Last Saturday (3/27/99) was the second in the series of four local qualifiers for Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). Since the Bike Friday had done well on the 200K, I once again figured "why not?" and decided to ride it on the 300K as well.
Andy picks me up a bit before 4:00 AM and we drive to Mukilteo. We park in a church parking lot and unload the bikes. My pal Ken is already there, getting his Gold Rush already to go. After the last ride, he'd decided he needed lower gears on the Rush. He changed out the freewheel the day before this ride so he really only has parking lot miles on the new gears. We futz with our bikes and gear for a while and then head down to the ferry dock.
It's dark and cold with temps in the thirties. I'm wearing tights, a wool sweater, my rain jacket, windstopper gloves, a balaclava, and SealSkinz socks. The forecast is a mixed bag, so I've also got another wind shell jacket, a couple of other gloves packed along as well. We all sign in and at 6:00 AM take the ferry from Mukilteo over to Clinton on the south end of Widbey Island. There are 42 riders. There is one recumbent (Ken), 5 tandems, and two Bike Fridays (Terry Zmrhal and me).
The cue sheet said the ride starts at "6:30 AM, when the ferry docks". This can be interpretted two ways and when we docked, some of us, including Jan Heine, Mark Vandecamp and myself, rolled off the ferry and kept rolling. We climbed the hill out of Clinton and noticed nobody was behind us. One of the ride controllers drove up alongside us and said that the rest of the crew was waiting until 6:30 for the "official" start. Rather than roll back down the hill, we waited for them where we were at and when several of the riders went past, we started rolling again.
I'd never been on Whidbey Island before and found it very nice. The weather was still cool but things cleared and we had some blue sky. Andy went by me fairly early on and the Jan, Kendall, and Mark train had also blasted on ahead. I was pretty much riding my own pace and feeling fine. Tom Brett and I rode together for a while and passed the Jan/Kendall/Mark team who were stopped with a flat. Later when they came by Tom and I, we hung with them for a bit, but I knew I couldn't hold their pace and dropped back. I later found that Tom had held on for a few miles more before being spit out the back.
I slowed down a bit going through Oak Harbor looking for the AM/PM mart that was our first control point (37.7 miles/60.7 KM) and several riders caught up with me. There were maybe ten of us there, getting our cards stamped and lining up for the bathroom.
After Oak Harbor, we had some fairly gusty cross winds and some rolling hills. The winds were stiff enough I considered yanking the Zzipper off the bike and rolling it up, but instead just slowed a bit on the descents. I wondered how Ken would do on the faired Gold Rush.
Ten miles later, I crossed Deception Pass which is absolutely spectacular. Then we continued North and East via Rosario Road, the Bay View-Edison Road and Chuckanut Drive. This route takes you along the sound and is also breathtaking. I passed a couple of riders who had too little gear to be randonneurs and chatted with them for a bit. At the mile 84.8 point (136.5 KM), we turn onto Lake Sammish Road and we begin heading south.
This is where things start to get challenging. The wind is coming up through the Skagit valley and the road is that really sticky chipseal stuff. It's like riding on flypaper. I'm concentrating on getting to the next control at the 95.8 mile (151.8 KM) mark but somewhere around the 88 mile (142 KM) mark I see the secret control. I stop, get my card stamped and have a banana and a whole bunch of peanut butter flavored alphabet crackers. I hang out at this control for a while, and then ride the little ways to the next control, the Texaco at the 95.8 mile (151.8 KM) mark. I'm out of Cytomax by now, so I refill my bottles with Orange-Carrot Elixer and I also grab a bottle of apple juice. I also get a ham sandwich. I take two bites from the sandwhich, stuff the rest in my jersey pocket and hit the road again.
The ride down the valley to Mount Vernon was not fun. It was flat and into the wind. I was glad I had the Zzipper fairing here. Given the advantage a recumbent has under conditions like this, I figured Ken would be gaining on me. I did catch a couple of other riders here -- one guy on a Serotta and I'm not sure what the other guy was riding. We got a bit confused by the route sheet in Mount Vernon, but got it sorted out as we climbed onto Little Mountain Road. I decided to take a quick bathroom and snack break and my two companions rode on.
The day never really warmed up. Temps never got above the forties and I got caught in a brief hailstorm. Later I found that everyone had been in at least one hailstorm and some folks got hailed on a couple of times. At mile 122.6 (195 KM) I turned onto Lake Cavanaugh road and caught up with my new friend on the Serotta. It's about 13 miles up to Lake Cavenaugh and it's definitely up. And the road surface is that beastly chipseal, so this isn't a very fast section of the ride. I drop to my granny gear, while my friend has to muscle his way up.
"Hey, you have a triple on that?" he asks.
"You bet," I reply, "I'm an old man, I'll take any advantage I can get."
He looks at me, "You, you're a kid. How old are you?"
"Forty," I reply.
"Heh! Like I said, you're a kid."
"So how old are you?" I query.
"Well, let's just say I was born in the forties..."
The road gets steeper here and we focus on the climb. It's colder now and there's snow along the sides of the road. We start seeing other riders, descending now as the course goes up to Lake Cavanaugh, loops around and comes back on this road. The first riders are the Jan/Kendall/Mark team, but about five minutes later I see Andy coming down, so he's not too far behind.
As we get up to the lake, there is more snow and we start the loop around only to find they've had to set up an alternate control point. The road is too snow covered for us to get to the fire station, so a camp trailer is our control point. Various people are hanging out here, having soup or hot chocolate. I'm actually feeling pretty good, so I stop long enough to pee and refill my CamelBak and then I'm off again.
Descending, I see various riders, but I still don't see Ken, so I figure he's not been having a very good ride. After about 8 miles on Lake Cavanaugh Road, I turn onto Granstrom Road which I then follow into Arlington.
At Arlington, I get cocky. After all, I've been here before on a training ride, I know where I'm going, right? Wrong.
I stop at the turn onto the Arlington Heights Road, take another little snack break. It's now about 6:30 PM and I've got about 40 miles to go. After a few minutes, I get back on the bike and start off on the Arlington Heights Road. Yep, this is a great road, real pretty. I love all these little farms. Like this one with the farmer and his dog bringing the sheep in for the evening. I roll on, up a hill, seeing some other farms and country houses.
Hmm, funny, I don't remember seeing that sheep farm the last time I rode this...
I check my route sheet. I'd missed the turn from the Arlington Heights Road to the Jordan Road. After a mile or two of backtracking, I'm back on course. It's around 7:00 PM now and getting pretty dark. I flip on the flashers and the lights.
Now it's some pretty nice night riding. It's just me and the bike and the night sounds -- dogs barking as I pass and a few hearty early season frogs croaking in the roadside pools.
I pull into the Granite Falls control (mile 171.2, 273.2 KM) right around 8:00 PM and meet up with Bill Dussler, Tom Brett, a couple of other folks and the Serotta guy. We eat some french fries and head out.
It's raining now and we motor off into the night, down highway 92 to highway 9 and then over to Marysville. Everything is working well -- the lights are still going strong and the bike is doing great. Tom and Bill are back a ways and but I'm riding with the Serotta guy and one other rider. I have a small Princeton Tech lamp mounted on the shoulder strap of my CamelBak which lets me see the cue sheet and this makes me the defacto navigator of our group.
We ride down to Everett and then get onto Mukilteo Blvd. The two others talked of stopping off where they'd parked and then hitting the final control, but they were a bit ahead of me when we got to Mukilteo, so I'm not sure what they opted to do. I rolled into the final contol and got logged in at 10:37 PM for a total time of 16 hours 7 minutes. My computer listed the distance as 197 miles (317 KM) with a rolling average of 13.8 MPH (22.2 KPH). The official numbers listed the official distance as 194.8 miles (311.2 KM). Of course the official distance doesn't include the miles you log when you miss a turn.
Andy was waiting at the final control. He was totally please with his performance which had been awesome. Shortly after I'd last seen him, the lead group missed a turn and had to backtrack. At the end of their backtrack, they met up with Andy and he hung with them all the way back. He was part of a group of eight riders who finished at 8:35 PM for a total time of 14:05. Given the conditions, this was a great time. The eight riders were Gregory Cox, Kendall Demaree, K.C. Elstun, Andy Fuller, Jan Heine, Kevin Hodge, Vince Sikorski, and Mark Vandekamp.
Another group of six riders finished with a time of 14:50. This was the tandem team of Melody Mayor and Bill Schiedt together with Peter Liekkio, Wayne Methner, Charlie Vanzandt, and Terry Zmrhal.
At 15:45 we have Peter McKay and Mark Thomas. Pete Bajema and Ken Carter logged times of 15:56 the week before in the pre-ride of the course.
As I said, I came in with a time of 16:07. Tom Brett, Bill Dussler and Dan Peterson finished in 16:15. Eric Courtney finished with a 16:20.
The tandem team of Ken and Jan Absher finished with a time of 16:45.
Ron Himschoot and Dick Pado came in with a 17:34.
Ron Lee and Lynne Vigessa finished with a 19:00
The tandem team of Bill Bramwell and Janeen Field finished in 19:15.
The 300K brevet has a time limit of 20 hours. The following 11 riders were DNF: Lee Kanning, Ken Krichman (recumbent), Robert Magyar, Max Maxon, Guy Oldfield, Janine & William Prichard (tandem), Shawn and William Stevenson (tandem), Heather Swartz, and Duane Wright.
This was a very difficult ride, with a high rate of DNFs. Those who finished the ride within the time limits had time significantly slower than they'd had in some previous 300Ks. The total elevation gain for this ride was 8500 feet.
I actually felt fine at the end of the ride. I'm still tweaking what I carry on these rides. This time I wound up lugging too much food (Balance & PowerBar Harvest bars) and I'm hoping to carry powdered Cytomax so I can mix it on the fly. I'd talked with various riders and studied what rain gear works best and I'm opting for a new Burley Ultrex jacket.
Andy was super jazzed by his ride and we compared notes on the drive home. I slept for three hours and then snapped awake with my body telling me to get back on the bike and ride. I ignored this urge, but figure it's a good sign, because that's exactly what I'll have to be doing on the longer rides.
Sunday I talked to my friend Ken. When I was at the Granite Falls McDonalds, he'd just pulled into Lake Cavanaugh. He'd wound up walking some of the climbs and he hauled his bike back to the end of the ride in the control camping trailer. His wider range of gears made it harder for him to find the proper gear and since he was running later, he hit more snow and rain.
I'm on track to doing the rest of the Paris-Brest-Paris qualifiers, but I think I'll keep doing these rides on the Bike Friday. If I do wind up going to Paris, the Friday is definitely the easiest bike to transport.
The next qualifier is the 400K on May 1st.