Thursday, January 1, 2015

Two Hundred Kilometers

The first required brevet, at 200 km, should not be terribly difficult for us to complete.  It will be further than I have ridden in a single sitting, but not by much.  When I first started riding, I planned a trip for us from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.  We had completed the Lake Tahoe century that summer, and were still riding regularly, although not those distances.  I figured, having finished the Tahoe ride about 2:30 pm or something like that, that we could easily do the trip in two legs of about 120 miles or so.  And I wasn't concerned about that additional distance, because, hey!  I'd done 100 miles and felt just fine, so why wouldn't I be able to do two more hours at more or less the same pace and be done by 4:30?

So I got a room for us in Sedona (about half-way) and our plan was to ride there, stay two nights, then ride on to the Grand Canyon through Oak Creek Canyon.  Well, there were a couple of things that I did not consider.  One big factor in tour planning is the amount of daylight you have.  We did the Tahoe ride in June, with plenty of daytime.  Late November, there's just not as much day.  We left Phoenix in the dark, but we were at least riding along city streets with lights.  Out in the canyon, I just did not feel we should continue once it got dark.  I only had one back flasher, and so I gave it to Roger and I stopped at a hotel and tried to find a cab that could ferry me and my bike the rest of the way up the road to our B and B in Sedona.

Another key factor in touring is the terrain.  Now, I was confident that I could ride a good pace across Arizona, since the Tahoe century had had a fair amount of climbing (around 5000 feet, I think), and it was at altitude - around 6500 to 7500 feet.  However, I did not consult a topo map of our planned route to Sedona.  Nowadays, it's simple to plot any excursion in advance on the computer and see what the climbing requirements will be.  We didn't have access to tools like that in 2000, and I completely underestimated how much up and down there would be.  I knew the south rim of the Grand Canyon was about 7000 feet, and Phoenix is at 1100, but I did not realize that we would climb and descend the same 1000 feet so many times on the way!  Every time the road would turn DOWN and we'd lose the feet we'd just gained I would silently scream, "NOOOOOO!  Not again!" Obviously, pacing depends on the amount of climbing you have to do.  So that threw my estimates off, also.

And then there is the issue of food.  When you are doing a supported century ride, you stop every 15 to 20 miles and grab something from the rest stop.  You can pack your pockets with bars, you can fill up your water bottles with Gatorade, you can cram some peanut butter sandwiches in your mouth and have a banana and be on your way in a few minutes.  When you are touring, you have to stop somewhere to eat.  Even a quick burrito grab at Taco Bell takes a while.  So there is likely to be more time off the bike for a given number of miles ridden when you are handling your own food.  That's not a problem, necessarily - it just increases the elapsed time.

Well, the combination of these three factors meant that I just could not go the entire distance on that first day.  I stopped at about 117 miles, and Roger continued to the B and B, and I believe that I did finally reach a cab with a big trunk who came and ferried me in.  As far as I can remember, that is my highest daily mileage to date.  So this 200 km (which is listed as 125.5 miles) will be my longest ride yet.

Given that we do know how much climbing to expect, and we have ridden most of these streets before, and we have good lights and reflective clothing if we run into trouble and need the twilight hours, I am confident that we'll be able to complete our ride in the allowed 13 1/2 hours.  Even stopping for food!

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