Let’s see… It’s been awhile since my last post. LOL. I’m no longer a novice, really. After having started riding again the middle of last year (2008) following a long layoff, I completed the PCH Rando SR series (200, 300, 400, 600K) last winter/spring. Rode the 24-Hour Fleche team randonneuring event, on a route I designed from Whitney Portal to Ventura. Finished the Gold Rush 1200K where I met Nicole. Did Furnace Creek 508 on a mixed two person team with Nicole in the Classic Rendezvous category (1983 technology/equipment — lugged steel frame and fork, minimum 32-spoke wheels, 6-speed freewheel, downtube or bar-end shifters, toe clips and straps, and no aerobars). Earned the RUSA R-12 and 5000K distance awards. And did 5 double centuries. So it was a season of “seasoning”.

2009 PCH Randos Fleche, "Team Flecheaters". L to R - Dana Lieberman, Shai Shprung, Michael Bratkowski, Elaine Perry, and me, Jim Swarzman

So, the 2010 randonneuring season starts this Saturday, 1/02/2010, with PCH Randos 200K brevet. I’ve been slacking a little on my training the last couple weeks (“off-season” and busy with work), and am not sure about my fitness or speed. But I think I’m going to try to complete the SR series this year while meeting the “R60” standard. R60 refers to doing each of the brevets in 60% of the allowable time which will be a big challenge. Very doable, but not assured, for the 200K. Pretty good chance on the 300K. Outside chance, on the 400K. And pretty much no fu**in’ way for the 600K. LOL So we’ll see. Maybe I’ll miss it on the 200K, and then the pressure’s off. 😉


20+ years ago, when I was riding 350 miles/week as a racer, I did a handful of rides longer than 200K. But nothing that far since then. I’d taken it easy since the 105 mile training ride a couple weeks prior and my sore knee was feeling so-so. The 200k brevet awaited.

So I drove the 50 miles to Ventura for the 6:30 AM start. Temperature was in the 40’s, and there were strong winds. I layered up and was ready to go. The 200K route was from Ventura down to Trancas (northern end of Zuma Beach), back to Ventura, up to Montecito (southern end of Santa Barbara), and back to Ventura.

There seemed to be about 40 participants or so. Riding with the pack in the dark was an interesting experience. My wireless computer was registering as high as 75 mph along Harbor Blvd., which clearly was the result of interference from someone else’s computer with a more powerful transmitter. It threw off the cumulative distance reading, but I was familiar with the route, which was pretty simple, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Heading south towards Channel Islands Marina we had a cross wind, but once heading more easterly on Hueneme Road, it became a very strong cross-headwind. I’d estimate sustained winds of 30mph, with gusts to 40. Back in November I’d ridden across the Oxnard Plain with 50+ mph direct headwinds where I spent two hours riding as hard as I could while doing no more than 8mph. So this was manageable.

I took some pulls up front, and soon we’d dwindled to a group of four including Shai from SFV Bike Club, Merrick from Amgen Racing (a Furnace Creek 508 finisher now training for the Ironman distance at the Wildflower Triathlon), and Kathy who is a Master’s National Champion on the track! Things improved considerably when we turned onto Navalair Rd. The rest of the pack caught us soon after we turned on to PCH, but we split again on the rollers on PCH. We continued riding hard (harder than I should have been), and rolled into Control #2 (#1 being the start) at the Trancas Starbucks around 8:30.

200K Brevet, Control #2

200K Brevet, Control #2 - Me on far right, Shai on far left.

Unfortunately Shai had chased a rider up ahead not realizing that he wasn’t one of the brevet riders. Shai recognized his mistake when he saw the climb at the south end of Zuma and turned around. I waited for him at the control, and with the time he spent waiting in line for water from the bathroom, we didn’t get back on the road until almost 9:15. Merrick and Kathy were long gone.

Heading north on PCH we had shifting cross-headwinds. We were caught by Peter sporting his California Triple Crown jersey, and another rider. We picked up the pace to ride with them, but I quickly realized I couldn’t maintain and let them go. It felt good to slow down. My legs were really feeling it now, and my knee was already getting pretty sore. And I was only about 50 miles in.

Navalair Road going back was now a horrible headwind. But once I turned onto Hueneme Road, it became a cross tailwind, and the next 10 miles or so were spent cruising at 26 – 27 mph. It was definitely the best part of the entire ride. Turning onto Ventura Road I was caught by two riders (one a woman) whose names I didn’t get. I rode with them up past Channel Islands Marina (which was very pretty in the daylight considering I hadn’t seen a thing passing by earlier), but as we approached Ventura my knee got really bad so I backed off. I was really dragging the last few miles into Ventura and lunch at Control #3 at 74.4 miles.

Lunch consisted of wraps provided by PCH Randos. Shai and Peter were still there, but left soon after I arrived. I shed some layers at the car, picked up a couple more energy bars, and mixed some Cytomax into my water bottles. The temperature was now in the 60’s, and the northerly leg promised to be not as windy. I decided to keep my leg warmers on anyway to keep my knee toasty. I didn’t waste any time here, and got back on the road, Montecito bound.

I’ve never liked riding on the frontage road (which I guess is actually PCH) along the beach between Ventura and Seaside. It’s not particularly scenic, and the pavement is very rough. My knee was sore, but didn’t get any worse, and I didn’t think about it much more the rest of the day. There was a bit of a headwind here, but I was maintaining 15 – 16 mph. And then I got lucky. At about the 85 mile mark Merrick and Kathy caught me. It didn’t register at first that it was them because I couldn’t figure out how they were behind me, and I didn’t remember seeing them at lunch. Apparently somewhere along the way Merrick had flatted. In any event, I would ride with them the rest of the day, and it made the last 40 miles much easier.

Shortly after hooking up with Merrick and Kathy we entered the stretch where you have to ride on the 101 Freeway from Seaside to Bates Road. It really sucks! It’s one thing when you’re heading south at 25+ mph, but going north at 15 mph with big rigs blowing by at 75 is not fun. We exited at Bates Road and I literally screamed from the vibration through my feet from the incredibly rough pavement on the offramp, but I was glad to be off the freeway.

The short climb up Bates Road and then back down Rincon Hill Rd. was very pastoral for lack of a better word and was the most scenic part of the ride. Kathy would apparently rather poke herself in the eye than climb, but I welcomed getting out of the saddle and stretching a bit as we climbed.

Back at the coast we rode through Carpinteria which is a really nice little town where I always tell myself I should spend the day sometime, but never do (Santa Barbara always seems to get our weekend getaway dollars). We rode through Summerland, up the little Ortega Hill climb and into Montecito. It was nice to just be riding along, and time went quickly as Merrick and I talked about bike racing. It was interesting to hear that he knew a lot of the people I’d raced with “back in the day”, who are still racing 20 years later. Amazing.

We eventually reached the control in Montecito, got our brevet cards stamped, and got back on the road after a short break. 25 miles to go, and I was ready to be done. We retraced our route other than taking the bike path around Ortega Hill. The winding descent down Bates Rd. was really enjoyable although too short. I picked it up on the on ramp to the freeway for the 4.2 mile stretch to the Seaside exit; I was smelling the barn. Merrick and Kathy were soon back on my wheel. Merrick and I were taking pulls at 26 mph aided by a nice tailwind. Next thing I knew Kathy pulls by and takes it up to 28 mph. This from a woman master’s track rider, over 110 miles into the ride (she was not a registered participant, she was just along for the ride with Merrick). We couldn’t stay with her and watched her ride away from us, not to be seen again until the finish. It was a little demoralizing but I reminded myself that randonneuring is a non-competitive sport.

W eventually reached the finish at about 3:15 PM. 8 3/4 hours for 124.4 miles. I estimate actual riding time around 7 1/2 hours. Right about what I hoped for/expected. For me though, the 300K will be a whole different ball game, and I will have to ride much slower in the beginning or there’s no way I’ll finish. And my knee is a big question mark at this point.