Sunday, April 6, 2008

SiR 300k Brevet: Lacey-Vader-Chehalis-Lacey (and a lot of hills in between)

Finally, a brevet that counts! After the last one, I was set to finish a brevet officially, within time, and get credit. Well I did! And it took about 20 hours to do it too. Yeah, 20 hours on the road! Not necessarily always on the bike, but out in the open, and doing something that was getting us closer to finishing the ride, whether that was pedaling, fueling up, or fixing a mechanical issue.

While this ride was about 20 miles shorter than the 200-mile STP, it was definitely harder to say the least. Not only was there at least twice as much climbing, but the (cold) weather was also a factor in this.

The Ride To Robert's House
Robert was kind enough to offer me a ride to the brevet, starting 50 or so miles away in Lacey, near Olympia. So I got up at 3:30 A.M., got ready, and pedaled down to his house about 10 miles away.

Here's my Miyata before liftoff at 4:30 A.M. Two filled water bottles, Carradice bag full of (a big bag of) tools, pump, two extra sets of gloves, extra glove liners, extra arm warmers, some leg warmers, my rain jacket. (The camera must've been on manual mode, because the picture exposed too long and that's why the image is all shaky)

Riding through downton, heading towards Alaska Way (photo looking north). I wish SiR would do some brevets in and around the city, but oh well. There's something to be said for country riding, but with the distances we cover we could easily do both!

The Brevet

Here's a map of the first 200km of the ride. The terrain map shows the hills we encountered along the way: [map 1/3] (Lacey to Chehalis) [map 2/3] (Chehalis to Rainier) (I couldn't figure out the rest of the route based on the cue, as the Google Map didn't show the bike trails we went on)

The peloton rolled out at a La Quinta in Lacey, just east of Olympia at 7 A.M. sharp. We headed north, towards Johnson(?) Point to the north, and then looped back to Olympia. Here's a shot of the capitol building there:

Here's a great shot of me & the rest of our crew (taken by the SiR photographer, thanks!).

I have no idea where this was, but you can see how rough the pavement was, probably chip-seal. We had no idea how sour the weather would soon turn.. or maybe it was just a break in the rain, can't remember.
Not sure where this was, but it was most likely before 2 P.M. because the rain hadn't started yet. In the distance, you can see a little sample of the oodles of rolling hills we conquered.

The hardest part of the whole ride was the open flats leading to Vader (not even the 10% climb leading to Vader). All four of us were pacelining, battling the wind, rain, fatigue, and on the verge if not bonking. Taking mile-long pulls each, we slogged through it at 20-21 km/h (12.4 mph). We each admitted later that we were privately thinking of calling it a day at the next control; luckily none of us did! Had I been riding solo I probably would've taken a shortcut back to Lacey at this point, or something, as I was seriously on the edge of giving up.

The Diner in Vader

Even though I had a handlebar bag full of granola & candy bars, I felt hungry but just couldn't eat that stuff anymore. In Vader at about 6 P.M., we stopped at a tiny diner next to the control, and sat down for some "real food." We'd been pedaling in the cold rain for hours, and the space-heater in the small diner was just too good to be true.

We were quite the spectacle for the locals, that was pretty funny. I forget their choice quotes, but they were surprised, to say the least, that we started and were heading back to Lacey! Guess they don't get many city-slickers dressed in spandex & wool this time of year..

After eating we rolled out again at about 7 P.M., and the rain had lightened up a bit.

The Rest of The Ride

After some real food, we all felt at least 90% better, and were ready to finish this damn thing. The next section to Chehalis was isolated country roads, with more rolling hills to tackle. When the darkness kicked in, our lights lit up the road excellently, and we quite a few deer on the side of the road. Not too many cars out in this area, it was pretty calm. I wish it had been light still at that point, as the views were probably nice, but I'm sure I'll get another chance to do this route.

Other Tidbits
  • The control in Porter had some great french-fries, and felt like a true "country store." Part of what helped that was the pictures of gleaming teenagers holding the bloody & severed head of a deer. Or the picture of a smiling family standing next to a big deer's body hanging from a tree, and the deer's head sitting in a different spot in the yard. I hope they at least at those poor animals!
  • When we finally got to the control in Chehalis, the worker at the Main Street Food Stop (?) initially had no idea what we were talking about when we displayed our brevet cards! But the card even said the store's name on it, so we finally convinced her to initial & write down the time on it. She wished us well on the way out, and reminded us to look out for drunk drivers.
  • It seemed like we were constantly passing the same riders over and over again. One rider eventually nick-named us the "fantastic four," and by the time we showed up at the final control everyone seemed to have been informed of this. Works for me!
  • There were a few packed-gravel sections due to the floods that happened last year, and luckily my 23c front & 25c rear tires held up just fine. The sections were maybe 100 feet in length, so nothing too bad. Closer to the end of the ride, we had to go through mud for about 50 feet, but that was a scary section! My front and rear tires were fish-tailing, and it was all I could do was to stay upright. The last thing I needed at this point was to go down in a mud puddle! I'm guessing they did the pre-ride & route planning when it was dry, but maybe SiR likes to toss you on crazy sections like that just to test you.
Thanks to Robert, Joby, and Chris for riding with me, it was a great ride! We are indeed the fastastic four. And I'm sooo glad we didn't quit. Now it's get ready for the insane three-mountain-pass 400k!

Total Distance: 300km + 20 km to get there + 5 km of getting lost, turning around = 325 km (202 miles)
Elevation: ~7,500 feet. Here's the elevation profile for just the first 200k of the ride - max elevation of ~925 feet. If I'd looked at this again before the ride, maybe I wouldn't have been surprised by all the tough climbing we had to do.

Some great photos taken by an official SiR photographer - and we're in some of the photos. Worth checking out: link.


Robert H said...

I slept until 5pm yesterday. For serious.

Anonymous said...

What a great ride... even with all the mental and geographical ups and downs. matt, i was glad to have you with us. hopefully the soreness in my legs will have diminished in time for the 400k.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was that solo rider on the blue Raleigh that crossed paths with you for most of the day. What a great experience. I should have done that meal at the diner. See you on the 400. Nice report. Mine is here:

Dessa said...

Oh man, it hurts even to look at this map. I'm missing my "long", 100+ sunday rides. All I do now are intense intervals or races.
How many people were doing this one with you? How many days of recovery (easy rides or off) do you give yourself after this?

Anonymous said...

There were 66 registered riders, but after the first 20 miles or so it splits up (by pace) and we never saw the front of the pack again. I know of at least one DNF due to mechanical issues, but I think everyone else finished.

Surprisingly, I wasn't all that sore the day after, mostly just tired from lack of sleep.

Granted, I haven't ridden since, but I feel like I could!

What will be really tough is the 600k. You get 40 hours to do it, so we'll probably do 400km the first day, sleep for 4-5 hours, then knock out the remaining 200k. That one's gonna be hellish.

Narayan said...

Great ride report, and Congratulations on your first 300. You guys were awesome, and looked very strong. It is pretty hard to keep at it when faced with such bad weather and mechanical issues to boot, so don't worry about thoughts of DNFing. It was great to see you guys on the road, and I was quite surprised that I was ahead of you. But I bet it was because of that long food break you took.

See you on the 400!