Last Saturday (3/13/99) I rode the first of the local PBP qualifiers, a 200K brevet starting from Marymoor Park in Redmond. I'd previewed most of the course the week before and it's pretty hilly. I'd been having loads of fun on the Bike Friday in the few weeks I've had it so I figured I'd try taking it on the 200K.
Andy shows up at my house at 4:30 AM and we load the Friday next to his Lemond on the back of his SUV. We drive up to Marymoor, sign in and prep the bikes in the dark for the 5:30 AM start.
Riding a brevet involves following a cue sheet and getting a card filled in with the time and signatures at various control points along the route. It's not really a race, but rather a ride with distinct time limits. You have to finish within a certain total time, but you also have to be at the contol points within certain times as well. The brevet card has spots for all the defined control points but brevets also often have "secret" control points along the route where you are flagged down and you get you card stamped. This is to make certain that you don't deviate from the course. For the 200K brevet, the total time limit is 13.5 hours which is not a blistering pace but you have to remember that the clock doesn't stop when you stop for food, mechanical problems or anything like that.
There were 41 of us at the start. All the bikes had to have lights and we were all supposed to have fenders although not everyone's bike was up to spec in that respect. I couldn't pick out too much in the dark but there were several tandems. My friend Ken on his GoldRush was the only recumbent rider.
We took off right on time and as we pulled out of Marymoor Park started towards the West Lake Sammamish Parkway, a rider pulls up alongside me.
"Do you know the course?", he asks in a slight German accent."
"Yeah, mostly. I previewed it last week," I reply.
"Good, I'll ride with you. My name is Jan." He pronounced his name "Yon"
Oh good God!
"Are you Jan Heine?" I inquire.
"Yes, that is me."
"I rode with you in the Cannonball last year. Well actually, I rode about three hours behind you in the Cannonball last year!"
"Oh yes, that was an interesting ride." Jan is being modest here. He rode the first two hundred miles of the race as the captain of a tandem team and then piloted the tandem solo for the last 75 miles when his stoker bonked. His total time for the ride was 13:47.
"Well, I'm not sure I can keep up with you..."
"Oh, don't worry about that," he chuckles, "I don't even have a big ring today!"
I look down and sure enough he's riding something like a six speed cyclocross bike with maybe a 44 tooth chainring. His legs are spinning smoothly with no apparent effort at a truly astounding speed. As we hurl along in the darkness along the parkway, we pass under a streetlamp and I glance at my speedometer. We're doing 24 mph. There's no way I can keep this up.
Luckily Mark VanDecamp pulls up along side us. Mark is a very strong rider and he and Jan start chatting. Without much effort, they begin to pull away. It's the last I'll see of them until the end of the ride.
Andy and a couple of other riders now pull up so I have somebody to ride with and then Tom pulls into our group. It's still dark so it's hard to pick people out but Tom says "A Bike Friday with a Zzipper bubble, that's gotta be Kent!" Tom is a PBP vet and we've done some training rides together.
"No fixer today?" I ask. I'd heard via Ken that Tom is building up a fixed gear bike.
"I'm not ready to take all the hills on a fixed gear," he replies. "Why no 'bent today?"
"I figured with the Friday, I could maybe ride with some of you. Also, I'm curious if I can still do the upright thing. I think I'll be back on the 'bents for the long rides."
I haven't mentioned it until now, but it's raining. We've just gotten so used to it that it hardly bears mentioning. It's like going to Paris and pointing out that everyone is speaking French. It's the Pacific Northwest, it's March -- of course it's raining. It's quite comfortable however, the temps are in the upper forties and I'm wearing a wool fatigue sweater under my rain jacket.
By the time we get to Issaquah, the sky has lightened to the point where we don't need the lights to see. The rain is light and stops at times but for most of the 200K, some moisture is coming down.
Climbing up the Issaquah Plateau things stretch out a little more. Jan and Mark are completely out of sight gone and Andy, Tom and a few others form a second lead group. I'm still thinking I started a bit fast in hanging with Jan for those first few miles so I drop to the granny and chug up the hill. On top of the plateau, I make up some time on the rolling sections and zip down the descent into Fall City.
I still see much of the second lead group on the climb to Snoqualmie Falls. After the falls we loop around Mill Pond Road and at the Mount Si Golf Course (mile 26, kilometer 42) we stop at the first control. It's Kendall's car and we get our cards signed, water refilled and I grab a bananna.
I leave with a small group and the route circles back down past the Falls. The loop was about 4 miles and coming down I see five riders still going up.
I'm riding with a couple of tandems and a guy on a really racy Italian bike. The guy on the solo bike doesn't have fenders and he rides behind the tandems. I can't really tuck in behind him without getting a face full of road grit and the whole crew doesn't quite have the pace line thing down. When I take a lead, they drop back and we don't really work as a unit. Still, riding solo, I'm riding at something like their pace. We pretty much stick together from the Falls down to the valley and out toward Carnation. We get flagged down for the secret control at Tolt Hill Road and are then off again.
But these folks wind up stopping more than I do (small bladders, I guess), so I wind up riding alone as the route winds it's way north along the West Snoqualmie Valley Road. At mile 57, the tandem teams are back on my tail and we ride together for the next four miles up to Monroe. Here it's another bathroom break and I munch on some of my rations. Just as we're set to pull out, my pal Ken pulls in on his Gold Rush. "Yep, the ride's just starting," he says. My tandem crew is leaving and I wait for a minute or so for Ken and then figure that we won't be riding at the same pace anyway and I leave. I catch the tandem train at the next stop light and guide them through a kind of tricky section of the course.
The next section, Woods Creek and Yeagar Roads, are very pretty with some rolling hills and climbing. The tandem gang winds up pulling away and I'm riding solo again for the ride alongside Lake Roesinger. I stop for a quick snack and to pop a couple of PainAid pills since my neck is twingeing. Riding an upright bike after so many miles of 'benting means that I have to readjust. I've got a Brooks Pro on the Friday, so my butt is perfectly comfortable but I'm not used to holding my neck up so much and I have to build up those muscles.
Just before Granite Falls Ken blows by me on the Gold Rush. He misses the turn just inside the Granite Falls city limits. I yell at him but he doesn't hear me. I follow the correct course and a few blocks later I meet up with him looking a bit confused at an intersection. "You're just making up the course as you go along aren't you?" I have to kid him since he'd been the one drilling into me the importance of paying close attention to the route sheet. We roll into the control point at the Granite Falls McDonalds together and get our control cards stamped.
We were at mile 86 (KM 138) now and it was right around lunch time. I'd already planned that I'd grab some food here, so I got some chicken nuggets and fries and settled in for a nice snack. Ken grabbed a few of my fries and headed back out on the road. The tandem team was there but they took off a few seconds after Ken. As I was finishing my meal, about a dozen other randonneurs rolled in. One of the bikes was a nice Rivendell. As a matter of fact, a lot of the bikes on this ride looked like they'd been spec'ed by Grant Petersen -- fenders with mudflaps, bar end shifters, Carradice saddle bags, etc. I finished eating and left while this big group was getting their control cards signed.
I rolled along down Highway 92. The tandem crew was sidelined with a flat and I paused long enough to make sure they had everything they needed. I turned off onto Machias Road and then jogged onto the multi-use bikepath/jogging trail. Last week it had been sunny and the path had been crowded with dog walkers and roller bladers. Today the weather was worse and the traffic was better. I rode the path into Snohomish where I connected with Highway 9.
Now there is a stretch into the wind and then up a big hill. I see a dot climbing the hill. It's Ken. I motor on and catch up with him about one third of the way up. "I think that cheap bike is slowing you down," I say desparaging his $3,000 worth of Gold Rush. I keep chugging up the hill. Once I'm up at the top, things become rolling and I keep going and glancing back to see if Ken (or anyone else) is gaining. I see bunches of cars, but no other bikes.
In Woodinville, it's another turn and another climb up a big hill. I'm now at mile 113 (KM 182). I stop partway up for another quick snack and then continue the climb. Eventually things level out and I'm at the last control, the Zip Mini-Market at mile 117 (KM 188). I get my card stamped and I'm on my way again.
The last section is fast, Avondale Road leading into Redmond and back to the Sammamish Parkway. I buzz past the park and then climb the last few blocks up to the finish line at Kendall's house.
I'm the ninth one in, finishing at 2:52 PM for an elapsed time of 9:22. Jan and Mark were first and second followed by Terry Z and then Andy. I'm not sure of everybody's finishing times (I don't have official results yet), but Andy said he'd been in for about 15 minutes when I pulled up. Ken finished 15 minutes behind me, but said the guy at the last control had told him I was only a couple of minutes ahead at that point. But Ken told me that I'd been smart to stop at the McDonald's because he was really starving and had to stop and get some food at the last control.
We were all pretty happy with our times. Andy said the important thing was that he'd finished ahead of me, I said the important thing was that I'd finished ahead of Ken and we all agreed that the important thing was that we'd all finished well within the the thirteen and a half hour time limit.
Next up, the 300KM ride on March 27th.