Another ride over to NYS. I took the early ferry to Essex, NY this morning, hoping to do another century. The legs and stomach didn’t have it – I settled for 50 miles and took the ferry back to Burlington. Enjoyed a wonderful cafe in Essex, and chatting with cyclists on a tandem from Montreal circling Lake Champlain and staying in B&B’s along the route.
Did a great loop – left home and caught the 8am ferry to Port Kent.
Road approx 90 miles in NYS, enjoying the Ausable River Valley, Keen Valley, and a tough climb on Rt. 73. Dropped into Lake Placid for lunch, at about mile 50. Circled Mirror Lake, then headed back to Port Kent via Rt 86, past Whiteface Mt.
Beautiful, even with a depressed and remnanted Ernesto threatening to rain. I missed the 3:30 ferry back to Burlington by 2 minutes, so I waited an hour for the next one – then the hour crossing. Ride time was 6:30, which is fast for me doing 100 miles, especially with all the climbing! Total time was near 10 hours with the 3 hours given over to ferries and waiting for them, lunch, and a quick stop in Keen.
I rode a 70 mile “Double Gap” ride this weekend. The loop begins in Waitsfield, crosses the Green Mountains over Middlebury Gap and returns to Waitsfield via Appalachian Gap. Topo calls out 7,500 feet of climbing – including the 2 passes. I did the ride in just under 5 hours – which was a bit surprising for me seeing how much climbing there was….
The Green Mountain Stage Race climbs over Middlebury and states in the race bible that the highest grade E-W is 18%. The climb up Appalachian was work – switchbacks top 20% near the top.
(note – I’m moving my Brevet ride reports from elsewhere on the web to this new blog)
Start: July 8-9, 2006 4:00 am
Route: 375 miles, through southern New Hampshire and Vermont to upstate New York
Time Limit: 40 hours
Finish Time: DNF
In my first season of randoneurring, the Boston 600k was going to be my “event” ride – and “event” and ordeal is what it turned out to be!
The official route was 388 miles with 20,000 feet of climbing from Bedford, MA in the Boston suburbs, through New Hampshire crisscrossing the BMB route; through Brattleboro, VT (just 8 miles from my home in Putney, VT); over the Green Mountains to Manchester, Sandgate VT, and Bennington, VT; then returning along most of the same route.
I arrived in Waltham, MA late Friday afternoon, enjoyed a pre-ride pasta feast at a local restaurant, then settled in for a fitful sleep. Arriving at Hanscom Field early my morning set up was flawless – and making a list and checking it twice worked well. I rolled over to the start table for Tracey’s last minute instructions and was adjusting my Danolite LED headlamp when it popped clear off the aluminum bracket. Dammit! This was the second Danolite from Peter White – and it failed the same way as the first. I’ll have to zip tie it or rig something up later… I scrambled to my car, luckily find my hiking LED from last weeks visit with friends, throw everything into my rack trunk, and off I went – chasing the lead group – as I had little way of reading my cue sheet! I rode with a mixed group for an hour or so, then settled into my own pace, eventually being caught by friend Chris and a larger group including Jake and Emily of fixed gear fame. The group rode together nearly all the way to Gardner. Aside from my headlamp mishap, the morning ride was pleasant – and this was the longest I’d ever ridden in a large group on a Brevet. Riding, chatting, meeting some folks I’d seen on previous BBS was very pleasant – the body and the mind felt strong, relaxed, and strangely sociable this morning. Life was good.
As we hit some flats near the Wachussets Brewery, I put my head down on the aero bars and Chris and I picked up the pace for the final few miles into Gardner. Something always clicks “on” when I see the mileage start to drop as I near a control. We rolled into Gardner just ahead of the group, chatted with Tracey and Bruce, did some quick reloads and headed off to Brattleboro.
45.2 miles completed
On the way out we chatted with Jake and Emily who gave us some discouraging news about some of our route to Brattleboro – they had ridden Rt. 68 and 32 the previous week on a fixed gear camping expedition to Vermont – and had unkind words for the gradient and the road quality. With a bit of warning we pressed on towards Brattleboro – and excitement built as many of the roads on the cue were familiar to me – 119 from Richmond, NH through Hinsdale, up Rt. 5 to the Motel 6… my stomping grounds.
Of course before we got that far we had to deal with some of the gradients along Rt. 68 and 32. Warwick Road was a surprise – I came gliding along unawares of how short and steep this little road was – struggling to the top in the wrong gear for sure. Bliss Hill road, while dirt, was a pleasant diversion. I was on 700 x 25’s – so I took it easy – and we meandered along this stretch chatting about gear and bikes and tires – wondering why we jumped off of Rt. 32, and assumed that there probably weren’t any hills on that stretch so Bruce sent us up Warwick “for fun”.
Passed the Asheulot covered bridge, then Hinsdale, the dog track, the false feeling downhill to the green bridges on the Connecticut… all so familiar and friendly. A quick stop at a bike shop in Brattleboro for Chris to replace his mysteriously missing pump and on to the Motel 6 – and even with the bike shop stop I was ahead of the conservative schedule I set out for myself the night before. Wow. Refuel, reload, pack some extra water, and off we went. I knew what was coming – Middle Road to East-West Road to Rt. 30. I’ve done this dozens of times – at least once a week on my local loop rides. Just get over the top, take your time…
91.9 miles completed.
What I haven’t done dozens of times is ride Middle Road with 100 miles in my legs. My pacing felt terrible, Chris drifted further up the road, and my stomach started to complain. Cresting the climb and starting the descent was a relief – but I started to dread the exposed ride up Rt. 30 over the mountains in the heat. Chris waited for me at the bridge, and we started the leg up Rt. 30 together. Again Chris drifted off the front – and I started struggling on very familiar roads. Hot, humid. Was that my right knee starting to throb? Maybe I should stop for lunch…
We regrouped in Newfane – which seemed a popular spot for Brevet riders. 10 or more cyclists were lugging bags of ice, Gatorade, and snacks out to the parking lot, hiding in what little shade was available. I downed a turkey sandwich, Gatorade, and chips, while sitting with a bag of ice on my knee. Loading up the water bottles again, and packing some extra h2o in my rack pack for the coming climbs, we headed off to Jamaica and points west.
I lost Chris somewhere near Jamaica – even after he stopped in the shade to wait a few minutes for me. The climbs up through Bondville and past Stratton were lonely and uneventful. Was this road this hard last time I went through here? Is it really this hot? Am I getting enough liquid? Stratton – hmmm… focus on the tele skiing I did this winter when it was -28 on top. Cool thoughts. Keep spinning. Well, okay – don’t spin – how about standing? For a long time? Sure, hey, this is working!
Over the top and alone I dropped into Manchester – the last drop of water squeezed from my bottles. Refueling at a convenience store – Pepsi, Combos, Powerade, water – sitting outside I see Chris flash by – I yell and he stops. I assumed he was well up the road – but he stopped to enjoy some fresh fruit at a farm stand further up the descent. His tale of tearing into half a cantaloupe is funny. We ride together all the way to Sandgate – following the river, debating how we can build a raft of spare inner tubes and bike parts and float down to the end, envious of the folks splashing in the water – tempted to stop and wade in, cool off, and enjoy the day. Crossing the river I am jolted from my easy meandering thoughts by my rear wheel locking up… and I come to a screeching halt. My taillight came loose – and had been sucked around into the wheel! No damage to the tire though – and the plastic nut and bolt on the taillight are melted off. I bend the metal bracket to the left side… laughing as I’ll now have “side” visibility. Good thing I clipped my other blinky to my rack pack. We rolled into the control as a foursome – meeting up with 2 other riders on the dirt road who told us there was a wild party happening in Sandgate – something about a pool and food and energy drink. I walked the drive, just too tired to focus on skinny tires spinning in the gravel. Watermelon never tasted so good.
At Sandgate I found I was only ½ hour behind my schedule. I still felt good – tired – but not beaten. I stayed longer than usual, chatting and getting my bike in John’s work stand to have a look at my rear derailleur, which was finicky all morning. I also reworked the Danolite LED with zip ties so I’ll have navigational light through the night and change my Schmidt E6 bulbs as they were yellow this morning and nearing the end of their service life. My plan was to return to Sandgate by 10:30 – 11:00 pm, take a 2 hour dinner / recharge break, then ride through the night over the mountains – as I know the route beyond Manchester well – and wouldn’t need too much concentration navigating and reading my cue. I’d press on to Brattleboro – maybe taking an 8 mile detour to sleep in my own bed in Putney, or take a nap off the road in my bivy blanket, if required.
Well, I hear there’s some free food in Bennington. What say we ride over there and get some? Chris and I head out together for the 32 mile jaunt to Bennington.
157.7 miles completed
These roads are familiar to me as well – I’ve done some work in the Cambridge and Hoosick Falls area… funny to be riding here though – last few times through I was in my pickup full of tools and trudging to job sites in the snow. We make great time for the first 16 miles, each of us sharing pulls on the front, actually pleased that we can still put in 18 – 22 mph stretches. We start calculating arrival times to Bennington and extrapolating back to Sandgate – discussing how much sleep is reasonable knowing what route is left over the mountains to Brattleboro. Some familiar faces pass us going the other direction – waving as they glide by, telltale brevet gear a dead give away that these folks left Boston earlier that morning. We do some math – they must be 50 miles up the course from us. Wow. Impressive – something to continue working towards. How to get faster? Kris glides by going the other direction on his fine fixed gear. I can’t wait to read his ride report. Waves and nods to a few other BBS riders, and a few locals.
At some point my legs decide to quit, and our quick pace comes grinding down. John suggested that this would be easy. What are these short climbs doing here? Are we on the right road? Chris started drifting up the road from me. I was hurting a bit. Eat, drink. Sit up. Relax. The moon was peaking out. Beautiful country – horrible locals. I’ve never been yelled at or buzzed by so many cars and oddballs on one section of road like Rt. 22 in New York State. Makes me want to start carrying some Halt! or pepper spray. I caught back up to Chris near the Henry bridge. “Hey, I’m back!” Chris jumped out of his saddle. He was daydreaming, dozing a bit. Glad I was back – as I didn’t want to see him drifting off the road. We finish the last few miles at a better pace, catch up to some familiar faces and had a chat with Bruce in Bennington. We rig up for night riding and head out to Sandgate. Back on my schedule – despite slowing down! Odd, but I’ll take it!
190.1 miles completed
Feeling sluggish up the climb to the monument I encourage Chris to drop me if he feels like pressing on alone. He spins slowly away from me. The locals are out en-masse for the fireworks in the park at the foot of the monument and I dodge pedestrians, sparklers and the occasional bottle rocket. Atop the climb I panic a bit – I’m now alone, probably near the last bunch of riders on the road, and I’ve got some night riding to do in hostile territory to return to the control. Ahh… but the moon is up… there are fireworks in the sky… all is not lost.
Somewhere before Rt. 9 my primary Schmidt light pops. I just changed it! Out with a new one. DanoLite on, fumbling through my seat pack. Its getting cold. DanoLite quits. Wow, this thing is hot… is it melting the zip tie? I can’t see. Schmidt bulb in hand, light open and I can’t find my way to do this blind. Where’s that hiking LED… good thing I kept it with me. Light. I fumble with new batteries for the DanoLite. Nothing. Wonder if it needs to be in contact with the aluminum to act as a heat sink? Wonder if the heat fried the LED? Pissed that this is the second DanoLite to fail for me, in exactly the same way. What does the manufacturer use to fasten the LED to the aluminum clip? Why are these so fragile? Why did it work flawlessly on the 400k and now decide to quit, in the middle of nowhere? Argh!
Get the light replaced and layer up. Why am I freezing standing here? Knee warmers on and my shell. Hope its enough. Am I dehydrated? Rig the hiking lamp to my helmet. Press on. Wow, I’m feeling better, even if this is going to be a grind. I’m physically miserable all the way to Cambridge. Saddle issues. My quads and glutes are really sore. I’m cold. I force down some Gu and the pretzels I snagged from the control. Moon is glowing behind clouds. Beautiful. This is why I do this – challenge – and for those moments when the stars pop out and the sky is clear and everything is right with the world (except for the pain in my body).
Mental games for the next 10 miles. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. WTF was I thinking? I’m no endurance athlete – I’m still that pudgy kid who ran with a limp and was the slowest, fumbliest kid in grade school. I need to lose even more weight. If I were only 165 rather than my 180 – think of how much easier this climb could be. Why did you bring so much stuff? How do those guys do this with a tiny seat pack?
Somewhere along 313 my left knee cries out in the most shooting pain I have ever felt. I nearly double over on the bike, but manage to glide to a stop. I guess this is a good time for a nature break. What was that…? I’ve never had any knee issues. I get back on the bike and start pedaling again. Seated climbing is near to impossible. I have to stand on even the mildest rise in the road. Every 10 turns of the crank my knee screams at me. Knifes in there. Maybe a porcupine crawled into my knee warmers. 10 miles of really ugly riding. Is that the Battenkill… it is beautiful here. Pain again. I struggle to Chunks Brook Road. No way to pedal anymore. I unclip and start walking. How many miles to the control? It’s god awful late. I can’t do this. No way I can ride over the mountains tomorrow. No way I can finish another 166 miles. No way. Yes you can. Just rest, eat. Try. Finish the ride. Always finish the ride. This is 90% mental. Finish the ride. I want to crawl into a hole and sleep until someone finds me. 3 riders pass me, pedaling and checking in on me. I fear I am now the last rider on the road. It’s dreadfully quiet and dark. My LED is pretty faint. Surreal walking as I’ve pedaled all this way. I hear some grumbling / growling off in the woods. What was that? Maybe I’ll get eaten and this will all be over. Am I crying? I’m too dehydrated for that, I tell myself. Boys don’t cry. You’re being dramatic. You’re hallucinating. Suck it up and do this. Dog barking – oh yeah – that little beastie is probably waiting for me! I clip in and pedal 1 legged (good thing I did a lot of this on the trainer this winter!) up to the driveway. No way I’m going to attempt this. Walking again. Another rider passes me.
I stumbled into the control and collapse into a chair. Tracey finds me and I tell her that I am abandoning. Quitting, right here, right now. She takes my Brevet card and signs me in telling me that I can quit in the morning. John comes out, gets me some ice for my left knee. (note, my right knee has been fine since this morning!) Tracey encourages me to eat, shower, sleep, and reassess. She talks me into it. John supplies me with pasta and a soda. I struggle up the stairs to shower and sleep. Its 1:30 am. EVERYTHING hurts. At 3am I awake from the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had. Fitful nap. I barely get down the stairs. Chris is there suiting up. Come on – we’ve got 17 hours to finish – you can do this. Take it slow – if you get over the mountains you’ll be home free.
221 miles completed
I abandoned that morning. My body was not going to cooperate. My knee was still in pain. My quads and glutes were a mess. Walking was trouble. I went back to sleep and John woke me at 4 am – Tracey was sagging 2 other riders and he was loading bikes into the rental van. I stumbled down the stairs to try and help. I felt weird having someone load my bike why I sat there dumbfounded. I tried to eat some French toast. I couldn’t drink anything. I saw Emily and Jake head out, along with a few others. Good luck.
I rode back to Hanscom with Tracey, Jeff, and John. John was on the road behind me at Bennington, Jeff had some back pain – both very experienced riders. I felt like absolute crap. Mentally I was happy and thrilled that I’d gotten this far this season. Physically I felt destroyed. Jeff and I sat in camp chairs wedged between drop bags and control supplies. I joked to Tracey that I would have been more comfortable cycling back… and in an out of sleep I hear conversations between John and Tracey of riders and rides past, with Jeff adding a few notes here and there. We stopped in Brattleboro to drop some supplies and I saw some familiar faces from the night before – I wished them well from the van – and have to admit I was sad I was not on the road – but feeling I made the right decision. No sense in destroying a knee – especially because knee pain was new territory for me.
I drove home to Putney to my personal masseuse. (girl friends are wonderful things) J worked my legs for a good hour – thoroughly impressed at how tight and gnarled my quads were. I squirmed in pain, she reminding me to breath. My knee was feeling better. She started querying me about liquids – when, what, and how often I’d been drinking – as well as when the last time I had a nature break. She inspected my arms which usually have prominent veins displayed – and became very concerned. My veins were flat, even when I flexed. She wanted to take me to the hospital for and IV for dehydration. No, I didn’t want to go. I started downing water. If I didn’t start urinating in an hour or so she was taking me in – no arguments. We got some dinner and I started to feel better. Delirious a bit – but I started feeling human again. Not sure how that all happened. Not really sure how I drove from Hanscom back home. I thought I drank enough. I was trying so hard to get everything right for this ride…
Hundreds of small things can add up over this distance. I have no definite point of reference as to where things started to go wrong – but I knew when I had the first knee pains I was probably done. Today the legs and knees appear to be fine – I’ll probably take a slow spin this evening and see how everything feels. I’m not expecting any long term issues – but curious as to how / why / what happened.
I’m planning on the 300k in a few weeks, assuming my body cooperates, and already daydreaming again about long long rides. This stuff is addicting.
(note – I’m moving my Brevet ride reports from elsewhere on the web to this new blog)
Start: June 17, 2006 1:00 am or 4:00 am
Route: 250 miles, west to the Connecticut River valley and Berkshires
Time Limit: 27 hours (1:00 am start) / 23 hours (4:00 am start)
Finish Time: 21h31min
I scheduled a work meeting in the Boston suburbs for Friday morning – so I planned on the 1am start – and sleeping from about 3pm until I needed to awake and prep for the ride. This almost worked – I dozed off in the hotel to a World Cup match at about 3:30 PM… but found myself up a 5, energized. I surfed the web, read some randoneuring stories, emailed, and tried to sleep again. I managed perhaps 4 hours sleep total on Friday before getting up at 10:30 to prep for the ride. I stayed less than a half hour away from Hanscom – so I loaded the car and bike, grabbed some calories, and arrived for the first time with a comfortable cushion before the start. I layered well for the night temperatures and found everything on the bike just as I left it as I pedaled the parking lot.
The ride started in Bedford, MA and rode through very beautiful country to Bullard Farm (Western, MA) and then off to Ashfield for the mid point and essential turn around on the loop route back to Bedford.
I started the ride in a large group – sticking with other riders going my pace to ease the task of night navigating. The group was about 20 – 30 riders that would form and reform as we headed into the Berkshire hills – taillights blinking off into the night.
The sensation of riding in a group at night is very unlike that of a typical road ride. The sound of tires softly plying on the road, the efficient hum of the pedals, chain, and freewheel, and the occasional hushed chatter of riders catching up with old friends or discussing the route makes the night environment otherworldly. The site of the landscape punctuated by red firefly-like taillights and lit from the glow of human powered headlights is quite surreal – no whining engines, garish controls, or the smell of exhaust – just the steady rhythm of the pace line moving down the road – sometimes 3-4 abreast taking the entire lane on deserted country roads.
As the group fragmented and sorted itself out as we started climbing the hills along Rt. 119, I found myself leapfrogging with 3-4 other riders. Riding in a group at night was unique – riding alone in the forest with a half moon rising and the stars showing clearly in the sky was truly inspiring and humbling. I followed the Big Dipper up one pre-dawn, major climb – looking over my shoulder to see the moon glowing orange as the sun tried to peak around the horizon. The route at this point followed the road up to and through some Massachusetts state forest – and for most of the climbing I had the pleasant sound of a creek roaring somewhere nearby in the darkness. Alone on the road, under the stars and moon, listening to the human engine and simple machine take me up the road put me into a very peaceful, yet focused state of mind. The road and the night moved by and I felt tuned into the rhythm of the stars.
The night and predawn was cool as we climbed and descended the mountains – there was plenty of mist coming off the small lakes we passed. I wore wool socks, wool tights with windproof knees, and a wool base layer and felt great – the perfect combination of warm from working and covered from the chill. I lent my Putney shell to a rider I met along the way who was freezing – he left Bedford with only his jersey… and the temperatures dropped as we neared the early morning and climbed into the higher forest. (which, I realize by western standards is still pretty low!)
My split time to the first control was the fastest I’ve done this series – 75 miles in 5h12 min – with according to my Topo software 5,500 feet of climbing. This is slower than most riders – but for me the Brevet novice it was comfortable and as fast as I felt like pushing for a ride of 250 miles. I figure my midmorning ride had me right in the middle of the pack – folks in front of me riding a hammering pace and folks with and behind me doing it within their comfort zone. I liked where I was – felt strong, and new that if I slowed or had trouble other folks would be coming along – and if I felt like picking it up there were folks with me or just in front that would be a friendly site in the night.
At Bullard Farm I refueled on watermelon, cookies, and some summer sausage, reloaded water bottles, and debated changing into cooler clothes before I set out for control 2, 55+ miles away. I headed out and rode most of the second leg alone – enjoying the early morning sun that crept over the hills. We climbed to Warwick, Ma and then had a fun descent into Northfield – a town I routinely ride to on my 60+ mile Tri-State training loop. It was odd to roll into town from another direction, and knowing that I wouldn’t be heading north to Vermont – but further west and back again – all within 30 – 40 miles from home. The route then rolled along following the Connecticut River from Northfield into Turners Falls. I was alone for a good long time – and I just as I felt some despair that maybe my cue sheet or navigation was off, a cyclist from NYC crept up on me and we rider 10+ miles together talking about “the City”, timber framing, old barns, and cycling. We parted ways as we began the climb up 116 at Yankee Candle to Ashfield. I settled into a slightly slower pace – and for the most part enjoyed the climb – until the very end – as a light rain trickled down and I knew I was moments from lunch and a break – and the control was only a few more pedal cranks up the road… then despair set in as I was craving food and water and a chance to refresh.
I changed into cooler clothing for the afternoon – switching out my Ibex tights for bib shorts and losing the wool base layer. Swapping shorts is something I think I’ll do on all rides over 200k – what a great feeling to slip into a clean and fresh pair of shorts for the remainder of the day! I donned my shell for the drizzly and assumingly cooler descent. I refueled on a turkey sandwich, some chips (got to like the salt after sweating all morning) and a Coke. I downed more watermelon and a banana, and as I was heading out a half ham sandwich called out to me…
I figured that the long descent and short bit of navigating to Amherst would allow plenty of time for digestion. Water bottles were reloaded and I struck out again alone – passing a few riders on the decent. I felt odd – too warm in my shell, a bit chilled (but better) after removing it. I hit the flats near Yankee Candle and my motor just quit. I struggled along on Rt. 116, getting passed by several riders as we headed to Amherst. I couldn’t find a rhythm after feeling so strong all morning. I’m not sure if lunch did me in – but I felt bloated and slow – my legs were lead. I sat up for a long bit taking it slow – hoping my body would sort itself out before the big (unknown how big) climb out of Amherst. Turning out of Amherst I poked away at the route feeling odd and slow – and I noticed that I kept climbing. (I’m not sure how difficult the climb really is – this section of road was pure misery to me – and I plan on the short trip down from Vermont to ride it as a training ride sometime to verify if I was really sick – or if its really that difficult…)
I suffered through the better part of this 50+ miles to the Bullard Farm control. I hit a wall and it threw me down, very hard. I have never on my bike felt as I did for this section of road – absolutely demoralized, physically and mentally crushed, tired, and fantastically sore everywhere. My stomach was upset and my seat and saddle were fighting it out. My Brooks Saddle won – and I stood whenever I could – the pain far too great to tolerate. I started the “standing sprint” technique – stand, pedal up enough to spin out, coast a bit, REPEAT. I began to set small goals for myself – get to the next significant mileage point on the cue sheet, get to the top of the rise, get to that interesting looking tree… and when I saw the cue for the Pelham General Store I set the goal of a Coke slush, or popsicle, or something cold and icy. (Not sure why I was craving cold and icy – the temps were mild – but I think I was probably dehydrated. (not really able to eat or drink on this section…) I forced down some Gu and water… and atop the climb I felt my saving moment would be had – turn the corner and there would be the general store. My heart sank and I felt it hit the road. The general store was deserted – closed, shut down.
Crushed, I regrouped – and pressed on another 10 miles to the next place that I could find provisions and take a break – and as I limped up to the parking lot I found several of the folks who passed me earlier enjoying ice cream on the front chairs. A Coke slush was not to be had – but I enjoyed the most fantastic pospsicle I’ve ever eaten, followed by a liter of cold water. I sat and chatted a bit – and as the group that had been resting for some time donned their helmets and rode off, I restocked on cold water, dumped the Perpetuem and Heed and dreaded the next 10+ miles to the third control. Surprisingly as I got on the bike my saddle and seat decided to play nice. The pain in my rear was gone. My legs felt alive again, and the 10+ miles with some short, fun descents went quickly. I started to feel confident again, like I could finish. like my body was actually capable of riding, like after only a few years of being “serious” again on the bike I could start to look toward longer, more intense goals… and continue to get faster and fitter and enjoy these wonderful gifts of cycling days.
I rolled into Bullard Farm, chatted with some familiar faces, dumped out my pannier (which I will never again use for a Brevet – back to the rack pack or large seat pack) and set the stage for the last 60+ miles to the finish. It was a long way away. I had suffered quite a bit on this middle last leg, and I gave myself an ample time goal to return. I refueled, reloaded, oiled a slightly squeaking chain, and pedaled away – into some thunder and very large rain drops. I paused a bit under some trees – protected the Brooks with a bag from my coop, got the blinkers blinking and stashed the Brevet card in plastic. I rolled through the rain – actually enjoying the ride – slow – but enjoyable. Familiar faces passed me again – and I was confident that despite my previous melt down I would finish. As I neared the 200 mile mark my body again started complaining. I stopped for a quick break – and whatever my body asked for I gave it – so at MR. Mike’s convenience store I downed some Pepsi and Combos (cheddar cheese filled) and grabbed some Twizzlers to go. (note – on a normal day the thought of eating Combo’s makes me sick to my stomach!) I called my GF who was enjoying the day in Boston with friends to discuss my potential arrival time at Hanscom field (she was my designated post ride driver back to Vermont) – she was enjoying fine weather and clarified and boosted my confidence that I was only a short training ride from some good food and taking a well deserved rest.
On the climb to the Wachusset Reservoir I was passed by some familiar faces again – folks who I thought would be far further up the road than I. They stopped for a break to wait out some of the rain. I commented that I was “dying” – and they offered some food that I did not need. As they crested the climb I saw a chance to ride with a group again and somehow I got the engine running and the legs turning. Somehow, somewhere I pulled some confident riding into my life – and caught the group as we started East on 62 for the final 25 miles to the finish. Recovering on the rolling descent I found my legs again, and actually pulled to the front of the group and put my head down. I felt strong once again – and with only a “short” 25 mile jaunt to the finish I picked up the pace and our little group started leapfrogging each other as we climbed and rolled through South Bolton and Hudson. I felt as if I were out on a club group ride – the pace would pick up and vary as energy and the terrain dictated. I settled off the back felt good about chasing after the climb.
Unfortunately I burned up the balance of my energy and about 12 miles from home I faded further and further back into the night… not even to see them at the finish. I struggle the last 12 miles (in my books Rt. 62 is now officially the longest road ever). Energy came in bursts – and when I could muster it I put my head done on the aerobars for a short bit and would ride as hard as I could muster… knowing that I was near the finish. Turning out of Concord I knew I was close – and following 62 somewhere I made a navigation error at the construction – missing Old Bedford Road. I could hear airplanes. I could see the glow in the sky from what I presumed was the airfield, but I could not find my way. I backtracked a bit – and recovered my steps – twice – and in my delirium passed the turn on 2 occasions. I caught a glimpse of a faint headlight – something I could not mistake for anything other than the bob of a climbing cyclist – and started to follow. Suddenly things looked familiar – the office parks – the last little climb, the left turn – the confusion of the Hanscom entrance knot… and I was home.
In all, I loved it. The first 130 miles was some of the finest cycling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
I’m finding that the Brevet routes are always challenging and scenic. The company superb. The support and volunteer staff the nicest people I’ve met.
As a new randonneur I am continually adjusting what I think works and doesn’t. This time out I carried too much – but had the clothing choices right on. I missed a great opportunity to use the drop bag (thought I’d be better off “being prepared”) – and carried 10-12 pounds of gear in a single pannier. I should have stuck with my seat pack or rack pack – taking advantage of refueling and changing gear with the drop bag.
My tweaked bike set-up continues to work – with minor refinements in the works. Lights (dyno with dual Schmidt’s) again worked flawlessly – and while I ride at night quite a bit here in VT – I’m always nervous about the cue sheet and being on strange roads. After this ride night navigation has dropped to the bottom of my worries.
Nutrition – I’m finding this to be a challenge. My normal riding ranges in the 30 – 75 mile range and Gu, a bit of solid food, and HEED or energy drink seems to work. I’m finding I hit a wall after the 120 mile mark on Brevets (including the 300) – and need to find a better way to fuel. Solid food seems to be what I want – but I’m not sure what happened on this ride. The bit of riding after the second control was the worst I’ve yet to experience – and I chalk some of it up to fueling choices.
As I handed Bruce my Brevet card I was nearly confident all thoughts of the 600k were successfully purged from my mind. This was tough. I felt great that I finished – but allot of it was physical misery and mentally challenging. My GF chauffeured me to the ride – and I ate and slept in the car on the drive back to Vermont. Barely climbing the stairs I crashed into a deep sleep.
I awoke this morning craving breakfast and thinking about getting on the bike for a quick recovery spin.
As I ate I started scheming and planning. 600k is allot longer than 400k…. but in the early spring I have to admit I thought all of these rides were long – and now, its all relative.
(note – I’m moving my Brevet ride reports from elsewhere on the web to this new blog)
Start: May 27, 2006 4:00 am
Route: 190 miles, south into western Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut
Time Limit: 20 hours
Finish Time: 14h14min
We started out at 4am, pedaling away in the dark and fog. My dyno lights worked fantastic, and I added a tiny LED on my helmet.
Navigating from a cue sheet on unfamiliar roads at night was a challenge. I stayed with the lead group through the first 45 minutes. Riding in a group (about 40 riders did the ride) in the dark was fun – a sea of red LED taillights off into the distance.
The morning was cool – and I watched the light change as the sun came up. I was nearly pegged by a mini van somewhere in Mass – I saw my reflection in the drivers glasses – and had to shout obscenities before he stopped. (He started pulling out from a stop sign!) I veered and skidded… but survived – adding a jolt of adrenaline to my morning.
I rolled into the first checkpoint feeling strong – riding my own ride, eating, drinking, etc. I like to get in and get out – before my legs stiffen up. (Some folks speed between checkpoints and then rest awhile) I caught up to some of the folks I was riding with in the pre-dawn hours, and left before them, choosing to ride alone, at my own pace. I never saw most of them again. Somewhere between checkpoint 1 and 2 we hit a bit of climbing, and I leapfrogged with 2 other riders, catching them on the descents, them passing me on the climbs. We aren’t racing – so I just stick at my pace, confident that I’ll get through.
I felt strong through the first 2 checkpoints. Climbing my way through (see attached route and profile) Mass and CT. After the second checkpoint I hit a wall – literally and physically. My lunch took awhile to digest (I ate Gu and liquid energy on the bike – and solid foods at the rest stops). My turkey sandwich didn’t sit very well – and I started a long stretch of climbing. I was pretty miserable for the first hour after lunch – struggling along just keeping moving. I was passed by 4 fixed gear riders at this point. Yes – 4 people did the ride on fixed gear bicycles – 1 gear, and no coasting. Incredible. They passed me climbing up a steep bit – and I saw them again (only briefly) later in the day.
Rolling into the 3rd checkpoint I was dying of thirst. I should have stopped and reloaded, but I wanted to wait for the control. I still felt strong – having completed 145 +/- miles, with 10,500 feet of climbing. I called Jen, in a great mood, feeling really good going into the final leg.
The last stretch was tough. We had a brief downpour – which was welcome as I had been suffering a bit in the heat. Cooled off I started looking at the clock – and I wanted to finish under 14 hours, so I knew I had to push just a bit to make it. I gambled on stopping for water – and in the end I don’t think it payed off. I made a small navigational error which added 1.5 miles (and a steep hill) to my ride – only 10 miles from the end. The last 10 miles I rode standing – my shorts had caused some serious pain on my male components – and I didn’t have any power to climb hills – even short ones – while seated.
Thanks to Tracey, Bruce, Eric and the other volunteers who made my first 300k the longest ride of my life (until the 400) and a great success and very pleasurable experience.
Jitters of night navigation and taking on another 100k beyond my previous long ride kept me on the fence about riding – but as the week before the event approached, my body and mind felt stronger than previous to the 200k.
A few things that went right:
- I planned my work schedule around the event. I managed to schedule a meeting in Boston and then crashed in a Waltham hotel to get a good nights sleep. This is in contrast to the 200k, where I drove from Western NY (work travel) to Vermont, packed the bike and gear, drove to Western Ma. (girlfriends place), got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep, then drove in the morning of to ride! A good nights sleep does wonders for my body’s morale!
- Night navigating – I’ve been out training at night and in the rain – but I know my own local routes – I was nervous about navigating with a cue sheet in the dark – on unfamiliar roads. I stayed with a group through the first few miles – getting confident and chatting a bit. As the pace picked up with the lead group I dropped off the back and enjoyed a wonderful morning. The dual Schmidt E6’s worked well, along with the Danolite LED headlamp.
- Modified position on the bike – I was way stretched out and hunched over on the 200k. (My set up seemed great up to about 60 miles, never bothered me on my local group and loop rides) My neck, shoulders, and a bit of my back were “done” after mile 80. I’ve pulled my stem in a bit
- closer, and raised my bars. The current setup was comfy for the 300k. Hoping it works well for the 400.
- Access to Food – The 200k had me reaching into my jersey pockets each time I would want a bite on the bike. I added a “bento box” style of bag to my top tube. It holds a bunch of Gu packets and a clif bar – it worked very well – no more reaching around back, searching through a
- pocket that I cannot see. Undo the velcro flap, peek inside, and grab what I want… (expired packs still drop into the jersey pocket)
- Food – Between stops I relied primarily on Gu, Perpetuem, and HEED. I started the ride with no real breakfast – so some fruit, a Clif bar, and a bottle full of Perpetuem got me through the morning. The Perpetuem seemed to sit in my stomach – and as the day warmed I switched my second bottle to HEED at the second checkpoint. I ate fruit and solid food at the controls – watermelon, bananas, a turkey sandwich, some beef jerkey (never tried that before – but I was craving it as soon as I saw it!). Later in the ride I’d stuff some treats in a pocket for later – usually pretzels and a cookie or two to break up the Gu monotony.
Things I think I can do better:
- Routine – I got a 10 minute late start out of the parking lot as I had to grab my ankle bands and couldn’t decide on arm warmers or jacket. I now have a checklist that will reside in my gear bag – I’ll run through this prior to locking my car, rolling to the start line, and realizing I’m missing something as we head out of the lot!
- Control Routine – I’ve tried to commit to memory a control list – I did things different at each control – and I was always concerned I had forgotten something. Key for me was feeling scattered as I rolled in thinking about food and drink. The next time out I’ll stick to a routine – including clearing the odometer, flipping my cue sheet, setting my stopwatch, getting my card signed, then diving into food, water, etc.
- Resetting my odometer – I missed this on the last control – and about 2 miles in I realized my cue sheet didn’t seem to agree with my computer. I did mental math the final leg – which may have kept me sharp – but in the end just frustrated me.
- Navigation – Never chase / follow another cyclist, unless you know they are on the ride! I missed the (ahem, arrowed) turn onto 117 as I followed a cyclist with a rear rack and bag for about 3/4 mile! A small error – but one that could have turned ugly had a kept going,
- Water / Fluids – I had easy access to food on the go – and while I carried 2 bottles on the bike, I realized that depending on temperatures, this won’t get me through 50-60 miles. I resisted (foolishly) stopping at a convenience store to refill on several occasions, thinking I would push through. I think this hurt me in the last 15 miles – I was tired and dehydrated – had I stopped for 5 minutes as I ran low on liquids, I probably would have finished feeling slightly more relaxed and possibly in a slightly better time.
- Shorts can hurt – I do love my Ibex cycling shorts and tights. I now know I do NOT love them for long rides. After about 120 miles I discovered a very unfriendly seam location on the front side of my shorts. The joint between panels and the pad just happens to be where the top of my male anatomy likes to comfortably sit. This caused some serious pain on the last leg – and I rode the last 10 miles standing as I couldn’t sit and let this rub further. I’m questing for new shorts for loooong rides.
- Watch the shoulder! – I took a nature break somewhere in RI along a busy stretch of road. Being on a shoulder only a few inches wide, I decided to leave the road (at slow speed) before I unclipped both feet. This proved humorous, as my front wheel dove into sand, and I fell to the
- clipped in side of the bike. A knee twinge and bruised ego resulted, and my sunscreen and sweat covered legs were now breaded in sand. Note to self – do not leave terra firma until on 2 feet!
- Cars and accidents – I witnessed a slow motion car wreck on the final leg of the 200k. I was nearly hit by a minivan (even though I shouted, I saw my reflection in the drivers glasses, and I was lit up like a christmas tree) in the dawn hour of the 300k – skidding to a stop and almost losing the bike from under me. Later in the day I stopped at a light in CT and watched a small car plow through a red light – with oncoming pickup trucks squealing their brakes and skidding a bit. With less than 20 miles to go I snaked through broken glass and the line of cars as police directed traffic around an accident on Mass Rt. 30. Is this normal? Seems I get to see all the best and the worst the driving world has to offer as I enjoy a day on the bicycle!
Looking forward to the 400k. Will modify my tactics a bit, and stay clear of sand, minivans, and cars.
(note – I’m moving my Brevet ride reports from elsewhere on the web to this new blog)
Start: May 6, 2006 7:00 am
Route: 125 miles, north into Southern New Hampshire
Time Limit: 13 hours, 30 minutes
Finish Time: 9h46min
I’ve encountered a bit of a bump in the plan for my brevet rides, as recent blood work has me with really screwed up blood counts. I’m anemic, and depending on who I talk to it borders on potentially dangerously low levels. (my doc has not been a giant help, and other people who have seen my results are concerned…) I may postpone my riding plans until my body is straightened out – and I figure out where the problems are.
So, I’m not a doc, but from what I understand this is how I summarize whats going on: Thoughts are it is related to my thyroid disorder and how my body makes blood and processes b12, folate, and iron. As I strive to be an aerobic athlete I have been running at an oxygen deficit – the blood that I need to carry oxygen to working muscles is not there, so I have less to use for recovery and to motor my body along. This reinforces itself as I have been training harder trying to get better, but not seeing improvements. Being in the deficit then hurts my recovery days, and I reinforce the low counts… and on and on. I may have a problem with b12, as is common in folks with thyroid disorders. This affects iron absorption and blood creation.
I’ve discussed my training and rides with the doc, and he (or his assistant) didn’t seem to think I should worry, but others I’ve mentioned it to seem to think I need a new doc and should be undergoing a battery of tests to find the root causes.
I’ve been feeling sluggish and tired for 3 months, and I’ve just figured it was the amount I’ve been working and exercising. I have been pissed that I’m not seeing any significant gains in my cardio fitness levels… so that was starting to raise flags – but as usual – I figured I wasn’t working hard enough. (the weight loss has stopped and is hovering between 175 and 180, but the endurance and intensity don’t seem to be getting better).
I finished the Boston 200k – taking it slow, and listening to my body. I left the HRM at home, with the goal of just finishing.
125 Miles, 6880 feet of climbing. (I think they picked every road that went up, and up, then up some more) We rode from Bedford, MA up into New Hampshire (near Hollis, Amherst, New Boston… and a whole bunch of small towns)
My finishing time was definitely slow, as some people probably finished in 6 hours or under (wow, that’s fast). I finished in under 10 hours, which was a “soft” goal for me. I had thoughts of finishing in under 8… back when I started training… but under the circumstances I think I did well. Haven’t seen the official results list yet, but will know more later this week.
Total time includes the 10 minutes I waited at the start for my group to leave, as well as all stops (2 checkpoints to get my time card stamped, pick up food, use the boys room, etc…).
Not bad for a guy who only got 3 hours of sleep the night before, had to drive 2 hours to the event, and whose body is severely deprived of his ability to transport oxygen to working muscles… (going to the doc again this week to start sorting that mess out)