I’m planning on hitting the road and living the mini-van life. Here are a few of the rides I want to try.
I’m planning on hitting the road and living the mini-van life. Here are a few of the rides I want to try.
Rough Draft — because good is the enemy of done
Saturday August 26, 2016
Palm Beach to Portland. Bad sleep, 3:30 alarm. First plane was brand new leg room nice tv plugs for electric and usb on time
Max train red to 12 bus to Bike Gallery in Hollywood suburb of Portland. Assembled bikes. Took a long time to organize all the stuff. Mountain house for dry bags and jet boil fuel. hotel ho-Jo next to Indian buffet. Slept for over ten hours. Paul had to wake me up.
Sunday August 28, 2016:
Breakfast at the hotel. Made a waffle and took it with me as ride food. Sunday traffic was light. Rode to downtown Portland via a business and residential neighborhoods and then a bike path right next to the Columbia River.
We rode right through downtown then up steep hills through Grant Park. We had a quick stop at the famous rose garden.
Enjoyed landscaping in the park. More hills then Skyline Drive. Nice road, popular with local cyclists. Hilly — glad to be riding mountain bike with triple chainring. View of Mt St Helens from a beautiful memorial that is also a pokestop.
Saw deer right by the road. Realized it was a statue of a deer. Tricky resident putting lawn art on a trail. Deer turned its head to look at me. Realized statue was a real dear. Saw car coming fast. Waved it to slow then pointed at dear. Driver slowed deer crossed road, driver smiles at me.
One o’clock not sure where we will have lunch. Little sad. Might have to subsist on Clif bars. Rural no services. Boom a pub, really nice pub with microbrews. I
Lots of descending then gorgeous rolling hills farmland. Free Asian pears in wheelbarrow by the road. Not too many cars until close to Forest Grove. Camping too far, stopped in fabulous hotel former Masonic Lodge or retirement home? Amazed at $85 price for room in fantastic historic inn with beer garden, movie theater, bar, restaurant, 9 hole frisbee golf.
Paris Brest Paris (PBP) is a famous long distance race and ride that has been held every four years or so since 1981. To complete the event, cyclists must ride 1230 km from Paris to Brest and back within a 90 hour time limit. Along the route, riders stop at checkpoints called controls in order to prove they are completing the entire course. To be allowed to enter, each rider must complete a full series of qualifying rides of 200, 300, 400, and 600km within the same calender year. Clubs all over the world host the qualifiers, so there is a wonderful international community of cyclists who participate in these long distance rides. To learn more, see information at www.rusa.org and http://www.paris-brest-paris.org.
It took two years to train for this event, ten years if I count the progression from 100km rides to 100 mile charity rides, then bike touring, then some local ITT formmat bikepacking events. In 2014, I completed a full series and a 1000k event. We completed the 1000k in Florida in a fast time, finishing hours before the cutoff and with 4 – 6 hours of sleep each night. This test passed, I felt confident to increase the challenge and give PBP a try. In 2015, I finished the full series in April, and was dividing my time between training, work, and an Udacity online nanodegree in front end web development that consumed 10 – 20 hours a week of studying/coding. May through June I did regular workouts at the local gym, Hard Exercise Works in Jupiter. I added in some time on the trainer and some 20 mile rides before work. Always, I do long rides on the weekend — once a month to maintain, 3-7 times a month when I am preparing for a big event.
June 22nd, I finished the online degree program, and had more time to train. I started riding longer rides before work and pushing towards 300 – 400 mile weeks. Paul and I also took a week off in July and drove to Michigan to see his family, stopping to ride each day on the way out and back. I mangaged a couple more 300+ mile weeks after the trip, but then developed sciatic pain, probably from overtraining. I quickly reduced the miles and added in some swimming and time on an ellipical trainer. I also did less weight training in the month before the event to clear the time for cycling and to avoid any possiblility of injury. I do think the workouts at HEW have really increased my ability, and plan to use their program to maintain fitness for training for the next event.
Being a first time rider at PBP, I trusted all the travel arrangements to DesPeres Travel rather than take the time to research all the options. We flew Air France from Miami, stayed at L’Auberge du Manet just two miles from the start before and after the ride, and booked hotels along the route — the Hotel de France in Loudeac, and the Hotel du Tribunal in Mortagne au Perche. In my imagination, we would ride through the first night with just a few hours sleep, then sleep 4-5 hours each day in these nice hotels. We had drop bags delivered to Loudeac and Villaines to provide fresh clothes and ride food. The drop bags were delivered as promised, though the inital pickup time was an inconvenience as it conflicted with some group photos at and near the Velodrome the day before the ride. We never used the second drop bags, but would have been glad to have them in the case of rain. The hotels were very nice. We especially enjoyed the included breakfast at Auberge du Manet. The airport shuttles organized by Claus Clausen were not much less expensive than a shared taxi and were at terrible times. We waited some hours at the airport before leaving to the hotel, and then the morning we left, we had to catch the shuttle at 5 AM for our 2 PM flight.
Our flights were not the cheapest, but I had misunderstood the airlines’ rates for carrying a bicycle and thought that the more expensive Air France ticket would be the same as a cheaper Delta ticket when luggage charges were added. I still haven’t reconciled advertised rates with what I was charged. Next time, I will just pick whichever carrier has the cheapest ticket and be ready to pay whatever extra a bike costs that day. There was also some confusion and difficulty making the reservations via an agent. I feel it would be faster, cheaper, and more accurate to make reservations online.
Paul, Chris, and I all traveled together and arrived in France a few days before the event. Chris did not bring a bike, as an injury prevented her from preparing for the ride this time. Paul and I assembled our bikes without incident and stored them away in a room provided by the hotel for all the cyclists. I enjoyed meeting other US riders at the hotel. We visited Paris and Versailles, really enjoying the beautiful city. I walked more than I should have. I had sore ankles and shins. We rode our bikes to the stadium for packet pickup the day before the ride, but did no other riding. I think that maybe planning some easy morning rides after arrival might have been better. A little spin each morning would have settled our nerves and given me a chance to adjust the shifting that had been a bit off since the bike reassembly.
Our hotel was convenient to the ride start, but far from the airport or the parts of Paris that remain open in August, the traditional French holiday season. I think that next time, I will try to get a hotel near Versailles, so that I can do some sightseeing without so much walking to the bus, to the train, to the Metro etc. I’m told there is a nice bike route from Versailles to the area of the Velodrome.
The French are wonderful hosts. Cycling is a popular sport there, and not only were there hundreds of volunteers helping the ride, but all the locals have little get-togethers and cheer along the route. In many places, families were passing out coffee and cake, asking nothing in return. Everyone was kind and helpful, which really makes this a special experience. I can see why riders return every four years to repeat the event.
The controls were set up in schools and typically had good food choices available for purchase, a place to sleep, toilets, and sometimes showers as well. Cards were marked quickly, but there was often a line for food and toilets. The official sleeping places charged a fee and included a blanket and a bed or foam mattress. As far as I can tell, vagrancy laws are suspended for the duration of PBP. There were people sleeping everywhere.
August is a holiday month, so while the beaches are hectic, the country roads we rode had minimal traffic. Some roads were a wavy, bumpy chipseal surface. There was very little flat ground. We were up and down hills all the route.
I chose a 17:45 start time, which was one of the earlier waves. I thought it would be less work to be passed rather than pass people as I wander along at an average sort of speed. I also hoped to arrive at controls before they developed long lines for food or waiting lists for sleeping space. We arrived much earlier than needed at the stadium. We had signed up for a lunch that was advertised to run from noon until six or so. I have noticed that the 24/7 always available, always open American culture is not shared by the French. I predicted with perfect accuracy that they would run out of food at 3:00 PM. We arrived at 2:55 and had a nice meal, though we did have to hustle to get some water and some dessert, as these items were being consumed a little faster than the caterer could manage to replenish the food line.
Paul and I watched the 80 hour groups start, then found our way to the staging area for our group. We both felt nervous and excited. I had loaded up my bike with snacks of dried fruit and a bag of these funny little crumpet-like breads that I purchased at a French grocery store. I snacked while we waited to keep my calories topped up for the ride.
Finally, we started. It felt great to be riding instead of worrying about riding. A short way into the ride we found ourselves on a country road between two long rows of trees though a field, and I then felt immersed in the French countryside. Up to that moment, the trip had been all city and suburbs. I was well rested after reducing my training mileage for the previous two weeks and felt great — ready to cover some miles.
We had heard that the lines at the first aid station can be quite long, so we agreed to carry enough food to ride to the first control at 220 km. Just like when we had raced the CFiTT mountain bike ITT, we would be all business for the first nine to ten hours of the ride. In CFiTT, the goal was to get to a river before the ferry shut down for the night. In this ride, the idea was to get to Villaines a little ahead of the clock so that we can sleep a little around 4-5 AM.
The first half of our ride did not happen as planned. By the time we got to Brest we had no time to spare and a big sleep deficit.
Leaving Brest, I found a nice pace that I want to remember for future rides. I kept my heart rate between 120 and 130 while climbing or going less than 18 mph. We made good time without getting out of breath. On long downhills, we could stop pedaling after reaching 18mph, so we got our rest without sacrificing forward progress. I am really struggling with sleep deprivation now and have begun taking 20 – 30 minute naps at each control.
After Carhaix, we find that Paul’s Luxos U light, powered by a Son 28 Dynamo hub, has stopped working. It blinks instead of having a solid light and will not turn off. We lose more time looking at it, but are unable to repair it. I believe the unit needs to be replaced as it is new and should be under warranty. I expect some bit of circuitry is malfunctioning.
Again, we arrive at our nice hotel in Lodeac at 11:42PM with just time for a short sleep. All this is a bit hazy, so I am using my GPS track and google maps to recreate the experience. Paul looked at his broken light again and the bottom of his shoe broke while he was bending down to look at the problem. No one wanted to go to the vendor tent at the control in search of new shoes. Paul decided to ride with the broken shoe. After our showers and quick sleep, we coffee up and hit the road. The Hotel de France in Lodeac was great. They had a room downstairs for the bikes and were just a block away from the control. They served breakfast and coffee all night.
We got an early start at 2:15AM, but I was a disaster. The sleep monster was on me. I was freezing on each descent, but would sweat on the climbs if I added any more layers. I was deliriously tired. As in all the ride, we could see a long line of red bike tail lights ahead, but now I was unable to tell if they were going downhill or uphill. I had to wait until I was warm or cold until I knew which direction we were going. I was rambling on and on to Paul in an attempt to keep myself awake. It was too cold to stop and nap, but I was really too sleepy to make good progress. Paul was very patient with me and helped me remember to keep some power to my pedaling when my mind drifted off. Now Paul is the stronger rider and is held back waiting for me to pull myself together.
In a cold little valley we came across a man standing in the middle of the road. He was dressed for cycling, but we did not see his bike. He was actually standing in traffic and seemed disoriented. I asked in my miserable French if he needed a doctor. No. Another English-speaking cyclist stopped. His French was better and he understood the rider to be abandoning, and that he had a friend who would be passing this way tomorrow. We never did figure out why he was standing in the middle of the road. As we spoke, he had his arms pressed against his chest as if cold, so I gave him a Mylar emergency blanket I had been carrying. In the spirit of typical American aid, not knowing what the man needed, I gave him what I had. He seemed touched and said thank you several times, so maybe I helped a little. I thought that once all the English speakers moved on, maybe French riders seeing him alone would stop and maybe do a better job of helping.
I was so tired that everything seemed like a dream. I was struggling very badly to stay coherent. We rolled into a little village where it was a bit warmer. I saw several people asleep in and around a bank lobby and pulled over to join them. I did not ask Paul’s opinion. I did not set an alarm. At that point I did not care about anything other than getting some desperately needed sleep. I later looked up the details using my GPS track and see I was at N48 11.336, W2 11.488 for 15 minutes at about 4:30 AM. Paul waited for me. I am sure he was worried about my condition. I felt bad that I was slowing us down, but just did not have the ability to stay awake.
I see from the GPS data that we were in the control in Tinteniac at N48 19.937, W1 49.524 from 6:17 to 7:28 AM. I think this is where we rented another sleeping space for a half hour, but it was a disaster. It was in a building with tiled floors and concrete walls where all sounds were echoed and amplified. A man sharing the room woke up and started talking full volume to his partner. I suppose he had no idea of where he was or how many people he was waking up. I left and purchased our coffee and some sandwiches that we could eat on the road. Paul was so deeply asleep that he never heard a thing.
We gave up on using our last hotel in Mortage-au-Perche. Changing and showering was using up too much time. We also gave up the hot food lines at some of the controls in favor of these nice baguettes with ham, butter, and cheese that we could eat while we rode. I was eating gummy candy all through the ride as well. I shared these with Paul, and then we looked for a store to resupply. We recognized the name of a French grocery store on a building and pulled over. It turned out to be a giant shopping mall with a grocery store inside it. We don’t have this type of configuration in the US, so it was really a surprise. Imagine a Macy’s at the local mall has been replaced with a WalMart Superstore, but with organic farm fresh food. We lost time here. I had to walk in the mall to the store, then search the store to find the sugary bike fuel gummy candy. Candy is on aisle 37 or something like that, rather than near the door as in US stores. I also bought some fruit, but got stuck at the register because I was supposed to weigh the fruit and add a label myself. A very kind Frenchwoman who was in line in front of me took care of this for me.
Villains-la-Juhel put on a huge welcome for the riders. As we approached the control, there were crowds lining the road, shouting encouragement. There was a festival atmosphere that made me feel really proud of what we had accomplished so far.
Out in the countryside, I lost track of Paul again in the dark. He texted to say he stopped to take a picture and saw me pass. In the dark, I did not know it was him and kept going.
I stopped in Mamers, N48 21.029, E0 22.190 at about 10:40 PM where the local cycling club was giving away potage (soup) and cake. There was a real party town feel to the venue even though it was late on a weeknight in this small town. Paul and I met up again in the next control — N48 31.278, E 32.442 12:27am – 01:35AM in Montagne-au-Perche. We ate, then used the half hour it would have taken to get in and out of our hotel to sleep on the floor of the cafeteria.
We got separated again. Paul texted me to say he was waiting ahead of me by the road. I had just passed 10 different men by the side of the road. It is dark, all 6000 or so riders are wearing identical reflective vests. Any of them might have been him. I had pulled over to read the SMS, and once stopped, felt really tired. I lay down for the most acoustically perfect nap ever. I was in a town a park bench at the base of a hill. I could hear whirring hubs of an unending stream of cyclist pouring down the hill in front of me. Behind me was a little stream gurgling and babbling in a little concrete channel right through the middle of town.
I never meant to finish so close to the cutoff. We had so many little delays which led to sleep deprivation issues. At Dreaux, I grabbed a coffee and a couple of incredibly good, fresh from the oven croissants, then got back on the bike. Outside the control I was on a nice flat road, but it felt like I was pedaling through molasses. I could hardly move. It was raining too hard to stop comfortably, but my forward progress was minimal. I saw other riders stopping at bus shelters to get out of the rain, but knowing I was set to finish just an hour a so before my 90 hour time limit, I didn’t feel I had time for anything other than to ride, sleep, or eat.
At many times over the 3 days I had some dark moments on the ride where I thought of quitting. Sometimes it was people not even on the course that kept me going. Family and friends were watching the progress of my spot tracker online. I knew that a successful finish would make everyone happy, while everyone would share my sadness in the event of a failure. My friend Chris had told me that I was riding for both of us, because she knew that if I could finish the ride, she would have been able to finish as well. When I thought of quitting I remembered all who were watching and pushed ahead.
I kept slowly slogging along until the rain stopped or at least let up a little. I saw another rider asleep in a gravel/rock drive and pulled over at a second drive/farm road 20 yards ahead of him. This was one of many times I fell asleep on route. Each of these times I was simply too tired to go on, falling asleep on the bike, and not caring enough to set an alarm. All the previous times, I slept for just 15 minutes or so and was a little refreshed afterwards.
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but my GPS data tells me I slept soundly for 50 minutes on the gravel and rocks at the side of the road. I checked my time and mileage when I woke and saw that instead of having an extra hour, I would only make it by 10 minutes or so. I began riding quick and carefully. I kept my heart rate up, but avoided letting it get too high. I ate at least every 15 minutes to stay fueled, as usually my reserves are gone this far into a long ride.
I came to a hill that was so steep, some riders were walking. The whole route had been all hills all the time. I had trained for hills as best I could in flat South Florida, but was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t run out of climbing strength after 300 or 400 km as I have in the past. I struggled to the top of the hill, becoming increasingly anxious about time. Locals had come out in the rain to cheer us on. I cried a little, I was so touched by the support and relieved to be at the top.
My GPS mileage said the stadium should be soon, but the course made turn after turn with no finish line in sight. I was running out of time. My GPS mileage does not match the cue sheet mileage, and the offset had increased again in the last part of the ride. There were traffic lights. There were turns, more turns, endless turns, hills, a bike path. I find myself going 19 mph on the bike path. I can barely hold 19 mph fresh. What is happening? I don’t know who I am anymore. I feel like my body is made of electricity. I was a plodder, now I am crushing hills and flying around turns without getting tired. I have never ridden like this before.
I see the stadium and fly along the entrance path. There are tight turns and it takes all my concentration to maintain speed. Folks are cheering. They like the show. I wonder if they see my frame number H210 and understand that I only have 9 minutes left? I keep going and look for the sign to the control. At all the previous controls, there is a group of tables near the bike parking. Here there is just more caution tape marking a path to the back of the stadium. Nooooo…there are the bikes and then a huge line. I only have 2 minutes. I throw down the bike and run, sliding around on the ramp in my cleats, looking for the control, apologizing for jumping the line, explaining in French and English that I have just two minutes. A man explains I have already ridden over the sensor for the timing chip. I am done. I made the cutoff somewhere in that path to the stadium. I cry for about the fourth time now. I made it! I turn in my card and see it marked with a sub 90 hour time. As I walk out of the stadium I still feel I am made of electricity and believe that I have experienced a transformation into some one better and stronger that I was before. Or, maybe that feeling is just that my hands and feet were a little numb from the long ride?
Sometimes the anticipation of travel is harder than the trip itself. Finally, we are sitting in the plane, bikes packed, luggage checked. It’s time to relax and read and sleep for however many hours it takes to fly from Miami to Paris. Florida treats us to one more spectacular sunset. If we take off soon, maybe we will see it once more from the sky.
OK, no excuses. I have an international data plan and a beautiful iPhone app for writing journal entries. I’ll keep posting as we ride, then clean it up later during the resting-vacation after the riding-vacation.
I am riding Paris Brest Paris next week. This 1200 km / 764 mile ride happens just once every four years and has been a tradition for over 100 years. I am looking forward to riding with friends from the US and a community of distance cyclists from all over the world. We boxed up our bikes yesterday and will be on the Miami to Paris flight Wednesday night. With group harmony and comfort in mind, we all saved up and reserved hotel rooms and bag drops along the route. We are on the 90 hour plan with a start time of Aug 16 17:45. I believe you will be able to track our progress at the PBP website. My frame number is H210, and my entry is US-787. I will also carry a spot locator, which you may track at my personal Spot tracking page.
It has been a challenge to sort out all the training and logistics for the trip. I am excited to have made it this far, and hope that all the travel happens as expected.
The results are in…..
1. Graham Brink 1 day 3 HOURS AND 8 MINUTES
2. Derek Tribble 1 DAY 4 HOURS 3 MINUTES
3. Brandon Cannon 1 day 10 hours and 23 minutes
4. Lynne Daniels 1 day 10 hours and 41 minutes
5.Celso Rodrigues 1 day 10 hours and 41 minutes and 30 seconds
6. Chris Benkly 1 day 10 hours and 42 minutes
7. Peter Kraft 1 day 11 hours and 42 minutes
8.Charlie Kemp `1 day 13 hours and 29 minutes
9.Colin Campbell 1 day 14 hours and 51 min
10.Ruth Cunningham 1 day 14 hours and 56 minutes
11.Paul Schmitt 1 day 16 hours and 41 minutes
12.Duane Langlie 2 days 8 hours and 46 minutes
13.Dean Thornton 2 days 8 hours and 56 minutes
14.Joseph Mobilio 3 DAYS 10 HOURS AND 24 MINUTES
15.Charles Dowman 3 DAYS 10 HOURS AND 26 MINUTES
16.Brett Davidson 3 DAYS 10 HOURS AND 27 MINUTES **NEW LATERN ROUGE COURSE RECORD**
Finished but not scored:
Did Not Finish:
Karlos Rodriguez Bernart
A Jeff Tomassetti
Last weekend, November 16-17, 2013, I finished the Cross Florida Individual Time Trail mountain bike race — a self supported 265 mile race from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico over singletrack trails, dirt roads, and quieter paved roads. This was my fourth year riding in the five year old event.
The course this year was from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to the end of the old barge canal diggings near Inglis, Florida. Thirty six official riders lined up for this no-entry-fee, wildcat type of ride. There were one or two renegade style unregistered riders on the course as well. They were following the course, but did not appear on the race updates at www.trackleaders.com.
The course was longer and tougher this year than ever before, and to add a challenge, the route crosses the St John’s River on a Ferry that only operates from 7AM -5PM. Last year I barely made the last boat across. I estimated this year’s course would be as much as two hours longer as some paved road sections had been changed to dirt road, doubletrack, and a really slow section of unkempt social trails/firing range/ATV track. I changed my start time from the mass start at 6AM to 4AM have a chance at making the ferry.
Friday before the race, Chris, Paul, and I drove up to Inglis, where we met Mark and Kevin, who ferried us across. For the most part, all was smooth and efficient. We did turn back for a forgotten bag, but made New Smyrna in plenty of time to settle in and meet the other riders for dinner. We arrive, start to unload the bikes, and I see that my axle, the part that attaches the wheel to the fork, is neither in the fork or the wheel. (The wheel had been taken off to fit in the truck.) I ask Paul where he put it when he moved the bike from my car to Kevin’s truck. Oh, how crushed he looked when he told me it is on the roof of my car, two hundred miles away.
I simultaneously accept that I may not be racing and work towards fixing the problem. Paul offered to drive over to get the part, but he would be up all night and ruin his own race, so I told him no. I asked all my fellow racers if they had a spare, but no one did. The somewhat rare part is specific to only certain types of Fox suspension forks. I did receive offers of a cyclocross bike and two cars, which shows how these unsupported racer types will reach out to support each other. I kept the offer of a car in mind, thinking I might race the course backwards after driving back to get my axle, but then went for the long shot.
I found a bike for sale locally on Craigslist that had the right part. Using my best phone skills I asked the seller if he would sell just the axle. He wasn’t sure and recommended I call his girlfriend who was the actual owner of the bike. These calls were high stakes for me. I was acutely aware of the danger of making a wrong impression. Imaging calling a total stranger on a Friday night…..”Yeah, I saw your ad in Craigslist. I want your axle tonight. I need you to bring it to my hotel.” Mmmhmm…right, no danger there. I organized my thoughts, made the second call and got voicemail. I left a very careful message, explaining my predicament, providing the URL of my facebook page where anyone could verify my story, and offering a $150 for a part that retails for about $75. Then I wait. We walked over to dinner, meeting all sorts of racers in the parking lot and at the restaurant. I asked everyone I saw for a lead on an axle. I missed opportunities to really get to know and connect with my fellow racers as I am obsessing over the axle. I wait and hope for the phone to ring.
Dinner was a blur. I was mostly staring at my phone looking for options on my missing part and willing it to ring, and then finally, Jennifer, an adventure racer from Daytona calls me back. Being a fellow racer, she is kind and sympathetic to my situation. She is having a hard time believing her part is what I need, but I assure her it is and provide instructions on how to take it off the bike. She agrees to make the sale, but is not at home. She says she will call when she is on the way. I spent another hour all ecstatic and worried at the same time, then finally, Jennifer calls and arrives, the deal is done, and my race is officially back on.
Some racers have mentioned having a theme, mantra, spirit guide, or avatar for these races. For this race, I decide on Honey Badger. “Honey Badger don’t care” will be the thought I use to greet all the difficulties ahead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg is where I learned of Honey Badger’s determination and resilience. Starting the weekend in the rain with a broken bike, each time I felt nervous or was faced with some new problem, I would just say to myself, “honey badger don’t care, ” and continue on my path. I had packed 27 scoops of Hammer Sustained Energy, 4 scoops of Cytomax, 2 bags of nuts and dried fruit, GUs, and a fistful of Cliff Bars. For this race, I planned to stop only for water before the ferry. Even after the Ferry, my only food purchases were in Salt Springs and Dunellon. For racing, this worked quite well. The problem is I love touring more than racing and felt a little sad to pass all the food stops. Honey Badger mode is efficient, but next long ride I think I will be a fun loving squirrel instead.
There were just three of us on the beach at 4AM. We took our required pictures at the start and off we went. We all were split up at first, but then met in a section of rough going with a water crossing and another required photo of an old railroad bridge ruin. I tweaked my back in there a little carrying my bike over all the fallen trees, but honey badger didn’t care. Once back out onto the roads I made good time, and did not stop again until the photo checkpoints in Olsteen and on the bike path. I refilled my water at mile 60 or so, where Chris passed me. I saw her again in the Chuck Lennon Singletrack where she passed me again while I refilled my bottles and mixed up some more sports drink. We passed back and forth and sometimes rode together until somewhere between Lake George and Seville.
The rain began again as I approached the ferry. Sticky sand slowed my ride, but I still had enough time. The endless turns the route took as is approached the Ferry were a trial. I had recorded the mileage incorrectly and spent an hour thinking the ferry should be around the next corner. During this part of the ride I had expected all the fast riders who started at 6AM to be passing me, but that did not happen. When I reached the ferry, I was the only cyclist there. I learned that Chris and two others were on the crossing that had left just before my arrival and that only a few had been before them. It was late in the day. I asked the ferryman if he would take one more trip after mine. He said he would, so I hopped aboard and left right away with just one car for company, happily knowing that anyone just behind me would not be stranded.
Chris was waiting for me on the other side. For safety reasons, we had agreed to try to ride together across Ocala National Forest at night. There are bears and sometimes odd people there. I sometimes think the danger is overrated. Every time I see a bear out there, it is running away. As to the odd people, I am out there in my blinking lights and day-glo spandex, riding a light weight racing bicycle while carrying 15 pounds of gear, tools, parts, and food in a place obviously designed for pickup trucks. I am probably the oddest of the odd people out there at that moment.
We stopped for a big meal at a restaurant in Salt Springs. There we met Celso, who even though we live just a few miles apart, I had not met until the dinner party Friday night. We invited him to join us in crossing the Ocala National Forest. Conditions here were perfect. The rain had packed down the sand roads. The moon was bright enough that we could ride without lights. It was warm, but there were no mosquitoes, which is pretty much a miracle in Florida. The three of us finished ONF strong, then made our way to the Santos singletrack.
We picked up Mark at the beginning of the Santos trails and maintained a nice pace over the yellow (easy) trails to the Landbridge trailhead. Here we decided to refill our water bottles, eat a little, and nap. Tackling the upcoming technical trails would be faster and safer in the daylight. Sadly, the police came and told us we could not stay at the restroom/picnic area at night, so we packed up and left. The trails were easy enough at first, but then became really difficult. I tried a few times to convince everyone to sleep for an hour or two, but there was talk of bears and the danger of the woods, and we pressed on.
I had been in the lead from the Santos trailhead, but after stopping on a technical section, I was too tired and befuddled to see how to ride the next section. It was a giant hill with an assortment of complex technical challenges. Chris took the lead, but fell just a little ways ahead. I once again pressed my case for stopping. I would have stayed by myself at that point if the others wanted to go on. I knew there no bears in that section of the route and felt perfectly safe sleeping in the woods. In fact I felt safer there than at the trailhead, because I am more afraid of people than bears. I lay down on a mylar blanket and covered myself with a silnylon tarp and had an hour or two of deep restorative sleep. Chris and Celso saw the advantages of a nap, while Mark continued on the route.
When we woke up in the daylight, the horrible difficult trail had transformed itself to a buttery smooth, gently rolling ribbon of singletrack. Where Chris had fallen was just a small little root crossing the trail. We had a nice ride on Nayl’s Trails and Ern and Burn, two of the harder sections of the route. Chris and Celso raced ahead. I did not have the skills to maintain their pace and thought I would not see Chris again for miles, or Celso until the finish line. Instead I found both waiting for me at the exit of the difficult singletrack. Nice. I suggested we stay together until the end and agree to call the race between us a tie. We easily made our way over to the Trike Trail, which being less than a year old and infested with feral pigs, was soft and heavy going. It was bumpy, and at 200 miles, our behinds were in no condition for bumpy. I found it best to pedal hard for a segment then stop and rest. Spinning in an easy gear would exposed me to the bumps and brought much suffering to the end of the ride.
Chris took the lead there and was hitting cobwebs. Cobwebs? So we are winning? Go figure. I usually am last or near to it in these events. I know that two of the riders who had either passed or started before us went off course or had withdrawn. They stopped at the landbridge, but left again without taking the required photos. Strange, they never said hello or goodbye. I couldn’t see who it was in the dark. They murmured to each other then left the landbridge via the limestone road. Despite the cobwebs, I was pretty sure there must have been some one still in the race ahead of us. Anyone riding that in the dark may easily have gone off to the side of the trail sometimes, as it is new, soft, and covered with leaves. Or maybe, we were so far behind, the spiders had had time to build more webs since the last rider.
After wearing ourselves down on the soft, strength sapping trike trail, crossing the sandy and grassy roads of the Pruitt section was a chore. It took all my strength to lift my bike over the gates at the end. I’m very glad for the weight training I have done this year. I was out of water by this point. The new route does not pass the water stop at Ross Prairie trailhead. We pushed on to Dunellon, where we had a feast at the gas station convenience store. I drank a chocolate milk and a mango smoothie and felt much restored. We were caught by a couple of the fast riders there. They had been behind us, spending the night in the comfort of a Silver Springs hotel. I knew keeping up was futile, so we continued to enjoy our breakfast.
From here on, the course was paved roads, dirt roads, and horrible push-the-bike deep sand. Chris and I both had falls, our cleats were so clogged up with sand that we were stuck, landing under our bikes in the deepest sand. Chris’s fall was broken by a thicket of sand spurs. She did not like that very much and will aim for plain old sand next time. We were all slower, everything hurt, but kept steadily onwards. It was such a relief to finish. I had a little picnic and could have stayed for hours napping and eating, but the no-see-ums were chewing us up, so back to the hotel we went. We chatted with some folks near the finish and learned we were placed quite well. I was very surprised. I am not the fastest rider out there. The 4AM start turned out to be a huge advantage. I will probably never place so well again. Just this one time, it seems experience and judgement made up for my lack of speed.
Other links and journals::
Before starting the blog here, I published some journals on the wonderful crazyguyonabike website. See them there: Crazyguy journals