400km brevet
Covered Bridges Brevet, Newberg - Silverton - Stayton - Scio - Lacomb - Sweet Home - Mohawk - Harrisburg - Independence - Newberg, 19 May 2007

Well, I'm definitely differently tired than post-300k. My legs aren't attempting mutiny, most likely thanks to spinning a cog or two higher most of the time, instead of really pushing it. Spent a lot more of the ride riding with other people, talking their ears off, than is typical for good ol' solo-riding me - most of it with Dion from San Diego, who was getting a brevet in on a trip. Thanks for the company, and the help! As much as I love the long solo slogs through the night, it's nice to have other people around.

Pre-ride, I was more than a little worried about the forecasts of 30% chance of rain on Saturday - I can deal with riding all day soaked, but it's always nicer when you don't have to. Leaving Portland at 4am, there was a little bit of water on the ground, and a bit of a sprinkle in the air, but that was mainly tapered off once we started in Newberg at 6am, and it turned into a beautiful day. Not too hot, not too cold, party cloudy and rain-free, with only a bit of wind. Near-perfect riding weather. I will attempt to take at least partial credit for this, being as I laminated my cue sheets in anticipation of potential soggyness, so you all know who to thank.

Most of the first stretch before a control went by fairly quickly, due to turns with rarely more than a couple miles between them. It's spring in the Willamette Valley, so fields are green as can be, as is everything else. The hops aren't quite all that tall yet, but if you stare hard enough, you can watch them grow as you pass. Mild rollers and whatnot at this point, until we hit a couple big hills between Stayton and scio, including one that Dion's GPS pegged at 22%... I wasn't quick enough on the draw, so I humped it up that one in 36x24 rather than 26 - but I rode it, so I was happy with that. Just before Scio, we hit our first covered bridge of the day (Schimanek, built in 1966 - presumably for Scio's 100th anniversary), and then shortly after we rolled into Scio, just in time to catch final preparations for the Lamb & Wool Festival parade. I waited in line at the Covered Bridge Cafe, and hoped that a "Hog Back Maple Bar" was what I thought it was. It was. The maple/bacon/dough combination is indeed a holy trinity. Honestly, I would've loved to stay and hang out at the festival for a bit, but my goal with my SR series this year is to move "quickly" to prove to myself that I can do these distances with time to spare, and feel out exactly how much time to spare that is - so when it comes down to PBP, I can use that spare time visiting/sleeping/eating/etc. So I moved on.

3 more covered bridges, some more rollers, and another string of cue sheet entries (and let's not forget the beautiful scenery!) Tons and tons of Checkermallow and Great Camas, and more than a few Oregon Iris. Outside Scio, I scared up a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a little later, a Lazuli Bunting. Most of the covered bridges are newer, in the scheme of things - it looks like there must've been someone at the WPA who was into them or something, as all but Schimanek were built in the 30s... Stopped in Lacomb for a corn dog, and then moved on, eventually rolling into Sweet Home cleanly at around 2pm, which was a little behind "schedule", but perfectly within "goals".

Some in-town twists and turns then led out of Sweet Home and further south, finally leading to the long climb of the day, out Brush Creek Road on the way to Mohawk. Two more covered bridges on this stretch, one at each end of the Brush Creek Stretch, which mostly ended the climbing of the day. I took a break at the first of the two, the Crawfordsville bridge, the only one without traffic running through it - there was a nice park, and it was time to eat something, even on this short leg (only about 30 miles). The Mohawk store was well prepared for us, and got many comments on the use of their stamp rather than just a plain ol' initial. Oh, the excitement!.

The stretch from Mohawk to Harrisburg gave us the last of the real rollers for the trip, and I think I was looking forward to some flat and fast night riding - and a sub-24 hour time was looking VERY realistic at this point - in fact, 21 hours was looking not impossible at all, which was much better than my potential hopes for sub-22... This was the shortest leg of the brevet, and went by pretty darn quickly. Harrisburg brought another small grocery store, and the last corn dog of the trip, and then off we set for the long haul to Independence.

Straight out of Harrisburg there was the longest single stretch of road for the entire ride - just over 30 km on Peoria Road - and I had figured that at this point, hitting the turn at White Oak Road before full dark was a reasonable enough objective. Dion and I pretty much tore it up at this point, doing what was probably a pretty mediocre paceline (thanks to me having to overcome my "I ride solo all the time" habits of not chasing back on and taking pulls for probably longer than I should :) ). But we kept it together for the most part, and rolled through, cruising nicely near 16 mph or so. At least that's how I remember it. We probably should have hit the Store on Hickory Road, though, judging by the fact that the only place we found open in Independence was a packed bar. Fat chance of getting anything to eat there, at least in a timely fashion...

After a bit of confusion about where I Road was, we rode back across the river and made a beeline (of sorts) for Salem, hoping for something with food and water. After a jerky ride through downtown Salem, we finally found a Plaid Pantry and fed the cravings. Shortly afterwards, we got caught up by a good pack of about 8 other riders - for the life of me, I can't remember who all of you were! From that point, it was a broken-up sprint for the finish of sorts, and of course, I got shelled out eventually (there's that whole not chasing back on thing again... sometimes I am way to content to ride solo). Spent a good chunk of the last 20 miles or so, looking over my shoulder spotting the rain in the distance (sometimes my night vision is just too damn good) and hoping that we would only get the light sprinkle we were feeling off and on. It held off, though, until after we got back to Newberg. I managed 21h50, which I'm still quite pleased with (though I'm fairly convinced I could have done 21h flat if I'd done a few things differently, but no worries there) - had a slice of pizza and some brownies in the ORR hotel room, and decided to bolt for the drive home before the finishing adrenalin rush wore off and forced me to pass out...

In reflection, having ridden 400k brevets in 2 manners, I think i prefer the late evening start to the early morning start. It's tougher for some people to start into the dark, but I would present a fourfold argument in its favor:

  1. In a PBP year, an evening start is good preparation for the vast majority of people who will be riding in the 90 hour group, and thus starting their ride in the dark.

  2. Finding food during the late night/early morning portion of the ride, which most people will have to deal with, is much harder on the psyche when it comes at the tail end of the ride. By starting in the evening, riders can set out with a good load of food on their person, which will last them through the night until stores open in the morning.

  3. The psychological impact of ending the ride in the dark is greater than that of it starting in the dark. If, like most riders, you're not sleeping on the 400k, it's a heck of a lot easier to not succumb to tiredness with the ride ending in the light rather than the dark.

  4. Finishing in the very early morning can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule - given the choice between heading out on a catnap before an 6pm start and finishing up somewhere around that time the next evening, and heading out on a short night of sleep for a 6am start, and finishing up getting to bed in the early morning, I'll take the former.

As for me, I felt physically fine after the ride, but mentally i was dead all of Sunday and a good bit of Monday morning. A bit of a change from 2003, where the 400k was run Saturday night - Sunday, and I was fine to work Monday morning bright and early. I don't sleep well during daylight hours, so I ended up only getting 3 hours of sleep or so Sunday morning and then a couple naps during the day and a full night's sleep Sunday night - yet still felt tired in the brain Monday morning... Regardless, I'm quite happy with shaving 3 hours off my 2003 time - that's 3 hours that'll come in quite handy during PBP!

Some pics from the ride:

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