I should start by saying that everything good that happened on this ride is totally the result of my fine choice in bicycles and everything bad that happened was due to the fact I am truly a lazy bastard. How do I know this? Well I sure can't say that my massive recumbent base mileage of 63kms was responsible for the good bits can I??? I know I know - don't send me any emails. 63kms is beyond stupid when it comes to preparation for a new rando season. They probably haven't invented a word for how ridiculous it is. I have my excuses of course, work, bad weather, etc... Of course the other club members with thousands of kms under their wheels so far this year have demanding jobs and live in the same spot on the planet. Let's face it I'm lazy. At least give me credit for not falsely advertising when I named this blog!
I got up at 05:30 after a terrible night of sleep - no doubt a result of nagging guilt at my lack of preparation! I had my gear and bike largely ready so I was able to sip a cup of tea and spend a good 15mins surfing blogs pretending I didn't have to ride a recumbent 200kms today. Eventually I had to face facts and load my stuff for the ride across town to the familiar A&W in NE Calgary. I must say I was totally unconcerned about the day's ride. The forecast was for sunny skies, light winds, +15 deg C and a whole lot of suffering for my legs - it didn't disappoint on any accounts. Although I didn't ride many brevets last year I did work hard at getting comfortable on my Fujin. The pay off was that I knew I could ride 200kms regardless of training and that allowed me to be very relaxed at the start. Last year this time I was a bundle of nerves - meeting new people who were hardcore riders, not knowing what the route was like or how I'd feel. To be frank I didn't miss feeling freaked out!
Given that this was a post PBP year I thought we'd have a low turn out of 5-6 riders. To my surprise 12-13 fine members of the Alberta Rando Club showed up. After a quick briefing from the Ken Myhres, the club president, we were off at 8am sharp. Naturally I was the only recumbent rider so I took up my place at the end of the casual pace line.
I don't mind riding with a small group of DFs, but this posse was too big and having to stay at the back meant I missed a crucial attack last year and I never made contact with the lead group for the rest of the ride. I had no illusions I was going to beat any of the fast riders today. These guys are HARDCORE and they have a ton of rando experience. My job this brevet was to 1) embarrass myself as little as possible, 2) get some training KMs in, 3) learn as much as I could and 4) have some fun. So in keeping with objective #1 I decided to spend some time at the front of the ride. I accelerated the Fujin up the pace line and had planned on settling in 10m up the road, but going faster felt so good I just kept my speed up and let the main group disappear in my mirrors.
I rode solo to the first control in Crossfield enjoying the beautiful Southern Alberta prairie scenery. Traffic was light and quite friendly - nice! The rolling terrain and crosswind was ideally suited to my Fujin so I made the most of it and enjoyed being at one with my bike. I had programmed my Garmin Vista CX the night before so I was able to relax and just follow its cues when I needed to turn. I sometimes feel like a GPS is cheating, but I cannot deny how useful it is. As a contrast last year I was fumbling with a small laminated cue sheet trying to read signs and make sure I was on track. The 41kms to Crossfield where eaten up at a brisk pace and I arrived in good spirits without anyone else in sight. I made my stop brief using advice from Jan Heine about managing time off the bike at controls to good effect.
Back on the road to Beiseker I saw a lone rando heading towards Crossfield and guessed the rest of the group were close behind me. Heading East on HWY 72 with a tailwind and a largely flat or downhill route I made some good time. It was fun to keep my speeds in the high 30kph to low 50kph range. It's moments like these that riding a lowracer seems more like flying a jet plane than riding a bicycle. I encountered a bunch more motorists who honked and waved. I didn't know Southern Alberta was bent country!...=-) The 60kms to the next control were one long ear to ear grin. Rather than ride into Beiseker I did as Ken has suggested and kept going to HWY 9 and stopped at a gas station just off the highway. I rapidly got my brevet card signed, used the washroom, stocked up on water and ate something. As I was pulling out a couple randos rolled in and informed me the lead group was nearby having stopped in town instead.
I could tell immediately that my time at the front of the brevet was going to come to an end. I was faced with a headwind, a general uphill trend and two legs that were starting to get a little cranky. Nevertheless I pushed on enjoying the sunshine and gentle whir of my drive train. Within 10kms I saw a DF rider surging towards me. Normally that's my cue to slowly raise the pace putting the hurt on my less aero opponent, but reality sunk in and I conceded that I was the one hurting. It turned out to be Stephen Kenny our cheerful club treasurer. We chatted for a few moments before he drifted back to the rest of the lead group and brought them up past me. I jumped on the back of their pace line happy to have some company after being alone all day.
I managed to stick with them for a while, but within a dozen kms they were gone. I had mentioned to Steve that it really wasn't fair of the 5 of them to work together and crush the lone recumbent rando. He replied with a cheerful"...we don't care!..." All is fair in love and brevets....=-) I turned East onto Hwy 564 and ran into the lead group taking a break. Riding flying furniture meant that I really didn't need to take breaks between controls so I waved as I rode past and enjoyed one last stint at the front of the ride. As expected they caught up quickly and I didn't have the legs to stay with them. Being in the middle of the ride was kind of nice. I could relax and had the chance to meeting club members who were passing me. Speaking of which I was joined by a club member [sorry I forgot your name...=-(] near Strathmore and we rode into the control together.
My stop in Strathmore was quite a bit longer than the previous controls. I was feeling pretty tired so I made sure I ate a bit extra and hydrated myself properly. A bunch of the lead riders were heading out so I decided to join them. Having ridden 160kms so far I knew that no matter how bad it got I could ride the last 40kms and have a successful brevet. The question now was how much time would I lose on the last stretch? I didn't stay with the lead group long. One advantage to being totally knackered was that there was no temptation to push myself into the bonk-zone trying to stay in contact with the riders in front of me. The only way I was staying in touch with them was if I was towed by a motorcycle!
To be honest the last 40kms went on forever. It was a full on slow motion sufferfest. I watched my overall average speed plummet from a high in the mid 30kph range. The worst part was I couldn't blame it on my bike, the bad weather or any external factor. I was reaping the rewards of being a lazy randonneur. Okay - maybe I could blame my bike a little. With about 25kms left to ride I realized my rear fender was rubbing my tire. I stopped to fix it and was shocked that the rear wheel was hard to turn by hand! Yikes - just what I needed - a drag brake...=-( I fixed the problem and rode on with quite a bit less effort. Ken Myhre and, the always cheerful, Bill Bakke passed me shortly after my fender repair. Their good spirits were infectious and I got my second wind. Of course it could also have been related to the fact the road stopped being a gradual uphill and started heading down as we neared the city. Either way I managed to speed up enough to keep my dignity as I merged with the thickening weekend traffic. I know conventional wisdom says you aren't supposed to be able to safely ride lowracers in traffic. I just can't figure out why and I do it again and again...=-)
I was overjoyed to see the A&W in the distance and know that my poor legs would soon be getting a break. I jammed as best I could the last kilometre so I could keep my ride time at or under 8hrs. The lead group had their bikes loaded in their cars and were smiling and joking as I pulled up. The finish line of a brevet is such a fun place to be. Everyone is pumped on endorphins and happy to be off their bikes. War stories start immediately and can last for years. Since I haven't been to PBP or any of the other "Big Rides" I just settle in and enjoy the dramatic tales of more experienced riders. Hopefully someday I'll be in their shoes inspiring a new generation of randonneurs.
I managed to complete the ride in 8hrs with about 7:30hrs of riding and 30mins off the bike. Complete ride stats are here. Not bad as I was able to improve over last year's time both on and off the bike.
Looking back on this ride with a few days of rest I'm quite happy with my performance and the way everything came together. I could have had a much better ride with some real training, but ultimately it is a matter of being a little disappointed in not reaching my potential rather than being disappointed because I had a bad ride. Of course how can you be truly be disappointed when you got to spend the whole day riding your bike in some beautiful countryside under sunny skies?
I've got a few things to tweak with my setup before the next brevet:
- I'll pull off my rear fender and rethink the mounting system.
- I need to extend the boom slightly as my new pedals/shoes seem to be thicker reducing my leg extension compared to last year's setup.
- I'd like a way to carry my camera while riding so I can take more photos.
- I'd also like to be able to eat while riding rather than waiting for stops.
- My tool kit was missing a key item [box wrench for my fender bolts] so I need to carefully check it and restock as needed.
- I need to come up with a comprehensive check list for all my rando gear. My memory is simply not good enough to be sure I leave the apartment with the essential gear on ride day.
Lastly I want to thank all the Alberta Randonneur Club members that organize and ride these events. You are a great bunch of riders and I'm glad to be a part of the organization.