Saturday, June 20, 2009

exploring duane’s d’world: an SIR 600k report

modern bridge
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
The good news: I finished the Seattle International Randonneurs 600k last weekend (June 13-14). The route started in Auburn, and went through Tacoma, up to the Hood Canal, out to Westport (on the Washington coast), back inland to Morton (via Centralia), up to Enumclaw, and finally back to Auburn. It took me 37 hours and 57 minutes.

On a more dubious note: I have been the last finisher in every 300k or longer brevet I have completed in the last three years. This includes five 300k’s, two 400k’s, and now two 600k’s. (A couple of minor exceptions involve riders on fixies or missed turns due to errors on a cue sheet.)

But in randonneuring, that’s okay. (Or so I’m told.) Finishing is more important than placing high. Results are posted alphabetically. But still, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t pay attention to his or her times, and uses them to gauge their improvement. It can also be good to know how you fare in comparison to others. Some people are so interested, though, they’ll copy and paste the results of any given brevet into Excel and sort by time.

One interesting comparison for me originated from Mark Thomas’s pre-ride report of this 600k. On the difficult XTR 600k a week earlier, he noted his “moving average” was a mere 11.8 mph. But on the SIR 600k, it improved to 14.4 mph. Well guess what, folks. I did the flatter, milder 600k at the same tempo he did the hellishly hot and steep 600k (and he wasn't feeling well, either)!

A little over a year ago, on the Seattle International Randonneurs’ “Three Passes” 400k, I finished with a measly eight minutes to spare. It was then I first heard of Duane Wright. I think it was Peg Winczewski (she and Lesli had their bikes and bags packed and were headin’ out) who commented on my Duane-like finish time, and told me about his reputation for repeatedly completing brevets just under the deadline.

I then heard of Duane a few more times, but didn’t actually meet him until last April at the finish of the Three Capes 300k. He chose to ride his fixed-gear bike on this 185-miler (which I think is insane, and I have two fixies), and admitted to me later how surprised he was to have finished so close to ending time.

For some reason, Duane rode a fixed gear bike on both the SIR 400k (last month in Eastern Washington) and on this 600k. I think he’s pushing the limit. He finished the 400k (but not quite in time), and abandoned the 600k in Cosmopolis (about 237k into the ride). As he put it later, he had a great weekend. It just didn’t involve 600k’s of riding.

It’s not my intention to take up Duane’s mantle. But on the other hand, my motor just isn’t that powerful. I feel like one of those small Honda engines with valves the size of dimes, sharing the road with cyclists equipped with larger bore engines and superchargers. But eh, I finished!

As John Kramer pointed out in a recent blog, the advantage of being faster is that it gives you more options. You can choose to ride slower for the social aspect, or ride faster in order to take longer breaks and naps. He also pointed out that slower riders often ride alone. I can vouch for that. (Fortunately, I seem to have a high tolerance for “aloneness.”)

I certainly like having options in other areas of my life, so it would probably be good to build up a little more speed so I can introduce options to my cycling life as well.

As for the SIR 600k itself, the ride was pleasant weather-wise and control-wise. My plan was to take it easy on day one way to insure I had enough gas for day two.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker
I rode some with Narayan through Tacoma, enjoyed Amy’s cheeriness (and coffee) at the control in Ruston, then eventually caught up with Duane somewhere near Yukon Harbor. We proceeded to hopscotch to Waterman Point, where Eric Vigoren worked the control, and then onwards through Port Orchard and beyond. By the time I got to Belfair, though, I would not see Duane for another 30 hours. And I wouldn’t see another 600k rider till Centralia.

My main problem with this brevet was stopping too often, and too long. But my body seemed to demand a lot of intermittent rest. In retrospect, I could have taken less time in Union (at the SE end of the Hood Canal) and again in Matlock. But in Matlock I was craving an ice cream float, and managed to construct one in my mouth with Coca Cola and an ice cream bar.

I rode in the drops quite a bit from Matlock to Brady, as my hands were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the hoods and other upper handlebar positions. I just wished my drops were a little less dropped (more like on my LeMond).

After checking in at the Chevron station in Cosmopolis, there was visceral evidence in Aberdeen of how hard the economy’s been hit. An entire shopping mall, complete with a Sears, JC Penneys, and a cinema complex was totally vacant. Not good on a late Saturday afternoon.

Westport (as the name would suggest) was the western-most point on the journey … hence a control at the local Shell station. As usual, I took too much time figuring out what I wanted/needed. But since daylight was now used up, I didn’t hurry up. Continuing on to Raymond, I could often hear the ocean. But the only things that could be seen were those that were either self-or-E6-luminated.

4:40 AM control
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
‘Twas a little difficult to figure out the Rainbow Falls State Park control at 4:30 in the morning. Around the point where my computer indicated it could be, there was a blinky light with a little “SIR” sign. Upon closer inspection, I noticed an arrow on the sign pointing onwards. But it didn’t indicate just how far onwards. I figured it was late enough that the control might have packed up, and the sign indicated to go on to Centralia. But low and behold, a few miles later, there was John, Shiela, and Paul camped out alongside the road, with boatloads of food, and a ton of encouragement.

The sun rose between Rainbow Falls and Centralia. Some of the roads around Chehalis were familiar from the Dart I rode with Cecil and Andrew 15 months earlier. But I didn’t have a lot of gas on the last leg before the “overnight” [ha ha] control.

Peter Beeson was a particularly enthusiastic “concierge” at the Centralia control, and his crew most helpful. They woke me up after about an hour nap and fixed me an ample burrito before sending me on my way. One of the crew members suggested I had plenty of time to arrive back in Auburn in good Duane-like fashion. Hmmm.

A couple people warned me (Eric V. being one of them) that the stretch from Centralia to Morton wasn’t as easy as the pre-ride reports suggested. That’s probably true, as my cardiovascular system got some good workouts along that stretch. I also ended up taking an impromptu brunch about halfway to Morton. Between that and lengthy stops in Morton and Elbe, my off-the-bike time was really building up.

Orville Road between Eatonville and Pioneer Way E (to Buckley) was pretty if not a bit rough (as in coarse pavement). It hugged a couple of serene lakes (Ohop and Kapowsin), although I can’t say the drivers in that area of Pierce County are as serene (particularly the youngsters in pickup trucks). It felt a little like redneck country.

Upon leaving Enumclaw, I noticed that I’d break 38 hours if I hurried. So I hurried. I actually pushed it pretty hard for the last 18 miles, enough that I felt it in my left knee the next day. But I beat 38 hours by three minutes. I might have come in a little sooner had I not lost confidence that SE 368th Street was part of the correct way to get to 212th Way (all nice roads between Enumclaw and Auburn). But I was happy that I had enough in me to push at the end. Perhaps it was the little bottle of Ensure that was given to me in Centralia, but that I waited till Enumclaw to drink.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker
At the motel in Auburn, I ran down the hall to Albert’s room to get checked in, and lo and behold there was Narayan (who had arrived only 25 minutes earlier) and a gentleman from Montana (who was gonna sleep over before driving home). I enjoyed some beer, pizza, and a badly needed shower. But before I started in on a nap of my own (before my drive back to Portland), in comes Duane Wright…in street clothes! I didn’t recognize him at first. He was there to give Narayan a ride home. He was full of good cheer, didn’t seem disappointed about not finishing this particular 600k, and congratulated Narayan and me on our finishes.

All 17 photos from this ride are here on Flickr.


cecilanne said...

Congrats on finishing the 600 in PLENTY of time! Pay no attention to those Montagnard freaks who feel the need to get recognized for finishing a randonnée in X% of the allotted time. Have you noticed that they don't eat real food, don't take pictures and all look fairly grim as they are riding? Just sayin . . . . :-)

tangobiker said...

Hey Cecil ... Sal said in a blog last September that you and Andrew were erudite. I think your use of the term "Montagnard freaks" proves this. I had to research Montagnard, and still failed to make a solid connection.
You know, not only did I take pictures, I did it with a bigger, heavier camera. That must have added at least few minutes methinks.

Cecil Anne said...

The "Montagnard freaks" comment was a reference to the guys (and it is ALL guys) on the Google Randon group who are competing to see who can complete their randonnees in the fastest times. They are calling themselves Montagnards, I call them "men who can't leave the spirit of randonneuring well enough alone."

And I am not so much erudite as I am an insufferable know-it-all (I won't speak for Andrew . . .)

Narayan said...


Nice ride report!

You rode well, and yes, finishing is all that matters. Cecil is right: Don't be swayed by the Montagnards (rhymes with another word that ends in -ards)

I really didn't have anything to give on day 2. I never spent much time at any control except the overnight (I averaged 6-10 minutes per control on day 1, and 10-15 minutes on day 2). I figured I would be lanterne rouge, but your off the bike time was a lot more than mine.

I waited for you by taking a nap (just before the climb and the left turn to Buckley), and again when my chain got stuck between my chainstay and my granny on 236th Ave SE in Enumclaw).