Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pre-Brevet Premonition

So, … What’s it Gonna Be?

I’ll ride a 1000K brevet in a couple days, we’ll start riding Friday June 15th at about 6:30 am. The event will end at 9:30 am on Monday, June 18th.

At this point I don’t have a very good idea of how this event will go for me. I’ve ridden this distance as fast a 63:33 and as slow as 72:29, that’s almost a 10 hour spread, and 10 hours is about 13% of the total time allotted.

Normally I have some sense of how it will go though my fast time was a surprise. I owe that almost exclusively to a couple guys who towed me around on the last day of the event (thanks again Wayne and Wim!). Turning in that fast time was a big surprise and a lot of fun as well as an incredible morale boost. My slowest time was the first 1000K I rode and I doubt I would have even finished it had it not been for the great help of another rider (thanks Peg!).

The variables I usually have a handle on are the time of year, my fitness, the weather, and the course.

Time of year:
In this case this will be the earliest I have ridden a 1000K though I rode the first SIR Cascade 1200K randonee about this time in 2005. That was a killer, I worked to finish it within the time limit but then, it was a considerably harder course; across the Cascades via Stevens Pass and back via Washington and Rainy passes. (no passes this go round, see Course)

My fitness I still do not have a handle on. I rode a 600K brevet two weeks ago that I thought would treat me harshly. I came through that feeling quite well and even during the ride the hard parts were not as hard as I recalled them from 2005.

I was in great shape going into last winter but fell on hard times in December. I have apparently contracted some serious allergy (ies), also a chronic sinus infection, and now possibly some degree of asthma. All in one winter. Does this make you wonder if the medical establishment has a handle on what is going on here? It does me.

So now, breathing is a problem, which has caused me to go to the gym far less for my UB workouts, or spinning classes, or core strength sessions than I might have otherwise. Which means less physical or psychological strength. One significant consequence is that I am fatter than I want to be for this time of year. But as I said earlier, I’ve done better on the early season series of brevets than I expected, so my fitness really is a wild card. I have a session scheduled with the allergist right after this thing ends so I won’t be able to use any antihistamines or decongestants on this ride, which could have a significant effect. So the fitness factor is a real wild card.

The course:
This will be a first for me, a 1000K that does not take us across the Cascades of Washington State. We will start with a counter clockwise circumnavigation of the Olympic Peninsula. This is a fairly pleasant route. I have ridden it a number of times and at points in my life I have lived around the course (currently living about 15 miles south of the southernmost point). The thing about this part of the course is, you have a very high probability of getting rained on. I’ve been watching weatherdotcom and they keep saying something like 30% chance of rain or showers. Now in most parts of the world that could be interpreted to mean you have about a 30% chance of seeing rain on that day, or for the optimists in the crowd, a 70% chance of seeing no rain at all! I lived for a few years in Forks, WA, a stop alomng the course. It rains there. It rains about 120 inches a year. That’s not a typo, ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY inches. Yes, 10 feet of rain per year. From my time in Forks I developed an alternative interpretation of the prediction of the chance of rain. 30 percent chance could mean, 100% chance of rain for about 30% of the day. For those who are seriously impacted by weather, this could be a big factor. I’ve ridden in rain enough to say that I don’t consider this a big issue. This may sound sick to some, I can honestly say, at least it will be warm rain and that’s better than cold rain.

The rest of the course will take us across Puget Sound via WA State Ferry to Edmonds then by back roads through Darrington, to Marblemount, Newhalem, and into the North Cascades National Park. We’ll turn around at Colonial Creek Campground, just before the long climb through the North Cascades. From there we will turn and head west on Hwy 20 to Concrete, turn onto the Dalles Bridge road and go right past a little cabin I lived in on the banks of the Skagit river some 35 years ago. Then west on the West Skagit Highway to Hwy 9 and then back south. It’s a pretty long haul from Big Lake down to the finish at Edmonds. I’ll be weary but it will be night and the road will be pretty decent and there are not too many surprise climbs (I hope) in that last 100K stretch. So to sum up, the course, for a 1000K brevet is pretty favorable.

The one thing I have not taken into consideration is who else will be riding:

There are very few riders registered for this event, less than a dozen and I don’t expect to see too many last minute start line sign ups. Of those who have pre registered there are few whom I think I could match pace with. There is a ray of hope though. A 600K will start on the same course at the same time and those riders will ride with us around the Peninsula. They will finish at the ferry dock. Then on the other side of the sound, a 400K will start at 6:30 am and those riders will ride the same course with us 1000K riders. It is possible that I’ll have some opportunity to ride with some of these shorter brevet riders for a period of time and I know for a fact that I always ride a little faster and a little stronger when I have others to ride with.

Another variable is the bike:

I am riding a nearly new bike. I got it a few weeks ago, and rode a few ‘get acquainted’ miles(commute to work, after work, and weekend rides) and then I rode it on that 600K two weeks ago. It performed well, and in fact I think the comfort of this bike was a contributing factor to how how well I did or at least how well I felt post ride. The bike is in the shop now getting a ‘demi-tuneup’. That’s what I call it when you get the drive train adjustment and other minor tweeks that are necessary as a new bike gets broken in. Sort of analogous to how you have to drive your brand spanking new car for the first 1000 miles or so. Bike geeks know this, novices always say ”What? It’s brand new and already you are having work done on it!?

So there you go, who knows, it is a mystery. One that has me a little nervous, but on the other hand, something I am really looking forward to. I love riding these long brevets. Different from a tour in that you have the urgency of the time requirements at the controls, but not that ridiculous throw-up tension/exhaustion that comes with racing. You get to work through challenges, it’s not like making a bad move in chess and suddenly you are in check mate, but you get time, lots of time actually to figure out Rube Goldberg solutions to problems that could be a stopper. Note here how much I am talking about the mental not the physical aspect of this thing, so it is a pleasant combination of both mental and physical challenges. These challenges of course become amplified as you ride your way toward exhaustion.

I’ll be walking funny for a couple days afterward and I will feel the need to gorge on about a two hour schedule, but a couple weeks later I’ll feel a real fitness bounce (if all goes as it has in the past) and that will put me on a great trajectory for my real ‘A list” event, PBP in August.

Check back later I’ll try to post a little epilogue.


  1. Robert Higdon6/13/07, 7:09 AM

    Good luck with this 1000k. Keep up the interesting blog, I have been enjoying it since I ran across it on the Bicycling forums.
    p.s. The new Tournesol is beautiful.

  2. You'll do fine. You always do. Bear in mind that after the 600km, you get lots of extra time. You have 10 hours (plus any unused 600km time) to make it 115km to the second overnight, then you have 25 hours to do the last 300km. I'll see you out there.

  3. Have fun on the 1000! And YES, do write up a report afterwards please. And congrats on the lovely new bike.

  4. Paul, I hope you luck out and enjoy good weather and tailwinds. You will finish in grand style: nothing to worry about there. Sorry I could not do this one with you. PBP, and next year's 1000, for sure.

  5. Great looking bike. Couple of questions: What size Paselas are you running and which brake are you using.