Long-Distance Riders

I’ve meant to note for the last couple of days that this is the week of the Gold Rush Randonee. My explanation of a randonee usually prompts a reaction combining puzzlement (why would someone do such a thing?) with horror (you mean people really do that without being forced?). Here’s your basic randonee: 750 miles in 90 hours, with a series of checkpoints on the way to make sure you’re moving along smartly and not taking shortcuts.

So far, you’re just quizzical: “Yes? Hmmm. That’s a long way.”

You are correct. In ballpark numbers, 750 miles is a distance akin to San Francisco to Seattle. If you’re very motivated, you can probably do that drive in 13 hours up Interstate 5. On a bike, you want to build up to the adventure. Nice 50-mile increments would be pleasant. Take a couple of weeks to enjoy the scenery. Or maybe you’re a cycling animal and you do a 100 miles per diem, a century a day for eight days.

Here’s where curiosity encounters fear. “Ninety hours? How many days is that?”

Three and three-quarters. So to do your 750 miles in that time means pedaling a cool double-century a day. Yes, people actually do it. I can bear witness. But I won’t detour into some of the odder realities of the randonee–the night-time starts, the all-night rides, the naps in the ditches, the slow descent into an often less than coherent or rational frame of mind.

Still, you can’t help but ask: “How do you sit on a bike seat after all those miles?”

I just wanted to note the Gold Rush riders are out there, toiling from Davis, at the southwestern corner of the Sacramento Valley, across mountains and high desert to Davis Creek, just below the Oregon border on U.S. 395. They left Monday at 6 p.m., and the first rider of the 117 who started will be back in Davis in two hours or so — only 54 or 55 hours on the road. I’d like to know how much that guy slept. I know several folks on the ride, and it’s been fun to follow their progress in the Davis Bike Club’s updates. My friend Bruce, who will turn 63 this August, seems to be several hours ahead of his pace four years ago. Amazing, really.

Anyway, check out the proceedings:

Gold Rush Randonee ride updates

Gold Rush Randonee rider times

A Short Nighttime Spin

I’ve got 21.4 miles on my little cycle computer from a ride I did last night. Drove up to Davis to see if I could catch my friend Bruce returning from his 750-mile trek up to the Oregon borderlands and back. I started out from Davis toward a little town called Knight’s Landing about a quarter to 11, a little spooked about riding by myself on a Friday night. But I was fine as soon as I really got rolling, absorbed in taking in the warmth of the night — out in the Valley so much like I remember from Illinois — the moon rise, and watching the little circle of pavement my bike light illuminated. I had no idea how far I’d go before I met Bruce. He’d left the rest stop at Oroville, 88 miles up the road, a little before 6 p.m. Ordinarily, someone of his abilities would make that trip — mostly flat with no wind to speak of — in about a little less than five hours. But with the 670 miles in your legs, and with the heat of the last few days to take the starch out of you, I was figuring the trip would take seven hours, even eight.

A few miles out I encountered a single rider. I didn’t think it was Bruce — the lights were different — but I thought I’d see how the guy was He turned out to be Larry from upstate New York, and he started asking me about the turns he’d have to take on the way to the finish. I wound up riding all the way back in with him to show him.

I rode out again. Saw several riders pass in twos threes and fours. None looked to be Bruce, and I just cheered them on and kept riding. About the same place I encountered the first solo rider I met another. I asked if he needed any help. He said no, he knew just where he was and he’d be fine. About 30 seconds later he said, “I wish I knew where I was.” So I rode up to the next turn with him, too, before turning around once more.

Heading north again, I saw the lights of Woodland ahead; and also those of a couple bikes. They passed, I did my U-turn, and caught up. “I heard that there was really some really hard-core bike ride going on out here,” I said to the trailing rider. He confirmed that and added that he had the sore ass to prove it. Then the leading rider said, “Hey, is that Dan?” It turned out to be Bruce, really tired and really glad to hear that when I said I’d been riding for an hour and a half it did not mean we were an hour and a half from the finish. In fact, we were at the final control in about 10 minutes. Easy ride for me. Awesome one for him and everyone else who did it.

Thinking About a Ride

I’m sitting in the comfort of my little blogging room — we had one built special here at Infospigot HQ. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have predicted I’d be somewhere else tonight: Out cycling through the dark in the Sacramento Valley. Riding all night in fact, starting a trip that heads up into and across the northern Sierra Nevada and up the eastern, desert side of the lower Cascade Range all the way to the Oregon border. Seven hundred and fifty miles in 90 hours, maximum.

Plans change. So I’m sitting here, thinking of the 100 or so riders who are making the trip and wishing them — well, the way they say in France is “bonne route.” Especially my friend Bruce, with whom I’ve ridden a fair number of miles.

The Bike Gig

Regular readers of this space — if it is a space, but I won’t wander into that corner of linguo-journalistic inquiry for now — know I’m fond of mentioning my exploits in the world of road cycling. One of the things I’ve been aiming for this year is a Paris-Brest-Paris-length endurance event — 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) in 90 hours — to be held next month here in California. A large part of the challenge is the preparation and training involved, especially a series of four shorter (but still long) rides (called brevets) that qualify you for the ride. The qualifying distances are 200 kilometers (125 miles) in 13.5 hours; 300 kilometers (187 miles) in 20 hours; 400 kilometers (250 miles) in 27 hours; and 600 kilometers (375 miles) in 40 hours.

All in all, I had no problem doing the rides to qualify for PBP in 2003 or in doing PBP itself. By that I mean my body held up well and my motivation only flagged once, during the cold, rainy, dark middle of the 600-kilometer qualifier as I ground very, very slowly up a steep mountain road in Mendocino County. The only other significant breakdowns — I didn’t get a flat tire all year — involved my ass and my good humor, though not necessarily in that order.

But this year it’s been a different story.

Continue reading “The Bike Gig”