Tuesday, May 15, 2007

300k Brevet

Last weekend I did my first Brevet. Brevets are rides that are done in sets and get progressively longer: there are 200, 300, 400 and 600 km rides. I missed the 200k earlier in the year, so I started with the 300k, which is roughly 180 miles. The week, the day, the night before the 300k ride, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The morning of the ride dawned and it was chilly, damp and generally discouraging. See photos. (I'm the one in a red windbreaker and yellow helmet) Needless to say, I still had my doubts. I knew some people who had done the 200k, and it sounded like it did a number on them.
The night before the ride, we stayed at the Super 8 in Delavan, because the ride started at 7:00 a.m. from the parking lot. ‘We’ was Ben, Julie, TC and I. In the morning we were joined by our friends Val, Brean and another Ben. Looking around the parking lot, ‘We’ were the only people under 45 years old, and Julie, Val and I accounted for half of the females present. Your typical Brevet rider is a recently retired white male. I wondered once more what the hell I was thinking in signing up to do this.
The ride was an ‘out-and-back’ from Delavan to Lodi and back, and was broken into six legs. There were checkpoints at gas stations every 30 miles or so, where we had to get our manifests signed to prove we had been through. It was also an opportunity to use the restroom, buy something to eat and wolf it down, and get more water. These stops lasted about five minutes in the beginning, and toward the end when a little rest was needed, they were about fifteen minutes.
My game plan for the ride was just to stick with Julie, who is experienced at long distance rides. She warned me that she would be going very slowly, and I warned her that she would have to put up with me anyway. Turned out we were both fairly warned. She took a nice easy pace, and I stuck with her. I was occasionally tempted to go faster, but whenever I was, I reminded myself that I still had many miles to go, and that it wasn’t a race. Julie also nagged (helped remind) me to eat and drink, which I did with zeal.
The ‘out’ part was fairly decent. The second leg was a little hilly, but it seems that around mile 60 you feel as if you could ride forever. On the third leg we knew we were in for trouble when we turned around, because there was a pretty strong wind kicking up. Sure enough, when we turned around we were faced with a headwind that made things much harder. We formed a line with some other riders, about five or six total, and drafted off of each other. One person would ‘pull’ out front for a while, and then someone from the group would come up and take their place. In her race report, Julie estimated that I pulled for about three of six uphill and windy miles, and hey, I’m not going to turn a compliment down. Kidding aside, I was feeling strong and wanted to help out, so I did wind up pulling for a while.
On the fifth leg, people were getting tired and a little disenchanted with riding their bikes. I talked with Tom, a guy who was going at about our pace. I told him that for some reason during the ride I had thought of the new Spiderman 3 movie, and that it occurred to me that a normal kid my age would use her Saturday to chill and then go see Spiderman 3, and that would be an acceptable form of fun for a normal person. Tom laughed and said that when we rode past a golf course he had thought to himself, “Now there’s a sane sport.” Any other person his age would use a Saturday to enjoy some time on the course. It was nice to talk with Tom and joke around a little, because otherwise it would have been a tough time.
On the last leg we had to turn our lights on, because it was getting a little late. As for being tired, I felt strangely great. Don’t get me wrong, I was still looking forward to finishing, but I felt pretty peppy. Julie had to drop out about ten or fifteen miles from the finish because of a bad knee problem, so TC, Dave and I rode the rest of the way together. Dave was an older gentleman who was, in a word, spry. He maintained good humor and had a seemingly indefatigable energy supply.
How good it was to pull into the hotel parking lot! It was exactly midnight when I pulled in and got my manifest signed for the last time. After 17 straight hours of biking, I finally sat down to relax. I didn’t want to cramp up, so I kept getting up to get things, and I made sure to drink plenty. After a little while, we loaded up the five bikes and the five of us and headed back to Chicago, which is where everyone else is from. I stayed awake for the ride back, but when my head hit the pillow I was out for the count.
The next morning when I dragged myself out of sleep, I was surprised at how decent I felt. A damage assessment revealed an achy knee, a bruised bum and numb palms. Believe me, I got off easy. None of my muscles were sore, which I think can be attributed to my awe inspiring physical prowess and to some Shaklee endurance powder that Aunt Margie gave me a while back that’s designed to help with soreness the next day. I mixed some of it into my drink at the halfway point and at the end of the ride. I also baked some into some Frankenstein banana bread that I made especially for the ride. It was banana bread with some endurance powder, bran flakes, oats and honey to help it all stick together. How did it taste, you ask? One of my friends tried it and declared, “It tastes… like it’s not for humans.”
Which, one might say, is much like the 400 and 600k brevets. Not for this human. I enjoyed the 300k: it was the right amount of pain and suffering. But the 400k goes past Lodi to Baraboo, which is very, very hilly territory as I understand it. I would definitely do the 200 or the 300 again, but I’m not going to sign up for the 400. No thank you. Overall rating was positive, though. Lots of biking, lots of eating and generally pleasant people: that’s my idea of a good Saturday.

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