2014 SFR Fort Bragg 600k Volunteers Ride (First posted May- 6-2014 at 09:01 pm)
2014 SFR Fort Bragg 600k Volunteers Ride (First posted May- 6-2014 at 09:01 pm)

  Your Volunteers at work  That is it! If you ever hear me say I wanna do another Super Volunteer Randonneur Series please hit me in the head with a full carbon fiber saddle! Doing a Super Randonneurs Series (200k, 300k, 400k and 600k) all as Volunteers Workers Rides sounds pretty simple but there is a little more logistics involved than normal. For example on the 600k we don't have the staffed "water stop" nor have food or an actual place to rest at that critical location on Hwy 128 between Cloverdale and Hwy 1. This is not the first time I've pulled a Supper Volunteer Randonneur Series, the first time I also did it with John P. which in itself is a huge accomplishment deserving a big shinny trophy (if you know John I hope you agree with me) Seriously, it is nice to volunteer for the SFR events though and I hope more people read this and decide it is a crazy thing to do and go for it; me? I will continue volunteering in one form or another but A Super Volunteer Randonneur Series... (have that carbon saddle handy please)

  Preparing for the 600k while riding it  I had done the Fleche a couple of weeks ago and when I finally patched the tubes, in the comfort of my living room, seven days before this 600k I've must have gotten poison oak on my chest from residue of the stuff on the tubes. Yes on my chest, don't ask me how but it was there. On top of that I have had a very acute pain on my back that woke me up at night a couple of times. So from my chest to my back I felt like if I had an arrow going thought. Oh well I've been in worse shape, we'll see. By Thursday, with the exception of the couple of sleepless nights because of the pain, I was more or less rested having a good night sleep every day. Went to bed early and hope for the best.

Well I did not sleep at all, again happening before a longish brevet. What I had in my head kept me up all night and when I was having happy dreams in full stereophonic color the alarm went off. Time to go. When I left the garage there was a strong head wind on Franklin St. It is never that windy so early in the morning. Oh crap, this is gonna be fun!. With a flat bar bike, wind is my kryptonite

We started at exactly 6:00am and rode together to San Anselmo where I did ride though the parking as the light was red. I got to Point Reyes a few minutes before John, when I was done taking a layer off and getting my ATM printed receipt I saw him putting air on his tires, apparently he had not pump his tires enough before starting the ride.

The head wind was present when we were traveling on a westerly direction that meant from Petaluma to Cloverdale we had a very steady and sometimes strong head wind.

  Flat # 1  John: Is my rear tire low?
Me: From here it looks ok.
However north of Geyserville it was definitely a flat.

The human record for the slowest fixing of a flat belongs to John, I had witnessed that before during the 400k Workers Ride a few weeks back, He took his time, replaced the tube but also taking the time to see in there was anything in the tire bead, which is good practice anyhow but he had a perplex look on his face, who knows why; perhaps he was checking the color on the tire sidewall had not faded or contemplating the meaning of randonneuring in life. He is a sloooow flat changer, period. His pump was no happy with his spare tube as it was removing the core from the tube valve whenever he tried to unscrew the little hose his pump uses to connect the valve and pump. Here use my pump, why do you have to have such crappy pump. Why? I was kidding of course. After 20 minutes we were moving... for lees than a mile.
John: I have a Flat.
Me: Another? Ok let's pull ahead under that tree.

He had no more tubes. What? a randonneur that carries only one spare tube? What the heck, trying to save weight? He actually fixed the puncture fast but again the whole production and ceremony of completing the flat fix was another 20 minutes. There goes our hope for a 30ish hour finish.

Near Cloverdale where the route crosses under Hwy 101 he stopped again and started putting air.
Me: Why are you putting air
Me: You don't get anything by screaming at me John
John: Well why do you have to ask a stupid question?
Me: The tire looks fine to me, that is why I ask.
Again I lent him my pump as his crappy pump did not work with the tubes he had. Yes his, is a great pump...

  Flat # 2  I fired up the phone and wait for it to boot and while we roll I checked for the elusive bicycle shop in Cloverdale. We need to buy more tubes for Mr. Ready. I got the address but the map did not want to load on my phone. We rode a block past downtown and when the street we were looking for was not there we turned around and I ask in spanish a landscaping worker that I would thought had to know where the bike shop in this town was. He was not from the area. Back on the main drag, John ask a couple of young guys and they say it was just by the Plaza walkway on a little red building.

The shop has a few bikes and most other stuff for an emergency repair, The friendly owner give the tubes and rim strip to John and now we are ready, well not quite. A tube replacement. Oh men this is gonna be at least another 30 minutes. With him blaming me for his bad planning and preparation, I decide I'll go find a place to have coffee and leave him with his grumpiness while he replaces the tube. A long line and slow attendants persuade me against that idea, when I return John is still fiddling with who knows what. After about 40+ minutes since we arrived in Cloverdale we are on our merry way.

  Hwy 128  When we start climbing on Hwy 128 I am going at my pace and soon we get separated. John would catch up with me on the Andersen Valley before Yorkville. Near the second summit of hwy 128 a SUV with two 20 something scream and harass me, then at the intersection of 128 and Mountain House Rd they have parked on the middle of the road and both get off the SUV. One of them is clearly drunk and running towards me. I accelerate and avoid them hoping that would be the end of it. After a few minutes they pass me again and scream more non sense. I hope I don't see them again.

The wind is now head on and getting stronger. We take some turns but by the time we get to Boonville I am exhausted. The Legendary Boonville Beer Festival is going on in town. Hwy 128 lined with cars on both sides, with no room to park more for a mile or so. People walking towards the Anderson Valley Brewery and any open establishment in town. All in their 20's and a few out of place 30 and 40 year olds, drunk as they can be.

I need to get something to eat and a short rest. Go inside the market and the cashier line is about 20 people long. An ensure will have to do, John thinks he is helping with the suggestions of what to do and eat but I already know what I need to do. I have to take a break. John is inpatient now and ask me to eat a bar. I am eating the stuff that I have, I need to rest a couple of minutes, if you want to go please go ahead. Eat some sneaker bar with the ensure and after a little 5 minute rest we move into the head wind again. By now John is doing all the work and I can barely stay on his wheel.

I need to get some other stuff and rest more John. Let's stop in Philo, a few miles ahead. The market in Philo is not crowded, I get some ice cream sandwich a soda, gatorade and more junk savory and sweet. This stop was a little longer but really needed by both of us.   The lovely redwoods segment before hiting hwy 1  We are doing the route without the benefit of the luxury stop staffed by SFR volunteers. Planing for food and rest is a different game without the staffed "water stop". What a difference a friendly neutral face, a camp fire and warm food makes. I envy the regular event riders who will be getting the full support, on both out and back legs of the route, on this section of Hwy 128. But this is what volunteering is all about. Give a little to get a lot back, or at least that is the way I see it.

More rollers and more wind. Once we got into the redwoods the wind died out significantly and the flat terrain helped me recharge the batteries, a little. On to Hwy 1 and the unexpected conditions up there. Yes there was some wind but it was not gusty. However I had been hiding behind John for a while.

While having bad reheated Safeway food in Fort Bragg I tell John this route should have a few more Control locations in town. When most riders arrive at the Safeway the soup bar is all gone and the deli is packing things up. The choices are leftover reheated chicken (my choice today) and some not so appealing wraps. I've been to this Safeway, during this 600k route, when the deli was open and there were more food choices available. This time with all the stops and wind we are very late to Safeway, I think it was 10pm by the time we were leaving. In my opinion, we should scout a couple more options for alternate control locations in Fort Bragg north of Safeway that would open some better food alternatives to slower riders.

Leaving Safeway I am still very tired. I am exhausted and tell that to John. The lack of sleep on a 600k is different than on a Fleche or even a 400k. I am not sleepy and I am alert and confident I can make good safe decisions while riding. I am not DNFing this freaking 600k, no way. Perhaps another time but not today.

By Navarro I see John is growing inpatient. I had told him earlier to go ahead without me but he did not.
Me: John I am freaking exhausted, you go ahead
John: oooookey

  Morning light near Healdsburg  I am relief I can ride at my pace. The miles on 128 are great. A not so cold night and things are quiet. I have lots of time for enjoying my suffering and laugh about it. It was a pretty entertaining night. I do stop a couple of times to take 5 minute breaks off my butt and drink yet more ensure.

Get into Cloverdale and decide to stop for something warm. The descend into town was cold, a cup of coffee in my hands should fix that. By daybreak i am leaving town and on my way to Healdsburg. I have a little tail wind and the miles go by very fast. It seems it is going to be sunny over here today.

One more Control in Healdsburg's Safeway and I am on my way. I am tired but having a decent ride. In Guernville I do something I have never done before. I am in such need for something warm that I am forced to patronize Starsucks! The horror! But nobody has to know.

Brian K. had offered to drive all the way from Palo Alto to meet us with food and beer at the finish but I was planing to get there much earlier so I call him and let him know there is no need to meet us as we separated and my progress is slow. He gives me words of encouragement. I call and text the wife but she did not pick the phone. She would not get those messages at all. Very unreliable cell coverage.

  The happy randonneur  I have this one by the horns. From Guernville on is just more of the same. Exhaustion, pain, laughter, silence, repeat, ha, ha, ha, this is great!

I am doing ok after all, the daylight encourages me to keep pushing. Ah, the final hill before Point Reyes Station! Go straight to the Whale of a Deli with a greasy pepperoni pizza in my mind. That worked nicely, on to the last auto-pilot leg of this suffer fest! At the Corte Madera side of the Camino Alto Hill I attempt another call to the wife to see if she can meet me at Crissy Field. Leave a message and in no time I am crossing a surprisingly calm Golden Gate Bridge. At 4:30 I am at the crowded Bridge Plaza, a slow (for me) 34:30 finish but it came with the satisfaction of completing a gruesome ride (for me) that under other circumstances should be just another hardish ride. Pretty happy with myself I keep rolling down to Crissy Field where I meet the wife. A nice sunny day en San Francisco.

My butt is hurting, I think I may have blisters on my toes and I may not recover for next weekend ride but hey it was fun! Please keep that carbon saddle handy.

More of my photos
John's version of this ride (because there is always at least two sides to every story)

(First posted May- 6-2014 at 09:01 pm)

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