124 miles is a lot of ground to cover. To do it on a bike, in the rain and against the wind takes even longer. On Saturday I conquered that distance and the weather at the Bikenfest 200k Brevet.
Several weeks ago I Googled “bikerides” and “Oregon” and found a blogger’s website promoting a 200k brevet . Great, I thought, only two questions: “how many miles is 200k?” and “what is a brevet?”
I Googled a bit more to answer my questions:
1. 200k = 124 miles
2. brevet: In the sport of randonneuring a brevet or randonnée is an organised long-distance bike ride. Cyclists- who, in this discipline, may be referred to as randonneurs follow a designated but unmarked route (usually 200km to 1400km), passing through check-point controls, and must complete the course within specified time limits. These limits, while challenging, still allow the ride to be completed at a comfortable pace – there is no requirement to cycle at racing speeds or employ strategies. (thanks, Wikepedia!)
Check points? Unmarked routes? 124 miles!?? That definitely sounds like an adventure. So I made it my goal to make the Bikenfest 200k my first organized ride. As the race drew closer I was even able to convince my friend Marvin* to join me.
*If anyone would be up for an unsupported 200k bikeride I figured it would be Marvin – Marvin is clearly a step above the rest – he’s completed two (!) Ironmans and runs a wicked fast marathon and does it all with a huge grin. The last time Marvin was up in Portland I convinced him to go on two crazy, snake-ridden, super steep trail runs.
Friday night – the day before the ride – I left the office at 8:30 feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. Luckily, a very friendly local bike shop representative is very inclined to help out in such matters. He picked me up and provided a pre-Bikenfest status update: While I was at work, he had installed fenders, performed a tune up, mounted a handlebar bag and double checked the weather report. “All we need to do is drive to the shop and get the bike and the rack.” To which I replied “What rack?” He explained that with fenders my bike will no longer fits in the back seat or trunk of my car. Seriously, getting into this whole cycling thing is complicated. He showed me the car rack and how to attach it to the trunk. It seemseddo-able – more complicated than running for sure – but manageable all the same.
The next morning, after a night of fitful tossing and turning, I picked up Marvin and his bike and drove east to Hood River. We arrived at the scene, registered and prepared our bikes.
The ride began promptly at 7:30. There were about 15 riders. We all had small maps and the small blue brevet control cards. I glanced quickly at the sky and made the decision to not bring my rain jacket. It was a huge mistake and one that I would regret over and over again.
The beginning of the ride was cold. So cold! I glanced over at Marvin and saw him shivering. Accustomed to L.A. riding and temperate SoCalweather, Marvin had only a lightweight kit, light arm warmers and a thin jacket. No gloves. No leg warmers. No warmth. I handed him my extra pair of gloves and tried to stay positive, “Marvin, I’m sure it’ll get warmer once the sun is up,” I said.
The first part of the ride took us up and over Seven Mile Summit. It was a challenging 1800 ft. climb in the first 12 miles. I loved it. It warmed me up and got me excited for the rest of the day. At the top Marvin and I stopped to answer the first control point question. I ate some Chomps and admired the view.
The decent after reaching the summit was cold, windy and steep. My ears burned. My legs wobbled and my eyes watered. It was not a pleasant feeling. Marvin and I rolled happily into Poppi’s Snacks and Deli in The Dalles where I ate “breakfast” (protein bar and Nuun) and hoped that feeling would return to my toes.
Sadly, things went downhill after Poppi’s. We headed east out of The Dalles. The wind picked up and soon it started to rain. And rain and rain. I couldn’t help but giggle. My toes went completely numb. Marvin looked miserable. And we were only 40 miles into the ride! We still had a stinking long way to go. Even in perfect weather riding 124 miles isn’t exactly easy. At a few points it seemed like the rain had stopped, but then it just picked up again. At Mile 49 we stopped for another control point before we circled back around and through The Dalles. There we stopped at McDonald’s where I spent 5 minutes drying my gloves at the bathroom air dryer. I sucked down some coffee, ate another protein bar and looked lovingly at the blue patch of sky to the east.
Marvin and I rode across the red bridge and into Washington. We rode east along The Columbia river for almost 20 miles. The air was drier. My legs and toes dethawed and I felt, (dare I say it?) almost warm! Marvin and I were the second and third riders to arrive at the Maryhill Museum and the time control check point. John Kramer the ride director was there to greet us, sign our brevet cards and offer us some hot tea and zucchinni bread.
Marvin led the way back West. We passed many of the other riders heading back and waved. The sun was bright, but the air was cool and neither of us wanted to shed our layers. We stopped at a gas station before riding back though The Dalles. At an intersection I glanced down just at my trip odometer registered 100 miles. It was officially the longest ride I’d ever done. And we still had 24 miles to go!
The last bit of the ride was not flat. At all. A head wind greeted us as we wound around Rowena Point. It felt VERY steep and very long. It was also 110 miles into the ride.
It seemed like the ride between Rowena Point and Hood River lasted an eternity. We were both exhausted. With only two miles to the finish Marvin looked at my very seriously and said “Heather, I want some M&Ms.”I pulled out the bright yellow bag and we tore into them. Marvin grabbed a handful and stuffed them in his mouth. It was impressived. We made quick work of the M&Ms and felt so much better.
We arrived back at the start just before the rain started. Hooray! And so ended my first randonnée.
Peanut M&Ms should be staple in your nutrition plan.
Eat, eat, drink, drink and you’ll be a happy randonneur.
Wear. more. layers.