Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Riding in Florida - Part IV - Central Florida 300k - Melbourne

One of the many Causeway bridges we would encounter
Saturday morning at 5:00am a group of over 30 riders, gathered under the Lexington Hotel canopy, await the go signal from Central Florida RBA, Tim Bol.  It is 50 degrees, chilly by local standards, and there is a brisk wind from the north.  No surprise that we would head mostly into the wind for the first 116 miles.  The primary rule in scheduling a brevet is to try for a rainy day.  When this is not possible a windy day is the second choice. 

At the stroke of 5:00am we are off navigating our way to the causeway which leads us off the island.  The causeway, which is considered a climb in these parts, serves to break up the group considerably.  I'm riding with Katie, also from the New Jersey Randonneurs.  We settle into a rhythm with me taking the front position through the wind.  We are at or near the waters edge, which is void of wind block.  We quickly pick up one rider, a local named David.  Soon after a recumbent falls into step with us. The recumbent rider, Greg from South Florida, tells us he is not used to these cool temperatures. I continue to pull our small group through persistent headwinds to the first control, a Shell Station on State Route 50, forty miles north of the start.

David, a Florida resident, spent most of the ride with us
After a brief stop to refresh water and Perpetuem three of us depart together.  Greg on the recumbent got out a few minutes ahead.  I continue to take the lead and before long we are reeling Greg back in.  He drops onto the back of the line.  The difficulty factor is compounded by what is a gradual elevation gain.  We are on very slight inclines for much of the first 75 miles.  The combination of the gaining elevation into the wind makes the going a little slow.  Rarely am I seeing my speed over 14 miles per hour.  It's really starting to look like we are in for a long day.  Katie is adhering to specific heart rate guidelines.  Occasionally, she asks me to back off a bit so as not to exceed the target zone.  Despite everything we are grinding out the miles and staying well ahead of the control closing times.  We arrive with time to spare at the next control, a Kangaroo store on SR 46, at mile 76.
Back on the road in short order we continue our trek into the wind until mile 82.  We then turn onto Florida Avenue which puts the wind on our left side.  The cue sheet has us on this same road for the next 22 miles.  The beauty of that is the road is wooded on both sides providing the first shelter from the wind we've had so far.  Our speed picks up a bit and we come across another local rider named Bruce.  He joins us explaining that he's not having much fun.  He wants to drop out having already called for a ride.  No one was available to pick him up so for lack of anything else to do he continued to pedal his bike.  He is hoping he can catch a ride from the next control at mile 116.   Finally, the 22 mile long road ends at US 1, where we are directed to turn left.  Which is directly into the wind for 8 more miles.  It's another grind for the rest of the way to the control.  We finally arrive seeing an RUSA banner at a very pleasant looking park along the river.  The volunteers have food set up for us.  It's cool and windy,  but mild enough to enjoy sitting on picnic tables while we refuel and chat.  We take a bit of time at this control since we will be spending most of the remaining miles with the wind in our favor.  When it's time to depart Bruce decides to continue.  His mood has brightened considerably.  He is optimistic about his chances for completing the ride. 
Bruce, considered abandoning for a time, then soldiered on to the finish
Katie, David and Bruce in the Wild Life Preservation
David and Bruce, same location.  I never did get a photo of Greg on the recumbent as he wasn't with us during favorable winds when I had the energy and desire to take pics.
Four of us depart together with Greg again having gotten out of the control ahead of us.  The cue sheet directs us on a little loop around the town of New Smyrna before we head back to the south in the direction of the finish.  Once pointed south we immediately feel the relief of the wind pushing us.  The remaining miles should be considerably easier.   We are on Route 1, going south this time, for a 10 mile stretch.  Our speed is significantly higher than in the opposite direction.  After some initial  confusion as to where to turn off the highway we locate Kennedy Parkway entering the wild life preservation.  The area is quite open and the wind is still our friend.  Quicker than I could have imagined we are out of the preservation and negotiating suburban roads to Veteran's Memorial Park, where our penultimate control awaits, at mile 156.   Upon arrival we are once again offered food from the volunteer, whom we saw at an earlier control as well.   We refresh ourselves and ready our night riding gear.  We will be finishing under darkness.
Katie at the control prior to the finsh.  Poised and ready to set her best time at 300k
The four of us leave together for the final 37 miles to the finish.  Greg on the recumbent was still in front having made it in and out of the control before we arrived.   I take the lead and start by inching the pace up a bit higher than what we've been averaging.  Katie has an excellent shot at a PR for the 300k distance.  I'm hoping to help by keeping us moving briskly right to the finish. We work our way to US 1 continuing south for an 11 mile stretch.  This passes quickly and are directed to cross over a bridge span. David and Bruce fall back on the overpass. We pedal easy waiting for them to catch up, but it doesn't happen. I suggest to Katie that we simply continue without them. With only17 miles left they should be able to make it in on their own.  She reluctantly agrees.  I quickly up the pace with Katie hanging right on my rear wheel.  With full darkness on us it feels like we are flying.  I'm busy scanning the road for obstacles, as there are a lot of tree branches lying around due to the breezy day.  Katie spots it before me, pointing out the blinking tail light far ahead in the distance.  It has to be Greg on the recumbent.  Anyone who knows me is aware that nothing motivates me like a good chase.  A chance to catch someone in the final few miles before the finish rates far above a good chase.  It is a primo, numero uno, gift from the heavens.  I'm determined to catch up to that tail light.  I jack up our speed a bit hoping that Katie has decided to ignore her heart rate guidelines for these last miles.  It takes a little while before I can say with any certainty that we are gaining ground.  After a bit longer we are close enough to determine that it is the bent.  When we finally pull alongside I see it is indeed Greg piloting the Bachetta.  As we pull past I can hear him shift up a cog to tag on the back.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work out.  Bents don't sprint very well.  I see his headlight falling away.  We keep the pace for the last few miles and we are in.  Katie can indeed celebrate a new PR. 

Upon surrendering our brevet cards to Tim, the RBA, he tells us our time is 14 hours 32 minutes.  I realized that I'd done the math wrong in my head and Katie's PR is actually an hour faster than we thought.  Shattering her prior best time by hours.  She is pretty ecstatic with the result. 

Soon after Greg arrives on the recumbent.  And some time later David and Bruce find there way in.  David has finished his first 300k.  As for Bruce he is quite pleased to have finished at all since he had mentally thrown in the towel over eighty miles back.


With the conclusion of this ride so ends my Florida adventure.  The riding here has been great.  While the weather was spotty with a fair amount rain and wind it was far better than what was going on in New Jersey.  The brevet and permanent routes were scenic, interesting and challenging in ways that are unique to the region.  And, perhaps most importantly the local riders, RBA's and route owners were friendly and helpful in every instance.  I'm pleased to report that Randonneuring is alive and well in Florida.  

I will pack up and head home in the morning.  I'm looking forward to some much needed rest.  In reviewing the trip I logged a total of 638 miles in less than two weeks.  Of that 900km were added to my RUSA total.  This represents a dramatic increase over this time last year.  I set my annual RUSA kilometer goal to 10,000k for 2011.  I have a good leg up on it with over 1300k in the bank before our season even begins back home. 

While I get some enjoyment from the mile/km counting the real upside is I got to spend a good amount of time sharing the road with friends from home, and new found friends far from home.  What can be better than that.  
Boo Ya!

1 comment:

  1. Joe, once again, a great write up. You certainly have not given yourself enough credit for pulling the merry band of rando's along in a soul destroying headwind for the first 110 miles. I know I blamed my "heartrate guidelines" for asking you to slow down but truthfully, it was self preservation. I thought I was going to die trying to keep up. The headwind was so, so strong once the tinest gap opened up I was sucked off the back. You are a great wheel, thanks for the pull and the PR! and we really did turn up the heat in the home stretch. :)