Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fishtail 300K...forecast, schmore-cast!

The weather forecast in Fishtail-our first control of the day
More Photos Here   Results Here

The countdown to the Fishtail 300K Brevet starting and finishing in Laurel on May 9, 2015 saw the weather forecast go from nice, to rainy, to rainy and snowy, to just plain awful rainy and snowy. What do you do here? Brevets are rarely rescheduled. We're randonnuers-we ride through anything, but there was the safety of myself, the other riders, and our volunteers to consider. Road bikes don't do well on snow and ice. Plus this is a PBP qualifier-and I only have one of each of the four required qualifiers scheduled. RUSA does allow for a brevet to be rescheduled for up to one week after the planned date, but with travel plans made, motel rooms secured, and no guaranty that the next day or next week would be any better, we just decided to go for it. The final forecast called for pretty much a 100% chance of rain in the lower elevations, and 1 to 3 inches of snow in the higher elevations. A snow detour was planned to get us around the ice and snow in the highest elevations, but we resigned ourselves to being wet and uncomfortable all day.

So I was completely shocked and elated when at the start we had all the same guys that started in Missoula two weeks ago. Lane Coddington drove over from Missoula for his second brevet, Sam Collins was there all the way from Jackson, Wyoming, Ken Baker drove over from Bozeman in the wee hours of the morning to get there for the 6AM start, and Ken Billingsley and Karel Stroethoff were there as well, with Karel coming from Missoula even though he already has a his 300K PBP qualifier done. We also had Sam's wife Karen again for support, and my wife Brenda was there too to relieve me from the paperwork duties and with a car load full of goodies for later down the road.
Karel, Ken, Sam, Lane, Jason, and Ken-ready to go!
As we pulled onto the streets of Laurel-headed for Columbus the roads were soaking wet, but the rain had miraculously stopped and the wind was at our backs. I forgot my water bottles, but Brenda came along soon to remedy that (thanks hun), and I was already peeling off a layer even though temps were only in the high 30's. The ride to Fishtail was a piece of cake.

Karen met us at the Fishtail Store to sign our cards and we went inside and restocked. I wish I had this store on all my brevets. It's the perfect stop for randonneurs, with all the goodies we could ever want, including a killer breakfast burrito. After the store we had a five more miles on the road toward Nye to an info control. The rain started feeling solid and the vehicles we met were covered with snow. The turn around was right at the snow line, but it wasn't sticking on the highway so no problem for us.

We took our planned snow detour and headed over the road to Joliet instead of Red Lodge, which was looking to be pretty socked in. Temperatures were just into the 40's and now that lovely tailwind was a cross headwind. The road to Joliet is very rolling with three short 7% climbs mixed amongst the smaller hills. It was also very blustery on the bluffs we were crossing. We rolled into a "secret" control in Joliet that Brenda had set up for us, complete with hot chocolate and cup-o-noodles. It was perfect!
The perfect blend of calories!

Road construction at Rockvale Junction gave us a muddy half mile or so, but everybody got through it. It was a tailwind from Rockvale to Bridger on a wide debris strewn shoulder. Karel and I got to Bridger first and were soon followed by Lane and Sam. Ken Billingsley came later after having to fix a flat. Ken has had terrible luck on this stretch of road as he flatted in almost the same location last year on our 600K. As I rode out of Bridger and back toward Joliet into a stiff headwind, I met Ken Baker walking his bike. He had just flatted and was walking to the control which was only a few hundred yards away. Later on Lane, Karel, and Sam would all flat (Lane twice), but for some unknown lucky reason I didn't. 

So with no flat problems, I ended up pulling ahead. I was feeling good and really, really just wanted to be done so I didn't stop at the store in Joliet and only stopped at the Columbus McDonald's long enough to inhale two cheese burgers. I cruised into Laurel to find Ken's wife Heath and Brenda cheering for me. That was really, really cool. Most of these rides end rather unceremoniously it some parking lot, so to have someone there to give you a clap as you come in really feels amazing. Because of my lack of flats and aversion for stopping it ended up being my fastest 300K ever, despite wearing enough layers to look like the Stay Puft Marsh Mellow Man.
Heath Billingsley with a congratulatory hug for me at the finish

Ken Billingsly was next in, then Karel, Sam, and Lane. Ken Baker also made it in before 16 hours so we were all done with considerable time in the bank. Karel was on his fixed gear again and found the pedaling really hard after Bridger. He thought he was having bottom bracket issues. He later discovered his chain has almost come apart-a very close call indeed. Lane and Ken Baker struggled into Columbus with stomach issues, but after getting something to eat and taking a short break both found a second wind and finished very well. I was so happy for everyone, including myself for getting this one in.

A huge part of our success was the support of our volunteers, Brenda, Karen, and Heath. They did a great job of looking after us, but they also did a great job of staying far enough away late in the ride to not temp anyone to throw their bike in the car. Many thanks ladies!
Brenda and Karen at Joliet
So next up is the 400K. That one is on June 6 and starts and finishes here at our house in Belgrade. Looking forward to it...if I can get some training in between all these rainy, stormy days we've been having.