Warrenton 300K on Three Hours Sleep by James Houck

James Houck has posted his 300K story. For those of you who passed up the pulled pork sandwiches, James can tell you all about it.

By James P. Houck
Warrenton 300K, April 21, 2007

This is my first year in the club and with only a couple of 200Ks under my belt, I don’t know a lot of folks’ names. I’ll do my best at describing folks, and I’ll bet most of you will know exactly whom I’m talking about.

I’m a 35 year-old Coast Guardsman with a loving wife and two young kids. When people ask my wife why I do crazy things like 300K brevets, she tells them I’m an adrenaline junky and she’d rather I do these things than many other worse things she can think of. I don’t know what those things are … yet.

As most Coasties are, I’m a preparedness nut. The night I received the route sheet, I stayed up plugging the waypoints into my GPS. (If someone else does this in a way I could upload to my GPS, I could save a few hours of preparation for each brevet. Please let me know.) I spent much of my limited free time over the next three nights studying the lighting regulations. I had to work later than I’d planned on Friday, which put me home late. When I walked into the house at 1900, my two-year-old hit me up for a bike ride. “Daddy, I really really, really want to go for a ride on your bicycle.” My seven year old quickly backed him up with, “Yeah, Dad, me too. Should I go get my jersey?”

Knowing I had at least two hours of work to make my bike meet the RUSA lighting requirements, I tried to beg off. …They’d have none of it. With a “C’mon Daddy.” from the older one and my wife pointing out the disappointment on the younger one’s face, I didn’t say a word. I headed for the garage with two of the worlds happiest kids in tow. I put my son in his carrier seat, tightened both of their helmets and headed out with my daughter following on her own two-wheeler. We rode for an hour on the Sligo Creek Trail. We were back around 2000. Thank goodness, my wife took over the teeth brushing and bed time, so I could start on my bike.

The clock had chimed 2300 before I finally loaded my now well-lit bicycle into the back of my truck and fell into bed.

When my alarm went off at 0200, I did not feel terrifically motivated to jump from my bed, drive 90 minutes, ride a bike all day, and then drive back. Laying out my clothes and water bottles the night before is probably the only reason I was able to scrape up enough motivation to roll out of bed. With three hours sleep under my belt; I headed for Warrenton.

I wanted to get there early to avoid the long line for lighting inspection. Roger inspected my lighting system, complemented me on having a reflector, and gave me a splinter of wood he must have carved from his hotel bed frame as proof of having passed the lighting inspection. I thought, ‘all the hours it took to properly decipher and implement the lighting regulations and all I get is a rough toothpick as reward.’ As he gave me said splinter, he dispatched Kelly to find someone to unclog the overflowing toilet in his room. …I kept my thoughts to myself.

With the lighting inspection behind me, it was 0410 when I went straight to Matt to trade in my toothpick. Matt awarded me with a handy-dandy brevet card, which I secured in a ziplock bag and placed in my trunk bag.

I had some time to kill. Having ridden the 200s with a friend I conned into randonneuring, I hadn’t spent much time interacting with my fellow riders. My fellow randonneurs were just other people riding the same route I was riding I am happy to report randonneurs are all wonderful people and a lot of fun to be around.

At 0455, Roger brought us all together under the awning to inform us of a SNAFU. Matt had given some of us brevet cards with neither signature nor time endorsements. How embarrassed I’d have been if I’d finished only to find I hadn’t started the 300K. Funny thing–Matt reminded us to always verify times and signatures just before the start of the Warrenton 200K. (I think he was testing me and I failed.)

At 0500 Roger sent us on our way. I didn’t have much of a game plan other than to finish. My kit included a 100 once camel back filled with diluted gatorade, a light jacket, a first aid kit, two tubes, a patch kit, a multi tool, a chain tool, two tire levers, a pump, twelve goo gels, three Clif Bars, a handlebar mounted GPS, a full sized bottle of chamois butter, and a cue sheet. I found myself in the lead group leaving Warrenton and stayed with them until the Secret Control. I knew from the 200Ks I didn’t belong in their group, but riding in a large group in the dark was fun. I was awed by the long string of well lit bicycles every time I checked my mirror. Falling back from the main group, I didn’t ride alone for more than twenty minutes when I caught up to a fellow named John who had a Celtic tattoo with crossed anchors in it. As we rode together for the rest of the day, I found that his tattoo was a chain ring with shamrocks, and his name was Mike, not John! Mike, I’m glad to report you maintained a great sense of humor throughout the day.

Mike and I rode together from about 0630 until we reached Syria. We both seemed to ride about the same speed and both had the same goal — JUST FINISH!

Pulling out of Syria, I heard some ugly sounds coming from Mike’s cassette. He pulled over and I stopped about fifty yards up the road from him. A guy named Joel pulled over with me, and instantly diagnosed Mike’s loose cassette. I thought, “Great! Who would carry a cassette tool on a brevet?” Well, it so happens, Joel carries a cassette tool on every brevet. With Joel’s help, Mike was back on the road in about eight minutes. The three of us spent most of the day trading stories that no self-respecting sailor, doctor, or middle school counselor would ever claim as his own.

The bar mounted GPS made navigation easy–just stay on the pink line. An extra deep pothole ended its usefulness right before mile 157. No problem, Joel and Mike had their cue sheets out …and we cruised right past the Inn at Kelly’s Ford and the next turn. I was kind of embarrassed to have missed the Inn when I saw the size of the sign as we backtracked to it. I have a great excuse: a wedding party was gathering near the sign as we passed the first time. Many of the party were, …well, they were distracting. We cruised right past the next turn, too. We wound up with 192 miles when all was said and done. I’ll have to get the GPS fixed because I love gadgets.

Mike’s cassette came loose again at mile 175. Joel and his cassette tool were long gone in pursuit of a 1730 finish, so Mike gritted it out on his impromptu single speed. Great job, John–I mean Mike.

At the finish, I couldn’t believe how great I felt. The 200s I’d finished had taken a lot more out of me, and they’d followed a full night’s sleep. I’m happy to chalk the ease up to my excellent fitness. I won’t hear Lynn talk about how she designed the course to be a flat one. I finished with three goos, one Clif Bar, and everything else I’d started with. I supplemented my bike food with a roast beef sandwich, a giant chocolate milkshake, and a pulled pork sandwich. The pulled pork was over the top, and made the next twenty miles a tough pull.

I had to leave right after the ride to make sure I didn’t fall asleep on the ride home. I’m sure I missed out on loads of camaraderie, but with another 300, both 400s and the 600 still to come, I WILL partake soon.

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