Monday, June 16, 2014

Davis Bike Club Antelope Lake 600K 2014 Brevet Report

The R60 Crew (l to r) Jose Plascencas, Patrick Herlihy, Andreas Schultz, Sarah Schroer, Paul McKenzie, Max Polleto. Elapsed time for the 600K ride was 23 hours 07 minutes. Immediately after the photo was taken, most of us collapsed on the ground.
On June 14, 2014 Sarah Schroer and I rode the Davis Bike Club Antelope Lake 600K Brevet on the tandem. The pressure was on. We'd already completed a "Civilized 600K" The Santa Cruz Surf City 600K recently, a ride in which we made all attempts to be comfortable, taking long stops to refresh, a sit down dinner and breakfast, a shower and kit change, and a comfortable, if truncated, night of sleep. Not this time. We were not going for comfort. We were going for speed. Sarah needed a sub 24 hour performance to achieve the "R60" status, an award to riders who complete a full brevet series, 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K in just 60% of the allowed time. As it turns out, R60 in a 200K or 300K isn't terribly difficult, but it gets exponentially more challenging as the rider goes to 400K and then 600K. I wasn't nervous about the Santa Cruz 600K. I knew it would be hard, but fun. But this one? Not so much. Fear and trepidation were upon me. We had a goal, a difficult one, and it was by no means a sure thing. What if we failed? What if we did not make our goal? Well, we had our rough patches, but succeeded, and Sarah and I rode strong for twenty three hours and seven minutes, completing the ride well within our goal, and achieving R60 status for Sarah, the first woman in the U.S. to achieve that goal. We succeeded with hard work, a never say die attitude when things became excruciatingly difficult, ample pre event planning, a finely tuned strategy, and frankly, a little help from our friends... our fellow riders and the volunteers. Here's how it all happened...

Sarah and I exchange the usual stream of emails prior to the event, getting everything planned. Lighting, bike prep, bags, what are you going bring for clothes? What about food? How many calories? What will be available on the course? Making time estimates and goals. Spreadsheets. Adjusting them to compensate for night riding, temperature, terrain, etc. etc.

With the night start (8 PM Friday night), how do we deal with sleep? Sarah and I decide to make it to Davis pre-rush hour on Friday, then try to nap in a park before catching dinner and rolling over to the start. This plan works reasonably well. We arrive in Davis around 3 PM, nap for two hours, head out for dinner, then get the bike and gear ready, finally heading over to the start to get ready to roll.

Sarah and I try to catch a nap in Davis for a couple of hours before we head to dinner and the 8 PM start. Parents, cover the eyes of your kids, as this photo is "R" rated, with Sarah sporting a bit of skin! Unfortunately, we elected to lay down next to the bathrooms, so the occasional loud flush of commercial toilets interrupted our sleepy bliss. The ultimate irony of this photo is that I happen to be wearing my Giant Bicycles "Pushing the Boundaries" T-Shirt. I am later to truly understand what this slogan means.
After a nap and some dinner, we sorta look more or less ready to ride 600K! Photo by a fellow rider we flagged down.

Here I think I am trying to impress the lovely Denise Primrose with how many gadgets I have in my cockpit. We used three separate Niterider light systems. One MiNewt on low all the time, with a big ass 4x battery, a Niterider Pro 750 to be used on bright only for fast downhills, our "High Beam", and a Lumina 700 as a backup. Photo: Sarah Schroer

With R60 Ace Patrick Herlihy (foreground left). Patrick completed the Santa Rosa 600K just a week prior... in 100 degree heat... on a single speed. And yet... here he is. Photo: Sarah Schroer
Just prior to roll out. Riders start to realize what they are in for, and look pensive, while Sarah flashes one of the best smiles in the business.
Dan Shadoan gives final instructions, with a good dose of needed humor. A 600K isn't always funny, so a little humor and light heartedness goes a long way.
Dan Shadoan gives instructions, with a good amount of humor, and we are on our way. I've known Dan since the early 90's, and we've had many a battle on long rides in the past. It is so nice to connect with him again.

With RBA Dan Shadoan at the start. We've battled a few times on long rides in the 90's, with Dan coming out on top more often than not. Dan had pacing down back then, when most of us didn't even understand the concept. Photo: Sarah Schroer
It's odd starting a ride at dusk, but it makes the rather drab, flat, farm land, somewhat appealing. The pace is fast. We average about 22 mph for the first 50 miles to the first control in Sutter. There we sign in and refuel. The group is still quite large, as many riders are able to sit on the pace line, while a half dozen or so of the strongest riders do turns at the front. Sarah and I chip in with some strong pulls, but there is enough talent in the field that we are not expected to do all the work. The bugs are out in force, and it's difficult to breath without getting a mouthful of bugs, especially when on the front.

Rolling out of the start at dusk. Just 597K to go!

The sun has set and we prepare for night mode. There are a number of big, strong, Lads in the bunch, so the tandem isn't forced to do all the work.

Sutter Control at mile 50. A rather drab spot, but an incredibly enthusiastic crew that understood we were in a hurry and did everything in their power to help us through. The bunch is still quite large at this point, so getting all the cards signed and everyone fed in a hurry was a monumental task. Amazing job, guys! THANK YOU!

Sarah handles the brevet card signing at each stop, and reminds me to sign in. I focus on keeping the bike running, lights working, and trying to keep myself alert and ready to keep us safe and fast. Great team work.
After Sutter, the pace slows a bit. There is an incident in the peloton, a front wheel into someone's rear quick release, with a result of some broken spokes. Sarah and I avoid the mishap, but the field is broken up. Some stop to help, others roll on. Sarah and I roll on but soft pedal to allow others to catch once things get sorted out.

Next stop is Oroville, a hotel room at the Budget Inn, an appropriately named run down establishment, staffed by and extremely enthusiastic and friendly volunteer. The herd has thinned a bit, so things are a little less hectic. We refuel and get on our way. So far the 85 miles of the ride ride have been dominated by the biggest, strongest brevet riders, and, of course, the Tandem. Most of the other riders have been shelled. I can't help but notice that two very strong female solo riders are still with the group, Cheryl Becker and Lisa Susan McPhate. Pretty incredible, since the pace in the dark has been nearly 22 mph!

There are over 60 riders participating, and by now we are down to the fastest 25 or so. We begin the climb up to Jarbo Gap Summit, a long ascent, that rises to over 2200' from the Central Valley.

Unbeknownst to us, behind us, perhaps an hour later, sometime in the 2-3 AM time frame, there is an incredible drunken, meth induced, redneck incident involving rider Chuck Shroyer. I'll just provide a photo of Chuck at the start, and let him tell his story in his own words...

Chatting with "Don't Fuck with Chuck" Schroyer at the Start. Photo: Sarah Schroer

Well this time I had it all planned out I love this route and was looking forward to a great ride. Great weather and a full moon, I should have planned on it being Friday the 13th.

It started out great a little fast 22mph pace but I was able to hang in there for 21 miles, at this point I dropped back and rode with a little slower pace line. We keep it up to Orville the 90 mile mark. After a short break I joined the first group leaving and found they had a pace that fit mine quite well.

The first big climb we stuck together most the way to the top a 3000ft climb. Nearing the top I was falling back some but felt good. As I passed the lookout, which was on the other side of the street I could hear a very loud person screaming at me and saying he hated cyclist and this was his road. I ignored and keep riding. I know that there was two girls coming up behind me, I then heard the loud person state that he had a 22 pistol and was going to shoot the next rider.

As the two girls come by one was on the phone to 911 telling them what was happening. Just then a car come flying by me and up the road and pulled up next to the front group of riders I assumed it was the loud individual. The car then pulled out and did a u turn back towards me and the did another u turn and waited for me.

As I road by there was a man and woman in the car screaming at me stating that one of the girl riders pulled a gun on him and his wife and he was going to kill somebody. I politely told him and his wife to F**k themselves and started to ride off. He then stated that if I rode on he would run me over.

Rather than confront his car from behind I told him to get out, he did and came over and struck me in the head. He was about 26 years old and 5ft 9in, I decided that it did not need to go any farther so I took him down hard. I held him on the ground and told him stop, he did not stop but continued to try to hit me, at which time I slammed his head into the street until he decided to give up. This is where it gets dicey , his wife jumps behind the wheel of the car and spins it around to run me over, only I am on top and dive out of the way and she runs over her husband. She then backs up and he jumps up and attacks me again like nothing happened. When he came after me I slammed him back down on the street and decide to put him out by closing off both of his carotid arteries, as he is passing out his wife again tries to run me over only once again running over her husband this time he was totally rolled up under the car so far I could not see him. I could hear him moaning and crying for help. She backed off of him dragging him into the street.

He then popped up and came at me again what ever he was on made him impervious to pain, I then pinned him to the side of his car holding his carotid arteries and again he started to pass out. His wife then came out the window trying to hit me, I dropped him and grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out the window. As he recovered he once again came at me and I kick him in the groin, at which time he just stopped and asked me to apologize for kicking him their and of course I did. He was running out of gas and so was I, I did not wish to cause any permanent damage but I but did what was needed to stop him.

It was at this time that his wife drove up the embankment and drove over my bike and then drove off leaving him their.

At this time another rider came up and I asked him to call 911 the kid then directed all his attention to him and I just set there until the police came.

When the ambulance came he refused treatment and denied ever getting run over and that I had caused all the damage to him.

I did not press assault charges against him he was already in a world of hurt. He was arrested for DUI and she was arrested also for DUI and assault with a deadly weapon.

I got a bump on my head from where he hit my helmet and crushed it into my head.

I look back and think of what might of happened, if he had not come across me but went ahead and run over the other riders, he is in jail for only a DUI and he was the only one hurt except for my bike.

Cycling it is not a sport it is an adventure!!

As we begin to climb to Jarbo Gap, many riders succumb to the pace, and the group whittles down to less than 10. Sarah and I are climbing well, and are able to stay with the front group without trouble. We descend, then begin the climb up the Feather River Canyon. It's like 1:00 AM now, and we are one day past a full moon. The moon light dances on the canyon, creating a surreal effect, and the freight trains grind and squeak their way up the canyon, creating an incredibly unique form of entertainment for us brevet riders. I'm in heaven at this time. The views, sounds, lights, tunnels, bridges, moon light, and the company of fellow riders creates an inspirational experience I will not soon forget.

We arrive at Tobin, mile 130, in the wee hours of the morning. The waiting crew is happy to see us, and takes really good care of us. So far, the staff at each stop has been incredible.
We arrive in Tobin and the staff is ready for us. Friendly faces, good food, and a funky cabin. We are a bit slow in and out of there, but we get it done and carry on up the canyon toward Indian Valley. We've picked up some warm clothing, long gloves, toe booties, wind breaker, and skull cap. We pass through three tunnels, and we hoot and howl a bit to take advantage of the echoes and eery feeling of the moonlit landscape. While we enjoy the beauty of the night, we are also fighting off the urge to sleep. I'm yawning continuously. Sarah is also tired. We hope the dawn will refresh us, and help us stay awake.

As we make it to Indian Valley, just before sunrise, the temperature plummets. It's 39 degrees, and for me, it isn't picture taking weather. Icy fingers, long gloves, and extra layers mean steering the tandem and taking pictures is complicated, though Sarah and I did capture a photo or two in the Indian and Genesee Valleys. The sunrise does push away our desire to sleep — we are relieved that the daylight has refreshed us. A sleep break isn't in our plan, so fingers are crossed we stay awake and make it through.

We gain the cool Indian Valley at dawn. It's 39 degrees. Photo: Sarah Schroer

At Genessee Store, (l to r) Max Polleto, Dan Shadoan, Sarah Schroer

The incredible food spread at Genesee Store. We'll pass through twice to take advantage of this great opportunity to eat well
The shitter at Genesee Store. It's a nice shitter. I don't take photos of funky shiiters. For example, you won't see a photo of the duct taped toilet seat we found at the Control hotel in Oroville...
On to Genesee we go. There we find Dan Shadoan and an incredible food spread. Rice with a sweet fruit sauce and also fixin's for Tacos. Incredible! Dan continues to ask if someone will carry a road cone up to the turnaround (an information Control) so he doesn't have to drive up there. I half think he is kidding, but then realize he is sort of serious. We have no way to carry this cone so Dan drives up ahead of us to drop the cone, and we begin the long climb up to Antelope Lake. I feel guilty. I think we could have carried the cone and still made R60 with ease. By now we have our final lead group. Sarah and me, Max Polletto, Patrick Herlihy, Andreas Shultz, and José Plascencas. We form an unspoken bond, and we will ride with this group to the finish. It's a good group. A really good group.

Leaving Genesee. All is good when that smile is goin' down.
We descend fast back from Antelope Lake, and once again enjoy the food at the Genesse Store. We see riders on the outbound. I pick up a bottle I'd left behind, then make a quick visit to the rest room.

Indian Valley on the return, a bit warmer.
This rider and I exchanged snapping photos on the fly as we head down the valley. I hope to get his! We're inbound, they're outbound.

Well, Jenny Oh found the matching photo to the one above. As I am taking this photo of Greg Kline, he is taking one of our lead group. Paul and Sarah followed by Andreas Schultz, Max Polleto, Patrick Herlihy, and José Plascencas. Photo: Greg Kline
Down the hill we go, back through Taylorsville, and down the Feather River Canyon. I coin the acronym STC, for Super Tandem Country, a long, twisty, gradual descent, on which a tandem can really fly. We have everyone in tow as we arrive once again in Tobin. The staff is happy to see us. Sarah and I do a quick sponge bath and kit change, while the others kindly wait a bit for us. I use copious amounts of chamois cream as the backside is beginning to suffer a bit, and I know it won't get any better.

STC time, people. (Super Tandem Country) Get on the wheel, fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ride. This is your Captain speaking. Down the Feather River Canyon we go, faster than a freight train. Double bridge behind.

The famous Feather River Canyon Double Bridge. The railroad passes over the roadway. Rail enthusiasts love to visit the Feather River Canyon, and this is one of the reasons.

Your caption here... In the background, R60 Boyz refuel, Patrick, Max, and Andreas. With the incredibly enthusiastic Jason Pearce (foreground right).

After Tobin we have a long climb up and over the Jarbo Gap again. Sarah and I are stomping on the pedals fairly well considering the fatigue, and we get over this thing in good time. I'm really happy with this climb, but my energy is about to die. We scream down the last descent after a pee stop at the top and start the flats and rollers back to Oroville. It's here where the fatigue starts to show and things begin to go sour. It's getting hot and windy. We've been riding now for something like 15 hours straight. I start to feel like I just don't have any more to give. And yet, we are on great time, we have a great group, and we are ahead of schedule to meet our sub 24 hour goal. Only one thing to do... suck it up and keep pedaling, fool.

Crossing the bridge and beginning the big climb to Jarbo Gap on the return. Photo: Sarah Schroer

Andreas didn't read my Tandem 101 blog, and digs in hard on the rollers, dropping the tandem. Sarah and I fight back, but it will take its toll. I know this is how Andreas rides, he likes to maintain his speed on the uphill side of rollers. He's excused.
The miles start clicking by way too slow. We make it to Oroville. Max looks at the clock and it something like 9 minutes before the hour or half hour and he says, "Let's try to limit this stop to 9 minutes." We agree, get all our brevet cards signed, get something to eat and drink. It's hot, and my feet are bothering me. I whip off my shoes, and put my feet on the blasting air conditioner for just a minute or two to get some relief, while I stuff some food in, and down some liquid. Then we are back on the road. Max announces, "Great job everyone, we got through in 7 minutes. 85 miles to go. I'm toast. Don't know if I can make it.

The 35 mile slog to Sutter, with 50 miles to go is painful. Each mile takes and eternity. The farm land is flat and boring. My butt is sore. Sarah and I stand frequently to try to get some relief. We finally make it to Sutter. Sarah goes in the store and I try to chill. I'm having doubts now. Not sure I can keep the bike upright, much less pedal strong enough to make it home. But others are depending on me. I try to use that as motivation. It's partially effective.

In Sutter I'm hurting. I truly have doubts I can make it. If there is any doubt about my ability to keep the bike upright, we'll have to stop. The realization that this could happen with just 50 miles to go is devastating. I persevere...

The beauty of the Sutter Buttes takes my mind off of the pain momentarily
Then the stretch on Reclamation Rd., something like 15 miles of flat. I can't get my arms around this thing. It takes forever. With each pedal stroke, I think it less likely I will make it to the finish. There is nothing left, and yet the requirement to stay with this group is 18 mph into a stiff headwind. It's absolute torture as I try to maintain the power required. I'm thankful that Sarah, though she is also hurting, is able to contribute more than her share.

We're all hurting. I notice Max is riding with one knee out, perhaps to relieve some knee pain, hot foot, cramps, butt soreness, or other ailment. I never asked. Max is a big man, probably 6'6", with broad shoulders. Max announced before the ride that he intended to put his nose in the wind and pull. That he did, and he cuts a nice big hole into the wind. Andreas seemed to be the strong man at this point in the ride, also doing his share of the work. But he'd ride ahead, dropping everyone, then wait, over and over.
As we approach Woodland, with about 25 miles to go, everyone is out of water. Max notes that if we carry on without stopping, and risk the dehydration, we'll bust 23 hours. Andreas wants to stop. I vote we don't. Max doesn't want to stop. Sarah later apologizes for being grumpy at this stage, but I still don't know what her preference is, as I am completely dazed. In the end, we realize it's probably best to stop and let the sub 23 goal slip away. We are a cohesive team now. We need to stay together and finish together. We stop at a gas station and refuel. Others are ready to go, but I am struggling. Sarah brings me a popsicle. I munch it down, but am still feeling nausea. Sarah suggests I go to the bathroom and wet down my sun sleeves and head. I follow instructions. I head for the bathroom and it's occupied. I wait, and finally get in. I dowse myself and feel just barely good enough to put my leg back over the bike. The others kindly wait for me, which I greatly appreciate. While we are all hurting, I feel I am the worst of the bunch. I'm spent, I've left it all out there, and perhaps budgeted my energy just a bit wrong.

We roll the last miles back to Davis. These are the slowest passing miles I can ever remember on the bike. Each mile seems like an eternity. It seems like punishment, a bad nightmare in which I can never finish the last miles of a ride. Finally, with just about 3 miles to go, I realize I am going to make it. Sarah will have her R60, and I will be able to get off this bike! We arrive at 19:07, (7:07 P.M.), sign in, and fortunately, I have the presence of mind to capture a group photo of this remarkable group of riders, before we all collapse on the ground. Another epic ride completed, with superb camaraderie all the way. A big thank you to Sarah Schroer, Max Polletto, Patrick Herlihy, Andreas Schultz, and José Plascencas. You are all incredible riders, and wonderful companions on this epic adventure.

Passed out at the finish, Max Polleto, Patrick Herlihy (with beer), Andreas Schultz.

I'm passed out in the weeds at the finish. Photo: Patrick Herlihy
I can't say enough about the wonderful support we received from Dan Shadoan's Davis Bike Club crew. These folks are all riders themselves, and they know what we need. A huge thank you to all of them. Without this staff, our accomplishment would not have been possible.

Further reading: For a great view from the middle of the pack, read Jenny Oh's Ride Report.

Our Strava File:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Drafting a Tandem: How to be Tow'd and How to Tow a Tandem 101

Racing on the tandem with Paul Chuck (Photo Courtesy Bill Bushnell)

We all know the game. You're on a flat-ish ride. A tandem rolls by. What do you do? You get on the wheel, of course. And you sit there. It's a free ride. But then a steep hill is encountered. You thank the tandem... or not... and carry on up the hill, dropping the tandem.

On the down side, the tandem comes screaming by again, having to hit the brakes, and weave through the slower single bike riders who are now taking up the whole road, inattentive to the fact that the tandem is coming by with a big head of steam. You get on the wheel again, and you sit. Repeat, again, and again. It's a sweet ride in the draft. Heck, you hardly have to pedal and you're cruising along at 22 mph!

After about 100 miles of this, the tandem team begins to fade, after having to push the wind all day. But you're fresh, so you bolt off the front and leave the tandem behind. As you pass, you thank them... or not...

There are ways that single bikes can work with a tandem to make everyone faster, but it takes a great deal of skill, and some understanding of tandem dynamics, and how a tandem responds to terrain changes differently than single bikes.

Sarah Schroer and I have an event coming up, a 600K (380 mile) ride that we are going to try to complete in 24 hours on the tandem. Several single bikes are going to participate, and have the same goal. These riders can sit on the tandem until we're exhausted, then forge ahead alone. Or... they can learn to work WITH the tandem, in a team effort to make everyone  faster — a task that has been proven to be difficult for most single bike riders.

The tandem has difficulty making abrupt changes in speed. The typical rider who gets excited when it is his/her turn to do a pull and puts in a massive acceleration will always create a gap and drop the tandem. The first thing to understand is how a tandem deals with terrain changes in ways that are different from how a single bike behaves. Below are 4 scenarios, and how a single bike should react while towing a tandem:

1. Steep Uphill: This is where the tandem is most disadvantaged. If you are towing a tandem, keep a modest pace. If the tandem rolls up alongside, then increase slightly. But keep it very steady.

2. Modest Uphill or "False Flat:" A tandem will do better on this terrain than a steeper hill. The rider towing the tandem can do a slightly higher effort, but still should keep it modest. Be very aware of slight changes in pitch. If it steepens, don't dig in too hard. If it slackens, keep the speed up.

3. Flat Terrain: The towing rider can put in a pretty strong effort, and the tandem should stay hitched. Watch out for slight variations in grade. If the road tilts up slightly, ease off just a bit, don't overpower the roller. Conversely, if the road tilts down a bit, power up gradually.

4. Slight Downhill: On this terrain, you pretty much are not going to drop a tandem. Pedal hard and fast, and the tandem should be able to stay on without issue.

5. Steep Downhill: Get the Fuck out of the way. It's as simple as that. There is nothing more annoying than single bike riders kinda dropping the tandem on an uphill, then taking the whole road on the subsequent downhill, such that the tandem has to brake and kill momentum. Better to just stay behind the tandem at the crest, and get on the wheel, or if on the downhill, single file up and stay to the right so the tandem can get through safely. If you are on a downhill, and the tandem is behind, be aware that it's likely coming, and probably coming fast. Dodgy moves by single bikes into the lane can be dangerous in this scenario.

Pretty simple. I've been on many double centuries where my tandem has towed riders all day. Eventually Captain and Stoker fatigue. Sometimes we run most riders off our wheel, and other times we can barely pedal at the end while our tail of wheel suckers are fresh. Sometimes they then ask if they can help. They can, but it takes some skill and understanding. You must be smooth. Avoid sudden increases (or decreases) in speed. Watch the tandem, and understand how it reacts to terrain differently than a single bike. By doing that, you'll be able to help make everyone faster. Don't wait until the end of the ride to ask if you can help. If you're strong, help early on, spell the tandem for just a minute here and there, it makes a difference over the course of a long day.

And one more thing. If you sit on a tandem wheel all day, don't sprint the last mile or two of a double century, and say you "beat" the tandem after Captain and Stoker have been kind enough to tow you around all day. (This happened at the 2013 Davis Double). That's really poor etiquette. And if you're following a tandem, and you flat, don't expect the tandem to stop and wait. You are likely receiving great benefit from the tandem's draft, but the tandem is likely receiving little or no benefit from the single bikes.

Class is over. Next time you hook up with a tandem, greet the riders, maybe ask if the tandem team minds that you draft, enjoy the tow, and if you can, feel free to at least offer to help. Some Captains will decline the offer. Others, like me, will graciously accept. Everyone can then go faster with less effort, which is the whole point, right?