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400k addendums

You might think that it would be a terrible thing to have a tailwind on the first half of a brevet, headwind on the second half.

But actually, there are a couple of benefits. For one thing, in a lot of cases people psych themselves out before they reach the halfway point of a thing. With the tailwind pushing us all the way out, by the time we reached the halfway point there was nothing to do but work our way back. Secondly, one of the things that's always in the back of my mind is the control time cutoffs. On that one apocalyptic Arizona Arivaca 400k a couple years back, where there was a headwind for the first 100 miles, a number of people dropped out of the ride even before the halfway mark, because they barely made it to the prior control before control closing time. It took a tremendous amount of work just to stay head of the red line for that brevet.

In contrast, with the tailwind-first, we built up a substantial time cushion, which meant that we didn't necessarily have to press ourselves as hard through the headwind on the return segment, and could relax mentally and physically just a bit more.


Since only myself and the RBA went on the ride, this was one of the only brevets I've been on with equal gender representation, hurrah!



( 9 remarks — Remark )
May. 10th, 2015 11:45 pm (UTC)
There were only two of you?
Zowie. Somehow that makes it seem even harder.
May. 11th, 2015 01:38 am (UTC)
I have a couple thoughts about that. As SK pointed out, it was really great to have company in those headwind stretches.

On the other hand, an element of randonneuring being "self-supported long-distance cycling" is that a randonneuse/randonneur needs to be physically and mentally prepared to ride solo. A new guy showed up on the first 200k, and he wound up out by himself for over half of the ride, and that doesn't feel all that much different from being solo the whole time, really.

I'd asked SK if he still would have ridden if he'd been the only person to show up, and he said yes (but that it probably would have taken him substantially longer to complete the ride, and he would have been more ragged after the headwind bits). If it had been just me, I think I still would have ridden, too. I'd already set aside the time for the ride, and I've gone on more than one century ride by myself.

And one of the sources I draw on when on these long-distance jags is what I've learned and how I've felt while out solo bike touring (short answer: fantastic!). I'm somewhat speed motivated on these things - this was my fastest 400k, for instance - but the intrinsic enjoyment of pedaling along is the main attraction. The brevet just gives some direction and structure to the pedaling. I suspect if I were out completely by myself, I would probably ride more slowly, but I *know* I can complete these distances by myself, and it can be freeing to ride solo - no need to try and match someone else's speed and motivation.

The ability to effectively self-talk is important, and it's actually also helpful to not have easy bail-outs, so as to figure out how to talk oneself through the inevitable low moments (which will eventually pass!). With road riding, in general someone is going to come along the road in a car eventually, so if things were extremely dire, it wouldn't be as bad as if one were out wilderness hiking. Plus cell phones.

So altogether, it was fun to ride with and get to know some of the other guys who showed up for the 200k and 300k, but the fun was an accessory element.
May. 11th, 2015 02:02 am (UTC)
I'm going to have to think about that response for a while.
I may be fundamentally wired differently than you as regards how and why I go on long rides.
May. 11th, 2015 02:40 am (UTC)
That wouldn't surprise me. For a lot of people, the social aspect is a fundamental part of activities like bicycling. I am sure I would question myself, "Why am I doing this stupid thing?" more frequently if I were by myself. While writing this I also thought back to my friend JW, who bike toured from Oregon to Michigan by himself one summer. He pretty fervently suggested doing a tour like that with at least one other person, so as to have someone to share the experience with.

So I've thought over the point ever since then, and especially since moving to Texas, where in a lot of cases (but certainly not all!) the options were to either do thing X by myself, or don't do it at all.

I've also reflected a lot on what it is like to go out on a hike alone - kind of have to reflect on that, given my cousin's disappearance on Mt. Rainier. When one hikes with other people, part of one's energy and attention gets directed to the other people, and a consequence is that one misses out on things that one might otherwise see or experience. People tend to talk to each other, so noise-sensitive animals take that as a sign to leave. I've come to realize there are pretty well-defined limits to when I am comfortable hiking alone (e.g. NOT in the dark in the tropical rainforest!! and typically NOT off-trail especially in places with venomous snakes). Bicycling has never felt as solitary as hiking alone.
May. 10th, 2015 11:50 pm (UTC)
Overall, that sounds pretty darn tolerable. :)
May. 11th, 2015 04:10 am (UTC)
Hiking Alone
From my former life as a national park ranger, I can say that hiking alone in back country and remote areas is never a good idea due to inherent dangers of a fall, twisted ankle-what have you and other emergency that may put you at risk. By far, most fatalities relating to hiking in national parks involve hikers who were hiking alone. Thanks! Jim Duncan
May. 11th, 2015 06:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Hiking Alone
ABSOLUTELY. There's a good reason why many trailheads have log books (so there's at least some written record of who's out there!).

So far I have only heard of one life-threatening incident occurring on one of the brevets I've completed. It was that Arivaca 400k where we had headwinds for the first 100 miles. Towards the end of the ride (at around 40 miles to go), a huge storm cell opened up and poured down drenching rain, and temperatures dropped down into the 40's. My friends and I fared fine and finished, but after the ride we learned that one rider got off-course in the dark and rain, riding ~20 "bonus" miles into a part of central Arizona where there aren't any services. He didn't have any extra food with him, so he started running out of energy and eventually he came to a stop and found a porch to sit on...the only thing that saved his life were two other randonneurs who happened to go past and heard him calling for help. By the time an ambulance reached him he was starting to experience organ failure.

So...I ALWAYS carry emergency calories with me that I won't touch unless it's a real emergency, as well as a space blanket, know the signs of hypothermia (and heat exhaustion), check the weather and carry appropriate clothing, and carry a cell phone. I could still hit a rock, go into a ditch and break my neck, or get hit from behind (and the RUSA has reported several - four? - collision deaths on brevets in the US in 2014). But I could also die of a heart attack or from choking while sitting on the couch at home, eh?
May. 12th, 2015 01:51 am (UTC)
Brevet Anecdote & Ambulance
Thanks for that very telling illustration of what can happen so easily and insidiously if one is not adequately prepared. No mechanical failure or crash but a highly dangerous scenario evolved due to weather and lack of backup prep such as you carry. Your resourcefulness is an admirable quality and I'm guessing makes you a formidable randonneuse. Thanks for sharing! Jim Duncan
May. 12th, 2015 02:57 am (UTC)
Re: Brevet Anecdote & Ambulance
There's something to be said for being willing to haul along a bit of extra "just-in-case" supplies, that's for sure! Thinking back, I would trace the roots of that back to growing up hiking with my dad, with the whole "Ten Essentials" ethos.

I wish that was the only "unprepared" story from the Arizona brevets, but there was a second brevet with a vivid story attached, too. I never interacted with the rider, but apparently there was someone who wanted to complete the 600k brevet without stopping to sleep, and who tried to go a bit too minimal with his equipment. From what I heard, his headlight's plastic mount failed, and so his headlight popped off. He was able to duct tape it in place and kept riding, but then it came undone again and got smashed into smithereens. Despite that, he kept riding - I suppose the clear Arizona skies and full moon aided visibility to a point where he decided he was safe. Only thing is, there are rules in randonneuring for a reason, and those rules include strict nighttime riding standards: reflective ankle bands, reflective vest, solid front and rear lights mounted on the bicycle. So he finished his ride, but was disqualified, and rightly so.

Just riding around town all of the time, I've wound up in situations where my battery-operated headlight on the Jolly Roger will have something go wrong, and sometimes my backup battery-operated headlight will also have something go wrong. So yes, I carry backup-backups. On brevets, even though I have generator lights, I still carry a spare headlight and taillight, and I also use a tiny headlight to read my cue sheet, and carry its tiny companion taillight as well. If I needed to remain "street legal" for a brevet, I could put the tiny headlight on my handlebars, although it doesn't illuminate much. I have loaned out the spare headlight and taillight to other riders on more than one occasion already.

Edited at 2015-05-12 02:58 am (UTC)
( 9 remarks — Remark )

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