Monday, October 13, 2014

Salinas - Oxnard 600k brevet

This weekend I supported the PCHRandos Salinas to Oxnard 600k brevet ride. This ride had been organized by Matt O'Neil but when he was killed on the C3R ride Willie, Vickie and I undertook to run it in his name. The ride is a one-way from Salinas down the coast to Oxnard. Most riders left cars at the Oxnard Amtrak station and took the train or got a ride up to Salinas. I transported Kerin and Mike while Willie transported a couple more in his tricked out truck.

We had about 25 riders start at the Howard Johnson in Salinas at 4am Saturday morning. They rode a loop southeast along G17 and G16 and then turned right up Carmel Valley road to the first control at 55 miles and 2400' where I met them with food and water and encouragement. The Salinas valley was cold and foggy that early which caused Elaine some difficulty, but she and Lisa made it up to my control where they inhaled some greek yoghurt and recovered a little.

Then the riders had a lovely downhill most of the way to Carmel at mile 80 where it actually started to get a little warm. So far the ride had mostly been on hilly, but quiet country roads. They turned left onto PCH and rode down one of the most spectacular portions of PCH with amazing views of the Pacific coast. Other that the unusually heavy traffic, the cycling was fantastic. The temperature stayed around 65 and there was a pretty solid tailwind.

I next made contact with the riders at Gorda which boasts the most expensive gasoline in the continental US at $6.00 a gallon. Thank goodness I drive a Prius and only needed two gallons. They also have $13.95 quesadillas which would cost $6 anywhere else. I met an Englishman called Jamie who is currently running from Vancouver, CA to Argentina at the rate of about 30km a day. He's raising money for several charities. He's pushing all his supplies in a regular baby stroller made by Thule. I wish him the best of luck.

I stuck around at Gorda until Pete, Lisa, and Elaine came through - all looking pretty strong. Then Nicole, who was also helping, told me her minivan wouldn't start. Her battery was dead and we couldn't find jumper cables. Gorda is in the middle of nowhere - they don't even have power lines or cell phone coverage. Everyone there was so nice - they called people and hunted around and eventually Terry found some jumper cables for us. My Prius manual says I can't jump other cars but we found some German tourists who helped and we got Nicole's minivan running again.

At this point I realized my cell phone had stopped working. I could take photographs and receive text messages but the screen didn't work and I couldn't make any outgoing calls or reply to the texts. I had to drive to SLO to Vickie's house so I could go online to find out how to reset the phone. Fortunately when I did that everything started working again.

For the rest of the evening I shuttled back and forth from SLO to the last rider and accompanied Elaine and Lisa into SLO about 3am. The control closed at 4am. At this point I had been awake for 24 hours straight, but so had many of the riders. Pete DNFed at SLO after riding 220 tough miles, with severe butt and knee problems. I know there's a 600k in him somewhere.

I drove straight to Oxnard and grabbed the room at the Best Western at about 8am, showered, and grabbed an hour of sleep before the first rider - Gary - arrived at 9:20 for a 29:20 total time. This was his first 600k but by no means his first long ride. Other riders came in slowly over the next few hours. By 5pm there was still about half the pack out on the road with three hours left. Nicole was providing SAG while I did the paperwork at the end control.

I've always thought that experienced randonneurs aim to have about an hour to spare on a multi-day ride. This maximizes their sleep time while leaving a good buffer for issues. This group seems to agree because the bulk of them finished around 5pm although Jorge came in with only 15 minutes to spare because of a flat tire only a few miles from the end. Everyone who left SLO finished the ride inside the allotted time and got credit.

Mel Cutler got his Ultra Randonneur award -  he did 10 Super Rando awards in only five years. Way to go Mel. Several riders completed their first 600k. Eric found it easy and Hal found it difficult but everyone gets credit for completing a challenging 600k brevet this weekend.