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Bad Little Brother

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 9:00 AM | Bill Oetinger (Administrator)

The SRCC hard copy newsletter may be gone, but the Backroads & Breakaways column lives on in this space. I hope to keep the club conversation going, week by week, month after month. We'll see how it goes.

In the old newsletter, space constraints forced us to savagely prune down some of the lengthy ride reports that were sent in (either to me, the Editor, or to the chat list). Now, in the wide open spaces of Cyberia, those constraints no longer apply. We can reproduce club member ride reports in their entirety.

Many of these will have appeared already on the chat list, but that only reaches a fraction of the club membership and absolutely no part of the general public. So now that we're going prime time with the reports, I am tasked with doing approximately what I did in the newsletter space: not chopping them down to fit the space, but lightly editing them for a wider audience. I will try not to alter each writer's "voice," but will simply tidy up the occasional vocabulary and grammar glitches and the all-too-easy-to-do fat-finger typos.

So…in the traditional B&B format, I will hark back in time to the last weekend we did not cover in the last newsletter and gather up any reports from those halcyon days of yore. The first ride we can cover then is a classic, and a great place to start this new era of ride reports: the Bad Little Brother, held on the Saturday, May 24.

There were numerous reports on the 19th annual BLB, but we must begin with the official report from event chair Greg Durbin…

For its last year as a teenager, I feel the 2014 Bad Little Brother behaved rather well.  

Forty six riders, one of the larger turnouts we've had, started Saturday greeted by slightly windier than usual conditions at Lake Sonoma Marina. Almost half of the riders left before the official 7:30 am start time, who gathered for a group photo that may show up somewhere. This year's group had a much lower percentage of non-club members than in the recent past.

As someone who was sitting in my truck instead of on my bike this year, I'll leave it to any of the the riders who want to chime in to give more details about the conditions, but from my view, the weather was warm but not over the top toasty, windy, but not everywhere.

My take aways from the ride, (pardon my enthusiasm):  

~ Damn, we are so lucky to be able ride in such a beautiful area!

~ A larger than usual number opted for the Highland route this year.

~ Riders were great at expressing appreciation for the support.  We had one less SAG crew member than in the past, and Scot Castle, first timer Tony Buffa, and stationary Skaggs crew member Craig Johnson and first timer Skaggs roving crew member Mike McGuire were kept busy on the second half of the day from Annapolis Rd. (mile 86) to the finish. I was doing my best Kimberly Hoffman imitation, setting up the lunch stop at the halfway (mileage wise) point in Pt. Arena. As mentioned earlier, we had some challenges on Skaggs which we thought we addressed, but input from several riders will help us get it right next year.

~ As far as I know, there were no crashes or mishaps, save for a few close calls, for the more than 6,000 collective miles ridden yesterday! This speaks well to the skills of the group. Thank you for riding safely!

~ We had some damn happy riders - happy after they were finished that is, and thrilled and proud to have completed one of the more challenging rides around. Many were first timers. Congrats to all!

~ Get this: To my knowledge, we had a 100% finish rate!  I'm giving a finish to a rider who's chain got wedged between his cassette and spokes and was sagged in on the last five miles.

~ And yes, numerous inquiries about t-shirts and jerseys, of which I had nothing save for XL and XXLs.  I have the ball rolling developing a plan for presentation to the board to consider, along with a suggestion to charge a nominal amount, say $10, per rider to cover the cost of the supplies and gas for the SAGS, instead of it coming from the club.

That being said, I'd like to challenge Bad Little Brother riders to show some leadership and return the favor to the club and fellow riders by volunteering at an SRCC event, if you haven't done so this year. It's a great experience learning what it takes to organize and be on the giving side of cycling. Besides, it's good bike-karma!  

I've had a great time leading this ride for the past several years, and would like to give the reins to someone else next year. Feel free to drop me a line or suggest a name. I have a binder and plenty of info to make it less daunting than it may seem.

Thank you and congrats again to all the BLB riders!

And thank you back at Greg for six years on point for this ride.

George Ockenfuss was the first to file a rider's-eye view of the BLB. Here's his report…

On Saturday morning, I headed out to Lake Sonoma. It was nice and cool in the morning in Santa Rosa (no wind and about 52F). Getting out of the car at the visitor center I thought ‘Wow’, warm already and VERY windy. Sweater came off immediately and so did the arm-warmers. When I arrived I just saw an early group leaving at 7:00am. To my surprise there were still over 20 people getting ready for the 7:30am start. I thought this is good: the usual hardcore suspects--Mark, Carl, Jady, Miguel, Doug, Ken, and some other younger guys--were there; at least I might find someone to fight the headwinds to Boonville.

After a brief announcement by Greg Durbin, the organizer, we headed off. I was able to hang on to the ‘fast’ group, and we had a good pace-line going against the headwind towards Boonville; except for the last two miles, where some guys thought they needed to go for the city limit. It looked like I was the only one who didn’t take the bait, thinking the pace is fast already…why be burning more matches early on?

By Boonville, we already had caught up with some of the 7:00 am starters. After refueling, a small group of us--Ken, Greg (I think?, new young guy) and I--took off. The fast guys didn’t spend much time and more or less took off immediately. My two compatriots dropped me early on the Mountainview climb. I needed to go at my own pace and tried to avoid the chasing game; also I needed to recover from the initial burst to Boonville. This climb, or should I say series of climbs, actually were much steeper then I remembered (10%+ almost all the time). Cramps in my legs showed their initial signs, probably from riding too hard early on. Surprisingly after the second big climb I picked up Ken and Greg on the way down to the coast.

In Point Arena, to our astonishment, we still saw the leading group hanging around. Carl had some major issue with both of his tires, and all his buddies were waiting for some time, till they finally decided that it was enough waiting and took of. Luckily, Carl got replacements for both his tires and was able to continue. After an extended lunch, the three of us (Ken, Greg, I) decided to take the Coastal route down Highway 1.The tailwind was awesome, and we had a pretty good pace-line going. The weather at the coast was perfect: no fog and comfortable temperatures. We got very lucky that the SAG guy just beat us to the Annapolis Rd. turnoff, which gave us the chance to refuel.

Off we went again, up over the Annapolis bump. Ken had to stop for a nature brake half way up; I had a good rhythm going, was in my happy zone, and didn’t wait for him; also the third guy was fading away backwards. A little bit later on Annapolis Road I saw and passed the last rider till the end. It was a young guy, Pauli I think is his name who was doing his first BLB. The brave guy took the Ridge rout. I skipped Camp Gualala for the water refill (still had a full bottle) and went ahead, because a few miles later we should have had the ‘official’ stop. Again I got very lucky, because the guy who was volunteering to support us was running late due to holiday traffic and hadn’t set up shop yet; but he stopped for me in the middle of the road and provided me desperately needed fluids.

At that point I only had about 22 miles left; how hard can it be? Hellish! The first ascent wasn’t too bad; it is mostly in the shade with humane grades of about 8%. Unfortunately my feet started complaining that they were too hot. On top of the first climb I got off the bike and took my shoes off, had some electrolytes, Ibuprofin, some Gue, and of course water. My hot-spots disappeared fast, but I wasn’t able to get my shoes back on. Every time I put my feet in the shoe and bent them  to get them all the way in I got horrible cramps in my shin. Eventually (5 minutes later), I succeeded and was ready to go. At that point I was worried a little bit about my water, because I only had one bottle left and still had to tackle the hardest part of the ride. Okay…after descending to the bridge, it’s only 12 miles to the finish line and ‘only’ about four miles to the very top of the last major climb, this doesn’t sound like a lot, but at 90F, fully exposed to the sun and mega steep, this feels like eternity, especially if you think anytime you come around a corner it will flatten out, but instead one is faced with even steeper grades. Also being on top of that second beast I am never really sure if I am done with it or if there are many more steep bumps further down the hill.

Due to cramping, I needed to stop a few times up that climb; I actually was surprised that no one passed me at that point; I was going really slow. The rollers at the end weren’t too bad, and I just had enough water to make it to the finish, where the three Musketeers, Marc, Miguel and Jady, greeted me. These guys are just outstanding; they probably were there already for about an hour. Miguel, thank you very much for the beer! That hit the spot. And Greg and crew, thank you very much for pulling this off, GREAT job. This is an epic ride, and I hope I will forget the cruel details come next year. My stats for this one: 8:59 total time, 8:19 moving time at a bearable maximum temperature of 91F. And of course, I only did the coastal route.

Ken Cabeen filed another report…

Many, many thanks to ride leader/organizer Greg Durbin and support/rest stop crew of Scot Castle, Tony Buffa, Craig Johnson, Mike Maguire, and anyone else I may be forgetting for making possible a fantastic day and epic ride for us. 

The wind at the start didn't seem to be as bad a problem I thought it would be on the leg to Boonville. I was well rested and feeling good, so I was either stronger than usual or the alpha dogs were taking it easy on me because I was able to stay with them to Boonville, including (for the very first time) that last rise, descent, and roll out on the flats into town, where I've always been dropped and come rolling in panting and spent from foolishly burning matches in attempts at catching them just before a stop!

At the stop, it was all business for Doug, Miguel, Marc, Jady, and Carl, who quickly refilled and were back on the road. Georg remarked to me, "Well, pressure's off, they're gone!"

The Mountain View leg was sunny and pleasant for only the second or third time in the seven times I've done this ride, with soakings by heavy drizzle or rain making up the rest. Over to the coast, it was a loosely arranged group comprising me, Scott D, Georg, and first timer Greg Plumb, who some of you probably would know from his time at Norcal shop and/or the Grasshopper rides -- a super nice guy and strong, steady rider. We four rolled into Pt Arena stop within a few minutes of each other and split from there, with Scott, being the good Scotsman he is, choosing the "Highlander" option while  the other three of us opting for, as Jady later described in his inimitable and always entertaining way, the "pansy route."

The three of us worked well together down Hwy 1 to Annapolis Rd, where it was nice to get back into a more tranquil setting for the leg to Skaggs. I stopped for a pee (a "very long one" as Georg later joked at the finish) a couple miles into Annapolis Rd, and Georg disappeared for good (hence the pee joke), leaving Greg and me. We picked up Pauli several miles later. He had gone by the Hwy 1/Annapolis junction before the water truck arrived and was badly in need of water, which I was happy to help him with. The water at Camp Gualala was not far off. Leaving there, Pauli and I rode together while Greg steadily pulled away and also disappeared for good a few miles before the first Skaggs climb. Pauli and I rode together on this long, steady and gradual grind to Las Lomas and the screaming descent to the bridge before splitting somewhere on that evil second "guardrail" climb, as I like to put it.

Once over this last major climb, the remaining rollers and their false summits pecked away at my remaining energy reserves, leaving me pretty well tapped out and very happy to once again see my favorite stop sign in the world -- that one at Skaggs and Rockpile that unequivocally signals an end to the suffering and an easy cruise to the parking lot.

As usual, it was fun to hang around at the finish for a while joking and sharing bits and pieces of the ride with each other while cheering for riders as they rolled in. And I don't think I'll ever hear a more powerful testimonial to the restorative power of coconut water than I did from Doug McKenzie, whose tank reached "empty" somewhere on Skaggs before a passing motorist gave him most of a quart container of the magic drink, enabling him to make it the rest of the way.

Thanks again to Greg and the volunteers for making this ride happen, and to all the riders with whom it was my joy and privilege to ride.

Megan Arnold filed a brief report too…

Ditto the thanks to Greg, Scot, Tony, Craig and Mike. The ice and cold drinks on Skaggs were super deluxe!

I had a crazy amazing wonderful day on the bike. Only briefly interrupted by passing 07:30 start noisy hooligans. Fun to see everyone riding so strong and enjoying the day.

My second time doing this ride, first time doing the ridge route. Solo most of the day, but in the Bubble of Happy that sometimes happens on these silly things.


Amidst all the reports, I post this: Historical perspective on the BLB...

Reading Georg's report inspired me to look back at my log book for the first ever Bad Little Brother.

It was run on April 20, 1996. (They were in April for a few years before migrating to the Memorial Day weekend.) I think there were six of us on the route, although it's possible there were others I've since forgotten. In addition to me, there was Rich Fuglewicz (the creator of the ride), who now lives in Sacramento, Bill Ellis, who now lives in Novato, Kirk Beedle, who now lives in Redding, Trent Norlund, who now lives in Houston, and Trent’s son Lars. (Trent was the first one to do the Terrible Two twice around and Lars still holds the record for the youngest TT finisher.) A friend of Kirk's--I think his name was Jim--ran a sag for us.

I don't recall too much about the ride. My log book contains this note: "VERY HARD!" I remember watching Trent and Lars pull away from me on that last, steepest descent on Mountainview, heading to the coast. It was a little damp, and they were way over my comfort zone. But I also recall that we were all--or mostly--together for a regroup at Las Lomas, and that I took the lead on the descent toward the bridge, with Trent on my tail.

Georg says his time was 8:59, which I think he's saying was good for 4th overall. I think most of our little group finished together, or close to it, and my log book says 9:20. So not too far off today's pace. None of us was exactly at the level of the club’s current alpha dogs, but respectable. We all did the coastal route. (Kirk added that we all finished within ten minutes of each other.)

Rich Fuglewicz added this, which will stand as our last word on this year's BLB…

Congrats to all the BLB folk this year, on bike and support. After reading that Greg Durbin is looking to pass the baton, I wanted to point out that I could have chosen no one better to lead BLB after I led #13 in 2008. Greg has taken it to a better level each year. Thanks Greg, from me, for accepting the lead when I left town. The club was super lucky to have him on the pointy end. I hope the right person emerges to lead and be the spirit of the ride...to make it their own.

Bill O and Kirk remember the very early years and a few others may still be around who were there. All the party van folk and strong riders on the club tours started showing early on also. The worst of the April starts had freezing rain over the mountains and on the coast...we abandoned several riders to hypothermia. Even with a sag and then two, it was understood that getting home could be up to you.  That said, the overriding element I wanted with the BLB was a very hard route on roads largely ignored by the club, but never meant to be a timed event....so all the dc folks and fast wheels could "enjoy" a tough ride without the outright competitiveness that comes with the ultra circuit racing. Our finish times varied greatly since we would mostly ride close together and regroup, for years this way, until BLB became known on the ultra circuit and began a ramp up in attendance and support.

I hope to be at the start for the 20th anniversary…see ya there.

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