Saturday, May 31, 2008

Getting Ready For A Gigantic Ride: The Four Pass 600k Brevet Preview

Just trying to digest the ride coming up in a week: 600km (375 miles), four mountain passes, under 40 hours. [link] Or over 40 hours, but no "official" credit for the ride - which wouldn't be altogether a failure, either way this ride will make for a great story.

Below is a map of the route - that's Seattle in the upper-left corner, and Yakima in the lower-right! And also you can see Mt. Rainier in the lower-left there. Wow. The scale of this ride is hard to comprehend, but the other brevets leading up to this have prepared me well. [full map]

The elevation profile of this 600k, from the RUSA64 blog - max height is 4,868 feet or 1,483 meters:

Everyone preparing for this ride is probably thinking, "how long will this take?" That's different for all of us of course, but here's a few guesses as to how I'll do based on previous ride stats:

Previous finishing times, in HH:MM format:
March 3rd Urban Populaire 100k: 5:50
March 15th 200k: 12:45 (disqualified, got lost, missed a control in time!)
March 29th 300k: 19:20?
May 5th 300k: 13:20
May 17th 400k: 19:36 (Three Mountain Passes)
Rough predictions of ETAs and finish times:

  • (ride to the ride, leave home at 3 AM - only 22.5 km (~14 miles) to get there)
  • start in Issaquah 5 AM 6/7
  • 200k 2 PM (9 hours, roughly in Leavenworth or just past it)
  • 278k 6-7 PM Ellensburg, a little less than half way
  • 400k 11PM-12 AM (9-10 hours, this is roughly the Rimrock Lake area, a possible sleep-spot)
  • 600k 11AM 6/8 11 hours, back in Issaquah
  • (ride home from Issaquah, probably at 10 km/h - 4 hours or 3-5 PM Sunday 6/8)
So about 30-36 hours or so - that's about a day and a half! Possibly without sleep, which is something I need to decide soon. The RUSA handbook says that riders hoping to complete a 1200k should try a sleepless 600k at some point, but I'm not sure if I can swing that. At worst I'll bring a bivy sack and light sleeping bag, and possibly sleep in a soft ditch somewhere. We'll see.

Random tidbits about 600k's - here and elsewhere:
  • Mark Thomas has recently pre-ridden this year's route and written a moving preview
  • Average time on last year's 600k: 31 hours 32 minutes (not a mountain brevet I believe)
  • This rider's account of a davis, ca-area 600k - an interesting read
  • Kent Peterson's story of the 2002 SiR 600k four pass brevet - the same one as this year but in reverse. And if you see a pile of rocks keeping chocolate milk cool in the shade on the side of a road, it just might be placed there by the ride support! Who would have guessed?

Today (Sunday) I went out for a 77km spin: Seattle to Renton via Lake Wa Blvd, then Renton to Issaquah via Highway 900/Sunset Road, then Cougar Mtn summit, then back to Seattle. Not a huge ride, but I figure I needed to pack in all the climbing I can before the Big Day. The legs felt pretty good, and I even "sprinted," or tried to, going up Cougar. I hit 30 km/h (~18 mph) ona false-flat part, and it took about 25 minutes to make it all the way up. It's hard to compare this to a mountain pass, but I think I'm ready!

Update: you can read how the ride went here.


Mark said...

Sleeping on a 600km brevet: One piece of advice in the excellent RUSA handbook with which I disagree is the comment that a sleepless 600km is necessary preparation for a 1200km. I disagree for two reasons.

The first is personal - I have completed 7 1200km brevets (including the 1400km London-Edinburgh-London) in 8 attempts. I have also done 13 successful 600km brevets and none have been without a sleep break. So it's certainly possible to be successful on a 1200km brevet without a sleepless 600km brevet.

The second reason is that I believe that taking a sleep break on a 600km brevet builds three key skills for a longer brevet.

The first skill is managing your time, by pushing on the road and at the controls, to build a cushion that permits a sleep break. I find that thinking about carving time for sleep provides a good focus for the first 400km or so to the sleep break.

The second skill is simply practicing the logistics of a good overnight stop. It helps to learn how to combine efficiently in a few hours some pre-sleep food, a shower, sleep, a post-sleep breakfast, replacing and repacking gear, and maintaining the bike.

The third skill (really more experience than skill) is to learn the feel of starting again in the morning - getting the tired body moving again and revving it back up to good riding form. When doing a 1000km or 1200km, confidence is increased by knowing that you've done that before.

Unless you are one of the talented few riders that can blast through a 1200km on no sleep, learning overnight stop skills on a 600km is excellent preparation for what you'll do on the 1200km brevet.

Anonymous said...

I can't disagree with anything Mark has said. Especially the motivational aspect of working through your first 400K anticipating a sleep break.

I DNF'ed this ride in '02, a story in it's own right (but just one of many), but the take home point for me is, I have never ridden a 600K without a sleep stop. I envy those who can ride through, but for at least one randonnerd a 600K without a sleep stop is not an option. Not to put too fine a point on it but I've ridden 5 1200's and never ridden a 600K without a sleep stop, so I don't believe a sleepless 600K is necessary for a successful 1200.

Ask Peter Beeson about riding through on the N Cascades 400 we had a couple years ago. He got to the 'sleep stop' in good shape and decided to push on. Only to take a miserably cold ditch nap on the lower slopes of Washington pass in the wee (cold) hours of the morning. Another case where 'sleep management' would have been beneficial.

I believe that sleep, sleep deprivation, and sleep management is one of the most important skills to master on the longer rides, this is particularly important for slow riders like me.

If there was antything I would suggest for your preparation it might be to rethink riding to the start: I'd recommend that you ride or get a lift depending on which provides you more sleep in advance.

And what ever you do, get to bed no later than 6:00pm the night befor! Even if it requires sleep aids. I got my Doc to provide a presecption for sleeping pills just for that purpose. I've often had to drive to the start of brevets and spend the night befor in a motel: lumpy mattress, freeway noise wafting through the leaky windows, a little diesel exhaust just to top it all off. Sleeping pills really help in these situations.

This will be a real feather in your cap and it will be great preparation for longer rides. Remember, when you've finished your 600 ... your ready to have lunch and then turn around and ride back... if your riding a 1200!

Bonne Chance!
Yr Pal Dr Codfish

Anonymous said...

Joe P (formerly of the blue Raleigh) here.

So, at this point it's mental, right? We did our prep work, and we just need to go make this happen!

I'm going to read Kent's ride report, and then that's it; some of these reports are messing with my head.

When I'm having a "glass half full" moment I tell myself this is really just like the 400K with a nap and another 120 mile ride.

I'm going to get a picture of a Super Randonneur pin and stick it in my map case. I really want that pin.

Robert H said...

If you are willing to sleep the night here, I can give you a ride to the 600k. Just something to keep in mind...
I'd offer to pick you up, but I'm going solo and I don't want to mess with my tight schedule that morning.