Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Apr-20: NCBC 300-km Brevet

Recollections on the day -- NOT necessarily in chronological order:
  • Since there are several references to specific roads or points along the course, here is a link to a map of this year's course:  (If you click on the link, an new tab will open -- you'll be able to keep this tab for the report, and have access to the tab with the map.) 
  • Near the start of the ride, Byron mentioned that this was the 15th consecutive year for this 300-km course.  (I heard him say the same thing, two weeks earlier, near the start of the 200-km brevet.)  So far as I can tell, no one has gotten tired of the course.  If they start to think they're tired of the course because they know everything about the roads and vistas, etc., they should do a pre-ride with RBA Alan -- last year, when I did the 300 pre-ride with him, Alan pointed out numerous things I had not previously noticed.
  • It felt quite COLD after the sunset.  I went in to Andrews Store to sit and collect some warmth before the Jack Bennett descent:  I must have dozed off in the store because Jacob was suddenly telling me I was "burning daylight."  That's what he said, even though it was already 9:20 pm or so. 
  • The heat-sink of Jordan Lake did its job -- the temperature was suddenly back above 50F, and that felt much warmer. 
  • There were about 2-dozen at the start.  I thought it strange that I didn't recognize most of them -- I thought I had mostly figured out who was whom.  
  • The start was an inconsistent, semi-aggressive event.  Half the true fast-pack seemed to put on their faux-racing faces within the first 6-miles.  Strange that although the pace of the fast-pack was clearly higher than recent rides, the inconsistency among the back half of the fast-pack and disintegration of the mid-pack resulted in covering only 16-miles in the first hour, instead of the usual 17 to 17.2 miles. 
  • Due to different plant-watering and partial disrobing stops, I re-connected with Byron, Ricochet, Phil, Wayne and Mick after the Jack Bennett climb. 
  • However, on the most scenic of the valleys on Castle Rock Farm Rd (maybe the only scenic creek-valley on CRF Rd), the other five easily dropped me.  I attempted to re-connect for another mile or more, but finally acquiesced to the separation, and tried to find my own cadence, which must have worked, because: 
  • "I found my thrill on Lin-day-ley Mill."  I.e., I found myself enjoying the ride into the light headwind, even when climbing.  As I neared the turn off Lindley Mill Rd onto the Old Greensboro Hwy, my internal smile was so big that I was sure my external smile must have resembled the ever-present smile sported by Pamela Blalock
  • The last 4.5-miles to the outbound Snow Camp control felt so good that I determined to short-stop the control.  I would have been stopped for less than 3-minutes except that the non-rando in line in front of me decided he just had to change five $20 bills for one $100, chat about who-knows-what, then change another five $20 bill for one $100 bill.  Aargh!  Oh, well. 
  • I left Snow Camp before Byron, Ricochet, etc., but I think all five caught and passed me before the Siler City control, only 12-miles later. 
  • However, I was still feeling good, so I decided to short-stop Siler City, too (except nature called while at the control, and that cost a few minutes).  
  • Byron, Ricochet and I rode all of Coleridge / Old Coleridge and the gravel Manor Rock detour together.  Such peaceful roads.  Manor Rock was EXCEEDINGLY peaceful, and then suddenly, after crossing a bridge, the road surface was crap, and I found myself thinking "WHAT THE HECK?" before I recalled "Oh, yeah, this is the gravel."  The description of getting to the gravel was spot-on.  The description of the road and gravel, however, was ... well, see the epilogue after the usual personal stats section.
  • It was a beautiful day to be outdoors and on a bike. 
  • Lindley Mill, Greensboro - Chapel Hill and Coleridge roads were their usual gorgeous Spring selves:  verdant green hillsides and lawns and dandelion covered pasteurland, with horses, dairy cattle and goats along the route.  Also a UFO or two. 
  • Coleridge, Erect and Fork Creek Mill roads also always transport me back in time to when Lynn and I would drive to the Seagrove area to go pottery hunting.  Strangely, a couple years ago, Lynn told me that pottery hunting with neither me nor her mother come to mind on the way to or from Seagrove -- maybe she has always ridden that section too-fast to notice. 
  • I arrived at the Seagrove control with only 18-minutes of stoppage time -- not bad for 150+ kms. 
  • Ian and Mary were staffing the control.  Ian taking photos and conversing with all -- thanks, Ian.  Mary was busy keeping messy Ian away from the neatly organized foodstuffs -- thanks, Mary. 

Ian snapped photos as riders arrived at the Seagrove control.  This is me.

Although I dislike Ian's favorite photo face -- I'm old enough I think it is rude -- I knew Ian would appreciate the above.  He obviously did -- he snapped the photo.
Geof in Seagrove.  Apparently confused, possibly because we were at a control, 150-kms into the ride, at the same time.
Ricochet Robert also seemed confused, or flabberghasted.  Neat, organized Mary in the background -- keeping Ian away from messing with the foodstuffs.
This is what Ian and the "clown bike" might have looked like when did the pre-ride.  (The "clown bike" is actually a Moulton that Ian acquired from Gilbert Anderson of North Road Bicycles after someone stole his previous rando-bike -- which had belonged to his dad Adrian -- sliimy thieves.)

  • My legs were a bit "tight" when I got to Seagrove, so I took a longish "lunch" break of 33-minutes before starting back for Siler City. 
  • I think I enjoyed the ride back to Siler City, esp. riding Coleridge Rd with Jacob, but I was riding with a lot less panache than I did in 2011.  Can't rightly recall 2010, and last year I did a pre-ride of the 300 with RBA and Fearless Leader "Uncle" Alan -- I think I got all the nick-names with which I am acquainted into that phrase -- and the only thing I can recall from that 50-kms is that I was going to stop short of the Chatham County Line and wait for Alan, but that CL is on an incline, and I decided to heck with stopping before the crest.  I waited for Alan at the crest. 
  • I arrived at the 200k Siler City control with only 1-additional-minute of stoppage (for some cars just before  reaching Coleridge -- the "village," not the road). 
  • Jerry was staffing the control in fine "Jerry" fashion.  That is, organized and neat.  Organized from experience of staffing controls -- at least that is my suspicion.  Neat because Jerry is always neat and always seems to be put-together (so much so that he takes a lot of teasing on the subject.) 
  • Jerry was NOT taking photos at the control. 
  • I lost track of stoppage time while in Siler City. 
Since I had pics of Ian + Mary and Bob, it only seemed fair to include a photo of JP.  This is what Jerry might have looked like on the pre-ride ... IF Clyde's Critters in Bynum were on the 300 course.  Oh, well, that's a better photo than the other Jerry-pic I have (click-here to see what I mean -- well, wouldn't you know it -- I can't locate the photo -- I'm positive I used it somewhere in this blog).

  • I don't recall the 12-miles from Siler City to the Snow Camp control -- except that it was into a quartering headwind. 
  • BobB was staffing the Snow Camp control.  He was organized with foodstuffs and drinks and Dove dark chocolates.  He noted that no one was interested in his peanut butter sandwiches, but everyone seemed to want a Dove dark chocolate.  I explained that Ian + Mary had peanut butter with honey sandwiches, and Jerry had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- so everyone was probably tired of peanut butter sandwiches.  The V-8's and Cokes were quite welcome, though. 
  • Bob was busy taking photos -- apparently doing walkabout photos when no one was at the control. 
The empty road up to the control in/at Snow Camp.  (Bob clearly had some lulls between storms of arriving cyclists.)
Volunteer Bob, Byron in green wool, Geof in NC-Rando wool.  I suspect Ricochet insisted on taking this photo (with Bob's camera.)
Bob caught me sitting on his tailgate.  Sridhar might be proud -- he's a perfectionist on the "don't stand when you can sit" unwritten rule of randonneuring.
While I sat, Bob staged and took this photo of the favorite snack at his Snow Camp control.
Bob apparently also snapped a photo of my bike. (He took quite a few bike-photos, actually.)
For the rest of Bob's Snow Camp photos, click-here
  • The remains of a bad 2-vehicle crash were on Old Greensboro Hwy, about halfway between Snow Camp and Lindley Mill Rd.  The non-ambulance emergency vehicles were still on site as were the crashed vehicles.  I shouldered my bike through the crash area. 
  • Otherwise, I think I enjoyed my ride to NC-87.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't fast, but it was a happy time. 
  • I made it all the way onto NC-87 before I stopped to light-up and reflectorize.  Then, the only real disappointment of the day appeared:  despite newish batteries in the main tail-blinkie, and a goodly supply of appropriate pretty new and unused batteries, the rear blinkie would not "fire-up" -- the back-up was also useless.  
  • I figuratively scratched my head for a minute or two, then came up with a road-side "fix."  I re-purposed the headlamp I had borrowed from Byron into a tail-light.  When Jacob and TomP caught me some miles later, Jacob confirmed that the light was very visible from a long distance back. 
  • I've never been to France, I may never get to France, but I think I appreciate the supposedly dim French lights more and more.  If I have a bright head-light on my bike, or I'm riding with someone that does, my eyes are drawn to the bright spot of light, and I soon get sleepy.  If I can get ahead or well behind bright head-lights, my eyes look well up the road into the near or total dark, and I don't get sleepy, or not nearly as sleepy, anyway. 
  • I have a similar problem with BRIGHT tail-lights.  That's all I'll type on that. 
  • I mentioned the COLD already. 
  • After the sit-doze-off and slight warm-up at Andrews Store, I finished the last 20-miles with some panache, setting a PR for this course, by a whole 2-minutes -- actually, upon checking my stats on the RUSA website, I ended up with the exact same time as the first 300 brevet I did in 2010.  (For much of the day, despite having pooh-poohed the idea when Byron had suggested it, I thought I might finish around 9:30 pm.  That slipped to 10:00 and then 10:30.  And in the end, I didn't really care.  I finished -- that's all that counts -- finishing well within the time limit is just a bonus.) 
Thanks to Alan and Dorothy for organizing the ride and post-ride snacks.  Thanks to Ian + Mary, Jerry, and Bob for staffing the turn-around and inbound controls.
I don't have a photo of Alan AND Dorothy.  I probably have other photos of Alan (or I could acquire one), but Alan on his bike, with a smile, can't do better than that.


NCBC Morrisville 200-km Brevet;; 190.1 m.; 13h27 in-motion; 14.1 mph; 15h54 elapsed.
Q-1 tot: _11 rides; __940.3 m; _64h42; 14.5 mph; _1275 RUSA kms. 
Apr tot: __3 rides; __477.4 m; _33h39; 14.2 mph; __705 RUSA kms.
YTD tot: _14 rides; _1417.7 m; _98h22; 14.4 mph; _1980 RUSA kms

"Epilogue," originally posted on Facebook: 

[We] encountered what was described as "hard-packed-dirt."

I don't know where Alan and Jerry learned their gravel-road-nomenclature, but I grew up cycling on gravel roads in NW Illinois corn/soybean/hog country with some dairy and feed-lot cattle, and I definitely would describe that section of Manor Rock Rd as "loose pebbles cov
ering hard-packed 'something'." Some of the "something" included some sort of "dirt", but it also seemed to include hard-packed boulders that had reached the surface.

There are no boulders reaching the surface where I grew up. More like 4 to 6 feet of black-black-black soil -- some of the richest soil in the world -- on top of an almost infinitely thick layer of clay and other soft earthy stuff -- no rocks or boulders to be found -- I do admit, however, that one could find rock and boulder outcroppings within 20 miles to the northwest and northeast.

Anyway, that soil ate gravel every year, and that gravel never returned to the surface. Most places I've been in central North Carolina, there seems to be about 1 to 3 inches of sandy-clay-excuse-for-dirt on top of rock. Gravel-sized pebbles constantly percolate to the surface.

Driving gravel roads in NW Illinois was always an experience in the March / April thaw and planting seasons -- no one rode bicycles on those roads at that time of the year. Many of the gravel roads would have been re-graveled and graded the previous Summer and Fall such that there was a thick layer of gravel pebbles spread across the entire road-way. But during the next Spring, the roads became mud quagmires, with gravel pebbles ground below the surface by the huge tractors and other farm implements and trucks.

However, by the middle of May, many roads were truly hard-packed dirt -- no pebbles strewn about in the path of a bicycle -- and often smoother than the smoothest asphalt roads nearby. THAT's what I think of when I hear "hard-packed-dirt."

The best I can say of Alan and Jerry's description is:  it was clearly an RBA deception operation to make up for the almost flawless weather we experienced.

BTW, I enjoyed the gravel bit; therefore you obviously will know that the purpose of this post is just to ... well, I suppose I'm picking on Alan and Jerry instead of saying thanks for the first gravel road I've ridden since I was a child, even if it was loose pebbles strewn about rather than truly hard-packed dirt.



  1. Now you know why Jerry insisted that you get some new tires on your bike before the 300K. He wanted you to be prepared for that "hard pack" detour. Great write up, and good improvising of a taillight.

  2. Just had my memory forcibly jarred.

    The half-mile of gravel on Manor Rock Rd was NOT the first gravel I'd ridden since I was a child. I rode two gravel sections when on a camping + cycling trip to Rocky Knob campground alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    I have no photographic proof, only the blog posts, complete with typos and missing words and bad grammar, written a few days later: