Thursday, May 24, 2012

400 K Brevet This Weekend

The plan: ride 400 kilometers (250 miles) across four states in one day. To get credit for an official finish from RUSA I need to finish the ride in 27 hours though my goal is to finish in 24 hours.  If I can finish rides of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K in a single calendar year I am eligible for the Super Randonneur award. I hate that name, it sounds silly, but it is a meaningful riding achievement and a goal I've set for myself this year.  I completed the 300K in April.  The 200K is a distance I've completed almost two dozen times. I respect the effort, but it no longer intimidates me.  But I still have to participate in one of a limited number remaining on the schedule this year.

The 400K this weekend is intimidating but only 15 miles longer than my previous personal best, on the Fleche April 15th.  The weather this Saturday will be hot mid day but otherwise well suited to a long day in the saddle.  The 600K (375 miles) is only two weeks away. THAT one is a little scary.  One reason I will push for the 24 hour target this weekend is to test myself for the 600K. The 600K has a 40 hour time limit. I'm quite sure I can't go 40 hours without sleep.  If I finish the first 400K of the 600K in 24 hours I could afford myself a 4 hour nap and still have 12 hours left to finish the last 200K at the same pace I rode the first 400K, makes sense, right?  The 600K route also conveniently returns at the 400K point to the same hotel where it starts to afford riders exactly this option while keeping the logistics easy.

To do all of this I have to up my game a bit from the 300K in April.  I started out the 300K low on sleep, low on fuel and slightly dehydrated. I bonked 100 miles in.  I can't make the same mistake this weekend.  I've focused this week on sleep and hydration.  I've backed off my recent riding mileage a bit to rest my legs and I've tried to eat a healthy balance of carbs, protein and vegies every day.  I don't plan to have any more alcohol until after the ride is finished.   I will force myself to bed early tonight and again tomorrow night.

I'm also stripping the bike of redundant gear I just haven't needed on Fleche or the 300K.  The forecast temp range from 66 - 92 F means I don't need to carry much in the way of spare clothing.  Leg and arm warmers in case it's a little cooler overnight on some of the hills and a very thin rain vest in case I get caught in a thunder shower.  A sock with a plastic bag inside will hold ice on the back of my neck during the heat of the day.  Lighting, tools and spare parts all got a thorough review this week and the kit trimmed of things I never use or could make do without. For instance CO2 doesn't save the need for a pump so it's staying behind.   The reduced bulk will avoid the need for any sort of rear luggage and associated support fixtures. EVERYTHING will fit in my bar bag.  The tools will ride in a plastic bottle with a wide mouth in one of the bottle cages (I carry a camelback and don't really need two bottles either).  Even the amount of food I carry will be reduced slightly, I've finished every ride so far this year with a couple of granola bars left in the bag from start to finish while I eat other fare purchased along the way.  So I'll keep eating off of the economy and carry a little less.

In all I estimate I've shed 5 lbs of gear from the load I carried on fleche.  That doesn't sound like much for a 250 lb guy riding a 30 lb steel bike.  Bicycling magazine recently published an article on rider body weight. A coach quoted in the article estimated the cost of excess weight at 15-20 secs / mile / lb. while climbing.  I realize I'm stretching to apply a racing performance metric like that to static bike and gear weight. A lb of body weight is more than just the energy required to lift it, but also the cardio vascular efficiency and other variables in athletic performance. And I'm no racer, not evening an aspiring one.  But lets assume our apples and oranges weigh about the same for a minute.  I'll be on an uphill slope at least 1/4 of this ride if not more.  At the conservative end 15s/mile/lb x 5 lbs x 62 miles = 1 hour 17 min of time saved. If it buys me half of that, without leaving me feel stranded without something I needed, it will have been a worthy exercise.  The route tomorrow is estimated at 15000 feet of climbing.  Not extreme over that distance, but a respectable workout.  Fleche was just over 14000 feet, though it looks like this weekend I'll be spared some of the extreme grades we saw on Fleche.  And don't worry, I'm still carrying two spare inner tubes, my 900 piece multi-tool and spare spokes.

Okay I just let slip the real opportunity here, I weigh 250 lbs.  I'm sure more than one attentive reader is thinking "loose some 20 - 30 - 40 lbs of body weight and you'll really fly up those hills". Of course that's true. But today's post focuses on the here and now preps to complete the 400K this weekend.  Stay tuned for more this summer on my battle with the ballast.

Here are a few links describing the event and route:
  • MG and Ed, the official organizers, rode a check ride over the route last weekend. MG's report is here.
  • The official cue sheet and riding instructions from DC Rand are here
  • A map provided by fellow rider George M from two years ago is here. There have been some minor changes but it gives you a feel for where we're going and has a topographical profile too.
Wish me luck!


  1. From one big rider to another, I wish you more than luck - I wish you patience, efficiency and fun. Having the patience for even pacing and the efficiency to move through controls without unnecessary delays will save you more time that anything else you can do at this point in your prep and fun will makes it all worthwhile. If you average just 10.5 mph over the course you will get a sub 24 hour finish time. Just remember to treat your stops with the same utilitarian precision that your treated your packing, keep moving forward, and you can do it.

    Bonne Route! I look forward to the ride report

  2. Good luck, Mike. Efficiency at controls is good, but I have rushed out of controls without eating enough and paid dearly for it later in the ride. Don't waste time, but staying long enough to eat (and cool off first, if necessary to eat) is not wasted time. See you at the finish. I'm sure you'll make it.

  3. "If I can finish rides of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K in a single calendar year I am eligible for the Supper Randonneur award. I hate that name, it sounds silly, ..."

    Yeah, "Supper Randonneur" sounds pretty silly.

    "Super Randonneur", on the other hand, sounds just superlative.

  4. "The 600K has a 40.5 hour time limit."

    Umm ... typo there?

    15 sec per lb. per mile, eh?
    In 2010, I did the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and weighed almost 50 pounds more than I do now.
    I climbed at 10 minutes per mile; that is 600 seconds per mile. 15 seconds times 50 pounds is 750 seconds. WOW -- no I could do those climbs and finish them before I started them. What a deal !

    Seriously, I imagine that the 5 pounds of likely unnecessary gear could easily save an hour.

    Good luck to you, future "Super Randonneur".

  5. One of the best parts of randonneuring is the ready access to sound advice and ideas, even editorial corrections when needed. Many thanks for the support and encouragement. I'm very much looking forward to the ride.


    1. Hey, if you knew how many typos and grammatical malfunctions I correct AFTER publication, ... . There's even a typo in one of my comments above -- \:roll-eyes:\

      Anyway, "Supper Randonneur" fits nicely into the "Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat" motif.