A few days before our Permanent the owner (John) emailed to say he wished to ride with us. I was already nervous; this was the longest ride I’d done in the last few years. It was going to be my first ever RUSA event, and I was also worried we’d be too slow. I hoped John would feel free to keep his own pace and not worry about going along without us. John and Kimber, San Francisco Randonneurs, arrived a little before the start time and it was clear they had no intentions of leaving us behind. John rolled off in the lead and asked us to tell him if the pace was okay.
We were averaging around 15.5 mph. It was fun and no need for a cue sheet; I just followed John. We reached the first control, grabbed a quick bite and were off in a few minutes. It was a gorgeous day. Only a slight breeze and though a little chilly at the start I had decided to leave my jacket behind. We continued with good time along the Alameda Creek Trail, and at one point I worried a little about the pace. I wasn’t feeling tired at that moment, but it did cross my mind I might burn myself out. We were going to go 15 more miles than any of my previous training rides. We reached the 2nd control (38 miles) and stopped for a 1/2 hr. It was a good rest and I was still feeling pretty good.
Most of the ride as yet had been all on multi-use trails and now we were finally hitting a long section of streets. After the last control my legs felt a little heavy but then it seemed I just needed to warm up after the stop. Here’s where I started to lose awareness of where exactly I was. That is, what street I was on or city I was in and about then we hit a very steep, and confusing overpass which also served as a freeway on-ramp in the 2, right hand lanes. I remember the cue sheet saying, “DANGER.” After negotiating with cars and trying to zip up the overpass, my legs were spent. I prayed I’d recover after some flats, it wasn’t too bad for awhile, but then we hit the headwinds. I just kept the cranks turning, but no longer able to keep John’s wheel, I was in no-man’s land with Kate and Kimber somewhere behind me.
We finally rolled into Alviso (11 miles from the finish) and took a short break. At this point my legs had nothing left and I had to just grit my teeth and keep pedaling. Even though completely flat until the finish, there were some pretty good winds left and now I was trailing everyone (well, not Kimber, she stayed with me now). I knew I was going to finish, but I was not having fun anymore.
We finally reached Stevens Creek Trail, the first trail out in the morning ; it was cooler here and better protected from the winds. The trail crosses some highways and streets using bridges, and it’s like riding switchbacks to get up to the bridge part. These were killers! Just a mile or so from the finish our guardians stopped to give us some orange Stinger gummybear-like snacks. We must of looked horrible. Boy did they taste good.
We got to the finish in 6:01. I couldn’t wait to get off that bike, and did so immediately. Then I realized what a incredible gift Kimber and John had given us. They had showed us the in’s and out’s of our first event, and displayed one of those unique characteristics of randonneuring, camaraderie. Just what I had been looking for.