Wilderness 200K Brevet (Part 2)

Now, where was I?

Oh yes – just heading back after a lovely sandwich and Mountain Dew at the Spotsylvania 7-11.  Did I mention I had a slight breeze at my back all the way down from Bristow?

It was in my face now.

Nothing serious, mind you.  It was only 5-10 mph and only as annoying as a dripping faucet in the middle of the night – always there, always bugging you, but nothing that you can’t deal with.  Stupid wind.  It would be my companion for the next 60 miles.

I left the 7-11 within a few moments of two other cyclists.  I quickly learned they weren’t together as one dropped the other.  Then the slower one dropped me.  We each made our way over flat roads to Chancellorsville Battlefield and another information control.  As I was about to leave, another group of three riders came up and kindly (if unknowingly) posed for the below picture.

Thousands of men died in this field in May, 1863.
Thousands of men died in this field in May, 1863.

With the sightseeing officially over, all that remained was the ride home.  My first task was to pedal through 13 miles of hilly boredom known as Elys Ford Road.  Or maybe it’s Eleys Ford Road; nobody seems to know for sure what the correct spelling is.  I saw both versions on signposts and I saw an Eleys Baptist Church.  Finally, I saw a gravestone in a cemetery with a large Eleys engraved upon it.  It would seem the Eleys faction has a stronger claim.  This road has almost nothing to see and only the tiny town of Richardsville to pass through for entertainment.  On my previous two trips down this road, the hills and boredom sapped my strength.  I was better prepared this time and paced myself.

One of the few pleasant sites on Eleys Ford Road.  Sadly it occurs only two miles into the journey.
One of the few pleasant sites on Eleys Ford Road. Sadly it occurs only two miles into the journey.

There is a steep descent on this road where I always make great speeds.  In fact, my personal best speed of 46.0 mph was set on this stretch and I once again made a run at the record.  I topped out at 44.7 mph.  Stupid headwind.

Eventually I reached the turning point of Eleys/Elys Ford Road and began the descent to the Rappahannock River.  I was thinking about how I felt better than I did at this point last year when my leg began to cramp.  Not good.  Not good at all.

I pedaled to the bridge on one leg and dismounted to stretch and grab some energy food.  I’m not sure what caused the cramping.  It is either a nutrition issue or the fact that my longest ride of the year was 37 miles and I was currently at Mile 98.  Perhaps it was both, but I have decided I need to eat a little more at these rest stops.  I see other riders getting by with small sandwiches and fruit, but these riders tend to weigh about 30-50 pounds less than me.  I’m burning more calories than they are and need to take in more to compensate.  Some folks take the time to have a sit down meal at a local restaurant.  I’m thinking that’s the way to go when I tackle the 300K next month.

The bridge over the Rappahannock River with three randonneurs crossing.
The bridge over the Rappahannock River with three randonneurs crossing.

I arrived at the bridge five minutes behind last year’s pace and took another five minutes stretching, eating some shot blocks, and taking photos.  I now needed to travel the remaining 30 miles ten minutes faster than I did last year just to equal my time.  Things were becoming desperate.  But maybe I could keep my cramps under control.  Maybe my lighter weight would help.  Maybe I could shave some time by being quick at the final control point.  Maybe there was still a chance.

So off I went, climbing a steep hill out of the river valley and continuing my ride into the slight breeze.  In ten miles, I reached the final control point of the day – a humble convenience store at a lonely crossroads in Fauquier County.  Ed and Mary were there, enjoying a leisurely break with several other riders.  I learned that they also took a lengthier lunch break at a proper restaurant.  Ed and Mary are extremely experienced randonneurs having completed the legendary 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris ride amongst many other feats.  Maybe I should learn from them.

Enjoying a break at a picnic table outside the final control point.  I probably should have done likewise.
Enjoying a break at a picnic table outside the final control point. I probably should have done likewise.

On this day, I was not in a learning mood and politely declined their friendly invitation to sit and relax with them.  I had less than 80 minutes to complete the final 20 miles.  When fresh, I could easily do that but I will remind you, Dear Reader, that I had logged 108 miles at this point and any “freshness” that I once had was long since gone.  I pushed hard for the first ten miles on a slight downhill but blew a gasket as I turned onto Hazelwood Road.  I could hear the immortal cycling announcer, Phil Liggett, in my mind:

“Oh dear, it certainly looks as if Martin has cracked.  So close for the American, yet so far.”

 Having given up my chase, I sat up and spun my way home.  Amazingly, Ed and Mary’s group reeled me in only a couple of miles later.  Apparently, I wasn’t going nearly as fast as I thought I was.  It was also apparent what a well-rested set of legs can do and the pace a group of cyclists can do that a soloist cannot.  As always, they were very cheerful.  Mary even managed to take an exceedingly rare photo of your author riding a bicycle.  This is how I looked in their rear view mirrors.

Putting on a good face at Mile 122
Putting on a good face at Mile 122

I put forth an honest, if not herculean, effort and made it back to the Carribou Coffee Shop with a final time of 9:49, nine minutes slower than last year.  As always, I was greeted with clapping and offered congratulations by the riders who finished before me.  Pizza, soda, fruit and other goodies were laid out and I was grateful to partake.  I signed my official control sheet and turned it in.  I chatted briefly with the group and decided I needed to be on my way home.

And thus ended 2013’s running of the Wilderness 200k Brevet.  The start at freezing temperatures was the coldest of my humble career but the day turned out to be quite pleasant.  I was disappointed in my finish time and I had plenty to think about on my way home.  I shall share my poignant observations with you in my next post!

26 thoughts on “Wilderness 200K Brevet (Part 2)

  1. As I look at my randonneuring times over the past couple of years, they are all over the map. Temperature, solo vs group, training miles, attitude, nutrition, wind, mechanicals and the like all conspire to add or take away time in a ride. Even a 5 degree change in temperatures affects air density! One of the essences of randonneuring is to ride your ride that day. Since “it is not a race”, no need to even race yourself. Had you lingered with Ed & Mary, you likely would have been able to ride in great company and arrive at least 5 minutes earlier than you did. Don’t be too hard on yourself and enjoy these rides! There is a saying in randonneuring: Plan your ride. Your plans will change. Nice job!

  2. Congratulations on finishing the ride! I know very well the feeling of not having enough gas in the tank (so to speak) as you near the end. I do a lot of talking to myself to encourage myself to keep going, and since I’m so slow, thankfully no one else is around to hear me.

    I’m glad you are writing brevet reports– although you are in much better shape than I am, it sounds like we share the same struggles in riding brevets.

    1. Thanks, Lisa, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think all cyclists share in these struggles. As the saying goes, it doesn’t get easier, you just go faster.

  3. Fantastic job, and a spectacular start so early in the year (don’t be hard on yourself)! It seems like the route is exactly the same as last year? Or is it primarily identical with some small changes?

  4. Well done to you for getting to the finish even, thats quite an achievement with your limited miles this year.
    Little and often is usually the secret to food and drink on long rides to keep your energy up. Not necessarily to stop every time but a couple of swallows of an energy drink every 15 minutes or so and something small and nutritious to eat, not so frequently but regularly when on a long ride will help too.
    For rides up to about 3 hours I take a couple of swallows of drink about every 5 miles.. I don’t usually bother with food at that sort of distance.
    You really need to eat and drink BEFORE you need it.

    1. Sage advice, Brian. I found it difficult to eat in the morning cold. My chewy Clif Blocks weren’t quite so chewy. I also need to pay more attention to the number of calories I’m consuming and not just guess at things.

  5. I concur completely with your theory on cramping, I only did 70 this weekend but it almost doubled my longest ride, and had more hills, I was eating on the way out, had a decent lunch and munched on the way back and still struggled on the last eight rolling hills! Good job pal! Less than 10 minutes slower is a win!

    1. 70 miles – very nice! Lots of similar advice on eating – lots of snacking in little bits. I tried to follow that strategy but didn’t quite get the mixture right.

      1. I always have Robles early in the season, seems like every year changes on how much or how little I need. Saturday I just decided to enjoy. Grilled cheese a brownie, if was a good snacking day

  6. Considering how little training you had been able to do in terms of racking up the miles, I think that you did brilliantly. I did wonder about the single sandwich though.

    1. Live and learn. I shouldn’t let myself be guilted into eating like the others. I’ll have my fill and deal with the consequences should it turn out to be too much.

  7. A shame about the time, but a few minutes over a distance like that is really peanuts. I’d call it even! For the wind, I’ve found that since I lowered my bars (slowly, over time) it has gotten much more liveable. Finally, randonneuring is sounding more and more palatable to me, so keep up the lively accounts. Looking forward to that epic 300 km!

    1. Funny you should mention the bars. I’ve been thinking about raising my saddle a tick. It probably will have a similar effect. I do think you’d enjoy randonneuring once you’ve slain all the racing dragons in your life. The rides are a challenge and there is still a time component to keep you focused. And its crammed with French words which I’m sure you’ll love! I guess it really comes down to the group you’re riding with and the DC Randonneurs make it very enjoyable.

      1. I’ll make it a goal for next year. I love very long rides and a ‘leisurely’ pace. Yes, raising the saddle will have the same effect, as would sliding it back on the rails. Anything to flatten you out on the bike will increase your aero-ness…good luck!

  8. Steve, great writeup. Nice to see you again and best of luck on the 300K. We’re fans of eating at least one real meal if possible on brevets; I can’t shovel enough pocket food into my stomach to keep from bonking.
    The riders at the info control at Paul in blue, Carol in orange and Chris in yellow.

    1. I’ve always enjoyed eating in general and probably should do a better job of incorporating it into my cycling. 🙂 Thanks for the info on the riders – you know you are a regular when you can recognize people with their backs turned toward you while wearing cold weather gear!

  9. Good on you, in my (you know, always humble) opinion, kudos, congratulations and fabulous! 200k is a lot of k!! And riding alone is slower, however you cut it. It’s not all about the time (said she, who is always bemoaning how slow she is) you know. Just think of how very few people have ever ridden a 200k. Like me. Bravo! And, said very quietly, like all real cyclists say things. Shhhhhh…..good job, well done.

    I look to forward to 300k! Whooooossshhhh… not so quietly.

  10. 300K – now we’re talking! As for the times, in all candor, comparing individual rides is a recipe for false analysis. This is not a variable controlled sport. The trends counts more. More importantly randonneuring is not a race. If you judge your rides by finish time you are missing a big part of the sport. Enjoy the camaraderie, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the food, enjoy the ride.

    1. I’m all about logic errors and grand pronouncements based on bits of data! I am getting consistent feedback from seasoned experts like you so I would be foolish to disregard it. I will humbly point out, however, that there is a clock involved in this sport and it therefore time must be some small part of it. I shall try to find a better balance between “racing” and “enjoyment.” My camera helps in that regard but I shall look for other helpers as well.

  11. Obviously the thing that slowed you down by 9 minutes is the splendid new saddlebag. You’ll just have to send it to me. I’m already slow, you see.

    I think that you did great for the first big ride of the season.

    1. Had you been one of the first commenters, this persuasive argument would have caused me to pack up my bag and ship it to you immediately. But now I understand I shouldn’t be concerned about my times (especially nine minutes) and therefore I shall keep my bag and all the drag forces it creates. 😉

  12. Good write up, and don’t worry much about your time, over that kind of distance 9 minutes doesn’t mean much, it could have been more wind, cold, whatever. You made it that is what matters.

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