The Woeful One-Point-Four-Five

DNF: In cycling and some other racing and endurance sports, it stands for “did not finish.” You can read a lot into that phrase: Injury, accident, exhaustion, a broken bike . It’s a verb, too, as in “I DNF’d,” or,”Yesterday on the Terrible Two, I DNF’d.”

I didn’t suffer any of the problems listed above, really, as I rode that epic Sonoma County double-century. I was going slower than I expected, and the two big climbs on the first half of the course were as tough as advertised. I was tired, but not at the end of my rope. But I abandoned the ride anyway (“abandonée” is the French term for DNF; or maybe it just means “quit”).

The big factor: I realized at the top of the second climb, called The Geysers, that 86 miles into the ride I had fallen behind time-wise. The Terrible Two rules require you to finish in 16 hours and 30 minutes to record an “official” finish (the prize you get for being an official finisher is a T-shirt that says “I did it;” really). If there’d been no clock involved, or the time limit had allowed a little more cushion, I might have continued. But there was a clock and what for me had become a pretty tight limit. So I decided I’d pack it in from that point and spare myself not only the honor of finishing but the suffering of the big climbs on the second half of the ride.

A word about The Geysers country: If you out-of-towners ever find yourself in Sonoma County, it’s worth a detour to explore this area. The route down out of the mountains back to the Russian River, about 15 miles of very bad pavement, with several gravel section, on a narrow road, runs above a creek (Big Sulphur Creek); the landscape is fractured and abrupt all the way down (turns out that there are people who do even crazier things than riding a bike here). There’s so much geothermal activity in the area that power companies started building generation plants in the hills back in the 1920s; power generation got into full swing in the 1970s and by the late ’80s, the Geysers facilities were putting out enough electricity for 1.8 million people (this is news to me; I’d always thought of the Geysers power plants as something of a curiosity. So much of the source groundwater was pumped out during generation that power production has dropped markedly and a huge pipeline and pump system, Geysers Recharge Project, has been built to pump reclaimed water from the communities that use the Geysers electricity back up into the mountains to replenish the groundwater). Conclusion of fascinating local history side trip.

As for me yesterday, I rode down off Geysers Road having decided to pack it in. The weather was beautiful — probably around 80 degrees after three consecutive days in the mid to upper 90s. I skipped the Terrible Two lunch stop in favor of just heading south through Cloverdale, Geyserville (where I met a guy barbecuing racks of ribs in a parking lot; $5.99 a pound), Healdsburg and back to the starting town, Sebastopol. Finishing mileage was 145 miles, having spent some time zig-zagging unnecessarily on the way in.

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