300K for A Buck

I woke up half an hour before my alarm on Saturday and immediately felt like not showing up to that day’s 300K. I’d been worried about it all week as I wasn’t sure if I could ride 300K let alone more after finding out that a route change made it 191 miles instead of 186 miles. The previous weekend’s 200K ended with the balls of my feet being painfully sore and I couldn’t imagine having 70+ miles more in that condition. I’ve spent many rides counting the tenths of miles until it was over (usually the last climb on one like Tunitas Creek at times). Ken had hooked me up with his friend David who was also doing the ride so I wanted to honor that. More importantly, I had found out the night before that my friend Buck was being taken off of life support at the exact same time that the ride was starting at. Buck was a fellow swimmer at South End who was also a cyclist, runner, and general athletic devotee who I related to completely. He rode to the club every morning rain or shine in the same outfit: black cycling shorts, fluorescent green puffy jacket (rarely his red orange one), fanny pack, headphones, and the biggest smile you ever saw. Somehow I always knew when he was walking up the stairs to the Day Room at the club and we’d talk for a bit before he went to head off on his swim. You could hear him from the Day Room loudly sniveling as he quickly walked backwards (since he wore fins) into the water. Later he’d come out from the end of his swim with an even bigger smile saying how that was the best way to start the day and the water was nice regardless of if it was 65F or 47F! A botched brain tumor biopsy surgery earlier that week left Buck in a coma with little chance of waking up again. His family had made the difficult decision to take him off of life support as Buck wouldn’t have wanted to have been kept alive artificially and already had a DNR on his medical record. The man’s philosophy was basically that if he couldn’t be physically active then life wasn’t worth living. The ride was starting at 7 a.m., which was the same time that Buck was being taken off of life support. I couldn’t take the opportunity to do this ride for granted. (Note: I found out the next day that Buck died around 9:00 a.m. Saturday).

Lots of windmill and sheep between Rio Vista and Clarksburg. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

I had stayed at my friend Kip’s in Folsom since we hadn’t seen each other in years and that put me 45 minutes closer to the start than coming from home. I figured too that I could use that extra sleep before the ride. I left Kip’s around 6:00 a.m. and got to the meeting place in Davis right on time. David found me immediately as its not hard to figure out who I am with my calling card of “really long brown braid/hair.” The air was warm enough that I didn’t wear my arm warmers or leg warmers, but did put my light jacket on. I packed the warmers in my saddlebag just in case. Deb of the Davis Randonneurs gave the briefing that didn’t include Rob (of SF Randonneurs) making us right our right hand and vow to “not do anything stupid.”

And we’re off! All of us stay more or less together for the first 10 miles as we head out of Davis and everyone is still warming their legs up. Shortly after is when the fast gazelles take off and leave the slow ones behind. David had taken off with the fast pack so I figured that I’d never see him again. I’m behind a man and woman gabbing as I stealthy draft off of them. It’s going to be a long day so I’m going to conserve my energy. There’s another cyclist just a bit further up from them and I eventually move around the couple to join the lone cyclist. We’re moving at a quicker pace and catch up to another cyclist who I recognize as David! He had decided that he didn’t want to push it that day as he was still tired from a 600K a couple of weeks ago.

Leaving Dunnigan and heading towards Winters. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

Our first control is about 28 miles into the ride in Dunnigan. It isn’t specific but says we need a receipt so we hit up the Chevron’s mart to buy something. I’ve never paid $1.00 for a banana until today. Bananas are my riding food of choice since I like how they taste and appreciate their potassium contribution to keeping my brain happy. After all, I did the Tour de Cure century a few years ago eating nothing but 7 bananas. Yum. Our little pod of 5 finally introduce ourselves. Sandra tells me that I’ve got blood all over my leg. I’m confused and then see that there’s dried blood behind my left knee. WTF? Ioannis said that he had seen it earlier and thought I crashed, but now I just look like a badass. Haha! I brush off the blood and see where the cut is, but still clueless on when and how I cut myself. But whatever..we still have 153 miles to go…

Sandra heading towards the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

I find it interesting to think that our next control isn’t until Mile 80. I can’t even remember anything about it except that it’s an Information Control, which means that there’s some question we have to answer at that location. I just know that we’re heading from Dunnigan to Winters and then up and over the pass on Highway 128 that I hated just last week. We’re pacelining all the way to Winters which seems to work out very well and I’m impressed since we never discussed doing this. I feel dumb here as it finally clicks that I met Sandra on the Faultline 200K in June AND she was the other woman that in a loose pack from Hercules to Winters in last week’s Winters 200K. D’oh! We get to Winters quickly and make a quick pitstop before the 128 climb. I down a Honey Stinger energy gel and some dried fruit. It’s not a long or steep climb, just miserable if you’re fighting headwind the entire time like I was the week before. Sandra, Ioannis, and Brian took off 2 minutes before David and I resume the route. I see the golden mountains ahead and still want a picture of that view some day. Today I’m too busy keeping with David. We’re actually both looking forward to this climb after the last 70 miles of basically flat road.

Lake Berryessa on Highway 128

We start climbing at about the same pace and catch up to the rest of the pod. I stop briefly at one of the Lake Berryessa views to take a photo. David’s wife is doing the 100K route today and they’re passing us in the opposite direction on this road. He’s expecting to see her somewhere along here. David and I regroup at the top and start heading downhill. He sees his wife and her friend on the side of the road during our descent and stops to say hi to them for a minute. I figure that he’ll catch up to me soon and continue with my beautiful descent. David and I catch up to the rest of the pod and we continue on as we’re not quite out of the pass yet. The second descent turns into one of my scariest as a van has decided to wedge itself between Sandra and me. On a very twisty road, I am now descending without being able to see anything in front of me except a van’s butt with no margin for error. This van can’t even keep all 4 of its tires on the asphalt either! I finally get a small break and sneak past him to get behind Sandra and continue our descent with me finally being able to see every upcoming corner entrance and exit the rest of the way.

Shirley’s Tavern in Bird’s Landing

We turn onto Wooden Valley Road and our pod start pacelining again all the way to Fairfield. Our next control is at the Fairfield Safeway which happens to be the 100 mile mark too. I’m really hungry by this point and tell David that I’ve never looked forward to getting to a Safeway so badly in my life! I also have hot spots developing in my feet and plan on undoing my shoes as soon as we get there. David breaks from the fold and opts for the nearby Subway while the rest of us get different things at Safeway. We need a Safeway receipt most importantly as that’s what counts for this control’s requirement. I grab some water, veggie sushi roll, and seaweed salad. I’m actually really wanting a veggie burrito but the burrito/sandwich guy is taking WAY too long to make just 3 sandwiches for another customer. Brian is trying to eat two large pieces of fried chicken as quickly as possibly. I tell him that I’m not riding through his chicken after lunch! We get ready to head out again and Sandra makes it a point to note that we’re waiting on the men to finish using the bathroom and not the women. πŸ˜› (Note: the customer who was getting sandwiches just finally got them at this point!) We also pick up another Randonneur who caught up to us here and was ready to roll back out with us. Sadly, I never caught his name even though I would ride 60 miles with him in the pod!

One of the many fields we passed by. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

I lead the paceline out of Davis towards Travis and our next control at Mile 128 at Shirley’s Tavern in Bird’s Landing. You gotta love Rando rides for taking you to tiny towns that you’d have never even heard of otherwise! Bird’s Landing only has about a dozen houses, a fire department, a gun club, and Shirley’s Tavern. Shirley Paolini greets us and lets us fill up our water bottles from her sink. She offers us ice and makes one of her employees grab an ice hunk out of the freezer to start chipping off ice cubes for us. They don’t issue receipts there so we opt for the Information Control option (which is supposed to be what you do if Shirley’s was closed) and answer the question of when some dude named Clint was there (answer: July 1982). David’s looking pretty beat and grabs an 805 and Doritos at the bar. He tells us to head off without him as he’s not up for our pace today. I’m the last of the pod to roll out besides David and catch up to the other guys. I chat with Ioannis most of the way and it turns out he’s a hardware designer for Apple. I say more than once that I can’t wait to get to Rio Vista (Mile 132) as that means we’re more or less on flat roads the rest of the ride. Are we done yet?

Rio Vista Bakery & Cafe

Brian’s got a particular place in mind for the Open Control in Rio Vista to get a receipt at: the Rio Vista Bakery and Cafe (Baerbel! You just have to ride 132 miles to get to this bakery!). Brian wants ice cream though. I’m not really hungry so I opt for a water refill and a sparkling apple juice as I just want something carbonated. Sandra’s got a flat so we take extra time as Ioannis helps her as she’s unfamiliar with the CO2 cartridge method. I eat a Naked date bar stashed in my saddlebag along with a few more pieces of dried fruit. We’re about to embark crossing on the Rio Vista drawbridge, which is one of the most dangerous parts of the ride. Luckily the drawbridge is up so traffic is completely stopped and we manage to find a huge space between the first and second cars. We decide to take full advantage of it and fill up the space with all 6 bikes. It’s one lane both ways so not like any of the cars can go around us. The truck driver we’re in front of is very nice and gives us plenty of room to ride across the bridge without honking at us. We are actually perfectly lined up to turn left immediately after the bridge onto River Road to start making our way to Clarksburg for dinner (another control at Mile 161). I realize shortly after we get onto River Road that I forgot to plug my Garmin into my battery pack at the last control! Eek! I’m down to 18% battery. We’re pacelining for the most part or in a cluster, but either way I don’t want to drop the pace I’m going at or lose the pod. I’ve had hot spots again around the 150 mile mark so I’m really fantasizing about pulling over to unbuckle my shoes AND plug my Garmin in. I *think* I can make to Clarksburg and start trying to do the math that if we can make it there in 2 hours then I should be okay….right??? Brian tells me that he’s ridden farther on 2% battery so I should be able to make it just fine. I’m panicking though and even contemplate just pulling over once we get to Clarksburg’s town limit to plug my Garmin in as there is no way in hell that I’m losing this ride’s data.

Waiting for the drawbridge to lower so we can cross the Rio Vista Bridge

Our control point in Clarksburg is Husick’s Taphouse, which I completely forgot which place we were aiming for. The pod turns into Husick’s parking lot which I didn’t even realize was to my right as I sat at the stop sign right at its corner. I immediately plug in my Garmin and see that it was down to 4%. Brian apologizes for his comment earlier as he knows how long his Garmin’s battery lasts, but he doesn’t know how long mine lasts. I tell him no worries and I’m just glad that I managed to plug it in just in time. πŸ™‚ We head in and have dinner. It’s about 6:15 p.m. so we’re still making really good time and should be done around 9:00 p.m.! Some of the guys get beers which I can’t fathom drinking alcohol while riding, but Randonneurs are a different breed. Some swear that the alcohol metabolizes differently during these endurance rides where it’s actually an enhancer. I’ll take their word for it, but I’ll pass! The rest of the pod is ready to roll when I’m still halfway through my veggie panini (which I was the PITA ordering this with no red onions, pepperoncini, or cheese but YES to the extra avocado!). My quads are starting to get sore just from going for the last 12 hours. It’s a different soreness from when I have to do a lot of climbing though as this is just exhaustion instead of climbing soreness from squeezing the life out of them. Deb, the Davis Randonneurs’s official cat herder, is at Husick’s and tells us that David’s wife DNF’ed 2 miles short of the 100K route from cramps. 😦 This would have been her first 100K ride too! So disappointing, but the ride will always be there for her to do another year. Deb assures David that his wife is okay and resting up. David’s looking pretty beat and I decide to ride the last 29 miles with him. It’s really no fun riding these distances by yourself and that way both of us have company.

Pod en route from Bird’s Landing to Rio Vista. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

David and I get back on the bikes. It’s about 7:00 p.m. now and completely dark outside! I’m glad that I’ve got David with me as especially as there is really no street lights even in these remote areas. The other guys are only about 5 minutes ahead of us but we can’t even see their lights wherever they are. I’m not even sure where we are for most of this part since I can’t see any scenery or street signs. There’s a pair of headlights directly in our path but it’s too small to be a car. David slows down and we discover that it’s a security golf cart parked in the dark outside of some establishment. No idea why it’s parked there since that’s asking for a head-on collision with a car, but we just say good evening to the security guard (?) with a death wish and continue on our way. We come across a stranded motorcyclist elsewhere in the dark who at least had his hazard lights on. David asks if everything is okay and the guy says he’s just waiting for Triple A to come. That really sucks! One reason why I didn’t want to ride alone here was that getting a flat in completely darkness would really suck. I notice these roads have no shoulder either. I can tell that David and I are getting closer to civilization from the frequency of cars, car lights of what I think is a freeway off in the distance, and that we’re getting to the 170 mile mark. I know the hotel I’ve booked for the night is around Mile 177 and we’re going to go right past it. Sure enough, there it is on the left as we cross over I-80.

Our dinner stop at Husick’s Taphouse in Clarksburg

OMFG are we done yet? 14 miles to go. Stop whining as this is basically your distance straight home from work without any climbing. We should be done in an hour! We’re back on smooth paved road so I realize that we should be going faster now by default. I start noticing the street names and ticking off in my head the order that they’re on along 80 to help myself feel like we’re making progress. We’re on a bike trail running along 80 so at least we don’t have to worry about traffic. I get a little excited when we turn off the bike trail onto Mace Boulevard as now we’re going through a neighborhood area so we are definitely in the home stretch! I’m starting to be in a little bit of disbelief that I’m actually going to finish this ride. And I’ve got the data! David and I entertain ourselves with checking out the neighborhood Halloween decorations as some people really went all out on them. We’re calling out the distance left to go every now and then as we’re both obviously ready for this thing to be over with. David calls out that we have .4 miles to go at one point and I jokingly say that I’m going to call for a Lyft. He said that he used to joke about that too, but after finding out his wife DNF’ed so close to the finish, he’s never making that joke again. Totally understandable! We both almost miss the last turn into the parking lot for the ride’s finish at Dos Coyotes.

My completed brevet card at the end of the ride

I turn my brevet card in with all my receipts to Deb. Official finish time is at 9:02 p.m. Two hours earlier than we expected and well ahead of the 21.5 hour time cutoff (4:30 a.m.)! I could have technically just driven home at this point, but my hotel room was already paid for so may as well go use it for awhile. Also means my next shower is mere minutes away rather than 2+ hours away. Deb asks if I’m going to stay to eat or drink anything and I decline as I just want to get my bedtime routine going. I’m not really that hungry anyway!

There was still a disbelief that I’d just finished my first 300K. Actually, I didn’t just finish my first 300K, but there was an additional 5 miles (8 KM) because of a route change. I had thought that I could perhaps do a 400K, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. This 300K had minimal climbing, but the 11.5 hours in the saddle and cranking my legs around that long were taking its toll already. I couldn’t imagine having to put another 62 miles on the bike when I finished this ride. While some people assume that I’d be walking bow-legged after such a ride, that’s not the case. My legs are directly underneath me the entire time cranking my feet away in a circle. I felt like I was getting close to my limit of how long I could be on a bike. I probably could have kept going if I had to, but I didn’t have to that night. Every ride is different and this would have been much more difficult if I had to do a lot more climbing like my Marin Century’s double metric with 10,000′ of climbing. I didn’t hit the point where my legs were now numb and I felt like I could have kept going forever. I’m still not sure where the point is where I absolutely cannot ride anymore. I finished this ride with still being able to get back on the bike and ride across the parking lot back to my car. My legs felt very heavy the next day, but not so sore that I couldn’t get out of bed. I was just tired, but not to the point where I didn’t think I could have done something the next day if I had to. Cycling, as like open water swimming, is a sport where every ride is different as there are too many variables to compare. In many ways this ride was easier than the Marin Century double metric and in many ways it was harder. I can only be certain that regardless, I had traveled with my bike for 191 miles powered only by my legs and will power. There were no fancy staffed rest stops with food and water, road closures, police escorts or SAG vehicles. I had pushed my mental limit to 191 miles of knowing that if anything happened to me or my bike that it was fully my responsibility to get myself out of it. A true meaning of “self reliance.”

Me somewhere en route from Rio Vista to Clarksburg. Photo by Brian Feinberg.

Ken had vowed earlier this year that he’d get me to do a double century this year. While this ride was technically 9 miles short of that, he still considers me to have finished a double century. Funny thing is that he didn’t push me to do it or even mentioned this ride to me. I found out about this ride from my friend Dan and decided to do it in about a minute when I saw it fit into my schedule just to see if I could do a 300K. I now know that I’m comfortable doing a 200K (even with 10,000′ of climbing) and think I can get my body adapted to riding 300Ks.

Now the big question…do I dare try a 400K next year?

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