Sunday, April 3, 2016

Glaciers to Geysers 1000K-2016

I'm teaming up with John Pearch of the Seattle International Randonneurs to organize the Glacier to Geysers 1000K brevet. We had this on the schedule for 2015, but the ride fell victim to the severe summer heat wave.

The 2016 edition is scheduled to start from the Amtrak Depot in Whitefish, Montana on July 20. The route goes through Glacier National Park over the Going-to-the-Sun Highway and then turns south through Great Falls, MT and Gardiner, MT before entering Yellowstone National Park. After riding by YNP's most famous attractions including the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lake Yellowstone, and Old Faithful, the ride will finish in Big Sky, Montana.

Logistics: Riders are responsible for their own motel and travel arrangements. Whitefish is served by Amtrak and the Glacier International Airport is nearby. Whitefish has lots of motels, but the summer season is busy there so book as early as you can. Bike boxes and luggage can be transported from Whitefish to Bozeman. Just let us know ahead of time what you want us to carry so we can make sure we have room. Drop bags will be carried to Great Falls, Gardiner, and the finish-again let us know ahead of time. The finish is at Big Sky, Montana-but no need to make motel reservations there. My family will be available to shuttle riders from Big Sky to any Bozeman-Belgrade area motel and help riders in getting to the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport  and/or their rental car if necessary.  There is no Amtrak service anywhere close to Bozeman.

The first overnight is in Great Falls, MT. The Econo Lodge Ponderosa is on the route and that's where the drop bags will be. The second overnight is in Gardiner, Montana. Drop bags are planned to be at the Super 8 Motel. Riders will need to make their own overnight arrangements.

Let us know if you have any questions. We will do everything we can to help riders make this work.

The following is the information for last year's ride. We'll be updating the information as we get closer to the ride date:

The preliminary cue sheet is HERE-note that it is subject to change prior to the ride.

The entry form and waiver are HERE

Profile info is HERE The updated route map is HERE

There will no-doubt be minor tweaks to the cue sheet and route map before we get to the start, but this will give riders a good idea of what they're in for. For more information, or if you have any questions, feel free to join and post on our Montana Randonneurs google group.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Paris-Brest-Paris 2015, Le Retour

I'm satisfied that I finished, but determined to get back in 2015 and do better.  If nothing else, I acquired an immense amount of information that will help me next time-and God help me...there will be a next time! (from my PBP 2011 ride report).
PBP-2015 start
More Photos HERE

It's been four years since my fateful Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 ride. A ride that saw me finish in a respectable 86 hours and 6 minutes, except that I had signed up for the 84 hour start. Thus no finisher's medal and a listing that simply shows me as hors délai (outside the time). Though I'm sure no one else cared, this has bugged me greatly. I've probably thought about it every day since. As the statement above shows, I was determined to go back and do better...and by better I mean not necessarily faster, but being recognized as an on-time finisher. I also wanted a better experience. I wanted to be in the big group, talk to more people, see more of the crowds on the road, and sample more of the food made along the way. I didn't get much of that when I fell off the back of the 84 hour group.

So I got myself qualified, signed up for the 90 hour start, and made the trip back to France in August of 2015. This time, instead of going over separately due to work schedules, Brenda and I were on the same plane and we were joined by our kids Stephanie and Jackson. Since both kids are grown, this was a rare opportunity for our little family to be together again.

My start in Group M left at 18:45 (6:45 PM) on Sunday evening. Many groups had already left and more were gathered and getting ready to go. It was a festive atmosphere. The new start location at the National Velodrome in St. Quentin-en-Yvelines just outside of Paris added a little more big time to the event, but it was the cheering crowds as we rolled out that made it so special. I haven't been cheered like that since my high school basketball glory days almost 30 years ago. It was a goose bump producing moment. Its certainly something few amateur cyclists, even very accomplished ones, get to experience.
Karel Stroethoff and me in the starting paddock
I don't go into these things with a rigid plan. I think it's better to see how things play out. Some rides feel good right at the start, others it takes a while to get warmed up. Then there's weather, terrain, mechanicals and all that stuff. But what I had in mind for PBP was to find a big group that was going maybe just a little slower than I felt like going, and draft in their slipstream. 1230 kilometers, or 764 miles, is a long way. Best to save as much energy as possible. This plan worked to perfection for a long ways, though groups were dynamic. Some would slow down too much and I found myself chasing on to another up the road, other times I thought I was drafting off the back of the group only to find I was behind slower riders who were falling off the back requiring me to chase back on or wait for the next group to come along. Sometimes the leaders would suddenly decide to pull over for some reason leaving me and a handful of other wheel suckers to find someone else to attach to. I shamelessly drafted off groups made up of many nationalities and languages, including French, Brits, Germans, Norwegians, Italians, Filipinos, and many more.

A cool night gave way to a beautiful day on Monday and I was feeling very good. Sleep before the ride made all the difference. In 2011 I got about 4 hours of tossing and turning before the 5 AM start. In 2015 I took a big nap on Saturday after my bike check, and slept off my jet lag for 11.5 hours on Saturday night and Sunday morning. I woke up a little before noon and noodled around until it was time to head for the Velodrome on Sunday afternoon. So when I got to Loudeac at 18:45 on Monday, exactly 24 hours after I started I was still not sleepy. After replenishing from my drop bag and getting a minor drive train adjustment from the mechanic, I set off for St. Nicolas du Pelem which I had in mind as my sleep break with the idea of potentially getting all the way to Carhaix if I was still feeling good. 
The whole town of Loudeac was there to see us

The plan to get to Carhaix went out the window when I hit the first hills out of Loudeac. I don't remember much about this stretch from 2011, maybe I subconsciously deleted it from memory, but it was tough. The hills got steeper and quite long in places. As we passed through a village I asked some road side fans if the road ever goes down. A man shouted back in perfect English that it does down in just a little ways. He was right...only it went right back up again. So it took me a long time to cover the 27 or so miles to Saint Nicholas du Pelem, it had gotten dark, and I was ready for a break. The control was quite busy, but they had cots available so I checked in and asked to be woken up in 3 hours.

I didn't sleep great, but I did sleep. In fact they woke me up 15 minutes late. That was okay I thought, I still had some time in the bank. As I sat down to the rather unappealing breakfast of pot roast that they were serving (I would have killed for some pancakes and bacon) I saw Sam Collins from Jackson, Wyoming wandering through. Sam rode his qualifying series with us here in Montana and he was staying with us in our Airbnb apartment in Versailles. It was nice to see a familiar and friendly, albeit tired looking, face. Sam had just woken from a shorter nap. He had started an hour later than me so he had even more time in the bank. We rode out of St. Nicholas together into a chilly, damp and foggy morning, but very happy to have those hills out of Loudeac already done. 
A not quite wide awake Sam Collins in St. Nicolas du Pelem

Seeing cyclists in reflective gear in the predawn fog is a pretty trippy experience, especially when they are standing or laying down on the side of the road. They looked like skeletons in the mist.

Sam and I chatted away for a long time, scarcely noticing that we were attracting a bit of peloton behind us. That was okay, after all the wheel sucking I did yesterday it was my turn to do some pulling-as long as they were willing to go as slow as us. Some of the route signs to Brest started to turn up missing, but by this time we were constantly meeting 80 hour riders and fast 90 hour riders returning from Brest so when in doubt we just waited for someone to come along. I'm not sure, but I may have even saw Karel Stroethoff from Missoula go by. Karel and I started in the same group back at the Velodrome, but he was out of site right out of the gate and riding much faster than me, as his 76 hour finish time would attest. 
Sam Collins burning up the road on the way to Brest

The climb over Roc Trevezel, the highest point on the route was easy and the descent was fun. Throughout this ride I climbed slow, but descended like a stone, so I was always getting passed and then passing the same people. The only person on the ride that I found that went downhill faster than me was Sam, so I just tucked in behind him and we flew. The descents of PBP were always great fun. Nothing too technical with a few round-a-bouts thrown in to swerve through. That was the payoff for all the climbing we had to do.

Crossing the bridge into Brest is quite a site. It was a beautiful day and the water below was a glorious blue. Lots of people posing for pictures, including me. Then to the control where we were cheered at the entrance by another big crowd. Halfway done. So far so good. 
On the bike/ped bridge entering Brest

We must have hit the Brest control at the peak of the bulge-that period when the bulk of the 90 hour riders go through. It was busy. The line for the cafeteria wrapped around the building. Sam wanted to get a nap on the grass and I wanted to get going so we parted ways for the time being. I found a little bakery/deli type place with a bunch of bikes around it on the way out of town where I got to use my French to order some lunch. Then it was up some big hills, including Roc Trevezel again on the way to Carhaix with one quick stop in Sizun to get some cafe au lait and make a slight saddle tilt adjustment. Sizun really rolls out the red carpet for PBP and there were randonneurs everywhere enjoying their hospitality. 
Sizun. A very popular town on the route

Carhaix was picked over like an old piece of road kill as it gets hit hard by riders coming and going-not a sandwich to be had in the place. No loss, a little bakery in the very next town had the best pain au chocolate I've ever had. I also got myself a sandwich and was good to go as the sun started setting. The plan was to get to Loudeac to access my drop bag, refresh and clean up and then press on to either Quedillac or Tinteniac for a sleep break. The only problem was, with all the hills in between, and me being a little too good to myself with bakery stops the time I had in the bank was evaporating. Sleepiness hadn't hit yet, but I was slowing way down.

I got to Loudeac at midnight and after filling my tray in the cafeteria I saw Sam walking through. He couldn't sleep in Brest, but now was in bad need of a nap. While eating I looked over the tables and was very surprised to see fellow Montana randonneur Ken Billingsley just sitting down. Ken left the Velodrome at 5 AM Monday morning, about 10 hours and 15 minutes after me. I was glad to see him and that he was doing so well, but it was a concern that he was able to catch me so soon. I felt like I was riding well, but I was slower than I thought I was. I'm afraid I was pretty cranky, but I'm sure Sam and Ken forgave me and they gave me lots of encouragement. 

After cleaning up and changing my kit, I had a couple hours in the bank. A little nap on that bench won't hurt. It's chilly outside, there's lots of people around making noise, no need to set an alarm. With my drop bag as a pillow I laid down just to rest my eyes for 15 minutes or so. I woke up over an hour later. Oops. So much for a long sleep break in Tinteniac, I have less than a half hour in the bank. Time to get going. I was starting to worry. 

On one of the first round-a-bouts out of Loudeac I came across Corey, Andy, and Mike (I hope I got his name right) of the Seattle Randonneurs. This was a great comfort. They left the same time I did so their finishing control closed the same time as me. They didn't seem too worried about running out of time-we just needed to keep moving. We had a nice ride on this part of the route which isn't quite so hilly and in short order we were in Quedillac for a bol of cafe au lait. At this point the ride is pretty much fueled on cafe au lait. I just wish the French understood the concept of large because their servings of cafe au lait were just way, way too small.

At daybreak on Wednesday morning we were almost to Tinteniac when sleepiness which I had avoided almost the entire ride, hit me like a two ton brick. I was starting to dream while on the bike in a pre-sleep state which is very dangerous. When I got to the control at Tinteniac I needed a nap, bad. I still didn't have much time and I didn't trust myself to wake up, so I paid 7 euros at the dormir for a bed and a wake up call in a half an hour. This turned out to be a pretty plush stop. They led me to a room all to myself and I was out like a light...and awoken in what seemed like an instant. I was really groggy and not 100% sure where I was. I had to remind myself that I was indeed in France and I needed to get back on my bike. 

I found Sam again at the control. He was feeling much better after a rough day the day before and he was very encouraging. He introduced me to Bob from New Jersey and the three of us set off for Fougeres. The nap must have did me some good because I had the energy to grab the wheels of a fast group of French riders and held on. They eventually dropped me on a steep hill, but in my defense, they must have had support at the controls because they weren't carrying any extra gear with them like I was. I wasn't alone for long as I heard an American voice ask me about my Montana State Bobcats jersey. It was David Weber from Minnesota. He snowboarded at Big Sky near my home in Montana. We chatted away and rode hard. He was trying to make up some time as well. We got to Fougeres in no time. 

I probably wasted too much time in Fougeres, but it was one of the few controls with decent rest rooms and that was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. On the way out I briefly met Eric Peterson from Illinois. We had ridden some of the Crater Lake 1000K together back in 2010 and kept in touch via Facebook. Then Sam and Bob came along and we stopped at a little bar/restaurant type place where I ordered a couple of crepes.  300K to go.

More sleepiness on the way to Villaines la Juhel. I took a 15 minute sleep break under a tree, using my phone alarm to wake me up. A little farther down the road I heard sirens and pulled over to let an ambulance go by. After a while I came across a horrible scene as paramedics were giving CPR to a rider along side of the road. I said a prayer for him as I passed, but later heard there was a rider who died of a heart attack. It was a sobering reminder of just how fragile our existence is.

Almost to Villaines la Juhel and Ken catches me again. We ride together into what in my opinion is the neatest control on the whole ride. Villaines la Juhel was clean, had plenty of bathrooms and port-a-johns, and a grocery store just outside the control selling sandwiches. I was in good shape again. I rode out of town with a new found determination. There was only 220K to go, a distance I can usually do in 9 or 10 hours. I thought I could be done with this thing by 8 AM tomorrow morning if I kept riding and didn't take any long breaks. 
A woman saw me trying to take a selfie leaving Villaines. She offered to take my picture with her fancy camera and email it to me. The people of France are just the best when it comes to this ride!

The good energy lasted for about 30 miles. I raced to catch a big group and drafted along. I met Greg from Wisconsin who was just about the most chatty and friendly guy I had ever ridden with. He gave me some NoDoze since I forgot mine in the drop bag back in Loudeac. I also rode up on Eric Peterson again and we had a nice chat. But I was starting to really wear down and after a while just had to ride my own slow pace as the route started getting very hilly again. I was cussing the hills as I rode into Mortagne au Perche in bad need of a break, but with not too much time to get one.

I found Ken again inside the control. He was going to take a sleep break. I didn't have the time for a proper sleep, but did put my head on the table for 15 minutes. Then it was time to get up and get going again. The dream of finishing early was out the window. Now I just wanted to get done within the time limit.

The road out of Mortagne au Perch was the hardest of the trip. I wasn't thinking clearly and starting to dream on the bike again. I took a sleep on the side of the road and a little later on a sidewalk in a small town. A road side stand miraculously appeared where they were giving away coffee. I had two with lots of sugar. But I was still having trouble shaking sleep.

Then it started to rain. Just a light drizzle at first but then a pretty healthy down pour. The weather had been so perfect the whole ride, why did it have to rain now! I was mad and getting worried. My progress since Mortagne au Perch had been slow due to the cat naps and coffee breaks. In working out the math it looked like I could be in danger of being late into the final control (note to self, stop trying to do math when you're sleep deprived. You screw it up every time). I went into emergency time trial mode as the morning came and the rains fell. I cursed it at the time, but I think the rain was a huge benefit. I was wet, but I wasn't at all cold and I got to the penultimate control at Dreux wide awake. I had about an hour in the bank, but didn't think there was time to get any food at the control. Fortunately I remembered I had a serving of soy protein powder in my bag, so I put that in a water bottle and took off. It actually didn't taste terrible-in fact it was kinda good.

I really was worried. I thought back to the last 60 km stretch in 2011. There were some big hills that I had to walk up. So I shot out of Dreux as fast as I could. After a big climb out of town the route zigs and zags across some open countryside. It's pretty flat at first so I put the hammer down with two Germans on my wheel. After pulling for a long time I slowed down and the Germans took over. I grabbed their wheel and pedaled for all I was worth. We rolled up on the some familiar looking blue Seattle Randonneurs shirts. It was Andy, Corey, and Mike, again along with Jeff Loomis. And again they didn't seem at all worried. I calmed down considerably, looked at the time and the distance and realized I was fine. When the big climbs in the Forest of Rambouillet came I motored right up, no need for walking. We chatted along as the route seemed to wander in every direction. Finally we started getting in the outskirts of Paris and the the surroundings started to look familiar. A few stop lights and a few round-a-bouts and the big buildings in Montigny le Bretonneux came into view. We got on a path and the Velodrome appeared. A small crowd cheered as we followed the path to cross the chip reader. My family was running across the parking lot to greet me with a big hug. 
Big finish line hug from Brenda

I did it. I was in time. I was finally an official finisher of Paris-Brest-Paris!

I couldn't believe how good I felt. I wasn't sore or sleepy. Just happy and relieved. I even had the energy to ride my bike back to Versailles after enjoying some of the festivities in the Velodrome and grabbing a quick shower.
The Champagne was a nice touch. Thanks family!

I am so thankful for all those who encouraged me along the way. I was so motivated not to let them down. Finishing PBP is a moment I won't ever forget. Sharing that moment with my family-we'll you really can't ask for better than that!

Congrats to my guys-the guys who rode our Montana qualifying series. Karel, Ken, Sam and myself all had successful PBP's. A 100% record to help the American cause! 
Ken Billingsley with his wife Heath at the finish. Ken got done in 80 hours for his 7th PBP.

A few random thoughts:
  • My time of 87:59 was almost two hours slower than my time in 2011. However, I'm sure my riding time was faster in 2015. I don't know for sure because the wrong push of a button on my bike computer destroyed that data. The difference can be explained in the extra waiting I had to do at the controls. In 2011 I was so far behind that there were no crowds and no waiting, in 2015 there was a line for most everything-especially the restrooms. 
  • A fast time wasn't a big concern for me. I stated before the ride that I would be completely satisfied if my finish time was 89 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds. I wanted to enjoy the ride and everything about it. I definitely was successful in that.
  • I got nervous toward the end, but I always had some time in the bank (meaning time before the control closed) to sit down eat something or stop at a bakery or coffee stand along the way. I probably should have tried to be more efficient earlier so I could have gotten one more multi-hour sleep break after Loudeac on the way back.
  • I was always hungry. This is a very good sign. It means everything is working as it should. Whenever I've lost my appetite on these long rides my performance suffers and it can lead to a DNF. On PBP I'd eat a bunch of food and find myself starving 30 miles down the road. I always had an energy bar or gel to compensate for that.
  • It took me 24 hours to get to Loudeac on the way out. It took me 8 hours longer to go from Loudeac to the finish. That is all thanks to fatigue...and the hills. Oh my gosh the hills!
  • I've read many reports that PBP is not a difficult route. I'm guessing most of those who say this are light. I weighed-in right at 200 pounds at the start. I don't carry as much as some, but my bike is heavier than most and I am heavier than most-so this very hilly route that is PBP is very difficult for me. That being said, there are plenty of guys my size that do this ride very, very quickly-so being big can't be an excuse. I need to work on my speed.
  • I'm not a fan of a liquid diet, but on that last stretch from Dreux to the finish I was fueled by a serving of Hammer Nutrition's Vanilla Soy Protein power. I threw it in my bag almost as an afterthought-just in case I ran low on calories. I must say it really hit the spot. That might be one way to speed things up next time, maybe using a liquid diet on a few segments of the route to eliminate the need to stand in line for real food. Just a thought. I didn't need to go any faster-I was fast enough. But as I said, more sleep would have been nice.
  • I can't believe how good I felt on the entire ride-other than the sleepiness. I felt better on the whole of PBP than I did on the second half of my 400K and 600K qualifiers. Our mountainous 300K two weeks before the event, and the rest I got afterwards set me up well.
  • The people of France-who put this ride on, and come out to cheer us on, feed us, encourage us, and make us feel so welcome-I just can't thank them enough. They are amazing. They make this ride so special.
  • Sam Weber, a reporter for my hometown newspaper the Belgrade News, did a very nice article about my ride.
    We even had signs! Thanks again family!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

PBP-2015 Here We Go

I don't know if I'm ready for Paris-Brest-Paris. I don't think any cyclist ever thinks they are perfectly trained for a big ride, but it's going to happen anyway.

We got in some solid training in July and early August, focusing on climbing. There are no mountain passes on PBP. I don't think we ever get much over 1000 feet above sea level. But the route is very, very lumpy so having some good climbing legs is helpful.

On July 18, Ken Billingsley, Ken Baker, and I rode the Shields Valley 200K which has nice climbs over Battle Ridge Pass, Bozeman Pass, and Joe Gaab Pass on Jackson Creek Road. We rode it hard-much harder than comfortable.
We were so fast we beat our volunteers to the Paradise Valley control.
Then on August 1st Ken, Ken, Karel Stroethoff, and Mark Liebig from North Dakota rode what was one of the hardest routes I've ever designed. The Chief Joseph 300K had six significant summits including Bear Creek Hill, the two summits on the Beartooth Highway at almost 11,000 feet, over and back on Colter Pass by Cooke City, and the horribly named Dead Indian Pass on the stunningly scenic Chief Joseph Highway. We had about 14,000 feet of climbing in 193 miles. The ride had the added benefit of being very hot around the Cooke City area-which I needed to make sure I knew how to regulate my salt intake (I need lots on hot rides).
At the foot of the pass-Chief Joseph Highway

I also rode with the Iron Cowboy, did some climbing by the Lewis and Clark Caverns, got in a hard paced club ride and a 100K permanent on a Friday night after work, staring at the same time PBP will start. It was all good for me.

I feel good. I'm excited, and ready to go. I will be looking forward to meeting up with Ken Billingsley, Karel Stroethoff, and Sam Collins in St. Quentin-en-Yvelines before the ride. I am proud that these guys used our brevet series to get themselves qualified.

My only real worry now is that my bike makes it on the plane and survives the trip. That is probably the biggest worry of every randonneur who is traveling overseas to France this week. For those who might be interested, you can track my progress HERE. I start riding at 6:45 PM (Paris time) on Sunday, August 16.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bert Karp Memorial Populaire

All of Clay Karp and family's photos here      Results here 

On July 4, 2015 my family organized the 4th annual Bert Karp Memorial Populaire. This little event continues to bring a lot of joy and great memories for all of us as we ride in honor of my mom who passed away from cancer in 2012.

We had 20 riders in 2015, our best turnout of riders not related to me. We were down a few family members riding this year, but all were on hand to provide incredible support at each of the checkpoints.
The peloton riding  through Bozeman
The weather was nearly perfect. Not much wind, no rain, and it didn't start getting hot until everyone was close to being finished.

Brother Travis leading the fast group up Springhill Road
My brother Clay and his family were on hand to take lots of great pictures. They were also on hand in case anyone had any trouble, which fortunately, no one did.

Roberta Ennis and Denise Muzynoski cruising along
Fellow randonneur and Paris-Brest-Paris participant Karel Stroethoff rode to Bozeman from Missoula via the Pintler Highway and Pipestone Pass the day before. He then rode the populaire. After some lunch and a little nap, he headed back to Missoula on his bicycle. He got home safely the next afternoon. PBP will be no problem for Karel!

Karel Stroethoff on Highline Road
It was a wonderful day. Thanks to all of my family who helped out, and thanks to all the riders for riding. See you next year!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Helena-Great Falls-Double Divide 600K: PBP QUALIFIED!

More Photos Here    Results Here

For our 600k brevet, the final ride in the series to qualify for PBP, I chose to use the Helena-Great Falls-Double Divide route that we last rode in 2013. It is a very hard route, with two Continental Divide crossings on the second day, but it is also very scenic and fairly convenient using Helena as the base of operations.

We had Ken Baker from Bozeman, Ken Billingsley from Molt, Karel Stroethoff from Missoula, Sam Collins from Jackson, WY, and myself at the start at 5 AM. It was a wonderfully pleasant morning as the sun rose as we climbed over the north hills past the Gates of the Mountains and the Sleeping Giant on the winding journey to Great Falls.
Square Butte-taken between Fairfield and Simms

I should call the first day segment the Thunderbolt and Lightfoot loop. The 1970's caper film starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges was filmed in many of the locations we were passing through. It's just that now there are few more paved roads than back then. Anyway it's always been one of my favorite movies and this is probably one reason why this route is so appealing to me.

Ken Billingsley, Karel, and I got to Great Falls in good order and got a sandwich at the Subway in the big new Town Pump off I-15. Ken Baker and Sam were a ways back. We later learned that Ken Baker had flat-tire-itis which really made his day tough.

Brenda met us in Wolf Creek as the sun was setting and temperatures started dropping. Ken, Karel and I were refueled and ready to make the final hump back over the hill to Helena for a short sleep break before continuing on the Double Divide loop the next day. I was a little slower than Ken and Karel and made an extra stop to put on my helmet light. I saw their taillights way in the distance, but made no effort to try to catch up. It was a wonderful evening and even the light, high speed traffic on I-15 posed no bother. I got to my sister and brother-in-law's house at 12:15 AM.
Rest stop in Wolf Creek with nephew Colby Scott

Brenda caught up to me on the downhill ride into Helena. She had Ken Baker with her as he had to call it a ride at Wolf Creek, which was about mile 200, because of knee issues-and all those pesky flats. Ken was in good spirits though and he should be-he rode wonderfully the entire series and still has all summer to find another 600K to finish off the series if he wants to.  Brenda also reported that Sam was riding out of Wolf Creek, maybe 2 hours behind me and doing fine.

I left the house at 4AM, after a short 2 hour nap, and found Karel at the Town Pump on North Montana just getting ready to leave. I also texted Ken and let him know I was on my way, knowing he climbs much faster than me so we'd be seeing each other later on.

The ride out of Helena on US 12 starts at a pretty gentle uphill grade for several miles then hits the foot of MacDonald Pass. Grades get up to about 8% and it's pretty steady all the way. Unlike two years ago, I managed to ride the entire thing without walking and found Karel at the top getting ready for the descent. Karel climbed very well and passed me after fixing a flat tire near the base.

We dropped like a rock to Elliston and then cruised to Avon where there is a cafe. I was seriously starving and craving some bacon and eggs. Thankfully the restaurant was open, despite this being Sunday, and we happily went inside. Brenda joined a few minutes later. She was going to set up a secret control after Avon, but since we were already here she bought us all breakfast!  Ken was also along before our food arrived so we had a grand 'ol time getting refueled.  Only 100 miles to go!

Brenda reported that Sam was just starting the climb up MacDonald pass. She waited for him at the cafe and bought him breakfast too.

The ride from Avon to Lincoln was the least pleasant of the trip. Traffic was moving fast and unyielding, the wind was in our face or blowing us sideways, and my butt really started to hurt. We got to Lincoln in the early afternoon and cooled off in their nice Cenex C-store. 55 miles and one mountain pass to go.

The climb up Flesher Pass looks very intimidating. You can see the road cut going up into the sky in front of you, but it's one of those climbs that looks worse than it is and it was over sooner than I was expecting. Again I managed to ride up the whole thing instead of walking half of it like last time-though there's no shame in walking, which is almost as fast. But it was a goal of mine to ride all the way. Karel disappeared off the front out of Lincoln, obviously feeling good having a geared bike instead of his single speed fixed gear he used on the other brevets, but Ken sacrificed a faster time to ride slow with me. He encouraged me all the way and it really helped.

Over the top and it was 30 some mostly downhill miles back to Helena. My backside was absolutely killing me. Not sure why that is, I haven't any saddle issues all spring. But in any case, we rolled into the Town Pump parking lot to find Karel and Brenda cheering us in.
Finish Line Greeting
Sam was struggling with a broken hub and really feeling the ride, but once he got to the top of Flesher Pass he also found the going a lot easier and finished with plenty of time to spare.

So with that Ken, Sam, and I acheived PBP qualification. Karel, who already has a 600K under his belt this season was already qualified. Sam, now that he is qualified, is rethinking his decision to forgo PBP this time-sounds like he's going back. The lure is just too strong.

Congrats to all the guys. It was a hard route and finishing it is an accomplishment worthy of being proud. Brenda deserves a ton of credit for registering us at 0:dark 30 in the morning, meeting up with us late on Saturday night in Wolf Creek, and buying us breakfast in Avon along with being there to see all of us finish. I'm very lucky to have her helping us with these brevets.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Glaciers to Geysers 1023K RUSA Brevet June 30-July 3, 2015

View from the Going to the Sun Highway on a 300K brevet in 2012

What started out as a permanent has morphed into a RUSA 1023K brevet.

The Glaciers to Geysers 1023K permanent was the brainchild of Seattle Randonneur John Pearch who wanted to continue riding after completing the Portland to Glacier 1000K Brevet. The Portland-Glacier 1000K will be run from June 26-29 from Portland, Oregon to Whitefish, Montana.

The Glaciers to Geysers 1023K takes off from Whitefish, MT on June 30 at 5AM. The route takes the Going to the Sun Highway through Glacier National Park and then passes through Great Falls and Livingston, Montana on the way to the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The route through Yellowstone takes in all the major attractions including the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake and Old Faithful before exiting the park at West Yellowstone, Montana. The ride finishes in Big Sky, Montana with time running out at 9:44 AM on Friday, July 3.

If you are interested in this ride feel free to contact me and I will put you in touch with John.

The cue sheet is HERE  The entry form and waiver are HERE

Profile info is HERE

The Route Map-broken into three segments is here:

Day 1:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gallatin-Jefferson 400K-Home Road Advantage

Ken Baker, Barb Kuhlemeier, Sam Collins, Ken Billingsley, Jason Karp, Karel Stroethoff
More photos HERE

As the rides get longer, my ride reports get shorter, but that's more because I've got a lot of blogging to do and I'm way behind.

On Saturday, June 6, 2015 I got to host our third brevet of the season from my driveway in Belgrade as we rode the Gallatin-Jefferson 400K. We had the same cast of characters as the last two brevets with the exception of Layne Coddington, who had another commitment, but we were joined by Barb Kuhlemeier from Bozeman who wanted to get a first hand view of what randonneuring was all about on our first loop throught the Gallatin Valley.

We had perfect weather for the 86 mile loop that brought us back to my house where Brenda and Jackson had a huge lunch set out.  Then it was a more flat as we headed due west to Whitehall and Silver Star as the day was heating up, relatively speaking. We said good bye to Barb near Manhattan as she headed back to Belgrade on Dry Creek Road completing about 100 miles for the day. A 400K is a pretty tough distance for a first brevet, but she is a very strong cyclist who would have no trouble excelling at our sport. She helped set a steady quick pace throughout the morning that helped us bank a ton of time.

We found Brenda at the junction of Hwy's 41 and 55 south of Whitehall with a "secret" control and a post card for each of us to mail at Silver Star four miles away. Brenda's rest stop would have been amazing, except the mosquitoes were so thick and ravenous that we had no choice but to choke back a few groceries and then get moving before being eaten alive. We saw Brenda again in Whitehall, but the mosquitoes were just as thick there so again, no long rest stop. Perhaps for the best.

Ken, Karel, and I got in in under 20 hours-only the second time I've done that on a 400K. Karel doing so on a one-gear bike. Sam Collins, and Ken Baker got in not much later so all finishers were done in under 21 hours! We can probably attribute that to nearly perfect weather with little wind, quick stops except for our much needed lunch at my house, and because we're all rounding into shape.

The fast pace did cook me pretty good though. I was pretty stiff and sore on Sunday. I have to remember to take it a bit easier on the first day of our 600K in two weeks in Helena. Can't be burning those matches too quickly.

Many thanks to Brenda and Jackson for the awesome support, and many thanks to this great bunch of riders I've gotten to randonneur with this season. It's a lot of fun so far with much more to come.