Sunday, March 21, 2010

And the Winner is ....

I rode the Bellingham 200K brevet yesterday.

It was a long way to go for a bike ride but as I told Dan and Matt at the finish, if I was inclined to go a long way for a ride, this would be one.

This ride scored high in just about all the categories that I care about: It was a very scenic course, lots of lakes, wildlife and scenery, it was out in the country (big for me), and road conditions were fair.

Skagit Valley is known for its tulips, but before tulips comes ...daffodis 

80 acres in this case.

Even the variables (weather and traffic) played nice, well mostly: It was mostly high overcast, not sunny, but not rainy, and on the last day of winter, I’ll take it. Traffic was minimal and generally respectful. There was towards the end a little wind, I’ll talk about that later.

Riding through Bellingham brought back memories (I lived there in the early 70’s) and because the downtown is historic, (lots of old brick buildings) it looks about the same. I had to stop and take a pic of this building:

Whidby Island bank is dripping with respectability. This part of town, Fairhaven was back on its heels in the 70’s, a sort of hippie haven and the bank at that time was the Kulshan tavern, where Wednesday was dime night. You could get a 12 oz schooner of tap beer (Rainier if I remember correctly) for ten cents. Those were the days.

But back to the ride: I felt pretty good for the first half, I had no expectations, I was just wanting the get more miles in my legs and re-experience the process of working my way through another brevet.

Because it is a fairly flat course I expected most people would be hammering to get a personal best over a 200K route. It seems it didn’t work out that way, it’s a rare day that I see the likes of Vinny, JP, Peter, Eric, and Maggie late in a ride but it happened this time.

I got to ride with others too; Roger and Ali from BC, and Chuck and Steve. I was able to lead Steve off course early on; fortunately he asked about my crafty navigation strategy before we were too far up the wrong hill. Dan and Matt did a fine job with the directions, but perhaps I am at that point where I need to print the cue sheet in a larger font. For sure I need to pay a little closer attention to the instructions, another lesson re-learned.

Usually when you ride this part of the route once Chuckanut drive spills you out onto the low country from Edison to Whitney your slammed with wind. Not the case this time, it was a pleasant ride all the way to La Conner.

I worked my way back out of tourist infested La Conner and was once again out in farm country. At this point I was 150K into the ride and for the first time I gave a thought to when I might finish. I did the math and even though I had not been pushing, it was reasonable to think that if I just maintained tempo there was a good chance of bringing this thing home in under 11 hours. That’s no great shakes for most randos but sad to say it’s been some time since I finished a 200K brevet in less than 11 hours.

No sooner had I fully formed this thought in my mind than I was hit square in the face full force with a 32oz Louisville Slugger of headwind. It came up fast and hard, ….and then it got worse. That last 50K was agony. I kept thinking that in my recent rides the last part is motivational, smell the barn and all that, but in this case I just felt like I was riding in sand. And it did not entirely make sense. Normally I do OK in wind, I don’t mean I fly through the challenge but I know how to handle it yet this time I felt like the elements had me completely in their grasp.

In retrospect I realize I was on the verge of a bonk, just barely staving it off. For breakfast that morning I had a bowl of oatmeal at the Dennys next to the motel, and in the room I had as a special breakfast treat: Ensure Latte’. I mixed a packet of Starbux Via with a vanilla Ensure which together with the oatmeal was good for starters.

But as I was recounting my ride to Mrs C that night she asked what I’d had to eat and I realized I had not eaten anything at any of the controls. I snacked along the way on cashews and dried apricots, and I had about four of those Clif shot gummy bear blocks (with caffeine!) and … that was it. More rooky mistakes.  Anyway, 5 minutes in the wind and I abandoned all thought of a sub 11 finish and just focused on making the pedals go round.

I had a great time, no flats and really with the JB’s I just never thought about it, those tires feel good under me and inspire confidence. Now, on to a 300K, man I don’t know if I am up to this.

PS: the pond water temp has been flirting with 50 so I have been feeding the fish sparingly with vitamin fortified antibiotic laced spring fish food. As the water warms up the parasites and bacteria come alive earlier than the fish (sort of like how the dandelions always outsprint the roses in early spring) so it’s not a bad idea to start them off with a little spring tonic. I’ve also been taking a few night photos: they look pretty good don’t they?

(Fish ...Grrr!)

OKay!  Enough with the fish, turn out the @)%!!!? lights!


  1. Glad to see that you made it out alive. The winds were pretty brutal. They felt even worse (to me) because they came in from the side half of the time and that really felt like it was slowing me down. I think my beer gut might have something to do with the excess drag.

  2. Good job on the finish, Dr.! That headwind was a killer all the way to the finish from before the turn onto Pioneer Hwy. Ugh.
    The line I was riding with did all we could to keep up 14 - 14.5mph going into that wind.

    I'm glad the new tires are working out for you, too. It's always nice to see a ride report which doesn't involve a half dozen flat tires.

    I've been trying to give an "official" name to the Starbucks/Ensure combination ever since I mixed up a chocolate Ensure and a Mocha Doubleshot. I've been calling it a Randoccino.

    So, is the 300k you mentioned the upcoming Granite Falls ride this coming Saturday?