Date: Saturday, September 11, 2010

This ride was another benchmark ride for Molly and I. Our previous longest ride was the 300K this year where we covered 188 miles and over 12,000 feet of climbing on the tandem. I have done five 300K brevets total, my first in Pennsylvania in May of 2008, but hadn’t yet braved a 400K. This ride was unique in that it was point to point. Any brevet covers a lot of territory, but being point to point we ended up travelling through many cities and counties. We started in Simi Valley at the Amtrak station, so Molly and I headed up the evening before on the Amtrak and stayed at a hotel about one mile away from the start. We planned our travel from downtown San Diego Amtrak, where the Pacific Surfliner begins, and rode business class to get early boarding privileges. One concern we had was having room to load our bikes because there are few bike racks and on there were people taking the train up to Irvine for the Amtrak Century on the same day. The train trek was about four hours long, and it was great. Driving would have taken longer, and been much more stressful. When we arrived we felt good! This was our first train adventure, and we will definitely consider it again if it looks like we can avoid driving somewhere. There were many plusses, but I have too much to write about already, so I’ll move on.

Here are some pictures of us with our bikes loaded in the truck before Kendall dropped us off at the Amtrak Station, and then waiting at the station.

When we got off the train at about 8:15 PM in Simi Valley we saw Kevin Foust and Osvaldo Colavin, so we rode together in the dark to the hotel. The next morning when we were leaving we saw Ed Sheppard checking out, so we rode with him in the dark back to the station where the start was. Ed showed me his setup for external power to his Garmin 705 (which has a battery life up to 13 hours). My set up for additional power is pretty simple, and worked out real well. There have been some concerns on the listserv chat about this, which is why I’ll mention it. I bought an energizer charger that takes 2 AA batteries for just a few bucks at Rite Aid. It is definitely not anything fancy, but works real well. Since the charger can’t plug into the Garmin when it is mounted to the bike, I just took the Garmin off the mount, plugged in this small charger, and stuffed it in my jersey pocket for a half hour during a time when I didn’t need to look at the computer. When it is dark and I don’t have to make a lot of turns where I’m tracking the distance between turns it isn’t necessary to refer to the computer. I kept it running the entire time to capture data, and I had no interruptions or data loss. Ed and I are friends on Strava, and he commented that he was surprised I’d want to be friends with him. Actually, any rando that rides in the San Diego area I would like to be friends with on Strava. I’m intrigued by some of the routes that Ed does. It is easy to keep doing familiar routes, but seeing his adventures has pointed out some roads to me that I’ve never been on. So, send me a friend request if you’d like.

The ride occurred nine years after 9/11. The news stories in the morning were about how that day has affected every day since for some of the survivors that lost family on 9/11. Duh! I don’t know for sure, but I think most of us have been affected significantly by those attacks on our country. Of course having lost a family member, or being an eyewitness would be very intense, but even being on the west coast and watching news reports was also very intense and I am reminded of those events very frequently. I’ve been in the Navy for over 21 years now, and the nine years since 9/11 has drastically changed my perspective of my military career. Today was also the day of the Gatorman 3 mile rough water swim. I did that race in 2001, when it was on 9/9. I did Superfrog Triathlon that year too, which used to be in September but was delayed until November for security concerns (the race was held at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado). Even though that race was 2 months after 9/11, it was a somber moment, and registration was very limited. On a side note, I didn’t realize until today that Kevin Childre, the team captain for Canari-Navy won that event that year. Anyway, this year 9/11 will also be remembered well with the completion of our first 400K. It was awesome to be able to get out of our home to do something so positive on the anniversary of such a horrific day. There were moments of silence being held many places in the country, and here is what we were doing at those times as we remembered and enjoyed the freedoms we do have.

8:46 EDT, 5:46 PDT, time American Airlines flight 11 crashed into World Trade Center, north tower

Randos were checking in for a 6 am start.

9:03 EDT, 6:03 PDT, time United Airlines flight 173 crashed into World Trade Center, south tower

Randos are off, actually at about 6:01. Here Molly is making some last minute notes on the route sheet.

9:39 EDT, 6:39 PDT, time American Airlines flight 77 crashed into Pentagon

The sun is starting to come out, but it is very foggy, damp, and cold. Molly and I were behind everyone. By this time we stopped three places to finally find a bathroom that was open, Molly put on her jacket, and just finished calling Kendall to make sure he was up to go take his ACT. A mother’s work is never finished, even on a brevet!

9:59 EDT, 6:59 PDT, time south tower collapsed

I was freezing by now, and had to stop and put on my arm warmers. Notice the goose bumps, and all the moisture on my arms and gloves. Even my waterproof watch was fogged up!

10:06 ED, 7:06 PDT, time United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania

The skies cleared up, but this didn’t last long with heavy clouds and occasional heavy fog until about 3:30 PM. I could see Molly ahead of me (at the arrow), but it took me quite a while to catch back up to her because in my pursuit I managed to drop a light and my route sheet, and then we had a steeeeep hill climb that Molly flew up.

10:29 EDT, 7:29 PDT, time north tower collapsed

Back in the fog, but loving it!

The first 100K of our ride was inland. At 100K we arrived in Ventura, and from there pretty much hugged the coast line down to Solana Beach. Here is a map of the route from Strava:

Along the way I tried to capture signs showing where we were. I missed some good ones, and was not willing to stop and turn around to get them. Here is what I got:

There was only one tandem on the ride that I saw, and the stoker was the only female there other than Molly.

Right before this sign was one I missed, warning of constant earth movement! This ended up being one of the smoothest roads.

And a few words about my riding partner…. Molly did great! Here she is at 145 miles, feeling good after having about 1/3 of a foot-long sub:

She was not feeling so good at around 200 miles (go figure!), but hung in there did awesome.

It was very dark during our last 45 miles or so. We had great lights though and avoided getting hit and running into holes/debris/obstacles. We were pulled over (lights/sirens/two patrol cars) in Oceanside, which scared the crap out of us. We were riding perfectly, but the cops wanted to let us know how dangerous it is to ride through Oceanside at night and that they had already had three accidents that night. They warned Oceanside is full of drunk drivers and young drivers acting like fools that will just run you over even if you are riding carefully. The police activity was very active even into Carlsbad. We hope all the randos had a safe finish.

Our official time was 16:45, making this ride just 45 minutes longer than the 300K we did in June. This ride had about 2/3 of the climbing though of the 300K where we rode the tandem, which is very slow on climbs.

We really want to do Paris-Brest-Paris next year, which is the premier brevet, and is only held every 4 years. PBP is to randonneuring what Kona is to triathlon. 2011 is the first year that registration will be limited to PBP due to increased popularity. The number of registrations for each country will be pre-determined, and pre-registration dates will be based on the longest brevet completed in 2010. The qualification standard of completing the series (200-300-400-600) in 2011 will hold, but date of registration is based on 2010 brevets. Unfortunately this 400K will be our longest for this year, and it is starting to look like that may not be enough for registration for US randonneurs. Molly and I are really keeping our fingers crossed, and may have to change our 2011 goals if PBP does not become a reality. In the mean time, we will keep riding, and loving the adventures that randonneuring has provided us.

The distances in randonneuring are definitely daunting, and I don’t know if I conveyed some of the anxiety that Molly and I had going into this 400K. It is good to push yourself though, and to try something a little bit harder than you’ve ever done. Ironman has a 17 hour time limit. A 400K has a 27 hour time limit, and we finished near the front in just under 17 hours. Consider a 200K, especially if the longest you’ve ever ridden is a century.