PROLOGUE: What the Aitch Eee Double Toothpicks Was I Thinking?
Each year I set new cycling goals. I used to just set a mileage goal, increasing the total with each passing year. But lately I have added specific event goals. For example, in 2006, I decided that I would do Cycle Oregon. In 2007, I started riding brevets, and decided to try for an R-12. I was halfway toward that goal when I got sidelined, so that is back on this year's plate. But that was an old goal; I needed to add something for this year. Overachiever that I am, I added TWO new goals. First, the fleche. I chalked that up last month. Second, I decided to try for a Super Randonneur medal.
To achieve SR status, I would have to ride at least one brevet each of 200, 300, 400, and 600 kilometers in length. I was not worried about the 200 and 300 km brevets. I have done quite a few of those in the last couple of years. The 400 and 600, on the other hand, would definitely be a challenge. The fleche was "only" 360 km, after all, and I was pretty dang miserable toward the end of that ride. But in for a penny, in for a pound ( I guess now that would be a Euro) - I had announced my goals and I had already done the 200 and 300. I had no choice but to follow through with the 400 and 600.
Most randonneuring clubs schedule their brevet series in order: 200, 300, 400, 600. Our club administrator decided to schedule the 400 and 600 out of order, though, because she believes that the 600 is actually easier than the 400, because there's more opportunity for down (as in sleep) time. So last weekend I rode the ORR Kings Valley 600 km brevet.
CHAPTER THE FIRST: In Which I Prepare for the Inevitable
My ride really began on Wednesday, when I began to organize my clothing and supplies. I wanted to be sure that I had everything I could possibly need, but at the same time I didn't want to be hauling too heavy a load. I would have two bags on the bike: a small front bag for those items to which I would need quick and easy access (snacks, camera, money, first aid kit and sunscreen), and a small pannier on the rear rack for spare inner tubes, a patch kit, a multi-tool, and mini tire pump. The pannier would also be the repository for my reflective vest, spare batteries, spare socks and gloves, and a second pair of shorts. I have found that after 120 miles, it really helps to change shorts. I would keep my all-important brevet card in a sealed plastic bag in the rear pocket of my jersey. I had bungee cords on the rear rack to strap in my rain jacket and arm/leg warmers for when I was not wearing them. As usual, TRFKAF was also strapped to the back. Finally I installed my new taillight, which Greg had given me for my birthday. He worries about me riding alone at night in the dark. Now he's not so worried. This is the low setting:
Because the ride was designed as a double loop, I knew that I could leave supplies for the second day at the hotel that we were using as a base camp. So I made two piles, one for each day, of clothes and accessories. Each pile then went in its own plastic carrier bag. In a third bag I put clothes to change into after the ride was over. Loose, soft, fleecy clothes with zero spandex content. In yet another bag, I put my food: a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and some bananas with which to make PB & Nanner sammiches, three small boxes of raisins, two small packs of jelly beans and a couple of fancy-schmancy energy bars. Although I knew that there would be any number of places to stop for food along the way, I did not want to risk bonking out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. The clothing and food bags all then went into my giant blue IKEA reusable shopping bag, along with my helmet, cycling sandals and water bottles.
My ride preparation also included a visit with Michael Sylvester, the professional bike fitter who worked with Natalie to design my bike. Because the bike had been fit to my measurements from the get-go, Michael did not need to make many changes, but he did need to adjust the seat that I had put out of whack when I switched out saddles for my ride to the coast on the old bike the week before. In the process, Michael noted that the bike's handlebars were slightly higher than called for by the original specs, but because I had been riding comfortably with them in that position we decided to leave them where they were.
The ride started in Newberg, Oregon, which is about halfway between my home in Portland and my job in Salem, so I decided to spend Friday night at the hotel so as to get as much sleep as possible before the ride. I also reserved a room for Saturday night, so that I could shower and nap in privacy in the two or three hours of down time I anticipated having (or at least hoped to have) between the two loops of the ride. That meant driving to work instead of taking my usual commuter bus, so Friday morning I loaded my gear in the car, strapped the bike to the rack, fed the dogs, kissed Greg good-bye and headed out. Friday evening I drove to Newberg, checked into the hotel, unloaded the car, walked downtown for a burrito dinner, went back to the hotel, popped a couple valerian capsules and went to bed. After first yelling at the kids in the hall way to shut the f*** up. Twice.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .