300 KM Brevet

Clermont Florida, 2005

Distance: 300 km or 188 miles.
Time limit: 20 hrs
Date: 5 February 2005
Terrain: rolling to flat
Conditions: Sunny/partly cloudy
Temp: 42F (6 AM) to 65F (2 to 4 PM)
Wind: 5-13 mph NNE
Sun rise/set: 7:13 AM /6:09 PM

Start: 6:00 AM
Finish: 5:15 PM (11 hours, 15 minutes)
Riders: 43 started: 3 DNFs, 40 finishers.

 

Since, this would be my longest single day ride of my life, my primary goal (besides finishing) was to finish in less than 12 hours, and secondarily to finish with the lead group.

Arrived at the Holiday Inn Clermont, FL about 5:00 AM after a two-hour drive from Melbourne.  I shivered from the cold as I stepped out of my car – good thing I brought extra layers of warm clothes.  Inside RBA Michael Grussemeyer registered me and conducted a safety inspection of my bike.

Ten minutes before the start I stood next to the open trunk of my car with a dilemma.  In the predawn chill I felt sufficiently warm with a heavy thermal top, but I wondered if it would be too warm while riding. Past experience told me that I should be a little cold before starting to avoid being too warm while riding.  In a last minute decision I replaced with a thin thermal polyester long sleeve undershirt.

We started into the darkness steady and slow for the first 15 minutes. Although cold at first, I felt perfectly dressed after the warm-up. But, I could not see my computer or my route sheet in the dark!  This was the first time I had ridden in complete darkness and my handlebar mounted light did not allow me to see anything but a small section of road in front of me. Looks like I need a helmet light next time.

The group almost missed a left turn onto 561 – half the group wanted to turn right. I was confident left was correct. Studying maps of maps.yahoo.com visualizing the flow of the route really helped here. I knew all the road names and turns for the first 45 miles.  No rote memorization just fixed an mental image of the route.

Despite almost non-existent traffic, it was a comfort to swing onto the General James Van Fleet trail at mile 18, since it promised zero vehicular traffic and a smooth, turn-free next 15 miles.

I noticed my right booty rubbed the crank arm causing me to turn my foot a little unnaturally for it to stop.  Why did I not do a test ride with these beforehand?

Drank two swallows of Gatorade about every 20 minutes for the first hour. At about 20 miles despite wisely using the restroom 10 minutes before the start, I began to anticipate the restroom stop at the first control (mile 45).  Exiting the trail onto a rough and bumpy Dean Still road really added to my growing discomfort.  I was reaching new heights of pain with every passing mile. At three miles to go I seriously considered stopping by the roadside and letting the group go. This was actually not a bad idea since we were close enough to the control that I could easily rejoin there. But I decided to hang on and be with the first group into the store.  Relief finally came and life was good again.

The significant cold stubbornly resisting the early morning sunshine ruled out the removal of a clothing layer. My left toes were just a little cold even with the booties. Others without booties said their toes were like blocks of ice. I have been there. Leaving the control and getting up to speed was the coldest I felt all day. There’s something about stopping and entering a warm store. It creates that touch of dampness that magnifies the chill after returning outside. Fortunately, just a few minutes of moderate pace warmed me up.

The most hilly section was around San Antonio and Trilby, FL. I had difficulty on steeper hills and was dropped on Happy Hill at mile 66, then while following another rider and rejoined. These hills were not all that steep – nothing that made me cry for a lower gear than my 39x23, but they were just long enough to snap the elastic between me and the group. Dropped again on Trilby Rd mile 79 just 4 miles from Trilby control #2. My old friend Art F. passed me just before I was dropped and was riding comfortably with the leaders. Way to go Art!

Beautiful grassy grazing lands in these hills. Michael pulled-up beside me in his van and uttered a few words of encouragement. It’s always a pleasure to see him, but doubly so here since I was now sure I would be able to strip off my outer layer (booties, leg warmers, gloves, etc) at the upcoming Trilby control. Stowing these items in his van made things more comfortable, and for me greater comfort means greater endurance.

While well within the rules, a randonneering purest might not have used a vehicle in this way – opting instead to be completely self-reliant and pack everything out themselves.  That’s perfectly fine, but I think there is also something to be said for being flexible, leaving options open and seizing opportunities that present themselves along the way.

Coming in solo to the Trilby control, I planned what I needed to do to assure leaving with the lead group that was already there. Quickly in and out of the restroom, bought Gatorade, stripped-off outer layers, placed them in Michael’s van and threw my leg over the saddle just as the group was heading out.

Art F. and his brother were right behind me as we swung north onto the Withlachooche bike trail for a 34-mile run up to Hernado FL. But while rotating to the back after a pull I noticed Art F. and his brother were gone.  For the rest of the ride I wondered if they had mechanical problems, but found out latter that they just decided to wait for some other riders.

Other than the gravel bridge that crosses I-75, the Withlachooche is a cycling pleasure. Shortly after the bridge we came upon Michael who had setup a great surprise lunch, including tuna fish and chicken salads, bananas, nachos and chips, drinks, etc.  I had a banana and a little of everything else.  Besides eating we used the 13-minute break to socialize and take pictures of each other. The seven of us would stay together the rest of the way. We were: Danny Stevens, John Preston, Boris Fayfer, and I on road bikes and recumbent riders James Ossa, Bill Wolf, and Doyce Johnson.

We flew up to the 3rd control in Hernado with the recumbent riders and Danny doing most of the work. As usual John’s GPS navigation came in handy to find the unmarked road leading to the control. The stop was routine, restroom break, a bottle of Gatorade and a little stretching and socializing. I have to say this was great group - friendly and rode well together.

After the pit stop it was on the trail again for 20 miles back the way we came (now southbound). At about 5-10 mph, the wind was less than the forecasted 15-20 mph and since the trail is pretty well protected by trees we averaged 20-22 mph both north and south.

By the time we exited the trail and headed east on Lake Lindsey road the wind was picking-up from the north and we were much more exposed to this cross wind. This made drafting challenging. Danny and James did most of work at the front. Although I didn’t pull much, I tried hard to smooth out the surges in front so riders behind would have an easier time.  After a good pull, John (who was recovering from the flu) said that he was beat and would solo to the next control.  However, he hung on and he and I waited for Boris (also recovering from the flu) who fell back about 4 miles from control 4 in Bushnell.

The three of us got to the control just as the others were entering the store. Then the usual: rest room, Gatorade, stretching and chatting with the group. Here we decided that no matter what we would finish this ride together. Then we were off for the final leg, which had bit of an east/south staircase shape and became hillier toward Clermont.

On this leg I felt about the same as the past 90 miles, soreness in at the back of the neck, lower back, and somewhat tired legs. But with good energy and, all things considered, better than thought I would feel considering the distance and average speed.  John and Boris found their second wind and rode strong to the end. Nearing Clermont, we encountered a few moderate rollers and one fairly steep hill just 2 miles from the finish. That last hill was steep enough that one of the recumbent riders had to dismount and walk up.  After waiting for him at the top of the hill, we all enjoyed a great decent on the backside. I hit 40 mph – the fastest I have gone in several years.

Seeing the Holiday Inn was defining moment for me since it signaled the imminence of success and gave us all a brief period to savor the accomplishment. Then all too-quickly we were rolling to a stop under the portico of the hotel lobby where it all started in the early morning darkness.  It was now finished, the longest one-day ride of my life. Strangely though, I had mixed feelings. On one hand my aches and tired legs were encouraging me to stop.  On the other, I felt good riding with this group and I wanted to go on.

After the ride, we lounged and chatted in the hotel lobby while waiting for Michael arrive and sign our cards. One of the other riders said that this was the one of the most enjoyable groups he has ever ridden with. I nodded in agreement, but when the subject turned to riding the 400k next month, I was quiet.  This was really the longest ride I would consider.  Sure I could have ridden a few more miles with these guys today, but 60+ more? 250 miles in a single day?  No thank you.

I few days later I even wrote Michael an email saying that I will not be doing the 400k or 600k, stating that I wanted to work on my speed and climbing skills – at shorter distances. But two weeks later, drawn by the challenge and mystery of it, I was seriously considering the 400.  After a few days of thought I sent in my registration.  Due to a schedule conflict with the Clermont FL 400k, however, I had to sign up for the 400k in Gainesville FL.

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