Monday, June 11, 2007

Biking with Mike

Since I couldn’t get to sleep tonight I though I would write about the first 600k brevet of 2007 sponsored on June 2 and 3 by the Seattle International Randonneurs. I rode most of the way with Mike, who always gives me a run for the money. I am not exactly sure what run for the money means, I suppose it has to do with horse racing, but one thing is for sure, my legs hurt real bad the next couple of days.

I had hoped for enough recovery to ride the OR Randonneurs 600km brevet on June 9, and even though my head said yes, my legs offered a counter and prevailing opinion. My goal for the year is to build stamina and enough speed to ride 18 to 24 hour days through PBP without major hassles due to saddle sores, wrecked Achilles tendons, or the various assorted complaints and injuries that are likely to befall a lone American Randonneur in France.

So my training routine is to push hard on the event brevets, recover by rebuilding miles starting with easy spinning miles and working up to difficult hill climbing over the course of three or four days. Then rest for two days and repeat. That’s the theory anyway. Generally it has worked pretty good except things like work, home chores, family and golden retrievers often compete for the limited training time. It is great to have a weekend off every month or two.

So back to the SIR 600k. We started in Seattle and rode south and east to the southeast entrance to Rainier National Park. We turned south and rode through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on Skate Creek road to Packwood. It is a pretty easy 200k and easy enough to expend a fair quantity of excess energy without too much trouble.

Super Biker Man

At Packwood the course turned west into the prevailing winds for about 40 miles. This is where Mike and me got into a little trouble. We shared the wind breaking chores switching lead every mile. We managed to maintain a relatively good pace with about four minutes of hard work splitting the wind alternating with four to eight minutes of reduced work following the lead rider’s wheel. A team of four or five riders would have very helpful but it was mostly Mike and me except for a short leg with Shane and the Randle to Morton section that we rode with Don. The route turns hilly at Randle with long but gentle climbs. Hills are death for line riding so Randle to Morton was a bit easier as we switched to hill grinding mode.

I noticed twinges of leg cramps beginning as we left Packwood. The twinges got progressively worse until about one mile from Morton when one leg seized and then the other. Out from the foggy recesses of my unwrinkled brain, the memories started to return. It is a matter of some suspense waiting to see if the bike stops before the acute leg cramps ease up. With both legs seized, putting a leg down to stop on is theoretically impossible. But I did remember to extract my shoes from the pedals before the really bad seizures began. My egg beater pedals are really easy to get out of. I walked my bike for a short while until my head stopped spinning and my legs started moving normally. I guess it is better to stop and rest a little bit than risk the leg cramps because severe leg cramps can damage muscles and leave your legs sore for days. That would be me on the Seattle 600k.

Amazingly enough Mike also had a problem at the same time only Mike ran out of energy. We were a sorry lot. We spent about 90 minutes in Morton. I was experiencing cramps in most every muscle from the thumbs to my toes and Mike was finding it impossible to eat. I ate enough to for both of us. Finally we set off for the next leg with 10 more miles of headwind before turning North to Centralia and the next control. The road to Centralia had a few hills and rollers which made things interesting. I found that spinning easy gears and cramping legs are mutually exclusive as spinning promoted cramping. So the most comfortable thing was to use moderate pedal pressure climbing the hills at a rate where my legs would not cramp. The leg cramps were a form of bio feedback for the amount of pressure to put on the pedals. The thing that probably saved me from continuing the acute cramping is the sun went down the temperature along with it.

Mike’s inability to eat anything started to work against him in the hills. Mike was able to drink part of an Ensure and he started to pickup on the way into Centralia. We played tag with several other riders on the way into Centralia. We stopped at a 7-11 at about eleven ‘o clock and spent an hour eating cup of soups and drinking various liquid solutions of one sort or another. Convenience stores in large or mid-sized urban areas are scary places late at night.

So Mike picked up after the 7-11 and the cup of soup and the rest and so did I. We rode pretty hard to the overnight control at Elma arriving around 1:45 a.m. The control was very well staffed and organized. I put my bike in the bike room, one of the conference rooms at the motel, ate a little bit of rice and chicken gumbo, got a bed, took a shower and rested until 03:10 a.m. when I packed up and made my way back to the bike room. The bike room was dark and Mike was sleeping next to my bike so I tried to wheel my noisy bike out and let Mike sleep a few more minutes but Mike was up by the time I got to the hall way. We left the control at about 03:45 after getting organized, eating and drinking and fussing and working our way through the randonneur haze.

We started out pretty slow as our speed was only about 14 mph for the first several hours. At Potlatch the road turns northeast and follows SR 206 for 20 miles along Hood Canal to Belfair. Our speed increased to about 16 mph. At Belfair the route turns and follows Hood Canal southwest along the opposite side of the canal. The road is a big roller coaster, a warm up for Tahuya Hills. The SIR control at Kay’s corner was fantastic, again staffed with SIR members helping create a fantastic brevet. We ate fresh sandwiches made to order by the SIR staff and set out for the last 80 miles still hoping to beat the heat.

The Tahuya Hills, the section between Kay’s Corner and the Seabeck Holly road, are not so bad. There are only a few sections with grades much over 6 percent. There were a couple short sections with grades over 12 percent. The hard part is Anderson Hill and the various hills between Port Gamble and the Clearwater Casino near Agate bay.

Keeping up with Mike was a full effort from Port Gamble to the finish. I am not sure when my legs suffered the most. I didn’t notice it so much until after the ride and especially the next day. Maybe I need to save a couple or three Boost for after the ride. The SIR folks always have pizza and generous goodies for after the ride. I think I found the overload mark on this brevet but it would be better to plan the hard core overloads where there are two or three weeks to recover and rebuild.