Hatzic Hills 300K…

4 05 2011

A few of the 47 riders at the start...

Let me start by saying we achieved our goals:

  1. getting a hotel room without an insect infestation
  2. not crashing
  3. completing the ride within the time limits
  4. having fun most of the time
On the other hand I think we found the limits of our un-training program at about 200K. One of the reasons we decided to ride the Lower Mainland 300K was to give ourselves more time to prepare. Unfortunately we didn’t really take advantage of that time for training. So last Friday as I got ready for the trip to the mainland I wasn’t sure how things would go. Sharon came along to keep us company and to visit some friends while we were off on the ride. The ferry and drive to our hotel near the start in Burnaby took longer than expected so our sleep time shrank to less than 5hrs. I hadn’t slept well the night before so I wasn’t happy when the alarm went off! On the plus side Sharon had booked the hotel and it was insect free which meant we could at least enjoy the limited amount of sleep we managed to get.

Deirdre & Bob - Ride Organizers and David K registering riders - photo: Colin F......

I took a quick shower to wake up and started to wonder if I had packed the QR part of my front bag’s decaleur. It turns out I forgot the safety pin that secures it, but I brought the critical bit that holds the bag on and I managed to DIY a retention clip out of a thin key chain ring. Note to self pack the bike completely rigged so that I can’t forget stuff like this again and carry a spare safety pin in the bag if I lose one while on the ride. Panic averted we rode the very short distance to the end point at the Knight and Day 24hrs Restaurant for breakfast. I was feeling pretty grim while eating and wasn’t able to finish as much of my food as I would have liked. I was hoping that the sunrise would lift my spirits.

Control #1 at ~38km...

We rolled over to the start control and were met by a wide array of cool bikes and brightly dressed BC randonneurs. That already made me feel better. Besides the usual array of rando rigs I saw a Moulton and a Bachetta recumbent. With the sun rising and our cue sheets/control cards in hand we rolled out with the other 45 riders for the ~40km trek to the first control. Most of this leg of the ride was through urban jungle which is something I’m not used to living in Victoria. We rolled along at a brisk clip with the main group. At one point a section of 2″ x 6″ wood appeared suddenly into view too quickly for me to avoid it so my front tire took a glancing blow. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going down, but was sure glad when I didn’t and then glad I didn’t flat. Riding in a group has benefits in terms of drafting, but the downside is how hard it is to see debris/pot holes. We arrived at the first control quickly and Aaron was the voice of reason suggesting we let the main group go and ride our own pace from here on in.

Team Rando Tractor in the middle at Control #1 - photo: Dan McGuire...

The next leg was about another 40kms and quickly became more rural and had far less traffic on it. We had a lot of fun rolling along through this section of the lower mainland. Temperatures stayed cool and so far the sun hadn’t really made an appearance as promised by the weather forecast. OTOH it wasn’t raining so that was okay with us! There was some really great climbing and descending narrow windy country roads just past the dam we crossed over. The last bit of riding before the control was a series of rollers that took us steadily uphill to the welcome sight of the BC randonneurs control sign.  The ride organizers [Deirdre and Bob] had some hearty soup on the go and some chairs for us to rest on inside. It’s amazing what a bit of food, a bit of comfort and a splash of water/soap on your face does for your energy levels.

Aaron still smiling @ Control #2...

Leaving Control #2 we rolled downhill most of the way to HWY 7. That was fun, but knowing we had to come back to the same spot after the long run out to Control #3 at the Johnson Slough Rest Area made me not so stoked for the return trip! No point worrying about that now right? The sun had come out. We had some nice downhills and then a tailwind on HWY 7 so all was good. We spent most of our afternoon riding eastbound on HWY 7 and then returning back on the same route in the early evening. That made navigation pretty easy, but it also meant riding next to a lot of traffic on a road with average to poor shoulders. I was very happy to have wider tires on my bike as we hammered over cracks and potholes when we couldn’t ride in the traffic lane. Not my favourite part of the ride for sure, but it would have been better had there not been a bunch of assholes on Harley Davidson motocycles who purposely buzzed super close to us with their deafeningly loud bikes for no apparent reason other than to affirm that they were indeed assholes. I’ve been a motorcyclist for decades of my life and I know there is no reason you need to ride at the edge of the white line cruising the highway – especially when you see a group of cyclists riding on the narrow shoulder dodging debris and pot holes. Well unless you want to be an asshole! The first time they did it was unpleasant and a bit scary as each bike got closer and closer to us – literally less than a foot away from our elbows. The second time a bit later they forced us to ride through a big swath of wood debris that ripped Aaron’s front fender out of the fork crown. Before we get to the fender I will say there were lots of other motorcyclists out on HWY 7 that day who were riding Japanese bikes that were reasonably quiet and kept a safe distance from us. To those bikers I say thanks!

Front fender carnage...

So as we are cruising down HWY 7 at a high rate of speed on the shoulder suddenly it looks like a logging truck got hit with a RPG and spewed large bits of bark and wood all over the place. Normally we’d just ride on the left side of the white line for a few seconds to get around it, but unfortunately some more of those morons on their insecure motorbikes swooped in for another round of harass the cyclist. So we plowed through the wood. I didn’t see Aaron behind me in my mirror so I stopped and went back. He was doing something to the front wheel of his bike and I was concerned he had gone down in the wood. The good news was he was fine and hadn’t crashed, but the bad news was some wood had jammed in his fender and sheared the fork crown mount and then jammed the whole thing forward under the fork. I’m amazed he didn’t endo, but the Rando Gods were obviously smiling on us that day! In another stroke of luck I had just upgraded my multi-tool before the ride and the new tool had the wrench size we needed to unmount the fender which was now useless.
We got Aaron’s bike rolling again and left the fender by the side of the road for retrieval on the way back down Hwy 7. We had been feeling pretty good up to that point, but somehow we never got back on top of things from then on. Luckily the route was downhill and we still had a tailwind to the Control #3 at ~150kms. Of course that meant it was uphill with a headwind on the way back! Gary B was at the far control with his travel van and new berg rando bike. I have been wanting a travel van myself and I’ve never had a Ti bike so I was envious of both fine machines! We didn’t stay long at this control as I think we both sensed our lack of training was going to make the return hard and we should start pedaling ASAP.

Team Rando Tractor hard at work on a climb - photo: Colin F...

We didn’t get far before I managed to get us onto the wrong highway and when we tried to discuss the way back on route we were both confused enough that communicating was a challenge. So we laid on the ground for a few minutes!!! before retracing our path back to Hwy 7. Gary saw us going backwards and stopped to ensure we weren’t totally lost and headed for Kamloops.
Gary told us about a cafe down the road that had good food and about his secret weapon [Coke! – the drink…] We decided to try both! After a rando burger and a coke I felt better and we did our best to fight the tailwind and uphill grade back to Control #4 at ~220kms. Not much to say about the return run back down Hwy 7 we got a bit of rain [but nothing terrible] and we didn’t have any Harley Davidsons strafing us. We took turns blocking the wind for the other guy and rotated through to keep our speed above walking pace. We were both happy and sad to reach the turn off of Hwy 7 and down the final stretch to the control. On one hand the quiet country roads were much more pleasant to ride than the edge of a busy highway and the headwind wasn’t a problem in the trees, but the terrain was uphill pretty much the whole way. We stopped at a gas station to get a Coke and snack a bit. Then we got down to the business of being Rando Tractors and chugged along the route. I think on balance I prefer uphill and scenic vs. flat and busy routes.

Bob B - photo: Dan McGuire...

When the control appeared down the road we were happy to take a break and chat with Deirdre and Bob B. We were a little suspicious that he was trying to deny us of our well deserved Lantern Rouge honours, but when he left before us we could relax secure in the knowledge we would not be denied! With only 80kms left I knew we’d make it before the time ran out. I just wasn’t sure how grim it would get before all was said and done. I kept eating and drinking as much as I could knowing that was the only thing that would stop us dead in our tracks. We had accumulated 5 bonus kms by this point and I was aware that we could ill afford any more simply due to the fact our morale couldn’t take the pummeling of extra pedaling. Before we left the control Deirdre kindly took Aaron’s rogue fender for us so he could ride without it strapped to his rack bag – thanks! We geared up for night riding with reflective gear and switched on our lights. Then we set off on the last leg of our mainland rando adventure.

Aaron close to the finish...

Aside from a couple crazy steep hills that we walked we made decent time [for us!] back towards the finish through some lovely country side with the sun setting. My GPS’s maps are old and a bunch of the route was essentially not programable, but I knew we’d appreciate having some navigational assistance on the last leg so I had her ready to roll. I still used the cue sheet as my main resource, but it was nice to get confirmation of what I thought the cue sheet was saying as there were times when my eyes and brain weren’t cooperating 100%! Getting into the city was good for morale as we knew we were close to the end and we had the back up of services if we needed to stop and eat/take a break. I never appreciate gas stations in my day to day life as much as I do on a brevet! I really like night riding so I had fun cruising through the city by headlight. Well at least until the last 15kms or so. We were both starting to lose the plot in the last few kms. I knew we’d make it, but there were a couple times when we just needed to sit down by the side of the road and not be on the bike!

Info control photo so we couldn't DNF due to brain fog!

I can assure you we were stoked to get to the information control ~7km from the finish. In our mentally challenged state we didn’t trust ourselves to correctly answer the skill testing question so we documented the mailbox sign in question with a photo and also took a photo of the nearby bike overpass to back up our claim of being there if something went wrong. We muddled along the last few kms. Deirdre drove out and met us to make sure we hadn’t fallen asleep in a ditch. It was nice to see a familiar face and know the finish was just a few turns away.

Eric F - photo: Dan McGuire...

Thanks to Deirdre and Bob for organizing a fun ride and being patient with us Rando Tractors as we chugged away slowly over the course. That is one of the benefits of being slow – you get savour the course for much longer than the fast folks!…=-)

Hatzic Hills 300K Map - click on image for full size...

Ride Stats:
  • Total Distance = 307kms
  • Time Riding = 14.4hrs
  • Total Event Time = 18.25hrs
  • Time Off the Bike = 3.9hrs
  • Climbing = ~3000m
Our lack of training was painfully obvious as this event progressed. However, I subscribe to the philosophy that training is like voting. You don’t have to do it, but if you chose not to don’t complain about the results! Having said that I did come up with a positive aspect to our slacker approach to brevets this year. By not training and riding slowly with tired bodies and foggy brains we are in fact training for future events when things go off the rails and we need to deal with adversity. We also got in a lot more night riding than other folks because we were out there for so long. Wow that almost makes it sound like a cunning plan!…=-)

Click on image for map and route info - note ride stats are not mine!

The Good:
  • I had fun [most of the time!]
  • my bike worked well
  • I was comfortable the whole time
  • wool clothing was well suited to ride temperatures
  • SON & Edelux lighting was great
  • Petzel e+Lite micro headlamp clipped to my helmet’s visor in red solid mode was good for reading cue sheet in the dark
  • it was good to have company during low points of the ride
Aaron did a great job tackling a PR for distance in challenging terrain. The hardest part of a brevet for me is the mental part and his positive attitude in the last 3rd of both events we’ve done together has been very helpful. He’s got some plans for a 650B Kogswell and/or VO Polyvalent rando rig to get his fit dialed in and make carrying stuff a bit easier. We’ve been talking about doing rando inspired light tours around Vancouver Island that will get some more miles in our legs without having to use the “T” word…=-)~

Colin & Alex Ride Volunteers - photo: Dan McGuire...

The Bad:
  • the travel & resulting lack of sleep before the event wasn’t great
  • I’ve got to take a look at what I’m eating and see if I am eating enough as I had several low points that seemed like they were diet related
  • it’s clear that we can’t count the first 150K of a 300K as a training ride for the last 150K!
  • not training means we’re slow and being slow means a harder ride simply due many extra hours on the bike

You can tell this was early on as there are riders behind us! - photo: Colin F...

Looking ahead I would like to get in a 400K this year, but I’m not sure the Vancouver Island event in two weeks is the one I want to tackle. Aaron is not interested in riding a 400K this year and without the morale boost of another Rando Tractor I’m not sure how I would feel when I hit 300K+ on the course. I’ll give it some thought and also look at events in July when my fitness will be a bit more respectable. I’ve volunteered to help out with the Van Isle 600K Mike C is and his wife Brynne are running at the end of May. That way I’ll have two 600Ks under my belt in 2011…lol…even if I didn’t actually pedal a bike during either event!

Strategy planning - photo: Colin F...

Thanks to every one involved in organizing and running the event. Also thanks to everyone we rode with/near – it was fun! I’m impressed with the BC Randonneurs they do a awesome job putting on brevets. Also special thanks to Dan McGuire and Colin Fingler for taking photos…=-)



12 responses

4 05 2011

Congrats on your finish, Vik. Some of the hills on that course were just vicious and I agree, parts of the Lougheed highway are sub-awesome; specifically, the chunk on Nicomen Island.

Lightweight touring is a great way to train for Randonneuring without going insane. I like doing two-day high-speed credit card tours to cheap motels in distant towns, preferably ones with brewpubs. It allows you to use roads other than the ones close to your house and it gives you the psychological pleasure of riding to a destination, instead of just riding a huge, futile hundred-kilometer circle that ends back at your house.

4 05 2011

Without Aaron, could you take Sharon and the tandem out for the 400k?

4 05 2011

@Foraker – no that’s not realistic for many reasons. I’d be far better off to just ride the 400K myself on a proven bike.

4 05 2011

That is indeed a tough route. I always have a tough time with that one.

The assholes on Harley Davidsons are a regular feature of that area. There is a specific group of them that enjoy buzzing bicyclists. The good news is that if they clip you they are going down too and you can brawl with them in the ditch afterwards. Some weekends are worse than others so thank your lucky stars you don’t have permanent hearing damage from the straight pipes of swarms of them passing by at full throttle.

4 05 2011
Raymond Parker

Vik, before you give the H2H 400 a pass, check this out.

A little nomenclature history: at the spring BCRCC Vancouver Island volunteers meeting of 2006, I asked attendees to name the spring brevets–previously they’d just been referred to as “the spring 400,” or whatever.”

Jaye Haworth (fastest mixed tandem with Jan Heine at PBP 2003), who had ridden a very wet and high traffic spring 400 on the same route, in 2005) insisted on “The Highway to Hell.” And so it was.

4 05 2011

@Ben – I think your idea of light/fast touring is right on the mark as that appeals to me as a ride in and of itself. I can train as long as it’s not training!…=-)

@Raymond – I’m considering the VI 400K. Looking at a hotel room in Duncan at 300K for a spare change of clothes, shower and a to lay down for a couple hours. That would make the last 100K realistic for me. I’m not going to commit until I see what the weather holds. A rainy cold 400K is likely not a possibility for me at the moment given how close to the limits I’m riding.

4 05 2011

I concur with Ray. If you want to do a 400 the Highway to Hell 400 is a good one. It’s not really Hellish at all. There’s a lot of turns and I never fail to do bonus miles on that route but you can ride parts or all of it beforehand to get a better feel for the turns so you don’t have to slow down and look at your route sheet during the brevet. There may even be people doing it who will be riding at your speed. I would not be concerned at all about getting bored riding by yourself. I think you’ll find it’s easier and faster riding by yourself anyway.

The Highway to Hell 400 also gets you up to the top of the Malahat at sunrise, which is about the only good time to be on the Malahat.

4 05 2011

I’m sure the H2H route is nice…my main concern is my ability to ride it and not hate things given my lack of fitness. If I wait until the make brevets in July I’ll be in much better shape.

I’ll probably make a plan to ride the H2H and decide if I’m feeling it a couple days before the ride.

BTW – the only way another rider would be riding my speed is if I stab them in the tight with a harpoon!

4 05 2011

Ha, ha! Stab them with a harpoon! Ha, ha! I think you have been riding brevets with no one at the back. Speaking on behalf of all blogospherians your only impediment seems to be the glorious amount of time you spent off the bike on the 300. 3.9 hours!!! How did you do that? Were you stopping at pubs? I am not one to talk but beers and pub fish ‘n chips are probably not on the Food Guide For Successful Living and I have never heard of anyone (other than myself) carbo-loading that way during a brevet.

5 05 2011

as a VERY lazt cyclist I love reading these things – came across this by fluke – congrats on your achievement!

5 05 2011

Congratulations Vik! It was great to see you and Aaron out there on Saturday.


6 05 2011
Aaron M

Good to see you too Guido, for the little time that we did haha. Your bike is looking good & I can’t wait to build up my Kogs PR!

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