Deranged Dogs and Peanut Butter Sandwiches: Bill Beck’s Warrenton 300K

Bill Beck has written a lively account of his Warrenton 300K. Bill relives the lows and highs, and lows again, of the randonneur life, proving again that peanut butter and a swift kick can make all the difference.

Don’t forget Bill’s excellent photos. Click Here

Bill Beck’s 300KHere’s one of Bill’s photos

Sensible Eating Plan for a Sophomore 300K
by Bill Beck
April 22, 2007

The Warrenton 300K on April 21 would be my second 300K brevet, the first being the Frederick 300K in 2006. On that first ride, I reached the 150 mile mark feeling OK and recklessly told myself “I can’t possibly die in only 35 miles.” Wrong! Within 10 miles I had bonked so badly that I could average only 10 mph and limped back to the Holiday Inn 14 hours and 39 minutes after leaving it. So my sophomore 300K in 2007 was to be a sensible ride during which I would sit down and eat two meals of sandwich, chips, and chocolate milk in addition to on-the-road food snacks from my handlebar bag. Well, it was a good plan.

The ride started at 5AM and moved out in the dark at a reasonably sane pace. I made sure to stay with a large group since I had forgotten my helmet light and couldn’t see the cue sheet. Suddenly, Roger appeared in the darkness by the side of the road shouting “Secret Control!” and we all stopped to get our cards signed. All was good until a short while after the secret control when a nasty wobble from my front wheel on a descent indicated a flat.

By the time I slowed and stopped at the bottom of the hill, the tire was actually smoking! Oh well, at least it had gotten light enough that I could see without my forgotten helmet light. For 10-15 minutes I sat by the side of the road changing the tube while dozens of riders zoomed by. I thought I would never see the front group again that day, but figured maybe that was good because I wouldn’t be tempted to skip my well-planned meals to keep up.

After finishing with repairing the flat, I spent the next few hours riding mostly by myself. Although riding in a group is fun and generally goes faster, riding solo has its own advantages. The quiet of the early morning can be felt more clearly and, since you don’t need to worry about colliding with other people, it’s easier to look around at the scenery. While riding by myself for so long, I also had time to contemplate the fact that most randonneurs are in their 40s or 50s despite the obvious physical advantages of being younger.

For example, how much faster could you go if all of your heart rate zones were 30 bpm higher? It would also be convenient to have a young memory that didn’t have to check the same cue every few minutes to be reminded if it was left or right.
My strategy was to just keep riding at a brisk pace, and finish whenever that pace got me to the end. And of course, I would follow my sensible eating plan. As the miles rolled by, I got to say hi to lots of people, including the ad hoc tandem team of Nick Bull and Lynn Kristiansen, who seemed to be having a great time.

The control at the Mountain View Nursing Home was at mile 70.9, which seemed like a good place to stop, sit down, and eat my sandwich and chips. But it turned out that a large group of riders were there, almost ready to leave. The sensible side said to sit down and eat my full lunch as planned, but the dark side said that there is a fast train about to leave the station and that I should jump on. The lure of the dark side is strong, so of course I stuffed the sandwich in my handlebar bag to eat while riding, and rode off with the group.

At the Cismont Market, we met up with another group of riders, including Chuck and Crista, who had the good sense to stop for a nice lunch. But when the first riders started to go, I couldn’t resist and went with them. So at that point we had a pretty good sized group including John Fuoco, Bob Sheldon, John and Nancy Guth, Clint Provenza, Chip Adams, Jim Levitt, Horia Todor and some others I can’t recall.

While the group was riding along a small road, a very large truck went past in the opposite direction, creating a powerful blast of air in our faces. I heard Nancy Guth let out a strangled “Arrgh!” from behind me and, it turned out (as she is planning to describe more fully herself) that the blast from the truck was so strong that it actually blew off her helmet!

Around mile 130 I had gotten a few hundred feet in front of the group and was passing a house when suddenly three dogs came dashing out. Unlike most dogs that just want a little chase, these guys meant business! Although I tried yelling “Stop!”, which sometimes works, they were not deterred. One dog made a beeline straight in front of me. My wheel hit him, not hard enough for either of us to go down, but hard enough that he retreated. Then as I tried to sprint away, the second one closed in from the side. He backed off after I unclipped my right foot and gave him a fairly solid kick to the head. I like dogs, but not when they’re aiming to take a chunk out of my leg.

Somehow, the group eventually shrunk to John, Bob, Jim, Horia, and me. It turned out that Bob had previously set the goal of finishing in less than 12 hours and our rough calculations made that still look like a good possibility. But Jim ran out of water somewhere after the Dairy Korner at mile 130 and started getting dehydrated. It didn’t help when we couldn’t get any water at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford at mile 162 and had to continue another 5 miles to Remington, where we stooped to buy liquids and Jim decided to take a rehydration break before continuing.

The four remaining riders soldiered on, and by the last 10-20 miles, I was thoroughly cooked. The lack of the sensibly planned meals had finally caught up with me. Although I hope I did my share of pulling earlier, almost all of work on the front through those final miles was done by John and Bob. At one point I thought of the money that I had deposited for PBP reservations and thought “What the hell were you thinking? If you feel this shredded by 185 miles…” But we kept on pedaling and eventually reached the Warrenton HoJos with about 10 minutes to spare on the goal of breaking 12 hours.

So, on an easier route than last year, and with the help of a strong group to ride with, my time for this sophomore 300K was 2.5 hours less than the freshman one. I felt pretty tired but happy that we broke 12 hours. And when I got up on Sunday, PBP seemed like a good idea again. I guess the limited 54-year-old memory does have advantages for randonneuring after all.

Maybe I’ll try riding the sensible 300K next week.

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