Ty’s first Brevet, The Del Puerto Canyon 200K, or “Descent into Hell!”
“The day started out just fine. In fact, during the pre-ride introduction, Rob Hawks, the local SF Rando club president, introduced me as the newest member of the RUSA. as they had just processed my application last week. The whole group of 76 cheered and clapped. I thought it was a nice gesture, and I really appreciated it.
Left town and was quickly dropped of course since I was riding my under-geared 99 Specialized Hardrock mountain bike. I had done my best to make it suitable, by putting on Specialized Fatboy 216 x1.25 slick tires and fenders, but still very slow compared to the rest of the proper road bikes.
It started out with a slow climb out of Livermore. The descent was awesome! I was going so fast, that I thought “whew! I better slow down!” Literally at that moment I came upon a crash. Three riders on the ground. EMS was already there and working on one of them. Two of them were sitting up and looked OK, but the rider on the ground looked like he was in bad shape. I later found out one of them had a broken collarbone and leg. The other broke four ribs and had a punctured lung. Both are still in hospital, but in good spirits and anxious to get riding again.
So that put a damper on things for a bit. After the decent, it was a long, pretty flat ride. At mile 50, I got to the second control, where I had a ginormous double-cheeseburger. One of the SF Rando members came in after me, which surprised me, as I thought they would all be long way ahead. Turns out he had stopped at the accident. He said it looked like collarbone was broke on the rider on the ground. He didn’t realize, at the time, that the other rider was injured as well.
He and I rode together for a while. We took turns drafting. I was clearly hold him back, so after about 10 miles he began to surge ahead. I saw him look back, and I waved him forward.
At mile 62, I got to the third control, which was the beginning of 50 miles through the remote, and I mean remote, Del Puerto Canyon.The first 18 miles were a pretty slow, gradual climb. Wasn’t going too fast, but wasn’t that tough either. The last three miles or so were VERY tough. I literally could not keep peddling, so I got off the bike a few times. I hate doing that, but had no choice if I wanted to keep going.
Finally got to the next control about mile 84 at the Junction Cafe. Literally in the middle of nowhere. Had a pulled pork sandwich there. Was told by the other two stragglers that there was one more difficult climb, then descent for the rest.
By this time, it was raining and getting dark. I kept plowing on, but again had to walk a few times during the last climb.
The descent was very scary. Very tight, twisty turns. There were no lights out there, just my bike. I was paranoid about running out of juice, so I went on low beam, but kept my speed under 20, I think. No way to tell for sure, as I could no longer see my speedometer or cue sheet All I could really see in the rain was the lane divider. If there had been any road debris, I would not have been able to miss it. I was tired, and had to stop and use my Petzel elite to look at my directions. I was getting paranoid and scared that I would miss a turn!
Just remembering the name of the next turn was tough. I knew I had to check every cross street. Thankfully, there were none for most of the rest of the descent.
As I got closer to town, probably mile 100, the road ended, thus saving me a dilemma. I took a right turn and headed toward town.
At this point, my legs, feet, and hands were soaked. Thankfully, I was wearing wool socks, which still kept my feet warm when wet, and I did have a good rain jacket, so my core was dry.
It was getting near 7:30, and the official finish was 930. I thought I had no shot as there was probably 20 miles or so to go. There was also one more control, where I had to stop and answer some question about the area. I decided there was no way I was going to attempt that. I just wanted to get back to my car at that point.
Meanwhile, the event organizers were wondering where I was. I had last checked in with my wife Tanya before the last descent, which was nearly three hours past. I wanted to check in again after that, but with the rain, dark, and difficulty in navigating, I was just focusing on getting “home.”
Well, the ride contact person called Tanya asking if she had heard from me, probably about 8pm, and she got worried when she realized they were worried. She tried calling my cell, which I was not answering, as it was buried deep in my Ortlieb panniers.
Lesson learned #1 – Keep cell, with backup battery, on my person during a brevet. Get a waterproof bag of some kind.
So at about 8:40, I am figuring I have 10 or so miles to go with no shot in finishing under the time limit. I had also had a minor crash when I couldn’t decide where to turn, and ended up hitting a curb. No real damage, other than a scrapped knee.
I am plowing along, thinking “soon… soon,” when a station wagon pulls up alongside me. The car was matching my pace and yelling something through the open window. I was listening to a radio play on my ipod nano to pass the time and keep my mind of the cold and wet, so I had to pull my earplug to hear what he was saying. At first, I thought he was asking for directions, and was about to tell him I couldn’t help, when I heard him say, “Are you Ty?” I said, “Umm…yeah?”
It was Rob Hawks, the ride organizer and local SF Rando president. He told me he was going to pull over in a bit to talk, as the road was too narrow. When he did, he told me the last two riders had just checked in, so I was the last one out. I was surprised he was checking for me, because I was still within the maximum time, but since most riders had long since come in they had gotten concerned, particularly as they figured I was in the middle of that dark remote canyon in a rain storm.
He asked me if I was OK. I told him I was, that it was primarily my under-geared, old mountain bike that was the reason for my slow time. He said I only had 8 miles or so to go and asked me if I wanted to try to finish. I said sure, but I and thought I had no shot. He said that I had 40 minutes and though that I could make it if I pushed on.
Lesson #2 – Get a proper bike before my next brevet!
I kept going, somehow finding some more energy and started really pushing. I got a little confused right near the end, but got to the last control with four minutes to spare! When I rode up, the volunteers all cheered. It was pretty cool, to say the least.
Anyway, I signed in, turned in my brevet card and receipts. Rob Hawks offered to give me a ride back to where my car was, but I felt it a matter of pride to get back there on my own. It was actually one of the hardest things to do as stopping for just that 10 minutes or so allowed me time enough to feel the cold and chill from my sopping wet gloves, pants and sock.
So I rode back to my car, after almost getting lost again, loaded up my bike, and got into my car, shaking the whole way. I drove home to San Mateo from the Dublin Pleasanton Bart with the heat on. Got home, ate again, took a shower, and then slept for 10 hours. Pretty sore the next day, but managed a Costco trip!
Can’t wait to do it again!”