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Wind and Hills in Wisconsin: Why I love the GLR 300k

There are 300k rides and there are 300k rides.  Though they are not my favorite distance, they are the first step towards a 400k (which is my favorite distance).  There is seldom the threat of late nights and sometimes they can even be completely in the daylight.  Of course, that depends on the ride…

The Great Lakes Randonneurs 300k is a very tough ride, particularly in a PBP year.  With the acceleration of the scheduling, it’s in mid-April at a time when snow can fall.  It is also a ride with some very challenging climbing at a time of year when the wind can be a monster.

Last year, this brevet was the end of a downward slide that ended in surgery and the following Monday, I’d given up and finally admitted that I was hurting myself by riding.  I finished dragging behind SpinBob unable to pedal faster than about 8 mph in the flats with no wind.  No energy left.  17 and a half long hours: unable to enlist any of my muscles, nauseated and weak.  It will always be a reminder of the point at which you have to admit that it’s time to back off.

This year was different.

I drove down on Friday night.  I had 2 nights booked at the Delavan Super 8, home of all GLR brevets.  It’s a great place to have brevets start at. 

I think I have been saying hello to the same managers for about 5 years now.   As has been my custom since last year, I brought my own food.  In this case, a new rice cake recipe with swiss cheese, coconut, sesame seeds and prosciutto along with some blueberry rice cakes and my very last Lisa Bar (so named because I don’t actually have a name for it, I just know that Lisa makes them).  I also hauled in a bunch of guacamole and chips for the end of the ride because I just can’t seem to eat enough avocados these days.

The weather forecast was for a lovely day temperature-wise with a somewhat unpleasant wind forecast.  A low was approaching from the west that was setting up a massive east wind off Lake Michigan.  Even at 7:00AM, it was already windy. 
Jim Kreps - Fearless RBA
The route heads pretty much due west for about 45 miles, then northwest for another 45 miles before turning and slowly dropping southeast back to Delavan.  Set up a lovely tailwind for the first half of the ride, not so much the second.

Over 50 people turned out between the 200k and 300k options.  Only 6 were on the 300k, including me, but SpinBob was amongst them and I thought we could catch up.  I saw his bike and was looking for him, but among 50+ people and bikes couldn’t quite find him in the parking lot.  What I did find in the parking lot was that my computer was non-functional!  What is it with me and bike computers?  I would be navigating with a cue sheet and would have to estimate distances, a throwback to LEL.

Until the first control at 43 miles, the 200k and 300k had the same route, so I got to talk to lots of people.  
Eric Peterson - GPS Man
There was the rider known as “E” whose actually name was spoken in my deaf ear and I don’t actually know.  He was riding with another man just getting into randonneuring and the two of them bantered back and forth like an old married couple.  It was truly hysterical.

The first 43 miles of tailwind plus sort of flat terrain (meaning endless rollers) went really fast.  So fast that I found myself sitting in Brodhead at the start of a long 150 miles of solo ride.  No sign of SpinBob.  I decided to forge on, bought some water, got my card stamped and chomped down a rice bar.   As I started pulling out, SpinBob pulled in.  I figured I would soft pedal it and he would easily catch me.  A previous email had mentioned a 13:40 on his previous weeks 300k; sure it was flat but that’s fast.

Fishing opener?
So I rolled out alone across the town of Brodhead enjoying the tailwind, even if it was a tad chilly.   I picked up the pace after 15 minutes or so to stay warm and 3 riders blasted by me in a paceline.  At least one of them was wearing a PAC tour kit.  PAC tour riders are universally fast and hard core and so I let them go and just continued on certain that Bob would catch me. 

Nye Road, big rollers in the distance
The hills of this part of Wisconsin actually remind me of France in some ways.  They roll gently with some steep pitches in places and I noticed that spring had indeed sprung in this part of the country.  Forsythia was in bloom and the occasional daffodil greeted me on street corners of the small towns.  It has been quite dry and streams were a little down, but still flowing.  Makes the watery side of my happy to ride near creeks and streams.

I pedaled up through Albany and into the larger rollers and past the many dairy farms and creameries of the area – this is Wisconsin, land of dairy.   I had to pay fairly close attention to navigation – it would not do to miss a turn here and my previous rides had been with SpinBob, who knows all the roads very well.  At the intersection marked Silver Road, I had to stop and consider the distance carefully, the road didn’t have an actual sign, just Cty D and I had to size up the meaning of that half mile.

As I sat there, SpinBob and another rider came up.  It turns out I was confused because this particular intersection had been the subject of debates past.  The other rider went one way and I followed SpinBob since I had been wanting to talk to him.
Kent just after New Glarus

Unfortunately, he was in considerable stomach distress from the flu.   New rando rule, don’t try a hilly 300k after 30 hours of the stomach flu expecting a miracle (not everyone has 8 years of colitis to toughen them up for the experience).   We passed along Nye Road which has 3 very intense rollers – the end is nye…..

As we turned to descend to New Glarus, Bob was on the phone (he can do that while riding, I can’t).  He’d just called Melissa to come pick him up at New Glarus.  But at least we got to chat for a few minutes.   We said our goodbyes, though I did wind up seeing him briefly in New Glarus.

Things you can do with PVC and spray foam
I caught up to the other rider, whose name was Kent, outside of New Glarus.  The 3 riders that had passed us were still there having a break.  Kent and I agreed to ride together that night.  I’m into safety at night and there is nothing safer than numbers.  Kent also had a PAC tour kit on so I was a bit worried about being able to keep up.  However, I did have climbing lessons from Lisa to fall back on and a certain amount of fitness built up from my winter SR.  These guys were fresh out of the gym, if that. 

The strategy worked pretty well.  Indeed, climbing lessons from Lisa helped me be slightly less hamster-like and more goat-like on the hills.  I’ll have to thank her as I shamelessly beg for more climbing lessons and her recipe for bars.   I found myself climbing far more easily than I had any of the previous years.  After San Diego, the hills seemed quite a bit tamer.  And we still had a tailwind….

Kent was a very fast descender and I had to be in the drops and pedaling to keep up.  We rolled along at a very fast clip through Blue Valley and closed on Barneveld with somewhat alarming speed.   No way that is really because I am a great cyclist.  I had a sneaking suspicion we might be paying for it soon.

We crossed the 3 ridges easily and just kept going, the BP Station in Barneveld came too quickly and I rolled in to have my card stamped at 1:55pm.  Gulp, a sub-7 hour century.  My thighs are not museum grade – well maybe the Museum of Old Bike Parts grade, but not National Museum of Art or the Louvre.  The flag was straight out from the east and rippled like it was going to shred into pieces at any moment.
The 3 PAC tour guys were once again at the control and sitting down for a Subway.  I had rice bars and my very last Lisa bar.  Sad to see it go, it went for a good cause. 

We took some pictures and I got some names for the PAC Tour:  Mark, Michael and Jim. 

Road Pixie: BP to PBP?
Kent and I left first on the now eastbound trip back to Delavan.  Turning into the wind was a shocker indeed.  I found myself very happy that I had no computer to be able to tell how fast we were going.  The ten miles of rollers to Mt Horab were a major slog, not much of a windbreak, climbing and straight into the wind.  There was quite a bit of traffic and a limited shoulder as well, making it difficult to impossible to switch places.  About 4 miles out of town, the other 3 riders grated by in their paceline, but they were working pretty hard to do it.

Mt Horab is an interesting town known for its Trollway, a collection of carved trolls on the main drag.  I’ve always thought of stopping here, but never quite had time and wouldn’t this time either.  Kent and I stopped briefly to pick up a charging cable for his GPS.  Since I had no computer, I heartily agreed that was worth the time.   Goodness knows how I got so technologically challenged.

As we descended the road out of Mt Horab through the forest, there were deer watching us pass.  Early in the year, before the leaves are out, it’s much easier to see them.  We passed several other cyclists stopped in the road watching them as well.

The next section to Oregon was about 30 miles and the hills continued, providing some shelter from the wind.  At the top of one ridge, smoke was blowing in the distance and some other cyclists were also watching.   Thinking of last week’s fire ride, I asked if they knew what was on fire, the response a shrug and “the British are coming”.  Hey, they might have been tired too.

Small towns - 855 people

The rest of the way to Oregon was hilly and the final stretch was busy and we were glad to pull into the control.  As expected, 3 bikes right there.  We all had a nice discussion as we ate various foods (rice cakes and some carrot cake for me and hot dogs for them).   The next leg was 25 miles to Edgerton.  Still going due east. 

That section actually passed very easily and it wasn’t 8:00AM when we got there: only 28 miles to go.  At this point, it was time to put on reflective gear and Michael realized that his new reflective vest was not actually reflective.  Bummer.
Trolls in Mt Horab

So I rooted around and we attached everything spare I had that was reflective to his body with staples and other methods.  In the end, he had lights, tape, even gloves attached to his body.  Sure it looked weird, but darn, it worked really well.  The 5 of us also decided to just ride the last 28 miles as a group.  This made me really happy because I had given away my spare light and now I couldn’t see my cue sheet.

It was a good thing we did because the wind then proceeded to pick up.  Sections of M had dirt blowing all over them, visible even in the dark.  In sections it was like riding against a wall.  Jim, who had done the PAC Elite Transcontinental, would get ahead, but apparently he didn’t have a cue sheet or a GPS so no one was concerned that he would get too far ahead.  Apparently, he had been pulling the trio all day.

I was just shot at this point and so was Micheal (who I was following).  We dropped back a little for the final trip up the Delavan mini-wall.

The five of us basically dribbled in together and we all got a picture.  Which was really fun.  I’ve never finished with so many people.  We got a nice picture with the box of brevet cards.  10:30 PM - everyone together!  And it wasn't even midnight yet!

I was too tired to do anything except get my bike into my room.  It was too much energy to chew the chips I had in the room so I ate all the guacamole with a spoon.  And the two teens in the next room were in a massive case of teen angst; since we had a connecting door, I got to hear every word they said and we would have all gotten more sleep if they had had a little more experience....but there is only so much a tired randonneuse can do. 

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What a ride and a different from the previous year!  My thanks to Jim Kreps who puts so much energy into creating and running these rides; with 60 people total and almost half of them showing up on the day, that’s amazing.  I hope that I do as good a job as he does someday.  And my thanks to Kent, Jim, Michael and Mark who spent the day with me.  I thought I was going to spend 150 miles all by myself.  And hopefully, SpinBob will recover from the flu soon.
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