Tuesday, September 21, 2010

200k dash to Centralia

Obviously I have not been blogging regularly since returning from sabbatical. I am not sure I will pick it up again ... it's not like I have nothing else to do ... but perhaps I should start putting some ride reports up. So ...

September 18 (Saturday) I participated in my first team randonnée, a 200k dart from Westport OR to Centrala WA via Raymond (up highway 4, then 101, then across highway 6). "Dart" is a funny name, because it sounds like it should be a sprint, but in fact it's a sort of dawdle ... you can't get behind the time window (13.5 hours for 200k), but you're also not allowed to finish early, so you just mosey along and use up any extra time at controls. I was riding with Burt and Ken, pleasant company whom I had never met before the ride.

When I meet Cyndi at the end of a ride, she invariably asks me to tell her about the ride. And invariably, at first I can't think of much of anything to tell. We rode. I felt pretty good. The weather was cool at first, then warmer, then the rain started as we turned east at Raymond. What more is there to describe about a bicycle ride?

There is always more to tell, but it doesn't come out all at once.

First, pace. The odd thing about team events is the nature of the time limits. arrow and fleche are 24 hour events, and the shorter darts have a time limit based on distance, which for this 200k event was 13.5 hours. But that doesn't just mean "done within 13.5 hours" (easy), it means "done at pretty darn close to 13.5 hours". It is "not in the spirit of the event" to finish as quickly as possible, and in any case you can't beat the end time by more than two hours because you are required to be at a checkpoint at least 25km away two hours before the deadline. Arrows and fleches further prohibit stopping for two hours or more at any point. The two-hour-stop rule does not apply to darts, but who would want to be still for two hours (other than sleeping) and then start riding again? So it's a mosey, trying to stay just a little ahead of the clock but not too much, with fairly leisurely stops for refreshment.

Second, dependence on the team. You must finish together. A team may be 3-5 people (mine was 3), and the team is disqualified unless at least 3 finish together at the final control. In theory you could ride separately until the penultimate control, then ride just the last leg into the destination together, but in practice a randonnée team rides together pretty much from beginning to end. They may spread out a little (we did), but they rejoin at each control. It helps to have companionable companions.

Burt and Ken and I got along pretty well. I like hills a bit more than they do, but it wasn't a problem because we were all on the same schedule. I have a standard triple but don't use the smallest ring except as a last resort, so in practice my climbing gear is a 39-25; that makes me want to stand up and climb a little faster than someone on a compact double or other low gearing. (If "39-25" means nothing to you, translate to "a gear ratio that would make sense on a racing bike, but is not really as low as one would like on a randonneuring bike"). But no problem, I just stop at the top of the rise to rejoin the group, and I don't mind waiting because there is no point in arriving early to the next control.

We were pretty lucky weather-wise. It was cool but not frigid as we began. I wore a long-sleeve synthetic base layer (Craft), a standard short-sleeve jersey, short-sleeve wind-breaker, and leg warmers with my bib shorts. I had wool socks but didn't put on my rain booties. Burt and Ken were in rain jackets, and I considered whether I should be, but my outfit was just fine, even a bit too warm sometimes. There was some fog but no rain in the first 70 or so miles, to South Bend WA.

I felt the first light drops of rain in South Bend or Raymond, and within a few miles of Raymond it was clearly starting to rain. Off with the windbreaker, on with the Showers Pass rain jacket (Elite 2), and my new Pearl booties. The Showers Pass jacket seemed like a splurge last December ... well really it was a splurge, $230 for a rain jacket is a lot ... but boy is it great. Not only did it keep me dry, but the venting regulated temperature well enough that I didn't end up getting soaked from the inside, as I surely would have with a lesser jacket. I don't know how much of that to attribute to the e-vent fabric. Pit zips help, and the back vent, but oddly I think the most critical control of venting for this jacket is the sleeves. When the cuffs are fully open, air flows up the arms and out the pit zips or the back vent. When the cuffs are partly or fully closed (fastened with good quality velcro), the air flow is slowed or stopped, and the jacket becomes somewhat or very warm.

My 400k ride in August revealed foot pain and butt pain as two factors likely to limit my ability to push out to greater distances, so I am trying to make adjustments in saddle and in cleat position. On this ride I gave my new Fizik Arione saddle its first long test. I had tried a versus and did not find it any improvement over the Bontrager saddle I am replacing. The Arione didn't exactly disappear, but it did encourage and enable me to shift positions and avoid getting really sore. I think it's a keeper, even though I definitely do not fit Fizik's profile of the very flexible racer the Arione is designed for.

Moving my cleats farther back also seems to be working to reduce foot pain. It's hard to be certain, because this was only 125 miles, and because the pace was so relaxed, but I really had no foot pain at all.

So there was more to tell. Probably boring as hell unless you are another crazy randonneur trying to work out a similar set of problems, or considering your first team randonnée. I guess I'll never get blog entries written if I worry too much about whether anyone could possibly be interested in reading them.