Treasure Cove 1200K Grand Randonnee

Time to put all the tune-up brevets and long, solo rides to bed and make the final preparations for the first 1200K. Nothing to be gained from dwelling on the disrupted training plain over the last 2 ½ weeks. Had to take a couple of days off shortly after the New Oxford 600K to recover from a Mohs surgery to remove a basal cell from my left temple. The following weekend was a complete wash-out: cool and rainy. Time to focus on packing: comfortable kits, socks, base layers, gloves, rain jacket, sunglasses with various lenses, electronics and various charging accessories, and food (gels and powders) for 4 consecutive days of riding. Swapped out the behind the saddle dual water bottle cage for a larger saddle bag containing spare Conti 5000 TL, sealant, CO2 and discharger, tubeless repair kit, and spare tube (in case things really got bad), spare socks, chapstick, sunscreen, and chamois cream. Could also carry food items instead of loading up the jersey pockets. Handlebar bag was for the portable power cell (to keep Roam and PowerBeats charged for rides lasting longer than 8-9 hours), brevet card, and PB&J, miscellaneous SiS gels and powder. To replace the loss of the saddle cage, brought 1.5L camelback that had additional carrying capacity. An overnight bag, limited to 25 pounds, would be shuttled to the next Overnight Control by the event volunteers. Had a little reservation about the first day as it was a long one, 288 miles. That was nearly 90 miles further than my longest ride. Can remember prior to beginning the randonneuring journey that a 90-mile ride was a long ride all by itself. The first day was approaching 3 continuous century rides. Whew!

Drove to the start, hosting hotel in Sterling, VA for the rider check-in, bike inspection, and pick up brevet card, ID tag for the personal bag, and event swag. The rider briefing began at 1400. The Treasure Cove was hosted and organized by The Northern Virginia Randonneurs, led by the Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) Hamid Akbarian and supported by his wife Shab and stellar, volunteer support crew. Note the exception to the unwritten standard of excluding names in my blog entries. Hamid has been extremely helpful and supportive in welcoming me to the world of randonneuring. If anyone is interested in joining, don’t hesitate to reach out to him. He can be contacted through the RUSA site and the NoVA Randonneurs homepage,

Back home for dinner, fresh mushroom and sausage ravioli, salad, and bread for dinner and a large banana split with M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces. On hindsight, should’ve skipped the banana split but justified it as energy for the impending 10K kJ ride beginning in the wee hours. A few last-minute checks to make sure everything was packed; added an extra pair of socks and gloves, considered a heavier rain jacket, then climbed into bed around 8:30. The dinner and dessert sat uncomfortably in my stomach. Eventually fell asleep around 10 but woke up at midnight and no going back to sleep. Not ideal but play the cards you have. Drove back to the start point and leisurely prepped for departure at 0200. A few obligatory photos in the hotel lobby then time to line up for the official send-off. Naturally it was raining. Lightly at first but then harder.

Treasure Cove 1200K Day 1:

Sterling, VA – Elizabeth City, NC, 464 Km/288 Miles; 8910 ft (GPS file)

Info Control: Fredericksburg, VA 111 Km/69 Miles

Info Control: Ashland, VA 200 Km/124 Miles

Info Control: Charles City, VA 285 Km/177 Miles

Info Control: Suffolk, VA 396 Km/246 Miles

Overnight Control: Elizabeth City, NC 464 Km/288 Miles

Open: 05/19 1638   Close: 05/20: 1100

A little more background on controls. They’re proof of passage at checkpoints and they’re often at gas stations or stores where food and drinks can be purchased. Remember, randonneuring is a self-supported. Outside assistance is allowed but only at checkpoints or controls. There aren’t any rest stops with free food, drink, and/or mechanical support. In today’s age of digital files, the use of controls to validate a rider completed the route (or at least was present at each of the control points) is a little passe. Actually, a digital file is a little harder to fudge than the price of fuel at a given gas station and maybe the attendant’s scribbled initials. For the Treasure Cove, only the Overnight Controls had open and close times. That’s the window in which a randonneur must check-in at a given check point. Failing to check-in during the window, obtain attendants initials or business stamp next to arrival time or losing the brevet card is grounds for disqualification. One can stop at additional places along the way but every event has an overall time limit that must be met in order to successfully complete the ride. The Treasure Cove threshold was 90 hours. Stopping more frequently or for long periods of times equates to cycling faster. Not making progress when stopped, Duh!

Slow rolled the start to take a couple of photos while the lead pack sped away. Took nearly 7.5 miles to catch the lead group of 12, including two ladies, that then dwindled down to 5 to the first control point. The first 80+ miles were the same as Day 2 of the New Oxford 600K from a few weeks ago. Started about the same time but the new dimensions were rain (and road spray) and other riders. Visibility due to the first two factors was dreadful. Rained for the first 90-100 minutes then wet roads for another 90 minutes or so. The short gravel section was in much better shape this time around. Same as last time though, heard an animal growl from the right side of the road through the trees. It was not a dog but sounded like a large, wild cat. Thought maybe hallucination-induced the first time (dark and solo, a little tired) but the others in the group heard it as well. Covered 21.5 miles the first hour and rolled into the first control in a little over 3:20:00 at 20.5 mph pace thanks (maybe) to the Michigan Motor). Knew there’d be a price to pay for the blistering pace as 243 NP was not part of the plan. Route went past the Richmond Airport, Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown to include 40 miles of the Capital City Trail to the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry. While on the Cap Trail, a couple of young women riding in the opposite direction warned us there was a turtle up the way. After a half mile and no siting, figured it had lumbered across the path into the woods. Then we came upon a huge, easily 15-inch wide shell, snapping turtle. Never really paid much attention to snapping turtle’s tails but they’re distinctly prehistoric. Turtles actually pre-date dinosaurs by about 250 million years. We made it to the boat with a couple of minutes to spare and made the peaceful 20-minute trip across the James River. 

Once on the other side, Michigan Motor said he was doing his own pace – we had slowed him down long enough. It wasn’t long before he was out of site. Continued to ride with a group of 4 to 5 others although the members of the group changed. Additionally, every pedal stroke on the other side created a new distance PR. Began to pay for the early effort and only able to maintain a power range between 150-170, normally considered a very easy recovery effort. Soles of the feet became the number one physical discomfort. Had to stop once to rest and remove the shoes. Oh, another thing about randonneurs – everyone has his/her own time schedule. As a rule, they’re not opposed to riding in groups but if they have a specific agenda in terms of number and duration of stops, that’s the beat they’ll march to – either with company or solo. Stopping to take pictures is ok but don’t expect the group to stop or necessarily soft pedal to enable a quick return to the group. Maybe it’s different for folks who’re much more familiar with one another but that’s been my experience so far. Made it Suffolk, VA just in time for rush hour – yuk. Seemed to hit every light red which just kept the overall time ticking away without making forward progress. Re-made contact with a couple of riders who were in the previous group and would’ve finished with them but while attempting to turn the rear light back on it came off the seat tube. Had to stop to re-attach it and then they were gone and out of site. Finished the last 13 miles solo – spent much more time in a group vs solo. Bugs were a nuisance for the last 20 minutes.

Projected finish time was before 10 pm and completed day 1 nearly two hours ahead of schedule. The volunteer support staff was awesome. Choice of fluids and dinner was offered immediately upon arriving. Overnight bag was already in the room and they took my bike to the room as well. Dinner was a home cooked meal of ziti and meat sauce made by Shab. Didn’t have much of an appetite but forced myself to eat. Food wasn’t a restorative. Roomie for the next 3 nights was an RBA from Arizona who’s completed dozens of 1200Ks and every iteration of PBP since 2003. He’s also 6 years older. While there were 4 intermediate info controls, purposefully stopped 7 times (one being the 20-min ferry ride) for a total of 3:07 of paused time. Successfully survived the hardest day. In bed by 10:15.

Day 1 stats:

285.9 miles (PR)                                              Chronic Training Load (CTL), Fitness: 124

15:00:42 moving time (PR)                             Acute Training Load (ATL), Fatigue: 170

18:08:17 total time (PR)                                 Training Stress Balance (TSB), Form: 21

9179 ft elevation

Avg Power (AP): 169W

Normalized Power (NP): 205 W

19.0 mph avg              40.8 mph max

TSS: 619                      IF: 0.64

kJ: 9137                       Avg HR: 117

the only picture from North Carolina

Treasure Cove 1200K Day 2:

Elizabeth City, NC – South Hill, VA 256 Km/160 Miles; 3219 ft (GPS file)

Info Control: Franklin, VA 119 (583) Km/74 (362) Miles

Info Control: Skippers, VA 71 (654) Km/44 (406) Miles

Overnight Control: South Hill, VA 66 (720) Km/41 (447) Miles

Open: 05/20 0105   Close: 05/21: 0730

Slept much better and far longer than the previous night. Wake up was 0500, followed by a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs, waffle, and cereal all compliments of Comfort Inn. Took much longer than anticipated to get rolling but wasn’t overly concerned as only 160 (good Lord, hard to fathom using that descriptor for that distance!) miles on schedule for the day. Today’s route started south before heading generally northwest to the first of two info controls, continue west to the final info control, turn southwest back to the NC border before returning northwest to South Hill. Estimated finish time was 1730. Presumed the S/SW wind would translate to mostly a crosswind for most of the ride. Well, wrong on two counts: only 160 was probably the worst day on the bike, ever and seemed like every direction was into a headwind. Eventually underway, solo, around 0620. Although stomach felt fine during breakfast, didn’t take many turns of the crank before feeling slightly bloated.  Passed four fellow randonneurs, 2 singles and 1 duo, in the first hour. Stopped at 25 miles to stretch the back and talk with the Missus. Back discomfort would become the lead of the ailment triumvirate (low back, heel of the palms, and soles of the feet) that would be the annoying companion for the rest of the event (and after as well). Had a few interactions with dogs: some chased others ran along without any barking and stayed towards the sides of the road. The duo passed me while talking and required nearly 45 minutes to overtake them again. Scenery was rather drab: numerous fallow fields which seemed to significantly outnumber the planted ones containing cabbage, peppers and corn. A few wind farms. Wondered about spacing between turbines and according to a google search, optimum spacing is between 8 – 12 times the rotor diameter in the direction of the wind and 2-4 times in the direction perpendicular to the wind. Nowt you know.  Interminable sections of NC roads were as smooth as paved cobbles or inundated with transverse cracks every 10-12 feet; neither of which are enjoyable. Cemeteries in random places – in the middle of farmers field, small, sad ones with only a handful of leaning headstones, family plots, running parallel to the road for 100 yards but only 2-3 headstones deep. Weird. Traversed a pine forest approaching the VA border and caught a group of 5, sort of. Seemed more like two different groups of 3 and 2 that just happened to be near each other. Crossed back into VA at the 63-mile mark around 1010 and added a new crop to the list – a harvested cotton field. Reluctantly, forced down gels throughout the morning and rolled into the first info control joining about 10 others and shortly followed by others. Slowly refilled water bottles and camelback, ate one PB&J and drank a G2. Learned that one of the riders from a west coast randonneuring group was hit at an intersection the previous day and died from his injuries. Totally shocked. Obviously didn’t know him but others had only complimentary things to say about the kind of person and rider he was. Completely uncharacteristic of him to blow a stop sign and pay the ultimate penalty. Apparently occurred around the 220-mile mark, should’ve still been daylight. Cross traffic didn’t have a traffic signal. He was alone and the story was the driver and passenger both stated he didn’t stop. Don’t have any other details. Very sobering.

Rolled on solo and pace continued to decrease. The big 3 were worsening, temperature was rising and wide open spaces left nowhere to hide from the omnipresent wind. 2.5 w/kg felt like an SST effort. Caught up with a couple of others but that didn’t help. Firmly stuck in my own misery. Made far more and longer stops than typical for a ride of this length. HR response corroborated the high RPE for lower power parameters as it was easily 10 beats higher than expected. Stopped at a cemetery to rest under a crepe myrtle tree to rest my aches. Stomach queasiness settled somewhat and had a hot dog and G2 at the final info control. That so hit the spot. Maybe found new power food! Only 41 miles to go. Somewhere in the final 30 miles, passed Hamid in his car driving the other direction. Guess he’s checking on those still toiling away but approaching the finish. GPS watching doesn’t help. Decisions, decisions. Which screen to stare at: data only? Too depressing as speed and power numbers were dreadful. The numbers weren’t indicativeed of the effort required to maintain such a pedestrian pace. Today was a day for throwing away all the Numbas. Climbing screen? No because it lies! Some recent Roam update added colors to the gradient. Hoping for all gray as it was O% or downhill. Dreaded green (O-4%) because invariably there’d be sections of yellow (4-8%) that weren’t depicted. Yellow was worse as it necessitated shifting into the small chainring (I know, shameful but couldn’t be helped) and sometimes hitd orange (above 8%). Various shades of red corresponded with higher gradients. Thankfully saved from that as might’ve had to walk. Map screen? Most likely as it shows the direction. Hit the subscreen to find out the miles and elevation remaining along with the distances to the next several turns. Elevation remaining also lies as it’s based upon the GPS file which never accurately reflects the amount of climbing depicted on my device. Maybe it’s just me.

Around 23 miles to go feel moisture drops on my right calf. Took a while to recognize then looked down to see white splatters all over. The splatter intensified to a bucket splash. Pull to the side and stop to inspect the rear tire and identify multiple spots where sealant is leaking out. Rotate the tire to find a 2-inch long section where several layers of rubber are missing. Momentarily congratulated myself for carrying an extra tire and sealant in addition to the other normal items in a saddlebag. Mentally review the steps for replacing the tire and stop at the first step – no allen wrench, genius, no way to remove a wheel. Not looking very smart now. Quickly remount the bike and resume pedaling now with an excuse to go slow. Don’t want to stop for fear of losing inner tire heat and pressure – a la NASCAR when tire pressures start low and build as the tires accumulate heat – thus increasing likelihood of complete tire failure. Not sure if that’s a thing or not but that was the rationale. Make it to the Hampton Inn, the second overnight control, at 1830. Gave up half the time gained yesterday. Doesn’t really matter as overall time will be determined on the final day. Even though there were only two information controls, purposefully stopped 7 times for just over 2.5 hours; 95 minutes paused during the second half of the ride and nearly half of that, 42 minutes for the hot dog savior.

Received assistance from two of the volunteers to replace the rear tire and return the bike to a fully operational condition. Showered before returning to the lobby for dinner – another homemade meal by Shab (Persian chicken and rice) and a sauce made by Hamid. Again, forced myself to eat but unable to consume the entire serving. No appetite which is not the norm for me. In bed by 2230.

Day 2 stats:

159.85 miles                                                   Chronic Training Load (CTL), Fitness: 127

9:36:32 moving time                                       Acute Training Load (ATL), Fatigue: 184

12:05:05 total time                                         Training Stress Balance (TSB), Form: -46

4505 ft elevation

Avg Power (AP): 143W

Normalized Power (NP): 165 W

16.6 mph avg              28.9 mph max

TSS: 272                      IF: 0.53

kJ: 5136                       Avg HR: 102

Treasure Cove 1200K Day 3:

South Hill, VA – Culpeper, VA 283 Km/175.8 Miles; 8068 ft (GPS file)

Info Control: Cumberland, VA 118 (838) Km/74 (521) Miles

Info Control: Scottsville, VA 55 (893) Km/34 (555) Miles

Info Control: Orange, VA 82 (975) Km/51 (606) Miles

Overnight Control: Culpeper, VA 28 (1003 Km)/ 17 (623) Miles

Open: 05/20 1105   Close: 05/22: 0700

Another good night’s sleep. Wake up was 0400 and had a light breakfast, cereal, banana and muffins (mine are so much better). Hot breakfast didn’t start until later but didn’t want to wait as today’s ride was nearly the standard 300K. Good news was route was mostly northward with predominantly a tail wind. Still took way toolong from wake-up to roll time as didn’t start pedaling until 0520. Granted, that included breakfast, re-packing overnight bag, filling water bottles and camelback, and stashing gels and PB&J in jersey and handlebar bag. Will have to develop a better plan and technique if PBP is on the 2023 calendar. Can always revert to standard fasting to start the ride and prep water bottles and camelback the night before. Since Europe doesn’t believe in icing beverages, won’t have to waste time with that step. Problem solved!

Pulling out of Hampton Inn, Roam asked if I wanted to start the ride. Pressed yes and the map screen started tracking me. However, changing screens reflected O progress but other cycling data was displayed. How does that happen?. Hit start again and everything sync’d but lost about 2.3 miles. The gentle rollers were more tolerable than yesterday but the unholy trinity was making its presence felt early. Not the best of signs and an indication that today would be another day of just cover the distance. On the positive side, was able to hit and even maintain upper Z2/low Z3 on shorter climbs, although the duration was measured in seconds. HR response was more in line with power numbers. Legs definitely recovering but difficult to be comfortable with back, hands, and feet aching. Had a bear siting. Mama black bear was at the side of the road with a cub visible a few feet off the roadway. Stopped a good 100 yards away and waited. She and the cub sauntered across, followed by another cub lumbering across a couple seconds later. She walked to wood line on the right side, turned around, stood on her hind legs, and looked in my direction. Having stayed stationary, she turned and ambled off. Wasn’t quick enough to get the iPhone out for a picture but it did happen. A couple more interactions with dogs but nothing overly concerning. Had a short gravel section before the first control but it was mostly flat and in pretty good condition.

Consumed the PB&J and replenished fluids at the first control. Gels were tolerated better today. Wanted to stop for a hot dog at the info control in Scottsville but somehow missed the Exxon station and rode to the short steep hill. Wasn’t turning around to climb the hill again so just kept moving forward assuming there’d by a gas station in another couple of miles. Those couple turned into nearly 40 miles. During that stretch played leap frog with Roomie and his cycling partner for the day, or at least moment and stopped to stretch and rest the feet. Wasn’t sweating much and couldn’t decide if it was due to hydration status or low intensity. After nearly depleting all fluids, stopped at a place for a bbq chicken sandwich, fries, hush puppies, and a Pepsi. Ordering process was very inefficient and took too much time to receive the order but all ok. Joined by a fellow NoVA randonneur who was also riding his first 1200K. Stayed long enough and rolled on solo. A couple of the roads weren’t ideal for cycling as there was minimal shoulder and rather congested with vehicle traffic or most of the shoulder contained rumble strips. One of the roads was even part of the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS). More normal sweat production returned as liquid consumption picked up. Felt the best all day, in fact since the first day, during the last 20 miles; except for the second gravel section with a short kicker in the last 5 miles. Gravel kickers are always a blast, especially after 170 miles.

Rolled into Culpeper at little after 6 pm having stopped twice the number of ‘structured’ stops for over 2 hours. Once again, more than half of that time was in the second half of the ride with 50 minutes spent ordering and eating the bbq chicken sandwich. The day was slower than yesterday but didn’t feel nearly as ugly. Soft pedaling and coasting will get you to the finish. Support team was on the spot again. Greeted upon arrival, offered beverage of choice and of course, overnight bag deposited in the room. Post ride appetite was nearly back to normal and thoroughly enjoyed the homemade lasagna. Shab was ever present taking photos, offering wine and generally making everyone feel like part of a family. In bed early, just after 9 pm. 

Day 3 stats:

172.58 miles (175.8 actual)                            Chronic Training Load (CTL), Fitness: 131

10:41:19 moving time                                     Acute Training Load (ATL), Fatigue: 201

12:46:17 total time                                         Training Stress Balance (TSB), Form: -57

10,196 ft elevation

Avg Power (AP): 127W

Normalized Power (NP): 165 W

16.1 mph avg              39 mph max

TSS: 286                      IF: 0.52

kJ: 4873                       Avg HR: 93

Treasure Cove 1200K Day 4:

Culpeper, VA – Sterling, VA 203 Km/126.3 Miles; 6981 ft (GPS file)

Info Control: Warrenton, VA 64 (1067) Km/30 (663) Miles

Info Control: Knoxville, MD 55 (893) Km/34 (555) Miles

Finish Control: Sterling, VA 48 (1206 Km)/ 29.3 (749.3) Miles

Open: 05/20 1858   Close: 05/22: 2200

Final day. The hard stuff is in the rearview mirror. A 200K ride over mostly familiar roads with a prevailing southerly tailwind. What’s not to like? Ok, ignore the fact the legs have covered 623 miles over the last 3 days, the lower back and soles of the feet ache and the pinkie and ring finger on each hand tingle from ulnar nerve compression in the heel of the palms. Besides that? Storms were expected in Sterling around 3 pm. But it’s also the last day. Didn’t sleep well at all. Crashed hard until midnight when nature called. Back to bed only to be welcomed by constant companion RLS. Normal remediation procedure is standing for 15-20 minutes. Decided against that and silently twitched. Eventually dozed but RLS returned in the other leg. Quality sleep wasn’t in the cards. Alarm set for 0425 but crawled out 25 minutes early since sleep wasn’t happening. Another light breakfast then on the saddle by 0535. Most excellent conditions to start: cool, temps in the mid 50s, cloudy with a tailwind. Caught a group of 9 about 30 minutes into the ride. Thought about just tucking in but pace was too inconsistent and continued on solo. Legs were improved from yesterday but lower back still squawking. The group caught up at the last light just before turning into the first info control in Warrenton. No appetite again but did have a gel and topped the water bottles off.

Back on the road while the group was still doing their thing. A few minutes later, both quads experienced an acute bout of delayed muscle soreness. Felt like someone sucked all the glycogen from the muscles. Pulled over and forced down an SiS energy bake. That seemed to do the trick and legs felt better. Today was the most picturesque of the days even though the last half of the ride was over very familiar roads. Regardless, the scenery from Warrenton, through The Plains, Middleburg, Purcellville, and Lovettesville doesn’t disappoint. Made a concerted effort to ignore the Roam as much as possible and focus on being a cyclist, not just a survivalist. Hate is a strong word but really don’t like climbing the Rt 55 hill approaching The Plains from the south. The Michigan motor passed by just before the start of the climb and expected him to disappear from site pretty quickly. That didn’t occur and caught up with him at the RR tracks just before Hopewell Rd and waited for the train to pass to continue onward towards Middleburg. The familiar roads brought a small sense of comfort but didn’t recall the rollers being so hard. Able to handle mid Z3 (albeit short ones still) climbs and even creeping into Z4 before the legs said enough of that nonsense. Took a few acetaminophen after riding through Middleburg, 60 miles done.

Had a leisurely stop at the 7-11 in Lovettesville to eat a PBJ, Boston cream donut, and Coke. Temperature was quite toasty and humidity seemed high as well but sat in the shade on the side of the building. The Italian coach caught up just before the descent on Berlin Turnpike to cross over to MD. Kept him in site up the climb to the light at Rt 17. Left turn then another mile to the last info control. Didn’t stay long as refueled a couple of miles ago but long enough to text Hamid about arriving at the control. A couple of challenging sections remained but less than 30 miles to the finish. Rolled into the finish control just before 1430. Stopped 5 times for 66 minutes with 75% in the second half of the ride – an all too common theme. Semi-officially (will have to wait for RUSA verification) completed the 1200K in 84.5 hours. Intent for PBP would be 84-hour group. Mission complete. Naturally Shab was there to take pictures and there were a couple of new faces in the welcoming committee. Eventually took the bike to the car and graciously accepted Hamid’s offer to use a spare room’s bathroom for a shower. Spoke with several other early finishers, had some liquid refreshment and waited for the awards presentation which were scheduled for 1700. Randonneurs have interesting stories and hobbies. Let the Missus know dinner would be at home as chicken parmigiana is always preferred over pizza. Eventually the pizza arrived, did have 2 slices, and the awards ceremony commenced. Don’t have specific numbers but 46-48 started and 33 finished. Six of us completed our first 1200K.

Huge sense of accomplishment. Primary goal for event was finish and have more positive memories than negative ones. Check. Will adjust the training program next year and retain a lot more tempo training and not completely ignoring threshold work. But those are stories for another day. Thanks to the Missus for supporting my addiction.

Day 4 stats:

127.05 miles                                                   Chronic Training Load (CTL), Fitness: 134

7:45:57 moving time                                       Acute Training Load (ATL), Fatigue: 209

8:52:45 total time                                           Training Stress Balance (TSB), Form: -70

8,809 ft elevation

Avg Power (AP): 141W

Normalized Power (NP): 180 W

16.4 mph avg              40 mph max

TSS: 248                      IF: 0.57

kJ: 3939                       Avg HR: 96