Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My goal for this year was to complete a super randonneur series (a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K). I did the 400K on June 9. I was planning on doing the 600K on June 30 but called off the attempt after a seeing the predicted high of 108. That was the last chance to complete the ride in Saint Louis so I looked for other opportunities.
Fortunately for me, Little Egypt Randonneurs had a 600K scheduled for Oct 6 in Marion, IL. I decided to do the ride but I had some concerns as the date got closer. First of all, I completed the 400K in 24:28. This is well within the 27 hour limit but did not leave as big a cushion as I would have liked. Secondly, the only other time I had done a 600K was in 2007. That was a difficult ride and I was much lighter and in much better shape then. This route is also hillier than the one I did in 2007. And finally, after the 400K the only long ride I had done was 76 miles on a social ride in August.

It was raining cats and dogs on Friday but the weather was supposed to dry out for the weekend. It was, however, supposed to be colder. Lows in the upper 30's. I packed my thick wool socks and winter cycling shoes. I picked up my rental car on Friday after work and drove to Marion. I got to listen to the Cardinals beat the Braves on the radio during the drive. I checked in my motel and got about 5 hours sleep before getting up for the 5am start.

Three other riders were at the start (Bob, Michele, and Larry) and one rider (Ned) would start slightly later. I had ridden with Bob on the 200K and 300K in Edwardsville. Miles gave us our final instructions and we were off.

The route south out of Marion is fairly hilly. Since it was cold I like the climbs better than the descents. It gets cold descending at 37 mph when its 42 degrees out.

I made a quick stop at mile 34. The first control was at mile 56. I got there at 8:50. I made another stop at Tamms at mile 71. I talked for a few minutes there with a 70 year old cyclist who had never owned a car. I stopped again at mile 89. Bob and Michele passed me there so I caught up with them.

We reached the next control (mile 113) at 1:53. It started raining for about 15 minutes before we reached the next control. We stopped to put our rain gear on. Fortunately the rain was almost over by the time we reached Sparta (mile 157) at 6:07. It had completely stopped by the time we left.

We got to the next control at Okawville (mile 185) at 8:48. On the Edwardsville brevets I tend to linger here because it is such a comfortable place to stop.  Bob and Michele were disciplined enough to eat and get moving in about 15 minutes. I could tell I was slowing them down at this control so I tried to hurry up.

Michele was short on sleep before the ride had started. She was almost falling asleep on the bike before we reached Dix. We stopped a couple of times for her to take a 5 minute rest.

The overnight was at Dix at mile 219. Miles was waiting for us there with our drop bags. he also brought food because there was nothing open. The rooms had microwaves so I heated up a cheeseburger and tomato soup that I have bought in Okawville. I guess one advantage to cold weather is that things won't go bad in a few hours. I thanked Bob and Michele for riding with me and told them that they didn't have to wait for me in the morning.

After a shower and some sleep, we were back on the road by 4:20. Miles was waiting again with more supplies when we got to the first control (mile 247) at 6:43. I made some estimates about what time we would finish if we maintained a new speed of 12 mph. These were hopelessly optimistic because we did about 10 mph on the second day with the stops.

At 10:46 we made a long stop (45 minutes) in Harrisburg (mile 295). Bob was willing to make a long stop because the next control wasn't for almost 50 miles. I put some sunblock on my face but I thinkl that I had already gotten a touch of sunburn. The next section was on the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail. This is a rails to trails conversion which means that it is fairly flat but the surface slows you down. Bob kept up a steady pace and we eventually made our way through it.

We got to the last control (mile 341) at 3:40. I was feeling tired and again offered to let Bob and Michele go without me. Michele said that since we had ridden together so long that it would be a shame not to finish together. This made me feel good because I had been feeling a little guilty about slowing them down.

We were feeling confident when we left because we knew we had plenty of time. We had about 5 hours to finish the last 35 miles. We took the climbs slowly. They did not even seem that bad when compared to the energy sapping trail from earlier. Michele started to up the pace the last mile or so. I still had plenty of energy to keep up. I think that my slight sunburn was affecting me earlier. I seemed to have more energy once the sun started to go down.

We finished (mile 376) at 6:45. I thanked Bob and Michele for helping me. I also thanked Miles for organizing a great brevet. He also has a write-up on his blog.

Clock time 37:45
Stats from bike computer:
Distance: 379.88
Time: 27:44:48
Avg speed: 13.6
Max speed: 37.0

I was worried about my fitness but that wasn't a problem. The biggest problem that I did have was soreness on my seat. My hands were also sore. My feet hurt too which is unusual for me. This might have been because this was the first time wearing the winter cycling shoes this season.