Rockdale 400k

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I was a bit disappointed that I would be doing the same 400k ride I did in December. I like to see new things, but I still managed to learn a ton while riding the same route.  And I enjoyed the ride despite my mutterings.

Our ride started at 5am. I actually prefer the earlier start. I was able to arrive 20 minutes early, which is pretty good for me. My ideal arrival time is 30 minutes before the start. I’ll report on how that works once it happens, until then, stand by. Nonetheless, I had just enough time to get everything done. It helps to prepare well the night before, which I did a sort of good job doing. I was still running all over like a chicken with its head cut off in the morning, as I couldn’t find my reflective vest. I finally found it in a pile of clothes and ran out the door.

The good thing about the early start is my bike practically knows the first 40 or so miles, therefore I don’t mind riding this part in the dark. It was a misty morning, the kind where I would almost rather be out with the camera and tripod. It would have made some beautiful pictures. Anywho, the ride to Belleville was uneventful. I couldn’t see anything, as it was dark and misty. Thankfully, we had a tailwind. The air was damp and a little cool. I was sporting my “new” wool sweater over my bike jersey. It was perfect and I rode the first 100 miles with it on.

As always, I had to stop to pee twice within the first 26 miles or so. After the first time, the last group caught up to me. I rode with them for a few miles, chatting with a nice guy from San Antonio. I stopped to pee a second time and the group pushed on, but not out of sight. I caught up with them in a couple of miles, just before Belleville. I caught my gear grinding up a hill and sped past them and straight into the first control. I felt a bit like a jerk speeding off in front of them, but by this time I had devised a strategy for finishing under 20 hours, which was to focus on my overall average, not my moving average. I may be slow in the saddle, but I wasn’t going to be slow because I piddle at the controls. I beat the last group of 10 or so riders to Newmann’s, ran in, got my card signed, filled up with water, mixed some Heed and hit the road.

A Lone Star Randonneur Randonneuse (LSR) was left by the other group who was leaving as I arrived and wanted to ride out with me. I welcomed the company and enjoyed the conversation with Sharon all the way to Chappell Hill. I also learned why I am happy I didn’t buy an Edelux light, as Sharon had to stop to turn it off. My B+M Lumotec CYO IQ has a senso mode, so I don’t have to mess with all that jazz. I rode a head and stopped to pee on the side the road and Sharon passed again. I was a gentleman of course and actually got off the bike and walked over to the tree. I eventually caught back up with her. Mother nature lent us a helping hand and we rolled into Chappell Hill just in time to see the other group off. Craig, whom I rode with on this same route in December, told us to hurry and they would wait while we got our card signed. Sharon ran to get her card signed. I grabbed a chocolate milk, got my card signed and filled my water bottles to find the big group had taken off.

All the better, as I actually prefer to ride alone or in a smaller group. If I want to slack, I can slack. If I want to push forward, I can do so without feeling like a show off. I noticed another guy getting ready to leave at the same time I was and asked if he wanted to ride out together. We rode out and all the way to Brenham, where I finally dropped him and cruised into Burton. I hate the control at Burton, as there is a rather large “rolling” hill that for some reason, and lack of a better term, I hate. When I arrived at Malloy’s in Burton I could tell I was gaining time on the other group as they weren’t straddling their steeds ready to roll, but rather eating and sitting down. I went in to get my card signed and found myself at the end of the queue, as some of the other riders were still getting their cards signed. I grabbed a gallon of water, a strawberry milk (they were all out of chocolate) and some ranch corn nuts. I did my song and dance and was out of there in 3 minutes.

The wind was blowing hard at our backs and I was cruising this section of the ride. Eventually, the other group caught me and I answered some questions about if I actually had stopped there. I explained my “efficient” control times was part of my plan. As I only had to average 12.5 mph to reach my goal. Very doable if you manage your time at the controls. I rode with the big group for a while until they finally dropped me. I overtook them in Deanville as they made an incorrect turn. They were all down the wrong road 20-30 yards. I had remembered going straight here before, I double checked the cue sheet to find the wording was a little odd and yelled out the last part of the direction, which clearly said to go straight. I carried on and beat the group to Caldwell, which was ideal for me as I could get my card signed and get out of dodge. I had spent 14 minutes out of the saddle over 4 controls up to this point, which is really good.  There is also this fun little gem a few miles north of Deanville.

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Leaving Caldwell, I was invited to ride with the group. In which, I politely declined. I prefer to roll by myself or in a pair. I also didn’t know if they shared the same goal as I did, breaking 20 hours, which could leave me in the same predicament at the next stop, and maybe putting me a bit further off my mark. I hope I didn’t come off as jerk, as I didn’t know what to say. Besides, this offer wasn’t on the table in Chappell Hill where they left me. Either way, I only saw this group two more times for the rest of the ride.

Heading into Rockdale and the turnaround, I found myself 12 miles behind the lead group of 4 guys. Not too shabby, but I knew I would never catch them. Wally was leaving the Rockdale control when I arrived. I ran in, got a sandwich and chocolate milk, filled the water bottles and hit the road.

Ran into the group behind me about 4 miles out of Rockdale. We were fighting the wind going back, and I knew we would the rest of the way. Coming straight out of Rockdale, it wasn’t too bad as the hills are steep and big enough to block a fair amount of breeze on the way up and gravity helps to counteract on the way down. Either way, after Caldwell the hills died down and the wind really felt strong. Plugging along at about 12 mph, I finally made it to Burton (the Pig & Whistle) for a little sit down. I met Wally, who was waiting for me and suggested we ride in together. My goal was to make it to the Pig & Whistle before dark, and I actually left the control at sunset. Either way, I put down my Pig & Whistle special for Houston Randonneurs Chicken Salad sandwich. It felt good, the other food in December was a bit buttery (I would prefer this under normal circumstances, but something made me nauseous and methinks the buttery sandwich was it). I spent more time at this control than any other one. Up until this point, I had spent 19 mins and change at all the controls. Leaving the Pig & Whistle, I was just under 50 minutes non-moving time. Wally and I rode off into dusk, just to see the group of LSR’s + Craig roll into town. They felt like I did, like borrowed mule–the wind was whipping us.

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It was a rather uneventful ride into Chappell Hill, other than I needed a jet engine to keep up with Wally. It was good for me, but he is fast. I am ever grateful that he waited up for me and rode with me in the dark. Leaving Chappell Hill, I heard something pop and some metal clanking. The noise stopped, and I sped up to let Wally know I had to pull over. It was just as I suspected, a broken spoke. Which is my luck. I’ve only had this bike since ’96 and the wheels have never been worked on. I wrapped the spoke around some others to ensure it wouldn’t get caught on anything and slung a leg. I was leery of the wobble, but it made it the last 40 miles or so.  What a trusty steed the Le Tour is.

We cruised into the finish some 18 hours 55 mins later. Not too shabby. I exceeded my goal thanks to Wally and all the support from other riders. I am happy with how this ride turned out. (Stats and data)

A couple of notes about the Garmin GPSMap 60 CSx. It works excellent for tracking. And as a replacement for a speedometer. Not too sure how it works for following directions. My suspicion is I will have to spill the $100 to get the maps. I don’t want to do this until more research has been done. So…another day. The batteries lasted until Chappell Hill on the way back, so some 15 hours. Once I changed the batteries, it split the track and I had to use GPS Babel to put them together. A bit clunky, but it works!

rockdale map

rockdale elevation

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