Thursday, June 18, 2009

DC Randonneurs Frederick 600K

On Saturday, June 13th, and Sunday, June 14th, I enjoyed the 600K brevet out of Frederick, Maryland, offered by the DC Randonneurs. Although I missed their 200K (darn inconvenient childbirth thing!), I had previously ridden their 300K out of Warrenton, and the 400K also out of Frederick, so wrapping up the series with their 600 seemed logical. Well worth the drive.

Bill Beck's Photos
Maile Neel's Photos
Ed Felker's Photos and Ride Report

Short Version
375+ miles, rolling average of 16.2 mph, zero mechanicals, minimal profanity, lots and lots and lots of fun. Big thanks to Bill for running the show, Lynne for designing a rockin'-cool route, and the rest of the volunteers who made it happen.

Personal best: more than 6 hours of downtime in the middle of a 600K. That felt gr-r-r-r-ATE.

Long Version
Being the altruistic sort that I am, getting up an hour early to help out with bike inspection seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea. Of course, when the alarm(okay, alarms: wakeup call, cell phone, travel clock, and shock collar) went off at 2:15 AM, the wisdom of this course seemed somehow to pale a bit. Regardless, I poured myself out of bed, chugged the Starbucks FrappachinaMochaCaffeBeverage that I'd cleverly purchased the night before, prepped the bike, and staggered out into the night. "So late that it's early" is something that I've never quite mastered, but can usually fake pretty well.
Bike inspection was fun; it was a great opportunity to meet athletic people and check out their racks, so to speak. As always, the variety of bikes on the brevet delighted me; everything from weak-at-the-knees titanium Indy Fab glory to heavy steel tourers; from high-end folding Bike Fridays to recumbents laden with bags, bells, and gizmos.
A few encouraging words from RBA Bill Beck, and we were off. Significant portions of the 65 miles to the first control were familiar from the 400K two weeks prior, although reversed. It was particularly pleasant to do the gradual climb up Shippensburg, then plummet down PA233, rather than the rather painful climb along the reverse course.
We in the lead group were making pretty good time; darn near 17 mph average, which put us at the first controle, the Kings Gap Store, before its opening time at 7 AM. After a few minutes sitting and enjoying the culinary delights of Energy Beans and peanut butter crackers, it was time to get back on the road.
I was feeling pretty perky, so ended up going off the front after a bit. Eventually, the Chuck and Crista Tandem-driven Express Train appeared in my rear mirror, so a fun game of rabbit and greyhound was on. They eventually reeled me in, but I'm happy to say it took 'em quite a while ;-)
At the next control, it became apparent that a proper refueling stop was in order. The Main St Cafe in Mercersburg provided wedgies, sandwiches, ice-cold Pepsi in massive quantity, and a nigh-endless stream of pitchers of ice water. Upon leaving the controle, we were trapped on the wrong side of the street for almost 15 minutes by a mammoth motorcycle rally of some form, complete with police escorts, traffic marshals, matching tee-shirts, and a few half-wits who felt it was the height of comedy to make pedaling motions with their legs at us.
From Mercersburg, we proceeded on. The heat of the day was growing a bit oppressive, so a stop at the Battleview Market in Gettysburg for hydration and ice cream seemed in order. Our path then led across the Potomac and into Shepherdstown, West Virginia, en route to a miserably hot climb up Snickers Gap on Route 7, and the controle at the Pine Grove Restaurant. The pain of the climb was soon forgotten, as vast quantities of pulled pork barbeque were supplied. After a wholly inadequate digestion time, we set off on the final 50-mile leg back to the hotel. Arriving before dark was a delight, as no 400K in my experience had ever ended so quickly. Deciding not to depart until 4 AM the next day was equally delightful; it was quite liberating to decide that setting a personal best for time was simply not that important on this ride.
Sadly, I slept like crap; however, I still departed the next morning feeling far, far better than I would have otherwise. This was to prove crucial to my well-being, as, well, the climbing on the 200K loop was a lot more vigorous than that on the 400K. I believe the phrase "200' rollers" was used, and the description was pretty darned apt. The Pigeon Hills region of York County was beautiful, and Scenic, and ground me into the dirt in short order. Thankfully, Chip, Chuck, and Crista were less beaten down than I, and I managed to cling for dear life to their collective wheel. Ok, to be honest, I barely managed to keep them in sight for much of that stretch, but having them to focus on kept me going much better than I would have on my own.
We finally arrived back at the hotel in early afternoon, to be greeted with a lovely picnic by the pool. A liter of caffeinated beverage and a hot shower later, and I was feeling human enough to socialize for a bit. Then, somehow, I managed to pass out face down on the bed in my room, and completely missed out on the post-ride group dinner. Ah, well...guess I just need to head back down for another brevet, and another opportunity to chill with the DC folks. Darn!

Lessons Learned
  1. Taking an extra 2 hours of total elapsed time in exchange for 6 hours of extra downtime 'twixt the 400 and 200K loops is so very, very worth it.
  2. The combination of Heed, Perpetuem, and Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans (no, I'm not kidding), plus real-ish food every few hours, works very well for me. No problems with digestion, cramping, weakness, or dehydration to report; also, as a pleasant change from all of my long rides this year, no real lull or down period.
  3. NOT having to deal with one or more flats on a ride makes me a much happier man.

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