When failure is winning: Tappahannock 200k

I guess really a fail is never a win but in this instance I feel like I won last Saturday when I was a participant in the tappahannock 200k bike brevet (it’s not a race, yeah tell the guys at the front that). A brevet is more like an endurance race in any climate (in this case ball freezingly cold) that put the emphasis on getting to check points in a certain time rather than being first. I was excited to participate first because I have never ridden a bike 200 kilometers in one day (still haven’t, continue on please) and second it seems like a neat concept. So Friday night I got all my gear together, lights (it would be dark when we started), tools for changing a flat if I got one, appropriate cold weather gear, wAter bottles and the like and went to bed early following a big meal. When I arrived at 6:30am at Ashland coffee and tea pretty much everyone who would be riding was already there and sorting out thier gear as well as taking in extra banannas, sports drinks, and adding chamois cream to their taints in the dark. It was about as cold as it has been here every other day for the last couple weeks which was well below freezing but no one in this crowd would have it any other way. We set out at a brisk pace and I experienced something new right away which was riding in a group that wasn’t a critical mass. Good times there and in short order the pack began to split up into groups of varying paces. There were some really fast folks taking off and I pretty much hung with the second group which was pacing around 15mph for the first 20-30 miles. We chatted, traded names, stopped for a guy who had what was clearly a pinch flat from super skinny tires, and I generally enjoyed the scenery although at speeds in excess of my usual riding pace. About this time I discovered that my cyclocomputer and the manufacturers reccomended settings were totally off by about 1 mile every 10 and that on days like this one if you don’t put warm/hot water in your water bottle it will freeze in less that an hour which mine did. I ended up chatting with the guy who apparently organized the route simply because I liked his bike and I liked the fact he was wearing Carhardt clothing rather than the usual cycling reflective weatherproof bombproof anything proof clothing that people spend hundreds on. At this time we passed a farm I used to work with in manquin VA and I realized where we were. A store was approaching soon and although everyone else in the small pack I was with was continuing on I had to eat something and hopefully melt the ice in my water bottle. This I did and to my surprise they had a roaring fireplace which can be seen in the pictures below so I took plently of time to eat, drink up, n warm up. This was mistake number one. While it was pretty necessary that I eat some food by this time my stop and dilly dallying cost me ample time and while I was enjoying myself everyone else, whether they stopped or not, took off before me and I was dead last at that point. I wasn’t really worried about that but what I learned from riding in a pack that first two hours or so now translated to real issues while riding solo for the next two hours. Sure I caught up to folks along the way but the situation changed dramatically for me at this point. I could feel I was working way harder and going slower too which is kinda a double whammy at this point. Furthermore there were notes on the cue sheet I didn’t understand that could have caused me to get lost although I didn’t and made it to the first checkpoint. Anyhow I got there which was the courthouse market in King and Queen VA which really is nowhere and didn’t even have decent food to buy. I had caught up with some other cyclists and was crusing with them but ended up getting passed by the final tandem and tried to draft them for a mile or two before I couldn’t hang and let them blaze on while I puttered behind. This became an issue as being with them really helped with the wind which was starting to kick up for real at this point. I decided since I was already 45-50 miles from where I started and could feel my energies fading fast I could either truck on and be out until 8pm trying to finish this thing or just be happy with completion of what essentially is the first century ride I have ever done. I opted for the latter and stopped back by the warm fireplace again and had a cup of coffee with the owner of the gas station. All was well but when reading the cue sheet backwards I made a crtical wrong turn that took me 15 miles the wrong direction and it wasn’t until I noticed that the scenery looked incredibly familiar and was no where near Ashland that I checked the iPhone and confirmed my worst nightmare. I had just ridden in the opposite direction from my destination for an hour. At this point there was no way I was riding another 24 miles to Ashland so I called my sweet wife and she came and picked me up (son too, he wasn’t driving though). All in all I managed to ride the better part of 100 miles in a day for the first time and in sub artic temperatures so I was pretty happy although totally numb. In retrospect I would need to train some to finish one of these things which I did none of outside of my 12 mile round trip to work everyday and I need to upgrade some deficient areas of preperation like my lighting situation. There will be more brevets this year and the goal for now will be to get some century rides in and hopefully complete my first brevet sometime in 2010. The bike performed excellently and I even managed to have the chain slide back onto the big ring after it came off with only the assistance of the deraillure not requiring me to dismount. Again lighting was an issue simply due to the cheap light I have but that is easy enough to fix. My ass got a little sore and my wrists too but I don’t think there is much any bike could have done about that. Yesterday I wasn’t really even too sore, just tired and i think that sums up the event for me, i just flat ran out of gas so i need to figure out how to increase my stamina for these paces for an all day ride. Probably will have nothing to do with carbon fiber or sports drinks. I might still look into a nice riding jacket since i can use that for commuting too and if i was going to do one of these again i would get some of those foot booties people had cause my toes were frozen. For now I’ll enjoy my commute home this pm and might take a look at when the next brevet will be. So long commuters.


6 thoughts on “When failure is winning: Tappahannock 200k

  1. Congratulations on doing your first century, under very difficlut conditions no less! I enjoyed reading your report and hope we see you again at one of the upcoming 2010 DC Randonneurs brevets. Hopefully, we will have nicer spring weather on those.

    Bill Beck
    RBA for DC Randonneurs

    1. Thanks bill! I enjoyed it but didn’t want to stretch my abilities beyond what I thought I could do. I’ll get back to riding some longer rides in the spring and building up to ensure a solid run on the next one (and eat more spagetti the night before! Gotta fuel up!)

  2. I was one of the guys that stopped at the Exxon Station with the fireplace while you were there. That was my first brevet and I had decided to ride it with a buddy. We set out determined that we would stay together since we ride at about the same pace. That proved to be the single most critical decision I made. It helped in the wind to have someone else to deflect the force of the wind for a little while, and it just helped overall knowing that he was counting on me being there as much as I was counting on him. I am sure you will find another brevet and that you will complete it in 2010.

    1. No doubt you guys had the right idea. That wind started to get brutal in the pm. On a positive note I did see a sign for a camping spot near King and Queen that I’ll probably investigate as a sub 24 hour bike camping trip. Other races are near my dads house in loudoun county so I’ll probably stay with him n take another stab at it in more accomodating weather. Actually, he lives in lovettsville Va in a log cabin behind the community center there. I am positive there is a ride that goes past his house but either way it’s still a beautiful area to ride in. Thanks for the comment and come down to Richmond for the north American handmade bicycle show at the end of feb. Should be some nice eye candy!

  3. Nice write up, and very appropriate philosophical approach. I’m the partner Chris mentions above, and I agree our decision to stick together was critical to finishing our first brevet. Not sure I could have done it solo.

    I hope to see you on another one this year. Good Luck and ride safe!

  4. I had no idea there was a brevet so close to Richmond. This sounds like the kind of thing I would definitely be into.

    You’re right on about how much easier a group makes the miles go by. I rode my first (and only) century on the first day of the MS150 last year. We had a group of about 20 people and we were bombing right along for the first 50 miles but then I was the only person that took the turn for the century route and I had to log the 2nd 50 miles by myself. It was a very different ride.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s