The Dublin 600K brevet is in the books. I had several reasons for doing this ride. First, my biggest current goal is doing Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) next year, and I need to get some long brevets under my belt to be ready for that. The Dublin 600K is the longest brevet on Georgia’s calendar this year. Additionally, when PBP registration opens next year, the sign-up order will be based on the rider’s longest brevet from the previous calendar year. A 600K should put me in fairly good standing. (I wish I could do a 1,000K this year, but my work schedule doesn’t fit with the ones that are offered in other states.) The only other reason I can give for doing a 600K is that I’m a little tetched in the head.
First Things First
The brevet started in Dublin, GA this past Saturday morning. Dublin is about an hour-and-a-half drive from my house. For a shorter brevet, I would have driven down right before the ride. For a 600K, however, I knew it would be a lot more comfortable spending Friday night at the start. I had just finished a day and a half of teaching erosion and sedimentation control certification classes in Augusta. On Friday afternoon I had barely enough time to drive home from Augusta, tie up a few work-related and household loose ends, and head to Dublin for the 600K. Work hard, play hard:
The next morning six of us gathered at the start: Brad, Brian, David D., Jeff from Tennessee, Ken from Alabama, and I. Kevin, our generous and hardworking Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), was there to coordinate and support us. (Thank you again, Kevin!) We headed west on the out-and-back route to the Alabama state line.
By the way, the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday was not really on my radar screen. I vaguely knew that their wedding was sometime soon, but I didn’t know the exact date until the day before when I was listening to the news on the radio. I thought to myself, “I can’t believe anyone would get up at 6:00 AM to watch the royal wedding!” Then I thought, “Wayment…I got up to ride my bicycle at 6:00 AM…”
A Seat Post and STEM
I was very grateful to be able to ride with Brian and Ken. We stayed together the entire time. Brian is one of my regular rando buddies, and I had ridden a portion of my first 600K with Ken. Additionally, Brad rode with us to the control in Hawkinsville. He hung back after that because it was his first 600K (yea!) and he didn’t want to go too hard too early (smart move).
About 40 miles into the ride, I was riding behind Brian as we slowed at an intersection. I heard a crack. I thought Brian ran over something and hoped he hadn’t gotten a flat. About 70 miles in the ride, Brian discovered what had made the cracking noise – his seat post!
We pulled over to assess the situation. Brian certainly couldn’t continue with a cracked seat post. Maybe he could make it to the next control by riding on the front tip of his saddle. Then, Ken had the smart idea to lower the seat post about an inch so that the cracked portion would be supported within the surrounding tube. That was good enough to get Brian to the next control, but he couldn’t ride the rest of the 600K with such an out-of-whack bike position.
Unfortunately, Kevin hadn’t brought a spare bike, which might have yielded another seat post Brian could have used. However, I realized that I have several cycling friends who live near that part of Middle Georgia. Maybe one of them had a seat post Brian could borrow.
I’m glad my phone is my husband Robert’s old one. It has lots of contact information that I wouldn't have otherwise. I left a message with Eddie, then with Ray. Then I remembered that the previous weekend I had dropped my phone into the lake, which had damaged the regular telephone speaker. I could only use my phone on speakerphone setting. I had to call both of them back and use the speakerphone to leave messages again. The second time, Eddie answered. He said he would have been happy to bring Brian a seat post, but he was in South Georgia plowing fire breaks.
The three of us continued toward the next control with Brian looking like he was riding a clown bike. A few miles later – of all the luck! – Brian got a flat tire. Actually, it wasn’t a regular flat tire. He has tubeless tires and simply needed more air. While he used his hand pump to fix the problem, I made a few more phone calls. Tina and Tony live nearby. Tina’s mailbox was full. Tony’s wasn’t full, but I got his voicemail. I left a message, still hopeful. Brian’s sort-of flat turned out to be fortuitous.
We got back on the road yet again. A short distance later, a large turtle was crossing the road. Of course, I had to stop to help. I told Brian and Ken to keep going, and I’d catch up. I quickly moved the turtle to the side of the road. (Always place a turtle on the side of the road toward which it is heading, or it will try to cross the road again.) Maybe it’s a good thing I did move it because a car came along moments later.
Just after I got back on my bike, my phone rang. I answered, remembering to put it on speakerphone. It was Tony! He said he’d be happy to help. I called Brian, whom I hadn’t caught up to yet, and asked what size seat post he needed. Then, I called Tony back. I’m glad it was a sparsely traveled country road that allowed me to make phone calls while I was riding, which is not something I normally do.
Tony met us at the control in Marshallville:
I was thrilled that my plan actually worked! More importantly, Brian didn’t have to DNF. Even Tony was glad that I called because he said that I got him out of mowing his lawn. Happiness all around.
By the way, I got a new phone.
The Long and Not-So-Winding Road
Soon we came to a 41-mile stretch along Georgia Highway 96 and US Highway 80. This is a four-lane highway with two lanes in each direction, rumble ridges at the edges, and bike lanes outside of that. We used the bike lanes as much as we could. Sometimes, however, they had a lot of debris. Then we would move to the far-right side of the righthand lane. That wasn’t too bad because traffic isn’t unduly heavy along this highway.
The Dublin 600K route doesn’t have an abundance of stores along the way. Therefore, we made sure to take advantage of the ones we did encounter.
Brian had done the Dublin 600K before and knew of The Cotton Gin, a restaurant and inn in Reynolds. We stopped there for lunch. I thought about getting a taco salad but went with the catfish po’ boy. The catfish was delicious, flaky, and not too heavy on the fried side. Surprisingly, the restaurant didn’t have any hot sauce, but my po’ boy did come with a hot link (smoked sausage link) on top of the catfish. It was an odd combination that I never would have thought of, but it was oddly tasty:
My choice of sides was fried, fried, fried, or fried: fries, onion rings, chips, or tater tots. I got the tater tots because I hadn't had them since elementary school. Now I remember why I hadn't had them since elementary school.
I also got a huge glass of unsweet tea. Yes, I drink unsweet tea; no one has revoked my Southerner card yet. As we were filling our water bottles up before we left, I had a great idea. I had about half a bottle left of lemonade flavored Powerade. I topped it off with unsweet tea, making an Arnold Palmer Powerade.
The next control was in Geneva, where GA 96 changes to US 80. We loaded up on food and drink. (Mostly drink for me – the catfish po’ boy and tater tots felt like they would be sitting in my stomach for hours.) It was turning into quite a warm day, and shade around the convenience store was scarce. There were a few chairs in front of the store, but they were in the sun. Besides, they were occupied by local drunks. I sat on the curb by the gas pumps, which were covered with an awning. A couple of guys rode up in a golf cart and parked on the other side of the pumps, and one went inside. Ken walked up, and the nice golf cart driver offered him a seat:
We would be visiting the same controls on the return trip. Our second visit to this convenience store would be in the middle of the night, when it wasn’t open. Therefore, Brian wisely advised that we stash some water in the nearby bushes.
Westward ho! I’m not easily bored, and I’m pretty heat tolerant, but I had to agree with Brian’s assessment that it was a monotonous road on a hot afternoon. As we finally neared our next turn, dark clouds gathered on the horizon…
Half Way There
Sure enough, within a few miles the rain started. We stopped to put on our rain coats. The rain didn’t last long. The sun started peeking back out, and it turned into a beautiful early evening.
We went through the town of Cataula. My cycling friend John lives there. Robert had made sure I had John’s contact information with me as a precaution. I’m glad I didn’t need it during the ride, but I’m thankful I knew someone in the area. Brian laughed at how I know all these people in various parts of the state. I explained that he’s used to the Atlanta cycling community, which has a huge population density. The Middle Georgia cycling community has to draw from a much larger geographical area.
Our next control was at a Circle K right on the Georgia/Alabama state line. About half a dozen cute little boys were hanging out at the store. They looked like they were around 8-10 years old. They had all kinds of questions about our bicycles and gear. As I went inside to buy some Gatorade, one of them came up beside me and asked me to buy him a “juice.” The bottles of Gatorade were 2 for $3. If I had bought a single bottle, it would have been $2.39. So, I was out only about $0.60 for succumbing to his cuteness. I couldn’t resist buying him a Reese’s peanut butter cup, too. Ken bought a couple of the other kids some gummy bears. They really scored that evening! It was well worth it in my mind to build some good will toward the cycling community and between human beings in general.
We backtracked only a few miles to the next control, a motel in West Point, GA. Kevin had reserved one room, and Ken had gotten his own room. Brian, Ken, and I were the only ones there from our group when we arrived. I took a shower in the room Kevin had reserved, and the guys took showers in the room Ken had reserved.
Then it was time for food. Kevin had planned to order some pizza for us, but he didn’t get a chance because he had to go back out on the course to check on the other riders. Therefore, we opted for Newt’s Chicken across the parking lot. As I was the only one of the three of us who had remembered to bring street clothes, Brian said that if I would walk over and get food for all of us, he’d give me his credit card to pay for it. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
The one thing I hadn’t put in my drop bag was non-cycling shoes. (I didn’t anticipate having to walk anywhere.) Therefore, I’m sure I looked rather strange as I clunked across the parking lot wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and cycling shoes. Despite his lack of street clothes, Ken decided to accompany me anyway, wearing a neon yellow, sleeveless cycling shirt; bib shorts with the straps hanging down; and cycling shoes. We seemed to blend in pretty well with the locals.
Ken and I returned with a 12-piece mix of fried chicken and two large sides of cole slaw and potato salad. I even finagled a couple of small containers of hot sauce. It was a rando buffet:
It was tasty, but especially after the catfish po’ boy and tater tots at lunch, I was definitely at my limit of fried food for a while. There’s a certain amount of disregard for nutrition that's necessary during a brevet, but I was really starting to look forward to getting back to my regular diet, which contains a lot more vegetable matter.
Randonneuring veteran Brian had laid out the plan: shower, eat, chill for a while, and head back out around 11:00 PM. I went back to the other motel room, which was empty because Kevin and the other riders still had not arrived, and set my alarm for a one-hour nap. I slept for an hour and a half. I didn’t hear my phone alarm go off. I think that’s because I had put it on airplane mode to make it charge faster – a neat trick in case you didn’t know. I woke up when Kevin and Jeff knocked on the door. It was a few minutes before 11:00 PM! Time to scramble.
Soon Brian, Ken, and I were back on the road. We planned to ride through the night to get back to the Cotton Gin in Reynolds, the same place where we had had lunch. Brian had reserved a room there. Reynolds was a little past the 400K mark, which would leave us less than 200K to finish.
The Witching Hour
For the first few hours of Sunday, I felt pretty good. I was tired but fairly alert. It was about 83 miles to the Cotton Gin and a few more hours of sleep. I could do this!
US 80 and GA 96 had little traffic in the middle of the night. The whole time we stayed in the righthand travel lane rather than in the bike lane, avoiding potential debris that would be harder to see at night.
We arrived back at the Geneva control around 3:00 AM. We retrieved the stashed water and borrowed the drunks’ chairs in front of the store. (Glad they weren’t still sitting there.) The closed store and dearth of stores in general wasn’t too big a deal for me because I was carrying a small convenience store in my bike bag, a.k.a. the Yogi Bear picnic basket. I had brought some semi-stale tortilla chips from my pantry, knowing they would come in handy during the ride. This is about as rando as it gets:
Although we certainly talked to each other during our stops, we were mostly quiet while riding. However, after the stop in Geneva, the three of us started talking more to try to help Ken, who was fighting sleep.
Brian and I started getting very sleepy, too. He dealt with it by significantly increasing his speed. Ken bridged up to him quickly, but it took me a few miles to catch back on. In the meantime, I began singing to myself, whatever came into my head. It was mostly theme songs to old TV shows. I also sang a few classic rock songs whose lyrics I could remember in my fuzzy-headed state as well as a commercial jingle or two. I remember calling out "Ricola!" somewhere on the outskirts of Butler.
Then I did something new, kind of voluntarily and kind of involuntarily. About every five seconds I growled. I was thinking of an article I read recently about a scientific study that showed that athletes who grunt during a short, intense effort put out measurably more power. I guess my growling worked. After a while I didn’t have to work so hard to keep my eyes open.
At last we made it to the Cotton Gin in Reynolds. Relief at last! The guys generously let me have one bed, and they shared the other. I felt kind of guilty seeing them hang off the edges. I should have offered to sleep on the floor, but they probably wouldn’t have let me. We slept only about an hour and half, but you wouldn’t believe what a difference that made.
The Push to the End
I woke up at about 7:00 AM and ate the hard-boiled eggs and apple from my Yogi Bear picnic basket. In addition to Clif Bars and similar bike food, I really like having some real food among the provisions I pack. I was fortunate to have this breakfast because there were no restaurants open on Sunday morning in Reynolds.
After the fried chicken excursion in West Point the night before, Kevin had ordered pizza for the other riders. Brian asked me to carry some of the leftover pizza in my Yogi Bear picnic basket, which I was glad to do. Handily, it served as Ken’s breakfast on Sunday morning. We both marveled at how heavy the bag of pizza was as I got it out of my bike bag. I should have billed Brian for the freight charges.
Brian had a Pop Tart and a Frappuccino, but he’s a big guy and needs a ton of calories. His lack of a real breakfast put a hurting on him later that morning. We stopped for the second time at the control in Marshallville – more convenience store fuel, but Brian was jonesin’ for something substantial. We had one last control in Hawkinsville before the end.
Brian spied a Huddle House in Hawkinsville and made a beeline for it. He got a hamburger and loaded baked potato, and Ken ordered a big breakfast. I got a waffle and turkey sausage – not a huge meal by brevet standards. I wasn't terribly hungry, but I knew I should eat. My energy level definitely was better for the rest of the ride.
|Happiness and delirium look a lot alike.|
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig
On the drive home, I ate a few provisions left in my Yogi Bear picnic basket. I got sleepy after a while, and so I pulled into a parking lot at a quiet country church for a 30-minute nap. That was just what I needed to finish getting home comfortably and safely.
I was so happy to see Robert and the hounds! Between my classes in Augusta and the 600K, I had been away from home for three nights. We're rarely apart for that long.
Brushing my teeth and taking a shower made me feel much more human. Despite my fatigue, I cooked dinner. (I enjoy cooking, and it relaxes me.) Robert opened a bottle of sparking wine to celebrate. I relished our healthy meal of salmon with sesame noodles and bok choy plus the biggest, greenest salad I could assemble.
It’s interesting to compare my performances from my two 600Ks. A 600K has a 40-hour time limit. I did the Dublin 600K in 34:12. The fact that I had a comfortable time cushion at the end is a testament to having two strong riding companions the whole way and relatively little climbing (12,000 ft). In comparison, two years ago I did the Double Caesar 600K in 34:53. However, I rode much of that one solo and had nearly 22,000 ft of climbing. Now I have a better feel for just how well I did on my first 600K.
I've also worked out a few technological kinks. On these longer brevets, I charge my Garmin mid-ride with a battery pack attached to the top tube of my bicycle. A few weeks ago when I did a 400K, the mount for my Garmin was too cramped, and I mangled the end of the charger cable. On this 600K, I used a different mount configuration, and it worked perfectly. The battery pack is supposed to be good for at least two full Garmin charges, but on this 600K I used it only for one partial charge because I also took advantage of wall charging at the restaurant in Reynolds and the two sleep stops.
I had a backup Garmin as well, but I didn't need it on this ride because I was able to keep the first one charged. It was nice to be able to upload a single ride to Strava rather than having to splice together several segments.
Training-wise and gear-wise, I'm making good progress toward being ready for PBP next year. The Dublin 600K makes me eligible to preregister on January 28, 2019. Ride on!