Tuesday, May 26, 2009
ROMA 600K / May 23-24, 2009
Yeah, I know. It sounds like a dumb idea. Put a brand new saddle on the bike the day before a 600K. But I figured I could put up with anything for a measly 380 miles.
One hundred miles into the ride, I begin questioning my judgment. The saddle feels squishy, like bags of warm jam. It's hitting my sit bones in all the wrong places. I begin calculating how many miles I can ride standing up.
Fast forward to day two, mile 325, and I'm having a fine time with the crew of Branson, Jimmy, Carol and Paul. We're flying along the course, aided by a healthy tailwind. I realize I've pretty much forgotten about the seat. That's about the best you can ask for.
Now for the interesting part. Two other riders on Saturday's 600K were also testing out new saddles. It's fool-hardiness to attempt a ride like this on an untested seat, but a testament to the character of your typical randonneur. After seeing someone ride 200 miles with a broken crank arm and a shoe duct-taped to the pedal, it seems bad form to whine about a saddle sore.
What a great two days on the bike. A big contingent from North Carolina -- me, Branson, Dr. John, Jimmy and Will -- showed up for the ROMA 600K, which launched from Middletown and snaked its way down to Roanoke through the spectacular Shenandoah Valley. Also along for the ride were Paul and Carol, our ride mates from the 400K of two weekends previous, Jon from Virginia Beach and Phil from South Carolina. ROMA RBA Matt Settle also rode the course.
Several of the riders on last weekend's 600K are also signed up for the Shenandoah 1200K, and our route gave them a sneak preview by following many of same roads. It's a challenging course, with plenty of hills, but with natural beauty and quiet back roads by the bucketful. If you're planning the Shenandoah 1200, I have one word for you: patience. You'll likely spend more time on the course than you'd planned. Adjust your expectations and all will be fine.
Okay, ride details. Highlights: the drive up in the church van, where the talk was bikesbikesbikes, the roadside hot dog stand above Maury River, the quick glimpse of truck stop neon at 3 a.m., which meant we were only three miles from our sleep stop, a rock slide that closed the road near Deerfield, Patsy and the chicken salad sandwiches at the ride's end, the truck stop breakfast, the long climb up Fort Valley and the steep descent into a torrential rainstorm, a plate of baked beans at a volunteer fire station, the views from the valley floor of mountains on all four sides, an orchestrated laugh by two locals as we waited out the rainstorm, the long, long downhill roll into Buchanan, catching Matt at the Burger King, trying to find my legs any time Fast Will got on the front, the scent in the air as the roadside flowers closed up shop at dusk. And the company along the way that kept me rolling through the good times and the many low points. Some of those were along rivers.
A footnote: For several of us, the 600K completed our Super Randonneur series for 2009. For Dr. John, it was the completion of his second SR of the year. A big congratulations to him.