1998 > Davis 600k > Lisa and KenS's Report, Tom's Photos
(Editor's note: Attempts to write an "abridged" version of the 600 K Brevet were highly unsuccessful. We hope the length of this write-up will not put anyone to sleep.)
After an "OK" time on the Davis Double, Team Bikeaholics turned its attention to the next and final event in the 1998 Brevet series, a 600K out-and-back from Davis to the exciting upper Central Valley town of Red Bluff. The course was an extension of the 400K--- a 55 mile rolling hills warm-up via the Dunnigan hills to the Central Valley town of Dunnigan, followed by a 30 mi. flat stretch alongside I-5 past Williams to Maxwell. The route then took Maxwell-Sites Rd. over Blackberry Pass into Elk Creek (control #3, 133 mi.), then continued via a hilly section near Paskenta into Red Bluff (control #4, 189 mi.) by mostly flat valley roads.
In keeping with the concept of the ride as "serious" training for PBP, the organizers recommended that riders do the first 400 K non-stop, which meant going all the way to Red Bluff and back to Elk Creek (control #5) before attempting any significant rest or sleep. The remaining 200K back to Davis could then be accomplished at a more leisurely pace on the second day of the event. It was pointed out that these recommendations applied to garden-variety randonneurs; true Übermensch were expected to complete the entire route non-stop in around 24 hr. The absolute drop dead time for this event was set at 40 hr., or 9:00 on Sunday evening.
Accordingly, at 4:45 AM on Saturday, Team Bikeaholics and fellow Randonneurs assembled for the usual preliminary remarks by ride organizers in the Boy Scout Cabin parking lot in downtown Davis. Participants included TandemTomSarah, TandemKenLisa, Übermensch Craig, and 67 other Ultramasochists.
Craig appeared to be tempting fate by showing up wearing a non-Bikeaholics jersey, a known risk factor for inducing a DNF. TandemKenLisa got off to a bad start by arriving late with a severely disassembled StarCruiser, mismatched lighting systems, and a totally disorganized set of drop bags (although the post-ride analysis revealed the main cause of the disorganization was due to insufficient pre-ride caffeine loading, mostly by CaptainKen). CaptainTom documented the event with what appeared to be a new digital camera.
The flag dropped at 5:00 sharp, and 72 cyclists headed on out the familiar "A" street-Old Davis Rd. combination out of town. The pack quickly stretched out into smaller and smaller clumps, until a granularity of 2-4 bikes was achieved. A stiff but manageable headwind was apparent, reminding us of just how awful this route can be. (Participants of the 400K Brevet were reported to have had nightmares for weeks related to howling windstorms.)
Fortunately the wind never went beyond "really annoying", and even TandemKenLisa were able to keep up a reasonable 18 mph. As usual, it took 25 miles or so before sufficient engine temperature was achieved to begin to catch up to other riders. An unofficial rest stop was declared in Dunnigan, and we pulled into the Chevron mini-mart at mile 55. After a biobreak, the remnants of a bagel and several gulps of Spiz, TandemKenLisa hitched themselves to another tandem and proceeded up the flat Central Valley.
TandemTomSarah were finally sighted just outside of Arbuckle, where they were discovered by the side of the road "ruling" and "kicking flat tire butt". This event had apparently been precipitated by a high speed encounter with a large pot hole, and involved some minimal amount of spoke/rim damage.
TandemKenLisa paid a social visit to the roadside crew, mostly to make fun of and otherwise critique TandemTomSarahs efforts, but also to catch up on the latest news. Sarah's ability to hold up the tandem while Tom worked on the rear wheel was exemplary; the weeks of upper-body-building exercises had surely paid off. The observation of the "dreaded tandem rear wheel flat" prompted StokerLisa to remind CaptainKen that we had remarkably not had any major technical difficulties or flats this season, and that a flat tire was inevitable at some point.
After promises were made by CaptainKen "on a stack of Bibles, cross my heart, hope to die, etc." to not get upset if we experienced a flat, we then continued the ride together in a typical Bikeaholics Tandem Paceline (this is similar to the Bikeaholics trademark 4-abreast-in-a-ragged-formation, but looks more formidable and vaguely threatening when carried out with tandems).
The first control point in Williams (mile 75) was a welcome sight, and we dined on the usual bike food-with-UltraFuel chaser. The jelly beans also went down well and made for a great photo op. After a brief stop, we continued on up to Maxwell and Blackberry Pass. Our memories of this climb from the 400K were of an easy, scenic, short , enjoyable ramble (Editor's note: Excuse me, but what's this "Our memories" stuff? One of us has memories more along the lines of a long, interminable hill against howling head- and sidewinds and 40 tons of pollen). (Editors Counter-Note: I guess I deleted all of the bad memories from the 400K.) This time it turned out to be fairly scenic, with lovely bright mutant yellow poppies and lupine, but also hard, long, hot, and generally character-building.
As predicted, TandemTomSarah pulled ahead and vanished into the event-horizon. An annoying amount of traffic, in the form of urban assault vehicles and light trucks pulling boat trailers, also intruded into our climbing reverie. After a suitable amount of whining & whimpering, we achieved the apex of the 1750 ft saddle that divides Elk Creek Canyon from the Central Valley. We had neglected to equip the StarCruiser with a drum brake for this event, so we were unduly cautious in descending the 10% grade down into Lodoga.
The section of the course after Lodoga is really pleasant, as it consists of pretty-easy rollers, magnificent pastoral countryside (although the wildflowers that were in such abundance three weeks earlier were mostly gone by now), and little or no traffic. The control point at Elk Creek was off of Church St. at the Stony Creek High School ("Home of the Elk Creek Elks").
Team Bikeaholics once again set about cramming down as many calories as possible, fighting off that familiar gag reflex common to ultra events. At this point it was around 2:00 p.m.--- an examination of the maps showed that we had 55 mi. to go up to the control at Red Bluff, followed by that same 55 mi. to get back to Elk Creek. Doing the math, it looked like, as usual, we were going to be getting in late.
The next part of the course was new to TandemKenLisa, as the road proceeded northeast with a gradual descent until it reached Newville Road. This is a scenic but somewhat beat up section of pavement that makes up part of the early season Paskenta Century that is sponsored by Chico Velo. Its also pretty hilly, with lots of short & steep rollers. After turning onto Black Butte Rd., the route descends to the Valley floor and turns parallel to Hwy. 5 at Rawson Rd. Just after turning north towards Red Bluff, we saw our first returning rider -- in this case, the familiar bearded face of UltraStar Tom Davies. A few minutes later a large pack of fast riders approached us, including BikeaholicCraig.
TandemKenLisa, now alone on the road, struggled on, feeling "a little beat up but otherwise OK". We finally pulled into the Red Bluff Motel 6 (mile 189) at around 6:30 p.m. TandemKenLisa was pretty tired, and it was decided that a longer than normal rest was due. Randonneur Official Daryn Dodge & family did their best to cheer us up, and plied us with frozen orange juice, custom turkey sandwiches, cup-o-soups, and other assorted goodies.
(Editors Note: after asking Daryn "Is this what PBP is really like?", we came to the stark realization that turkey and Wonder Bread would probably NOT be available in France, and briefly outlined a diet restructuring plan to prepare our delicate diverticuli for a harsher cuisine consisting of hard crusty baguettes, blood and tongue sausage, garlic, cheese, rich sauces and cheap red wine.) After gagging on more cookies and liquid energy drinks, we pulled back onto the road at about 7:30, anticipating a 10:00 p.m.-or-so arrival back in Elk Creek.
TandemKenLisa at this point started to slow down as the mileage started to take its toll. Daylight disappeared at around 9:00 p.m., and our speed plummeted even further in the dark. The problem was that the road surface at this stage was a textbook example of a poorly maintained California county road -- lots & lots of potholes, 50 years worth of patches, and lots of loose gravel. This, combined with an anemic headlight turned REALLY LOW to conserve battery power, forced our speed to drop even lower. Also, it was REALLY DARK out there! Then, around mile 220 (11:00 p.m. in the middle of nowhere), we heard that familiar "psst-psst-psst", signaling a flat. A moderate amount of invective & otherwise harsh language directed by CaptainKen at the front tire was cut short by shrills from StokerLisa of "I told you so!" and "You promised not to get upset!".
Resigned to the situation, we slowly began the process of disassembling the StarCruiser in the dark. After what seemed like a long struggle involving a new tube with a leaky presta valve, we got a working replacement tube in place, and SALVATION appeared in the form of Lee Mitchell and his Red Van. A floor pump and encouraging words made all the difference, and TandemKenLisa was once again on its way. (CaptainKen, wallowing in general misery and saddle soreness, had been ignoring StokerLisa for most of the evening and thus had no memories of the general words of encouragement and placation that had been originating from the rear for the last 100 mi. or so.)
After getting back on the road, we passed a tandem and single changing a tire and called out the perfunctory "goteverything?" as we crept by in the dark. Shortly thereafter, an extremely bright set of lights looking somewhat like an extra-terrestrial ship appeared in StokerLisa's helmet mount mirror. Soon thereafter, we were passed by the tandem/single team blasting through the night with several megawatt lamps.
Desperately seeking human companionship, StokerLisa called out "mind if we join in?", and promptly initiated a lively discussion with the alien stoker. Our average speed climbed from 6 to 18 mph, and a very tired TandemKenLisa pulled into Elk Creek at around 11:45 pm. But, this being a Randonneur event, instead of crawling into our sleeping bags for a well-deserved rest, we were instead forced to sit at a picnic table and consume at least 1200 calories worth of food cause tomorrow was another day and we knew we needed the energy for the morning. This has got to be the hardest part of long-distance cycling--- forcing yourself to eat when the sight of food makes you gag! Fortunately, the "Soup Lady" was there with the highly nutritious, salt enhanced potato/vegetable/noodle soup that basically saved StokerLisa from a potentially embarrassing DNF. The high point of the evening was definitely a hot shower, and TandemKenLisa finally unrolled their sleeping bags, selected suitable locations on the hard gym floor, and crawled in at around 1 a.m.
A surprising amount of sleeping was accomplished, considering that we were inside a gymnasium with lots of people coming & going, snoring, stirring, squeeky shower room doors, etc. Any ideas about a leisurely morning were abruptly terminated at 5:00 a.m. when all of the overhead stadium lights came on and 50+ odd Ultrapeople arose, put on bike clothes, downed a oatmeal-rice-gluten-sugar-cereal concoction, got on their bikes, and departed en masse. TandemKenLisa took a somewhat more relaxed pace and finally pulled out at around 6:40. It took at least 10 mi. before various body parts were able to report in (mostly with a "Status OK", but some with a "Maintenance Recommended" indicator light brightly lit), which put us at the Stony Gorge Market in Stonyford, where a brief biobreak was declared. We were joined shortly by the tandem with the high beam lights from the previous night, and commiserated with stories of bonking, sleep deprivation and acid reflux.
After 10 min. and an exchange of half a roll of Rolaids, we proceeded onto Lodoga, negotiating some of the worst potholes and otherwise trashed surface that passes for pavement in Glenn County. This was followed by a relatively easy uphill towards Blackberry Pass. The downhill heading into Maxwell was well worth< the effort, as mach number-type speeds were readily achievable on the tandem. We pulled into the control at Williams at around 10:30 am where we were once again reunited with TandemTomSarah.
Yet another round of forced feeding was undertaken before heading out on the last 75 mile push. Encouraging words and custom-made turkey sandwiches from Susan Angebranndt cheered us up tremendously.
At this stage a general weariness and very sore saddle contact points began to take their toll. Occasional bursts of speed were interrupted by attempts to relieve pressure by standing, coasting, etc., but these efforts met with limited success. After what seemed like an infinity, we finally pulled into the Chevron mini-mart in Dunnigan for a pit stop. In an attempt at rehydration, Team Bikeaholics pooled their financial resources and purchased red dye #40-laced Slurpees. The resulting bright fluorescent-colored tongues were documented with CaptainToms new digital camera.
The last push into Davis was through the Dunnigan Hills, again accompanied by an annoying side/headwind, with occasional tailwinds. TandemKenLisa completed the final turn into the last checkpoint at around 5:30 p.m., feeling "a little beat up but otherwise OK". Übermensch Craig deserves special mention for his performance in this event--- he finished "1-2" together with Tom Davies, in a little over 24 hr! Apparently the failure to wear a Bikeaholics jersey is only coupled to an enhanced probability of a DNF under other as yet undefined conditions! TandemKenLisaa didn't take any chances and wore Bikeaholics jerseys on BOTH days.
Note: All images are courtesy of CaptainTom and his new digital camera!