Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PA 600K: Water Gap Edition/"Turkey Hill Edition"

Short version
377 miles, 14.5 mph rolling average, 32:40 elapsed time, two insults, one hurled bottle, Super Randonneur status achieved.


Long Version
On Saturday, June 7th, I clipped in at the unholy hour of 4 AM for the Eastern Pa Randonneurs 600K brevet. Eight of us rolled out at the start; familiar PA faces like Joe Brown, Matt Farrell, and Guy Harris; Rob Welsh, from the 200K; and new companions Dan Barbasch, John Dennis, and Bob Olsen.

I'll confess to a bit of weather-related trepidation; the forecast was calling for highs in the mid-90s F, with humidity somewhere in the "inhalation == blowing your nose backwards" range. (Sadly, the forecast weather materialized exactly as predicted.) I had decided to replace my customary third water bottle with a 70-ounce Camelbak bladder in a bag behind the seat; although the extra weight seemed excessive, the thought of blowing up 200 miles in due to dehydration was less appealing.

The first three segments were comfortably familiar from prior PA brevets; a hop to Cherryville and the first of five Turkey Hill Minit Market controles, followed by the usual climb through Little Gap and run through Cherry Valley to Water Gap and the bakery; then, finally, the Delaware Water Gap park route to Hainesville and Flat's Deli. By this point, Rob Welsh and I had decided to stick together for the rest of the ride, as our paces and personalities seemed compatible; besides, we were the guys riding (or at least owning...Rob brought a tasty Rivendell Rambouillet upright on this one) recumbents and wearing SPD sandals, so just naturally meshed well.

From Hainesville, we briefly retraced our route, then headed to the Dingman's Ferry bridge and a fairly villainous climb up Raymondskill Falls. This climb was notable not merely for the sun, which was in full blowtorch mode, but for the numerous occasions where we *thought* we were done, but were rapidly proven sadly mistaken. Eventually, we made our way across the NY border to Barryville; Tom showed up with magic socks (long cotton socks filled with ice) to drape across our necks in a surprisingly effective cooling technique.

We made our way back down the Delaware Water Gap, this time on the far side via River Rd (a welcome change from Old Mine Rd). A quick stop in Water Gap at the diner, and a chance to say hi to Tom and to Steve Scheetz, then we were on our way towards Bloomsbury and back to the hostel at Quakertown.

After some fantastic lasagna, a shower, 45 minutes of horizontal meditation, and a clean pair of bike shorts (aaaaah, luxury!), we set off again at about 12:30 AM. Heading out Ridge Rd towards Lancaster, we encountered our only true unpleasantness of the ride; a couple of shouted epithets involving the burning hatred we engendered, and a suggestion to acquire a car, were followed by a poorly-aimed bottle hurled from the window. Luckily, no harm was done, and we were quickly off the main roads.

I discovered the joys of severe fatigue on the leg from Gilbertsville to Morgantown that night; only Rob's company kept me moving, especially up a certain Shed Rd (2 miles long, moderate grade, at 3 AM). Once day broke, I was okay, but that feeling of dozing off while pedaling was quite unpleasant.

From Morgantown, we made a fast out-and-back to the post office controle at Blue Ball. A quick meal at the Windmill restaurant, then we set off for the final legs home. We pulled back into the hostel in the early afternoon, the first finishers with a comfortable time of 32 hours and 40 minutes. More lasagna, showers, clean clothes, and handshakes all around wrapped up my first brevet series in sterling fashion.

Once again, thanks go out to all who've enabled me in this obsession hobby. Tom, thanks for some great routes, and as pain-free an introduction to randonneuring as could be hoped. Rob, thanks for the company, the conversation, and for helping a rookie get through his first overnight. Steve, Maile, and Len, thanks for taking on the volunteer duties that let the rest of us play.

Most of all, Deena, my love, thanks for supporting me in this whole cycling thing...I couldn't do it without you.

Lessons Learned
  1. Companionship for the late-night hours is a Good Thing™. Without Rob's encouragement, I would have been a space-blanket-wrapped fetus (or a giant silver burrito, whichever) off the side of the road by 4 AM.
  2. Along the same lines as previous, I need to hold onto enough presence of mind when fatigued to do *something* to combat the dozies; from experiments later in the second day, simply chewing on a peanut butter and cheese cracker helped immensely. My mistake lay in doing nothing but continuing to turn the pedals.
  3. Fatigue aside, there was no appreciable degradation of riding ability after the first 200K or so; this is another Good Thing, and correlates to my observations on the earlier brevets.
  4. I ate fairly lightly on the day preceding the ride; this may well have correlated to feeling significantly more spritely for the first two segments, which was particularly noticeable while climbing Little Gap on Blue Mountain Drive. Not to say that I climbed STRONGLY, but I wasn't nearly as much of a wimp as the last two times.
  5. Mostly due to Rob's good example, I spent much less time at the controles than previously. I'm sure I picked up at least an hour on the first 400K, due solely to greater efficiency in that area.
  6. Camelbak bladder in the seat bag was a good decision. I never ran out of fluids (came close a couple of times!), but also never had to ration myself. Given the weather conditions, this was crucial to my success, if not my very survival.
  7. Rear rack and trunk bag was more convenient than prior jury-rigged seat back bag; however, i think I want to invest in a trunk bag with the small panniers that can be unfolded from the sides.
  8. Lighting: I need to work out better (or at least less disruptive to my night vision) lighting for reading cue sheets. Having the white LED head torch was great for reading cues, but meant that I could barely see my surroundings, eve with the DLumotec and E6 lamps running full blast. I also should experiment with placing the primary LED lamp on the fork.
  9. Once more, I carried a camera and didn't take a single photo. That's just dumb; expensive dead weight is not helpful.
Questions to Ponder
What's next? The PA 1000K at the beginning of August? A 12 or 24 hour race experiment? RAAM qualifier? A domestic 1200K?


Anonymous said...

did I just read the FIRST finishers? Wow...congrats honey! I still think you're obsessed, but at least it's a healthy obsession and it makes you happy - *HUGS*

brian said...

Furnace Creek 508, brother.

Reddan said...

kala: Yep, first finishers. And yes, obsession is probably not too strong a term.

brian: I'm game if you are. Hear that sound? That's the sound of a gauntlet being cast down ;-)

Donna said...

1200k Grand Canyon permanent, yo. I'm there. Just give me about a year to catch up to your performance.

PurpleBurley said...

Hey Dan,

Congrats on your 600k finish and SR medal. You were amazing on the entire PA series on your recumbant. My wife Barb and I admired your performance (mostly from a couple hours behind you) on the 200k, 300k and 400k (we were on the purple Burley tandem.) We were unable to make it to the PA600k, but we traveled to Westfield, MA a couple weeks later to finish off our SR series at the Catskills 600k.

We look forward to seeing you at the 1000k, where we'll be manning the second overnight controle in Lewisburg.

I also wanted to make a recommendation for a cue sheet/helmet light. Barb and I have each been using a Princeton Tech EOS with good results. It toggles back and forth between 4 settings easily, enabling you to read a cue sheet on low or look up the road for street signs or around curves on high beam. It is reasonably light and mounts to your helmet with a velcro strap, so you can easily remove it during the day. It runs on 3 AAA batteries, costs about $40, and it's proven to be adequately weather resistant for us. Got ours at Colorado Cyclist. Look forward to seeing you in Quakertown at the start of the 1000k in a couple of weeks...

Ron Anderson