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Two weeks ago, during and after the fall 400k, I didn't think I was going to ride in the 600k. Life was just too busy and I was starting to feel chronically exhausted from doing too many things - the sort of tiredness that K and I used to talk about when out rowing in the mornings, where we were counting down the days until the next time we would actually have a chance to sleep.

While the conference in Arizona was busy, it provided restorative rest because it featured a different kind of busy. Less running around, more sitting around, eating and talking. I am so grateful to my friend EL for hosting my stay there and providing me with a bike and a fantastic bike ride along the Cross-Cut canal to get to and from the conference. A long enough ride to stretch my legs so I didn't feel antsy about sitting all day long, but short enough to be manageable. By Wednesday, after I finished giving my talk, I changed my mind and decided that I would try to ride after all. The Nebraska countryside was calling, and the brevet would be a chance to revisit some familiar ground but cover new territory as well. And see how the landscape had changed as fall progressed.

I got back from Arizona very late Thursday night, so I made it a point to sleep in late on Friday. scrottie was going to catch the train back to Arizona in the wee hours on Saturday, so I knew there wouldn't be high-quality sleep the night before the brevet.

At 2:30 am, the alarm went off, and we got up, got dressed, and saddled up the bikes for our respective journeys. S borrowed Old Faithful for the ride over to the train station, where I hung out with him for about 20 minutes before it was time to go over to the Super 8.

S says, "I could almost do the brevet on Old Faithful, if I had a wrench to raise up the seat!" (it was still low from when my friend A borrowed it) As for me, I think I would want a few more gears for the hills...

As with the fall 400k, we had a good crowd!

Pep talk

...for a Nebraska brevet, that is. I believe there were 11 of us who started out, including a rider from Flagstaff, one of the ElliptiGo riders who I had seen in Ames and France, a pair of guys from South Dakota, someone from Omaha, and some Kansas City guys, as well. It was a good thing I showed up or it would have been 100% guys. At the start, SK filled us in on some route details, including information about a detour for road construction and logistics for the hotel in Blue Hill. I was thinking I would just try to ride through the night because I needed to get back in time to do some cricket work, and wanted to get back in time to also visit a National Bike Challenge party at Zipline Brewing.

The first 80 mile leg of the trip was cold and dark. I cursed myself for having remembered but then forgotten to tote along some full-fingered gloves, although I would note that at least it wasn't painfully cold. Not too long after the sun came up, a bunch of us arrived at the first control in Fairbury, at a McDonald's.

Ordinarily, McDonald's isn't the sort of restaurant I would frequent, but they sell some great brevet food - salty, carbohydrate-rich, and easy to digest. I had two egg and cheese biscuits, washed down with some hot chocolate. Mmmmmm.

Breakfast of champions

By this stage, we had started to self-sort into various groups moving at various different speeds. I wound up riding the first half of the brevet on and off with around four other riders, including the two South Dakotans, J from Flagstaff, and SK. I even managed to take a few photos of some of the lovely scenery.

Nebraska fall countryside scenery
I know it's hard to tell, but does anyone know whether these are actually sunflowers? The flower clusters and leaves seemed different.

Nebraska countryside vegetation
Whatever these shrubs are, they were along many of the roads we traversed, and had vividly red leaves. Is this where the whole Go Big Red thing comes from?

Attacking the hills
SK, charging up one of the hills on his fixed gear.

As it turned out, the gravel detour around the road construction wasn't as difficult as I had feared. In some respects, it was actually a nice diversion after charging up and down some hills.

Gravel detour

You might notice that it was cloudy, but we were fortunate in that the wind blew any chances of rain away from us along this segment. Damp gravel is all right, but wet gravel can get...interesting.

Gravel detour

One of the things I enjoy about these rides is that occasionally I'll encounter some sort of art in a random spot in the countryside, like this sculpture of a buffalo hunt (below; look closely). It reminds me of the Wild Horses along the Columbia River in Washington, now that I think about it.

Nebraska countryside hilltop art

You might notice that this is on top of yet another hill. Here was our elevation profile:

For some reason, the wind decided to blow out of the east over the weekend, which meant that as with some of the previous brevets we had a ripping tailwind for the first half of the ride. We made excellent time all the way out to Alma, arriving well before sunset. Then it was time to point our noses north and head back up towards Blue Hill, the sleep stop.

I wound up departing from Alma with SK and J, the rider from Flagstaff, although SK soon got his legs on and charged out ahead of us. One of the South Dakotans needed a few more minutes at the control and said he would catch up, while the other had taken off slightly ahead of us. When we passed him, I asked how he was doing but he said his knee was really bothering him. I was unfortunately too distracted because I needed a pee break and was trying to keep moving, so I lost sight of him quickly, figuring that there were still enough other riders behind us and there was still enough time on the clock that he would be able to get things sorted out.

So all of that said and done, I wound up riding the segment between Alma and Blue Hill with J, from Flagstaff, which was really fun because it gave us a chance to distract each other and keep each other awake with stories about bike rides and brevets and adventures in Arizona. It turns out that J has just become the Regional Brevet Authority for Northern Arizona, which will hopefully open up more opportunities for randonneurs to ride in the gorgeous, high-elevation country in that part of the state.

Unlike me, J wanted to get some sleep in the middle of the brevet. I gave in. We had made sufficiently good time that it looked like I would be able to have my cake and eat it, too. Or at least, I would be able to make it to Zipline for a little while and wrap up my cricket work before midnight on Sunday. So I got in a shower and a warm, comfy nap.

Don't wake the sleeping rando's

The pictured lumps are J and SK. I was surprised to see the South Dakotan, C, in the motel room, magically teleported ahead of us. Apparently a farmer had seen him walking his bike and gave him a lift to the hotel room. Nebraskan hospitality at work. It sucks to have to abandon a brevet due to injuries, but at the same time there are times when it's the right call to make, especially when one's long-term well-being is at stake. I am sure it was a disappointment for C, but I also suspect he'll get things figured out and will be back at it soon enough.

Part of the motivation for the nap was that overnight temperatures remained cool, so riding until exhausted and then ditch-napping by myself didn't seem especially appealing. J eventually convinced me to extend my nap out to 3:30 am (3 hours), at which point he said he'd be all right to get up and ride. When my alarm went off, SK sat up for a second, grinned at us, and then flopped back over for more sleep. At that point, I resolved that, if nothing else, I had to finish ahead of him. It wouldn't be fair if he got more sleep and then caught up!

Once again, J provided good company through the next segment of night-riding, up to another McDonald's, in Hastings. Once again, the egg and cheese biscuits tasted amazing, as did the mocha. This might seem odd, but I'm grateful that McDonald's at least uses real milk in their drinks. They're much better than the syrupy hot beverages at convenience stores.

From this stage onward, I don't have any good photos of the Nebraska scenery, in part because I just didn't think there was a good way to capture the experience of some of it. Take that Sunday morning sunrise, for instance. It was wonderful, as was the sunrise on Saturday morning, but the beauty was in the wide-open vista and the progression of colors. To some extent it reminded me of all of those early mornings out on Tempe Town Lake, watching the sun come up. A good sunrise is good for the soul.

On the other hand, headwinds aren't so good for the soul, and on this stretch the winds that had been so helpful on the outbound leg became an adversary. I may have cursed out loud several times. I kept thinking about the elevation profile map, which seemed to promise abundant downhills on the second half of the ride. Why, then, did it seem like I had to keep pedaling the whole time? At some point, I got ahead of J a ways, so it was just me and the wind. I alternated between standing and pedaling in a hard gear, sitting in an aerodynamic position and spinning in an easy gear, and "sitting pretty" and grinding along. Slowly, inexorably, mile by mile, this brought me closer to the end. It also helped to eat even more junk food, like the pudding and Spaghetti-O's pictured below. Something about the weather conditions had made my mouth feel dry and tender, but as with the McDonald's items, the Spaghetti-O's tasted perfect and went down easily. I ate cans of Spaghetti-O's at two different convenience stores, and both times I think I finished the entire can in under 3 minutes.

Brevet food
I highly recommend carrying along a can opener on brevets. Even if you don't go for the Spaghetti-O's, you could always go for the cans of creamed corn, like S. Can you say, maltodextrins?

At the last control, in Crete, just as I was about ready to roll out, J showed up. So I waited for a few more minutes with my feet propped up while he took care of necessities, and we rode the final 20 miles together, up and down the familiar hills on the outskirts of Lincoln. Altogether, we completed this one in 35.5 hours, which is close to the same amount of time as for the spring 600k, and we managed to finish about 30 minutes ahead of SK.

From there, I bopped over to Zipline for a bit, then took care of cricket duties, and then very very slowly cruised home (NOT in a headwind), where I enjoyed the post-brevet trio of beer, burrito, and bath, all at the same time.

Post-brevet recovery

Oh, and then the last "b," bed, for 12 solid hours.

In the end, I'm really glad I did the 600k, for multiple reasons: the great scenery, good company, chance for a little more adventure, and the chance to see that yes, adequate sleep and rest the week before really does make a big difference.


( 6 remarks — Remark )
Oct. 7th, 2015 03:22 am (UTC)
I LOVE the thought of simultaneous beer, bath, and burrito.

Headwinds are totally good for the soul, in that "oh, look, another character-building experience!" way.
Oct. 7th, 2015 01:07 pm (UTC)
Oh man, the triple-B really hit the spot. I took a shower to wash off the grime and then I really didn't want to get out because it was warm, so I just switched straight over to the bath. Indulgent!

I wasn't sure about writing about one of the ways I entertained myself when up against the wind. Also, the wind totally could have been worse, all things considered. Anyway - for a few miles, I had this sort of narrative going:

"I shook my fist at the wind, but the wind just blew around it. I cursed into the wind, but the wind tore the words out of my mouth. I spat into the wind, but the wind hurled the spittle back against my cheek."

So, yes. Character-building. On brevets, it mostly calls for patience and extra calories to compensate for the extra effort involved.
Oct. 8th, 2015 02:53 am (UTC)
That sounds fatiguing, especially on that Very Sensible bike pictured above. That in a headwind for 300 km is a recipe for insanity.
Oct. 7th, 2015 03:57 am (UTC)
Great Riding with you Rebecca.
I really enjoyed alternating pulls with you into Fairbury on the ride. Who needs a GPS/Computer when all we need to observe is the next mile intersecting sign. Right? Safe Travels Cycling Sis!! Duane #9678
Oct. 8th, 2015 01:22 am (UTC)
Re: Great Riding with you Rebecca.
Yes! That stretch was fantastic and fun! I can't believe I forgot to mention it.

I hope that your Day 2 provided smooth sailing. SK said you were fairly close behind him, but at that point I had to keep going to get to beer and cricket work. I'll see you on the road again at some point!
Oct. 8th, 2015 04:42 am (UTC)
I am grinning seeing S on that bike - good to know the seat wouldn't stay up for him any more than it would for me! ;-)

( 6 remarks — Remark )

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