Monday, July 9, 2007

New Orleans 200 k (Birthday Bash Brevet)

I have been looking forward to this brevet for a while. Earlier in the year Dianne agreed to travel down to New Orleans with me for it. After her more difficult 200k in Franklinton, LA, I did not know if I would ever be able to get her to do another one. Since this one fell on her birthday and I guaranteed her that it was flat, she decided to try it again. What made this brevet really special was that not only was it Dianne's birthday, but it was Pat's too.

I intended on starting to train with Dianne the first weekend in June. She had some good base mileage, but needed to start ramping up. Unfortunately, we hit a snag in that my knee was out of commission because of the Mineral Wells 400k. Dianne and I were not able to ride together during the month of June except for a short 12 mile ride on the Trace my first day back on the bike for rehab. Dianne rode some with the group and purposefully got some bonus miles by herself on those rides. I was able to do rides in Arkansas and Long Leaf before the 200k.

Friday night before the ride, I went to pick up some birthday surprises. I had pin wheels for every one's bike and flashing spoke decorations for Dianne and Pat birthday present.

Saturday morning I went by Dianne's house to pick her up. We had not yet decided if we were going to do Pat's bonus miles or if we were just going to stick with the 200k. If we left with Pat from his house, we would end up doing close to 150 miles whereas if we drove to the ride start, we would only have 130 miles. I worried about Dianne doing 150 miles since her longest ride of the year so far was only 80 miles.

The drive went by very fast and we arrived at Pat's by 10:30. The weather was not too bad at the time. It was hot, but a storm was brewing and made the temperatures seem comfortable. On a whim, we decided to do the bonus miles. I hope we would not regret this later. In order to arrive at the ride start by 2:00, Pat wanted to leave at 12:30. Dennis had come in sometime near 12:00 and we were all getting our stuff together to leave. I was really glad we had gotten in as early as we did as we did not have to rush to get our bikes together. I ate a PB&J and some of Pat's famous piggies (cocktail sausage wrapped in biscuit dough) and an Ensure. I was not sure how good of a pre-ride meal this was going to be, but it was good at the time.

I decide to let Millicent the Magnificent ride on the back of the rack today. Normally she sits comfortably in the front pouch of my bike bag, but today I thought she might like a different view. This was Millie's first ride in Louisiana and I know that she was going to have fun. Tomorrow, we had big plans for her to go to the French Quarter and eat Muffalettas and benets and hang out at Burbon Street.

At 12:25, large rain drops started falling and it started thundering and lightening. I am pretty lucky as I have well over 300 miles of rain riding experience, but I have never been caught in a complete scary down pour. Dianne, Dennis, Pat and I huddle in his garage waiting to see if the rain lets up. I decide to put on my toe covers, front fender and shower cap. Since I dried out so well in the Texas rain, I decided not to bring a change of dry clothes - just socks. This ends up being a bad decision as the high humidity keeps my clothes from drying out after the rain stops. The rain does let up some, so at 12:45 we head towards the levy and Audubon Park. Millie immediately lets me know she is on the ride. I have never heard her be so vocal. At first I thought she was happy then I thought she may be upset about being in the rain. She chatters almost non stop. About 7 miles or so into the ride, the rain stops abruptly. You can see the rain line on the pavement. Millie is still chattering. It did not take long to decide that she was unhappy with her view. Maybe she is like me and just can not face backwards or maybe she was upset knowing we were headed for the zoo, but she let me know she was not a happy monkey all the way into Audubon Park.

At Audubon Park, we met Steve (did not get his last name), an architech, on his first official brevet. While waiting for the official 2:00 ride start, I moved Millie back to her pouch on the bike bag. She seemed much happier at this point.

We started the official part of the brevet at 2:00 on the dot. This is a first for any brevets that I have done with Pat. On one occasion, the late start was my fault, but we don't have to discuss that on this blog! Not far into the ride, Steve notices that I am on an IF. I immediately know that I am going to like him. We discuss custom bikes, components and trips on and off for the whole ride.

I don't remember when it started raining again, I think it was somewhere around the bathrooms on the levy. We stopped at the bathrooms and again at the gas station on River Road. If we were doing a harder brevet, we would not have needed to have stopped twice before the first control for time reasons. Since this is a casual brevet ridden in the audux style, we all stay together and stop when someone needs to stop. It really is fun, but if we were doing a 400 or 600k the extra time on the stops would eventually add up to major time. The rain continues for a couple hours. Nothing bad. We are getting a few honks - all happy - but not as many as the 300 k last year.

The ride to the first and second controls are really uneventful. I am guessing we have a tail wind as we are cruising pretty fast. We probably only averaged 14 mph on the levy and River Road, but from La Place to Ponchatula, we really pick up speed. We end up averaging 15.3 mph at the turn around. We are about 2 hours up when we reach Ponchatula and head for the McDonald's. I had purchased candles that read "52" since not only was it both Dianne's and Pats birthdays, it was also both of their 52nd birthday. They both seemed to get a kick out of the candles. I let them know that they would get to carry the candles home as I did not need the extra weight on the way back! I ate a $1 double cheeseburger plain with a small fry. I really enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Dianne bought two - one for the end of the ride. She really was smarter than me here! I must remember this for next time.

We left Ponchatula close to 6:30, I think. This was a little later than we would have liked as Dennis and Pat like to leave in time to cross the Manchac bridge before night fall. We probably would have made it except....

This route has 3 sets of nasty railroad tracks that cross the road at weird angles. On the way out of Ponchatula, we crossed one of these tracks that was much rougher on the return side. Pat went over it first followed by Dianne and then me. I hit the tracks at a very uneven spot. Millie lept from the bike bag as I hit the tracks. I grabbed her and immediately noticed my front wheel had flatted. Steve and Dianne both commented that it was weird that I flatted on the front tire. Dennis observed that I had flatted on the back. I started to correct him when I turned and noticed that the back tire was flat too!!! I could not believe that I had two simultaneous flats! Well dusk was approaching and we acted like we were part of a NASCAR pit crew! We changed both tires in 15-20 minutes all working as a well oiled machine!

We continued the ride very uneventfully after this. I am sure I drove everyone crazy though as every few minutes I said "I can't believe I flatted simultaneously"! We were still cycling strong through La Place all the way to the levy. As I was not wearing my helmet light, I could not tell what our average had been. According to Pat and Dianne, we were still averaging 15 when we hit the levy. Obviously we slowed down considerably as we only ended up averaging 13.5 overall for the return trip. We completed the official ride in 11 hrs and 12 minutes. Had we not had the simultaneous flat, we would have beaten our time from last year. Once back in Audubon Park, we were going to leave Steve, but he lamented that he was the only one without bonus miles and rode the 10 miles back on the levy towards Pat's house. We made it in sometime near 2:00 am. What a great ride!