to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, Marshall Store & Return - Approx 125
midweek before the ride, I was pretty much resigned to staying soaked
all day long.
It was sort of freeing, really. Felt like I was under-miled
a bit, as mentioned earlier, and the forecast continued to become
more robust through the weekend, until the chance of rain stood
firmly at 90% for Saturday. Thursday evening, a very wet storm
parked itself over the greater SF Bay Area, and started dropping
rain in serious quantities. By Friday evening, the local alerts
started coming over the cable - flood warnings through Ross, San
Anselmo and Fairfax - which are three of the Marin County towns
in the initial/final bits of the SF Randonneurs 200K brevet route.
Still, I didn't think about not showing up. My wife (wisely)
kept giving me polite, "are you sure?" looks during those worst
moments of the storms and forecasts. But, one of the nice things
about county-specific local knowledge is that you know those floods
are tidally influenced - the Corte Madera Creek gets a lot of water
from the SF Bay at high tide, and the SF Bay in turn gets a lot
of water from the rivers when it rains. At high tide, the water
simply has nowhere to go and spreads wide through the floodplain
until the moon's influence is lessened, and everything gets pushed
out to sea through the Golden Gate.
On the other hand, the low spots in our backyard had 6-8" of water
in 'em, the rain pounded our roof, and the sump pump kept hammering
away. It was gonna be wet. As I said, I was resigned to it.
I'd become water-imperviousness-obsessed all week - treating everything
that had a seam with silicone spray, getting a waterproof cover
for the Country Bag, rigging a heavy plastic bag on the Brooks,
pulling some obvious bolts and regreasing 'em, double-checking
the fender and flap coverage, cleaning the drivetrain and breaking
out the Phil's Tenacious Oil. I bought a bunch of those chemical
handwarmers and packed a baggie with an extra pair of socks and
shorts - figuring that the mental uplift of dry toes and bits would
be helpful at some point. I was convinced it would be a long, wet
Woke up with a jolt about three in the morning. It took a
while to figure out what had triggered my awakening. The dogs were
asleep and nothing seemed out of order. Then I realized -
it was dead quiet. No rain. I bumped to the back door and
confirmed. Not even a light mist. This was most unexpected.
Two hours later, when the alarm went off, the same conditions prevailed.
Going outside with the dog made it clear that it had actually even
warmed a bit - the air was clearly not as chilly as it had been
for the past couple weeks. These were interesting developments.
The only immediate change was to ditch the extra shorts and hat.
I made some sandwiches, fed the dog and hit the road. Still no rain.
Exiting the car at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, the
clouds were high and and pavement had even dried a bit here and
there. I decided to forgo the newly-siliconed booties, leaving them
in the car, but kept the Rainlegs rolled up around my waist. Locked
up and rolled off to the start, headlight stabbing into the dark.
It's a beautiful time to be up and about. There is something
about rolling silently along while most of the world is asleep that
brings a happy tingle to my being. The lists and tasks of the week
fell away as gravity pulled me down the subtle arc of the bridge
toward the start of the San Francsico Randonneurs 2008 200K brevet.
It was time to ride.
contrast to last year, it was a sparse group gathered near the statue.
The 2007 ride, being a PBP year, had drawn a sellout crowd.
This year, I actually was concerned that the ride was starting somewhere
else. I rolled down to an adjacent parking lot, signed in
and obtained my brevet card - very carefully stowed it - and returned
to the gathering spot. Other riders rolled up and a group seemed
to coalesce. Still, it was not going to be huge bunch. According
to the SFRandonneurs site, 89 riders had signed up, but it didn't
look like more than 40 had shown. (Turned out to be 32).
On brevets, the first thing you learn is that the clock never stops,
and as the second hand brought us closer to depart time, new
RBA Rob Hawks welcomed us, gave us some rudimentary warnings about
the potential for flooding and similar road hazards, and sent us
off onto the ride precisely at 7 am.
couple riders moved away quickly, but most stayed grouped together
as we rolled north on the bridge. The morning's sunrise had
just started to light up the sky, and it burned with an unfamiliar
orange. Even in these first few miles, it felt as if we'd picked
up a mild tailwind. Dropping down into Sausailto, there was visible
chop on the water - not the thing you really want to see that early
in the morning. Though so far, the weather service had been pessimistic
on the precipitation, they'd called the wind direction completely
We stayed mostly bunched, hit the traffic lights right and kept
on rolling. I kept opening my jacket, but felt warmer - almost
overdressed - with the wind at our backs. As we turned into the
Camino Alto climb, I took off my gloves, which were already starting
to soak through with sweat. I picked an easy pace on the climb,
making sure that I stayed comfortable, that all the joints were
articulating correctly and that the bike hadn't developed any new
noises. Carlos and JimG eased away on that first climb, with a few
folks connected to them. I could hear other riders behind me.
Things felt right.
One of the points that Rob had mentioned before the start was that
the first 2/3rds of the route sheet covered the first 20 miles.
He asked if there were any riders familiar with that section - what
we call variously "the commute route" or "the southern marin maze"
- many of us raised our hand. He then instructed anyone who didn't
know that portion to pay attention to those of us who had raised
our arms. Whatever else this brevet tested, it wasn't my ability
to follow a printed cue list. And in my best John Lovitz voice,
it made me "popular, yeah!..that's
I soon realized that I'd collected my own little flock of riders.
Met and chatted a little with John-from-Cool (that's a geographic
who had openly admired my tweed mudflaps. We all stayed together
as the route wanderered through a few less travelled zones of southern
marin. Rolling through downtown San Anselmo, I kept my eye out for
flotsam which might have been left behind by the previous night's
flooding. Little to speak of, and the news camera crew trucks hovered
dejectedly around the old downtown bridge, trying to get an interesting
angle of muddy water going downstream for their producers.
Most of the businesses had plastic sheeting and sandbags set up
against the possibility of seriously rising waters. Yet, it
appeared that the town had avoided a replay of 1982
We all continued onward, wiggling through the sidestreets and turns
that make up that confusing part of the route. Before long, we'd
reached Fairfax and the left turn onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd.,
leaving stop signs and course aberrations behind for a while. Most
of the route had been reasonably sheltered, but you could feel the
subtle assist of a tailwind pushing us north-northwest.
whoop and a hoot caught my attention as we left downtown Fairfax.
Up ahead on the right stood Mike Biswell, who had volunteered to
cover the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Control. He snapped photos of us
as we rolled past. It was odd and reassuring to see someone we knew
out on the course. After the fact, I fretted briefly that it had
been a secret control, but discounted that thought pretty quickly
as we continued the mild incline that took us out of town and up
to White's Hill.
White's Hill is a significant climb. I think it has a lot to do
with where it is on the course, and the nature of the location.
It is the climb which leaves the towns of southern marin county
behind, so it's always a landmark for me. It's really the first
time on the course that you have to knuckle down to go up.
I'm sure that on some routes, its pitch and length might barely
be noted, but for me, it's a good test of how I'm feeling on a given
day. The previous
week, it had fought back pretty well, and I watched other folks
ride away without all that much trouble.
it went pretty well. I'd actually ridden very little the week
prior to the brevet, and felt downright strong as the road went
up. Of course, that can be a little misleading and self-congratulatory.
There are countless times when I felt great and powerful on a climb,
only to have a small group overtake me as they easily chatted and
spun past - me leaking exhaust like a homebuilt steam engine at
a distressingly low cadence. On this morning, the breathing
of those around me sounded about the same as my own, and we crested
out and head down into the San Geronimo valley.
The breeze of the descent dries things fairly quickly, and my temperature
drops from mildly overheating to just about right. The tailwind
nudges us along and I find myself in front of the bunch again.
It is mildly distressing, as it's oftentimes easier to just follow
a wheel than set the pace. But, I take the opportunity to smooth
myself out and follow some of Jan Heine's advice - rolling on the
On most of the roads in these parts, there's a solid painted line
which defines the right hand side of the lane. By positioning
your tires on this, the ride is noticeably smoother than regular
asphalt. It generally helps to keep your tires out of roadside
debris as well. Since the roads were a bit wet still, tire adhesion
was not optimum, but with the 33 1/3 mm meat of the Jack Brown tires,
it was well within the comfort zone. Pedaling along, a phrase surfaced
in my brain, "What small efficiency can you find?" It seemed
like a helpful mantra, so I tried to put it into action - hands
on the top, fingers relaxed, shoulders calm, sure the legs were
spinning, but no reason everything else couldn't be placid. By the
end of the open/straight part of the valley, things seemed pretty
good. It was a helpful thought to hold onto.
The turns began at the Lagunitas end of the valley, and the road
was downright wet here under the tree cover. I'd figured on skipping
the unpaved portion of the cross-marin path, but still wanted to
use the section at Samuel P. Taylor State Park to bypass the narrow,
bumpy section of the roadway. We passed the Inkwells Bridge
cutoff and continued on the road. It was my plan to let someone
else set the pace and then politely drop off the back at the
old rail overpass. However, the gang seemed pretty content with
the pace I was setting, and by the time we were easing down toward
that point, they were politely behind me. I tried to sit up in an
obvious way and pull to the right, then said, "I'm going to take
the path here.." and peeled right to the trail entrance.
With the added perspective of a few days after the ride, this may
not have been the smartest move of the day. We had whittled
down to a group of four, and were moving along pretty well together.
One rider seemed to pause more than the others, and I could see
her contemplating following my move, before standing on the pedals
and hightailing it after the other two. I felt a little bad about
wrecking the momentum of the gang.
There was still a half mile connector to the paved part, and I immediately
encountered a tree which had fallen across the roadway. Luckily,
the top lay just off the road on the right, and a walkable path
was easily found. I remounted, slid a little here and there on my
way through the saturated muddy ground. Soon I was on the paved
bits, paralleling the "historic" section of Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Before I knew it, the path ended and the climb up from Tocaloma
appeared. This incline jumps over the low point of the Bolinas
Ridge to Olema. Up in the distance, I could see some riders' taillights
and the bright orange swatch of what I took to be Carlos' jacket.
About midway up, a non-brevet rider passed with some degree of authority.
The climb began warming me up, so I pulled my jacket up to keep
comfy, soon cresting out and dropping down the other side.
As I rolled towards the Pt. Reyes Seashore visitor center in Bear
Valley, I slipped my phone out of my pocket to check the time. The
readout said 9:08, and I tried to snap a "timestamp" photo to upload
to Flickr. However, the camera button didn't seem to work, so I
flipped it shut without wasting too much time. The previous year,
I'd been here
at about 9:15, so everything felt right on schedule.
feeling slipped quickly away about a mile later. As the roadway
curved slightly, it was obvious that autos had been stopped, with
warning flares deposited on the road shoulder. Accidents on a brevet
route are always a bit nervous-making, and I rolled around the stopped
cars to the head of the line. Luckily, it turned out to be a single
car which had slid off the roadway, with no physical injury to driver.
A tow truck was winching the car out of the ditch, and had a cable
stretched across the both lanes. Other riders had been held up here,
and people were using the time to rehydrate, snap photos and balance
loads. We chatted with the ranger who was wrangling traffic.
He seemed interested in our ride and pointed out that the section
of Sir Francis Drake between Hwy 1 and the Inverness Park curve
(locally known as White House Pool) was closed due to flooding.
This was not great news. That was part of the route on the
way back from the Lighthouse. If conditions didn't get better, we'd
have to backtrack a couple miles on Bear Valley Road before heading
north again on Hwy 1 to Pt. Reyes Station. But, it wasn't worth
worrying about too much - that part was a couple hours away, and
conditions could certainly change.
muddy and bent up "sports car" got dragged unceremoniously over
the shoulder, onto the road and down the opposing lane. At that
point, the ranger let us through ahead of the waiting cars, and
we all pressed forward, anxious to be moving once again. As
with all things randonneuring, the clock didn't stop while we had
As we hit the end of Bear Valley Road, I took a quick glance down
the SFD section. Under water indeed, right at the bridge.
"Could be tidal," I thought, before putting it out of my mind.
There were other issues to deal with first. Like donuts.
Park is a wide spot on road, with chubby little pygmy goats on one
side, a market/deli and bakery on the other. While I like the diminutive
bovids, food and water weighed more heavily on my mind. A number
of us pulled off the course and attacked the market like, well,
randonneurs. I made sure that my bottles were topped off, and heard
a maple old fashioned donut call to me from the case. Others made
more aggressive choices, and Carlos negotiated a sandwich to be
made in time for his return leg. We moved outside and refilled bottles,
ate and psyched ourselves up for the next bits. I'd taken
the time to peel off my jacket during the road delay and as my temperature
cooled, felt the need to hit the road sooner than most. I also knew
we'd eventually be pushing back into the winds and figured that
any time benefit would be helpful. John-from -Cool rolled out at
about the same time, and we chatted a bit more as we skirted the
water of Tomales Bay.
The Inverness climb lay ahead, and I found that with a geared/coastable
setup, it was indeed a bit easier than last year. Near the
top, I heard breathing, and Carlos caught me - within 50 meters
of where he passed me last year. Since I was still on my bike this
time, I snuck back up to him on the downhill side and we pedaled
west together, with John joining us at the low point at Drakes Bay.
The little risers began and my legs felt chunky for a few hundred
yards. John and Carlos edged away and I could see a strong
crosswind begin catching Carlos' hair. There are few trees
in this section, and as such little to use to judge wind speed.
But, climbing up to the first mesa area, the buffeting from the
south felt pretty strong.
a 1/2 mile later, the road turned south toward the Lighthouse, and
the crosswind became a quartering headwind. It wasn't actually that
big a problem - as road started climbing, it felt more of annoyance
than an effect. Still, I caught up with Carlos, John faded back
a bit and then Carlos fell slightly behind.
This should probably have been a key bit of evidence. I rarely
leave Carlos behind. Now, he wasn't dropped or anything, and
we slinkied and traded positions a few times, but the winds seemed
to catch him a bit more than me. It was probably a combination of
my gravitational enhancement and low road bars. I spent most
of the time deep in the drops, positoned like I was in a criterium.
Carlos was riding his Miyata, with flat bars and barends. While
it was not easy, the miles went pretty well - my plan for the day
had been to push when I felt good and hope that averaged out with
the frayed bits when under-mileage reared its ugly head later in
The winds picked up and became more challenging as we got closer
to the Lighthouse. I watched the heavy wooden sign at "E" Ranch
pushed towards horizontal, had to remind myself not to over-correct
against it more than a few times, and got jumped around the road
by it pretty well a couple more times. We had stopped commenting
on the winds when we caught up to one another, and began gritting
our way through it in a purposeful way. A couple other riders began
showing on their return leg - it was heartening in the sense that
there weren't a lot of them. Luckily, it didn't dawn on me
the reduction in rider numbers which had taken place this year.
On the last section following the steep pitch to the Lighthouse,
there were serious crosswinds, and it felt like someone was shaking
my front wheel while sand blasted my exposed skin. We passed at
least one rider who was walking this section. It was pretty
and I rolled into the parking lot at 11 am. I had the distinct
impression of it being difficult to lie my bike down against the
winds. Another rider later reported that the rangers had recorded
steady winds at 35-40 mph. Mike Biswell snapped
photos and exuded happy confidence. Bruce Berg sat in the truck
of the car, signing brevet cards and confirming riders' signatures.
I dug my card out and we swapped autographs. Then I carefully
returned it to my bag. I'd had a dream earlier in the week
about getting all the way back to Inverness and realizing I'd either
lost my card or not had it signed. Fun as it had been,
I didn't want to have to backtrack today.
We didn't want to dally in the blustery cold winds - water in/water
out and we hit the road again. I had chugged a protein drink
from my bag, happy to shift the dead weight into calories. Right
then, it just made sense to get off that point as quickly as possible.
Carlos and I headed off from the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Control, the
road dipping slightly below the parking lot and blessedly sheltering
us from the winds for a moment or two. Within 20 more yards, we
came to a stop, the wind halting our momentum with a strong, sudden
gust. There was nothing to do but laugh and try to stay on
the bike. We both recovered, dove for even lower gears and pushed
on. As we edged along, we passed JimG, who had elected to
walk his bike through this nasty section. There wasn't even
the thought of trying to fetch a camera out for a photo. Two
hands on the bars was a must. On the most exposed section, I got
blown from the right gutter of the road off the left hand side in
an instant. Clicking out, I had to wrench the bike to keep
from going over. The blown sand from the roadway stung the right
side of my face.
In some places, folks pay good money for dermal abrasion therapy.
Here I was getting it for no extra charge.
Finally, we dropped down the steep and nasty pavement to "A" Ranch,
and with the wind more or less at our back and somewhat buffered
by the topography we compared notes a bit. The Beato brothers
and Robbins had been leaving the lighthouse as we ascended, looking
pretty strong and smooth as always. Though the wind had been pretty
sketchy, it was going to push us north for a while, which was a
good thing. As we hit the rises going home, Carlos began feeling
a bit better, and eased away on the climbs. The protein drink would
be of some benefit soon, but right now it was playing the
sloshy dance in my belly.
I could see Carlos a rise or so of the road ahead, and tried to
keep him in sight. The thought "find the small efficiencies..."
burbled up again and reminded me to relax, pedal smoothly
and make every motion count. The open miles of the Pt. Reyes peninsula
continued to pass, and I soon found myself heading inland once more.
Working along the easier incline of the climb towards Inverness,
I felt rain, though couldn't actually see it. It passed once or
twice, but never seemed to hit the ground.
It helped to break down the efforts a bit, and some of the techniques
from long, fixed, Quickbeam rides helped here - I played the 40/40
trick, standing for 40 pedal revolutions, then sitting for the same
number, then repeating. It got me into a rhythm, distracted
enough by the repetition to find a nice balance of focused and detached.
I found myself cresting out again, then dropped quickly down through
the turns to the Tomales Bay side of things. Those gently
rolling curves took me back to Inverness, then to Inverness Park,
where Carlos' bike stood propped up against the curb.
He had just picked up his sandwich, and was setting up a chair under
the eve. We thought this would probably be a good place to have
lunch, particularly after the efforts out to the Lighthouse. I bought
some salty pretzels and dug my sandwich out of the bag. It
took a fair amount of force to eat - I just didn't feel that hungry,
even though there was no question that calories were being burned
at a brisk clip.
As I nibbled, I pulled out the phone again, and after pulling the
battery, restarting it and poking at it a bit, determined that the
keypad was fried - none of the buttons worked. Ah well...something
for Monday. It also seemed that there was a flaw in my Brooks
baggie design - I'd carefully sliced slits for the bag loops of
the saddle, reinforced with heavy protective tape, but neglected
to do anything near the nose of the saddle. As I'd been pushing
back on the climbs, the front had begun poking a hole into the heavy
bag. Further, I was starting to experience, um, hot spots in the
saddle/rider interface - something which is generally never a problem.
I suspected that the heavy plastic was creating a much different
environment - a lot less air flow and more humidity. Chamois Butt'r
became my friend.
We enjoyed the time to sit and eat, and saw a few riders ease past.
Calories thus stowed, we were just starting to get up and stretch
when JimG rolled up. The winds had been pretty tough on him,
and he said that he just needed to sit down for a while. We
stayed and talked with him for a few minutes, just to make sure
he was OK, and then pressed on.
I'd been jokingly referring to the flood section as a "two-headed"
decision. From the beginning, I'd planned on at least rolling out
to take a look at the conditions before backtracking. But,
before I did something really, really stupid due to wanting
conditions to be safe, it was important to have an agreement between
all parties that conditions were actually
safe. Hence the "two heads." The idea was that both parties
needed to be in agreement in order to act. If one said no, it was
a "no-go". This was sort of a check on the system.
As it turned out, cars were using the stretch despite the "ROAD
CLOSED" signage. Water still moved across, but it was only a few
inches deep and not moving perceptibly. Before we reached
the area of flooding, we saw a couple vehicles move through, and
got a good sense of the depth and strength of the water. (Didn't
snap a photo, but Masayoshi
did) Then we moved through. I managed to dip one pedal
into the water before following Carlos' example of "level ratcheting"
to keep dry. Just as quickly, we were out the other side and
rolling into Pt. Reyes Station, then just as quickly grunting up
the rise out of town. (Well, here I know I was grunting - Carlos
looked pretty comfy...)
Heading north on Hwy 1, we were on the 8 mile stretch up to Marshall
and the second control. I will refrain from obvious 8 Mile/Eminem
reference. Not because I'm above that sort of thing, just
that things could get too ugly, too quickly...
Tailwinds, tailwinds, tailwinds. Rolling bits on the way to
the Next Control. Sudden warmth. My legs were tired,
but they'd been that way since the turnaround at the Lighthouse.
Carlos, as he tends to do on long rides, was seeming fresher and
just a hair quicker with each additional mile. He edged out as the
road swung up, I closed down the gap a little when it went
on about the fifth little rise, I was suddenly covered in sweat
- face-drenching, eye-twitching, soggy-headed sweat. It was
as though someone opened a spigot. Perhaps the calories from
our lunch break suddenly kicked in and fired things up again.
All I knew, as I squinted and swapped eyeports against the perspiration,
was that I needed to be wearing less, immediately. I pulled
off on a wide spot in the road to regain comfort. Carlos had edged
out of voice range, so I figured he'd find out up in Marshall. As
I pulled off my jacket, stowed it under the Country Bag cover and
remounted, John-from-Cool rolled past. I caught up with him
and we rode together. He'd eased by us in Inverness Park,
and I figured he'd enjoyed some of the Bovine Bakery specialities
back in Pt. Reyes Station. Actually, he'd been riding some
over-miles, having not attempted the flood crossing. I felt
a little sheepish admitting that we'd rolled past the "Road Closed"
Even with the help of the winds, it was a relief to see the boatworks
and moorages at Marshall appear. Very close to where I'd seen
him last year, Carlos appeared on the roadway heading south.
He must not have even gotten off his bike to get his brevet card
signed! We had talked about turning around quickly, but his execution
was flawless. I yelled "jacket" as he went by and he nodded and
A few riders were in evidence at this northernmost point on the
route. Leaning the bike and clomping inside, I got my card signed
at 1:50 - a little later than hoped for, but within my "slow time"
estimate. Food still didn't sound good, and I decided against the
chowder. It's kind of a tradition at this control, but so far in
my life I have not indulged. I may someday, but first will have
to try the stuff when the clock isn't running. Instead, I
found an iced tea and downed that - hoping that the trace amounts
of ginseng and caffeine might be of use.
It seemed worth trying to mimic Carlos' fast turnaround time. But,
as I stretched a bit it became clear that it was time to layer down
so I could drop the straps of my bib shorts. One of my rules for
longer rides is that you take on water and fuel whenever you have
the chance. The opposite is certainly true, and there wouldn't even
be the luxury of a blue plastic room for many miles, once leaving
I huddled behind a tall fence, relayering and beginning once more
to think about riding, the red vest of JimG astride his Vent Noir
flashed past as he arrived. I caught up to him as he exited
the store, a small cup of chowder in his hand. Alex who we
rode with in December also had arrived, and since we knew we
faced a significant headwind for a while, we decided to stick together.
I wish I'd taken a second trip into the store for some hot tea or
coffee - any warm liquid probably would have done me some good at
We got rolling fairly quickly, and I took the first lead into the
winds. Layered up once more with my jacket, it now didn't seem like
I'd be doffing it anytime soon. Our little troika began the grind
southward, now heading well and truly home for the first time that
day. It would be work, but because of the topography, the winds
did not have quite the force that they did out at the Lighthouse.
Still, it was work.
Alex moved past to take the lead after a bit, as the road moved
from the flat section to the first risers. He stood on the first
incline and immediately pulled up and zigged off the road. A bad
cramp had found his leg and he made us leave him while he stretched
down to two, we slogged southward. It was, as they say, a
bit of a grind - pedaling the downhills to retain speed, trying
to hold the momentum up the rises and not getting too depressed
on the uphill that always seems deceptively flat. A honk and a wave
from the opposite lane broke into our conciousness, and we realized
Mike B. had made his way back from the Lighthouse Control, probably
heading up to Marshall now. Then about two minutes later, he appeared
ahead on our side of the road, shouting encouragement and snapping
a photo. It was a little mind-blowing, as we never saw him
turn around or pass us again. JimG and I came to the conclusion
that it was either Mike B's evil twin, or a cloning experiment gone
horribly awry... Nevertheless, he got a frighteningly happy-looking,
posed-seeming photo of "The Jims" heading south on Highway 1.
Between the winds and appearance of several Mike B's, I must have
been getting a little loopy. When the big green sign appeared back
near Pt. Reyes Station, I wouldn't really let myself believe it
was so - in fact, I remained convinced that we had another climb
to go before we could turn left and start heading inland a bit.
But, there it was, large and looming. We swooped left and
worked our way towards Nicasio, passing one or two riders and offering
had to focus on JimG's wheel for the rise up to the reservoir, then
we traded pulls against the winds into Nicasio. Again with
the goal of finding small efficiencies. It was becoming a
helpful mantra, making me aware of useless tension I was holding
in my shoulders, and helping me relax my hips. Of course, the pedals
seldom turn themselves, and by the time we rolled into Rancho Nicasio,
a rest sounded good. It seemed as though Jim hadn't been eating
all that much, and I tried again to force down some food. It wasn't
so much that I felt bad - just not hungry. Nothing I'd brought
sounded all that good, and after a bite, it didn't have much taste.
Still, there were some caloric expenditures between us and the finish,
so I tried.
As we sat on the benches and looked out on the empty parking lot,
I checked my time sheet. One of the many helpful bits of advice
that appeared in Jan Heine's Intro to Brevet article series in Bicycle
Quarterly was to preprint the route sheet and block in
estimated times at certain points. He had recommended
both "expected" times and "slow" times at each point. In a
worst case scenario when you were running slow due to mechanicals
or biologicals, you could refer to the slow time to confirm that
you had enough to finish. Might be just the mental lift you
need when it was late in the ride and you were feeling as if there
was no hope.
weren't in that neighborhood, but we were both tired, a bit cold,
and "feeling it" at this point. The ride from Marshall had
been slowed by the winds, and for me at least, I hadn't planned
on taking a break at this point. It was about 3:45 pm.
On my sheet, my "best conditions" time had me making the turn back
onto Sir Francis Drake at 3:10, and it we were maybe 20 riding time
minutes shy of that. So, with no break, we were running about an
hour behind a hoped-for 5 pm finish. And it was, I said aloud, mostly
to convince myself, all home-turf riding - we knew the route, we'd
done it many times in the past, and we were awfully close to the
finish. As we refeuled, Alex rolled up, having pushed the wind solo
for the entire distance. He seemed a little drawn by the experience,
but sucked down a Gatorade from the store and pushed off before
us. Drawing on his momentum, we hit the restrooms once more, greeted
an arriving bunch of randonneurs as we swung back onto the roadway.
This section had been a real struggle last year. I ran out
of gears, walked, sucked Gel, walked and pushed. This year, the
first incline nipped but didn't bite, and with JimG edging out ahead
on the steep bit, had a carrot to follow. In
fact, we even engaged in short pencam duel as the roads began to
edge upwards. Soon, I'd crested out near the Cecy Krone Memorial,
swooped down the turns to the golf course, and howled up to Jim
once again. Thank goodness for high BMI. With a double-double-check
for cross traffic before a left turn onto Sir Francis Drake, we
began finally to retrace our steps from that morning. We saw another
non-brevet rider ahead, and Jim pressed the pace for a bit to catch
up to him. I'll admit that at the time, I wanted to stick
a wrench into Jim's back wheel for increasing the speed, but it
worked pretty well to distract us from the distance. In my mind,
the last "ride" of the day - Nicasio to SF - was getting broken
down into smaller and smaller bites. Right now it was the White's
Hill Crest, which even had its little nibbles of expansion cracks
to the top. Jim had crested and descended out of sight, but the
high-speed drop revived me a bit. He waited down at the western
edge of Fairfax, I zoomed by and then eased up so we could spin
down the blessedly descending roadways to town.
The commute route was automatic, but it was begining to get dark.
Our lights went on and hopefully our awareness was heightened. I
certainly was aware I needed to use a restroom, and we made another
stop in San Anselmo, at a convenience store that was kind enough
to share its facilities with customers. I bought a "Double-shot"
coffee drink and some water, then we headed off again. Ross.
Kentfield. Larkspur. We saw Alex in a bus stop and hollered
to see if he needed help - he hooted "NO!" and we kept rolling.
By the time we hit the tree-covered climb of Camino Alto, it was
pretty danged dark. And for some reason, my specific gravity had
increased noticeably over the past few miles. Jim edged upward again
on the climb disappearing around one of the turns, and I became
an interstellar traveller in my own minor bubble of light for a
Momentum was beginning to help by this point. I wasn't catching
Jim, but the waypoints ticked past quickly - the turn where Steve
used to live, the double wiggle, the bump before the right turn,
the long sweeping left, the trailhead on the right and finally -
summit. As gravity began its subtle tug, I began to question
my lighting choice - basically a "be seen" 1w bar light and my Black
Diamond spot headlamp. There are no overhead lights on this
stretch. Luckily, this side of the hill is more open, and as repeated
aloud, I knew the road very well. No doubt Jim had turned on his
homemade cyclotron illuminator scorchers and blazed down the curves
without touching his brakes.
He was waiting for me down at the traffic light, and we made the
little left-turn/right-turn jog to pick up the bike path once again.
On the path, we started talking about lighting, stopped for our
last hydro-refill and pressed on again. He was talking about
the programming of the microprocessor, the lenses he'd chosen and
what changes he'd make if he did it again. It was a lot like the
easy chatting we have on regular rides, and I was so grateful for
the distraction from my own whimpering thoughts, I can't begin to
express it. I think it may have helped him a bit too.
Concentrating on anything other than our tired condition was a good
At the end of the Path, we set up for a left turn onto Bridgeway.
Unless you get really lucky with light timing, you normally have
to hope that some vehicle is leaving the marina so that they can
trip the light. As it turned out, one had just rolled up and
we wheeled around quickly behind it. As we waited, another well-appointed
bike emerged from the darkness, revealing John-from-Cool once again.
We hailed one another and he said that he'd gotten a bit off-course
towards the end. I couldn't quite remember where we saw him
last - possibly the stretch before the painted bridge on Petaluma-Pt.
Reyes Rd., or he may have slipped past us when we stopped in Rancho
Nicasio. Regardless, we were on final approach by this point,
and JimG and I announced the few tricky bits on the way back to
the Bridge. We also walked him through the someone quirky access
procedure at the electric gates. By the time we'd hit the
last climb up, we started to stretch out a bit, and he encouraged
us to go ahead.
Jim found some climbing legs that I pretty much lacked at this point,
and his tail light kept getting further up the road. We edged over
to the east side of the bridge again, now looking into the headlights
of the traffic heading north. He was kind enough to wait at the
top of the hill - pretty much the land of no visibility as my lights
were overwhelmed from the glare. His double-barreled plant-wilter
visual-cortex-scorcher picked out the path and we rolled up to the
gate at the north end of the bridge. A button push and a buzz
later, we were inside the fencing, suddenly racing as we pedaled
hard to be directly above a fully-lighted cruise ship which was
steaming out the Golden Gate. It was a good excuse as any. Didn't
quite make it, but it brought us to the rise of center span, so
our fickle mistress of gravity helped us the final stretch home.
The last 30 yards follows the curve of an old roadway, and there's
something perfect about the way that the finishing scene gets
revealed - we were back at the start, now the Final Control.
Our time was 6:37 pm, for an 11:37 day. Rob checked us in and had
us sign our cards, and that ended the official part of our ride.
A number of folks had hung out - Mike B. snapped a few photos, the
flash etching its way deeply into my retinas. Another person kindly
picked up the Rainlegs which had fallen off my bike. I think
I said "thank you", but if not, it was just the loopiness of suddenly
not having to be anywhere. Jo,
who I met back at the Marin
Century was assisting at the Final Control. And, Carlos
had been patiently waiting for nearly an hour and a half to see
us cross the finish. An act well above the call of duty. Although
it was not raining, it was certainly not the warmest evening, as
the winds still pushed through this semi-sheltered area. We did
determine by popular vote that the reason we had escaped the rains
was entirely due to Carlos reminding the SFRandon
list to use ample mudflaps on their fenders.
Jim and I hung out for a while, and not too long after, Alex and
John rolled down the last bits. Alex was openly psyched to be finishing
his first brevet, while John had that solid smile of knowing he'd
done it. (I realized only after his post to SFRandon that it was
his first official brevet - he definitely had that long-ride confidence
about him...) Some more riders rolled in, and then I realized that
Patrick had pulled up on his way home from work. He'd come
along on some mixed-terrain rides, and had made a PBP attempt this
last year, before having to pull out due to arm trouble - in his
words, he just couldn't hold the handlebars any longer.
I passed on the pizza dinner - really ready to head back home and
steam myself back to existence in a hot shower. Patrick was heading
across the bridge again as well, so I said my goodbyes and we rolled
northward together. He entertained with some PBP stories as we headed
over the span, and then we headed our separate ways once past the
gate. I rolled my bike down the steep undercrossing stairs
and plodded my way back up the other side. There my car sat in the
dark lot and I fumbled for my key, wrestled the bike into the back,
found my warm, dry knit cap and sunk down into the seat. Then
I realized that a police car had been sitting back in the shadows,
kinda watching things. As happy as I was to be sitting, it was time
Epilog & Other Considerations:
rains hit that evening again, and it rained Sunday as well. My plan
was to go out for a half hour or so at an easy spin to see if I
could keep things loose. Rather than deal with the rains, I set
up on a stationary trainer for about a 20 minute spin and did some
stretching and light situps. It seemed to help a bit, though I woke
up with some "Jimmy legs" on Sunday night. Other than
that, I actually felt pretty good - tired, but never got the serious
asleep-at-the-desk attack that happened last year (2007). Probably
had a bit to do with using a wider range of gears or something...
up riding to work three times during the week, along with a slightly
loop on Wednesday and Friday. It felt pretty nice to use the same
bike on the brevet and the commute.
Items needed but didn't have:
year, there was nothing I felt I needed during the ride.
never quite got the gloves right during the day, as I had brought
a relatively new pair of waterproof rain gloves which just felt
too hot to wear. I'd taken them off on the first climb from Mill
Valley to Corte Madera, and just ended up riding until Nicasio without
them. The heel of my palm was a little tender by the end of the
day, but nothing truly annoying.
I mentioned in the report, food just never really tasted good all
day - which is an aberration for me. Usually, I'm pretty hungry.
One ill-advised thing that I did was to bring Cytomax mix - something
I haven't used since my last XC MTB race. It could be that I just
didn't tolerate too well.
Items brought but not needed:
end up using any of the chemical heat packs. These were really stowed
just for anticipated rains, and were to be used for soaked appendage
use the extra socks and micro towel which I'd stowed in the bag
- another concession to the expected precipitation.
Things to refine:
Gear that failed:
trouble free this year, other than the Brooks cover tearing at the
nose. I'm not sure I'd use that trick again unless it was really
pouring, and even then, might experiment a bit. The main issue was
that I'd very carefully rigged the saddle bag straps through the
plastic, and didn't take the time to remove the straps, remove the
bag and replace the straps. I think if I'm going to redesign the
bag, it would have to be cut in a way which would allow it to be
put in place and cinched down without removing the saddlebag.