A Pair Of 200ks

Since I am catching up on writing and George says that I am of the verbose sort, I thought I would roll my two 200ks in April into one report.  Both were official brevets, the first on 4/9 was in Waterloo, Iowa and the second on 4/23 was here in the Twin Cities.

Iowa - Brown has NEVER looked so good
Anyone living in Minnesota this winter was sick of snow by the beginning of April.  Even having escaped twice to Arizona, I was sick of snow.  I had managed to keep up my long distance riding over Jan and Feb, but only at the cost of riding in some of the more dangerous conditions I have ever ridden in.  Note to self: Self, even if that winter storm is supposed to stay 100 miles away, don't believe a word of it.

IronK was off to the tropical paradise of Bonaire (of the coast of Venezuala) for a week of snorkeling.  What's a saddended randonneuse to do with a week alone?  Why, I should truck myself 4 hours south to Waterloo and do the very first 200k of the season of course.  I drove down the night before and stayed over at the Days Inn which has been remodeled if you are planning a visit.  I had no idea anyone else from the Twin Cities was going and was surprised to find Bob E at the start. He'd spent the night in his car; I felt guilty all day.

My memories of this route are painful since last time I did it with a ripped hamstring.  It is about as close to flat as you can get.  But I like Robert Fry, the RBA and this time he started the ride from his house so that everyone could gather together and socialize after the ride was finished.  What a great idea from my perspective since there were many riders from Rochester and Iowa that I otherwise never really get to talk to.  Of course, it was rather rainy the night before and the forecast was for wind.  It is the plains after all.

We left at 8:00am which is just about the latest start I've ever done for a brevet.  I had carelessly forgotten my battery charger which left me with somewhat dim lights.  So it was crucial to finish in under 11 hours to avoid a DQ for riding in the dark.  In retrospect, it was good to have the incentive.  I am not a super fast rider and most of the pack disappeared over the horizon as we left the city.  However, to my great surprise, behind me was Marlin, whom I met on this very ride last year.  I hadn't seen him since the AV600k the previous year.  We wound up riding together the entire day.  Super nice guy and a pleasure to chat with.

This entire ride was basically a love-hate the wind festival.  It was blowing very strongly from the east and moved towards the south as the day went on.  The temps were only in the 40s which was a bit chilly and I was glad I had put tights on and shoe covers.  There wasn't much sun either as it had been raining recently.  The first 50 miles or so were pretty unremarkable except for the obvious joy in my heart at seeing NO SNOW.  There is nothing that makes a girl from the north happier in the spring than to finally not see snow anywhere.  In fact, little blades of grass were even occaisionally visible.  Sure there were a couple of farmers doing the fertilizer thing, but really, the sight of brown fields can be so invigorating!  There was moving water in the creeks too.  All these things thath northerners learn to pine for all winter.

The magic started at about 11:00am when the sun came out of the clouds and the temperatures shot up into the 70s.  We stopped a couple of times finally shedding all our clothes at the turnaround in Volga.  FIRST SHORT SLEEVES AND SHORTS OF THE SEASON!!!!!!  I even danced in the bathroom after taking off my tights.

The wind had been mainly a headwind coming and was mainly a tailwind leaving, except when we turned southwest.  I had forgotten my GPS and my computer so I really never knew which way I was pointing.  Fortunately, it's hard to get lost on this route.  There were some hard pulls in the wind, which Marlin was really very good at.  I'd like to say that I am really a brute rider, but alas, at this point I was whimpy.  I hope Marlin forgives me.

We pulled in to Robert's place at about 6:15 with plenty of light remaining.  In fact there were 4 others behind us and no one actually need lights.  Robert had a huge feast going and I got to sit down and talk to Mark O from Rochester who has ridden so many 1200ks that I suspect he has legs in his closet the way I have pants there.  He's a great source of wisedom to those wanting to take on a good challenge too.

I left to drive back to the Twin Cities through what turned out to be a massive storm system complete with a tornado (okay, it was still many miles from the freeway, but it was around).

Apple Valley Opener (it's like the fishing opener on wheels)
This ride was a watershed event for me.  I can say that I owe it all to IronK.  Sadly, the cancer has now made it dangerous for her to scuba dive (what with losing so much lung and all).  We went to two different dive medicine specialists ending at Dr James Lakin (hereafter known as WonderDoc) who explained in excellent detail what the risks and problems were.  Having had some many issues over the winter with being short of breath and being somewhat dissatisfied with my GP, on the way out I made an appointment.

So 1 week before this ride, I was examined and finally diagnosed with asthma.  Not just exercise induced stuff, the real thing.  I didn't fare very well in the methacholine challenge that he ordered so considering my activity level and real dissatisfaction with my performance late in rides, he ordered some more amped up medication.  Within days, I could feel the difference.  I may nominate Dr Lakin for sainthood.  He wound up solving problems that had haunted me for years.

So this ride wasn't so much about beautiful scenery or people, it was about lungs.  In fact, my goal was to not use too much energy on this ride since I had a 600k coming up the following weekend.  The day started in the 40s and eventually got into the low 60s with a strong north wind (maybe 15-20 mph).  The ride basically heads southeast then west, then northeast.  I found myself riding for the very first time near Jim J.  Jim is fast, like really fast.  I have never even come close to riding near him before.  But amazingly, I found it easy to keep up for most of the way to Cannon Falls.  I met Don McCall and some others that typically would be much faster than myself.  I did a turn-and-burn in Cannon Falls and headed off to Zumbrota.  I was basically riding alone, but Jim remained a quarter mile ahead.  Imagine my complete shock to find myself riding into Zumbrota (halfway) a mere 3:45 after the start.  I felt great too.

At Zumbrota, I ran into another rider on his first 200k who had inadvertently not picked up the second half of the cue sheet.  We decided to ride together.  Even though the route was painted, it was still easy to miss the arrows sometime. 

So much for the super speed.  Now we had a big headwind.  For the next 30 or so miles, we headed up and down rollers at about 12-13 mph with our heads down against the wind; last year, that stretch was agonizing, this year, I could have gone faster, but chose to conserve myself.  We were briefly buzzed by some racers but descended into the valley and into the info control.   Here Paul O, whom I rode with last year at the Rochester 600k.  The three of us teamed up and road the rest of the day.  The climb up Soggn Hill was not hard at all and I didn't fall behind like I usually do.  In fact, going in to Cannon Falls, I accidentally pushed the pace and basically pulled the other 2 into the control.  Amazing.

The last 30 miles where still in the wind and by the time we rolled in it was about 10 minutes until 6 pm.  So a sub-10 hour 200k for me, even in the wind.  I felt fine, though starving and I wound up talking to Rob for at least 2 hours waiting and greeting other riders.  I stayed long enough to greet Renee, who I am hoping to see at future brevets.  The more girls, the better in this sport.

This ride gave me much more confidence going to Louisville.  And it turned out that I would need it.
Holy Rollers Batman! It's my Old Kentucky Home
Hills of Wisconsin