There’s always another hill

I NOTICED I WAS losing my voice around mile 75 or so, which I noticed because I was saying things like:

“T-left Millbrook.

“T-left Millbrook.

“T-left Millbrook.

“T-left.

“T-left Millbrook.

“Anyone can T-left Millbrook.

“T-left Millbrook.

“There’s a left. Are you a T-left?

“Are you Millbrook? I hope you’re Millbrook…

“Millbrook. T-left.

“Left Birch Ridge Road, Hardwick on right.

“Left Birch Ridge Road…”

This was a 208-mile, 21-hour ride, including twelve climbs that Strava wants to call category-4 and several platoons of regular old stabby little vindictive hills. Now, if you’re not a randonneur, you may be thinking wow, that’s a ride, THIS GUY IS INSANE! Which is a reaction we cherish, since we’re nuts–but if you are a randonneur, you’re thinking, Wasn’t this a 300-kilometer brevet? That’s 186 miles, not 208. And don’t you only get 20 hours for a 300K, not 21?

Correct!

Here, finally, is incontrovertible evidence that chanting “T-left Millbrook” until you lose your voice is not a viable GPS strategy:

GPS track of me riding the Princeton 300K

That’s me riding this course. (Strava geeks: the whole thing’s here.) The yellow parts are “bonus miles.” That means I strayed off the course and had to find my way back–not just to the course, but to the same point where I left it. That’s brevet rules: You must ride the entire course. You may ride as many bonus miles as you want–if you know a restaurant a block off-route, for example, you may decide to eat there–but you may not skip a millimeter of the route. So when you see this:

202 detour

which does not return along the same path by which it departed, it means I stood in a gas station at 11:30pm, did simple math several times to make sure I wasn’t screwing it up, concluded that I’d have to travel at twice my maximum speed for 30 minutes, and called in and let them know I’d be rolling in well after the cutoff. And then I just effin’ well took 202 to Summer Road, because (1) my iPhone wouldn’t show me the way back onto the course, and (2) I rode back along the wrong turn and couldn’t find it. But I was about to be over the time limit anyway, and no help for it, so there wasn’t a self-serving dilemma to wrestle with. As much.

princeton_2014

So about iPhones.

A sidebar which you should skip
if you’re not a randonneur

Google Maps often doesn’t use the same names for roads as cue sheets do. There are three ways it can vary:

  1. The cue sheet uses the official County Road or Route number, but Google Maps shows what that segment of it is named locally–so it won’t find “Rt 719,” and you don’t know you should be searching for “Climbsbury Switchback.”
  2. The opposite of that: The cue sheet says, “Pothole Way B/C Broken Spine Plummet.” B/C means becomes. The cue sheet is telling you to be alert for the name change. This is very considerate of it. Too bad, though, because Google Maps is waiting for you to type in “County Road 4857B.”
  3. The road changes names along its length, sometimes in many places. Google Maps is absolutely certain this one particular name changes in this one very precise place, and you’re not there yet, but the road sign you’re looking at believes you are. So Google Maps refuses to find the intersection, and you can’t out-stubborn a road sign. This cue sheet was created by either:
    1. Somebody who relied on Google maps instead of riding the entire route and reading every street sign, or:
    2. Somebody who knows the area intimately and uses the colloquial name for the road, which is technically correct only at its other end. You know, the town end, where everybody lives. Neither Google nor the road sign knows that only the last twelve yards of Busted Rusted Mill Road is called Turkey Bladder Hwy S, way out where where it has that little curve and ends at Flung Phone Junction. Oh, right–that little bit by the abandoned lot where the nickel Coke machine used to be–yeah, funny story about that Coke machine, but anyway, nobody calls it that.
       
      Except, you know, every GPS in the world.

Google Maps also doesn’t work well on brevets in areas without Internet access, and only today did I understand why other GPS apps would work better. Any of them will put a blue dot on the screen to show where you are, but without Internet access, Google Maps can’t draw a map behind the dot. It has to get its maps over the Internet. Other apps cache the maps in advance. After some advice from my friend Bill, I’m playing with Motion-X.

princeton_2014

MY OFFICIAL RESULT: Did Not Finish. DNF.

I wasn’t afraid of not finishing, though. I was afraid of not being able to.

The numbers say I was able to. The 22 bonus miles would have taken me about two hours at the end. I came in one hour overlimit.

princeton_2014

I BOUGHT MY Trek 1000SL in 2007, when I had two-year-old twins and the sleep deprivation was still bad enough that I couldn’t think about bikes or parts or tires. And I didn’t know much about them anyway. I had a hybrid bike. I did my first century on it. I thought I should probably get a road bike and see if it was better, like everyone said. BICYCLING magazine said the 1000SL was their pick for best entry-level road bike. That was all the information I could process. The bike shop didn’t have Midnight Blue in my size, so I bought Flame Duotone for, I think, $700.

This is the only road bike I’ve ever owned as an adult, and the only bike I’ve ever ridden a brevet on.

It’s not suited to brevets, but…“suited to?” It’s a bike, right? So isn’t it suited to whatever I want to do on a bike? We’re oversold on the idea–mostly I think we oversell ourselves on the idea–that we cannot do X without Bike Type X, or Y without Bike Type Y. Racing? You need carbon. Touring? You need steel. Expensive steel. Expensive carbon.

It’s a bike. Your legs make it go. If you can balance, you don’t fall down.

That being said…

It’s started falling apart. Things aren’t just at the “things break” stage. They’re entering the “things keep breaking” stage. And if you add that up…well, I’m slowly building a new one, as I can afford parts, and that one will be more suited.

But this is the one that let me start randonneuring, back when I didn’t know what randonneuring was, and let me keep randonneuring once I knew. And yes, it’s Monday, and I still have numb fingertips and toe tips from Saturday, and my butt is still too tender to place on another saddle today, and that is related to what bike it is. So the new build–parts sale by parts sale, as money trickles in–will have 44mm tires and low-trail geometry and front bag instead of saddlebag, and all that. You get obsessed with a specialized activity and you find out what’s better for you–and not even necessarily more expensive. So you end up with things more suited.

Still a bike, though. Just a bike. You push with your legs, it goes. Beautiful lugged steel and internal wire routing would not have minimized my bonus miles, and neither would Zipp wheels and aero bidons.

A generator light might have, though, since I was on low beam in pulse mode because I didn’t bring my headlight charger like I thought I had (the Garmin charger looks the same), and didn’t know how much battery time was left. And so might a front bag instead of a saddlebag, with the map case you can flip a cue sheet over in without stopping, the food you can reach without stopping, the phone you can reach without slowing in the dark so you don’t crash while fishing for it. And a frame that wider tires can fit into might mean that on longer rides, the orchestra of saddle sores doesn’t start tuning up until mile 250 instead of mile 175.

Bring on the parts sales, man.

princeton_2014

“YOU RIDING IN or pedaling in?” The voice came from the car that slowed beside me. Five miles from the end. Seven miles an hour. Almost one AM.

I gingerly peeled my butt off the saddle and stopped so I could answer.

“Okay, see you at the end,” he said, and left. His brake lights flared after the next light. I didn’t turn. Not turning was correct navigation. He drove on.

princeton_2014

THIS IS the deep part, which I thought would be the longest part, but is the shortest part.

I sold the first novel I wrote, and then sold every other novel I finished and tried to sell. I wrote all my term papers the night before, and got good grades. I never played team sports.

Brevets taught me how to fail.

I love randonneuring.

wing_96W

6 Comments

Filed under Bicycling, Bikes, Favorite, Randonneuring

6 responses to “There’s always another hill

  1. Well done, man. That’s some hard shit you’re doing.

  2. irreleblog

    What Gordon Atkinson said/wrote.

  3. I’ve been doing NYCC STS rides on an ancient Reagan-era steel ‘sport tourer.’ The truth is, it works fine…but I will say, recently I found myself on 9W with a buddy who had the same pedals so we swapped bikes – he has a 2014 Carbon framed wonder of technology. Wow. It was quite a difference, in every way. My guess is, a nice new bike would NOT turn me into Mark Cavendish…but the extra boost would have to be more efficient for anyone, let alone someone doing a ride with the sort of miles you are racking up. I remember seeing that Trek when it was new, btw – a very nice bike. It sounds like you’ve more than gotten your money’s worth out of it. Good luck with & enjoy whatever new ride you wind up choosing.

    • Thanks! And oops! I didn’t see this comment, sorry.

      I’m actually going the other way: Steel-frame Soma Grand Randonneur. Hoping for better comfort and fueling options. Who knows, maybe carbon in my future, but since I’ve never ridden one, I can’t miss it.

  4. There are some things that are immediately apparent. They ring the bell. Hit you over the head, make you go YeaH! what ever. Then there are things that grow over time, like a planted seed, that one day takes your attention by both ears and quietly, intensely stares right at it until then you see it. Well now I see it.
    Well written.
    Well said.

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