Beep, beep, beep, beep…oh, that’s our alarm going off at 5:45AM. Must be time for another 200k! Yesterday was one of those, “Justfivemoreminutes-hitsnooze-nojustthreemoreminutes-hitsnooze-onemoreminuteplease-ohnoit’s6:20getupnow” mornings. I did not want to leave the cozy comforts of our warm bed. (I probably should start training for early wake-up calls as much as I’ve been training on the bike.)
I finally pried my eyes open against their will and jumped out of bed as quickly as possible as soon as I realized I was running late. The Bearded One had decided to join me on the ride at the last minute, so we both rushed around getting ready at warp speed so we could make the start at Crissy Field.
We checked in at about 7:40am, where our jovial greeters joked that the leaders were probably in Petaluma already. (Thank goodness it was open until 8am to accomodate us slackers.) TBO and I got our brevet cards and rolled on out to try and catch some other folks; apparently there were 110 riders already on the road.
So yes, it’s early, and you’re barely awake, but views like this one are part of the reward for riding first thing in the morning.
After descending into Sausalito, I realized that this ride might turn into a repeat of The Campagnolo Cleat Saga from last month’s 200k. My left cleat was mis-aligned, and I had no multi-tool on me. It wasn’t even 8:30AM and I had already broken two rules this morning: Don’t replace your cleats before doing a long ride without testing them extensively beforehand, and bring a multi-tool along — especially if this just happened to you less than a month ago. (And with Campy cleats, you need a flathead screwdriver to adjust them because Campagnolo always has to make everything super finicky and proprietary, as you fellow users know.) I ended up unclipping my left foot and climbing Camino Alto with it resting on top of the pedal so as not to further tweak my knee, which was already starting to twinge in protest.
Of course, this being Sunday morning, there weren’t any bike shops or hardware stores open yet — just lots and lots of bakeries tempting us to stop and eat their fresh-out-of-the-oven muffins and drink their hot coffee. We did pass a few riders heading in the opposite direction (and who are these cyclists that are just finishing their rides at this hour? Sheesh!), but it wasn’t until we reached Ross that I was able to find a helpful group of mountain bikers that had a multi-tool.
Now we were ready to tackle White’s Grade. I absolutely hate this climb. No matter how fit I am, this climb always sucks. I don’t know why. I’ve climbed far worse ascents, but White Grade’s always makes me whine and complain. Here’s where The Bearded One, who riding his Nagasawa track bike (fixed, brakeless) and had been off the bike for over 3 weeks due to illness, turned to me and said, “Well, at least you have gears.” Thanks for the reminder, Jens. And my legs were feeling so slow and sluggish today. Was it too much training? Not enough training? Too much beer from yesterday’s Tour de Biere? I felt like they had been encased in cement blocks and were ready to be thrown into the nearest river by the mafia. TBO said, “Just go as comfortably as you can,” and so I blazed up White’s Grade at a scorching 6 mph.
With White’s Grade thankfully behind us, it was onwards to Nicasio Reservoir.
Speaking of dreading climbs, TBO was not looking forward to the one immediately after the Point Reyes Petaluma Road / Nicasio Valley Road junction. He remembered it to be a real slog, and his prolongue absence from riding made him wonder whether he’d be suffering up this climb. But we actually motored up it in no time, and he figured living in the East Bay and climbing up the Oakland hills on a regular basis had made these hills seem easier by comparison.
Then we cruised down a smooth descent on freshly paved roads, enjoying the spring-like scenery in the valley. As we were taking in the views, a speeding driver laid on his horn as he and his Porsche obnoxiously passed by us. TBO flashed him the peace sign, and the guy stuck his hand up out of his convertible and was about to flip us the bird — but decided to return the peace sign instead. I guess he felt our hippie vibe. Share the road, dude!
Just beyond this point was new territory for TBO and I, as he normally made the left turn towards Marshall and I had never ridden any of this section on previous rides. This is another aspect of randonneuring that I love, as it’s the reason I took up cycling in the first place: exploring the country by bicycle.
The next thing we knew, we had reached Petaluma.
We spotted a few riders at the 7-11, but rolled up to Peet’s Coffee for our first control point. There were no volunteers working any of the controls, so we had to purchase an item at each location, write the time onto our brevet cards and save a receipt as proof of our visit.
Here’s the TMI portion of my ride report. Getting up early disrupts the, shall we say, harmony of my morning bathroom rituals. I normally poop like clockwork on other days. TBO used to join a regular (pun intentional) early morning Sunday ride to Marin, and he says as soon as the group hit Sausalito, several of them would turn to each other and with a knowing nod say, “Ok, it’s time.” So I’d personally like to thank Peet’s mocha for helping to restore the balance of my gastrointestinal tract, and for accommodating all of us who checked in here. “A stampede of folks just left,” said my server with a grin.
And here’s where we had our second breakfast. Riding long-distance makes you feel as if you’re on a Hobbit-like eating schedule; our first breakfast was a burrito at 7am, and this meal would consist of homemade peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches with bananas and tangerines. TBO had already snacked along the way but was ready for more food.
Time to hit the #2 on the list: Valley Ford. Tail winds and flattish roads allowed us to power through this section at about 16-18mph and make up some time.
All I had to do was hang on and suck TBO’s wheel.
It was time for first lunch in Valley Ford, and during our stop TBO helped out a guy named Gary who had unfortunately broken off a derailleur cable in his shifter. (The Bearded One possesses some MacGuyver-esque engineering abilities, and I consider myself truly lucky since I’m always breaking appliances and doing bad things to my bicycles.) We also caught up with my friend Alice and her riding companion Juliayn. (I was supposed to meet them at the start, but they were on time unlike my lazy ass self.)
Point Reyes Station was next on the itinerary. We were about 60+ miles in at this point, and The Bearded One was starting to feel a bit cooked.
I kept trying to distract him by pointing out the beautiful scenery that surrounded us.
But he kept making faces like this:
And he started saying things like, “Put a fork in me,” and “My legs have turned into Sizzlean.” We were planning on stopping at the Marshall Store, but every single place was jammed with oyster-seeking foodies. So we soldiered on, dreaming of the pizza at Bovine Bakery.
At last, the blessed tail winds brought us to Pt. Reyes Station for control point #3 and second lunch. Bovine Bakery and the store across the street were also packed with Sunday tourists, so we ventured over to Tomales Bay Foods for some flank steak bruschetta and tomato soup.
It was definitely beer o’clock.
Only one control was left — the finish at Crissy Field!
There were several climbs we had to conquer on our return journey: the one just past Nicasio Reservoir; White’s Grade (it’s not bad on this side, however); Camino Alto and Sausalito.
We took a third lunch break in Fairfax — just a quick PB & J and some more fruit. TBO later wondered whether he should have had more beer, however, for extra nutrients.
Would we make it before dark to Crissy Field? My cycling computer popped off of my handlebars during a bathroom break in Mill Valley, so we lost some time as we backtracked looking for it. Ah well, at least we weren’t stuck in all of the nasty weekend traffic leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge.
11 hours, 47 minutes later, we arrived back at Crissy Field. Our happy welcoming committee ushered us in and processed all of our official paperwork.
TBO said as we drove back home over the Bay Bridge, “That’s one thing I can check off the list of things I’ll never do again: 200k on a fixed gear.” But I was proud he finished his very first randonneur ride while still recovering from the plague and on his Nagasawa. He deserves a medal just for that in my book!
Thanks again to the San Francisco Randonneurs for organizing this fantastic event. See you at the 300k!