Sunday, March 3, 2013

2013 Around the Bend 400km Brevet

Ride Report
March 2, 2013
Tom Baker (center) going over some ride details

A relatively short list of 17 riders signed up for the second running of the Around the Bend 400km Brevet. Carlton van Leuven and I suffered greatly last year on this event and we were both looking forward to a better ride in good weather. Since we had similar time goals for the event we decided to car-pool to Casa Grande. Some of the usual suspects had signed up including Dick Wiss, Roger Peskett, and Mike Enfield. Also, Catherine Shenk from Boulder Colorado was on the start list. Carlton and I hoped a 'sensible' peloton of 4-5 riders would form to share the work and help us beat last year's time.

Descending into Sacaton
After a short pre-ride meeting we rolled out of the Round Trip Bike shop a few minutes after 6am with lights blazing into the predawn darkness. By the time we reached the Casa Grande High School a group of 7 had formed including those noted above and Glenn Albrech from California. We worked well together and maintained a steady pace. The sun cleared the horizon as we descended into Sacaton. The wind started to build from the east, and our pace increased with the wind assist. We reached the first control in Maricopa shortly after it opened at a little before 8. Even that early, the Circle K was hopping and Tom Baker was there to sign our cards and reload our water bottles.

Carlton on the reload
With our larger group it took a little longer for everyone to attend to the details but we were soon on our way on SR238 to Mobile/Gila Bend. Much of the road surface has been improved, but it is a narrow highway with moderate traffic. It has a gentle grade that went unnoticed with our tailwind, until it picked up a degree or two when we entered the Sonoran National Monument.

Near the top the climb, our pace quickened and our group split as we passed the BLM area where we have taken the Corona High School Band kids on their Advanced Biology Survival Weekend for the past several years. It is a beautiful place to camp (permits required) and with the rain this year it was especially green this morning.

Down to 5
Clearing the pass, with a continued tailwind, we motored along the 14 miles of downgrade to Gila Bend at an average speed of 30 mph!. We rode through town, found the welcome sign with the required information for the second control, made a U-turn, noted the time and continued to the Texaco convenience store only a few hundred feet up the road.

Dick Wiss and Roger at the Gila Bend Texaco
This was a great place to stop; full store, ample restrooms, covered picnic tables, and plenty of room for us to spread out. We set about procuring supplies, stripping off layers, and applying sunscreen. I think Dick was wanting to buy one of the Curios on display, but did not have room on his bike! Mike Enfield pulled in a few minutes after we arrived and Tom Baker also arrived to see how we were doing.

Mike Enfield rolled in just a few minutes after we arrived
Catherine on the Gillespie Bridge
I attacked the group to take this picture!
With Mike back in the group, we rolled out into the headwind that we would face most of the way to next control in Palo Verde. Once we hit Old Highway 80, Dick organized us into a very steady rotating double pace line to battle the wind. The pace was very consistent and we made great progress. We did not see Glenn at the control in Gila Bend, he must have stopped somewhere else and made a more efficient stop, because we could see him way up the road. Evetually we caught him and we were back to 7 riders and continued our paceline to the Gillespie Dam Bridge.

The bridge area was greatly improved, and unlike last year, there was no construction or pilot car to deal with. However, there are a bunch of short climbs and rollers between the bridge and the next control in Palo Verde. The hills, warming temperatures, and the wind helped split group again and we were back down to 5.

Tom Baker had the control set up in the shade at the Palo Verde School. It was well stocked and Tom had a few folding chairs which contributed to our leisurely pace in the control.

We enjoyed a nice break in Palo Verde
Mike again rolled in before we left, but he had no intention of joining us when we were ready to go, so we rolled out to brave the Saturday morning traffic of Buckeye Arizona and journey toward Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). NASCAR is in town this weekend, and the Nationwide race was starting just about the time we rolled past. Luckily all the fans were in the race way and there was very little traffic to deal with.

It was starting to get hot, I was down one bottle, and my second was getting warm. We stopped at the Circle K just past PIR to top off, get some ice, drinks, and use the Porta-Potties!. It was very busy because of the race and a mini-traffic jam formed as a road barrier crew was resetting the cones and traffic controls for the PIR outbound traffic.

Carlton mentioned to me that he was glad we stopped, because he felt a little dehydrated, and had blood in his urine! He drank some extra fluids and said he felt better and when we rolled out he was back taking his turns at the front.

The winds seemed to moderate as we traversed the farm country on the west side of town. When we reached 51st avenue, the wind got behind us and our pace picked up again. The 5 of us were moving along again quite briskly. After Carlton finished a pull at the front he suddenly slipped off the back and slowed down, the group sat up as I dropped back to check on him. He was feeling severe pain and really needed to slow down. We knew that Tom had set up a water control only a few miles up the road, so I set an easy pace with Carlton. Dick, Roger, and Catherine also slowed down and waited for us at the water control near the I-10.

Carlton was in no shape to go on (waves of severe pain, blood in urine). In addition to the pain, he said he was having trouble with his vision when the pain became severe. He wanted to go on, but we encouraged him to get checked out before he continued. He called his wife to take him to urgent care. He of course was not happy about a DNF, and insisted we continue with our ride. Once we were sure that Ruthann was on her way, and Carlton promised; 1) not to get back on his bike until they figured out what was wrong, and 2) to keep us up to date with text messages, so we took off. With the sun setting, we picked up a slight tailwind and continued to the Fry's grocery center on the edge of Queen Creek. We figured that would be the last good place to stop and reload before heading back into farm country. And at mile 202, it could also be possibly the last stop we would need to make. The grocery store was huge and we decided to take our break at the Burger King. We all enjoyed a light snack, and a long break, as we re-donned our reflective gear and added layers. Carlton sent a text, he was at urgent care, 6th in line to see the doctor!

We rolled out onto the rough farm roads, made more difficult in the darkness, and the passing diesel 'dually' pickup trucks. Most of which, had drivers/passengers that were convinced that we should not be on the road, and felt compelled to tell us so. A few more miles up the road we again caught Glenn and we were back to a group of 5!

We rolled through Coolidge and since no one needed to refill bottles with the cool night air we pressed on toward the finish. With 18 miles to go, our pace again quickened, and after a couple of nearly missed turns and the slight upgrade into Casa Grande, we were back to a group of 4. We rolled into the parking lot of the Round Trip Bike Shop at 9:50. A great time, especially with our 'medical' break and leisurely control stops. As we were loading up, Tom Baker appeared and checked us in and collected our brevet cards so we didn't need to go to the Denny's to turn them in.

The news from Carlton good, He was released from urgent care (suspected infection). Tom took our 'finish line' pictures and I drove Carlton's van back to his house. The rest of the crew retired to Denny's with Tom for a post-ride meal.

We completed the ride under 16 hours, which was the goal Carlton and I had both set. Even with our long control stops, the strength of our group combined with sharing the work at consistent pacing kept our moving speed well above 18 miles an hour for the whole day. It was a pleasure to spend the day with such great people and skilled riders. We were really missing Carlton at the finish, but he had sent several text message updates, and we were relieved he was doing better. By the time I got to his house, the pain was gone and he was already planning his follow-up doctor visits...and his next ride!

Steve Atkins, Roger Peskett, Catherine Shenk, Dick Wiss
All smiles at the Finish!
Gerry Elam has a nice blog post with his perspective of the ride. Carlton van Leuven also has a blog post with more photos and his recap of the the ride.