What follows is Matt Taylor’s ride report from his longest ride to date – 400km Brevet. Congrats Matt!!
Ohio Randonneurs 400k Ride Report
What in the world was I thinking? One of my thoughts at about in the middle of the hardest climb of the day at mile 170. Entering in to this world of ultra cycling was haphazard at best. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’m still a rookie and as you know rookies make mistakes.
After already completing the 200k and 300k, I had a plan for the 400. It’s kind of funny when I think about it, how a my ADHD and OCD kick in when I get nervous about things. I had been contemplating all my plans to get through this distance. The thing I obsessed about the most was my lights. Knowing that I would be riding at night, something that I had never done, had me nervous beyond belief. I was obsessing constantly. I knew my headlight was good for at least 8 hours but that wouldn’t get me through the day. With the weather the way it is in Ohio you never know how much you will need it. Safety first right? I set out to find a mobile charger that would give me plenty of capacity as I was obsessing over my garmin running out of battery too. I’ve had that happen before. But I needed one that would fit in my serfas top tube bag. So onto the internet I went and presto. But when I got it i was laughing so hard, the thing was monstrous and barely fit. I’m still chuckling.
Nonetheless I am in business!! If it doesn’t work out, I’m only out 40 bucks. While we’re on the subject of worrying, the weather in Ohio is sketchy at best. It’s not like out in San Diego where the meteorologists have the most boring and predictable job. Look out the window and yep the same as every other day in the year. All week it was scattered thunderstorms. They finally settled on overcast throughout the morning giving way to sunshine in the afternoon. Low 60’s in the morning and 80 for a high. If I were George Vargas, I’d require a long sleeve jersey and knee warmers. Sorry George, I had to say it. So I think arm coolers would suffice.
If I learned anything from the 300k was bring an extra kit. There’s just something about a fresh kit to wear. This proved to be a great idea. The next thing was nutrition. How am I going to sustain all day. One thing about self supporting on these long rides you figure out pretty quickly what can you get at convenient stores that will suffice and isn’t harsh on your body. My staple has become Muscle Milk. Every store carries it, easy on my stomach, and it is a quality protein drink. Tastes pretty good too!! Along with bananas at the control points by the volunteers and carrying my chews for electrolyte replacement I was set. Also I did my normal pre ride supplementation of Mdrive, Eas creatine, NO2 and a relatively new one called Beta Red by Enduro. Check it out. It seems to work for long days.
My goal was going to be modest, at a finish of 18 hours. I really wasn’t sure how I would do. I had been in contact with the riders that I had been chasing on the 300 and they weren’t going to be there. The only other rider that I knew was comparable to me had told me that he was taking it easy and so I was on my own. I had finally learned how to load a course into my garmin that would give me turn by turn navigation as well. I laminated pocket sized cue cards just in case.
Ride started at 6am and as expected I was going to be by myself. I didn’t even get out of town and the others were gone. Meaning I was the rabbit. Once out of town and heading south to Circleville I had settled into a nice pace of about 18-19 mph. After about a half mile I just kept thinking this is just too easy. I never pace this well, as my speed had picked up to just over 20.
When I approached a little burg called Stoutsville, I noticed a little house with an American Flag
headed in the same direction. Ahhh, a tailwind, I knew I wasn’t that strong. I’ll take it nonetheless.
I made it to the first control point in great time at just over 2 ½ hours. 18.1 mph avg. I made short order of the stop. Ate a banana and downed a muscle milk. Gone!! Next up was Logan, Ohio and this section is where the climbing starts. The 400k followed the same route as the 300k and I knew this was going to be the meat and potatoes of the ride. About 8000 feet gain for this 44 mile section out and back. The back was what I was most worried about. More on that later. I rode through Tar Hollow State Park dreading the potholes that I encountered on the last brevet. Thankfully, they had filled them in. Some of them were craters. With the overcast sky and a light fog it was really dark. See, my fretting over the light would come to fruition.
Out of Tar Hollow and on to Logan. This is my favorite part, hardest climbing and the prettiest views. Even with the clouds and haze it’s gorgeous. At the top of Thompson Ridge the view didn’t disappoint. I will have to take a photo on the way back. I made it into Logan feeling pretty good after all that climbing. Really trying to cut down on my times at the stops I again downed a Muscle Milk and a banana, filled my bottles and off I went.
This next section minus the two moderate climbs going out of town was going to be kinda boring.
Scenic for sure but flat. The organizers put us on a bike path for a ten mile section to the turn around. While on the path I was cruising nicely but there was nothing to look at. It was carved out of an old train track and the trees on both sides were large and encapsulated the path like a tunnel. Close to the turnaround I started to get an odd feeling like I was getting sick. I was wondering if my nutrition plan was failing. The last ½ mile opened up and just being exposed to the sun that was finally starting to burn away the clouds felt really good. Must have been some sort of claustrophobia. I made the turn and headed back to a bike shop on the path that was the next control point. The guys at the bike shop were excited to see me. They had no experience with brevets and were happy to help us out. I used their restroom to change clothes. Man that fresh kit felt good. The owner ask me some questions. He had inspected my bike out of curiosity, and wanted to know what I thought of my power meter and if I relied on it exclusively. He was a former TT guy and had similar thoughts and was wondering how well it worked training for ultras. The training being so much different for the two disciplines. After some more pleasantries he asked to take a photo and off I went.
I had to alter some of my plans after the control. They had the bananas and snacks that had been dropped off for us riding. But nothing else. So first order of business was a store as soon as I got off the path. There was a convenient store about a mile off the path and it didn’t disappoint. Muscle Milk and some peanuts for salt and I was good to go. I topped off my bottles and gone.
The ride back to Logan was uneventful. The clouds had gave way to the sun and it felt pretty good. I was pacing pretty good. My body as a whole was feeling pretty good. I was starting to see the results of all my training. Kind of makes all that hard work worth it. When I got back to Logan for the control point the plan was to do a splash and dash. But as most of my plans they go awry. I could feel the jitters from hypoglycemia setting in. Time for a sugar rush. I filled my bottles with ice and gatorade. Sat down for a few just to settle the jitters. The control point volunteer was a friend and made it easier to just talk for a few minutes. He’s a sufferer like me so it was good to chat.
The next section as expected was going to be brutal. The sun was out and starting to heat things up. As expected Starr Route Road didn’t disappoint me. It was a formidable opponent. Especially at 160 miles in. If that’s not enough Thompson Ridge was next at 170 and no slouch either. Totally worth the climb. Here’s the picture I promised.
This 22 mile section was harder on me than expected. Just like the 300k, my foot started to heat up. I had consulted with George Vargas about this the last time. He suggested that I try some insoles. I bought some SQLab for a high arch and they seemed to be doing the job until now. I think I was just putting my foot in a bad position on the down stroke. I repositioned my foot and eased up on my stroke and the burning subsided. Thankfully it didn’t return. Crisis averted! The heat was getting to me. I went through both of my bottles getting to Laurelville. Not a scheduled stop but definitely needed. I was feeling good but drained. I topped of my bottles, got a bottle of Muscle milk, and some M&M’s peanut butter, my favorite. Now properly fueled, well kind of but you know what I mean. I Headed out of Laurelville towards Tar Hollow, another tough section. Surprisingly enough my time was really good. I was well ahead of my goal. I knew that I was going to to lose a little more time in this climbing sequence just as I had the last one. Once in at the control at Chillicothe, I refueled and was off. No time to waste.
I had 48 miles to go with one more control point. Good news was only a 1000 more feet of climbing. Bad news it was getting dark. I was starting to feel that fatigue set in. My anxiety of it getting dark and not being able to see hazards, not to mention traffic. Luckily the roads were pretty decent. And if the morning was any indication of traffic, I should be in good shape. Remember the monstrous charger? I was making me feel pretty good right now as I was able to put my Serfas True 350 on brightest setting. Bingo!! I was able to make up a little bit of time heading to Circleville. Thank you cycling gods for a bit of a tailwind. They never are this kind to me. In and out of the control at Circleville, I wanted to let it all hang out. Leave nothing to take home with me. 26 miles to go and if I pushed it a finish of just under 17 hours. More than an hour off of my goal. The gods were still smiling at me and granted me that tailwind again. I did let them know however of all the times they didn’t give me one. Just a pass for them now.
At about 10 miles to the finish I decided to reach deep just to see if I could. Well what do you know, I found it. Hammer time. I don’t think I have ever pushed myself like this before. It felt good to know that if I free my mind of all the constraints of life that I can do just about anything I set my sights on. My totals for the day were:
16:55 total time
14.8 mph avg
11,575 feet of gain
READY FOR BEER AND PIZZA!!! OH YES AND A MUCH NEEDED SHOWER!!! BUT I HAVE MY PRIORITIES.
Last but not least I want to thank a couple of people. My best friend, future wife, and partner Amy!! Thanks for putting up with my crazy adventures on my bike. You may not understand it but you understand my conviction and desires to push myself to the limits. I love you!! And to my mentor, friend and team director George Vargas!! Thanks for your guidance and friendship! Without your input and friendship I’m not sure I could get through these events. Like last time sorry for the rambling, and the grammar. I’m not a scholar by no means!!