Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ashland-Mohican 300k

Forecast: 44-64, some chance of rain\thunderstorms late in the day, winds 5-7 MPH from the South.

There we were again, lined up at 6 AM ready for another day of Randonneuring love. It was a toasty 40 degrees and overcast, but most importantly dry! 34 riders had preregistered for this ride and 18 showed up. The chosen attire for the day was vastly different among the battle hardened Randonneurs. Most riders had tights on while others wore shorts. Some wore hats and gloves and others didn't bother. Some were starting the day with rain gear on, even though it wasn't raining yet. A gamut of riding gear and all the riders were enthusiastic to start the brevet.

I debated heavily that morning with what to wear. The day before, the temp got up to 60 and it felt quite warm. I was concerned that if I wore tights and long sleeves, I may overheat during the day. I went with my gut instinct that the Rando gods were probably going to be upset again - therefore it would probably be wet and cold. So for me: it was tights, lightweight hat, wool base layer shirt, a short sleeve jersey and gloves. I brought rain gear, but didn't wear it during at the start. For this 300k brevet, I brought my road bike to help get my sit bones readjusted to the saddle for the Fleche coming up at the end of the month. For added fun during the ride, I arrived with a slight head cold and slightly pulled back from cross training.

Bob gave us the pre-ride rundown on the forecast, road conditions, secret control (yeah right) and reviewed a couple last minute cue sheet changes made the night before. Without further adieu, we were off. Within the first 1/4 mile there was almost a massive pileup. I have found it to be 'the norm' that the riders who lead at the very beginning of a brevet typically have absolutely no idea where they are going nor where the first turn is. Result? They instantly slam on the brakes at the first traffic light or street crossing almost causing total carnage. My advice? Even if you have a GPS unit or are familiar with the area\route, simply hang back for the first mile or two and ride in safety - don't be an early causality. Anyways…………..

Within the first couple of miles, I found Bill with whom I had rode a part of the previous 200k. He was again in good spirits and we did some catching up since our last ride. About 10 miles in, I noticed a gorgeous rainbow during the sunrise. I pointed it out to Bill who was also impressed by it. We continued on together to the first control in New London and made great time. We weren't pushing hard and the terrain was slightly rolling. We stopped just long enough at the control to get our card signed and we were immediately off again. As we left the control I thought, "Boy, today is gonna be an easy day".

After leaving the control, we were joined by a third rider named Andrew. We took brief turns in the lead breaking the wind. One of our bikes was making a screechy noise for a good while. Bill realized that one of the bolts on his rear fender had completely fallen out. We checked his wheel and the fender wasn't dragging, so we agreed to wait and fix it at the next control. During this time, Andrew had pulled away and when we started getting some larger rollers. It was also about this time, it also started raining pretty good; so much for the late afternoon\early evening showers. I donned my rain gear and it felt frigid. The temp was hanging right at 44 degrees. Feeling the cold, I decided to speed things up prior to reaching the next control to get warm. At some point relatively close to control 2, Bill and I became separated.

After arriving at control 2 in Wooster, I was immediately greeted by a RUSA guy who was the "secret control". Bob wasn't joking on the secret control?!?! Apparently it was too wet and cold to sit on the side of the road, so he came to the gas station to sign our cards. By now, it was a little before 10 AM. I was still making OK time and not pushing it effort wise. Just prior to leaving the control, Bill arrived and commented that he didn't see me at one of the turns and went the wrong way for a mile or two. I waited for Bill. I figured it was pretty ugly out and hanging with Bill would be more fun than riding by myself. I checked my grab bag of parts I carry to see if I had a spare bolt that would fit Bill's fender. No luck. We checked the fender again, and it was def. not dragging. We traded "ride safe" farewells with some Randos heading in as we were leaving.

Soon after leaving control 2, something became very obvious. There was a lot of hills. Big, little, steep, long, roller, mammoth and every other type hill that the Rando gods could conjure up. It was apparent that reaching our next control at 112 miles wasn't necessarily going to be the ultimate riding test ever, but it wasn't going to be a speedy event either. At one point, the rain stopped for about 20 minutes. I told Bill, "I'll meet you at the top. I'm gonna take this rain gear off because I'm pouring sweat now". Within 3 miles, another thunderstorm hit that was pretty fierce. I was still feeling warm and figured I'd just ride it out until I get to cold or the storm ends. A couple miles later the rain was intensifying combined with the wind, it was becoming incredibly cold. I told Bill to keep going that I was going to put the rain gear back on. He said that was a great idea and did the same thing. While stopped, we noticed that the remaining bolt on his fender also fell out and that the fender was starting to drag. We took some plastic zip ties and "attached it" the best we could. I'm convinced that inside of every Randonneur rider is a boy\girl scout dying to come out.

Onward we progressed. I began to notice a couple things about Amish country since we were biking through it. For one, the roads are completely torn up from the horses and buggies near the shoulder of the road. I'm talking large holes and huge crack lines in the road. Pretty dangerous, especially with the slick wet conditions. All of the Amish we passed said hello and waved. Another is, that the horses pulling the buggies are easily spooked by passing bikes. After realizing this fact, I was going well into the oncoming lane (with no traffic or course) as to not scare the horses. Last, the Amish don't appear bothered by severe weather. Out of all the Amish people I saw in the rain, only one pair of girls shared an umbrella; not sure what good it was doing given the rain was coming down side ways. None of them had jackets nor rain gear and they were just simply walking or traveling in the rain. Remind you, Bill and I were freezing.

We finally reached control 3 after making several wrong turns in downtown Coshocton. GPS units don't work well in cities especially in really bad weather. There is a huge amount of delay and you'll typically overshoot a turn by several streets until the GPS unit catches up. We decided to stop and have lunch. The control was a Marathon with a Subway inside. Bill stocked up with fast food items on the gas station side while I decided to wait for a meatball sub at Subway. I was just in luck that it only took 15 minutes to get it because there was only one person working. Sigh, so much for wasting time at controls. Since I had time to spare, I checked my phone to see that the temp was now a whooping 45 - woot! I also sent a quick text to my wife letting her know that I was ok and still riding. While eating, Makoto and Toshiyuki arrived at the control and were taking time to eat as well. On the way out, Bill asked "Are there many hills coming up". Toshiyuki grinned with a gleam in his eye and said "Many, many".

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