S. J. Perelman observed, "The comic writer is constantly searching for difficulties. One subjects himself to stress and difficulty that one can make copy out of. If your obligation is to amuse your readers then you try to get into dilemmas that are grievous to yourself but not necessarily wounding or completely shattering." Perelman would've found the April 1st SIR 200K quite a literary challenge.
The problem was the weather. There wasn't enough of it. Any true randonneur will tell you (at length and in great detail unless you run quickly away) that randonneuring is all about riding vast distances in miserable conditions. Ideally, it should be dark and cold and if not actually snowing there should at least be relentless soul-numbing rain. Even the smallest hailstorm can add an immeasurable epic element to a ride and winds strong enough to fling tree limbs onto the roadway are most prized by the randonneuring raconteur.
Alas, April 1st played us all for fools and dawned clear and comfortable. I know how it dawned because dawn found me on my bicycle, riding the 42 kilometers down to Greg Cox's house. I was hoping for some element of intrigue to punctuate my pre-light pre-ride but there were no suicidal squirrels to dart into my path, no carloads of carousing characters to hurl drunken insults at me and not even a carnivorous cocker spaniel lying in wait by a garden gate. No, the ride to Greg's was disturbingly uneventful.
By the time I arrive at the park by Greg's house at 6:15 AM the sun is up and many of my randonneuring companions are signing in and making final clothing decisions. While the mainstream press may fail to recognize the cyclist as a bellwether of fashion, the true randonneur has a deep and hard-earned knowledge of the sartorial arts. This comes from our innate desire at all times to be in a state similar to Baby Bear's porridge -- neither to hot nor too cold but occupying that ideal state known as "just right". Since I had chosen to ride to Greg's, my decisions had been made hours ago and had to allow for the bit of cool dark riding. I was wearing: one pair of SmartWool socks, one pair of Look mountain bike shoes, one pair of Pearl Izumi leg warmers, one pair of Sugoi shorts, one red Pearl Izumi long sleeve top, one short sleeve RUSA jersey, one LL Bean nylon Zephyr wind shirt, one thin REI balaclava, my cotton Campagnolo cap, a Giro Stevilo helmet and one pair REI windblocker fleece gloves. I'm slightly under-dressed for standing around.
The group that takes off at 7:00 AM is mix of many of the usual suspects plus a few new recruits. Terry Z and Anne Marie are piloting one of their rocket-powered tandems. Jim Giles is at the helm of his Gold Rush recumbent. Ken Carter's on his carbon Trek with the swayback Brooks Pro saddle. Mark VandeKamp's riding his "yeah it's steel but TiCycles put it together" do everything bike. Ken Stagg is looking like he'd been doing this for years on his Heron. Ron Lee and Lynne Vigesaa were looking happy and ready to ride. Eric Courtney, who I'd last seen providing moral support at the 100K was here to ride today. Mark Thomas had decided once again to tempt fate by using fancy-schmancy carbon spoked wheels on his Litespeed. Wayne Methner is also Litepeed-equipped but Peter McKay is representing the "heck you don't need fancy stuff" school of thought by riding his mountain bike. Tom Brett and I take that philosophy to the next illogical step by both riding fixed gear bikes. Tom's is an 80's vintage Trek and mine is the classic "if it was good enough for Merckx, it's good enough for me" 1972 Peugeot PX-10. Ewen Tait, Peg Winczewski, Scott Myers and Damian McHugh are riders who I haven't seen before at SIR rides.
A quick descent followed by a couple of quick turns and we're on the Soos Creek Trail. Mark VandeKamp and Ken Carter are in the lead with the rest of us close behind. Our next turn is to be a left onto 148th SE and when Ken turns left on an unmarked road we all follow with a herd instinct that would make your average lemming look like an anarchist. Of course, this road is not 148th SE. We all realize this at about the same time, swoop back to the trail and resume our journey. At the end of the trail, we find a locked gate and the real 148th SE. We go over, under or around the gate and onto the road.
We cross the Kent-Kangley Road and roll on toward Black Diamond. Ken is setting the pace but Tom Brett and I are close behind. "Make sure he doesn't stop pedaling!” Tom says as Ken punches things up a notch and I up my RPMs to keep pace. I catch and pass Ken on one of the gentle descents on the Kent Black Diamond Road. I think Ken was a bit startled when I when passed him. Fixed gear bikes are not known for their speed on descents, but Ken hadn't made allowance for the Caffeine Calorie Closure Coefficient (CCCC or C4). In layman's terms, C4 states that the velocity of any bicycle I'm riding increases as the distance to a bakery (especially one that serves coffee) decreases. Thanks to the C4 effect, I'm the first rider into the control at the Black Diamond Bakery. The sweet young thing at the counter stamps my control card and makes me short caramel latte. On previous brevets I'd learned that the magic words "not too hot" ensure a drink that can be quickly slammed down. I also paused to peal off my wind shirt and balaclava, swap my fleece gloves for mesh cycling gloves and wolf down a granola bar. I was quick but Ken and Mark VandeKamp were quicker. Now we're back onto the road and heading towards Hobart.
We cross the Kent-Kangly road at Ravensdale and while I catch glimpses of Mark, I don't see Ken until I spot him returning from the control at the Hobart Market. This leg of the brevet is a little out and back stretch, so it's a good chance to figure out where people are relative to each other. I catch up with Mark at the market (35 kilometers into the ride) and don't waste much time getting my card signed. Mark leaves the market a bit ahead of me and I'm gone before the next riders pull in.
On the ride back to Ravensdale, we see the rest of the riders. At Ravensdale we head East on the Kent Kangly Road and then South on the Retreat Kanaskat Road. After five kilometers or so the route turns right on the Cumberland Kanaskat Road. Along this road Greg Cox has set up a secret control. I pull in just as Mark is pulling out.
I catch up with Mark again at the Enumclaw control at kilometer 65. I eat half a muffin poppy seed muffin here and refill my water bottle. Bill Dussler tells me that Ken Carter passed through about five minutes earlier. By the time I'm rolling again, Mark's out of sight.
I ride south to Buckley and now I'm riding in terrain that's new to me. I get a touch off course before I find River Avenue but then the navigation is simple along routes 165 and 162. I follow the sign pointing to Electron and turn onto the Orville Road.
It's getting quite warm now. After another 10 kilometers where the road turns left, I stop at a mini-mart. I haven't seen Mark or Ken in quite some time and I haven't seen any of the folks who are behind me either. I peal off my leg warmers, put on some sunscreen and rig my bandana as a Lawrence-of-Arabia-style neck cover. I buy a pint of milk, a bottle of water and a bottle of a peach/berry juice blend. I eat a handful of cashews, a Slim-Jim, and a granola bar from my food stash and wash it down with the milk. I refill my water bottle, stuff the juice bottle in my jersey pocket and hit the road again.
Orville Road goes by a couple of small lakes and then connects up with SR 161 for a two-kilometer climb up to Eatonville. This section reminds me of P-B-P because the French love to put their controls at the top of hills.
Eatonville (kilometer 121) is an open control, so I follow the loop for the business district and find a grocery store. Ken Carter is here and he asks me where Mark is. I figure he has to be in front of me, but we can't figure out where he went. I go into the store, buy a Mocha Frappucino and get my card stamped.
I compliment Ken on the great ride he's having but he says, "I've got gears and can coast. I know that's cheating in your book!"
"No," I reply, "I just think that stuff slows you down."
"Well, I'd better get going then," he says and heads off down the road. He moves pretty fast for a guy whose bike is made out of a mixture of pencil lead and glue.
I drink down my Frappucino and head back. Again the course is doubling back on itself, so I get to see all the others. Terry Z and Anne Marie, Mark Thomas, Wayne, Peter and Tom are all pulling into town as I'm heading out and then on Orville Road I see the rest of the crew.
Up ahead I see a rider and it doesn't look like Ken. It must be Mark. On some sections I can see a rider still farther ahead and I figure that must be Ken. For a while I think I can catch them but eventually Mark catches up with Ken and they ride off.
At South Prairie I stop again for a quick granola bar and juice snack. Then it's up to Buckley and Highway 410 and then country roads and the one decent climb of the ride -- the climb out of the Green River Valley back up to the Auburn Black Diamond Road.
As I'm working my way up this hill, Bill Dussler pulls along side me in his van and asks how I'm enjoying the climb. I can't recall my exact response, but I think it was actually pretty civil under the circumstances. I did notice that the climb seemed easier in the sections of the road where the trees provided some shade. Bill assures me that it's only about ten more miles to Greg's house.
The section on the Black Diamond road goes by quickly and then it's back onto the Soos Creek trail. The trail looks quite different from this direction and with the nice weather it's loaded up with pedestrians, roller-bladers and dog walkers. I always feel like a dork riding on the trail with full road gear and this is probably my least favorite section of the ride. I wind up turning off the trail one intersection too soon by mistake and zip up what I think is the hill leading to Greg's place.
No Greg's place. Hmm.
It slowly dawns on me that I've taken a wrong turn. I go back down the hill, correct my error and at 4:02 PM I pull into Greg's driveway. Pete Bajema, who had been thinking of riding the 200 but ran into problems on the way to Greg's, signs my card.
Ken and Mark had finished at 3:35 PM. Greg's wife had three pots of chili going along with various other munchies and liquid refreshments. At 4:25 PM Anne Marie and TerryZ rolled in and at 4:55 PM Tom Brett, Mark Thomas, Peter McKay and Wayne Methner pulled up.
I had to ride home and wanted to take advantage of what daylight remained so I left around 5:00 PM but over the next few hours everybody else rolled in. Here are the final results including Greg and Bill's times from the pre-ride the week before:
|Anne Marie McSweeny||9:25|