600k Wrap Up

Posted by admin on Jun 22, 2009 in Mind
Click here for a gallery of photos from the 2009 600k

Click here for a gallery of photos from the Davis Bike Club's 2009 600k brevet

I rode in the Davis Bike Club 600k on June 5-7. I should have written about it earlier, but haven’t had the time. Sorry. Long story short, as they say: rode it straight through without sleep. The ride was 378 miles (not counting the the 10-mile roundtrip to the start/finish). It took me 30.5 hours, which is 30 minutes longer than my anticipated best time. If I had to summarize it in one word, it would be this: Brutal.

Which is not to say it was a bad experience. In fact, in many ways, it was the opposite of my Davis Double Century experience. I was happy with my riding, happy with the way the ride went, and I learned a lot of things that I think will get me through the Gold Rush Randonnée.

But it was a very uncomfortable ride, and at times, a very unpleasant ride. Parts of it, especially near the end, were just no fun at all.

The interesting thing is that none of the riding was particularly challenging physically. There was climbing, some hills . . . but nothing as tough as Cobb Mountain on the Double Century, for instance. And I now realize that the the long, tedious stretches of the ride – a slow 70 miles up Feather River Canyon, the circumnavigation of Indian Valley, and the long straight slogs through the Central Valley – were exactly the kind of riding that makes people tell you that a long ride is far more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

It was challenging physically only because I didn’t sleep. I am certain that if I stopped at the 400k mark, napped for a few hours then went on, the rest of the ride would have been fine.

So, you’re asking, why didn’t I at least take a nap. Good question! The organization that sanctions brevets in the US is called RUSA, Randonneurs USA. They give you a handbook when you join. One of the articles in the book talks about training for a 1200k like the GRR. The author recommends riding the 600k straight through as sample of the fatigue you will experience on the 1200k:

If you aspire to do a 1200k, don’t pamper yourself. Instead, intentionally make things tougher since doing such a long ride is essentially all about suffering, and how to ignore it. . . . I would strongly suggest that if you aspire to do a 1200k, then endeavor to do a sleepless 600k precisely because it is so much harder than doing it with some rest. Afterward, this will give you better confidence to tackle The Big One.

Made sense to me, so I tried it. Unfortunately, it actually had the opposite effect on me. The entire second part of the 600k, I went over and over in my mind how stupid this kind of riding was and how I was going to drop the idea of riding the 1200k. A straight 600k didn’t give me confidence; it brought me to my senses. For a while anyway. By the day after the ride, I was applying what I had learned and determining that I could ride an enjoyable 1200k if I did it right. The recipe? Eat and sleep. But more about that later.

By the way, they for the ability of long distance riders to forget how miserable the last ride was is called “randonesia.”

As to the ride . . . the next three entries pretty much cover it.




Outbound leg

Posted by admin on Jun 22, 2009 in Mind

The ride started at 8pm Friday. This was my first nighttime start. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but nighttime starts are really hard. It’s one thing to wake ay 4am, get dressed, and start riding. It’s another thing entirely to have full day behind you right before you start. I took an afternoon nap. But still, I was up for 36 hours straight. I’m too old for that.

There were just over 30 riders total (down from nearly 150 for the 200k!). We went out at a reasonable pace and hung together pretty well. I ended up in the second group of about ten bikes, including two tandems. All was going very nicely until about mile 35. It was dark by then. Someone up front did something, and people put on the brakes, and Glenn Mounkes, a Davis Bike Club rider I ride a lot with, ran into the back of a tandem and went down. It turned out that he broke his collar bone. Fortunately, a SAG vehicle was only 10 minutes away, and we got him to the hospital quickly. But that cast a pall over the ride. For the next few hours, I kept replaying what went wrong, what we all did wrong, and how we could have avoided the accident. If there’s one thing you have a lot of time to do on a 400 mile ride, it’s think. That’s not always a good thing.

After the accident, we were down to a group of three: Paul Guttenberg, Mario, and me. We rolled northeast across the Central Valley farmland for about 100 miles until we started up some rollers and made our way into Oroville. Larry “The Legend” and Dee Burdick ran this stop. And even though it was about 2:30 in the morning, they acted like it was Sunday afternoon and had had invited us over for lunch. They were making sandwiches and coffee and chatting like it was normal to be entertaining guests at that time. Very pleasant.

From there, we headed across Lake Oroville and up into the Feather River Canyon. Paul dropped back in the hills, and Mario and I rode ahead. The two of us ended up doing the rest of the ride together, which worked out nicely.

Now, I could go on a turn by turn account of the Feather River Canyon, but that’d be kind of dull. It all boils down to this: It’s a spectacularly beautiful canyon that rises into the Sierra Nevada mountains and goes on, and on, and on. I thought it was never going to fucking end. The leg from Oroville to our next control at Tobin was 50 miles, and our first turn after that was another 20 miles on. That’s 70 miles of more or less continuous light climbing. It was torture.

Plus, we delayed our trip by close to an hour due to mechanical issues. My gear shifter cable broke (at Tobin, luckily, where a SAG with replacement cables was sitting), and down the road, Mario split a tire on a rock.

After hours of riding, we finally turned off the canyon road and headed into Indian Valley. It was mid-morning now, and we were both ready for a break. But the next control, in Taylorsville, was still over 20 miles away. As it turns out, we had to bypass a direct route to Taylorsville, and instead, circle the entire valley to get there. That was frustrating, to say the least. So, on the one hand, I was thinking, “This is really an amazingly beautiful place,” and at the same time thinking, “I’m fucking sick and tired of looking at this gorgeous fucking valley.” We were just over 200 miles at the turnaround point here, and I really needed a break. There was a very comfortable looking restaurant in Greenville, the main town. But as we usually do, we passed right by on our quest to make it to our next check point.

Well, we got there and ate and sat around for a while, then, eventually, got going again. Mario made a classic mistake: he tried something new in the middle of a long ride. He drank some coffee to help stay awake, and he’s not a coffee drinker. That decision came to haunt him later in the ride.




Inbound leg

Posted by admin on Jun 22, 2009 in Mind

So, there we were. About 16 hours into the ride, fed and rested, sort of, and sitting at 3500 feet of elevation with nowhere to go but back down into the Central Valley. Things were looking good.

We started out nicely away from Taylorsville and back to the base of Indian Valley. All was fine until we got back to Highway 70, which runs through Feather River Canyon. Instead of a nice gradual downhill, we were met by a headwind that made the downhill just as hard as the uphill. So we fought our way back to Tobin, the 400k mark on the ride. That was as far as I had ever ridden a bike, and now I was beat. Mario was hurting too. The coffee was hurting his stomach.

After an hour-long break we got going again. We made Oroville around dinner time. Larry and Dee had bought some veggie rolls for me, and they had ice cream, which was a real treat. We left there near sunset feeling much better now that we were out of the canyon and its headwinds and were heading into the flats. I think we expected to make good time.

Things went nicely until it got dark. Then Mario started to fade, so we slowed the pace. Not long after, once it was completely dark, something really interesting happened. Time seemed to slow way down. I don’t know how to explain it. But I can go out and ride for two or three hours and barely notice the time passing. This ride just got tortuously slow. Our pace wasn’t too bad. But in the darkness, with nothing but long straight stretches of flat road between us and home, the ride started to seem pointless and endless.

I kept making the mistake of calculating how long we had left, how many miles and how long each leg wold take. Very dispiriting. We didn’t talk, and without words, shared the load by alternating turns in front. In a different state of mind, it would have been a beautiful ride. We were passing beautiful rice fields. The moon was full. There were thousands and thousands of frogs in the ditches alongside the road for miles and miles. No cars to bother us. Really an extraordinarily peaceful ride. But when you’re as tired as I was, it is hard to enjoy all of that even if you can appreciate it.  Even still, it seemed like it would be a mellow, if boring, ride back to Davis.

Then the wind started up.

It was a south easterly wind – a rare direction here – and for the most part, it was right in our face. The closer we got to Davis, the stronger the wind became. There were stretches where I was hoping a SAG wagon would pass by, stop, and offer to pick us up. I felt we deserved it. I really thought that we should be given a pass on completing the ride because we had put up such a good effort so far. But no dice. No SAGs passed us, and even if one had, I probably wouldn’t have gotten in.

We caught up to two other riders and the four of us rode together, silently, for some miles. We reached a point where we had to stop and answer a question on our brevet card to prove we rode the correct route. When we were done, I suggested that we take a five minute nap. No one said anything, but everyone laid down. It was peaceful lying there around midnight on a deserted levee road, feeling the warm asphalt and the cool wind. I wished I had said ten minutes.

But we were soon up and moving again. A little while later, Mario pulled over and said he’d catch up to us. I thought he had to pee. Not long after, we stopped in Knights Landing, the next town, for a brief snack. After ten minutes or so, Mario still hadn’t shown up, so I doubled back to go find him. A few minutes later I saw him riding toward me. It turned out that he wanted another nap. He said he completely passed out, but somehow awoke and got under way again.

So we continued on. Eventually, Mario and I pulled ahead of the other two riders. And finally, finally, we made it into Davis.

We checked in, then there was nothing to do but ride home. It was now 2:30am, and the wind was cold. I didn’t know how tired I was, and I was worried I’d crash on the way home. So I borrowed a blanket, got out of the wind, and napped sitting up for a while. Afterward, I got up and felt very lightheaded. Mario was eating, which seemed like a good idea, so I went to look at the food. Something about that thought was just wrong, and I instantly became nauseous. I was certain I was going to lose it, so I went into the field at the end of the parking lot, leaned over, and waited. The next thing I knew, Mario was shaking me and asking if I was okay. I was on the ground, and as I woke up, realized I had passed out. Very weird.

So I thanked him, rolled back into my blanket, tried to get out of the wind, and took a longer nap. I woke up around 4:30, got on my bike, rode home and went to bed dirty so I wouldn’t wake Kazu and Lisa.

The next day I was tired, but otherwise fine. Sore leg muscles, but not sorer than I’ve ever felt. And everything else — neck, back, arms – felt fine. I told Lisa I was thinking of dropping the 1200k, and a little later in the day, took a long nap. I think when I was waking from that nap was when I started thinking maybe the 1200k was doable after all. All it needed was some good planning.




600k Lessons

Posted by admin on Jun 22, 2009 in Mind

So here’s what I took away from the 600k. That 1200k is doable, but only worth doing if I ride it like a scheduled tour and not like a quasi-race. That means, simply, that I stop occasionally, eat, and sleep.

On these rides, there is food at the controls. But it is largely the same at every stop. That’s okay for about 200 miles, and maybe 250. But eventually, Clif Bars and PB&J are just not appetizing enough to get you excited about eating. I think that at least once a day I should stop in a town I would otherwise blow through and get a hot meal.

Now, I’ve been meaning to do that since the Davis Double Century, and don’t seem to have been able to. I attribute that to the mentality of these rides, and the fact that I buy into that mentality. But after the 600k, I know that if I try to power through the 1200k, I probably will not finish.

The next thing is to sleep. Many of the controls on the 1200k have cots to sleep in, and some even have hotel rooms people share. Screw that. I’m getting my own hotel room. I’m going to have a meal, a shower, and a bed every night, even if for only a few hours.

Which brings me to the third part of the plan. That is to break the rides into thirds: Three 400k, or roughly 250 mile rides with breaks in between. I think I can ride fast enough to buy that time, and I think I will enjoy the ride all the more for it. Because I think the last lesson of the 600k for me is that 400k of riding in one day is as much fun on a bike as I can have in one day. After that, it’s just work. It’s an interesting thing to learn. And I think it’s a good thing to know.

We’ll see!




Davis Double Century Debrief

Posted by admin on May 19, 2009 in Mind
Click to see a slideshow

Click to see a slideshow

So, here’s the last line of my last blog post:

“Next organized ride is the Davis Double Century. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I hope I can muster the self-discipline to ride it slowly. I’m already thinking of date bars in Winters, espresso in Middletown, ice cream in Guinda . . .”

Well folks, I’m sorry to say that by this measure, the ride was a failure. I mean, it was a nice ride and all. It just wasn’t the ride I wanted. But I learned a lot. Mostly, I learned about some of the things in me and around me that make it hard for me to kick back, so to speak, and enjoy a long ride. So in that sense, it was a really good learning experience. Anyway, here’s what I learned:

First Mistake: Riding too fast

The morning started out nice. It was dark,.Venus was alone and bright in the east. As I rolled along the greenbelt to the start (all of one mile from my house) the only sounds were a few waking birds and the hum of my tires. Very peaceful.

I got to the place where I was supposed to meet a few friends, but I was a couple of minutes late. Literally, two minutes. They were gone. But instead of letting them go, I tried to catch up. A few miles on, a train of about two dozen riders passed me. I jumped on the back and hung on for the 20+ miles to the first rest stop. The line was moving over 20mph the entire time. I caught my friends, but lost a little glycogen in the process.

And that’s kind of how the rest of the ride went. Jumping on one train, leading another, grabbing a wheel whenever I could to get further down the road faster. Powering along too busy watching the wheel or the road in front of me to see anything else. Riding just at or even beyond my comfort level for the sake of getting somewhere a little faster, a little sooner,

It’s not a bad way to ride, necessarily. I can be fun, exhilarating. But I already know how to do that. It’s how I normally ride. It’s a habit, and one I found is hard to break. It’s very seductive to ride faster than you normaly can on your own. But not necessarily the best way for every ride.

In this case I found myself passing through beautiful areas, like Cache Creek Canyon, just wishing we were through them. What fun is that? Might as well drive. Net result? For all my rushing around, I finished this ride in almost exactly the same amount of time as I did last year (somewhere shy of 15 hours).

Second Mistake: Not drinking enough fluids

You would think this was a no-brainer: It’s forecast to be 100 degrees, so you should drink a lot. Well, yeah. But to do that, I would need at least three bottles of fluids with me. My bie has room for two bottles, so I would have needed to wear a Camelbak.

And up until very recently, that’s what I did on every ride 100 miles or longer. It works great, in the sense that you can carry more water. But the downside is that you end up carrying the weight of that water and a bunch of other crap (spare tubes, Clif Bars, etc.) on your back. So you get hotter from the lack of air circulating where the Camelbak sits, and there is more strain on your upper body due to the weight.

I hav been going without the camelbak on my recent 100-125 mile rides, and it has worked. Of course, those were also considerable cooler days. But I thought I would try going with just two bottles (one electolyte, one water), stop at every rest stop to refill, and see how that went.

It did not go well. I never got completely dehydrated, but I was definitely running low all day long. This led to mistake number 3 . . .

Third Mistake: Not eating enough

So, being a little dehydrated, by the time I got to each rest stop, all I wanted was fruit. It was good fruit: watermelon, cantelope, grapes, apples . . . But more solid food, like PB&J sandwiches, didn’t interest me at all. At the time, I saw the fruit as cooling food, not completely aware that I was probably more after the liquid than the coolness. I think the only solid food I ate all day was one Clif Bar, one half of a PB&J, and some fig bars. The rest was fruit.

So as with hydration, I did not run so low on fuel that I bonked. But I did slow down while riding, take a longer to get through each rest stop, etc. Which brings us to . . .

Fourth Mistake: Stopping at rest stops

This is not as obvious as the other mistakes, but something I’m learning slowly. Rest stops have everything you need: water, fruit, really helpful, supportive people, rest rooms, iced mocha frappucinos . . . you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing your bike. You run into people you know who you haven’t seen on the road. Rest stops are really wonderful places in a lot of ways.

But there is a weird, frantic energy in rest stops that makes it difficult for me to relax there. I never sit down. I move from one station to the next, refilling, eating, packing fig bars for the next leg. Anything and everything except relaxing. There is something unsettling about watching other people leaving. Maybe they’ve been there an hour. Who knows? But with all the coming and going, it’s a constant reminder that you have to get going too. And if you’re moving slowly, like I was, they get kind of frustrating.

I can’t help but think that if I’d stuck with my plan and ate when there were towns, I would have had a different attitude toward the ride. A more relaxed attitude. If I walk into a cafe, I know it’s going to take 30 minutes or so to eat. Once I have that expectation, I can let go of other anxieties.

Fifth Mistake: Not learning

I haven’t made this mistake yet. Which is to say, now that I am more keenly aware of my tendencies, and the outside factors that influence them, I should be able to do something about them. In that sense, the 2009 Davis Double may turn out to be a pivotal ride in my prep for the Gold Rush. We’ll see! larry John mojo mario pope valley paul shadow



400k Wrap Up

Posted by admin on Apr 29, 2009 in Mind
6am start of the 400k

6am start of the 400k. Click for a slideshow.


Okay, so the Davis Bike Club 400k was last Saturday. It ended at 2332 for me, anyway (Brevets use a 24-hour clock). It was a good ride. Not as fun as the Fleche two weeks earlier, but worth riding.

It began fast. I stuck with the lead group for the first 30 miles, and we covered it at an average pace of just over 20 mph. That’s kind of fast for some of us, and way too fast for that long of a ride. But here in the Central Valley, if you can jump on a fast train, you take it. Makes those flat miles disappear.

I slowed down once we got to the hills. Hooked up with Glenn and Karen, two people from our Fleche ride. A little later we found Paul, who led our team on that ride. The four of us stuck together, with various other riders coming and going, for the rest of the ride.

The weather was great, the climbs not too bad, the wind with us and against us . . . nothing to complain about, really. But even though the ride covered a lot of the same ground as the first part of the Fleche, it just wasn’t as fun. And I think it all comes down to attitude. On the Fleche, we had to take our time to adhere to the rules. The 400k brevet, like all brevets, has a deadline (27 hours), plus windows of time in which to make each checkpoint. And even though 27 hours is more than generous, there is something about the thought of missing a deadline that is compelling. That adds pressure to the ride. And that pressure manifests itself in different ways.

There were times I really wanted to ride alone. But riding with a group, I would think about losing the advantage of resting while someone else took the lead, especially in a headwind. There were times I was riding too fast – like the stretch of Silverado Trail from Calistoga back down to Rutherford where we latched onto the only tandem. But while I wanted to go slower, I enjoyed the idea of getting through that stretch quickly, as it was filled with cars rushing past anyway.

Which made me wonder why I was riding 250 miles if all I wanted to do was rush through it.

The lowest point for me was just after the turnaround by Lake Sonoma. On the one hand, it was great to be headed home. On the other hand, it was the hottest part of the day, I had ridden 130 miles, and I still had 12o miles to go. I was riding with a large group (10 or so), and we were on Dry Creek Road in Sonoma – wine country. And, as it was a nice warm Saturday in spring in Sonoma, there were hordes of cars carting people around to wine tastings, parties, etc. Which was fine. But the people I was riding with were riding two and three abreast, spilling over into the road and slowing down traffic. And it seemed like no amount of yelling “Car back!” was going to get them out of the car lane and back into the bike lane. I found myself angry at the arrogance of cyclists, and angry with people with whom I had spent so much time.

See what I mean? All mental. Little mind games. Small things getting larger due to fatigue. Or maybe just riding with the same people too long. Not sure. But food for thought nonetheless.

I pulled out of it. A quick espresso at Jimtown helped, as did getting on smaller, less-crowded roads. The night riding was great. We picked up a cold wind in Vacaville, but it was behind us and gave us a great push home.

As for riding 250 miles . . . that didn’t seem and harder than 200, which isn’t any harder than 130. Now, if the last 35 miles was into a cold headwind, instead of a tailwind, I would probably say that riding 250 miles is much harder than 200. But I lucked out. Again.

Next organized ride is the Davis Double Century. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I hope I can muster the self-discipline to ride it slowly. I’m already thinking of date bars in Winters, espresso in Middletown, ice cream in Guinda . . .

mario and paul
amy and maria



DBC 400k

Posted by admin on Apr 22, 2009 in Mind

This weekend is the Davis Bike Club 400k Brevet.  This is the third of four rides necessary to qualify to ride in the Gold Rush Randonnee.  400k is right around 250 miles.  Plus, we just sold our Passat (thank god), so I’ll be riding to the start and home again after the finish.  It’s only about 5 miles each way, so I can’t complain I guess.  It’s just that I have to get there before the 6am start, and I’ll probably be riding home when all the drunk UCD students are headed home after a Saturday night of partying.

Anyway, this should be a great ride.  I’ve ridden about 95% of the course before, so that’s comforting.  The first part is the same as the 200k and 300k route: head south out of Davis, then west to Winters).  From there we head south to Vacaville, west to Fairfield, and north again up Wooden Valley Road to Moskowite Corners.  This is the same route a group of us took last Tuesday on our 100-mile refresher course (refresher for those who haven’t been riding hills, that is).

At Moskowite, the course rejoins the 20o and 300 routes up into Chiles Valley, drops into Napa Valley by Lake Hennessey, and heads up to Calistoga along the Silverado Trail.  From there, over the grade to Priest Valley and along Maacama Creek  into Alexander Valley.  Quick stop at Jimtown for espresso, then across Highway 101 into Sonoma wine country.  (BTW, all of this should sound familiar if you read about the 2009 Fleche Route we rode two weeks ago.)  We turn around at Lake Sonoma (which is the new part), then, more or less, back the same way.  You can see the outbound route here, and the inbound route here.

We have 27 hours to complete this ride.  I hope to do it, and enjoy it, in 18 to 20 hours.  I could push it and try to make it in 16 maybe.  but why?  Seems to me that over 200 miles, if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, and you’re not racing, maybe you’re in the wrong sport.




Fléche Velo Nor Cal

Posted by admin on Apr 13, 2009 in Mind

(Note: I re-dated this post so it appears at the top of the Fléche Velo posts.  It gives a general intro to the event, which seems helpful before you read bout the event itself.)


So, this weekend (April 11-12) is the Nor Cal Fléche Velo, hosted by the San Francisco Randonneurs.  A fléche is a very specific type of ride with special requirements and rules.


  • It is held on Easter weekend every year, and started as a way to celebrate the end of Lent
  • The fléche is ridden in teams of three to five members.  At least three members of each team must finish at the same time to complete the ride successfully.
  • The ride must be at least 24 hours long (there is also a maximum time limit)
  • The course must be at least 360km (224 mles) long, and must be approved by the fléche organizer
  • At least 25km of the route must be covered during the last two hours of the 24-hour period
  • No break may be longer than two hours
  • The course must be point-to-point (as opposed to , say, an out-and-back)
  • All riders end up at the same destination, which in this case is a breakfast restaurant in San Francisco called Crepes on Cole

You can read more about the history, etc. here.  I think there are more rules, but you get the idea.  It is very uptight, structurally speaking.

I wanted to ride this event for a couple of reasons.  First, it will be my first all night ride.  The DBC 400k is in two weeks, and I expect that to take at least 20 hours.  This seems like a more casual prep for that ride.  Second, I want to get myself to start slowing down for these longer rides.  If I try to ride the next two brevets (400k and 600k) at the same pace as the first two (200k and 300k), I’ll die.  There’s just no way.  So I need to start pacing a little better for the long haul.

Our team captain, Paul Guttenberg, has done a number of fléches.  He assures the rest of the team that it’s a really fun event: “You ride a while, stop and eat, ride some more, eat, drink, ride a little longer . . . it’s a party on wheels.”  And, really given the distance and the amount of time we have to ride it, it is not that intimidating.  I rode the 300k last week in just under 12 hours.  I mean, it was hard and I was tired as hell afterward, but I did it.  12 more hours to ride another 60k does not really scare me.  On the other hand, riding from 8am to 8am does have me a little worried.

Our route is pretty cool.  We head northwest from Davis, through Calistoga, to Coverdale.  From there we head more or less south to Gurneyville, Jenner, Bodega Bay, Petaluma, San Rafael, Sausalito, then across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. Follow these links to see the route split into two legs, northbound and southbound.

We’ll see how it goes.




2009 Fléche Velo Review, Part 1

Posted by admin on Apr 13, 2009 in Mind
San Francisco at sunrise Easter morning

San Francisco at sunrise Easter morning

Okay, I’m back from San Francisco and our 24 hour adventure.  And all I can say is what a blast! The Fléche was the best organized ride I’ve ridden.  The scary part is that I already want to do another one.  I have never felt that way after a Double, or even the 200k or 300k for that matter. This is an entirely different class of ride.

A few elements came together to make this ride successful: the route; the people in our team; the weather. Paul Guttenberg designed the route, and put the team together, for that matter. The weather just happened.

I learned a couple of interesting things on my first overnight ride:

  • Bring a toothbrush.  I’ve never ridden so long that dental hygiene was an issue. But man! Now I know.
  • Leave the cycling computer at home.  I’ve got a Garmin Edge 305.  It measures, reports, and records heart rate, cadence, speed, average speed, time of day, riding time, and it will supply all that info for each lap as well as cumulatively . . . Basically, it spits out a whole bunch of crap that is good for training, but completely irrelevant for a long, slow ride in the country.  I ran out the day before and got a battery backup so I could power the Garmin for the entire trip. What a waste! The only thing I used the Garmin for was time of day, and that’s only because the battery in my watch died (now I know why that battery icon appeared a few months ago).
  • Night riding is cool, especially with a group. A group gives a nice sense of visibility and security.  We had to change a tire (three times, as it turned out).  Really nice to have all that light and reflectivity for the cars speeding along the highway a few feet away.  Also, as beautiful as the daytime riding was, especially along Dry Creek in Sonoma, riding through the night gave us different experiences: Seeing Orion low over the the black Pacific where we turned south at Jenner; listening to thousands of frogs in the marshes and trenches along the way to Petaluma; watching the sun rise while drinking espresso on the waterfront in Sausalito. 
  • I also found that riding a little slower isn’t the end of the world, and may sometimes even be good.  I tend to push when I ride. Knowing we were required to take 24 hours to make 230 miles, and knowing at least three of us had to finish together, I let go of any notion of pace. We just rode, talked, and stopped and ate whenever it was convenient. While it may be tiring just staying awake that long, it certainly doesn’t require more exertion than, say, a 300k – that is, if you slow down a little bit.  I feel better today, the day after the ride, than after other long rides.  And what the hell?  We were 20 minutes early to the finish anyway!

I’m working on a write-up of the ride itself, and will post that as Part 2 of this series.  Those of you who followed the Twitter updates won’t really learn anything new.  But I think it’s worthwhile to expound a little more on the ride.




2009 Fléche Velo Review, Part 2

Posted by admin on Apr 13, 2009 in Mind

This is the beginning of a rather long description of our bike ride.  I hate reading long blog entries myself.  But I’m too lazy to edit it into a tight, well-written account.  Sorry.  This entry is Leg 1, from Davis to Cloverdale.  More to follow soon.





4/5 of Team Sponge Bob

4/5 of Team Sponge Bob

The first leg from Davis over to Napa Valley via 128 is pretty familiar to most Davis cyclists.  It can get boring, especially here in the Central Valley (farmland, straight roads, flat).  But this time of year everything is green and wildflowers are everywhere, livening things up a bit.  In the right frame of mind, quiet landscape becomes meditative.


Once in Napa, we took a detour off the Silverado Trail to eat at Model Bakery in St. Helena.  It’s funny to think of going a few miles out of your way when you already are planning to ride over 200.  But on the other hand, what the hell?

Paul enjoying pizza and espresso at the Model Bakery

Paul enjoying pizza and espresso at the Model Bakery

We headed back to the Trail and up to Calistoga, then beyond to Knights Valley.  The entire stretch from Calistoga to Cloverdale was new to me, and we’ll be heading this way in a couple of weeks for the 400k.  So it was nice to get this preview.  The climb over into Knights Valley was gradual, shaded, and after all the traffic on Silverado Trail, relatively quiet.  After Knights Valley, the road passes through a really wonderful stretch of canyon along Maacama Creek before dropping into Alexander Valley. It’s the kind of scenery that makes you slow down to enjoy it, even on a nice descent.  I felt like a tourist pointing out deer, hawks, the cool stream . . . 


Break at Jimtown store

Break at Jimtown store

We stopped again Alexander Valley at  Jimtown for a snack and coffee.  I don’t know if we stopped “in” or “at” Jimtown, actually.  It seems to consist solely of Jimtown Store.  Seems like a popular place for cyclists. It was a very cool place to hang out for a while, and they made a damned good espresso. 


Geyserville - the town is actually nicer than this


We picked up a northwest headwind coming up through Alexander valley that stayed with us all the way to our turn-around point in Cloverdale.  The leg from Geyserville and Cloverdale was probably the most challenging, at least to me.  We were riding over rollers, into a headwind, next to the 101.  Not evil, or even all that unattractive.  But after the spectacular riding we had earlier, it was more unimpressive than anything else.  I guess, really, it was just the least fun stretch, because there was nothing particularly bad about it.



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