The Easy Bake 600k

After having such a nice ride last year with the tornado and storms, it was time to go back to Delavan and ride again with the Great Lakes Randonneurs.  I decided this only 7 days from the start, just short enough to pre-register.  IronK had gardening to do so I reserved my room and drove down alone.  I notified my relatives in Madison that they might be required to scrape me off the pavement in her absence.

This has been a cold, wet spring in the upper Midwest, so of course the predicted temperatures continued to climb until the night before and the weather channel proudly predicted oven-like temps and a high wind from the west.  Hmmm, to bad a west wind is a cross wind or headwind for the first 200 miles.  But, I am philosophical on weather.  There is no such thing as an easy 600k no matter how you slice it or dice it.

Of course, stepping out into 75 degrees and high humidity at 6:00 am was still a shocker.  I saw a bunch of people I knew.   Well, they knew me and I am sure I knew them too on some level (hard to recognize sometimes after the weather last year).  We rolled out of the parking lot into the surpisingly high winds at a fast clip, about 19 mph.  Within 1 mile, I dropped off, no way I was going to pace like that.  I saw Kurt, who I rode with last year, he went ahead, but it was nice seeing him again.

For the next 50 miles, I rode alone in the very hot, windy flats to Kirkland, IL.  I'd never ridden in Illinois before, but darn, the part was flat.  Many farms and a few trees, but unremarkable scenery.  I got to Kirkland at about 9:00 am and it was already very hot, one rider was leaving as I came.  Sweat poured off me as soon as I stopped the bike.

After Kirkland, the ride got nicer with some rollers and more interesting farms and scenery.  I went along around 15 mph listening to birds and looking at flowers.  I passed the rider I had seen in Kirkland, he was having issues with the heat, but had done PBP so a tough cookie.  I continued on regretting that I had forgotten my camera and could not take my first picture of a nuclear reactor as I passed by.

I passed quite a number of riders on the way into the next control and at the control was a familiar bicycle, a Velo Orange with a Brooks saddle and some classy fenders.  My friend Bob from last year's Rochester 600k.  He came around the corner with two others looking rather peaked from the heat.lamenting having ridden quite hard for the first 50 miles in the paceline. “I’ll be paying for it tonight”, was his response. He was glad to see me and I was rejoicing that my blog might not be called the Lone 600k. I’ve only done one 600k completely alone before and I distinctly remember my brain having significant anxiety at certain points (along with the swelling, but that’s another story).

We rode out of town at post-food pace and started into rollers with a steep upgrade on Mix Rd. Up to this point, the route had been flat as a pancake and I was doubting that it was very PBP-like. Everything I’ve heard says the hills in PBP are relentless. By this time, we were about 90 miles in and it was early afternoon, the temperature was somewhere in the 90s and the winds were crossing at about 20 mph. We passed directly in front of the nuclear power plant, closest I’ve ever been to one. Being in nuclear medicine, Bob had cool stuff to say about nuclear plants.

The next stretch was almost 65 miles to the control in Brodhead. That’s a long way on any day and on a day this hot it was really long. We stopped at a small town about halfway for ice cream and darn did it taste good. We had hot dogs too; salty and full of carbs. Bob had big streaks of salt on his legs and my face was crusted over. I washed in the restroom and reapplied sunscreen. At this point, it was about 2:30 and the hottest part of the day was approaching fast. The wind continued to keep us cool at least even if it wasn’t helping us go fast.

Outside town, we caught up to Ed, another rider who was also looking as though he might melt into the pavement with his tires. Up and down the rollers we went until a secret control by Mike Orange Legs of the GLR. By this time, his water was warm, but it was water nonetheless. Another rider caught up but took the opportunity to take a nap in the shade. Ed, Bob and I headed on for the Wisconsin border. We remarked how the myth that Illinois is flat is now dispelled. We lost Ed around State Line Road, the heat was really hard on him. It’s an advantage to be smaller when it’s hot and I was thankful for smallness.

The approach into Brodhead is frustrating because the route winds about 2 miles west before turning back east towards the control. You can see it in the distance, and yet you turn away. Not fun. But that section was actually genuinely pretty with many flowers and older farms. We rode into the control at about 5:00 pm. A number of riders were still there drinking profusely. So we said hi and had some food. One of them remarked that a cool front was moving in for the night and that temps might drop considerably before we finished.

About 5:30, we left the control and remarked that it seemed cooler then we passed a bank thermometer that read 88 degrees. So much for cooler, but it turned out that the least the worst heat of the day was past.  The next couple hours were quite pleasent, but got hillier and hillier as we approached New Glarus.  The sun went down just a few miles from town and we donned our night gear.  Clouds were rolling in and dusk didn't seem to last very long, but the sun looked like a big orange blob for some time.  Possibly the Arizona fires might have been providing color.  New Glarus is a really cool town with most of it decked out like something out of a Swiss Miss commercial.  We rolled in around 9:30 pm.
Unfortunately, it was dark, so I didn't get to see the quaint town.  In addition, we were pestered the entire time by a very drunk German man.  I try to be very polite, but I missed doing a bunch of stuff at the control and we were fairly chased out of it.  I'll have to go back later as a tourist.  200 yards out of the control is a long, very steep hill called "Hill Street".  Standard procedure to curse the RBA on any climb right after a food stop.  This particular hill is also on the Horribly Hilly Hundred, but at least those guys are only going 100 miles.  We had to stop near the bottom to check directions, where we were harrassed by drivers "Ride in the day." they shouted.  That's a new insult on me.
The next few miles were substantially easier with the day's wind finally giving us a push from behind.  The roll into Oregon was very quick and we were there by midnight.  We kept seeing the same two guys at nearly every control, they were pretty much 15 minutes ahead of us.  I took a caffeine tablet as I was feeling sleepy.
The section out of Oregon had horrible pavement and I found myself nodding off.  I finally gave up on the caffeine and Bob waited for me while I slept for 15 minutes on the side of the road.  I did sleep face up which works much better than face down.  This also gave the last 3 riders time to catch up to us so that we could all bunch up for the rest of the night.
We hit Edgerton and I again laid on my back, this time with my arms crossed over my chest, kind of like rando-Elvira.  The last section was full of more bad pavement and we rolled in at 5:00 am.  Not a great time, but considering the amount of time the heat had forced us into the controls, I was happy.  Bob and I agreed to a 3 hour stop.  I went in my room in Delavan, drank about 3 cups of chocolate milk, downed some cookies and vitamins and was asleep in minutes.  I awoke 30 minutes early to the sounds of pounding in the room above.  I showered, changed, ate as much food as possible and went to take some caffeine pills.  I flipped the blister pack that I had used the previous evening and discovered that I had mistakenly taken Sudafed (expired in 2009) instead of caffeine the previous night.  No wonder it hadn't helped.  At least my head felt clear.
Bob and I left at 7:45 and rolled out into another warm day.  This day was supposed to be much cooler (mid 70s), that was not to be.  It was another scorcher so we were lucky to make it out early.  The first leg was pleasent with one good climb and lots of flats.  After East Troy, it got hilly and though my energy was very good and I was riding well, Bob was having some issues.  Apparently, he had decided to break in a new Brooks saddle - instead the saddle was breaking him in.  We hit Whitewater around 10:30 and ran into Ed again who left ahead of us.  Only 16 miles to the turnaround in Jefferson.
The 16 miles included one very bad road again and we pulled into Jefferson at around 12:45 in the heat of the afternoon.  I got a hot dog and drained a bunch of extra pickle juice from the pickle self service.  Bob bought an arsenal of painkillers and some spray. 
About 10 minutes later, Bob came out of the men's room an announced he was DNFing.  I was astonished (for the record, I watched him finish a 400k once passing a kidney stone at a control), it must have been quite a frightening sight of a saddle sore to stop him, but sometimes, you are just done, and he was "just done".  Ed appeared and the two of us agreed to ride back together, I bade Bob a sad goodbye.  It's hard to leave someone on one of these rides.  I'll always wonder if I could have convinced him to continue, but I respect his choice.
Ed and I had a good ride back to Delavan.  We made the 62 miles in only 4:45 pedaling time with about 45 minutes at the last two controls.  The heat was again bad from about 2:00-5:00.  My final time of 36:58 is my best 600k yet that included a sleep stop.
I stayed overnight in Delavan and met Bob in Madison the next day for lunch ( I had his overnight bag to return ).   We are both planning on doing PBP so he may be in Apple Valley this weekend for the 600k there.  One happy result, I might get to ride with him again.
Blazing Saddles in Apple Valley
200k Adventures in May