Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The San Francisco Randonneurs' Fort Bragg 600km brevet: A history and stats

The Fort Bragg 600km is not the most frequently run SFR event and it isn't the one with the most participants in a given year, but as there is a notion of progressively longer events within our 'PBP Qualifiers', the Fort Bragg 600km has some luster as a 'signature' brevet.

History

The route from SF to Fort Bragg and back is attributed to Daryl Skrabak though it is listed on the RUSA site as submitted by Todd Teachout who was the SFR RBA when route numbers were first assigned to existing and new routes. According to RUSA records, this route was first run in 1999 with Daryl Skrabak as RBA. Much like PBP itself, though not for the same reasons, the Fort Bragg 600km was not run every year. Daryl ran the brevet once in 1999, and after that it was next run in 2004 under 2nd year RBA Todd Teachout. Todd listed the event again in 2005 through 2007. After a gap year in 2008, the event was again run, this time by 2nd year RBA Rob Hawks with subsequent versions run from 2010 through 2018 (which was the longest consecutive string of years for the event).

The FB 600k has been run as early in the year as April 10th (1999) and as late as July 7th (2004). Since 2009 it has always been held in May.

The start time varied in the early years, with a dual start time in 1999 of midnight or 04:00 depending on the speed of the rider. Though the start time in 2004 is unknown, as of 2005 the start time settled in as a morning start, varying between 07:00 and 09:00 until 2009 when it was changed to 06:00. In 2012, to avoid conflict with the Amgen Tour of California the start time was 05:00. In 2013 the event returned to the 06:00 start time where it has remained.

The route

The route has been changed little since 1999, but thankfully, many of the miles of highway have been repaved in those years including long portions of CA 128, including the famous Tree Tunnel section. Two changes to note are that until 2015 the start and finish were at the Golden Gate Bridge visitor plaza at the south end of the bridge. In 2015 the finish was moved to East Beach at Crissy Field which allowed for a much nicer reception for the riders and much calmer place for those waiting to greet the riders. In 2016 following a widening and repaving of Sir Francis Drake Blvd, the return from Point Reyes Station to San Geronimo changed from a route through Nicasio to a route through Olema and over the Bolinas Ridge via Sir Francis Drake Blvd. This actually shortened the route enough so that the start was also moved to East Beach at Crissy Field.

The route is rumored to be the most difficult (paved) 600km route among the four Northern California brevet clubs (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Davis and San Francisco). Ridewithgps lists the total climbing at 19,353'. This reputation seems to hold true if one looks at finish times as they are generally longer than those on other local 600km routes, but the elevation gain on the Fort Bragg route may not be as much as Ridewithgps advertises as many riders record between 17,000 and 18,000 by the finish of the route.

In the early years, there were no staffed controls on the course. Since 2007 there has been a staffed water stop. In 2007 this was so unofficial that it was not listed on the route sheet and was only organized the morning of the start. Since 2009 a staffed water stop has been an official feature of the brevet though it is not a timed stop. Until 2013, that stop was at Paul Dimmick Campground, less than 7 miles from the coast. Since then the official water stop was 15.5 miles further east, near Philo, CA at the Indian Creek campground. Now, the term 'water stop' pretty much undersells the true nature of that course feature. When first set up in 2007, it was not much more than a water stop, having been devised and deployed on the fly the morning of the event. Two volunteers pretty much asked the riders what their favorite ride food was and made a list of the answers, did their best while shopping at the Healdsburg Safeway and then drove up to Paul Dimmick campground. In 2009, that water stop was formalized as noted above and began to offer both hot food, and tents and sleeping bags for those riders wanting to punctuate their ride with some sleep. Even though the location did move, the 'water stop' is as deluxe as a campground can be with a wide menu of hot food and drink, a campfire and multiple tents for sleeping. In 2016, the radio podcast Nocturne recorded a two part episode that does a deep dive into randonneuring in episode 23, and then in episode 24 visits the Indian Creek campsite and features how the randonneuring community works together to see riders finish.

Weather and scheduling

Weather is always an issue on this ride if for no other reason than that the riders are out for roughly 25 to 40 hours. Day time vs. Night time temps always range widely even on good weather days. Weather was likely most a factor on the 2007 version when it began raining on the riders around the 50 mile mark in Petaluma and it continued for perhaps 20 more hours. Since 2009 the event has generally been favored by 'good' weather (no rain, moderate winds) but even then the temperatures ranged from ~100F to 45F on the same day. This can happen quite quickly too. In 2012 in the span of less than 35 miles (from the Yorkville Highlands to the junction of CA 128 and CA 1) the temps ran that complete range as riders left temps of 99F at the Sonoma/Mendocino County line and 49F when they reached the coast in wind blown fog as the sun set. Wind is often present at some point on the route and most typically so on the stretch between Healdsburg and Cloverdale where riders get 'relief' from the wind by climbing up to the Yorkville Highlands. Headwinds return for the crossing of the Anderson Valley and then riders once more get a break, this time from the Tree Tunnel. Once clear of the Tree Tunnel headwinds return once more where the route meets the coast at the mouth of the Navarro River and slow the riders on the run up to Fort Bragg at the nornern terminus of the route.

In 2018, the date for the event was pushed later in May hoping for a little better overnight temps and possibly less wind. That effort was a failure. While the very early morning temperatures were not any lower than in any previous year, they were low for a much longer period of time. Similarly, the wind was no stronger than any other year, but it was strong for much longer.

Participants

There have been 447 participants on the event through 2018. Since 2016 when this history was last published there has been a bit of a shake up on the list of most frequent participants. Bob Buntrock broke the tie with Richard McCaw as the riders with the most completions, but Bob had to miss the event in 2018 owing to a broken hand and everyone moved a little closer to him on the list. Here are the most frequent riders of the FB 600km:

( There are 15 riders with as many as 4 Fort Bragg 600 finishes, and 25 more with 3 completions.)

Name # of finishes
BUNTROCK, Robert 10
MCCAW, Richard 9
HAGGERTY, Tom 8
HAWKS, Rob 8
CLARKSON, Bryan K 6
POTIS, John 6
MASON, Aron 6
HASTINGS, Geoff 6
ROSS, Roy M 5
UZ, Metin 5
GERNEZ, Raphael 5
KILGORE, Bryan 5
FITZPATRICK, Kevin 5
DUQUE, Carlos 5
LYNCH, Theresa 5
BRIER, Bill 5
TEACHOUT, Todd 5

For women completing the Fort Bragg 600km route, here are those with the most finishes:

Name # of finishes
LYNCH, Theresa 5
COLEMAN, Juliayn Clancy 4
MCCUMBER, Kaley 4
BANKS, Debra 3
GOURSOLLE, Kitty 3
HONDA, Nicole 3
ASTRUE, Elaine 3
FREITAS, Kim 2
ARNOLD, Megan A 2
ANDERSON (nee FRIEDLY), Gabrielle 2
DEITCHMAN (nee GRANT), Joan 2
TUNUCCI, Veronica 2
BONNETT, Karen 2

Ride times

The Fort Bragg 600km brevet has been ridden by a wide range of randonneurs. Of the 447 finishers, 55 have been women (12.3%). The youngest rider to finish was 18 years old and if I recall correctly he had celebrated that milestone event in the weeks just before participating. No data is available for oldest rider but I know several that were in their 60s at the time of finishing.

Max Poletto, Bill Brier and Carl Anderson hold the shortest elapsed time at 23 hours and 33 minutes. This is the only finish time under 24 hours, and there are only 4 other finishes under 25 hours (three of those occuring in 2018) and a grand total of 13 finish times under 27 hours. Tom Haggerty holds the current longest elapsed time and he is unlikely to ever relinquish that time. There is a story behind this time and Tom's record is 40:00.

Geoff Hastings and Peter Burnett used to hold the record for multiple finish times with the largest difference in time. Both have their shortest and longest times over 9 hours apart and that spread is still noteworthy, however Tom Haggerty now holds the record of widest margin between shortest and longest finish times: 28:53 done in 2014 and the above mentioned 40:00 from 2007. Michael Bloomfield is perhaps the most consistent finisher. All three of his finish times are within 7 minutes of any other of his finish times.

Here is a chart showing the break down of finish time ranges for all 447 participants:

Finally, here is a table of the starters per edition from 1999 through 2018, NB: RUSA doesn't have DNF numbers available to RBAs prior to 2009:

Date # of Starters # of Finishers # of DNF riders First Finishing Time Mean Finishing Time
1999/04/10 13 33:15:00 37:10:00
2004/07/10 5 32:23:00 33:35:00
2005/06/04 13 28:50:00 34:56:00
2006/04/22 9 26:51:00 34:03:00
2007/04/21 24 28:18:00 35:33:00
2009/05/30 33 32 1 29:12:00 34:16:00
2010/05/22 58 52 6 28:06:00 34:49:00
2011/05/07 67 58 9 24:50:00 34:46:00
2012/05/12 35 28 7 27:34:00 34:05:00
2013/05/11 40 39 1 28:36:00 35:09:00
2014/05/10 52 44 8 26:22:00 34:00:00
2015/05/09 66 53 13 23:33:00 33:40:00
2016/05/14 29 23 6 27:50:00 32:42:00
2017/05/13 28 21 7 28:25:00 33:37:00
2018/05/19 39 34 5 24:15:00 32:45:30

1 comment:

Metin Uz said...

One reason RWGPS reports higher elevation gain is the number of bridges and elevated roadways on the route. Because the route elevation uses topo maps, the elevation gain is computed as if you ride down to the ocean and thgen back up for each bridge.