My strategy for the NCBC brevets that start in Morrisville is to grab the wheel of one of a particular few of the fast-crew. One that starts at a reasonable pace. A pace that I can hang on to and reach the bottom of the Jack Bennet climb, at approx 17-miles, in an hour (or less), having expended only the energy equivalent to maintaining 15-mph. (Bob sometimes loses the fast-crew before the Jack Bennett climb.) When the climb begins in earnest, I drop the fast-crew off my front wheel, find my own pace up the climb, and then try to "get it together" and find the "magic cadence" that will carry me the rest of the ride.
Finding the "magic cadence" is difficult, if not impossible, for me until after the 35-mile mark as the rollers crossing many little creeks and also the Haw River play havoc with my rhythm. Typically, if Bob doesn't catch me by that point, we won't be doing the rest of the ride together.
So ... on this date: I found it to be quite a bit of work to stick to the fast-crew peleton, which all seemed to be sticking together for the first 17-miles. The peleton reached the approx 17.2-mile mark only 59-minutes after Alan released us at the start. I let the peleton go, got passed by the other mid-to-back-of-the-pack that had used the fast-crew to get to Jack Bennett, and looked back to see if Bob was there. He wasn't.
I struggled up the steeper part of the climb, but got a decent cadence back when the incline lessened (that's what usually / always happens). I re-passed, or at least re-caught, some of the other mid-to-back-packers that had passed me, and started "looking" for the "magic cadence," or at least a near-magic one.
Fast forwarding a bit, I was on Chicken Bridge Rd, after having crossed the Chicken Bridge over the Haw River, climbing toward NV-87 when I saw another rider, one I did not know, wobbling about as he struggled up the climb ahead of me. At the time, I was on the verge of going "on a mission" of completing the brevet as fast as I could; but as I passed the unknown rider, he seemed to catch my wheel, and soon I had an unspoken alliance with Ray from Virginia as we turned north on NC-87 for the detour in use this 16th year that Alan has used this mostly-same brevet course.
Because I led us to miss a turn, Ray and I combined with Byron and Janet roughly where Bowman Bare and Pete Thomas roads intersect (approx the 37.5-mile mark) to make a new temporary alliance. However, there was another, very temporary, member of our alliance -- one of the fastest randonneurs in North Carolina, one of the fastest age-60-plus Ultra-cyclists in the world -- namely, Tom Florian. After we got over our surprise at finding Tom back with us, and his inability make his usual pace, we realized he had a legitimate reason -- as Tom had written to the NC rando community earlier in the week:
The Heart of the South ride report, Suffering and euphoria:The heart of the south is one of the hardest ultra distance races on Ultra distance circuit. The race is 511 miles long and has 38,000 feet of climbing. It starts in Birmingham Alabama and goes through the Southern Appalacian Mountains of Alabama and Georgia.I started this race at 8:00 o’clock Friday night and did not finish until 9:41 Sunday nightThe first 200 miles at this race are not too bad. The climbs not excessively steep or long but are continuous. I felt good and did well for the first 200 miles. I took my first break and had some food and liquid after 200 miles. I kept the time off the bike to less than 5 minutes.After leaving Resaca Georgia the route takes the rider Over Fort Mountain with more than 2500 feet of elevation gain. Somewhere around mile 240 my stomach went into full rebellian. I was unable to eat or drink for the next 150 miles. I vomited probably 10 times.There were several steep short climbs. Finally by the time I got to Cheaha I was reduced to walking the bike on the steep sections due to dehydration. During Sunday morning at approximately 8:00 was joined by 375 riders who were doing the Cheaha challenge a local popular Birmingham ride. By this time I had been riding 36 hours straight. I was encouraged because was able to keep up with the slower riders.At the top of Cheaha my support team was worried about me . I was having difficulty even walking. We were worried I would not finish by the 48 hour cut off. I was determined that in spite of the difficulties I would continue.I was very fortunate at this point to be able to start eating oranges. The sag support for the Cheaha challenge gave me a bag of orange wedges.I ate them for the next 100 miles.I rode on through the second night without sleep. It felt good and I kept the pace steady . There was torrential rain. Around mile 500 a car in front of me swerved. I swerved to avoid the car and hit pothole and crashed. The bike was fine I was fine. Someone saw the crash and thought that a car hit me. He called the police and the EMTs and they were on the scene in minutes. I had To persuade the police that I have not been hit by a car. I had to persuade the ambulance driver that I was fine.At this point I hadn't slept for approximately 60 hours. I was very lucky to have had experience has a medical intern because this allowed me to remain clear minded in spite of sleep deprivation.Fortunately the adventure wasn't quite over. It had been raining most of the time the previous 8 hours but suddenly the sky opened up and sheets of rain fell. I felt like a kid who was allowed to go outside and play in the rain!With only four or five miles to go I came up to a car that had just crashed due to too much speed on a winding country road in the rain. My medical instincts kicked in. I did a quick mental status exam “What is your name? Where are you? What day is it? Who is the president?”and I looked for injuries. He answered the questions correctly. There was no blood or bruises. I asked the driver if he had any damage thinking only of his body and health. He replied,”Yes ,the whole side of my car is caved in” At that point I knew this young man was in safe and did not need medical attention.I pedaled to the finish. Even though I did not make a 48 hour cut off time I felt great sense of accomplishment.I am thankful to Tony, Janet ,Joe and Mary my always cheerful and pleasant support team and to God for my good health.Living the dream!
Byron, Ray and I were destined to stay together the rest of the ride (about 90-miles). Janet would catch us at the three intermediate controls, but we would leave about as she was arriving (Janet later teamed up with some of the "Chair City Cyclists" whom she credited with bringing her to the finish). Tom disappeared off our back wheels -- that is still difficult for me to fathom -- and eventually sagged in from the turn-around in Siler City.
Byron, Ray and I worked reasonably well together. Each had strong periods and each and periods of not-so-strong. Miles passed quickly on the return with the mostly tail-wind and the warm temps until we neared Frosty's (which is at approx mile-97) at which time all of us opted for an extra stop. Some fluids for all, and I had an ice cream thing, Byron almost certainly got some solid food-like stuff of some sort, but I don't recall if Ray added some solid food-like stuff.
We got back on the road "enjoying" the inbound rollers on Jones Ferry / Hamlet Chapel Rd. Then the bouncy chip-seal of Parker Herndon Rd., and onto Andrew's Store Rd.. As we approached the store (at the intersection with US-15/501), Byron indicated a desire for another stop. We found an very tired looking Wilmington Rick sprawled / sitting outside the store, and seemingly glad to see us. A 10-minute break and we pushed off to complete the final 20+ miles of the ride, now a group of four.
We finished the brevet in an official time of 9h37 -- and found BobB among the crowd enjoying the post-ride banter. Bob had finished the brevet in 8h20. So much for me possibly dropping him during the "first 15-miles."