The 400k…

The 400k, brought to you by Alan Johnson and friends.

Saturday May 8th

The ride

Here is a link to the route I rode

I noticed a tickle in my throat on Thursday (a couple days before the ride), that awkward head feeling that comes with being sick set in shortly after. I already had Friday scheduled off so no biggie there. The day was spent, planting peppers, changing tires, packing, and resting. I was ready to go.

Saturday morning I woke up with a fever (just 100 degrees), but I was pumped. I ate breakfast, threw on the pannier and saddled up around 5:00am. The ride to Morrisville was windy, head windy :-). My body was sweating profusely, "I'll teach that fucking bug" I thought, and pressed on.

It is always nice seeing the folks at the beginning of these events, and this time was no exception. It must be the exercise endorphins or something; randonneurs are a happy bunch! We set off at 6:00am, and I decided I would stick with the peloton this time -oh oh, I saw the always smiling John Pertalion as we pedaled off, he was arriving late. The draft was wonderful, and the company was great. I quietly fell off the back just as we got on Jack Bennett, with the distance, heavy headwind, and my morning fever I was not going to push it. I usually fall off before Chicken Bridge anyway.

I had been adjusting my saddle height all week, and I felt it was a bit too high… -not too high, I made that mistake before and I won't do that again- so I stopped at the abandoned gas station on NC-87 and lowered the leather a bit. Just as I was done adjusting the height I noticed a group pull up, John (??), Byron Morton, and John Pertalion were in the bunch. Byron, being the expert mechanic, thought I might need some help but I was in good shape. Back on the Miyata I joined John P. down Castle Rock, he recalled us paring up on the same road last time. I mentioned being slightly under the weather and nervous about pushing myself on such a long ride, but being the swell guy he is, John rode with me :-D! He pulls like a beast.

We rode into the first control and met up with Byron, John (??), and Martin I believe. I noticed that almost a whole Camelback of liquids had come out in sweat… I was only able to urinate a drop. I was just a bit worried, and the news that Super Randonneur can be obtained with out-of-sequence rides now these days made me think twice -just for a bit- about another 350k of riding. I decided if I had come 50k what the hell, press on.

On Siler City - Snow Camp Road my fever broke and I started feeling great. I was able to pick up the pace, and enjoy the sunshine. Through Siler, past the long steady hills of Old Coleridge, with a stop at the store on Erect Rd. and Fork Creek Mill Rd. we rode on. John P. and I would meet Byron and John at the stops.

We were in Seagrove at 2pm I think -I don't recall the exact time. It was strange yet exhilarating thinking we were about to put more distance between ourselves and home. Ate lunch, took a break, then haul.

The terrain changes quick it is/was beautiful and hilly. On Old Troy John P. told me he would catch up with me ahead, he stopped for a bit. I rode through the hills. Ether, Bandy, and Abner Rd. were wonderful. There were farm animals and smiling waving folks on tractors. Entering Uwharrie National Forest was a treat. Flint Hill Rd. is one of those scenic byways with hills that some cars would stress when climbing. Just before the steepest valley/peak I saw Mike Dayton, Lin O., and someone passing by… "HOWS THE TAIL WIND?!??" I yelled. Something along the lines of "It's great" was yelled back. Good times!

There was a steep decent (way fast), and then a huge climb. No triple, and Campag doubles apparently don't go very low, it was tug tug tug up the hill. Gilbert's suggested cassette really helped here; a few extra teeth were necessary. Turn after turn of the chain-ring yanked along panniers, gear, steel, and my heavy ass. I felt great when I hit the top… I like to conquer shorter, extreme hills. Flint Hill Rd. was great!

Coming off of the NC scenic byway the hills became long and rolling. There was a church with a large yard, and a group of folks smiled and waved as I passed by. I imagined that they knew where I had come from (Flint Hill) and understood the accomplishment. I think John P. caught me on Ophir Rd. (gaining time in those hills is nucking futz) and we ran into Byron shortly there after. Byron was having stomach issues and I was happy to offer him a Tums. Shortly up the road we met John, he was stopped with a cleat issue (missing a bolt). We rode on as a loose knit group on our way to the control. Making it to the turn around was a great feeling. Slushies and tonic water mmmmhhm. It was 5pm and I was happy with the time I was making.

We took off without Byron, he was white as a ghost at the control and looked nauseous. There was certainly some comfort lost knowing he would not be riding with us, he is a swell guy and should something go wrong on my machine I was sure he could help me fix it up in a jiffy. I told the Johns to scoot on ahead if necessary… they seemed to be riding at a matched pace which was more than I was able to do at the moment, but we stuck together for a bit.

The big climb on Flint Hill became a big descent on the way out, on the way down I sped so fast I felt the bike start to wiggle underneath me. "Put your knees on the frame" John said, he was right behind me and I could imagine having such a position was a little nerve racking. I freaked just enough to brake hard, no big deal but the steepest climb of the day was ahead and I just scrubbed momentum. The hill did not show me, I showed it. It felt great pushing up the beast… the steepest grade is now gone. There were plenty of long and slow ones left though.

The Johns pulled a head a mile or so later. "See ya at the controls" I said. The return trip to Seagrove was brilliant, riding through hills in a cooling (but not cold) sunset I was at peace. I did not mind riding solo (I never do), my mind would focus and zone out at the same time. I slowed my pace a little for the long haul, each ride this season is a personal best (in distance) for me, thus I did not want to over do anything.

In Seagrove I ate dinner with the Johns, talked to Byron and Maria, took a bathroom break, suited up with a long sleeve RUSA jersey, turned on lights and got on the road into the darkness. Panic set in as I was heading out. I stopped and triple checked for my control card, losing this would be terrible and I was a little OC about it (it was not lost). The Johns were stopped up the road a bit putting on a jacket, I asked them to catch me up the road and I knew they would. One turn before the odd turn from Fork Creek to Fork Creek I heard John P. yell out my name. "IAANNN!". What a happy guy! They waited for me at the end of that stretch (Teague Store) and we rode for just a bit. The Johns were riding strong and I insisted that they drop me… again, a kind bunch of folks these randoneurs are, they likely would have pulled me, if I asked them to. :-)

Solo again was fine by me. Night riding is exhilarating and the country side roads were nice and quiet. Past Joel Jessup, over Deep River, and onto good ole' Old Coleridge. I noticed the Coleridge roads are not nearly as bad on the way back, is that right? Onto 3rd street and BAM, Siler city. Mike O. showed up, but the pizza had now moved to the Snow Camp control :-(, ahh well I happened to be heading just that way :-). I loaded up on fluids as this would be the last open store along the last 100k.

I pushed off before the Johns, asking them to catch me again. I don't know why but somehow that little game helped me ride. There was a part of me that wanted to lay down ground to delay the catch, but there was an urge to conserve and then expend energy to ride with them and their cheerful attitudes. The balance was good, it helped me put down ground and look forward to having them pass. Hurrying to meet them at the controls was also healthy and fun motivation.

Bob was waiting at the last control. Cheese pizza, water, pretzels, V8, and a smiles were to be had. I asked if every group that entered got more quiet and tranquil. I felt happy, excited, but I was notably quieter as exhaustion set in, I think my card was stamped ~1am. After eating and guzzling V8 I thanked Bob, and pedaled off just behind the Johns.

The next 25 or so miles brought a new experience for me. The wildlife was out, I saw deer, squirrel, opossum, dogs, a skunk and cats. Lack of sleep was getting to me. I felt good but I noticed a little paranoia. A barn door just slammed, BANG, wtf? Maybe it was the head wind! Yes the headwind we rode in with shifted a bit so I got to ride back with it some! I was fearful of having a small animal run in to my wheel -destroying my spokes- for some reason… not sure how probable that was though.

Somewhere along the way as I was getting quite sleepy a deer and I crossed paths. It was great, the deer was off of the left side of the road and the land there was fenced off with wire. I was headed downhill at good speed and the deer started running in the same direction. The deer could not cross the fenced barrier on the left and was too scared to cross the road for a moment. We sped along for a bit, I only had to brake ever so slightly as it decided to cross in front of me to disappear into the woods. It was great to spend so many seconds alongside the running animal, and it woke me up!

It was not long before I was sleepy again, and for the first time I did something I thought was impossible… I fell asleep on the bike! Pedaling uphill I felt myself come to a slow, as the bike started to lose balance due to the low speed my body naturally corrected and I woke up. "Whoa" I thought. It is a true testament to the comfort of Books leather and double bar tape :-D. It happened one more time, and it was not a big deal as I was barely moving, but the downhills started to scare me. Should I fall asleep going downhill things could be disastrous. The adrenaline from speed and being scared certainly kept me alert, but I decided sleep was necessary. I stopped slapped myself rather good in the face and then road on to where Andrews Store Rd. and 15-501 meet.

There were three people packing up cars with newspapers when I pulled up at the gas station. The workers did not say a thing, and I was to wonked to strike up a conversation. I assumed they thought I was a crazy :-). It would be good to have them around while I dozed I thought. As I pulled around I saw Lin's recumbent but no Lin hmmm. HYUUUPP I heard, it was so loud I jumped, the folks packing the newspapers did not seemed alarmed. Then I noticed, right in front of my me Lin was wrapped up in a space blanket. Only his head sticking out of the tin foil like material, and blinky lights from the bike (and maybe helmet) were shining on him. Cool, I thought… those workers must really think we are nuts :-D. Lin had these crazy loud hiccups and mentioned stomach issue, only 25 miles away he decided to play it safe, rest up and finish off in the morning. I told him I needed rest as well, and sprawled out for a nap on the comfy concrete.

An hour or more may have passed, but I really have no idea how long I slept…

I woke when the last worker still in the parking lot slammed a trunk or closed a door. The first thing I noticed was a sheriff parked across the lot. His interior light was on and he might have been looking my way. He was likely trying figure things out. The next thing I noticed were (or was??) my legs. I had apparently sat up against the brick wall before falling asleep for good, and the position left my legs completely asleep. I could not move them AT ALL. I remember picking one leg up and scooting it over, then thinking shit I need blood flow, thus I just flopped over onto my side. The poor sheriff was probably freaked. What is this guy doing? If he can't move his legs wtf is the bike for?!? HAHAHA. As I was recovering I noticed Vance pull up, maybe grab a water bottle -left by Jerry Phelps for the riders I think (thanks Jerry)- and head out. The sheriff must have caught on by then and decided to head out. I was getting up at the same time, and we pulled out together

Even though mere minutes ago my legs were so asleep could not move them I felt great on the bike. The next 25 or so miles I rode in watching the sun slowly rise. I pulled up to Alan's house right at 6am 24 hours round trip. No ride home this time though, Mary met me at the house. We picked up McDonald's which I ate along with a home cooked breakfast. I LOVE CYCLING METABOLISM!

All in all the ride was a blast, and a great way to whoop a cold's ass. Thank you all who volunteered, and rode. You are all a pleasure to hang around.

— Ian Page Hands