DC Randonneurs’ 400K: Hitting Our Stride

A friend who is into ultrarunning asked me on Friday whether I was nervous about the 400K brevet on tap for Saturday. I replied that I wasn’t. By this stage of the brevet series there’s no more to worry about in terms of fitness – we just have to get out there and ride.

Our winter riding, completed brevets and some recent down time served Mary and me well on Saturday. We had one of our better results on the D.C. Randonneurs’ Northern Exposure 400K, finishing in 19 hours 19 minutes, at 11:19 p.m.

With a 4 a.m. start, I like to target 11 p.m. to wrap things up, and we did pretty well in that regard. There’s some kind of psychological reward to being done before midnight.

A reflective moment before the start

After a few challenges on the club’s 200K and first 300K ride, it appears the smooth 300K checkout ride we completed with Bob C. earlier this month put us on the right track in terms of staying on the bike.

Another 4 a.m. meetup at the Waffle House in Frederick, Md.

On Saturday we managed to actually better our ususal goal of limiting our rest stops to an hour or less per 100 miles: we were off the bike for 1 hour, 50 minutes total.

That left us with 17 hours 29 minutes riding time, for an average of 14.2 m.p.h. That’s not exactly fast, but not bad for us given there was about 13,000 feet of elevation gain. We had to get over four long climbs and a lot of smaller steeps that took us over the Catoctins north of Frederick, Maryland into central Pennsylvania and back again.

Chris N. heads into farm country after sunup

We used our time off the bike mostly to eat. Mary and I realized we weren’t eating enough on past rides and decided to address that.

The highlights for me: chicken salad at the Sheetz at mile 62; ham and cheese sandwich and potato salad at East Waterford, Pa., mile 108; a few bananas, cashews and energy bars along the way; potato chips and another ham and cheese in East Berlin, mile 190; and a Snickers ice cream bar at Thurmont, Md., mile 230.

Chris R. riding steady and sure

I also bought sweet ice tea at stores that I poured into a water bottle to drink as we rode, as a supplement to plain water in lieu of sports drinks.

The weather was a treat. We has gentle south and west winds, nothing to really slow things down, and mostly clear skies. Temperatures reached into the mid-80s.

Goats, always curious

For this ride we took our Spectrum 700c tandem. Our aluminum Co-Motion was in the shop to address a clicking sound. We really love the Spectrum despite the minor weight penalty of steel – it has a comfortable ride with 32mm tires and carves fast downhills. I managed to shift the chain over the big ring a couple of times but that was the extent of our mechanical issues.

Our faithful steed this day

Note: This is the only one of our tandems not to have the front derailleur spaced out from the seat tube with a SRAM wide braze-on adapter. I ordered one to address our front shifting issue.

More importantly, we had an enjoyable day. We exchanged waves with a lot of friendly people and had good company from our fellow riders. Chris N. and Chip A. rode around us most of the way.

Though we had moments of slogging along during the afternoon, when we were in the hilliest part of the course, the hours flew by and our morale stayed high. For that I have to thank Mary, who kept us focused on forward progress.

Mary and Chip in Newport, Pennsylvania

We came in with Chip at the front of the field, with the next group of riders close behind. There are usually other riders ahead of us on the 400K, but only 14 people came out and most of the club’s really speedy riders were at the Maryland Endurance Challenge. (Note: Chip is among the fast folks! He started 40 minutes late on Saturday and caught us all at the 100K mark).

We now have the club’s 600K on June 8 to tackle, and we’re optimistic. This 400K was another confidence boost as we drive toward being qualified for the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K in August.

Thanks to the club’s 400K organizer Barry Benson and to his helpers. It’s the toughest ride on organizers, we’ve found, with the last riders coming in overnight. Well done Barry!

A blurrycam shot of Barry with Bob C.

P.S. Our new coupled Co-Motion 650b travel tandem came home. I’ll post pics once we get it fully kitted out.

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