Saturday, July 17, 2010

Jul-16: Sauratown 200 km Permanent

The plan for the weekend:  the Sauratown 200 km Permanent on Friday w/ Maria, followed by a much, much easier 100-miler on Saturday with the Irregulars.  Certainly do-able -- even if I had to drop the entire Irregular crew off my front on Saturday.

Pleasant drive to High Point -- we beat the rush-hour traffic.
We need to talk to Joel before doing this ride again in order to get his thoughts on WHERE to park "outside the marina".  Maria parked at the CVS near the alternate Circle-K start/finish control, because there was a VERY good chance the marina would be closed and locked before we finished.  

I must have lost concentration putting stuff in my pockets and putting on socks, shoes, gloves, helmet, etc., because suddenly Maria was informing me that it was after 8 am.  I think there was a time-warp.

We started a few minutes late, and Maria must have been intent on making up the time in the first five miles.  More likely she is one of those instantly-warmed-up cyclists.  I decidedly am NOT.  30 or 40 miles to really get warmed up is the usual.  On occasion, 50 miles.  I'm not sure 40 or especially 50 miles would have worked quite so well today as we were in the mid-40's when we slid through the Taylor Rd / Sauratown Rd intersection.  I think I must have been pretty well warmed up by the time we left Walnut Cove, as I seemed to climb that LONG slope pretty well.  Of course, as certain Irregulars might note, "it was a Martin slope", not too steep.

Earlier, Maria had told me that she was making a special effort to keep her pace up on the downslopes because she had noticed from this blog that I do not like having to sit-up, catch-air, feather-the-brakes while coasting downslope / downhill.  I told her not to worry about it.  Eventually, I asked her to be sure she did NOT wear herself out trying to keep a pace to stay ahead of me on the downs -- I would just go around.  She could pass me on the return ups.

Very little climbing on Joel's route for the first ~ 50 km to Walnut Cove.  While at the control in Walnut Cove, Maria commented that Joel had noted that the climbing on the entire route was front-loaded, but statistically there didn't seem THAT much difference first-half versus last-half.  I replied that I thought most of the climbing for the entire route would be in the 10 or 15 miles after we left Walnut Cove. 

No stores except the controls are noted on Joel's cue sheet.  I knew of one store -- on NC-66 just before we would turn onto Taylor Rd.  I had gotten some VERY sweet tea there in mid-May ( see here ).  They didn't have any home-made sweet tea today.  We each had a root beer and maybe something else.  And we topped off our water bottles.

We left the store and turned onto Taylor.  Next time, Maria, continue straight on NC-66 for maybe half-a-mile, then turn around and go back and turn onto Taylor.  Very pretty and twisty fun on NC-66 just after Taylor.  (That is the extent of my pre-knowledge of Joel's Sauratown route.)

I pointed out Sauratown Rd as we passed.  Earlier, Maria had asked, based on reading an e-mail I had sent, if I wanted to ride to the top of Sauratown in the midst of the Permanent.  "No, while that would be 'epic', my legs would be trashed for no good reason; it would not be responsible of me."  I did comment that some of our more climbing-blessed and crazier rando-folk would likely take the diversion just for the fun of it -- the names of MikeD, Branson, Jerry escaped the lips.  Probably could have added a plethora of others including Tom and Mary F., Lynn and anyone else that did Tony's 400 km or 600 km Statesville - Little Switzerland jaunts.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that Lynn would not be interested in a side-climb unless it was "required"; she is, after all, in Sridhar's words "insane".  The others, however, are all just plain crazy.  But as I told some Irregular buddies recently, all randos are crazy -- even the randos know they are crazy -- but it is generally a good, or at least mostly harmless, kind of crazy.

NC-66 winds its way north (?) from Sauratown Mtn.  I am surprised that Lt. Dave doesn't go to Hanging Rock just to ride the winders on NC-66 north of Sauratown.  Definitely his idea of fun riding -- "the more the road twists up-and-down, and curves back-and-forth, the better the cycling".  NC-66 is certainly more fun than flat, flat, flat, flat, flat for ever and ever.  Of course, the flat stuff is easier.  Unless there is a ferocious headwind.

We made the first info control, and took a break.  Maria took a fair number of photos.  When she is recovered and etc., I hope to link or swipe some photos.

We found a "store" just before crossing the Dan River.  The surroundings were littered with "tractors".  We were doing quite well on time, so took a few extra minutes to eat some potato chips and have a cold drink.  We noticed the storm building just to the west.

We left the "store", and immediately descended to cross the Dan River.  As we were crossing the Dan, the rain began.  Within moments it was coming down in torrents.  Climbing back up to the plateau from the Dan, the rain got worse and Maria shouted ahead asking if I had seen any lightning.  Nope.  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!  I heard a tree breaking.  It couldn't have been more than 50 yards away.  A white light apparently simultaneous with the thunder had flashed, mostly on our right side.  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!  We've got to get out of this!  Maybe there is a church or some other building at the top of this climb!  Agreed! 

I crested the climb and saw a perhaps abandoned building with an overhang over the front door, and the east (?) side of building was at least in the lee.  I signaled a left turn and grabbed my brakes.  Darn little brakes.  Squeezing harder and harder as I start to roll down the other side of the crest.  One-two-three cars went around.  Each giving me space.  I got stopped.  Got off the bike.  Turned around. ... ... ... No Maria!

I made my way across the road and parked my bike under the overhang, and waited.  A couple minutes later, I saw Maria cresting the hill -- I went out to wave her down.  She joined me under the overhang.

"A big branch fell down and almost hit me", she said.  "I had to move it because it was blocking the whole road."  (At least that is my memory.)  I replied "that is much worse than my experience; my tough moment was almost being blown off the road as I got to this crest."  (Maria says I cannot write that she is tough or strong or anything like that, but she didn't say I couldn't write something like the following.)  I think Maria is mentally tougher than me.

Maria used her camera to make a movie.  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!   I really hope it comes out.  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!  (The movie did come out -- see below for a link to Maria's blog entry.)

We proceeded after at least 35 or 40 minutes.  We were sure that we'd likely be late for the info control at the Virginia State Line.  Certainly Joel will give a reprieve if we make the next control in time, and finish the route in time.  It was clearly unsafe to continue when we sought refuge.  16 minutes. 

If / when I do this route again, I will KNOW one thing -- that after that info control at the Virginia State Line, 704 East is a false flat downslope for miles and miles and miles.  For the rest of the ride (appox 56 miles), there was the occasional climb (and we did have to recross the Dan), and my speed up those climbs was SLOW (but I started having heat and lack of electrolyte issues, so I had a long period of SLOW, anyway), but the last short-half of the route is pretty flat.  Especially as compared to riding through the heart of the Sauatowns. 

Even though Maria slowed to match my snail's pace as I battled off cramps -- failed twice -- we reached Stokesbury with quite a bit of time in the bank.  Maria was talking about when "WE" would leave; I was talking when "SHE" would leave, and I'd follow after my legs felt better.  I really wish there was bench at that control.  I finally spotted a low cinder-block wall next door.  I insisted Maria leave to preserve her R-10.  I would leave when the legs had some life.  Maria finally agreed.

It is amazing what twenty minutes sitting on that cinder-block wall accomplished.  Somewhere, I have heard of the unwritten rule of randonneuring:  never stand when you can sit.  I called Smitty to ask if he would "lead" the Irregulars Middleburg Century on Saturday, as I certainly was not going to do the ride.  I left the control at 7:35. 

For more on Maria's epic adventure, and her take on the shared part of the adventure -- see her blog post.  ( Here.  )

As for my adventure, I did another 10 miles or so, probably averaging 10 mph, and called Maria from the corner of something and Market to let her know where I was, and that I was going to keep riding, and I'd look for her driving the course backward.  Then I got back on my steed and rode the 0.7 miles on Market with a little more gusto, and turned onto Sandy Plain or whatever Rd, and a miracle, another false flat downslope.  Cadence came from the slight downslope.  Cadence came from the falling darkness.  Speed, oh glorious speed, came from the cadence and slight downslope.  I still had to be careful to keep the legs, especially the left calf, very relaxed, to ward of cramping.  But speed, baby, speed.  19 +/- mph speed.  On tired, trying to cramp legs.

Maybe I can finish the course on time.  A small climb or two -- with cadence! -- with some speed!  Maybe I CAN complete this course with a minute or two to spare.  Maybe, just maybe.

That dang light on Johnson Street / Road / whatever -- where the cross street clearly has the priority.  Two minutes wasted waiting for the light to change.  I would have gone across on the red, but there was a Policeman just on the other side of the intersection assisting a motorist trying to "jump-start" his car.  Two minutes.  When I was trying to eak out a one minute victory.

Continuing on.  Still no Maria.  I wonder.  Has she had a problem.  Is she stubbornly waiting at the end for me to arrive.  That last doesn't sound like Maria.  Four-and-a-half miles (or so).  Sixteen minutes.  I think there are some small rollers on Oakview.  I'll never be able to average 16 mph unless I am willing to risk debilitating cramps.  Doesn't seem likely I can finish on time.  Maybe, just maybe, I can.

I see Maria.  She sees me and turns around.  I ride on for half a mile, and pull into the entrance of some church.  I'm secretly hoping she'll tell me "you can do it."  I look at my watch and figure the distance -- no, I can't.  I have enjoyed the ride.  It is 127 miles into the legs. 

Maria pulls into the church.  I can tell by the way she manoevers her car that my ride is over.  I said "Maria, you're supposed to say I can make it."  Hoping she would parrot me; then I could say say "no, I can't; let's load up and go."

But Maria is having none of my silly hopes.  She says flatly "they have had a major storm here.  Trees are down blocking the intersection at Oakview.  Trees are lying on top of cars and houses.  All the stoplights are out.  The electricity is out.  I barely got through, worried I'd find my car destroyed.  Let's load up and go." 

We load up and go.

On the Full Moon Kerr Lake Loop, Tom Florian told me that he didn't really care about getting credit for his rides, he knew what his legs had done.  I'm not sure I believe him about not really caring about the credit.

But, for the Sauratown 200 km Permanent, I don't care about credit for me.  I had an epic adventure with (what for me) was epic climbing, it was freaking hot, there were fun climbs and descents, a long, long flat section, I (mostly successfully) battled off cramps after getting behind on electrolytes, and I got in 127 miles, all but about 5 +/- miles on new roads. 

However, Joel, please give Maria a break on that intermediate info control.  We really did lose at least 35 minutes to that storm.  It was not safe to continue when we took unplanned refuge.  We did make the control in Stokesbury with plenty of time to spare.  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!! 

Sauratown 200 km Permanent -- dnf for me; 127.9 m.; 9 hrs, 4 min in motion; 14.1 mph. 

Q-1 tot: 16 rides; __938.2 m.; _60 hrs, 39 min; 15.5 mph.
Q-2 tot: 31 rides; 2,263.3 m.; 151 hrs, 29 min; 14.9 mph.
Ju1 tot: _9 rides; __547.3 m.; _35 hrs, 41 min; 15.3 mph.
YTD tot: 56 rides; 3,748.8 m.; 247 hrs, 48 min; 15.1 mph. 
Monthly avg pace plummeted.  The YTD avg pace slipped back a click.
These hard climbing routes in the heat are killing me.  And my avg riding pace. 

I had had in mind a shorter, more "marathon" haiku-like entry in mind for this ride.  But I forgot the key elements.  So ... a long story.  Ssssccchhh-KA-POW!!   


  1. Re-reading the above, I cannot believe that I forgot to mention Maria's main fun of the day:

    she took every CL sprint except the one when she dropped a bottle or something off the bike. Aargh!

    A little "Alan Johnson, Jr." was she.

    On 704 eastbound, I had been hanging fairly far back, partially so that I did not have to eat dirt, etc. being kicked up by her wheel, partially as "control device" as I was "battling cramping" by trying to keep the legs very relaxed. I would have gladly taken a turn or more in the lead, but Maria was the one possessed with desire at the time, so I stayed where I could be of most use, following. I did start to think about trying to time a controlled "rush" to catch at the upcoming CL (clearly identified on Joel's cue sheet), but had barely started to try to close the gap, when suddenly, Maria was coming back to me. I wondered if she was suddenly tired, suddenly wanted me to do more of the work, or if she had a CL plan in mind. I did not ask as she dropped behind me -- I just endeavored to maintain the pace that we'd been going.

    A few moments after the green CL sign came into sight, I knew the answer ... she sprinted by me as if I was not moving. I laughed to myself.

    A move worthy of her master CL teacher -- rando Fearless Leader Alan.


  2. You get the Emmy nomination for "Best Use of Sound Effects In a Blog Post."

    Tough luck on the finish but hats off for braving the storm.

  3. @ bullcitybiker - I especially like how the "Ka-Pow's" bleed over onto the lines above and below their own. Forces one to pick one's way through the limited vision text. Similar to picking one's way through the debris, with vision limited by the "grape-sized" rain-drops and the close-at-hand lightening.

    It amazes me that "someone" was riding one-handed in some of that so she could take photos while in-motion on the bike. She is crazy. I kept both hands on the hoods (except for the moments where I signalled the left turn I didn't quite make) and my butt firmly holding the bike down.

    Aah. Adventure.


  4. Martin,
    Parking is usually on that large grass area on the left before the marina. Depending on how much rainfall recently, you may need to be careful not to venture into the middle area or risk getting stuck. Some people park on one of the two side streets that border the grass area, but there is only room for about 3 vehicles each.