Ride Report: San Francisco 200K | January 26, 2008

I know we've all had days like this. So I thought that I would share my day from off the back. Moreover, I would like to take the opportunity to extend thanks to those who helped me get through the ride. Of the handful of brevets that I've participated, I'd have to say this was the hardest ride I've had from a mental perspective. Like many of us in January, my condition was not as good as I had hoped and I had poor legs on the day. Ride luck or lack thereof made things even worse. Actually I had lots of luck, it just wasn't the good kind.

I had thought I had made a good tire selection for the predicted rainy conditions, the Michelin "Transworld." I tested the tire throughout the week while commuting. The tire worked great in the rain but with no rain these tires sucked! I suffered 4 flats and one bad fix for 5 tires changes, all rear, throughout the day. After my first flat I was in a hurry and blew a tube pinching it under the wire bead. Of course the glue in my patch kit had dried and I brazenly decided to carry only 2 extra tubes. After all, I hadn't had a flat on my last four 200ks in the previous successive months (famous last words).

So with no extra tubes now and no patch kit, I made my way to lighthouse hoping to restock tubes sometime during the ride. I flatted again. I found that tiny pebbles would work their way into the carcass under my weight and pierce the tube. At this time I was walking, unable to repair my tires and ready to call it a day.

Thankfully I had worked my way back past a few riders so when they came upon me they generously helped me patch a tube, gave me a new one, and told me where I could restock too (Thanks to Jack and his friend whose name I did not catch. I owe you both big-time). At the lighthouse, Mike Biswell also gave me a tube but more flats came. Each tire change took longer and longer to repair as I dutifully scoured the entire tire picking out the offending pebbles. I felt stressed and rode with anxiety, senselessly wasting energy as I hoped to make it to Point Reyes to buy more tubes. I found the bike shop easily (thanks to Jack) where I restocked tubes and still had a patched tube. This all played havoc with my drinking and eating patterns and I was soon without energy.

On the way out to Marshall I flatted again. I quietly wondered to myself what I had done to deserve this challenge as many riders passed me again headed south while I was still making my way north. All I could say was, "It's not my day." I was battling myself going slower and slower and then the cramping started. Mike had decided to drive out to Marshall after his control closed, taking pictures.

At the control he encouraged and offered advice. He told me not to listen to the part of myself that wanted to stop and that I did have the ride in me. At mile 95 I was without water and too concerned with the time limit to stop. Thankfully I was familiar enough with the course from previous mixed terrain brevets, the 200k permanent, and Mike's insistence that I learn the way home that I no longer needed to read the cue sheet. It was totally dark climbing back into Fairfax and started sprinkling in San Anselmo. Then on the climb out of Corte Madera in the dark and sprinkling, my chain broke with just a few more miles to go and time was ticking away. I too was broken, uncertain if I would finish in time but no longer caring. Just finishing was now my only concern. In the dark, it took a bit to find the chain and in my state it seemed to take forever to fix. The SRAM quick link had mangled, half of which was lost and the other half bent and unable to remove. Two removed links later I was back on.

Once on the bike path, I filled my bottle at the fountain but it was way too late. I cramped badly climbing out of Sausalito and had to walk up the first part of the hill, but I stretched and was able to remount. The cue sheet had me going to the west side of the bridge but when I got there that side had already closed so I had to double back to the east side where I again encountered locked gates. As an out-of-towner, it took a bit to figure out the procedure for getting the gates to open but once on the bridge the end was in sight. It was during the double back that I claimed the title of "lanterne rouge" finishing last 13.02 hours from the start with just 28 minutes to spare. BRAVO to all participants and volunteers! I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks those that helped me complete the ride even if it was just to share a smile and especially my friend Mike.

BTW: anyone interested in some slightly used tires?