Bob Sheldon’s 600K Story

Bob, right, leads the group with Jeff MagnusonBob, right, takes the early lead with Jeff Magnuson

Bob Sheldon overcame a rough start to finish in high spirits at the Middletown 600K. He’s written an inspiring story.

Bob Sheldon, Middletown 600K June 2007Bob Climbs toward Big Hill Road

Bob Sheldon’s 600K Report, DC Randonneurs 600K, June 9-10, 2007
By Bob Sheldon

It was the worst of times, fortunately followed by the best of times.

I’ve taken a different approach to the brevets this year, pushing harder than I ever have, trying to defeat the aging process and recapture my former self from before my bike accident in 2005. I hoped to have a good ride on the 600K by testing a new plan for PBP and hopefully keeping speedy Bob Casciato in sight. After all, we’re the same age. We may not be getting faster, but hopefully we’re getting smarter about this stuff.

My plan was thwarted by a sleepless Friday night. The horrendous ringing caused by the head trauma I suffered in the accident has been getting louder lately, disrupting my sleep. The minutes slowly ticked away.

So I wouldn’t wake up my roommate Alex Sanchez, I spent most of the night in the bathroom looking for inspiration by reading RUSA’s ’03 PBP accounts. There must be a better way to train for this stuff. I didn’t need a wake up call to help with registration; unfortunately my head was fried, I hope I didn’t screw up anyone’s control card.

Despite the discombobulated head, I tried to follow my riding plan: hanging with Bob et. al. into the first control at the KOA. I made it there with the front group, only to return to my bike and realize that the case containing my regular glasses was missing from my rear pocket.

I didn’t want to be left with only my sport glasses. I quickly retraced my steps, running back into the store, asking the clerk, checking the floor; I couldn’t find them. I started getting agitated. I rarely lose things.

Dave Gaudette fortunately found the case in the KOA’s front porch area, many thanks ensued. But, he must have wondered what freaked me out so much. I jumped on my bike to chase, but on the bumpy KOA gravel road, the case popped out of my rear pocket. Grrr – those Belgians, you swap them for a PBP jersey, and the pockets are too small.

After stowing the case in my rack trunk, I turned back to the chase, then I hit another bump and my rear taillight popped off. I was getting really angry and frustrated. What else could go wrong?

I started working with Mike Martin, Michael Scholten and Jeff Magnuson. It was a good group and we chatted about riding through the night. We then crossed several railroad tracks with my taillight popping off each time.

Since Mike, Jeff, and Michael witnessed the first items jumping ship they started laughing. They kidded me: what’s going on with you, what else is going to fall off, are you all there? But I had a good laugh when Michael’s empty Coke bottle popped out of his jersey pocket for the second time. I went back and kicked it off the road, only to see a couple sitting on their front porch watching me. Now what do I do?

If I pick it up and put the Coke bottle in my jersey pocket, it will certainly fall out. The woman came down to the end of her yard, I thanked her and handed over the errant bottle.

I talked with Jeff about how we both felt crummy and how we were re-thinking our plans for the year. We’re not having fun, why continue to beat a dead horse? I talked about how bad my head felt and how I could use my PBP money on tinnitus retraining or a hearing aid for my limited hearing, though both procedures have a lower success rate for head trauma victims.

Mike and I ended up together, again fantasizing about riding through the night, but admitting uncertainty. I couldn’t hold Mike’s wheel as we started up Goshen Pass. I love that area and climb, having ridden it on every 600K and on other journeys, but always significantly faster. Unfortunately, when my heart rate elevates, the ringing increases, and it gets worse when I am tired and there is no wind to mask the sound. I was just miserable on the shallow climb.

I reached the Goshen Control 15 minutes after Mike and told him to go on, I am worthless today.

I talked about abandoning, something I’ve never considered, not even when my handlebars snapped 160 miles into a 600K. A steak and cheese sandwich and a couple of Cokes helped my head and stomach and I hit the road again with Jeff and Bill Beck, hoping a chat would help.

Ed Felker passed us and I latched on. Suddenly my mind started to focus away from the ringing. I enjoyed the steady cadence — I can do this. I then started feeling frisky, jumping at some climbs — I’ve got legs. We stopped at the Valley Store to replenish and I was really pleased to see Mike’s bike. Mike was amazed to see me, particularly with a smile, my first good one all day. Maybe Mike thought I was dead? Thanks Ed, you were a savior, I really enjoyed the pull and chat.

Jeff joined us at the Buchanan control and we made a great trio going into the night. I was the only one with a hotel room at the Days Inn, so I invited Jeff and Mike to use the shower before we went on. I told the front desk we were only using the room for 30 minutes and to please save the room for Alex Sanchez when he arrived. We got a skeptical look, but since they didn’t need to make up beds, the clerk was pleased.

It was a gorgeous night ride with an amazing number of stars, the most I’ve ever seen in the east, guided by the Big Dipper and the North Star, and a great sliver of the moon rising in the east. I didn’t sing any Bob Dylan tunes as Michael Rowny did, but “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” would have been appropriate for the early part of this ride for me.

I did sing Jerry Garcia’s Wheel, “every time the wheel goes round bound to cove a little more ground . . . won’t you try just a little bit harder, couldn’t you try just a little bit more.” I spared Jeff and Mike my singing voice; I didn’t want to scare them.

What a wonderful control Lynn, Gordon, and Fred put on at the Hobson Guest House, competing with Villaines, the best control on PBP. We enjoyed a great breakfast but wanted to get back on the road and hold off the riders with fresh legs. I was thinking of Glenn (the motor) Dance, DCRand’s own Sean Kelly with his toe clips, on a new ride that looks really sweet.

I felt my best on Back Road, punching the downhills to carry speed going up, actually increasing our average speed over the last 25 miles. Alright, revival!

Mike Martin is a beast of a rider, a great companion; he will definitely be a finisher at PBP. Thanks Mike for a wonderful adventure. As Mary mentioned in her story, I was rather exuberant at the finish. I was really excited to have overcome my down period, the worst I’ve had on a brevet.

I was really pleased to know I can work through those periods, learning how to beat the ringing and sleeplessness into submission. When I finished, I’d been awake for 55 hours, running on adrenaline. Great PBP training maybe?

I jumped into the pool to unwind, relax, stretch out, and swim. Liz and Mary were quite concerned to know I would be driving, particularly after the hyperactivity, but I had a party waiting in Takoma Park and the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin” and Jerry Garcia’s “Wheel” waiting to revive me on the car CD player. I made it to the party and was greeted by a group of kids who spotted my brownie contribution. They surrounded me, asking, what took you so long?

I finally found some sleep after 64 hours and rode to work on Monday with a smile on my face. What a long strange trip it’s been.

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