Friday, May 25, 2007

Brevet #3: Let's See How Far This Guy Makes It


“Dude, are you awake?”

“ummh, yeah…”

Um, yeah. It was noon, so I thought I should give Adrian a wake up call to make sure we were on track for the train and the 250 mile brevet #3 on Saturday (may 19th). It was worse than I thought. Turns out he had spent the night with a ladyfriend and hadn’t even been home yet. Needless, he would not be joining me on the 1:30pm.

Bummer. I was looking forward to the companionship and deferment of boarding costs, as well as depending on him to bring my new headlight, which I had ordered the week before from Boulevard Bikes, where he works. I’d grabbed a spoke wrench, multi-tool and a fistful of bolts while Kevin carefully marked out and measured the circumference of my wheel to put an end to my cyclometer hijinx. 2120mm, remind me later.

The next possible train was 8:30pm with the rush hour restriction and given that not all trains run to the end of the line. I advised him to get his ass on it and privately accessed a 20% chance of him doing so.

I did the train and the 17 miles to the motel getting in about 5pm, rolling up on Frank and Ron in the parking lot. “So you rode up?” Frank nodded nonchalantly. Of course I hadn’t, but only a randonneur would be unimpressed with riding 100 miles to the start of a 250 mile ride.

I checked in, touched base with Adri, laid out my clothing, packed up everything else, showered, ate a double helping of tuna casserole and went to bed with a bad Dennis Hopper movie. It was 7pm and bright sunlight leaked from under the curtains. I drifted in and out of pleasant sleep. Low and behold, Adrian came in ‘round midnight.

We were up at 5 am and somehow, I was still scrambling to get to the start on time. In my haste I left large swaths of un-screened skin above my knees, making for some uncomfortable sunburn later. I put on a beat up wool sweater in a last minute decision to bring it. They never improved upon wool. About 30 riders assembled at the start and were warned about a few changes from last year’s route. And we were off.

Mike, Adrian and I rode for a spell, until I threw my chain off the granny. I took the opportunity to take a self portrait. A few riders approached from behind. Honestly, it may have been my imagination, brimming with anxiety, rolling along in my thread bare sweater, on my touring rig. But I’m pretty sure I heard him correctly: “Let’s see how far this guy makes it.”

I caught up with the crew at check point #1 in Edgerton. Adrian grabbed a coffee, unimaginably early in the game for me, but he runs on the stuff. For the next ten miles he rode one handed. As we departed, a few riders were heading back from the direction we were headed. The new course was to New Glarus, not Sun Prairie, their error saving us some mileage.

Mile 40 found me sluggish. The tops of my knees were achy from Thursday night’s escapade. I put my concerns about finishing out of my mind and hoped my body would loosen up over sometime over the next 210 miles.

It is somewhat frustrating that both times I have found myself in New Glarus, I have been unable to visit the brewery. As we sat outside the 2nd checkpoint, Adrian noted that we could easily split a 6 of spotted cow amongst the 5 in our crew, now including Mike’s friends Dave and Ken. Once again, unimaginable.

En route to Sauk City my back started to ache—another sign that I was weakened from Thursday. Goddamn track bike. Doubt crept into my mind. At the Sauk City checkpoint I ate a slice of pizza with a single oversized piece of pepperoni. I couldn’t handle the ambiance and wandered off to the nearest grassy spot—a green electrical box behind some dumpsters. Laying down in the hot sun, I let the crew leave without me.

My strategy had been questioned, but the 20 minutes prone did me right. I felt a little looser and passed up some riders. Riding alone, I practiced riding no handed—rather difficult with the slack geometry of my ride— but a handy skill to relieve back muscles. Mike materialized from behind after following an old arrow. Somewhere, somehow we all regrouped.

In Baraboo, I selected a freezer case burrito called “the bomb.” Only time would tell. Here we missed our opportunity to purchase clown noses, for a good cause, to sport at the finish. Dave lamented a lazy winter.

We rode through Devil’s Lake State Park. Struggling up the hills Mike revealed he had not used his granny ring all day. I, on the other hand, hadn’t used my largest ring. We were rewarded with an incredible winding descent through the park which delivered us to the ColSac III. Unfortunately the adjacent ice cream shop was closed.

Lodi, then Sun Prairie. We battled hills, drunks and irate cagers, sometimes simultaneously. Somewhere the temperature had dropped to around 40, giving us a span of 40 degrees for the day. Everything I had, I had on. The wind had started hard out of the west and had shifted nicely to the north east. A storm was raging somewhere, but it wouldn’t rage here. A few drizzles slicked the road.

Throughout the afternoon I worked on making my orienteering pattern second nature and it had become essential in the darkness: Locate the indicator arrow. Check the street sign for the name. Find the confirmation arrow. Check your cyclometer and compare your mileage to the cue sheet. Find the mileage of the next motion. Find the name of the next street. Find the direction of the next motion. Find the attributes of the intersection (stop light, T-intersection.) Locate the indicator arrow…

It’s important to run through the checklist each time in proper order. Compare the mileage first and you might miss the confirmation arrow. You might miss a quick turn while scanning the cue sheet for the direction of it. Knowing that your next motion is a right turn at the stop sign of a T-intersection affords you the relaxation of knowing you can’t miss it.

At the 200 mile mark, I was on fire, feeling better than I did all day, like I could ride forever. I knew this was on account of the tailwind and some endorphins, but it made me giddy none the less. When the mileage stacks up, some folks like to complain a bit about their various aliments and others prefer to suffer in silence. However, it is universal bad form to publish the fact you feel great under such circumstances. 200 miles is irrational mood swing territory and announcing such a thing around overtired people in pain might earn you a punch in the nose or, at the very least, ensure you are dropped at the earliest opportunity should the situation reverse itself. (Fuck him, he feels “great”.)

None the less, it was looking like we could sew this thing up in 24 hours. I voiced my opinion that we should hit the next checkpoint hard and fast and get immediately back on the road. A good plan, but alas, fatigue set in and our course set into the wind. By the time we arrived in Edgerton, we were all ready to sit a spell. I wandered the mini-mart in a half insane daze, purchasing a 1 Lb bag of potato chips and a tub of processed cheese food, plopped down in the abandoned Taco John’s and set about devouring it.

I don’t recall much from that last leg. My hands hurt. My back hurt. My neck hurt. My ass hurt. Worst was the sharp pain that shot through my middle right toe with each revolution of the crank. Each crack in the road something or other throbbed. We collected Adrian, who had sprinted ahead on his own second wind, aimlessly wandering the streets of downtown Delavan. The town was awakening with joggers and dogs and automobile traffic.

We rolled in to the Super 8 at 6:52 am, 250 miles and just shy of 25 hours. After the initial euphoria wore off, Adrian and I sat staring at each other, unblinking, awaiting our outrageously overpriced taxi. It would be many hours and vehicles before we lay our weary heads to rest.


Additional Ride Photos:

General Idea of the Route:,+WI&daddr=Edgerton,+Wisconsin+to%3Anew+glarus,+WI+to%3ASauk+City,+Sauk,+Wisconsin,+United+States+to%3ABaraboo,+WI+to%3AMerrimac,+Wi+to%3ALodi,+WI+to%3ASun+Prairie,+WI+to%3AEdgerton,+Wisconsin+to%3ADelavan,+WI&mrcr=8&dirflg=h&sll=43.050295,-89.211345&sspn=0.935289,1.867676&ie=UTF8&ll=43.092961,-89.181519&spn=0.934646,1.867676&z=9&om=1