Cowichan Lake 200K…

10 04 2011

One member of an infestation...

You might be wondering why this post does not start with a gratuitous rando bike porn shot? Let me assure you I wish it did! The start of the BC Randonneurs Tour of the Cowichan Valley 200K was in lovely Chemainus BC a little over an hour from Victoria. Aaron and I decided to drive up the night before so our morning wouldn’t start so hellishly early and so that any problems getting to the start could be resolved the night before. I was going to book a room at the Best Western, but my cheap side kicked in and I ended up booking a room at the Fuller Lake Motel for about 50% of the cost. My rationale was that we’d hardly even use the room as we were getting up at 5am so why spend the big $$ on a hotel room? I started to get a bad feeling when the BC Randonneurs Eau de Hell Week website noted that the Fuller Lake Motel was very budget.

The trip to Chemainus was uneventful [one of the few things this trip that was!]. The motel looked fine if somewhat old fashioned. Aaron and I got our stuff to the room and cracked a couple carbo loading beers. We chatted a bit about the next day’s ride. Sadly that’s when Aaron asked me – “What do we do if it’s pouring rain in the AM?” If I knew Aaron for longer and if this wasn’t his first brevet I would have told him the truth – “You are going to fake an ruptured appendix and I’ll rush you to a hospital [aka the hot tub at the Best Western!”. Instead I lied and said – “We’ll we’ve come all this way we should just start and see what happens.” Typically divine retribution for one’s sins is not so immediate, but that’s right around the time we noticed giant flies crawling out of the cracks, from under the spare blanket, etc… Not a couple mind you – a veritable swarm. I grabbed the only hard cover book in the room and went to work using my hard earned fly slaying skills I’ve honed on trips to Mexico and India. I got a bit concerned when a full on whack against a hard surface with the New Testament did not kill these flies. It often took a few hard hits to finish them off – not good. I managed to fit in a couple rest breaks to sip beer, but each time a new horde would emerge! Aaron started to wonder what was behind the closed curtains. Before he could open them I screamed at him – “For the love of God don’t open them!” – fearing an onslaught of biblical proportions…=-) Eventually we whittled down the flies to solo scouting incursions and we decided we best get some rest.

Getting signed in at the start...

My 5am alarm came far too early. If I ever organize a brevet and the rules allow it the start will be at 10am and will take place at a restaurant will a lovely all you can eat breakfast buffet. I’d rather sleep in and end up with a bit of night riding on a 200K than get up uber early and finish in the daylight. As you can imagine we got the hell out of the Fuller Lake Motel as fast as we could. Note to self stay at the Best Western next time! We parked the truck in Chemainus and rode to the start just as the Dancing Bean Cafe opened. I got my cue sheet and control card quickly then settled into the serious task of breakfast and tea drinking. The food, drink and service was excellent at the Dancing Bean Cafe – highly recommended should you find yourself in Chemainus.

The Dancing Bean rando party...

There were over 30 riders signed up for this event so the start was quite lively with cool bikes leaning against every available surface and all manner of cycling apparel on display. One of my favourite parts of a brevet is geeking out on other people’s bikes. Although it’s easy to get locked into a specific idea for what makes a great randonneur bike clearly lots of people are successful on many very different bikes.

Guido and his lovely Kogswell PR...

I met Guido outside the cafe and we chatted about 650B bikes. He was trying out the Pari-Moto 650B event tires I was interested in and I am looking forward to hearing from him what he thought of them. He rides a sweet 2nd generation Kogswell PR so I hooked him up with Aaron who is thinking of building a 650B rando rig based on a Kogswell PR frame.

Getting ready to rumble...

Eventually the appointed hour arrived and we rolled out a minute or two behind the main group. The first part of the ride was quite pretty with a number of PBP-style rollers. It was fun bombing down one side and getting most of the way up the next one before pedaling over the top and repeating the process. I had no problem riding low on my drops and over taking folks on the downhills. I want to attribute that to my bike’s fast rolling tires and my tight aero tuck, but it is just possible that it was due to the all you can eat Greek buffet we hit on the drive up to Chemainus the night before…=-) There was more funky riding at the start as we watched more than one group of 4 riders block a whole lane chatting obliviously with cars behind them trying to pass. I’m all for cyclists’ right to use the road, but that’s gotta involve consideration for cars and peds. Eventually we got to the middle of the ride and hung with a few groups that were going our speed. As I have said before I’m stoked to ride brevets in BC because they aren’t solo TTs!

Even with the climbing our avg speed on the first 50kms was close to 25kph so we ate up the distance fast and were happy to see the first control so we could use the bathroom and adjust gear that is never quite right off the start. Chatting with organizers of the previous weekend’s 200K I mentioned that my fitness wasn’t great and that I’d have to work on not being lantern rouge [last rider]. I was to regret those words later!

Aaron enjoying a few minutes off the bike at the first control...

I was a bit concerned we might be going out too hard so I kept a close eye on my effort levels and everything seemed quite moderate so I figured we might as well take advantage of the good form while we had it. Refreshed we hit the road again and continued to pedal well. The forecast was similar to the previous weekend’s 200K so I scanned the sky occasionally to see if the rain was about to fall. I hoped we could at least get to 100kms before the rain started. Mentally everything is easier to deal with after halfway in a ride. So far so good. The sky was overcast, but it wasn’t looking evil at this point. Happily my GPS was working well and the routing had been perfect so far. I still overshot one turn by 20m as I confirmed the directions, but we were back on course with only a couple seconds lost. Since Aaron hadn’t ridden this distance before I warned him that the 3rd  50km section was going to be the hard one and that once at the last control we’d have no problems blasting home with the smell of hot food and beer on the wind. I was to later regret how accurate these words were!

RIP my lovely Marmot glove - thanks for saving my skin!

The roads we were on were quite nice with low traffic and although they were rolling there had only been two steep sustained climbs so far and only one of them was really hard. One problem in sections of the route was broken rough pavement. Sadly at around 70kms I found my front tire in a 1.5″ deep rut and although I tried to get it out I ended up on the pavement at ~27kph. I scanned for body and bike damage quickly and after banging my left brake lever back into position I was back pedaling away. I was probably in a bit of shock as the riders who were less than 1 minute behind us didn’t have time to totally close the gap. As I rode I reinstalled my rearview mirror which had popped of, but didn’t break – sweet. I examined my body and bike a bit more as I rode and the damage seemed limited to a torn glove, slightly sore elbow and some grinding damage to my brake lever, left pedal, rear QR and rear fender. I was very happy that my expensive Ibex wool clothing and my favourite out of production MEC wool jersey seemed unscathed despited landing on them and sliding.

Brake lever grindage!

After a bit more riding we stopped to pee and refuel. I noticed that my rear fender and brake needed readjusting. The left brake had scored the tire’s casing slightly. Not fatally damaging it, but I’ll pull that tire to carry as a spare and put the spare I’ve got in my bar bag on the bike. I also started to have a mystery bonk about this time. I say mystery because I was eating lots and drinking well so far. I had food from every food group so there was not likely some critical deficiency. The last 10kms to the 2nd control took me a while and were quite painful. I managed to go 1km off route for a total of 2 bonus kms even though my GPS and cue sheet were accurate – LMAO – deep in the bonk I was lucky to figure it out that soon!

Aaron leaving the 2nd control...

Eventually we rolled into the 2nd control and I did what I thought was the smart thing – I sat down and ate a little bit of everything I had with me and some of the control food for good measure. I drank 3/4 of a water bottle and rested a few extra minutes to recover. This should have worked for a typical bonk. I realized shortly after leaving the control that things had not improved much. As we headed down the out and back section to the 3rd control I got slower and slower. More to the point I could barely climb a hill – any hill. *sigh* I kept pedaling, but as I was being passed from behind by everyone who we had passed earlier in the day and then passed the other way by the uber fast rando who were several hours faster than us it was hard to take. I’ll be the first to admit I have a healthy ego. I keep it in check with modest goals – such as being middle of the pack. But, c’mon throw me a bone here it was looking like a DNF was in my future. One one steepish climb I had to stop twice to rest. *sigh* I kept drinking and eating hoping to miraculously recover, but I had been deep in the bonk for a couple hours so I figured that was that. I had a 200K completed this year so I started to plan on giving Aaron my GPS and letting him ride to the 3rd control alone while I either limped straight back to Chemainus or took a nap in the woods! The only thing stopping me was the fact I had never DNF’d a brevet and while it was bound to happen someday I did relish the idea of today being that day.

My Rando Burger...

After what seemed like an eternity we got to Cowichan Lake and I told Aaron I needed to stop. We rolled into a restaurant and since doing the smart thing [eating and drinking lightly] hadn’t improved my bonk I decided it was time for drastic action. So I ordered a Rando Recovery Burger and Fries. I took off my bike shoes and washed up in the bathroom. We could see everyone else in the ride bomb past us to the last control and then come back on their way to the finish. I didn’t care. Being second last wasn’t going to matter much so I might as well be dead last and get the Lantern Rouge merit badge. We had stopped for about 40mins and it was getting cold and threatening to rain as we mounted the bikes for the run to the next control.

Pedal chewage...

I knew that the first significant [to me] climb was going to tell the tale of DNF or Lantern Rouge. Happily I felt okay if still weak on the first climb. We as rolled along a few scattered rain drops fell, but nothing I’d call rain. Thank God. I was feeling better, but I’m not sure my morale could have survived a freezing cold deluge in its fragile state. Eventually we got to the last control and were greeted by friendly faces. I suspect they were going to pack up and start looking in the ditches along the route since we went MIA for a long time between controls.

The Tres Amigos de Lantern Rouge...

There was an Alberta rider, Al, at the control so we rode back in together. My form improved back to where it should be and I saw speed of 25kph+ on the bike computer again. Happiness does not describe it!…=-) Especially since the route back to the main highway was filled with the same PBP-style rollers. They are fun when you are a at a reasonable energy level, but they are hard to take during the bonk because they seem like endless punishment. As predicted the last 50kms home went smoothly. The near-rain came back a couple times, but it never actually rained on us. Thank the Rando Gods! My GPS had a couple satellite reception issues on the last few KMs, but after a flawless day to that point I was willing to overlook a minor glitch on a part of the route I was familiar with. We rolled up to the Dancing Bean Cafe and were happy to learn they served beer!

Some of the fine brevet staff - thanks for a great event!

Ride Stats:

  • avg speed on bike 22.6kph
  • total KMs ridden = 207.5kms
  • total ride time = 11:28hrs
  • time off bike = 2:22hrs
  • number of crashes = 1
  • number of times I wanted to throw GPS in ditch = 0
  • number of times I wanted to crawl into the woods and nap = 4

Fender scrapage...

The bad:

  • don’t stay at the fly motel next time!
  • don’t crash!
  • don’t bonk!
  • SA saddle sag syndrome continues [2 hits of the 6mm hex key req’d this ride]

Photo: Martin Williams...

The Good:

  • great route with beautiful scenery
  • it didn’t rain
  • in fact the sun came out several times!
  • bike worked well and was comfortable
  • rode a strong first 100K
  • well run controls at nice spots
  • fun to ride with lots of other randos
  • didn’t DNF
  • learned there is a ton of time to overcome from a problem and still finish successfully
  • Aaron was fun to ride with and put in a great effort – congrats on your first brevet!
  • no serious damage to bike or body after crash
  • beer served at finish

Elevation Profile in green - click on image for full size...

Lessons Learned

I learned something very important on this ride and that is to keep rolling no matter what. In the depths of my bonk despair I felt so bad and was so confused I figured I couldn’t finish the ride. As it was even with bonk and long rest breaks we had an extra 2hrs we didn’t use. I also learned that when the typical things aren’t working try something out of the box – like eating a burger and fries. When things are grim what do you have to lose?

Speaking of bonk folks have put forward a number of theories regarding why I would bonk when eating and drinking adequately. The two most plausible theories were that after crash my body produced a lot of adrenalin [hence jumping back on the bike and rolling away 30 seconds later] and that when that wears off there is some sort of post-adrenalin crash. The other theory was an electrolyte problem and that I didn’t eat the correct foods to resolve it. There is no real way to tell for sure and I don’t plan on crashing again to test out the theory!…=-) I do have some electrolyte pills I’ll start taking at every control to see if they help.

This was my first crash on a road bike ever. Given the many years of riding and thousands of KMs I’ve ridden I don’t think there is anything to learn from this other than occasionally shit happens. I’ll have to buy myself a new pair of gloves, but my head didn’t touch the ground so my helmet is in perfect condition.

I also learned that it’s smart for the older weaker rider to have both the GPS and the cue sheet. That way any stronger companions are less likely to leave them! Hahaha…I’m only partially joking…=-)


The route - click on image for full size...

Up Next

  • check bike over carefully to ensure there isn’t any other crash damage
  • swap in new spare tire
  • put fresh batteries in rear light
  • volunteer at the Eau de Hell Week 400K
  • ride parts of Hills are Alive 300K route close to Victoria for some training KMs
  • do some hill climbing at the observatory
  • my next ride is the Lower Mainland 300K on 30 Apr.

Photo: BC Rando Eau de Hell Week site...

The photo above is from the BC Randonneurs Eau de Hell Week page – probably taken by Martin Williams, but I’m not 100% about that. It shows the hardy randos that took off this AM in a persistent all day rain for a 300K the day after they finished the 200K I am posting about. Yes – not only did they ride the 200K they are following that up with a 300K, 400K and 600K – totally hardcore! I’ll be volunteering for the 400K on Tuesday setting up a control somewhere on the route and greeting the brave randos that are qualifying for PBP in one week. A couple people asked me if I was riding today’s 300K – I assume just to be nice since there couldn’t be a whole lot of doubt in anyone’s mind that I was well and truly knackered! If I can start 2012 with better preparation I’ve had a crazy idea that I might ride the 200K, volunteer on the 300K and then ride the 400K. Two brevets in one week would be pretty rocking in my books…=-)

Good luck to everyone volunteering and riding Eau de Hell Week – it will be a marathon effort for everyone, but you’ve got lots to be proud of at the finish…=-)

SPOT Connect…

10 04 2011

Spot Connect + your smart phone...

I’ve been keeping my eye on the Delorme PN-60W which connects to a SPOT satellite beacon to let loved ones track your progress on a trip and also allows you to send short text messages via satellite when out of cell range. That satellite messaging service would be very handy indeed for me on some bike tours, sea kayak trips, trips to Baja, kiteboarding at remote lakes/beaches, etc… I’ve nearly bought that Delorme GPS on several occasions, but I wanted to milk my Garmin Vista Cx for as long as I could and I also figured it might be smart to wait for version 2 to come out in case there were any bugs in the first model.

Well SPOT did one better. They are now selling just the SPOT Connect module that will talk to any smart phone via Bluetooth. I’m definitely going to buy one to use with my iPhone. I’ve used a straight up SPOT beacon on a remote bike tour and a road trip to Baja – both times it worked great and let loved ones at home follow my progress without having to call or email home. It would also allow you to summon emergency services to a remote location which might be handy.

I haven’t been this excited about a gadget for a while…=-)