Friday, February 7, 2014

Mosquito Lagoon 300k Brevet

191.1 mi 11:48 16.2mph pace

6:00am start. 64 degrees, calm and foggy with very limited visibility. Ready to roll on my first 300k Brevet.
This doesn't begin to show how foggy it was
I decided to drive over late the night before the ride. I left my house at 9:00 and arrived at the hotel in Melbourne, Florida a little after 1:00. I found a fast food restaurant still open so I went in to use the restroom. I then returned to the hotel where the ride would start. I pulled in the back parking lot to try to get some sleep in the car. (The hotel was booked by the time I registered to ride.)
It took me awhile to get comfortable but I did manage to get a little sleep before my 4:30 alarm got me moving. A little car camping never hurt anyone, right? :-) Since I was in a very remote section of the parking lot, I changed in the car and got myself ready for the ride. I tried to get the latest weather forecast but I couldn't find anything local. The earlier forecast said it was to be very foggy (and it was), low 60's (and it was) with temps climbing to the low 80's. The fog wouldn't clear until mid-morning. So, arm sleeves and short sleeves should do it.
I got myself ready to go, loaded my pockets with the food I thought I would need/want, back up batteries, and 3 back up power sticks for my iPhone and/or lights. I rode the 150 meters to the lobby of the hotel and I was already wet. Amazing. Riding in the clouds. A quick registration and a bathroom stop. Ready to ride.
After some last minute instructions, the ride started promptly at 6:00am. I saw a few people who I knew were part of the group I wanted to ride with. They were all behind me though so I couldn't really settle in with them before the ride. It was very dark with extremely low visibility. Error number one. I didn't have a chance of reading my cue sheet. Fortunately, I could just follow other riders. I loved this. There were about 45 riders weaving their way out of town with lights galore. It was dark but there is no way a driver couldn't see us.
We wound our way through some of the downtown streets working our way out of town. Very quickly we were heading west, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was so dark. It was so foggy. A group of riders ahead of me were moving at 20mph+. I wasn't going to be able to stay with them. The group I wanted to ride with was riding along at 18mph. Once the "fast guys" rode off into the fog, I found myself in the lead. It was a very long straight away so kept the lead and held the 18mph pace. I kept checking behind me to make sure the others were there. All I could verify is that there were at least 2 riders behind me. I couldn't tell who they were though. Even though I couldn't read my cue sheet yet, I kept the lead since there were no opportunities to turn off this road.

It was really cool riding along in the darkness with that heavy fog. I was soaked to the bone as if it was raining. I was dressed perfectly though. I was quite comfortable with my choice of arm sleeves. I couldn't read my speedometer unless I passed under one of the rare street lights. I couldn't read my odometer at all. A group of 3 recumbent riders passed me. I was glad to see them go by hoping they would show me my first turn. It wasn't long before their tail lights disappeared in the fog. So that plan didn't work.
I slowed down a bit to encourage one of the riders behind me to take the lead. After 1/2 mile or so, one of them finally came by. I told him I couldn't read my cue sheet and didn't know where the turn was. He was okay with that. We were quickly back up to 18mph and I was feeling a little more relaxed since I didn't have to worry about missing the turn.
We eventually got to our turn. The roads were very wet ... and slippery. I slowed to take the turn very cautiously since it was wet and I couldn't really see too far down the road. It was very dark and virtually nothing around. It turned out, the group of riders I wanted to ride with were behind me the whole time. There were dozen of us riding in this group. Good stuff. We now had a chance to ride side-by-side and chat a bit. I was feeling pretty good about the group at that point.
I had 2 concerns early on. First, my knees were feeling the niggles I normally don't feel except when I've done a hard workout. They didn't really hurt but with most of the ride ahead of me, it was reason for pause. The second concern was my bum. I have had more discomfort over the last week than I normally have ... ever! From the very start of every ride, I have been so tender in that area that it has made even short rides challenging. I was already uncomfortable. I had a lot of miles to go for this problem already. All I could do was hope for the best.
Dawn was breaking, or at least it was trying to. With the heavy fog, it wasn't getting all that bright. But I was able to read my cue sheet and my speedometer/odometer.
Even though I knew a few people in our current group, I really wasn’t sure who all was there. I was either co-pulling or riding in the second position for quite some time. There was a lot of conversation behind me but I only recognized one of the voices. He is a guy I met during the 200km ride last month. Good guy and fun to ride with. But I did not recognize the others. We hadn’t ridden 20 miles yet so plenty of time to meet them.
Now that it was light, it was an incredible morning. The heavy fog was still with us but we could see some of our surroundings. There wasn’t much there except for the beauty of rural, central Florida. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing all the very cool birds you see here. Many of them are quite large (relatively speaking) and it’s very easy to get a good view of them, even while riding along at a nice pace.
At 30 miles into the ride, we hit our first “hidden” control. The first published control wasn’t until mile 60 but it was nice to get a bit of a break here. We had our Brevet cards signed and a chance to refill our water bottles. This was also a good chance to see who was in our group. I introduced myself to one woman I didn’t know and she said she wasn’t riding with us. She lived nearby and just wanted to cheer on the riders with one of her friends. I thought that was really cool. I did get to meet others. At this point, there were 10 riders in our group. I met 3 of the others during the 200km so I felt like I already kind of knew them. Very cool.
Soon, we were on our way again. I was surprised at our pace, still hovering around 18mph. This was faster than our pace during the 200km so I wasn’t so sure this was manageable for the whole ride. It was a flat route though so I was willing to give it a go. Around 40 miles in, one of our group had a blowout. Amazing really. He was the last in our peloton of 10. How is it possible 9 riders passed by unscathed and the last rider in the group hit the debris?!
After our little break, we got going again. I was still amazed at how rural our route was. Very little traffic and almost nothing else. Not long after our restart, we passed 2 large birds that I didn’t expect to see … even in Florida. We saw 2 ostriches right up by the road. They looked at us with a curiosity that said we were the oddity. On second thought, maybe they were right. At 50 miles, we were only 20 miles or so from Orlando. You’d never know it based on our surroundings. Very cool.
We continued our ride north to the first, published control at 60 miles. This was a nice little, very old fashioned convenience store. The clerks were armed with a stamp and willingness to sign, stamp and not the time on our Brevet cards. Just to be sure, we also each made a purchase so that we would have a receipt to turn in with our cards. They also didn’t mind our using their restroom. I love how the people working in these stores just take this little blitz in stride. Very cool. It’s also worth noting here that my knee discomfort was gone. My knees felt perfectly fine. Odd how these things work.
A little confusion as we set out again but we quickly got our bearings. For the first time on the ride, traffic was actually getting a little heavy. Road construction didn’t make things any easier. We had a very narrow shoulder to use with many areas of debris. Fortunately, the drivers were very respectful as they passed us. I think riding in a group helped a lot. It wasn’t long before we were through this area and onto our next official control. This was a post card control where we had to take a post card given to us at the start, sign and time it before dropping it in the mail. No one was there and there were no services to be had. That was okay though since we had stopped less than 25 miles earlier.
Once again, it was a little tricky getting out of town on the right route. We did manage though. We were finally heading east and a little north to our next control, 30 miles away. Very quickly the traffic disappeared and we were back to nature. This stretch took us through the Hickory Bluff Nature Preserve. Beautifully paved roads took us through some beautiful Florida wilderness. An osprey passed about 20 feet overhead with his fresh catch of the day. I love seeing them so close. There were many other birds, most unknown to me. There were lots of ponds, a lake and lots of streams and wetlands too. One unexpected sight was a secure radar installation in support of Cape Canaveral. It seemed very much out of place here but there it was.
The traffic was so light that we were able to ride in 2 columns. It was great to be able to talk to the others as we pedaled along. Out of nowhere, an eagle passed overhead. I couldn’t tell you what kind of eagle though. I really need to study up on this stuff a little more. We passed under route 95, a major north/south highway running along the entire east coast of the United States. Even here, not much of anything to see. There was no exit off the highway so there were no stores, gas stations, etc. around. Just a whole bunch of nature. Nice!
We finally hit our furthest point north on this route and our next control. 110 miles in and the day had turned into a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low 80’s. This was an info control so there was nothing here except a RUSA sign with some stickers. We had to take a sticker and place it in the appropriate place in our Brevet card and write down the time. Just a very quick stop since we had lunch waiting for us only 5 miles up the road.
We pulled into the next control where they had a great lunch waiting. Lentil soup and/or turkey soup. I thought it was an odd choice but I’m here to tell you, the turkey soup was fantastic and really hit the spot! Plenty of other great stuff to offer too. A bit of an extended stop here to enjoy all the goodies. We were in a park with picnic tables, shade, restrooms, etc. There was a lot of activity there other than us. I love seeing people taking advantage of public spaces like this.
It had warmed up and cleared up enough by now that most of us removed our reflective vests and in my case, I took off my sleeves preferring the short sleeves of my jersey. It was comfortably warm and not really hot. There was a nice ocean breeze so it helped keep the temps very comfortable. We took off and my speedometer/odometer stopped working. Ugh! It was frustrating not knowing how far we had to the next turn or landmark. I still had my Strava application running on my iPhone, but that was in my pocket and not all that accessible while riding. Oh well. That’s what these Brevets are all about. Putting up with whatever the ride throws at you.
As we were approaching the Canaveral National Seashore, another flat for one of our riders. What bad luck. The same guy that had the blowout earlier had a flat. We pulled off so that he could deal with the issue. This time, his tired was shredded pretty good. It might have survived the rest of the trip but one of the guys in the group had a spare tire. He gave it to the cyclist in need so we all felt a lot better about the remainder of the ride. I spent most of the time trying to get my speedometer going. No luck. I did discover that what I thought was telling me was a full battery was probably telling me it was a dead battery. Oh well. That’s the way it is.
We got back on the road and continued our ride heading south along the water. What a beautiful place to ride. Riding along the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on one side and the Canaveral National Seashore on the other was such a treat. Beautifully paved roads, little traffic and lovely scenery. We were riding alongside Mosquito Lagoon, the namesake of this ride. Very cool. Soon we were heading over the causeway taking us into Titusville.
140 miles into the ride, I decided this was a great time to test out my legs. I decided to ride hard to the top of the causeway. I had 2 reasons for this. First, I wanted to test my legs. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, I had to stand as much as possible. All last week, I had some terrible discomfort where I meet the saddle. It wasn’t just sore, it was really uncomfortable from the moment I started a ride through the end. Not a great way to start a 300km ride but it’s what I had to work with. At this point, the discomfort was getting almost unbearable. I was standing a lot. I would stand, coast, pedal while standing, etc. Anything to try to feel better. When I would sit down again, I was very careful to try to find a comfortable way to sit down. It wasn’t really working. Ugh.
The ride up the bridge was easy. I got to the top and coasted down. This gave me the opportunity to stand all the way down the bridge. Heaven on earth! The last 45 miles might be tough. 20 more miles to the next control. On we rode. We were riding through some beautiful areas with nice homes, nice neighborhoods and nice views. Since we weren’t on the main roads, we didn’t have much traffic either. Oddly, my speedometer began working again. I was able to figure out how many miles I missed so now I could track where we were on the cue sheet a lot easier. That helped a lot. Our pace had slowed significantly as a couple of our riders were struggling. They were hanging in there but clearly it was not so much fun for them at this point. I decided this was a great opportunity to lend a little moral support. I spent a little time next to each of them encouraging them and letting them know how great they were doing. I think the biggest support I gave them was just a little distraction from watching the miles go by. It helped me too. They were doing great, really.
We approached our next causeway. Several miles before we were there, lots of complaints about the “hill”. I tried to get everyone thinking positively about this. “Just think about how much fun the downhill will be”. “Just grab onto my wheel” and anything else I could think of that I thought might help.
We hit the causeway and the pace dropped to next to nothing. I jumped into the lead and rode up the hill with ease. I really wasn’t pushing at all. I was pretty happy about how strong my legs felt. (My bum on the other hand was another story.) After cresting the top of the bridge, I coasted down the other side. I let my momentum take me to the left turn where I stopped to wait for the others. As I turned around, I saw the next rider just cresting the top of the bridge. I guess my legs still remember a little bit about riding those Vermont hills. Side note: I was by far the strongest rider on the hills in our group. In Vermont, I am almost always the weakest climbing. Funny how that works. 
After most of our group got to the bottom, we crossed the road and waited for the last few riders before pulling into the next (and last) control. They were nowhere to be seen. Hmmm. I decided to ride back up to make sure they were okay. Just as I started to cross the highway again, I saw the 3 missing riders coming. One of the riders struggling earlier had a really tough time climbing. She was fine, just slow. I was glad for her sake that we had a control to give all of us some rest.
160.5 miles done. Except for my bum, I was feeling pretty good. We took care of business getting out cards signed and stamped. I bought more to drink and used the rest room. We took a little bit of a break here waiting for the struggling riders to let us know when they were ready to ride. My feet were starting to feel like they were getting cramps but not bad. In hind sight, I should have taken off my shoes and readjusted them. My feet were swollen some which is what I think was causing the problem. My toes were also a bit sore, as if my shoes were a bit too small. Again, I think a little time with my shoes off would have helped.
It was getting dark again so I donned my sleeves and reflective vest and got my lights going. Ready to go, we were soon on our way. We had an incredible view of Cape Canaveral. We could clearly see the NASA buildings and the launch pad from our spot across the water. What a great place this would be to watch a launch. Too bad they aren’t doing that here anymore.
It was pretty dark now but we all had good lights and we were traveling in a group. Most drivers were very respectful of our space and we had no real issues as the miles passed by. One more causeway to cross and then the last couple of winding miles home. Easy peasy. We got back to the hotel and checked in for our final control. 300km done! In fact, I logged 191 miles for this ride. By far, my longest ride to date.
Very wet fog, warm sunshine and cool evening darkness. What a fantastic day. What a fantastic group of people to ride with. What an incredible day for a ride.

I thanked everyone and made sure they knew what a great event this was. I said my goodbyes to our close knit group of riders and returned to my car for the 4 hour ride home. I got home at 1:00am. I took a quick shower and checked out my tender bum. (More on that below.) I then did my standard core workout. Only 12 minutes but very possibly, much tougher than the ride! In order to keep a streak going, you are going to have days like this. It was really tough, but I got it done.
SPOILER ALERT: I apologize if this is too much information. Feel free to stop reading here.
I discovered that I was bleeding where I had the discomfort. Upon closer examination, I had an open wound about an inch long that was incredibly sore and tender to the touch. For that matter, it was just plain tender. It’s no wonder I was having some difficulty on the ride.
I know the best thing to do would be to stop riding. I hope to avoid that with shorter rides and Neosporin. My ride on Sunday was very difficult. I think I spent more time standing on this ride than I did sitting. We’ll see how that goes.

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