Like usual, this ride had The Freak, and The Mad Scramble, but on a scale much higher than normal. Instead of needing to prepare for a 400 or 600km ride in Tennessee or Kentucky, I was preparing for a 1,200km ride in California. TWELVE HUNDRED?? Twice as far as I had ridden in my training rides, and just 300km short of the entire series required to qualify to ride in this event. Oddly, it wasn't the distance that had me worried, it was the fatigue! I had never ridden straight thru the night, and even in the 600km rides, I got plenty of sleep. I knew for this ride that both of those circumstances would need to change.
There were many people that chipped in to help me achieve this goal, and I appreciate the generosity and willingness to help very much. Maybe they were as interested as I to see if I could pull it off? haha
I'll not bore with all of the prep work in tearing the bike down for shipping, flight arrangements, etc. If you want to know any of the logistical details - ask. Otherwise we'll fast forward to Davis Califorina; the most bicycle friendly town in America. No kidding! In the space of 4 blocks was 3 bike shops. All retail establishments had bike racks with attached cables, and the motorists were VERY friendly towards bikers, which were plentiful at all hours.
I arrived in Davis, in the late morning of Sunday, the 6th with plenty of time to get the bike ready and spend some time relaxing. Some riders were already there, and more filtered in as the day progressed. I could feel the nervous anticipation building, and probably looked like a kid getting ready to play in the championship game. I went to dinner with Steve Rice, Steve Royse and Dave King - all from Louisville and instrumental in encouraging me to give this randonneuring thing a try. Also there was Isabella, whom was to use this ride as a RAAM (Race Across America) qualifier.
The next day was more of the same, in sweating out details, and trying to kill time before picking up our packets, getting our bikes (and ourselves) inspected for safety gear, and leaving our drop bags that would be taken to three of the checkpoints farther along the route. In the drop bags were change of riding clothes, cold weather gear, food, means to charge electronic gizmos, etc. In my haste, I got confused as to which bag was which, and switched my first and last bags, which caused some grief, but nothing too bad.
Here is Steve and I, riding up to the bike inspection, held at the start of the route which was just a couple of miles from the hotel. Since we still had three or four hours to kill, I was still in my street clothes.
There were a recumbent or two, a few tandems, and even 3 fixed gear bikes on this brevet.
Here we are: Dave King, Steve Rice, me and Steve Royse. Trying to get everyone together for a quick photo was not the easiest of propositions.
Riders beginning to assemble just a few minutes before the 6:00 PM start time. The organizers chose to start the ride in the evening to protect the riders from the mid-day heat of the central valley. The previous week, temperatures were over 100 Farenheit - so I'm fully on board with a night start!
There were about 88 riders for the 1,200, and another 17 that were doing a 1,000km plus another 200km. Same distance, I know - but there is a certain Randonneurs USA (RUSA) award that requres a 1,000km ride.
Just minutes before the ride and Dave continues to fuel. What is that Dave, a hard boiled egg? I'll remember not to draft you.
Steve Phillips (in orange). We had shared the roads of Tennessee during the TN series, and he ultimately would become my riding partner for the last 130 or so miles.
Jeff Bauer and Mary Crawley behind him. More riders I see down in TN, and on this brevet, they will ride on tandem together.
Finally underway! You can see the scenery behind Dave King - dry, parched, and flat. This ride has plenty of hills, and they're all packed into the middle segment of the ride. We would have the dry heat of the central valley, beauty of the Feather River Canyon, as well as the high desert on the east side of the Sierra's.
The actual route can be viewed here: http://davisbikeclub.org/goldrush/grrmap.htm
It's best viewed in 'terrain mode' - after opening the map, go to the upper right hand corner and change to G. terrain.
Another Tennessee rider - Peter Lee. Peter and I have similar riding styles, and I really expected to spend some time with him. As is often the case, when the ride starts it all sorts itself out.
Steve Phillips again. We had a great finish together.
Jeff Bauer and Mary Crawley.
The first 100 miles had the controls (checkpoints) - two of which were 'secret' controls, to make sure that were were on course and not taking short cuts! The pace was brisk and we had a light tailwind, which is always nice.
The sun is setting now, and I was wishing I had started with all of my lights and reflective gear on and ready. I had to stop to put it on - and wouldn't you know it - me and another rider stopped adjacent to two rice fields. Within seconds of stopping, I had 20-30 mosiquitoes all over my legs!
You can see the full moon rising behind us. Later in the night, it would be bright enough to navigate by as I rode thru the Feather River Canyon.
Steve, Dave and I made it to the first 'scheduled' control in Oroville together, which was situated at mile 101 and I was hopeful that we would be able to ride together thru the night. This control had plenty of food, including fresh raspberries, and they were making smoothies!
Here are some riders in queue to have their brevet card signed and stamped, which proves they were on course, and on time.
Plenty of food at the Oroville control.
After spending 30 minutes at that control, relaxing and eating a bit, we left Oroville. Steve, Dave and I made our way out of town and then began a long climb out of the central valley, and up into the Feather River Canyon. It quickly became apparent that the three of us were wanting to climb at different rates, which is not unusual. I split off from the group and continued upward at my own pace, thinking I would see them at the next control, which was Tobin Resort at mile 143.
On the way up into the canyon, there were three tunnels that I had the pleasure to ride thru.
I arrived at Tobin, which was directly adjacent to what very well may be the smallest Post Office in the world.
I arrived at this control at the same time that Jeff Bauer and Mary Crowley did. Perhaps we even rode together to the control? I can't recall. It was 3:38 AM when we arrived, and I stayed for a half hour there, eating a little bit of everything. Jeff and Mary left a few minutes before me. I was disappointed that I didn't see Dave and Steve before I left this control. I believe Dave arrived a minute or two after I pulled out.
The next control was in Taylorsville, at mile 182. For most of the climb from Tobin to Taylorsville, I was riding alone, bridging up to a rider here and there, but not matching up well with our efforts on the hills, it was easier for me to ride solo at the time. I was getting chilly about the time the sun started to come up, but I did have on arm warmers and my vest. I still had my leg warmers to put on, but my legs didn't feel too cold at all, so I continued with the climb. There was nearly a full moon during the ride through the canyon, and for a few minutes, I turned off my headlamp and headlight, and cruised by moonlight. It was eerily calm to ride in the cocoon of darkness. I didn't do it for too long, as the logging trucks weren't the most pleasant to deal with, and I'm always on the lookout for critters trying to use the same space of road as I.
Here you can see a cyclist up ahead of me as I'm bridging up to them.
There was a nice descent into Taylorsville, for the control at mile 182, but I sure was chilled! Little did I know that the cold I had just experienced would pale by comparison to what was to come.
The Taylorsville control, where I had my first access to a bag drop. Here I feasted on pancakes, bacon, juice and oatmeal. Thankfully, there was a real bathroom inside, and I didn't have to opt for the porta pottie. There was a shortage of parking spots available, so I just leaned my bike up against this juniper bush.
I stayed at Taylorsville for an hour, eating and chatting with some of the other riders. There was a steady stream of riders coming and going at this point. At 9:30 I decided it was time to shove off and head to Susanville. There was a water stop about 30 miles ahead, after some more climbing. It was near this point that we would hit the 'Top' of the Gold Rush route, meaning we would see ho higher elevation.
I was getting pretty close to the water stop, and you can see Antelope Lake on my GPS unit in the picture below. This was not an official control, and they had little to offer in the way of food.. It's a WATER stop, you know? Later in the ride, the airstream camper would become my haven.
In celebration of hitting the "Top of the Gold Rush Randonee"
I did meet up with a couple of riders along this way, and we rode together for 20 or 30 miles. Ultimately, we split off to ride our own pace, as I was eager to make my way to Susanville for a shower, some good food and maybe a quick nap, my first opportunity to sleep so far. The Susanville control is at mile 248. My plan called for a quick nap here, and then to push on to Adin at mile 316 for more meaningful sleep.
At Susanville, I ate well, got a shower and changed clothes. This was our 2nd bag drop location. I didn't realize the strategic error in planning my cold weather clothing until later in the ride. The wool sweater I had brought for the cold was left in Taylorsville. I even took some time to wash out and dry the clothes I was wearing since the start of the ride. I had a feeling I would want to change again when I came thru a second time. I laid my clothes outside on the sidewalk where they dried quickly in the dry air.
Before leaving Susanville at 6:10, Dave King came in and was getting ready for a nap. He didn't look so good, and said he was struggling. I implored him to not sleep long and 'just make it to Adin, Dave.. just make it to Adin' Immediatly after leaving, I hooked up with a couple of other riders, but it quickly became apparent that I wanted to ride at a quicker pace, so we bid farewell and I struck out on my own alone.. again. haha
There are a few tasty climbs just a few miles outside of Susanville, one of which is to Antelope Summit.
As the sun began to set on on Tuesday evening, I teamed up with Ian Shopland, the youngest rider in the GRR. We made pleasant conversation and enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we wound around Eagle Lake, working our way to the "Grasshopper" water stop - or what I called the 'Noodle Stop'.
Even as remote as this water stop was, they still had plenty of food, drink and other necessities for us riders. That was the case really for all of the controls and water stops. Probably the least appointed stop would have been the water stop at Antelope Lake.
After some Cup 'O Soup (chicken), chocolate milk and chips at the Grasshopper water stop, I teamed up with John Evans, an Aussie living in the UK - the 3rd fixed gear rider. John and I enjoyed the rolling terrain and easy pedaling down into Adin. The conversation was good, and John and I rode at a comfortable pace. I think in this stretch, we saw two - maybe three vehicles. From Susanville to Adin was truly remote, with nothing but sagebrush and scrubs.
I was still on board with my very loose 'plan' of getting a quick nap in Susanville, and then getting more meaningful sleep in Adin. Yeah - well the best laid plans......... right?
John and I rolled into Adin just after midnight, and after getting the bike ready for immediate action after some sleep, I went inside and ate a big plate of pasta, some fruit and just about whatever I could get my hands on. It was now time for some MEANINGFUL sleep.
Just a couple of problems... see that linoluem floor? Yeah, well THAT was to be my bed. All of the cots, mats and any sort of soft surface was occupied with riders. Not to mention that the partitions you see to the left in the below picture, created a barrier to shield the view of the sleeping riders. Well - out of sight - out of mind. We later called those partitions the 'screen of silence' - as we envisioned that those on the "awake" side of the partitions, must believe that it's totally silent on the other side.. after all - - - there is the screen! I had planned on 3 and a half hours of sleep at this stop. I think I got ONE. When my phone alarm went off I struggled to get up, and noticed Steve Phillips, who arrived well before me, was STILL sleeping like a baby! Something he and I would joke about later in the day. I'll not forget, sitting and eating some more pasta before leaving - seeing Steve wake up and amble across the room to the bathroom. I could tell that he got some great sleep, and I was jealous! hahaha It was at this time that my stomach first started to feel sour.
4:30 AM. I departed Adin to head to Alturas, a little over 40 miles away. The terrain had a few climbs, but nothing major that I can recall.
the Alturas conrol. Arrival time here; 7:35 AM
This control was making some food to order as well. I can't recall specifically what they were making here, but food was never an issue. My stomach continued to feel all sour, but I was still eating well, and getting enough hydration.
I bumped into Rob at the Alturas control and we agreed to ride together. I was more than happy to ride with him, so we signed the pact and departed around 8:20, to make our way to the turnaround in Davis Creek.
the Davis Creek control. Not much here, but still plenty of food for a hungry rider. Rob left a few minutes ahead of me, as I told him that I would catch up on the flats back to Alturas.
After a quick stop back at Alturas, we left to make our way back to Adin, and ultimately Susanville. It was along this way that we picked up Paul Rozelle from Utah - the last fixed gear rider for me to marvel. Rob finally had a fixie friend to chat over the virtues of riding in such a pure method. I pedaled easily behind them for a number of miles, chuckling. I have to admit, though. I'm now fixie-curious.
Back through the Adin control where I would curse the linoleum and the screen of silence. My body was beginning to protest in its need for sleep, and rewarded my efforts with a very sour stomach. The nausea was never so bad that wanted to vomit, but it was just enough to chip away at my morale and will.
It was getting later in the afternoon, and the accumulated fatigue and sleep deprivation was starting to add up. I had only about 2 and a half hours of sleep at this point - and not quality sleep at that! My biggest fear going into this ride was in how my mind and body would respond to the fatigue. A sour stomach seemed to be the worst of it.
About 20 miles or so from Susanville, I began not to trust my vision so much. Up the road I *thought* I could see something in the road ahead, so I pulled out my camera to snap a photo of whatever was (or wasn't) there. It turns out that my eyes weren't fooling me, it was a bale of straw that had been smashed by a vehicle.
I began to worry that the cots in Susanville would all be occupied when I arrived (my worst nightmare at this point), so I decided to ride a bit more aggressively, passing as many riders as I could before Susanville. My stomach really felt nasty at this point, but wasn't hindering my eating too much.
Some purposeful riding yielded good results for me. I bridged up to and passed at least 6-8 riders - all of them imaginary contestants for that last cot. hahaha
When I arrived at 8:30 PM - most of the cots were available! haha I got a good meal of lasagna, fruit, and whatever else was palatable. A shower and change of clothes (glad I did laundry the 1st time thru) had me feeling 'OK' for the lack of sleep and miles under my belt - now 512.
I did sleep a couple of hours here, but it was fitful. I went to sleep warm, but woke up a number of times being quite cold. Finally, I got up and stumbled around to find a blanket available, and also unfurled my space blanket from the bike and tried to get back to sleep. I had left a wake up call for 2:30 AM, as that is when Rob and Paul thought it would be ideal to begin the nasty Janesville Grade climb.
We left the Susanville control at just past 3:00 AM. My stomach wasn't so bad at this point, but was still bothersome.
The climb itself wasn't so bad. There were long stretches of 10 and 11% gradient, with pitches as high s 20%. I settled into a low gear and just ground it out, enjoying the morning twilight over Susanville as I climbed. It was one of those magical moments of a ride.
Actually, the climb wasn't the problem, it was the descent!! I got so chilled from being depleted and fatigued, that I began to shiver uncontrollably. It was so bad, I went into survival mode and slowed my descent speed to no more than 10mph. My teeth chattered an interesting rhythm, and I imagined a latin rhythm being played on a clave` to try to occupy my mind from the numbing cold.
Finally I made my way to the Boulder Creek water stop, where this other pitiful rider was suffering. The workers took pity on us and fed us some noodles and let us sit in the Airstream for a bit.
On the way to Taylorsville, I began to warm up - and even managed half a smile.
Leaving Taylorsville, I hooked up with Steve Phillips to begin the ride thru Tobin Resort and into Oroville. The Feather River Canyon was beautiful and I'm glad I got to see it in the daylight this time.
After a fairly quick stop in Tobin - we filled some tube socks with ice to drape over our neck. What irony! Earlier in the morning, I was freezing to death, and now we were preparing for the blast furnace of the central valley - with temps on the road near 100.
After stopping in Oroville, we left at 6:00 PM and realized we had a very real chance of a sub 80 hour 1,200! Here we are at a 'receipt control' where we had to get a cash register reciept to prove we were on course.
The 'secret control' to again, ensure we did not deviate from the course. It was here that we did some math and figured we had a very comfortable time cushion to beat 80 hours. Once we got back on the road, we did another calculation an determined that with some effort, we could come in under 79:00 - so some spirited riding was done.
Our official finishing time was 78:57, three minutes to spare!! Hooray!
On the left is Dan Shadoan, the organizer of the Gold Rush 1,200. This event was very well managed, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to ride a 1,200. Hell, what do I know - it was my first! I do know that the volunteers were top-notch and there was plenty of food, and the bag drops made the logistics even easier. I look forward to riding in this one again.
Now is the time I try to assemble all of the thoughts, feelings, events, things I saw, heard and experienced in a 1,200km (750 miles, approximately) into an understandable, interesting entry here. Quite a tall order, but I'll do my best.