Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I am now a randonneuse.  I like the sound of that!  According to the rules of randonneuring, I can now call myself a randonneusse (female form of randonneur) because I have successfully completed my first 200 km brevet.  Fancy that!

All in all, it was a very nice day.  We had gorgeous weather - what could be more pleasant than riding along the coast, the deep blue Pacific Ocean sparkling on one side and the hills and sights of Southern California scooting by on the other?  (Or crawling by, as it seemed by mile 90.)  Of course, it started out cold.  And we started in the dark - not something that we'd counted on.  The ride began at the Ralph's parking lot, but it ended at the organizer's home about 3/4 mile away.  He suggested everyone park there, which we did.  But that meant that we were riding downhill at 5:40 in the morning, and at that time, it was DARK.  So we had to put the light on the bike - even though, of course, Roger had insisted we would not need the light on this ride!  Neither of us counted on needing it to start, so I guess that was okay.

We turned in our registration documents, waiver, and check, and received our brevet card in exchange.  This is like a little passport that contains your control points.  You must make it to the control points on time, or you are disqualified.  You must document your passage through the control points by obtaining a time-stamped and dated receipt, or you are disqualified.  You must sign your brevet card at the end of the ride, or you are disqualified.  (Like a golf tournament, I guess!)  You must not lose your brevet card, or you are disqualified.  Obviously, hanging on to the brevet card is a major goal.  I tucked ours safely into a baggie with the cue sheets, so they would be safe from wind and sweat.

The all-important brevet card
Everyone pulled out promptly at 6:30, although we were just a tad later as I was finishing a little breakfast sandwich.  No matter; the route started with a five mile climb so we would have been off the back in any case.  We did reach and pass one rider as we climbed up to Santiago Canyon in the pre-dawn.

A fellow traveler along the route
He was the only one we saw before getting to the overpass near the first control point.  There, three cyclists were assisting a friend with a flat.  Roger and I were happy that they did not need our help!

It was freezing in the canyon, and we had it more or less to ourselves.  Two red sports cars zoomed by us - twice!  They must have been doing laps.  The temperature kept falling; I recorded 36.3 degrees at one point.  But how beautiful it was - the dawn coming slowly and lighting the road and trees, finally giving us just a bit of warmth and a shadow just before we reached the summit.

Control # 1
The first control was at the Chevron station there at the base of the canyon where our club rides have stopped many times.  What you must do is purchase something so that you get a timed and dated receipt showing when you were there.  We had to make this first control point within 1 hour and 36 minutes after starting.  And - you could not get there too early, either - not that that would ever be a problem for us!  The control was open from 7:18 to 8:06.  Period.  You make it in within that time frame or you do not get credit for the brevet.  Apparently, these times are calculated based on a standard range of speeds established by the officials in France.  All very precise!

From this point, any of our club members would know the route.  We headed down to the coast on the bike paths to Newport, where we had our second control.  At this point, we actually caught up with a couple of the other riders.  Did I mention there were 15 riders on this thing?  15!  Not exactly a crush.  Anyway, you buy something at this Chevron, and then cram some food into your mouth, hit the bathroom, fill bottles, and go.
We did manage to pick up a few folks who were happy to draft the tandem for a while on this next stretch.  Of course.  And there was a fellow from Riverside who had not downloaded the Excel version of the cue sheet, because he had downloaded it from the RidewithGPS site.  Big mistake, it turns out.  Our ride organizer had all sorts of extra notes and tips in the cue sheet, whereas RidewithGPS said stuff like "Go south on I-5"!  When he realized that, he stayed pretty close to us!

We rode through Laguna Beach (always a nightmare) and then crawled through San Clemente.  It seemed to go on forever.  We scooted around Dana Point, and took the old highway south for miles past the nuclear energy station. We rode through Pendleton, where the guard at the gate recognized our jerseys and said he was from Yucaipa!  And at last, on the far side of the base, we had our third control, got a bite of lunch, and turned around to head for home.

Some really fantastic tacos, and then back on the bike!

It was here, at mile 77, that I swapped for my second pair of bike shorts.  Ah!  It made a huge difference in my comfort level for the next 30 miles or so.  (And then somewhere around mile 115, I realized that my butt was just numb.  It was amazing!  I thought I would be squirming and dying to get off the saddle and I just could not feel anything.  I figure this is something like that runner's high that I have heard about, but never experienced.  Call it "randonneur's butt"!)

Coming back up the coast, we had some pretty stiff headwinds.  Our average speed began to fall.  Up to this point, we'd been doing very well - averaging over 15 mph.  And of course, a headwind in your 90th mile is different than in your 10th!  But it was beautiful there along the ocean.  That's what I tried to appreciate.

A gorgeous day for a bike ride
There was also a fair amount of climbing as we headed back toward the start.  The Antonio Parkway was particularly taxing, with a nice long stretch of 8 to 10% thrown in for good measure.

Our final control was what is called an "information control."  You don't need to worry about the time you get there.  Instead, there will be some feature or landmark at a given mileage marker.  On your brevet card, there is a question, and you must answer it based on what you see.  This gives the ride something of a scavenger hunt feel.  Of course, this part of it appeals very much to me!

Just beating the sun home!
At last, we made the turn off Portola for the last 3/4 mile climb up to the finish.  The sun was just clipping the horizon.  It was getting cold again; in fact for the last half-hour I'd been tempted to call a stop so we could put our shells back on.  But we were so close, and the day was going fast . . . I did not want to have to get the lights back out for a final mile or two!

We arrived at the finish just before 5:00.  According to the rules, we had three hours to spare, as the 200 km must be completed in 13.5 hours or less.
Pulling into the finish

I was pleased with our overall performance; we averaged 14.2 for the ride of nearly 126 miles with 5826 feet of climbing.  Our touring average was 12 mph.  That's about what I had figured we would need to do over the long haul.  But, we were pretty relaxed about our time off the bike and we will certainly need to get faster with the "necessaries" as we pursue the longer distances so that we can accumulate enough time to actually get some sleep between the riding sessions!

We were not the last to finish, in any case.  So that's something.  We signed our cards, filled in our time at the control points, and headed off to find a beer and a burger.  Some things never change!

One down, three to go!

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