Newsletter - 2000 Archive

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From the Ashes of a 1/3x1200

Ian Stephen


So, my first attempt at a 1200km and I fizzled out like a cheap, soggy novelty on a rainy halloween. These are the sort of rides from which we are obligated to take lessons so that they aren't a complete loss, right? Not that I have any lessons of value to pass on to the other participants in this year's RM1200. To them I can only offer a bit of explanation to answer the quizzical looks I got as I headed back to Tete Jaune Cache from Moose Lake. The problem was my left knee. It was giving me that old "trying to do too much after having done too little for too long" feeling. I've ignored that twice in the past and paid for it. This time I got it right! It's Saturday now and I'm confident that the knee is going to be fine. Sincere apologies if I caused anybody any anxiety by suddenly appearing in a B.C. Randonneur jacket going the opposite direction. I should have removed the jacket so that the club colours wouldn't be seen retreating.

Now, what lessons can I pull from the ashes of dismal failure and offer up that future first-timers might avoid the same errors?
1. One can often drag one's sorry self through the "little" brevets on stubbornness, but there comes a point where real fitness is required. Reading a sport psychology book before an event, however good the book might be, is no substitute for lots of kilometers.
2. Having booked time off work for the event, then gathering excuses instead of kilometers in the weeks (months!) preceding the event, there came a time when I knew the odds were against finishing. I could have had a much more positive experience had I volunteered instead of entering the event. That's what I'll do next time if I'm not confident of finishing. Harold told me that Karen Smith both volunteered and entered! Wow!
3. If you do gather excuses before an event like this, write them down, date them and take them along. Sitting dazed and despondent at the shore of Moose Lake I found that I couldn't recall most of the excuses. If I'd had them along I could have at least reviewed them. Speaking of reviewing things, if you keep a training diary (I expect most of us do) on't just write in it, read it once in a while to see just how much you might be slacking.
4. At registration and bike check, bring ALL the mandatory equipment (ie reflective clothing) or you will be forced to throw yourself upon the mercy of the bike checker. Thanks Harold. Also DON'T SET YOUR CONTROL CARD DOWN! Not ever. Not even for a moment.
5. Remember that the control card needs to be signed at the start too. It might be expected that I'd know that last point by now, but I usually arrive at starts as or after the other riders leave (see 6.) and scramble through in a tense rush. I guess I haven't had to think about it before. Thanks Danelle and all the volunteers at all the starts where I haven't had to think.
6. Arrive early! This also gives you time to check over your equipment before you go.
7. At no time should you be cranking away at a barrel adjuster and saying "shift you *@#&!" while the chain goes "click-click-click-click..." This is a sign that something else is wrong. Perhaps the quick-release that should have been checked at the start is open. (see 6.)

Having called it quits, I looked at my map and decided that Tete Jaune Cache looked like an easier place to get home from than Jasper. At Tete Jaune I had the pleasure of Harold and Mack's company for dinner, one of the highlights of my adventure. It may not have been apparent in my semi-catatonic state, but good company did lots to improve my mood. Thanks gentlemen. Later I put to the test an idea that I read somewhere. After a hot bath for me, I washed shorts, jersey, socks, jacket and pants in the sink, rung them out, then rolled each up in a towel and squeezed before hanging them up. Sure enough even the heavier garments were dry by morning. The roll-up-in-a-towel thing works great!

Friday morning I bicycle-limped back to Valemount at a sad 15-20 kph. Got some inspiration at the sign honouring Terry Fox. In Valemount I learned several things.
a) Greyhound does carry bikes, but the bike must be boxed. (Actually Harold had told me as much the evening before.)
b) Sporting goods stores, even in a town of 1300, may have a cardboard bike box that you can have for free as it would just go in the garbage anyway. Thanks Valemount Sporting & Clothing.
c) With the bus soon to leave, it is possible to undo cables and remove handlebars, saddle, wheels, fender, pedals and rear derailleur and stuff it all in a box in under half an hour armed only with a Topeak "Power 21" tool. I wouldn't recommend it though.

That was about it for my adventure. The Greyhound was comfy...actually a couple more things I learned. People on Greyhounds will place objects in the seat beside them so it appears that the seat is occupied at stops. One must be a little assertive to find a seat on a half empty bus! Also, reading a newspaper on the bus passes the time, but wounds the spirit. My antidote for all that bad news was to remember some of the people I've met on this ride and rides past. I wonder if other sports attract as fine a bunch of people as randonneuring does?

Sincere thanks to Danelle and all who helped make this event possible. I had a great time in spite of things not going quite to plan. I look forward to reading the stories of riders who completed the 1200 and maybe some tips on what they did right!