Wednesday, March 21, 2012

George Dickel 200k - Nashville, Tennesee - A Fixed Gear Personal Best!

 Once again I find myself passing through the famous Music City.  As luck would have it there happened to be a 200k and 300k brevet scheduled which fit nicely with my travel plans.  I hadn't been on an actual brevet since last November when I rode the Turkey Trot 200k with this same group. All my rides since then where 100k-200k permanents. Twenty-five of them to be exact.

There was a nice turnout with close to 30 riders waiting for the start at the Brentwood YMCA.  Only two riders were there for the 200k, myself included. I had ridden the 3.5 miles from the hotel to the start in the darkness. It was a warm humid morning, almost 60 degrees at 6am.  The forecast called for a high temperature in the 80's with a strong chance of thunder showers for the afternoon and evening.  I was hoping to make good time on my fixed gear and avoid the worst of the wet stuff.  As I listened to the RBA give pre-ride instructions it occurred to me that the 300k riders might not be able to hold out that same hope.
One of numerous moderate grades on the route
We were given the signal to start right at 7am.  Both rides start together and share the same route for the first and last 100k.  The Nashville group likes to go out fast from the start.  Which is contrary to my preference.  I watch the majority of the group quickly gap me as they head out.  There is some moderate climbing, but not much.  I warm into the ride and begin picking up speed.  After about ten miles I start passing riders, some in small groups.  The first control, a grocery in College Grove, is at 20 miles. This comes up quickly. There are about eight riders there including the RBA Jeff Sammons.  Needing nothing I manage a five minute stop and leave the control with Jeff and three other riders.  They are all on the 300k.  We ride together and chat for a few miles. They maintain a relaxed pace which is reasonable for the early stages of a 300k.  I start to lose them off the back on some of the upgrades until finally they are out of sight.  The sun makes a strong appearance with the temperature rapidly heating up.  The wind is a very light cross to tail.  I am managing a nice pace rolling at 18 to 20 mph on the flatter sections.  I don't encounter any other riders to the next control at mile 48 in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.  As I prepare to depart a few pull in.  I leave alone after a total stop of ten minutes.
Plenty of farms around
The largest rolling hills of the day present themselves on this section.  State Road 269 is a five-mile stretch with some rolling hills.  The road surface is smooth with light traffic and the effort feels good to me.  A similar long stretch follows on Bugscuff and Cortner Roads.  After which, I negotiate my way to Cascade Hollow, Tennessee, where the George Dickel Distillery is located,  The Visitor's Center of the whiskey manufacturer is the half-way control of the 200k  It is a quaint storefront where guided tours of the facility start and end.  I arrive in time to see a small group tagging along behind a guide. Despite the temptation to join in, I manage a 10 minute stop and am on the return. 
The Visitors Center of Geroge A. Dickel Distillery
Retracing the route I pass by riders headed outbound on the 300k.  It occurs to me that I have a chance at finishing the brevet in under nine hours.  This has appeal as it would represent my fastest fixed gear result.  To make it happen I just need to keep moving.  I vow to keep the control stops to the bare minimum.  The only part beyond my control is the weather.  If the forecast is accurate thunder showers are likely.  How much that may slow me down remains to be seen.  In the meantime, I'm working the rolling hills section hard.  I come across two outbound riders at the top of the hill.  I assume they are the last ones.  I'm not aware of the location of the single other 200k rider.  I assume he is behind me as I did not see anyone coming back on my way to the turnaround. I expect I will ride solo to the finish.  The control in Bell Buckle is quickly reached.  Needing only a water bottle refill I keep the stop to less than ten minutes.  There is only one control left before the finish.  The skies begin to darken as threatening clouds roll in.  I see a few lightning flashes off in the distance.  Soon thereafter a brief shower douses me.  The temperature remains warm so I leave my rain jacket in the pack.  This section is the most complex to navigate with lots of turns, many unmarked. Thanks to well detailed directions from the organizer, and the Electronic Cue Sheet device that I've been testing (see epilogue) I arrive at the control in College Grove without error.
An unknown rider on the 300k wearing a PBP jersey
In less than ten minutes I am rolling again.  Twenty miles to go with a thunder shower or two along the way. I'm on target for the sub nine hour finish, as long as nothing goes wrong.  The rolling terrain is handled aggressively with me pushing  my 70 inch gear on both sides of the hills. The traffic is heavier as I near the Nashville suburb of Brentwood.  A myriad of turns gives the ECS unit a hardy trial, for which it performed flawlessly.  The final two miles is on a bike path that connects to the parking area of the YMCA.  I fly along the wet paths and pop out at the back of the parking area. I sprint to the front entrance to get my brevet card verified.  This is done quickly by the two ladies working the desk.  My official time is 8 hours and 54 minutes.  A fixed gear personal best, done all on my own.

The Electronic Cue Sheet by Rick Lentz
I must confess to having a little technological help on my first brevet of the season.  I used the Electronic Cue Sheet designed and built by fellow NJ Randonneur Rick Lentz.  I was asked to test out the unit to help Rick determine its readiness to be marketed to randos everywhere.  I am somewhat technically challenged and have until now limited my electronic accessories to a basic Cat Eye computer.  Following the directions I was capable of downloading a route into the unit and displaying the cues throughout the ride.  It functioned great, and, no doubt saved me some amount of time.  At no point did I have to stop to flip cue sheet pages.  Also, I did not have to continually search down the page for the next cue causing me to slow in the process.  The scrolling feature of the ECS allows one to continually keep the next cue at the top of the screen.  I made no navigational errors on a route that was totally new to me.  That was a big plus.  I'll continue testing the unit on other rides, but so far I'm impressed with it. 

The winter of 2012 has been all fixie.  While I find it takes a bit more of a physical toll on me I've been able to keep the same pace with last years mileage totals. At which point I will finally give this bike a rest is uncertain.  I will likely continue through the early spring rides and evaluate my feelings after that. It is not beyond the realm of possibility to stay fixed for the entire season. 

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