Sunday, August 17, 2008

RUSA 10th Anniversary 200k Brevet: Sometimes DNF Stands For "Don't Neglect Friends"

Yesterday I set out to do Seattle Rando's 200k brevet, part of a series of brevets going on around the nation, in celebration of Randonneur USA's 10th Anniversary. About 50 Riders showed up for the ride to Bremerton via the ferry, a good showing for this soon-to-be-hot day.

As per my usual, I left home later than I wanted to, and barely made the ferry! When I got there at first, there was a double-line of autos!! And here I was at the back, patiently waiting:

Lucky for me the cashier waved me ahead of a bunch of cars, and I was the last person/car/anything to board the ferry! It wasn't the first time I'd been almost-late to catch a ferry.. hopefully the last though.

Rando bikes on the ferry:

Riders preparing to leave the ferry in Bremerton:

After some starting notes from organizer Eric, we were off! The beginning reminded me just a tad of Critical Mass - but instead of lots of fixed gears, these were mosty rando bikes, and there was no traffic to get in our way:

We got off to a good start, and held a nice pace. Robert on his fixed gear was looking strong. My buddy Dennis and his friend John came along, always nice to have more randos!

John and other riders on the way to the first control:

Dennis has always been a strong rider, and has a way of doing big rides with little-to-no-training - so neither of us thought it was a big deal that he hadn't ridden a lot before this 200k. We'd just planned to take it easy. And normally things might have just been a bit slower than usual; but with the 90F heat surrounding us, things went south pretty quick. But first...

Free Mozarella Sticks!

In Belfair, we stopped at a gas station for fuel/water. I like - scratch that, I love - fried foods, so I rarely shy away from the mysterious fried items on display at country gas stations. I ordered up some mozarella sticks, and when I went to pay for them she said, "You can have these for free, since they don't keep for very long."

What?! Well not to look the gift-horse in the mouth, I accepted my "gift" of who-knows-how-old cheese sticks without any question. They were fine. Surely not fresh, but they didn't taste bad anyway.

Free food never tasted so good:
The Ride Goes South

Technically we were headed north, but the ride was about to go south, in a bad way. The bad started when we took a wrong turn... a Big Wrong Turn that gave us ~20 bonus kilometers! The cue said the turn was easy to miss, and that the road was unmarked. Cryptic instructions went like: "Turn left after the Subway, but before the 76, towards QFC." All of which made sense when we took the turn... and the road was unmarked, so we just pushed along and hoped for the best. All of the roads out here look the same to me anyway, so I had no idea we were going the wrong way!

Our next turn was to be to the left, but on our left was nothing but water.. And soon the street name we were on became "North Shore Drive." Hmm. So we asked for directions, and sure enough they said, "About six miles back that way." Ouch!

Dennis was already suffering a bit, and while none of us were happy to have taken a detour, he certainly wasn't excited to turn around. Speeds slowed, and John & Robert were nice enough to wait for us back at the US 3/Old Belfair Highway junction.

After getting back to the junction, we saw the correct road, and finally took it. We knew what was coming next, thanks to our cues: Bear Creek-Dewatto Road, 8% grade for 1/2 mile! Finally the turn came, and the 8% grade was presented before us.

Dennis spotted a creek so we stopped and got our hats wet. My trusty bandanna, which can serve so many purposes, was dunked and felt great wrapped around my neck. We were running low on water, but the next control was only 10 or so miles away. No problem.

We had plenty of time to make it (at least an hour), or so I thought. But after we started going uphill, Dennis was really having a tough time at it. I waited for a few minutes at the top, and eventually he came around the bend. We rested in the shade for a bit, then set off again.

From Bad To Worse

After climbing this hill, which was longer than 1/2 mile (but not 8% the whole way), Dennis said at this point he started swerving, and just didn't feel "right." So we took another break, and he laid down on some rocks/bushes/whatever - not the most comfortable, but he really needed to rest! After 10 minutes he felt better, so we set off again.

But the hill just kept on going up, and it was really hot by this point (it was about 2 PM and 90F degrees). Dennis was feeling ill again, so we stopped and he needed more rest & shade. I could tell he was really not feeling well, and didn't want to push him to leave, but at this point we were really cutting it close to missing the cut-off time at the next control.

Dennis recovering in the shade:

The next control, only about five miles away at this point, closed at 2:55 PM. At about 2:30 he was still recovering/resting on the ground, and I figured we needed to get him to the control before too long. Riding there wasn't really an option for him, so I flagged down the first pickup I saw. I don't think I've ever stuck my thumb out for a ride before this!

The guy in the pickup couldn't have been nicer; he practically slammed on his brakes, skidded into the gravel shoulder, backed up, and offered his assistance. Who'd have thought an angel could be scruffy, shirtless, and bearded? Turns out the guy worked at the gas station we were headed for, so he knew where to go.

With Dennis in the truck and on the way to food/water/shade/recovery, I set off with about 10 minutes to go spare to make it. The guy in the truck made it sound like it was "just at the bottom of the hill," which it was I suppose - but the headwinds came out of nowhere, and the time kept ticking while the road kept going.

Eventually I hit the T-intersection, and took my left for the control. But it was 3 PM! Control-time missed by ~10 minutes, brevet over. I got my card signed anyway, with brief thoughts of finishing with a DNQ (Did Not Qualify), which seems only marginally better than a DNF.

The Control Back To Bremerton

Dennis was resting in the shade, looking a bit beat up, but still alive! On the way there I had images of bad movies flashing through my head, thinking, "Do I even know what the truck looked like?!" "What if they guy just steals Dennis?" Luckily the guy was totally legit, my worries were for not. He was indeed a scruffy angel.

I called Eric (the organizer) to let him know what had happened, and that we were abandoning the ride. His directions to the ferry were the exact opposite of an older gent we'd asked earlier (they older guy said take a bunch of lefts, Eric said take a bunch of rights). So we triple-checked and asked the clerk inside, and indeed Eric was correct.

After an hour or so of enjoying the shade, food, and water, we set off for Bremerton. The roads were pretty tame, and we made it just in time for the 5:30 ferry. Dennis had recovered and was fine at this point - funny how the body can do that, recover from the brink of disaster! It takes a strong human, both physicall and metally, to be able to recover like that.

In the end, it was a great ride, and I got to see some familiar faces: Narayan, Joe P, Mark T. Mark got a kick out of my tiny Carrdice saddlebag. Even met a blog reader, Jack I think was his name.

I ended up with about 170km for the day, just over 100 miles. Which was plenty for me on this hot, hellish day. While the ride had its ups and downs, overall it was fun! Big thanks to the organizers and volunteers; the controls were great! Although I don't think I'll be writing any poetry any time soon..

Anyway a few more photos from the ride can be found on flickr. Thanks for reading!


Robert H said...

A scruffy, bearded and shirtless angel? Awesome.
I'm glad all of those horror movies I've seen didn't turn out to be accurate.

Anonymous said...

Scruffy, bearded and shirtless? Your talking redneck tux. Here's a funny thought:, take off your shirt, turn down the lights in the bathroom and check out the mirror, what do you see?

Good job sticking with the stricken, especially someone new to this and in unfamiliar country. Brevets come and go but adversity is what friends are for.

Yr Pal Dr C

Eric Thrasher Troili.. said...

Funny how "Free Mozarella Sticks!" turns into "From Bad to Worse".. Did your gastric distressed friend get the free moz sticks too..?

Anything free usually comes with a price.. And moz sticks on an endurance ride can come with a heavy price..