Friday, February 11, 2011

Riding in Florida - Gainesville 300k

Our group rides through the Florida version of our Pine Barrens
The sheer drudgery of this winter in the north east had me yearning for a change of scenery.  The view of piled snow in every direction was simply too much to bear for the remaining weeks until spring.  I needed a break from it.  After much planning I departed for points south.  My initial destination was Gainsville, Florida to partake in a 300k brevet.  My friend Paul would join me for the ride and stay on a couple of days for some additional riding which I'll detail later on. 

We arrived a full day in advance.  We utilized the time by organizing our gear and getting out for a 40 mile warm up ride.  We enjoyed temperatures in the 60's, which may be cool by local standards, but felt incredibly warm to us.  The pre-ride loosened me up and helped me get a decent nights sleep for the big ride the next day.  My longest of 2011.

Saturday morning at 5am sharp the 300k started from the University of Florida Parking Deck.  The temperature was in the upper 50's with light wind and no precipation.  The route winds it's way through the rather sizeable city limits of Gainesville for the first twenty miles then becomes incredible rural.  At times absolutely devoid of human inhabitants.  The terrain would be best described as flat.  There was pleasant scenery in what was similar to the New Jersey Pine Barrens region.  We would also traverse through areas with orchards and horse farms.  Vehicle traffic was mostly light to non-existant.

We fell in with a group right from the start which included a Florida native and aquantance of Paul named Paul R.  He is a very solid fixed gear rider and is known for taking huge turns at the front of pace lines making him a popular riding companion.  Fortunately, I felt good enough to offer Paul R some significant relief at the front.  We mostly shared the duties of pulling an ever increasing group of riders around the course.  There was some head wind to work through, but mostly we were fortunate enough to have the wind in the favor our direction of travel. 

At the Gulf Hammock Post Office: left to right - Paul R, Paul S, Dave B 
As for other weather factors the forecast predicted a high probability of precipatation.  It would prove to be correct as rain began falling shortly after daylight.  We would have periods of rain, sometimes hard driving rain, for the morning and early afternoon hours.  After which it dried out nicely and warmed to a comfortable mid-sixties.  Our group, which originally was four riders swelled to about a dozen by the 200k point, which we hit at 9.5 hours.  With winds mostly in our favor it was looking like we would finish with a respectable time.

Paul S and Dave B at the Orange Springs Post Office control
In the later part of the ride we got some additional help at the front from riders who joined us along the way.  Tim from southern Florida took some hearty turns at the front.  Many of the group simply did not have the energy reserves to contribute and wisely chose to sit in.  They were all welcome as the mood was very friendly.  Everyone appeared to be enjoying the experience.  The few of us that could help further the cause took pleasure in doing so.

We approached the outskirts of Gainesville not long after darkness fell, picking up another rider or two.  As we would blow by they would jump on the back for the final miles.  The philosphy was the more the merrier and newcomers were welcome.  We pulled into the finish just after 7pm for a time of 14hrs 11min which represented a new PR for me, and Paul, at the distance.

My friend Paul cruising to a personal record 300k
While downing a plate of blueberry pancakes at the Gainesville I-Hop I reflected on our succesful ride.  Both Paul and I were pleased with our decision to have come here.  In addition to posting a PR I widened my circle of Randonneuring friends.  Meeting and riding with veterans like Paul R and Dave B from Ohio was very worthwhile. 

My next stop on the Florida tour is Tampa to undertake the Giro d' Blanton 100k permanent.  The route owner, none other then Paul R, billed the ride as one of the hillier Florida offerings.  New Jersey Paul would travel along to Tampa to join me on the ride, which was scheduled for Monday.

Stay tuned!  

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