Return of the Brevet

All brevets were cancelled in March 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared leaving many of us without our usual long rides scheduled. I didn’t even do a 100K for a long enough time that my legs felt sore after I finally did one again on my own. I was only doing short 20 – 30 mile rides several times a week, but that’s about it. In Summer 2020 I designed and rode a Monte Rio 200K and Mt Tam 200K with my friends Brian and Sandra. Brian was training for the Great Lakes Mac & Cheese 1200K last summer so Sandra and I were happy to “help” him train. Afterwards our schedules didn’t coordinate well enough for any more long rides, but I managed to get one 100K in every month after that which was better than nothing.

Randonneurs USA announced in February that they were restarting the Permanent program again along with adding in a couple of local brevets as permanents, the Dillon Beach 200K and Faultline 200K. I happily jumped at the chance to do both as Permanents as I’d never done Dillon Beach and Faultline has special meaning to me since that was my first 200K and my first Rando ride as a brevet (and also the hardest one for me to do). I rode Dillon Beach with my friend Ken and Faultline with my friend Dan. I regret that I didn’t write any blog posts about those 4 200Ks I’ve done so far during the pandemic as I like to remember my long rides. Faultline was especially noteworthy since we had a 20F temperature difference during the ride and we were so cold in and around the Tomales portion. I wish I had a photo of Dan during our lunch stop too since he was bundled up in probably every scrap of clothing he had, including 3 pairs of gloves! I had never looked into the Permanent program beforehand, but I was also getting really bored with the usual riding routes. I also did the Cupertino Scrambler 100K Permanent with Brian which wasn’t an interesting route, but I felt compelled to do it since it started in my hometown. Brian was a champ too of driving up to San Mateo just to go ride within 2 miles of his house in Cupertino and back to San Mateo then drive back home to Cupertino! (Actually I never wrote a blog post for the First Chance 200K in January 2020 either as that was an uneventful and boring mostly flat 200K)

Rob Hawks, the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Regional Brevet Administrator happily announced in April 2021 that they had decided how they can safely do brevets again while adhering to pandemic health guidelines. We’d do assigned staggered starts, no receipt controls, and different options for POP (“Proof of Passage” for successful route completion). Normally we had to fill out brevet cards that included the information for what we had to do at each control, whether an Information control (answer a question about something at that location), Open control (obtain receipt from any business in that location), or Manned control (someone’s there to sign your brevet card and has a list with riders’ names and puts times on both your card and the list which get checked afterwards to make sure they match). Now with the pandemic, the options were to either submit your Strava ride link, photos at each control with a timestamp on the image, or submit a digital copy of your brevet card to the Day of Ride Coordinator. Rob suggested doing at least two methods so you have a back-up if you pick at least one digital method (since you know Garmins *never* disappoint you..note sarcasm).

Ready to roll!

Rob seemed to be helping to make up for lost time with scheduling a brevet or populaire every weekend in May and June. I was busy with a technical terrain mountain biking clinic in Chico on the first weekend so had to miss the Lucas Valley 110K. I could make the Laguna Lake 200K on Saturday, 8 May and asked Ken if he’d do it with me. I love riding with Ken and don’t get to do it enough!

Rob assigned Ken and me to be in the first starting time slot at 6:45 a.m. or as Ken said “Rob put the troublemakers first!” Ken picked me up at 5:50 a.m. since he always likes to get to the start early. We got to Crissy Field by 6:25 a.m. and Rob wasn’t even there yet to check us in. We saw other Randos arrive also and were all wondering where Rob was. Rob finally got there at about 6:40 a.m. Ken and I checked in, signed our waivers, told Rob what our proposed POP methods would be for the ride, and we were off! I was using my Garmin Edge as my primary POP with timestamped photos as a back-up (and an excuse to take photos during the ride). Ken had also printed out a brevet card for me to use if I wanted as he’s thoughtful like that. πŸ™‚

Ken’s Fixie!

Ken’s on his fixie again which makes me happy! I did the Dillon Beach 200K Permanent with him on his geared bike as he wasn’t sure if he could ride a 200K. Both of us had been in the same boat on that ride since neither of us had done a long ride in several months. Funny thing is that during Dillon Beach, both of us would have jumped at bailing on the ride if the other wanted to quit at any point during it! We managed to complete it though despite all the wind that day.

Ken and I meander up and over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the usual route to get to China Camp. Since he’s on his fixie, he’s slower than I am on the descents. He calls out that he’s “old and slow” after we meet up after going over Camino Alto (btw he almost always beats me up ever climb, fixie or geared bike). Our first Control has the same Control question as Faultline of how many picnic tables are in that overview area. The photo requirement is of the historical marker at the parking lot entrance. I haven’t drank any water yet so I don’t need to top off my bottles, but use the opportunity to use the bathroom. We run into Phil, another Randonneur that we had done the last part of Faultline with in 2019. We become a little pod of 3 (and we’re all fully vaccinated). I rattle off that now we just need to do Lucas Valley Road, Wilson Hill, Chileno Valley Road, and then the slog to lunch in Tomales. Phil loves Chileno Valley Road, but I haven’t done it in so long that I’ve forgotten what it looks like. Ken and Phil aren’t looking forward to Wilson Hill, but I’m okay with it since I had just done a double of it a handful of weeks ago.

China Camp Historical Marker

I take my arm warmers off before climbing Lucas Valley Road. While descending Lucas Valley Road, I finally notice that Phil has bottom tube shifters! I’m not sure why I never noticed this before on other rides or even today. He’s riding a 1970s Raleigh with 38 mm tires! Really cool. And unbelievable that he’s riding that bike on a 200K.

In Nicasio, Phil is disappointed to find out that the Nicasio Creamery has turned off their water taps as the woman says she’s tired of having to clean them. I think other cyclists are also bummed to find out the hard way too. Phil only has one water bottle for some reason so this is going to be a challenge to make sure he doesn’t run out! We head towards and up Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road where Phil and Ken proceed to leave me behind on the climb. I yell out at Ken that “middle aged and slow” will catch up to him later. They wait for me at the Hicks Valley Road junction just long enough to get there and we make our way to Wilson Hill. I make a comment at the bottom of Wilson Hill that I thought I was going to have to do the whole ride by myself, which makes Ken feel bad about leaving me in his dust so he stays closer to me the rest of the ride. I have a Honey Stinger Gel, which is my first food on this ride.

As Phil and I are waiting for Ken at the bottom of the other side of Wilson Hill, one of the residents asks us if we need directions somewhere. Phil tells them that we’re just waiting for a friend. Ken gets there a few seconds later on his hamster wheel and we turn onto Chileno Valley Road. Here is where we pass by Laguna Lake which is what the route is named after. Laguna Lake is very low and we can only see about a quarter of it while riding past. I get one big bug clipping the left side of my mouth which luckily bounces to the outside! I do not enjoy free protein snacks.

From here my knowledge of the route to Tomales is kind of fuzzy as I didn’t really pay attention when looking at the route. I’m starting to get a hot spot on my right foot and decide that I can wait until we get to Tomales before ripping off my shoes. We’re on Fallen Two Rock Road much longer than I thought we’d be though. Another large flying insect almost lands in my mouth! WTF? I guess it’s good that I don’t really recall how far it is to Middle Road so I’m not counting the tenths of miles to Tomales.

Ken thinking of ditching his fixie for this new ride

We finally get to turn onto Middle Road a very long 5 miles after we’d turn onto Fallen Two Rock Road and quickly reach the next Control. The photo option is a photo of the “farming implement” at the side of the road and the brevet card option is what the KM distance is on the road marker (7.048 KM). Ken’s never been one for boring so he wants a photo of him sitting on top of the old rusty farm equipment. I’m happy as this also means that we’re close to lunch!

A quick descent down Dillon Beach Road and straight to The Deli 2 where I almost always get lunch in Tomales (exception was during the Faultine 200K Permanent with Dan last month when I opted to try the pizza at the bakery next door thinking it was faster than getting a sandwich’s not..and the pizza is *really* heavy). There are other Randos there and of course Ken knows a bunch of them. Ken and I place our usual sandwich orders (tri tip for him and veggie sandwich on sourdough roll with no onions for me) and the deli cashier is extra nice and fills our water bottles for us! I get an oatmeal raisin cranberry cookie from the bakery for a post ride treat and ask Ken to carry it in his mini backpack for me. He says he’s going to charge me half for carrying it. I tell him that if he does that then I’m buying 2 as then I get a full cookie still. πŸ˜› We get our sandwiches and hear someone ask if they can join our table and he’s been fully vaccinated. I look up and it’s Mike Theriault! I used to ride with Mike’s wife years ago and haven’t seen her since then. I didn’t know that Mike was a Randonneur until the Del Puerto Canyon 200K in Fall 2019 that we both did. He had seen my name on the Laguna Lake 200K roster and wanted to say “hi” to me too. Ken and Mike know each other too of course.

Lunchtime over and now we have to go through the misery of Key Creek, which always has very strong wind for some reason. We pedal through with a few “WHOA!”s every time we get pushed around and have to pedal hard to get through it. Tomales no longer has an easy access bathroom option and Ken keeps talking about a place in Marshall that Phil and I have never been able to find. We pass all the oyster and seafood restaurants along Highway 1 en route to Point Reyes Station. I actually like going down Highway 1 from Marshall to PRS as it’s mostly shady with the hilly parts giving you just enough speed to almost make it up all the climbs, but none of them are that long anyway. We pass by Mike who had left Tomales before us as his chain popped off right at the start of the only real climb between Marshall and PRS.

Wisteria on the Olema House

We get to Point Reyes Station and stop by the roadside faucet to refill our water bottles. I’ve got my hot spot again so take my shoes off. Phil needs more to eat and I need to use the bathroom so Ken offers to watch our bikes (and probably socialize with whoever comes by whether or not he knows them). From here I can almost go on auto-pilot all the way back to Crissy Field since I know the route and am happy it doesn’t involve the Panoramic Highway climb. We get to Olema and the last Control. The required photo is of the Olema House sign and the Information Control is how many bike racks there are on the other side. Phil finds the bike racks while I’m busy taking photos of the poppies growing along the side of the highway.

Golden Poppies, the official state flower, growing on the side of the road

In my head I’m thinking that we only have 4 more climbs left in the ride. We climb out of Olema towards Lagunitas on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. My friend Frank has been housesitting a lot at his friend’s gorgeous house in Forest Knolls and I’ve been frequently staying there when he’s been there lately. A bonus of that arrangement has been that I’ve been having a better working memory of the area which also makes a lot of the distances seem shorter as I’ve ridden them more lately. My hot spot is manifesting again and tell Ken that I want to stop in Fairfax to take my shoes off again. We do some gentle coasting to White Hill, which is also a pretty quick climb. I keep thinking that I need to figure out where all the mountain bikers I see around White Hill are going as I may want to try it out with my mountain bike sometime.

We descend down into Fairfax, which I’m quite proud of my descent as I made the Your Speed signs say “SLOW DOWN” as I hit 40 mph on my descent. πŸ™‚ I wait for Ken at the bottom of the hill and he yells “Thank you! Thank you!” as he goes screaming past me into Fairfax. I catch up to him and we make our way through town. Ken doesn’t drink anymore and he didn’t know that Gestalt Haus was in Fairfax, let alone ever been to it. He thought it was in Mill Valley as he knew a lot of people went there after Tam rides. I tell him that we’ll have to arrange a Tam ride from Fairfax sometime and go to Gestalt Haus after so he can finally see it and say he’s been there. We stop at the Quick N Easy Market in San Anselmo for our last water stop. Ken and Phil get ice cream sandwiches. I down a Honey Stinger Gel and black sesame snack bar as otherwise I know I’ll be hungry by the time we get to Mill Valley. We’re enjoying sitting there a bit too much and decide it’s time to start rolling again.

Two more climbs left and both are ones that I used to do on my pre-pandemic regular Wednesday morning rides of Camino Alto and the climb to the Golden Gate Bridge. Both require some work, but they’re not an issue for me at the end of a 200K. The weather prediction was for strong winds on the bridge which is the bigger worry! Rob’s email the night before said to be prepared to walk your bike if you have to across the bridge. During the Faultline 200K Permanent last month, Dan and I were both riding at a noticeable angle across the bridge and I’m hoping to have conditions at least that good today. I think we all go on auto-pilot at this point as the route between Fairfax and Mill Valley is the same for pretty much all cyclists of staying off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Once past Camino Alto and Tam High School, we get back onto the bike path.

Always relieved to make it back to the GGB as it’s the top of the very last climb for all rando rides that start/end in SF

I finally notice what the construction outside of Mike’s Bikes of Sausalito was for as there’s now a wide sidewalk around the corner, which I’m guessing was done to help cyclists have an easier time getting into the turn lane to turn onto Bridgeway. A guy behind us at the intersection asks us if we’re on the 200K ride. It takes me a second to realize the guy recognized Phil’s San Francisco Randonneurs jersey and he’s probably a Randonneur also. I think his name was Patrick? He just started randonneuring with his first Rando ride being the Davis, Dunnigan, and the Delta 300K last month. He enjoyed it, but said it was really hot. I told him that’s why I don’t do any Davis Rando rides during the summer, but DDD is great in late October. He’s doing the Uvas Gold 200K the next weekend. He stays with us all the way to the bridge. I tell him the story of how the day I met Ken, he said he was going to get me to do a 300K within a year, which I’d told him “yeah right.” Of course I ended up doing it without him even pushing me that hard about it. I’m not sure where he’s heading, but we bid our farewell to him and say that we’ll probably see him on another Rando ride sooner or later.

Special treat when riding with Ken is that I get to lay down on his carpeted van floor after the ride!

We get across the bridge, which has minimal traffic and manageable wind! A quick descent down to Mason Street towards Crissy Field. Phil and I joke at Sports Basement that we don’t know if we can make it to Crissy Field and want to quit right there…half a mile from the end. πŸ˜› We end our ride at Ken’s van. Given the new brevet process, there’s no table to check-in at afterwards so your official end time is the time your GPS recorded ride ends, your last timestamp photo is taken (this one of the Golden Gate Bridge), or you write down on your brevet card. Phil says it’s pretty anti-climatic to end a Rando ride without the usual staffed check-in and snacks. Phil took BART from Oakland so heads back to BART to go home. I’d almost forgotten about my cookie and inhale it while putting my stuff away. I crawl into Ken’s van and lay down on the carpeted interior which feels like a heavenly cloud while Ken finishes wrapping up his stuff. I finally pick myself up off the back of Ken’s van and into the passenger seat to head home. Even though it’s a “new normal” for brevets, it’s great to have them back again and have the Rando community out there on the roads in an organized fashion! I’ve really missed these so much!

Laguna Lake 200K Route

This entry was posted in Cycling. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s