Wind, Rain & Knees: 260 Kilometers

March 2nd, 2008

  • Bicycle lights are always just a little different color than a car headlight. Here the riders work their way acros the bridge as they begin the day.
On March 1, I rode the San Francisco 300 K Brevet (188 miles). I knew this ride was going to be a stretch for me since I have not ridden more than 63 miles since September. The ride started at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge at 6 AM. Thom drove me over and took some photos. The start was kind of cold and the bridge was very wet. Riding across the bridge is a cool experience, but every other time I’ve ridden it, it’s been a little crowded and I’ve felt rushed. We rode across the east side of it, so I had a great view of San Francisco Bay. I was hanging back from the bulk of the group, as going around the towers can be a little dicey and I wanted to enjoy the experience. There were no riders or walkers coming at me to navigate around, so I could enjoy the view. The bay was gorgeous. It was still dark but it was pretty clear and I could see lots of lights and the various islands.

It was early so there wasn’t much traffic on the roads and getting over to Fairfax wasn’t as irritating as I usually find it. I was riding with three guys, Jason, his friend whose name I don’t remember and Phil at this point. Jason and his friend pulled over at one of the coffee shops in Fairfax. Phil decided to use the trail to get through Fairfax and I decided to stay on Sir Francis Drake. It was kind of nice to be alone for a little while to get into my own rhythm. All three passed me on the climb out of Fairfax. I descended down Sir Francis Drake to Samuel P. Taylor State Park, where I caught up with two other riders, whose names I also don’t remember. But one of them knew where to get on the bike path through Samuel P. Taylor. It was stunning riding under the redwoods on smooth pavement. It was still early so there were only one or two other people on the path. The trail ends at this really interesting bridge, which I wish I had stopped to take a picture of. But since I remembered to charge the camera, but didn’t check to see that I had a card (as I discovered later), stopping or not became irrelevant. We caught up to Phil, Jason and his buddy here.

We were now a group of six and we stayed together until the secret control by the reservoir. Phil and I left the secret control before the rest, and they all passed me climbing up the hill to Cheese Factory. I rode by myself from there to the first checkpoint at the Safeway in Petaluma. The Safeway was crowded with Saturday morning shoppers, between shopping and eating; I was there a little longer than I wanted. I left before Jason and his buddy, but they soon passed me. I drafted them for a bit, but their pace was just too much for me to hang onto and I was once again a solo rider. This was a bad place to be alone. The ride from Petaluma to Healdsburg is only 30 miles and only climbs 420 feet. I should have been able to do this section in two hours, but I was troubled by a little thing called a headwind the entire way. It was torturous. Going through Santa Rosa the GPS started warning me that the batteries were low. While I was pulled over changing them, two other riders – names also unknown, passed me. I caught up to them at a light and drafted them for about ten miles, when once again the pace became just a little too much for me. It was here I began questioning the wisdom of jumping up to 188 miles from 60! My quads were screaming at me and I found myself constantly tensing up in my shoulders. I was not having fun. The scenery was not great. Why was I out here?

I arrived at the second checkpoint, the Safeway in Healdsburg. There were lots of riders here, eating real food for lunch. I got a banana and a large size Red Bull and chatted with a couple of the guys while we ate. One of them assured me that we were pretty much done with the wind. He said we would be riding with it for a while on Westside Rd. and then when we headed down the through the Russian River Canyon we would be protected from the wind. He was half right.

I left with yet a different group and stayed with them for a couple of flat miles. Once they dropped me, I was alone for the next fifty miles. Blissfully, I did have a tailwind and I was feeling much better. My quads were happier. I was now on Westside Rd and riding through vineyards. I saw a lot of limos and there was a little more traffic, but it was great riding. I was back to enjoying myself. I had interesting scenery, I considered stopping for some photos, but felt the need to make up some time. The road was rolly but that tailwind sure felt good. However, once we turned onto River Rd. that dratted headwind reappeared with a vengeance. Fortunately I was mostly descending, but I had to work against the wind for any speed. At one point I had to drop out of the big ring because the wind was so strong. To top it off it began to rain! It was bizarre, the sun was still out, but it was raining. At first I thought the wind was whipping sprinkler water or water from the river up at me.

The rain continued even after I turned onto Route 1. I was so happy to get to that turn. I was hoping for that promised tailwind, as the headwind on River Rd. had really taken the stuffing out of me. Immediately upon turning onto Rte 1, I was confronted with a half mile, 5.6% grade up to Goat Rock Overlook. Fortunately, I did have that tailwind. I stopped at the overlook to consolidate my water bottles and to eat a little Hammer Gel. I was tired, but still thinking I’d finish the ride. Doing the math I knew I had 76 miles to go and ten hours to do it in. At this point I began counting down the miles. Every now and then I would look out at the ocean and admire the view. This was the part of the ride I had been most looking forward to. But I was so beat; it was hard to enjoy it.

I was happy when I got to Coleman Valley Rd. and gave it a little wave. That’s one of the climbs on the Mount Tam Double and on the Tour of California. More pedaling, more suffering, more doing the math on an estimate of my finishing time. I was actually moving pretty well for being so tired – with an average speed of 14.7. Highway One is very rolly through here. The down hills and the tailwind were very welcome. The up hills, not so much.

I passed Bay Hill Rd., another part of the Mt. Tam Route and knew I was getting close to Valley Ford, where I expected to meet up with Thom. He had parked the car in Nicasio and was going to ride the route backwards to meet me around Valley Ford. I was looking forward to the company as I had been alone for a few hours now. I passed Valley Ford without seeing him. I was a little ahead of where I had expected to be. I had been thinking I would have about a 12 mile an hour pace. But I had averaged 14 miles an hour to this point, 130 miles into the ride.

About a half mile past Valley Ford I saw Thom’s bright orange wool jersey in the distance. He turned around and we continued on to wide spot in the road so he could eat. He asked me how I was doing and I told him that I was feeling pretty thrashed, but thought I could finish. He told me that were some nasty little hills coming up, but assured me that they were little. There were two nasty climbs in this 4.7 mile section and it was here that my right knee decided it had had enough! Since I hurt it in September, I’ve really been focusing on how to keep it from getting irritated on a ride. It feels like something gets really tight behind my knee and stretching my leg out on the bike and angling my foot a bit differently have made the tightness go away. But now that wasn’t working. By the time we got to the store in Tomales, I knew my knee was done for the day.

We got some more food and water, decided we wouldn’t bother to stop in Marshall, the third control point, since I was just going to the car in Nicasio. I really didn’t want to do even that. To make matters worse the headwind returned just south of Tomales in a small canyon and it was bad. A couple of times I thought it was going to blow me over. Fortunately, it was only through that canyon area. We zipped past Marshall, just about sunset and it was beautiful. Neither of us wanted to stop for pictures. We were both just intent on getting back to the car. Thom was cold, he had left his knee and arm warmers in the car. I gave my windbreaker, which helped some. I was just tired and wanted to be done. We rode the last ten miles in the dark. It’s a shame we were both so miserable, because night riding can be a neat experience. We got to the car at about 7:30.

I think I’m still going to do the Davis 200 K next weekend, unless the weather is crummy. They take day of sign ups. Twenty-four hours after the ride, my knee doesn’t feel too badly. My quads are tired. The worst thing is my shoulders, all that tensing is not good.

Total Mileage: 161.9 miles

Total Climbing: 6122 Feet

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