2003 > San Francisco 300K > Tom's Report

Tom Rides the San Francisco 300k

I hope everyone had fun this weekend. Some of us decided to get out for the San Francisco 300k and it turned out to be a really nice time. The ride had two starting times, midnight or 4am. A couple of months ago when I first heard of the midnight option, I laughed it off as a ridiculous idea (Lisaa knows that I whine about 8am departures - I'm not a morning person) but after thinking about it for a while I decided that it would be a fun challenge and valuable test to see how my body would react to the sleep deprivation that will be typical at PBP.

As it turns out most of the 300k riders ended up opting for the midnight departure. In attendance were notables Lisa, Ken S, who gets the never say die award for getting back out there before the bruises have even healed (I gather he was pretty well hopped up which only enhanced his abilities as Morale Officer) and Elaine, who confessed to being fairly well caffeinated and was visibly very happy. Many others had taken similar precautions against drowsiness, and so it was a pretty high spirited bunch that headed out across the bridge at the stroke of midnight.

I'm pleased to report that I set a new record for the fastest person ever to get lost on a brevet, by taking a wrong turn fully 50 feet into the ride and having to subsequently backtrack to get onto the proper side of the bridge for a nighttime crossing. We crossed on the eastern side, which afforded breathtaking views of the San Francisco skyline. The air was warm and the sky was well lit by an almost full moon illuminating the cloud cover from behind.

As we descended into Sausalito, I was struck by how utterly deserted the streets were. In San Francisco there was plenty of activity even at midnight, but once across the bridge it was a totally different story. We had the place completely to ourselves, which was a real treat. As we zipped up the bike path toward Mill Valley, riders started to form into clusters. I got in with TandemLucasJessica, who had adorned the frame of their vintage tandem with blue luminescent plastic tubing. It was quite a sight. They stopped at the base of Camino Alto and I headed up on my own, and joined up with Dan Brecke (sp??) who did the Winter Solstice Century option last month.

Dan was feeling no pain and charged on ahead while I shamelessly sucked wheel. Dan hammered on through to Sir Francis Drake and promptly dropped me on the first big climb. I wasn't in any hurry so I didn't mind, and I was able to rejoin him after a few miles of descent. We arrived together at the first information control on Platform Bridge Rd, where we had to identify the number on the wall of a house by the side of the road. We also took the opportunity to eat a little and then headed on out.

As we rode up past the Nicasio Reservoir, I was struck by how light the sky was. In the east it looked almost as if the sun were coming up but at 1:30 am or so that was certainly not the case. I must have been seeing the city lights reflecting off the low cloud cover. This was in turn reflected in the water of the reservoir, which was quite beautiful. In addition, it was warm out and as Dan charged fearlessly ahead, I enjoyed a beautiful view of the countryside and the nice draft to ride in. We made our way up and over one big hill and then down into Petaluma on the other side for our second stop at control point number two, the Petaluma Safeway.

As we arrived at the Safeway, it was clear that we were the only people awake in all of Petaluma, with the exception of two very bored looking clerks who were holding down a bench in the front of the store. They were completely unimpressed at our arrival but did take the time to inquire as to our destination. We purchased the requisite items including water for me and batteries for Dan (Dan himself was riding like the energizer bunny, but his lights had crapped out somewhere just outside of town), performed the usual brevet rituals of signing and timestamping various bits of paper, mixing dubious looking substances together for later consumption, etc.

Around about this point, a third rider, Larry Lancaster, arrived and shared his good spirits with us. He asked if he could join us and I of course said that I would be very happy to have two people pulling me instead of just one. And so we headed back out into the night.

Departing Petaluma, we got confused by a missing turn on the cue sheet, and rather than get out the map for a consultation, we guessed, and guessed wrong. It took about a mile to figure out what we had done and how to correct it, so we lost about 2 miles total. As we headed out of town, correctly this time, Larry and I noticed that all of a sudden Dan wasn't there anymore.

Confident that most of the field was behind us and he wouldn't be on his own, we forged ahead. Larry pulled hard when it was his turn, and I pulled medium. He would get bored of my pace after a while and then jump up front again. On the long straightaway on Petaluma Hill Rd, we spotted blinkey lights up ahead and reasoned that the tandem must have gotten ahead while we were lost. We put the hammer down and closed the gap, spurred on by the promise of a free ride sucking tandem wheel.

We caught back on with Lucas and Jessica and remained with them (mostly behind them, actually) for the next 60 miles or so. StokerJessica was the master navigator, being able to read the cue sheet without having to watch the road. We had been having some trouble with this, and it was welcome to have someone in the group who could devote her full attention to the cue sheet. We motored straight through Santa Rosa, with all its twists and turns, without even slowing down.

The miles ticked away uneventfully as we headed on out of Santa Rosa and on to Healdsburg. Larry and I stayed safely in the tandem's wake for most of the time although I did feel the need to stick my nose out in the wind once in a while to get the heartrate back up. It was just a little bit *too* easy, and my butt was starting to hurt. Larry and I decided that Lucas and Jessica were an awful lot of fun and fully deserved each other. They had a visible passion for this crazy event that we really enjoyed.

We arrived at control point number three, the Healdsburg Safeway, right about as things were starting to get underway for the new business day. Teams of workers were out restocking all of the shelves and generally getting things prepared. We once again performed the standard documentation rituals, explained ourselves to the clerks, and mixed the usual dubious looking concoctions. The four of us headed out together right as a small group was arriving, and we all had fun waving at each other.

The ride down to the coast from Healdsburg was a blast. The road was rolling and twisting with no sustained anything for very long. It was constantly changing. The tandem set a blistering pace up and down, left and right, over rollies, through dips, twisties and corkscrews. We fought to stay with them much of the time. The sun came up somewhere in the vicinity of Rio Nido and we continued down to the coast in the early morning light.

As we turned south onto Rt. 1, we headed up a small hill, and Larry dropped off. Then the tandem dropped off. I decided to just plug away at my pace and see if they caught back on after the road flattened a bit. After a while, I spotted Larry bridging back up and after a few minutes he was back up with me. We didn't see the tandem again until the next control however. Later they told us that they stopped to check out a rest area. Larry and I soldiered on alone down the coast. Somewhere around Ocean View, a large pickup truck with two young men in it pulled up alongside and the driver started shouting at me.

My first assumption was that they were asking for directions or something, but I soon realized that they were mostly just shouting obscenities and telling me to get off "their" road. Larry backed off instinctively to give me more room to negotiate, but this turned out to be unnecessary. I guess they were defused by the confused blank stare on my face and decided that the best way to demonstrate their manhood at that point was to gun their engine and zoom off in a cloud of smoke, which was just fine with me. The passenger stuck his head out the window and glared at me as they zoomed off, as if to underscore his point, whatever it might have been.

We arrived at the fouth control point at Bodega Bay and enjoyed some food and once again performed the customary brevet rituals. At this point I saw the first evidence of my own sleep deprivation. I had been up since 8am Friday, which would have been about 24 hours. I had just finished pouring a serving of Sustained Energy powder into my bottle and was preparing to add water when I absent mindedly tipped the bottle sideways and dumped about a quarter of the powder onto the ground. 200 precious calories gone! I laughed at myself, shrugged, and finished the mixing ritual.

I then opened up my camelbak and was preparing to pour the remainder of my newly purchased water into it when I absent mindedly -- you guessed it -- tipped the camelbak sideways and dumped about a quarter of the water out onto the ground. Larry was quite impressed with my antics. I decided that it was time to resort to caffeine and administered a single no-doz with a two advil chaser for good measure. That fixed me up real good and from then on I was in almost as good spirits as Elaine had been at the start of the ride.

Larry and I traded pulls down to the next control at Marshall. When Larry pulled, he would hammer a bit too hard, I thought, and then couldn't pull again for quite a while. He confessed that he had never done a ride this long before. I was impressed at how well he was doing, but couldn't find a gentle way to tell him to take it easy during his pulls. As we rode inland through rolling cattle country between Bodega Bay and Marshall, we found plenty to chat about and related some of our various respective cycling adventures. It was a fun part of the ride.

At Marshall, there was the usual piping hot clam chowder waiting for us, which I have to say is really nice after 10 hours on the bike. We had enjoyed it on the 200k as well. We snacked and performed the now automatic brevet ritual and headed on out, eager and energized to be on the final leg of the ride. I should mention that I wasn't sufficiently vigilant at replenishing my supply of water and energy items at this final rest stop and I would have some difficulty as a result later on.

As we turned off Rt 1 onto Pt. Reyes Petaluma rd, I felt an incipient bonk and stopped to dig one of my emergency balance bars out of the depths of my camelbak. Larry continued on ahead while I ate. Energized the the balance bar, I was able to get back up to him fairly quickly. We rode the same road that Dan and I had ridden in the morning, past the reservoir with the glowing sky reflected in its waters, only this time we turned off onto Nicasio Valley Rd. and headed back towards San Francisco.

I became concerned about my energy level once again as we got back down onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Larry didn't look any too fresh either and the two of us straggled down into civilization at a pretty slow pace. Somewhere around Mill Valley, Larry bonked badly and dropped off for a big rest.

I was smelling the barn and couldn't bring myself to stop so I continued on, but bonked as well at the foot of the Camino Alto climb. I dug out yet another emergency balance bar from the depths of my camelbak and desperately choked it down on the way up the hill. Fortunately it worked its way into my system quickly and by the time I got to the top of the hill, I was in business again and rode strongly through Sausalito and up and over the bridge to the finish.

Todd wasn't there when I arrived so I sat around for about 15 minutes before he reappeared and signed me in. Larry arrived shortly after, having stopped for a big food break after his bonk. TandemLucasJessica showed up quite a bit later. We learned that they had stopped for a nap somewhere between Bodega Bay and the finish. They said that they slept on a gravel driveway. Man, you gotta be tired to sleep on gravel. I was impressed.

As we sat and chatted at the end, more and more riders trickled in. We saw KenS, Lisa and Elaine after a bit, and a bit later KenH and Graham showed up with the 4am crowd. We also saw Robin Williams ride by, which was pretty cool.

By the time I got headed home it was dark and rainy and I had been up for 32 hours and it was a long slow nervous drive home. I was exhausted but exhilarated. My goal of finding out how I would react to the sleep deprivation was a success. I think I weathered it better than I had expected and I'm feeling much more confident about the 400 and 600k rides. Hope to see you all out there.

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