My First 200k


Tomorrow’s agenda. A Hercules-Winters lasso, with elevation by miles in red at the bottom.

The main reason I think I might be able to do this crazy ride is that it’s flat—flattish—well, it has +5,837 feet of elevation gain, which actually doesn’t sound so flat at all, does it? But it is a lot less than most rides of comparable length. Actually I’m sitting here playing with Ride With GPS and trying to figure out how much less, and to imagine what it might feel like.

Mount Diablo is about +3,800 feet, spread over 11 miles. And you may not even start at sea level, but let’s just say you do.

In terms of stuff I do more often, Tunnel Road has about +1250 feet of gain from Rockridge. Pinehurst feels like pure evil, but it’s only about +900 feet. The grades are around 4 and 5% on Tunnel, up to 8.5% on the last reaches of Pinehurst. If you do that whole ride, it says you gain +2,800 feet.

So okay, okay. I can imagine doing that twice in a day. I think.

Winters looks like no drama grade-wise till mile 65, then there’s some hill action till mile 80. Then miles 80 to 105 are all downhill (!), with a couple bumps before the end—the morning ride in reverse.

The truth: I’m enjoying the procrasturbatory comfort of the internet and its maps very much right now, as well as basking in past accomplishments. But no map I look at can tell me what this thing tomorrow is going to feel like—and that unknowability is giving some fear to this moment, but also a palpable, primal thrill.


On Wednesday night, I went to the RUSA website and signed up for the 200km Winters Brevet on Saturday.

Last weekend’s long ride, while not nearly as long as the Winters ride tomorrow, was emboldening. While I felt exhausted by the end, I didn’t experience any pain or numbness that might portend trouble if I were to spend a longer time in the saddle.

But what pushed me over the edge, r/e committing to the upcoming long ride, was the encouragement I got from others.

To my surprise, when I told people this week that I was thinking of crushing my previous distance record by doing a 126-mile ride this weekend, the reaction wasn’t, “Are you out of your fucking mind?!” but usually some variant on, “Cool, you’ll be fine, and here’s some advice.”

Steph from the bicycle club said, “Just be sure to eat before you’re hungry.”

Eric H said, “It’s amazing how much farther you go than you think you can.”

Matt said “I love things like that.” Barb said “I’m glad you’re coming.” The guy at the bike shop asked whether I’d checked the weather report and said good luck. Jesse told me I’ll be all right as long as I find a small group to pedal with and then stay close to them no matter what.

(The realist in the group, perhaps, he added: “You are going to be in some pain before the day is over.”)

What I find myself wondering is, do these confident people know something I don’t know about what’s possible in sport? Are they sensing something in me, either that I can do it, or that I really want to try? Or is this just a thoughtless psychological law at work, one that decrees that it’s a lot more fun to say “Dooooo it!” than it is to advise against?

Tomorrow may tell. If nothing else, I’ll have hours of pedaling time to think in detail about why I wanted to let myself be persuaded to try.