Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gallatin-Jefferson 400K-a bit of summer

Brevet No.3...and now things are getting serious. 200K's-yes they are hard, but they almost always start and finish in daylight. 300K's-a good long way to ride a bike but pretty doable-in most cases you're not going to have to worry about sleep deprivation. But then there's the 400K-a notorious distance for many randonneurs. Too short, with a 27 hour time limit, to allow an extended stop with a sleep break, but too long not to finish way into the wee hours of the next day. Things that can be an annoyance on a 200K or 300K can be show stoppers on a 400K-whether it be nutrition, fitness, or equipment. You have to have things pretty well dialed in.

My Gallatin-Jefferson 400K started out into a chilly, clear morning from my house here in Belgrade (more photos here). I was joined once again by Ken Billingsley and Karel Stroethoff. All of us have 400K's under our belts from previous seasons but this was our first for this year.

The route was in two segments. The first was a tour of the Gallatin Valley, dipping in and out of the Bozeman City Limits on three different times, then heading west to the communities of Churchill and Manhattan before circling back to Belgrade on Dry Creek Road. The second segment headed out to Silver Star via Whitehall, doing a small loop back to Whitehall and then back home via the big hills on Highway 359 to Harrison.

We felt like we hit the jackpot with the weather forecast. High temps in the low 70's and very light breezes. A perfect day (almost).

When we left Belgrade at 5AM it was barely above freezing, though the sun was coming up. Toes got a bit chilly until the mercury started to seriously climb at about 9AM. We kept more or less together throughout the entire Gallatin Valley loop, a ride that in many ways felt more like a club century ride than a brevet because we had checkpoints (and thus lots of rest stops) about every ten miles to account for numerous possible shortcuts. We rode at a pretty good clip the whole way, but we didn't get back to Belgrade for lunch until 1PM as the frequent stops did slow us down.

Brenda, Jackson, and my Mom were at the house to greet us for the 100 mile stop. Brenda cooked up a batch of soup and there were lots of other goodies on hand. For a brevet with only 3 people, we were supported like it was a brevet of 50. I'm so grateful to my family for all their support in my randonneuring efforts.

After lunch we headed out into a light, but annoying and tiring, headwind on the frontage road. Traffic was predictably busy, but thinned out once we got past the Belgrade area subdivisions. The bike path and new pedestrian bridge over the Madison River at Three Forks was a welcome diversion from the highway, but all too short. More high speed traffic to Sappington Junction where we got a break on the nice and quiet highway through the Jefferson Canyon past the Lewis and Clark Caverns. The wind was still hounding us, but my stomach had settled down and I felt better.

We followed a typical pattern spreading out on the road, and meeting up again at the checkpoints-in fact we were together on all but two or three of the 17 checkpoints all day. Ken was riding much quicker than Karel or I, but he didn't mind holding up for us. A great feature of the non-competitive nature of randonneuring where camaraderie is what it's all about! I was able to get a picture of each of us depositing our post card in the mailbox in Silver Star-proving that we were there.

Brenda and Jackson setup a "secret" checkpoint back in Whitehall on our return trip back toward Belgrade (a secret checkpoint is not announced on the route sheet. An organizer can place one on a route to keep riders honest...and provide some service). It was most welcome. Lots of food and goodies and a chance to get our layers and lights back on as the sun was setting and the temperatures were falling rapidly.

If the ride was only 300K I would have been pretty happy. The first 300K was about 2 hours faster than the 300K in Wyoming two weeks ago and though my cold was getting to me and my rear end was sore I didn't feel too bad. But we had another hilly 100K's to go, almost all in the dark, and into more headwind. As we were finishing our loop outside of Whitehall the wind amazingly shifted from the southwest to the southeast and we would have light headwinds again all the way home. It was frustrating.

So the last 100K was slow. Brenda and Jackson waited for us out in the middle of nowhere at our last checkpoint with hot coffee. It was getting quite cold and I was chilled to the bone, being about one layer short of what I should have had. Thankfully Jackson lent me his jacket at that last checkpoint-which was a serious ride saver.

Ken and I got back to my house in Belgrade at 2:14AM and Karel came in a short while later. The ride into the night, though cold, had its advantages. I could count on one hand the number of cars that passed after night fall.

Many thanks to Mom for the neutral support and keeping an eye on us on the second loop. And thanks to Brenda and Jackson who once again staffed the brevet expertly, including spending some long hours waiting for us at that last checkpoint in the dark near Harrison. That was going above and beyond the call-but so important for us.

This ride had a lot going for it. Great weather (except for the wind direction), no rain, and for the most part-quiet pleasant roads. The worst part of the day was the 13 miles of Highway 55 between Whitehall and Silver Star. This stretch is busy with truck traffic and no shoulder. Also, the folks around Whitehall seem to have a particular distaste for cyclists (at least in my experience as I've been harassed there more than most anywhere else). I'll probably try to avoid Highway 55 in the future and use the much more lightly traveled and pleasant Highway 41 which turned out to be a real jewel.


Anonymous said...


Congratulation on finishing the 400k ride.


Jason Karp said...

Thanks. I successfully completed the 600K this weekend. Ride report coming soon!

Is this Eric Clark?