Sunday, May 27, 2012

DCRand 400K - Had to abandon

Well that certainly wasn't how I wanted the 400K to go.  It was HOT yesterday.  Some riders with thermometers built in to their computers reported temps as high as 100 deg F.  For the first 73 miles from the start to Shippensburg, WV I felt good and was pleased with how the day was going.  I made it up and over the first big climb at Snickers' Gap without incident.  By 10:30 when I rolled in to the control at Shippensburg it was getting hot and I knew I needed to eat and cool down, but I was confident.  I loaded a sock with ice to wrap behind my neck and ate half a sandwich then set out for Hancock, at mile 110.

But things began to steadily deteriorate from there.  As I rode to Hancock I got hotter and hotter and slower and slower. The ice in the sock lasted the first 15 miles but it was a 37 mile leg.  I found some shade around noon to take a short rest, eat the other half of the sandwich, apply fresh sunscreen and take stock of the day.  My pace was slowing even on the flats and descents, and I was feeling more and more fatigued. I ate more snacks, drank more water and even had to stop to relieve myself, a good sign that at least I was staying ahead of dehydration.

When I finally rolled in to Hancock at about 1:30 I felt completely spent.  I stopped at Subway and had a six inch sub and two bottles of gatorade.  Most importantly I cooled down in the air conditioning.  I started to feel a little better.  The next leg leaving Hancock was the most challenging with steady, steep rollers and one big climb before Shippensburg.  The hottest part of the day was just beginning and those who had ridden the check ride a week prior reported little shade.  If I recovered sufficiently to make Shippensburg I'd likely arrive feeling as bad or worse as I did pulling in to Hancock and would still have 90 miles left for a successful finish.  From Hancock I was confident I had another 50 miles in my legs, but I was not confident I had the whole ride left. I decided I was better off using my remaining energy for the day trying to get back to the start at Frederick than proceeding with the ride. Google maps showed that a direct route to Frederick was likely another 50 - 60 miles.  A combination of trails and roads close to the Potomac river should get me close to the start with minimal climbing before I had to break from the river to reach Frederick.

Then Dave S who was also recovering at Subway mentioned that he was considering abandoning the ride as well.  Dave lives near Frederick and his son Matt was available to help.  We hatched a plan to ride the Western Maryland Rail Trail to it's South Eastern terminus. Flat, shaded, smoothly paved,  It would be nothing like the route in front of us if we continued the brevet.  From there we could pick the up C & O canal toe path for a few more miles until Matt could meet us.  He would be coming up I-70 on a parallel track in the opposite direction.  It was simply matter of choosing the exit where we would all arrive at about the same time.  We might have 30 more miles to ride and both felt up to it. So we set out.  It turns out Matt made better time than expected heading our way and we only rode another 10 miles to the rendezvous.

Letting go of this ride means no Super Randonneur series this year and ends my monthly string of 200K+ brevets since last October at 7 and so will reset the clock on the prospects of a second R-12 award. This was also the first big ride I've ever had to abandon.   I'm disappointed to see these goals slip away this year.  I'm confident I made the right decision at the time for the circumstances I was confronted with.  But it also means my training and physical readiness for this event and the subsequent 600K in a few weeks simply weren't as ready as I believed.  So I have to revisit those goals and my training approach to decide how best to reset them.  Stay tuned to this channel for more on that later.

Many thanks to Dave and Matt for the assistance when I needed it.


  1. Sorry to hear, Mike. I'm glad you survived, though.

  2. Aw man that sucks. I was rooting for you. But choosing safety and health over finishing is always a wise choice. FWIW, I DNF'd my first attempt at a 400k. It is a very tough distance.

    (P.S., It may be too early to think about this, but the SR series doesn't have to over. There will be other 400s and 600s this season - if you are willing to travel a little bit.)

  3. Thanks Nigel. I have thought about that and yes it's probably a little too early to rule it in or out. But I'm leaning toward pulling back to focus on weight loss and training this year and strike for the SR again next year.

    I know quite a few riders who took two tries to complete the 400K. And now it looks like I'm in line to join this august group.

  4. As long as you learned something(s), it is good.