara, fellow brevet rider, looking a bit worse for the wear, as it appears he hasn't taken any significant break until now. We talk to Yogy and he's asking for advice on hooking up with other riders, and how to approach the final leg. We're all cheery and smiley, and poor Yogy just wants to pass out. He's clearly fatigued, and even slumps down in his booth for a bit to try to catch a 5 min cat nap while his food is being prepared!
We finish our meal, and Sarah donates her extra pancakes to the Feed Yogy Cause, we settle our tab, bid Yogy farewell, tip the manager kindly, and we're on our way. Feeling as refreshed as we can be after 275 miles and 4 hours of sleep, we are back on the course at about 5:35 A.M., hoping to make it all the way up the Salinas Valley before the howling winds start. They don't typically die until around midnight, and begin to blow strong again by mid day.
We have an excellent run up the valley, averaging over 18 mph into the light headwind. We take a slightly different route on the return, passing over a Green Bridge. This is another Information Control. What is the clearance on the bridge? We note it's 13'8", and Sarah records this on our Brevet Cards.
|Final Control, in Marina, CA, at mile 336... about 40 to go!|
|Cruising past empty, barren fields in Strawberry country.|
We have one more nature break along the side of the road, and we make a wardrobe adjustment as the morning fog is burned off, and the sun is shining again. I also pull up my bib straps, a final symbolic gesture acknowledging that my stomach problem has passed, plus, I must look right for the finish line photo!
We hit many of the traffic lights through Soquel and Santa Cruz surprisingly well, and make good time. Finally, we roll into the finish at 11:38 AM. We are told we are the second finishers, and that Peter Morrissey rolled in at 10:51 AM. We've done the final 100 miles into the wind, including all stops and traffic delays, in six hours flat.
The finish is at the home of Bill Bryant, and he has a lovely spread in the back yard with snacks and refreshments. He's also installed a light string for those who arrive later after dark. We spend some time chatting with Bill, and down a couple of sodas and some chips. Interestingly, Bill pointed out that some experienced long brevet riders tout sleeping a maximum of 4 hours, since the body begins to shut down after that. So perhaps some beginner's luck that we ended up at that number. As we wait, another rider arrives, it's Roland Bevan, the recumbent rider we saw at Moss landing. Then it's off for some lunch, followed by a short nap under a tree before the drive back to the East Bay.
|At the finsh, all smiles, Paul McKenzie and Sarah Schroer. Riding time 21:35, Elapsed time 30:38 Average speed 17.5 mph, over 378 miles.|
Peter Morrissey was also a wonderful companion, and this humorous comment thread from my Strava upload, from Matt McHugh, sums up Peter's credentials:
"That man has some serious experience in these events. I'm pretty sure I recall him telling tales of seeing dozens of giant red beach balls coming at him in the 1200k PBP and he navigated right through them :) on his way to an impressive finish. Is Paris in your plans?" Matt McHugh
"Matt, Peter was good company, and a very tough rider. We'd sometimes drop him on the descents, but he'd always tell us to go ahead and not wait for him. He had no expectations from us, giving us "permission" to ride our own ride, which was nice. No plans for Paris, but we may see flying beach balls at Davis 600K. We're going for overall time on that one, so stops will be minimized." Paul McKenzie
This was truly a humbling experience for Sarah and me, our first 600K, and we learned a lot. A 600K isn't something to be taken lightly, and we hope we can take what we learned and improve on the next outing.
A big thank you and shout out to Bill Bryant and Lois Springsteen for putting on this well organized event. And major kudos to everyone who completed this tough course!