Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tip #7 - First 600 km Tips

Intro:
A 600 km is about riding for a full day, sleeping a few hours, then getting back on the bike.  This is the last step before riding grand randonnees.  Since we don't offer 600 km brevets in Pittsburgh, you are likely riding with another randonneuring group, perhaps for the first time.

Summary:

  • You aren't in Pittsburgh any more.  Be sure to know the local interpretation of the rules for bike inspection.
  • Know something about the route before you get there.
  • Learn how to read the cue sheet.  Practices differ.
  • While it is helpful staying in contact with the group of locals until sunrise, ride within your limits. 
  • Pace yourself so you feel good after riding perhaps 80 or 120 miles.
  • Have a plan for eating and restocking at a diner if there are diner controls..
  • Rest does matter.  Just keep it short.
  • Have a plan for the sleep stop - have a drop bag.
  • The night before the night before is the traditional night to be sure to have good sleep.
  • Observe and learn from others around you. 
  • Enjoy riding in the wee hours.  
  • Wear your Pittsburgh Randonneurs jersey.



      Detail:

      You aren't in Pittsburgh any more.  Be sure to know the local interpretation of the rules for bike inspection.
      • In Eastern PA in particular, Tom Rosenbauer has liked to see both headlight and taillight attached to the frame, plus at least one spare for each.  
      • Use solid on red lights at the start and when riding in groups.
      Know something about the route before you get there.
      • The cue sheet is the official documention of brevet routes everywhere.  It used to be the practice for organizers to distribute cue sheets and not GPS routes.  The plus side of getting only a cue sheet and you want to use a GPS is that you review the entire route when programming it.  This always helped me a lot.  Though now I do mostly display tracks and just follow along the line.
      • I've always use routing GPSs - Garmin Etrexes and Dakotas, rather than bike computers for navigation.  If something goes wrong with a GPS route, the next most comforting this you can have in a GPS is the location of the next control.  If it is just displayed on the map, at least you know you are going in the general right direction.   My most recent Etrexes allows me to route to a city or address.  If I don't have a route or track file, I'll sometimes have the GPS route to the control.  Even if it is wrong guessing the route, it displays the names of roads it wants you to turn on, as well as let you know if you are going in the right general direction.   
      • Here is a pre-smartphone tool I use.  I print out the small route profile from the bottom of a map.  I mark the control locations.  I notate distances between controls.  This lets me get perspective on a leg.

        Learn how to read the cue sheet.  Practices differ
        Different organizers format cue sheets in different ways. Be clear where the elements of "after miles x, turn y onto road z."  I always try to run a cumulative trip mileage on a bike computer as well as keep track of current leg mileage on a bike computer.  That gives me two ways to navigate if I get confused.  

        While it is helpful staying in contact with the group of locals until sunrise, ride within your limits.
        People generally take it a bit easier before sunrise.  And there are locals or experienced people that likely know the area better of you.  Hanging with a group helps to get to sunrise in reasonable time without fussing on navigation.  Don't worry much about other people unless they ask for help.  Everyone has their own issues to deal with in their own time.

        Pace yourself so you feel good after riding perhaps 80 or 120 miles
        After riding perhaps 80 or 120 miles, hopefully you surprise yourself on occasion how good you feel.  One way to do that is pedal uphill and coast downhill.  Recharge your bodies on downhills.

        - Have a plan for eating and restocking at a diner if there are diner controls.
        Particularly if your 600 km is in eastern PA, you will probably have a diner or two as a control.  Arriving at a diner isn't the time think about what to order - thinking may be hard.  Some easily digestible food - scrambled eggs and pancakes, mash potatoes, apple pie and ice cream, milk shakes.  Order first, then use the bathroom.  Perhaps ask for pitcher of water to refill your bottles.  Think about what you will be eating over the next 50 miles or so.  Generally I carry snacks and drink mixes for a control like this.  Tip crazy well so the waitresses like randonneurs.  You probably made a mess.


        Rest does matter.  Just keep it short
        • Once you get beyond 400 km, you can't keep moving forever.  On a 600 km, there is generally a planned rest stop.  Many rider try to keep this stop to a few (2-4 hours) or less on a 400 km.  Enough to eat, shower, prepare supplies for the next, sleep an hour or two.  Some riders skip the sleep stop - if the next day is there and back they look haggard whenever I see them.  Some do sleep more. Eat first so it starts digesting.  If you have enough muscle ache to keep you awake, take an over-the-counter pain pill an hour before the control so you can relax and rest.
        • Out on the course, if you start to have trouble keeping your eyes open or you really need a break, lay down for a power nap.  Benches and concrete are the preferred locations.  It shouldn't be too comfortable.  Plan how much you are laying down for - perhaps 15 minutes.  I haven't really heard of people oversleeping power naps.  If you've kept time in the bank by leaving the sleep stop early, then oversleeping a nap is hard to be a problem.
          Have a plan for the sleep stop - have a drop bag.
          • Think through what you are going to do at a sleep stop.  Perhaps eat a little, take a shower, put on clean riding clothes to sleep in, refill drink bottles and restock your bike, change batteries.  Set your alarm.
          • Have all you need for the sleep stop organized in a drop bag.
          • If you rode after sunset with someone, they are perhaps are a good candidate to leave with,
          • Don't be discouraged if others are leaving while you are arriving.
          • You can get by with minimal sleep on this night.  If you aren't fast, 1-3 hours of sleep is enough.  I usually try to get on the road perhaps 3 hours after arriving.  Leave yourself a few hours in the bank.

          -- The night before the night before is the traditional night to be sure to have good sleep.
          • Make sure you are well rested the night before the night before.  This gets you through the next 2 nights.
          • The night before a 600 km I get to sleep perhaps by 10 PM and wake up at perhaps at 2 AM or 2:30 AM.  The first think I do is eat breakfast so digestion starts and bowels move.  Check your equipment out so you don't have to stop in the first 10 minutes.

          Observe and learn from others around you
          • Both on the upside and downside.  What people do that you can emulate, and what perhaps not.  You'll see bikes and gear of a lot of experienced randonneurs.
          Enjoy riding in the wee hours.  
          • Most of us don't ride in the countryside, particularly between midnight and sunrise.  It is actually quite pleasant once the world quiets down.  Do try to ride with other riders at night - I am a poor role model here as I am a lone wolf rider
          Wear your Pittsburgh Randonneurs jersey.
          • OK, this one is optional.  But think of wearing home club jersey at the start or end.

          My first 600 km was in Eastern PA out of Quakertown.  Eastern PA has beautiful routes, but they are mountainous.  At about 300 km getting back to a town, an experienced randonneur overtook me.  He was short batteries, so I was able to restock him.  We rode together (i.e. i followed him) the rest of the evening.  We rode out together after a sleep stop of perhaps 3 hours.  Most speed differences among riders happen in the first day.  Most people cycle at about the same pace on the second day..  

          This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it

          2 comments:

          1. Timely; thanks! Completed my first 400k and now the Eastern PA600k is looming....

            -CJ

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          2. These stories are really "giving me the fever" I feel that I'm well suited to randonneuring mentally more than physically because I was a truckdriver for 22 years and following sketchy directions with minimal sleep was what I did most of the time. Adapting to changing conditions and surviving solo was a mandatory part of the job.

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