Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mineral Wells 400k

I had intended on doing ride reports for all of my rides this year, but have failed to do so. However, after almost completing the Mineral Wells 400k this weekend, I hope to start doing my ride reports regularly.

David and I drove over to Mineral Wells on Friday May 25th. It was a very uneventful drive and we arrived at the Executive Inn sometime after 6:30. We walked over to Baris' Restaurant where a birthday party for Pam was already underway. We sat next to Brannon Oats, a Houston Randonneur who completed over 10,000 km in brevets last year. We also sat near Edward (1000km) and Pat Nolan (Monkey Club). During the evening we also formerly met Rani and Jorge. Dennis (San Angelo) and Jeremy (son-in-law) came in sometime later.

Sharon Stevens stopped by our motel room later that evening. She had a small gift to celebrate our one year anniversary of randonneuring. She did her first 200k last year at Mineral Wells just like I did. She has gone on to become a Super Randonneur last year and this year. She was excited to tell me that she was doing the 1000 this weekend to celebrate. I was really happy for her.

David and I finished getting everything ready for the next day. I prepared maps for him as he was helping with SAG and then going to help me at the late controls. I was able to get to bed around 11:00 and slept very well. The rooster crowed at 5:15 and I was up at 5:30. I hoped I would be back in bed by 5:30 the next morning, but wasn't sure how the day would progress. It was raining at that moment although the forecast was for 30% chance of scattered thunderstorms. Maybe it would burn off before the 7:00 start.

Breakfast: My new tried and true 500 calorie breakfast: One toaster strudel (warmed in the microwave; I will buy a small toaster for the next ride), two pieces of turkey bacon, one bottle of V-8 and one bottle of chocolate ensure.

6:30: I headed outside. It was still raining - pretty steadily. I decided to use the fenders even though it scares me to do so. I am afraid they will start rubbing the wheel and slow me down. David was putting them on for me and discovered that since I was not using my back rack, my cateye tail lights were in the way of where the back fenders needed to be mounted. Oh well, I just wouldn't worry about it. Surely the rain would burn off and I wouldn't need them anyway.

7:00: The group of near 50 randonneurs took off in the rain. I had on a sleeveless jersey, my PAC tour jacket, PI shorts and my leg warmers. I was also sporting my wool socks (wick pretty good in the rain), shoe covers and shower cap. The shower cap became a very wonderful addition to my wardrobe and I hope to never leave home without it!

To Control 2 Pak & Sak in Lipan (38 miles): I had completed this part of the route a couple times now. So I was fairly familiar with it. 2 miles into the ride I hear a sound that reminds me of baseball cards stuck in bike spokes - not a good sound to hear. I dismount the bike and find that one of my tail lights has slipped down the seat stay and twisted into the spokes. I take the tail light off and hope I can fix it later. At mile 4, I realize I am uncomfortable and need to tighten the tension screw on my saddle - I would repeat this exercise way too many times during this ride. I also pulled off my jacket as it was only drizzling and I was a little too hot.

I was trying to eat at least 200 calories an hour. I did not keep up with what I ate very well, but I know I ate a banana on this leg and probably some apple hammer gel.

During this part of the route I rode some with Hans Rose (son Tim, we rode Cleburne together), and Angela (marathon runner and 200k cyclist). Angela and I agreed to try and do some of the Rockwall perms together later in the year. I reached the Pak & Sak at exactly 10:00 - perfectly on schedule one hour up. I met the wonderful SAG patrol, Sonny and George. They were just fantastic to everyone during this ride. Took care of business and got back on the bike by 10:10- 10:15. Pretty good time.

Control 3 Gabe's Mini Mart, Glen Rose (40.8 miles) This was the longest distance between controls and I was looking forward to getting it done as the controls would come by quicker after this one. I had also been on the biggest portion of this route on last years 200k. Jim Bronson (Thanksgiving perm in Houston), who got a late start, caught up with me and rode a couple miles with me on this stretch. He had on the greatest Texas jersey with a cow on it. I decided after riding with him, I would try to buy that jersey and start a Texas jersey collection. I already have 2. Little did I know that as he sped up (or I slowed down) on a hill, this would be the last time I would ride with anyone for the next 200 miles!

I started noticing that the Texas wildflowers were phenomenal today. Probably a dozen different varieties of black eyed susan, cone flower, thistle, blooming prickly pair, yucca. It was amazing! I don't remember what I ate on this stretch, but it was probably a pb&j, mojo bar and gel. I do know that whatever I was doing was working. I had taken 2 of everything and also had bora bora bars and paydays in my bag. I was also taking one lyte-n-go an hour.

I made it into Glen Rose and again realized I had been there before; although, I don't think I came into it just the same way and I can't remember which ride I was on when I had been there before. I found Sonny at the rest stop. I was still doing good, but pulled it at 1:37 and wanted to be there at 1:30. I was up approximately 1.75 hrs. I grabbed a V-8 and took care of business. I probably stayed a little too long as I don't know when I left. I need to get better at getting in and out of controls.

Control 4 Meridian, (24.5 miles) I mentioned to Sonny that I was looking forward to the next stretch - only 24 miles! He informed me that this would probably be my least favorite stretch. The main road would be busy, hilly and was paved with the worst chip seal ever. Little did I know how right he would be. I started out and was in a really good mood. Chip seal never hurt anyone, right! The sun had finally come out and it was getting hot. I also noticed the head wind more on this stretch than any other time. The wind was not awful, but I could tell I was pressing into it. Before long I was on the worst chip seal I have ever ridden on. It was really large chunks of rock pressed into tar. My average speed dropped dramatically - I was probably only doing 6-8 mph on this particular 12 mile stretch. It also had some long uphill stretches and my speed dropped to 2-4 mph - UGH. I started getting hot and realized I still had on my shower cap, wool socks, and toe covers. I stopped and took them all off and changed into dry socks. Somewhere along this stretch I started singing some song that I can't figure out, but the words I kept singing were "I'm over my head, I'm over my heeaaad, nananana". Probably not a good song to sing on a 400 k brevet. It is weird what goes through your head on these long rides.

I finally got off the worst of the chip seal in Walnut Springs. This was a really neat little town. The chip seal and wind were still around, but the chip seal wasn't as rough. It was about mile 90 when I realized my knee and saddle were bothering me. I tightened the tension screw again and kept pedaling.

After what seemed like forever, I rolled into Meridian and met George at the Exxon at 4:40. I went from being 10 minutes behind schedule to being 1hr 10 minutes behind schedule on a 24 mile route! That chip seal sucked! I was still up approximately 1 hr 25 minutes on the closing time, but definitely was not putting time in the bank like I should. 10:00 am Sunday really seemed like a long time away, so I was not panicking, but maybe I should have. I bought a v-8, vitamin water, and lunchables and casually ate while talking to George. I should not have spent this much time at the control, but I hadn't eaten anything real, so I thought I should rest a bit. It was probably 5:15 when I left Meridian. George and I looked at the clouds before I left. I told him I was hoping to stay behind the rain. It looked pretty clear towards the south(right) where I was heading, but was pretty ugly on my left (north?). I thought the weather was moving toward the left, so I wasn't concerned. Off towards Hico!

Control 5 Ranglers Store, Hico (36 miles) UGh, there was a big mountain at Meridian State Park that I had to climb out of right off the bat. Soon I found out I was wrong about the weather, too. It was moving left to right and the rain started falling and falling hard! I did not want to stop to put my rain gear on. It only took seconds and my feet were soaked anyway. I did grab the shower cap as I could put it on while riding. That was probably my best move of the day. Even with the rain this stretch would be my absolute favorite and ranks up on the all time best scenery list with California and Maine. The wild flowers were in huge abundance on this stretch and I was absolutely stunned at the beauty. I started thanking God for putting me where I was. I really am lucky that I can participate in this sport that can be so selfish since you do have to have alot of time to complete it. I am really seeing how wonderful our world is and I am blessed to be able to witness Gods glory. It is really raining hard now and I am really behind schedule. I stop at a store in Crandalls Gap and try to call David. I use the bathroom and put on my rain gear and night riding stuff. I waste way too much time at this unscheduled stop. I tell David to meet me at Hico instead of Dublin as I will probably be 2 hours behind my schedule when I get to Hico.

The next 20 miles were my absolute favorite. Not long after I got back on the road I noticed the biggest most colorful rainbow I had ever seen in my life. It was spectacular. It stretched from one side of the horizon to the other. It was perfect. I was really reflecting on that rainbow for the rest of the ride. Along the way an older gentleman was sitting on his porch and waved at me and yelled out that I was welcome to come inside and dry off. I declined, but was impressed with the hospitality.

When I finally got to Hico, I could see David and Sonny in the parking lot. I was glad to see David. I rolled in at 8:43 - 1 hr and 45 minutes behind my schedule but still up 1 hr and 15 min overall. I got a ham and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, but I was choking on it. I apparently don't do well with crust or whole wheat bread on brevets. I ate half of it, grabbed a banana and a v-8 instead. I asked David to see if he could find any duct tape by the next control to see if we could fix the rattle on my Ixon. I probably stayed at this control at least 30 minutes. I really need to work on my control times.

Control 6 Dublin (35.3 miles) It was definitely dark when I left Hico. And I just couldn't get my act together. I rolled out of the parking lot and realized I had forgotten to put my glow gloves on and wanted to tighten down the Ixon as much as possible. The rattle was driving my crazy and the vibration made the light virtually useless. I stopped on the side of the road at the corner of the control and started making the adjustments. David pulled up and had the tape. Until just now writing this down, I did not realize that I may have been disqualified right there. Note to self: make sure I don't leave the parking lot until all my stuff is adjusted properly. I finally took off and travelled down the road.

Somewhere on this stretch, I almost crashed. I was cycling along and I may have been looking down at my chain or something and just noticed a plastic coke bottle. I hit it and rolled over the neck of it or something, but I lost control of the bike for a minute and swerved out of control for a couple seconds. How I did not go down, I do not know.

I stopped to pee a couple times on this stretch. This was the first time I had gone in the bushes - I had made it to the controls or to other stores on the route to this point. I continued to eat whatever I had in my bag.

I rolled into Dublin at 11:20 - 2 hours and 20 minutes off my intended pace :(, but still up 1 hour. As I drove up to the control, I saw another cyclist! Yeah, I was going to have someone to ride in with! Unfortunately, that was wrong as Hans was sick and sagging home. The control was closed and I had to pee again and wanted to change clothes. I went behind the store like a homeless person and changed my sports bra and jersey. I traded the jacket for arm warmers and my vest and put on my leg warmers. I tried to eat some pasta salad, but it needed salt, which I had left in the motel. I drank a v-8 and ate a banana instead. I have no idea when I left the control, but I know I stayed too long...

Control 7 Bar B Travel (28 miles) Leaving out of Dublin, I got confused right out of the starting gate. I thought we were supposed to make 3 quick left turns - in all actuality it was only 2. I wasted a good 10-15 minutes figuring this out. A cop stopped to tell me I looked like a UFO. Good, at least I knew I was being seen! He confirmed I was on the right road and away I went!

Somewhere around here, my knee really starts hurting bad. I try to pedal differently to see if it takes any of the pressure off. Sometimes I have to grit my teeth through the pain and at other times, the pain subsides. I remember reading something recently where Lon Haldeman said to keep going if the injury would heal in two weeks. Lets hope that my knee will feel better in two weeks...

This stretch was also a good stretch. I did not know until I rolled into the control, but I had been on this stretch before on the Weatherford 200k. Night riding really became enjoyable at this point. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness/bike lighting. The night noises were entertaining. The cattle were lowing - really lowing. This is not a sound you hear them make in the daytime. Birds (bats?) were up "tweeting". You could hear the occasional owl as well. "Away in a Manger" replaced whatever the other song was in my head...

I rolled into the Bar B at 3:10 am. I am now 2 hours and 45 min off my intended time and only up 1 hour. David was asleep in the car. I hated waking him, but...
I get a V-8 and PB&J, but I don't feel like eating much and ask David to let me take a 15 minute nap. I KNOW I took too much time at this stop and probably leave only up by 15 minutes.

Control 8 Whataburger (32.5 miles) The first 20 miles of this stretch was enjoyable and I remembered it from the Weatherford 200k. I got up and over Apple Pie Hill without much of a problem. I stopped and peed and was eating stuff out of my bag. Somewhere in here I started getting a really awful taste in my mouth. I don't know what it was and it did not matter what I ate the taste lingered on my tongue. The roads were in good shape all night long. The chip seal was not a problem and the roads were painted with good reflective paint and the little square reflectors. I rode primarily right down the left side of the lane unless I saw car headlights.

I turned onto Hwy 180 with 11 miles to go to the control. I really struggled to stay awake. It was near 5 or 5:30 by now. I had been awake a full 24 hours and I could feel it. For the most part, my speed was okay, but I was fighting staying awake. I was talking to myself out loud, slapping my face and pulling my hair trying not to fall asleep. The next thing I know is that I feel myself swerve. Apparently, I had fallen asleep and jerked awake at the last moment. Somehow, I do not crash, but keep going. Finally as the sun starts rising, I turn onto Hwy 16 - 2 more miles until the control!

I roll in to the control at 6:40 - 3 hrs and 40 minutes behind my goal, but still up 35 minutes. Bill Fox is there with David and they both try to hurry me up. I did sit down and drink a Rock Star and eat a pb&j. I grab a banana for the road. David takes my front lights off the bike to lighten it a bit (ha). I am on the road at 7:00. I have 3 hours to do 32.5 miles. I can so do this!!

Control 9 Executive Inn (32.5 miles) I am full of a new alertness. I do not feel tired at all nor do I feel any body aches except my knee. It has started throbbing and I try to rest my leg on the pedals and only use my right leg, but this isn't working. I take a few more Aleve and keep going. I am probably averaging at least 15 mph on the first part of this route. I get up and over Crazy Lady Hill past the Brazos river. I love switchbacks! I stop to pee and get back on the bike again. Within a minute, I feel something funny - my back tire has gone flat! Oh crap! I lean the bike against a barbed wire fence and decide to just try and pump the tire up - maybe it was just a slow leak - I had been riding it for 24 hours, ya know. I took the pump off the bike and connected it to the valve and pushed. All of a sudden a large squirt of water shot out of the pump or the tire or who the 'ell knows? I was too tired to care. Not really knowing the best course of action, I decided to go ahead and change the tire. I looked at the tire itself before pulling the tube out and thought I saw a new gash. I was able to find a small thorn on the inside of the tire. I pulled it out and proceeded with the changing. I probably did alot of stuff inefficiently at this point. Finally, I got the tire fixed and aired up and went to put it back on the bike. At this point I realize that somehow I have gotten a long length of barbed wire tangled around my bike. How did this happen? Was it like a snake, intertwining itself around the spokes and pedals? Was the fence taking my bike hostage? All I knew was that the barbs were sharp and it was costing me time and energy. I finally got my bike free and was back on the road. I don't remember the exact time, but I do remember I was about 15 miles from the finish with a little over an hour to get it done. If I time trialed it, I could still finish in time. Little did I know what was coming up.

I made the turn on the 2nd to last road SR337. I had been pushing as hard as I could. My energy was waning after the long tire changing stop. My knee was screaming. It hurt more than child birth at this point, but I just tried to push it out of my mind. Unfortunately, the turn onto 377 was into the wind. It wasn't horrible, but it was definately going to hurt my time trialling fast speed. Somewhere in here I noticed, I had 45 minutes to finish 11 miles. Could I do it? As I watch the speedometer drop from 17 mph to 15 to 10 mph, I really start to panic. I top the crest of a small hill and disappointment spreads all over my body. It is the first of the 3 Amigos.

The Lonestar Randos name their hills - all of them! I had ridden Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Crazy Lady, Dinosaur and I know I am leaving several more named hills out. I had heard of the 3 Amigos, but thought I had already conquered them. I thought they were before the Brazos. And it wasn't until later that I realized that it was the 3 Amigos that were staring me down daring me to cross over them.

I really struggle on the 1st Amigo. I knew if I stayed on the bike I could probably go 2 mph more than if I walked, so I kept heading up the #$%^ hill. I haven't really started cussing it, but I should have. I just did not have the energy anymore. I was so hoping that it would be all down hill after cresting this one. As I pull up and over the top, all I see was another @#$^$#$# hill - no, it was a freeking mountain. Maybe I was seeing things, maybe I was halucenating! It wasn't long before my legs and knee told me it was not a halucenation, but it was actually a living nightmare. At one point on one of these two hills, I notice my watch and realize I have gone 250 miles and it was 9:53 am. I had unoffically ridden a 400k. I just had 7 more miles to go and 7 more minutes to do it in (time trial my a$$). Okay, one more time, maybe just maybe it would all be down hill from there. I crest Amigo #2 and see the 3rd %$&%&% Amigo. My spirit is officially crushed. I haven't started crying, but I knew I was done. My knee hurt, my pride hurt, my butt hurt, I was tired. It is past 10:00 now and I can't do it anymore. I don't care if I walk 2 mph slower than I can pedal up hill, I can't crank it one more turn. My cell phone had died some hour ago or I would have already called David to come pick me up. I trudge up the hill wondering if I will ever make it to the top. Soon, I see a familiar truck - it is Bill Fox, coming to rescue me. He said he was afraid I would be here. He asked if I wanted to ride on in or get a lift. I took the lift without question. He ferried me to the motel and disappointed faces met me. I knew I should be proud of my accomplishment, but I was still disappointed. I tried to stay positive - I did ride 252.4 miles! I thanked Bill for his help and he gave me some advice (don't stay at the controls so long hahahahaha). I hugged and kissed David and then I went on into the motel room and fell asleep at the end of the bed. I did not even change clothes.

RECAP - I am proud of my accomplishment. There is more to randonneuring than the $10 medal and the mileage points! There were a lot of "what if this hadn't happened". I got close. I am better than I was last year and I can complete a 400 in the future.

The Good:
1. I stayed positive the whole ride and never went mental
2. I ate the right food and never bonked
3. With the exception of the knee, I did not hurt anywhere
4. With the exception of the knee, I recovered remarkably fast
5. I only slept a total of 2 hours Sunday afternoon and was up and awake the rest of the day
6. I realized how many people were pulling for me - this is remarkable!
7. My husband is wonderful - I already knew this, but I just wanted to list it anyway!

Could use improvement:
1. Speed - I am a Slow Spoke for a reason - need to start more intervals
2. Control times - must get shorter. I need to plan them better
3. No unneccesary stops. The time at Crandalls Gap may have been all I needed to have finished. 4. Practice taking time off of changing a tire

Well, as I am writing this, I know that as long as my knee allows it, I plan on attempting the 600 k in Florida in July. Here is hoping for tail winds in all directions, cool weather, good lights and strong tires!