Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Not Quite 1000K Ride Report

Sorry so tardy getting back to this. You can pretty much bet that absent a quick celebratory post, the ride mentioned earlier didn’t go as well as it might have.

In this case I DNF’ed on the 1000K spring brevet.

I was surprised at the number of people who got in touch to check up on me, Was I OK? What happened? Etc. Some of these inquiries even before I got home and crawled into bed. Friend and tireless rando supporter Mark had been posting updates on the three events that were running simultaneously. Mark does a great job supporting the club and riders, waaaay beyond the call, and these semi-real time updates are just a small example of that support, but a little more about that later.

“Was I OK?”
Yes, I was fine, tired not exhausted but suffering no more than might be expected when you undertake this kind of adventure.

“What happened?”
That’s the question. I rode a long way; my computer says about 750K and had more miles in my legs, so I can’t really say I gave it my all. I thought looking at my pre-ride note might help answer that pesky question, “what happened?” A quick review will suffice, no need for soul searching.

Time of year:
A non-factor. Though it was a little early in the year for me to take on such a ride I think I was strong enough to finish.

This was a factor. Perhaps not a direct cause for a DNF but maybe a bit of contributing factor. I was riding slower than I should have been. I felt pretty good to Port Angeles and according to my records I was averaging a over 21.5 KPH which is ok, but I also know that as the ride goes on that’s going to drop.

About the ride:
From PA to Clallam Bay my average dropped a lot and for some reason this was a low point for me. From Clallam Bay on I rode fairly well. The stretch from Quinault into Aberdeen was tough, it was here I suffered the effects of not getting enough sleep in the week before the ride. I was falling asleep on the bike and only thanks to Shane and Matt coming along in the wee hours was I able to get through here without stopping for a ditch nap. We were lucky that the rain held off all night. I got about 3 hours sleep in Aberdeen.

From here to the ferry terminal went pretty well, it rained, and poured and sunny’d, and misted. What local weather forecasters call “showers with sun breaks”, typical spring weather. At any rate I was pretty well soaked and all my on-board clothes were wet as I waited for the 8:35 ferry. I was a little bummed that I just missed the 8:00 boat and had to wait a half hour.

The sun was going down and it was raining as I crossed the sound. I was thinking bowl of chowder and cuppa ferry boat coffee but the canteen was closed. Ah well, I had time to get on all my night riding gear, all my wet clothes and do a review of the cue sheet. Navigating out of Edmonds to Snohomish took some time, but hats off to Mark for finding a route that did not put us on Lynnwood Mall parkway or Mukilteo speedway. It was dark and rainy so at every turn it was: stop, wipe glasses, wipe cue sheet, flip light up to read street sign. I never missed a turn but it took a lot of time. My fault, if I had been cruising through there in daylight I am sure I could have saved an hour or more. This is a good example of where being slow can compound the pleasure. In the space of about 35 kilometers I could have saved an hour or more. And what’s more, you do these calculations in your head as you are riding, thinking; I’m not going to get much sleep when I get to Darrington. (a little too much thinking is not always helpful).

From Snohomish on, the course is familiar ground. I wanted to pick up the pace on Hwy 9 but I was tired enough that pushing hard felt, well, hard. Here it was raining pretty hard and of course jet dark, but no navigating, traffic not too bad, so some things were going my way. What was not going my way was that I was really fatigued, and the rain was somewhat demoralizing. It was raining pretty hard and there did not seem much prospect of it letting up. So you continue to revise your itinerary, not much else to put your mind to, and that too is not very helpful. Pouring ran and inky black night, you just put your head down and do the best you can to avoid running over any broken bottles or truck tire treads. (I’d already had two flats on this ride)

A few miles out of Arlington I got the sense that the rain water had taken on a salty taste. I suspected this meant I had a bloody nose so slowed, and fiddled with my headlamp in an attempt to shine some light onto my face and chest. When I looked down at my rain coat it was a scene out of a grade B horror flick. I looked as though I had been shot at close range with double ought buck. In a good rain storm a little blood goes a long way and in this case it looked like I had about bled myself dry.

I took measures to stop the blood flow but there was not much I could do about the rain coat. I thought it might present a problem in the store at Arlington, so when I got there I spent a little time outside the store cleaning myself up and then zipped my jacket open and snuck into the rest room to clean up as best I could. In the bathroom I cleaned myself up, assessed my situation and decided to end the ride there. It was more liberating than demoralizing.

The store at 2:00am was deserted. I asked for directions to the microwave and the soup section. I found the soup and then of course spent a fair amount of time there just staring at the selections. I bought a roll in the bakery and something to drink. Though I had decided not to continue, I was still a long way from my car so I knew I needed to get something to eat. I was hoping to be able to coop there for an hour or two until the sky lightened enough that I could make the ride back to Edmonds without relying on my lights.

As I was getting ready to pay and make my little late night supper, Steve came stumbling out of the deli section (where the fireplace is). He said he had been sleeping for an hour or so waiting for me so we could ride on to Darrington together. This sent a shock wave through me. I should have said “sure, let me warm up this soup and get a cuppa and then we’ll go”. But in that tired state I just fell back on the last decision I had made and that was that I was through. This must have been a real bummer for Steve.

I’m sure many riders have heard this advice: Don’t make a big decision about your ride without first eating, maybe resting a little, and then considering your options. I’ve heard that many times and I’ve even used it to help others. Here I was breaking one of the very basic tenants and it cost me the ride.

At the time it seemed like a fine idea and I didn’t have any regrets. I’d ridden about 700K and so got some good miles in my legs. In hind sight, I really wish I had continued. I am sure I could have gotten farther and I believe I could have finished though that last day would have bean tough with very little sleep.
So, I was fine, no big problems, no major mechanical or dramatic physical issue. I just fizzled out and really, that’s not a very good reason to pull up short. I’ll have to remind my self in the future that I am just as vulnerable to the little hidden traps as any one.

When I got back to Edmonds Mark was there in the motel, probably bored to death. Supporting these things is really a lot more taxing than you think. Consider that mark was cooped up in a motel room for maybe most of 24 hours as about 12 riders would come trickling through in the last 12 hours or so. All us riders owe a big thank you to those woh dedicate the time to help out on events. I think the best way to do that is to support others on rides from time to time.


  1. Thanks, Paul, for sharing your story. Lack of sleep in the week coming into the brevet ... that sounds like the killer angel. That, and making the decision before you ate and rested.

    I'm taking that with me.

    Again, thanks, and looking forward to riding with you soon.


  2. well very valiant try none the less. i admire the effort as the longest i have ever riden is a meager 130 miles. it is always inspiring to read the ride reports of the longer distances even if they arnt "success" stories of the traditional variety. if that makes sense?

    anyway i am in love with your titanium tournesol and would like to ask you many questions about it.
    please email me if you find a chance.

    thanks for the time,