200k First-Timer Ride Recount

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Omar Cuellar

Jan 25, 2010, 6:38:02 PM1/25/10
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Pardon the lengthiness... As the subject says, It was my first time so I had a lot to write about:

First off- I only started riding "long" distances within the last 2 years... and by "long"... I mean by most normal person standards.  I tell my family and co-workers that I did a 60 mile ride before work... and they think I'm some super-hero.  

That said- much to the dismay of the recommendations on the the SFR website, I had not completed any centuries, much less double centuries prior to participating in my first 200K ride.  My longest ride prior to this was the 83 mile jaunt down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz with a lovely tail-wind the entire way... and prior to that was the 115K populaire ride.

So needless to say, I was in a bit over my head going in to this... and arriving at the start surrounded by what looked like mostly vets was quite intimidating as well.  But after the show of hands revealing how many other first-timers there were, followed by the warm welcoming applause, I felt a little bit more at ease.  My only goal was to finish in the allotted time limit.  

I had spent the week leading up to the event riding everyday in the rain/wind/hail just getting comfortable with it... I actually love riding in the rain if dressed/accessorized properly.  Eli (Elias) and I did a fixed gear city loop in the rain that included some off-road action at land's end  and some decent climbing, we did another city loop where we went south on the coast and got sand blown into every orifice of our bodies before heading east... and later in the week I did some intervals in the Presidio sprinting up Arguello Gate and coasting down Presidio Blvd... until it started hailing on me.

Enough history.

At the start of the ride, Eli and I hung back and waited for the all the speed demons to take their lead.. we decided to keep a pretty slow pace.. 14-16mph and realized shortly after that we were going a bit faster than most of the riders at the start... so once we were in Sausalito, we were certainly in the top half.  When we got to the beginning of the Mill Valley bike path we were in a group about 20 strong... there was about 6" of water right at that section and most everyone went through it slowly and conservatively except for one (insert bleep here) who decided to ride through it as fast as possible (without fenders) and splash everyone who was behind/beside him.

Eli said we would know where we really stood as far as pace after the first climb (Corte de Madera)... and sure enough people were dropped, and people sprinted ahead which moved us into a new bracket.  I was feeling good after the climb.. legs were light as a feather.

We made it to Sir Francis Drake and were part of a new group, the two guys from Seattle, a lady on a beautiful Bronze colored bicycle who carried a conversation with Eli about his fancy new bottom-bracket tool.  We made it to the top of that short but always annoying climb over Sir Francis Drake and were met with a welcoming (in my opinion) brief rain-shower to cool us down after the climb.  

We went through Samuel P Taylor Park which was exceptionally beautiful that day with the sun glistening through the water drenched canopy of trees and mist.  I was riding alongside the gentleman from Seattle with the GPS device until we made it out of the park and he chugged ahead up Sir Francis Drake and I took it easy on that climb, enjoying the site of the beautiful full rainbow.  We hit some more rain on the descent to Highway 1 (Olema) which was nice after the climb... except it was a bit painful hitting my face while descending at 30mph+.  

I had never been to the lighthouse- not even by car... and Eli warned me... and warned me... and recounted the last 200K he had done with Chloe... so he insisted on taking it easy while I maintained my pace and rode ahead.  The first few rollers weren't bad.  They were similar to the rollers between Stinson and Muir Beach which are bad... but not awful.  

..... But the rollers didn't stop.  They kept showing up on the horizon after each one... 

At this point I was by myself, and I would laugh hysterically to myself after clearing one roller only to find another steeper, longer, windier one up ahead.  Luckily, there was zero wind except for the occasional cool breeze which was nice.. and the accompaniment of the beautiful dairy cows enjoying the lush vegetation with the ocean back-drop made for an amazing view/experience.  I had no idea that portion of the ride was going to be so picturesque (otherwise I would have remembered to bring my camera).

I started seeing the leaders return from the first control about 3/4 of the way up... which made me feel like I was in good shape since I wasn't too far back.  I made it to the first control at 10:47.  I wanted to keep my time off the bike extremely minimal as I tend to seize up easily... but I also wanted to wait up for Eli.  So I hung out at the control and had some snacks, and realized it had been 20 minutes... and still no Eli.  I thought certainly something had gone wrong and nobody has cell phone reception out there.  He finally showed up about 10 after 11 with Gabe from Box Dog.... and his hands are covered in chain grease.  His chain snapped 3 different times coming up to the lighthouse... ugh..

He made his stop quick and we were back in the saddle headed to the second control.  I heard the funny phrase "uphill both ways" about going out to the lighthouse... and it sure as hell is UPHILL BOTH WAYS.  Eli and I stuck together for most of the portion of the ride leading up to Marshall.. except for a few miles when I wandered ahead and starting singing blues to myself... I think some people rode past me from the other direction and heard me and laughed at me.  Haha.

We made it to Marshall at 13:40.  We had the clam chowder and had our cards stamped by the unfortunately unenthused attendant at the store who wouldn't give me a receipt and wouldn't initial my card which apparently wasn't necessary after all.  The chowder was great... the stop was less than 15 minutes and we were back on the bike.  

Soon after I reached the threshold.  I thought I had reached it.... but right around Nicasio Valley Road... I started losing it.  I had gone ahead of Eli and was just trying to maintain my pace.  I had my handlebar bag open and was consuming every edible thing I had.  I took the climb up toward Sir Francis Drake EXTRA slow and stopped at the corner to stretch.  Then again took the climb up Sir Francis Drake EXTRA slow before descending into San Anselmo.  At this point I was in survival mode and just wanted to get home asap.  I started craving the weirdest foods... at one point I called my girlfriend in an attempt to ask her to go find the "Tamale Lady" in the Mission so that she could have some tamales ready for me when I got home... she didn't answer.

I was dreading the climb back over Corte de Madera which ended up being surprisingly easier than I thought and when I reached the top and saw the San Francisco skyline I again laughed hysterically with joy.

The bike path went by quick, I used the last of my juice to sprint up the 2 short hills out of Sausalito.  I sprinted over the bridge at dusk feeling like a champ.  I DID IT!  My time was clocked at 10.5 hours on the dot.... 3 hours short of the allotted time that I expected to use all of. Minutes later Eli showed up alongside Mike(?) and his gorgeous Bob Jackson fixed gear bike.

I'd like to thank Rob and all the vets on the route who had encouraging words.  I'd also like to thank Eli for taking me under his wing and convincing me to do gnarly 100+ mile rides in the rain.  

As long as my co-workers and parents don't meet any of you heavy-weights, I'm ok with seeming like a super-hero for finishing what are probably training rides for you guys.  Thanks!

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