200 KM Brevet

Clermont Florida, 2005

Distance 200 km or 127 miles
Time limit 13 hrs
Date 5 January 2005
Terrain Rolling to flat (a low traffic and picturesque route)
Conditions Sunny/partly cloudy - perfect
Temp. 65F (start) to 76F(finish)
Wind Calm first half, then 3-8mph SW (crosswind)
Finishing time 6 hours, 49 minutes
Riders 42 started: 0 DNFs, 42 finishers

Feeling surprisingly alert for 5:45 AM after a two-hour drive from my home in Melbourne, I was a little nervous about how I would do on my first brevet. My motivation for doing this ride was the fast southern transcontinental tour I signed up for in 2006. With an average of 112 miles per day for 26 days in a row, a 127 mile ride like this brevet would be just a typical day. Now I was 6 months into my self imposed two-year training program and this would be my longest ride in 14 years.

As I arrived at the Holiday Inn Clermont, FL I met RBA Michael Grussemeyer.  He graciously offered to lend me a headlight and taillight so I could start at 7:00AM with the other riders. Official sunrise today at Clermont was 7:20 AM so it was morning twilight as we started. There were 42 other starters.

Since this was my first real ride of the season, my primary goal was finishing in less than 8 hours, with a secondary goal of finishing with the lead group.  I wondered whether my aerobic training (no intervals) 6-10 hours/week for last 3 months adequately prepared me to stay with the leaders.

My plan was to ride near the front at the start. This assured that I would be in the lead group if a split formed.  Then I would ride with them as long as I could comfortably do so.  I defined "comfortable" as zone 2 (for me 144 to 149 bpm) while drafting and zone 3 (150 to 155 bpm) while pulling.  Using my heart monitor in this way would assure that I did not make the mistake of going to hard, too early.  Well that was the plan, until I saw my heart rate was150 bpm at the starting line - standing still!  Funny thing is I did not feel that nervous. Oh well, so much for the scientific approach.

After the start, it didn't take long for the split to occur. At the 5-mile point just after the short little climb on Jalarmy Road we were down to about 13 riders. The next 6 miles on Cherry Lake and SR-19 were rolling. Some of the riders like Robert tested their strong legs as the group maintained 20+ mph uphill. One rider couldn't keep up and dropped back after mentioning that the pace and hills were too much.  At this point my HR was between 167 and 175 bpm, but the effort felt more like 150-158.  This was still higher than I planned, but I felt pretty good.

John Preston's GPS navigation was a great comfort to us all. As for me, I had studied the entire route on "maps.yahoo.com" the previous week and felt like I new the course well even though I had never been on any of these roads before.  Many thanks to RBA Michael Grussemeyer for pre-posting the route on the web and providing GPS coordinates as well.

The first control was at 29 miles in Center Hill.  After the obligatory card signing, some had to relieve themselves in the bushes, since the restroom was out-of-order. I passed until the next stop. We departed the control just as the next group was arriving. The weather was fabulous, a 65F start quickly warmed to about 70F at this point. Except for the generally flatter terrain, the small mom and pop cattle farms that greeted us on this leg reminded me of rural Pennsylvania.  Just past Nobleton we picked up the Withlacoochee bike trail at mile 61. All the roads to this point were great - little to no traffic and good road surfaces. Now, for the first time, I experienced a paved "rails to trails" bike trail.  Its mostly smooth 12 ft wide pavement and no cars made for very enjoyable riding for the last 13.5 miles north to control 2 in Inverness. We just needed to slow down or stop each time the trail crossed a rural road.  With mostly flat terrain and virtually no wind we maintained 21-24 mph from control 1 to 2.

At control 2, I needed to do 3 things: use the restroom, get a 32 oz Gatorade, and have my card stamped. Optionally I would return Michael's lights if I saw him there. I should have used the restroom first as it only accommodated one person and by the time I got my card signed there was a line. Once out of the restroom, I slapped down $2.10 for the Gatorade and out the door. As I refilled my waterbottle, everyone was starting to gather, but I saw Michael, quickly removed the lights and thanked him. Then mounted my slightly lighter machine and we were off. 

This was a great group. Absolutely no wasted time in the stops - everyone had just enough time to do the necessities then back on the Withlacoochee trail for 13.5 miles the other way (south).  At about 80 miles, I finished a water bottle; good thing I refilled the other in Inverness or I would be dry from here to the control (next 12 miles).  The pace remained high and at this point I also started to feel a little drained.  I ate a trail mix bar and a mouth-full of dried pineapple, and then washed it down with Gatorade.  Until that time I was doing a good job of eating regularly (about once an hour). Shortly thereafter I started to feel better. At 92 miles we had a fairly quick stop at control #3. I bought another bottle of Gatorade for good measure.

Many of the riders in our group were stronger that me. I learned that John did 52 centuries last year; about half of those were on a self-guided US transcontinental. I remember thinking, "this ride is well within his limits, but is really stretching my limits."

Despite some mild lower back pain, by the time we entered the General James Van Fleet Trail at mile 100, I felt great. It was probably a combination of the ingested carbohydrates kicking in fully and the psychological lift of reaching the century mark. Also this was the time when I realized that I had the strength to ride to the line with this group, it was just a matter of holding it together for another 1 ½  hours.  We exited the trail 9 miles later. Making our way north and east to the finish line we encountered a mild 8 mph crosswind. At about mile 115 my calf and thigh muscles felt like they might cramp at some point.  As a counter-measure, I stretched on some of the downhill portions of the rolling hills we encountered here.  Other than that, surprisingly, I felt like could ride on for a while longer. As we neared the finish we were treated to nice shoreline views of Lake Minnehaha. Then a few quick turns later we were back at the Holiday Inn where we started 6 hours and 46 minutes, and 127 miles ago. A smiling Michael Grussemeyer greeted us, dutifully signed our cards and provided plentiful post-ride drinks and snacks.

How did I do vs. my goals?  Well I finished under 8 hours by a healthy margin and finished in the lead group of road bikes (a solo recumbent rider finished 19 minutes ahead of us).

Would I do it again?  Well during our post ride chat, Michael asked me if I planned to do the 300k brevet next month, I shook my head and said, "I don't think so, 127 miles was a good distance, but I don't know about doing another 60+ miles".  Two weeks later, I thought, "the 200 wasn't really that bad", and registered for the 300k.

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