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you must face the gazebo alone

Welp, there's no getting around it, so I might as well rip off the band-aid and post a ride report about yesterday. I DNF'ed the 2015 NER 300k at 137.7 miles in, at Petersham. In many ways, I DNFed about ten-fifteen miles before that, when I was suddenly sleepy and dizzy and decided that if I still felt that bad when I got to Petersham, I'd quit then, in a nice somewhat-lit town center where the volunteers might be able to help me get home, and if they couldn't, I could wait somewhere safe for a ride. (Spoiler: Emily and Tsun are awesome volunteers, and played tetris with the contents of Tsun's car to fit me & my bike in, along with another DNFer. Also thanks to the two friends who would have come gotten me if I'd needed them to, since D was out of town.)

It seems both hard to understand why I quit and completely obvious -- I woke up this morning feeling all off-kilter. Not hungry (last year, after the 300k, I went to bed around 3am and woke up at like 5am needing to eat before I could get back to sleep), head stuffed up, achy in places that have nothing to do with riding. Something has been going around my office at work; I'm tentatively optimistic that I caught it, which would mean my failure wasn't me wimping out or being too undertrained. I felt lousy the day before, too, although not in a way that indicated "oncoming cold". I took the day off to catch up on sleep, as I'd been feeling tired all week, and was feeling more lassitude all day than is remotely normal for me on a lazy day. But this isn't normal -- either I'm coming down with something, or my thyroid meds are really fucked up again, or some combination. I did all the right things re: eating and drinking on the ride yesterday, and when I started to feel bad I pulled off and made myself eat and drink, and when it didn't help in the slightest I knew I was in trouble. I focused, like a good rando, on making intermediate waypoints -- first the Wendell general store, where I figured if a little food helped I'd need to stock up for the last section, but by the time I got there I'd already determined that food wasn't helping. Then Petersham -- I looked at the clock and the distance and realized there was almost no way I'd blow the time limit getting there, but that if I was making brevet pace I should get there with an hour to spare. I got there with about a half-hour, after when I'd left there last year, and last year I was feeling INVINCIBLE when I got to Petersham.

Okay, some concentrations on the positives: the route is mostly gorgeous, and is one of the few climb-y routes where I feel like the niceness of the route justifies all the climbing. The climb up to Wendell is normally a personal favorite part -- the fact that that's where my ride fell apart this time actually makes me feel like it really was physical -- if I'd fallen apart on 122, it's just because 122 sucks. But I'd fallen apart before hitting 122, 122 was just the obnoxious climb in the dark with no shoulder and fast cars cherry on the sleepiness and dizzyness sundae. (I think that metaphor got away from me, alas.) If there were a way to keep that section without 122, I think the route would be perfect, if deeply hilly and thus not playing to my strengths at all. The entire Ashburnham to Northfield section is also pretty much perfect, although it'd be even more perfect if they repaved a few choice sections. It's quiet, has a couple big climbs and a lot of little rollers, but it's too nice to mind them.

And I overcame, with help, a semi-major mechanical issue, which gives me more confidence in my ability to fix shit on the fly, plus a greater commitment to trying to find a way to carry a spare tire, and possibly go back to trying GB tires. The story begins with a flat not long after Ashburnham -- after the mother of all flat changes even with help last year, I was committed to fixing it myself, and it only took a half-hour to get it all set. The worry was that I hadn't found whatever caused it, so I didn't quite trust my front tire after that.

Well, actually, the story starts with another case of chainsuck knocking my nearly brand-new front derailleur out of position, almost ending my ride 15 miles in, but I twisted it back into place and tightened it a little, not sure how much I should crank it down since it's a clamp around the seat tube. I should take the bike in, but I don't think I'm up to dragging it out there today without a car. But really, the flats were the main issue; having the front derailleur be a little out of perfect shifting was no big deal.

My distrust of my front tire turned out to be justified -- my brake had gotten misaligned, and the little tang of brake-pad above the rim had finally gotten long enough to start slicing into the sidewall of my almost brand-new tire. I tried patching and booting the one spot that had actually blown and the tire, and it didn't seem to hold air, although I might have pinched the tube elsewhere getting the tire on. Still, I was dubious about that fix in general, because while that was the one spot that had actually broken, the entire sidewall had a cut partway through. Just as I was starting to try to inflate the patch/boot combo, Patrick showed up -- I had no idea he was behind me, but he was generous with his time and stopped to see what we could do. He was running an old front tire and had a new one along, so if we could get a 32mm tire on my front wheel, I could have the near-retirement one (which was in fine enough shape for 100 miles). That meant pulling the fender on the roadside, zip-tying it onto my saddlebag so I didn't have to litter it, and seeing if my bike really did fit a fairly generous 32mm tire. (It's specced for it, and Patrick was pretty sure we had the same fork, so we were fairly confident, and it fit nicely.) It was a GB tire like the 28s I wasn't happy with, but this one lived up to the hype -- quiet, road-buzz-dampening, etc. Who knows.

And yes, I fixed the brake-pad positioning. I'm a little side-eye at my shop on this one; I'd put new brake pads on it just one (wet) ride before taking it in for a pre-Brevet-season tuneup, and they should have caught this. Or worse, they might have tweaked the positioning out of alignment? I'm not passing the buck; I should also have caught it, but it was very slight -- the pad didn't hit the tire when new, it was just literally a mm too high, and slowly a (small, sharp) tang built up and projected over the rim into the sidewall. And catching my novice-at-home-repairs mistakes is partly why I took the bike in AFTER doing some of my own upgrades.

I carried a spare tire on the 200k for the same reason Patrick had one on the 300 -- an old tire still on the bike. It was a partial cause of my bag pushing my fender into the rear tire, which was why I decided I didn't need it with two brand-new tires on this time. Oops. I think I'm going to find a way to carry a spare and not have clearance issues with an overstuffed bag. Possibly I just need to buy one of Emily's medium bags, which are shorter/wider than the small (which I have, and thus would clear easily. Short Sarah-legs are short. And if I did find it brushed my thighs, I could wrap up and strap my spare tire to the seatpost to offset it a bit, killing two birds with one stone. I don't really need that much more storage, but I think I could be good about NOT using it if I don't need it.

Okay, this is sounding like a tale of woe again, which I refuse to do. It was mostly a great, great ride. I made up the time I'd lost with the first flat by not stopping for BBQ, and hit the Sunderland control with over an hour and a half to spare. Last year I had 20 minutes. My legs were ready for this, even with my seatpost slipping a little and leading to slightly sore knees. I'd like to be *better* prepared for this ride next year, but I was prepared enough.

Some pictures of the pretty (caveat: none of these were taken yesterday):

NER 300k/200k route photos
The Storybook House, in Shirley (or thereabouts).

A gorgeous view and even prettier new pavement for a swoopy descent on Neilson Road in Wendell.

NER 300k/200k route photos
This is not the John Adams that was President, and thirty seconds of research does not tell me if they were related at all, but it's a very pretty house at the top of an annoying hill. :)

NER 300k/200k route photos
Petersham, in substantially more daylight than it had yesterday. (And more than when I reached it last year on the 300k, although then I was still there before dusk, just not at full-blast-midday.)

NER 300k/200k route photos
And the Petersham gazebo, also the source of this icon.

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