Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Boston Brevet Queen

Did the weather cooperate last weekend for Lynda's much anticipated 350K brevet? The 220 mile randonnee was scheduled to begin at 4 am Saturday with a time limit of 23 hours, 20 minutes, (and minimal support). Yikes! We all know Lynda was up for the challenge -- but was Mother Nature on the same page? Hope all went well, Lynda!


Cyclopath-Donna said...

Hope you had a GREAT ride. I look forward to a full report.

Lynda said...

It was a great ride! And a long ride. And an inspiring ride. And sleep-depriving...

And I LOVED every minute of it!

We didn't get any rain, although there were reports of some hail from a rather ominous-looking cloud around the Barre area. Missed that, thank goodness.

I will write a full report (and it is FULL - my finish occurred at 12:15am the following day..) when I've worked it out in MS Word for a few revisions.

I rode a good portion of it with Emily O'Brien - well-known in randonneuring circles as the true brevet queen. She rides for Quad Cycles in Arlington, and rides all of her brevets and randonnees on a fixie. Was nice talking with her, singing with her to stave off fatigue after 10pm, and just talking shop regarding this type of riding.

I will be joining RUSA (randonneurs USA) for next year, and riding the Boston Brevet Series in the hopes of qualifying for the Boston-Montreal-Boston Randonnee. And the Paris-Brest-Paris in four years.

That is, of course, in addition to riding with you all, and riding the PMC. Full plate!

Motionbased data: http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/invitation/dashboard.mb?episodePk.pkValue=6533069

Bruce K said...

You go girl !!!

So I'm guessing there's a real Randonneur bike in your future. Custom or something like a Rivendale?

Are you going to go the whole nine yards and get the racks, generator driven lights, etc.?

Can't wait to hear the report.

I can put you in touch with a woman I know in FL who has done both Boston-Montreal-Boston and Paris-Brest-Paris. Just e-mail me.


Tam Cronin said...

AWESOME! We're going to have to change your name from SprocketGirl to Supergirl. Great job!

Can't wait to read the details.

Lynda said...


Yes! Pass her email along to me! The more information, the better!

I've been eyeing Surly and Rivendale (Rivs are pretty pricey though). They are not cheap, no matter which brand you're looking at, but I do need a longer wheelbased setup.

There are some issues w/the Scott that I am fine with on a century and a half, but not 200 or beyond, like bar placement (prob. just a stem change)and the std double rings are a chore for hills. I want to get a compact soon for it anyway, but I think that a nice steel frame for the ultras is definitely the way to go.

Yes to the dynamo lights. My ViewPoint 5-led may be great for commuting, but not so much for navigating pothole-laden roads of Western Mass! That was a big chore, and lesson learned-get the big-candle-power to do the job.

I had picked up a Topeak quick rack system with a seatpost attachment, and the corresponding trunk/zip-out pannier bag and was able to fit all of my gear in it quite nicely, with some room for a change of clothes, but a dedicated rack would probably dissipate the load a little more evenly over the rear wheel instead of the fulcrum being right at the seatpost.

I am excited - can't wait for next year!

Lynda said...

My day started at 1am, the silence of the early morning pierced with the sounds of sports radio banter. Time to get up! Today is the day!

I gathered most of my gear and supplies the night before, just so I could throw everything in my truck and get on the road to Bedford with ease the morning of the event. Little did I know that I was about to forget the pre-made 6-hour bottle of Perpetuem in the fridge. I left the house at 2:45, making my way to the boldest thing that I’ve ever done in my life!

I arrived at the parking lot at Hanscom Airport shortly after 3am. There was a rider already there, getting his gear in order. I was so anxious and excited at this time. Could I really complete this much mileage?? I kept telling myself not to try and keep up with the fast pack! I’d fizzle out, for sure!

Tracey, the ride organizer, checked me in, made sure that I had all of the required gear (headlight, rear steady tail light, reflective vest, reflective ankle bands), presented me with a brevet card, which was to be signed by authorized personnel at each control point, and a cue sheet six pages long. Good to go!

14 riders showed for the ride, only three were female – me, Emily, and Melinda. And I was the only newbie. All were experienced randonneurs.

We set out promptly at 4am, the road leading out from Hanscom providing the very first hill of the ride (so soon? ;o) The sight of tail lights and the sound of whirring bicycle wheels cutting through the foggy silence of the morning was just a thing of beauty. I spent the first moments of the ride pacing with Tom, who assured me that the group pretty much tries to stay together until dawn, for safety’s sake. That put my worries of riding in the dark alone to rest. He also assured me that if I rode my pace and nobody else’s, I’d be successful, to which I agreed with. “Don’t chase” was the mantra of the day.

Up and down the rolling hills of Concord, Acton, Maynard, and Stow we rode, riders splitting off, some to take a pee break, some mis-reading the cue sheet, and some having the occasional flat to repair.

Once we were beyond route 495, the terrain became much more graded. I can recall one huge descent in the Stow/Bolton area the absolutely scared the pants off of me. I wasn’t prepared for the steepness combined with the twists and turns, in the dark, and slightly panicked. The roads were still wet from the rain that fell the night before, and I had let too much speed build up, so braking was sketchy. Whew! From that point on, I had learned my lesson of out-riding the range of my headlight! The hills were pretty steep and some provided little recovery time before it was time to climb the next hill. I was still feeling really good, really fresh, big hills and all. My confidence level is high.

With daylight having arrived, around mile 30, I let the group go at their usual pace, avoiding riding at the wrong pace for me to finish. As it was, I didn’t want to fly to keep up in the dark, but had to for safety’s sake. So around Hubbardston/Princeton, I rode the 10 miles to the control at the Barre Dam alone. Just me and the hills, the beauty of the area and the sound of country silence amongst my breath and my bike’s whirring gears.

Arrive Control #1: Barre Dam. Had to stop and look around, and notice just how little water it handles! It looked kind of funny, a big dam for a little waterway, but I think that it must be there in the event that there ever flooding of some sort, rather than handling the body of water constantly. Took some pix there. Went to get card signed, and tried not to get eaten alive by the largest, most ferocious mosquitoes that I’ve ever encountered! Tracey signed my card, I grabbed a banana and some other goodies, filled water bottles, and I was off, if anything because of the damn skeeters!

I rode out from Barre Dam to Barre Center on my own. Had to stop at a restaurant in the center to fill a water bottle that I’d drank in just two miles, the hills were THAT STEEP! Especially the one that is at the end of Route 62, right at Barre Center. They shouldn’t even be called hills – those were WALLS of asphalt! Wow! The quality of the asphalt of this section was not good at all, lots of potholes and patches covering all the other craters. Very bumpy, tiring experience for about a mile.

Got ready to leave Barre Ctr, when Andrew from England came riding by. He was riding quite an interesting setup – a Bike Friday folding road suspension bike. Shortly after that, we caught up with Dan from the group. We climbed the hills of Wheelwright, Gilberville , Hardwick and Ware. Dan paced away from Andrew and me, leaving us to help each other navigate. We did fine, until crossing Ware. We rode right by a key turn, caught it within 2 miles of going off course, no big problem, back-tracked and all was well. On our way through Belchertown, we caught back up with Dan, and Andrew got a rear flat. Shortly after that, whilst descending a hug hill around Holyoke Range State Park, I hit some rough patches, and my hand pump jarred loose, I heard it fall to the ground, turned around, set back up the hill, and prayed that no one had run it over!

While chasing after my fallen pump (which, thank goodness had tumbled towards the side of the road and not into traffic), Emily was descending the hill, looking at me as if to say, “where ya goin’, silly!” After retrieving the pump, I catch up with her. Emily is a fellow Quaddie who I was just formerly introduced to last weekend. Her reputation precedes her: she is the youngest rider to complete the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonnee, has completed the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1600k, the Furnace Creek 508 race out west, as well as many other brevets and randonnees. Lots of experience and I tried to ask as much as I could while we rode along, as well as just chatting about life and hobbies, politics and such. We rode the rest of the ride together, and I can’t thank her enough for the words of encouragement, as my back started hurting (around mile 130-ish), and just in general creating an air of “yes, you can.” As we rode through Amherst, Hadley and Northampton, my poor back was making the ever-growing hills more difficult. I believe that my standard road gearing is too much for my taking on those hills (which, by the accounts of the other riders, pales in comparison to the other brevet routes that go into New Hampshire, Vermont and NY State). We will be changing to a compact crankset very soon, and changing handlebar height as well.

We rode through Northampton, passing my favorite hot tub spa: East Heaven Hot Tubs! I haven’t been to NoHo in an age, and it was nice to be riding through it. We got onto route 66 ended up missing a crucial turn.. Emily wanted to turn around and check the suspect street that we had passed not too long ago, but I insisted that the Garmin was saying that we were still on route. Little did I know that the unit had lost satellite reception and the screen was frozen, showing old route progress! So we rode something like 5 to 7 miles further out than what we should have. We had passed an ice cream shop earlier on this “lost route” portion of the ride, so we agreed that it would be a great time to take a break and have some ice cream. Yum! There’s nothing like an ice cold treat to perk you up when you are really working hard! Nice call Em!

We had also passed a portion of road that was compacted dirt, a new road surface had yet to be layed on it, before it had some rainfall. So on the way out, it was rutty and spongy, climbing its’ grade. On the way back from my navigational goof-up, going down the hill seemed much more solid, a better experience for sure.

Got back on track, crossed over the Westfield River and rode into Westfield, a very industrial town, with many factory buildings and lots more traffic than we’d had up to that point. Control #2 was located at New Horizons Sports in Westfield. Got card signed, had a pb&j sandie, pickles (Emily has made me a true believer) and some summer sausage. I’m not quite used to seeing that kind of food (not counting pb&j) at rest stops, but it does make sense to have good protein and sodium choices for fuel. Sat for a spell to rest and talked with the control man (can’t remember his name), who finds and builds all of his bikes and finds other items from dumpster diving and trips to the dump. Very resourceful. Don, the owner of New Horizons, was there, showing off a frame that someone had built in their spare time, out of scrap metal. I wouldn’t have known it came from scrap – it looked like a darn good frame that just needed to be painted! Very cool little shop, I will go and see Don when I am ready to acquire a randonneur bike. T

hen it was off on the return trip, next stop Barre Falls again for the bbq!

The route out had us going a different route than in. Instead of turning left to climb North into Northampton again, we travelled East then North to climb into the Amherst area, then join up with the route that we took to go out. Self assessment: was feeling re-charged somewhat, whatever doubts that I may have had regarding continuing on were now faded. Even as Emily, Dan and I scratched our heads looking for the out route, I was mentally charged. We had to ask a local business owner where Union Street was located, figuring that would save some time and effort if our efforts were to become fruitless in looking for it ourselves. As it turned out, we were right there at Union St, so all was well.

We missed another turn in Easthampton, descending on Mountain Road off of Mt. Tom, which is an 8% downgrade, with twisty turns. Right at the bottom of the grade was our street, and we just blew right by it and into town. So we took the opportunity to refill our bottles and supplies, then turned around and got back on track.

In Ware, looking up into the sky in the distance was a rather ominous-looking cloud, with “fingers” of moisture reaching down in the tree line. A REAL dark cloud mass. It looked at first that we wouldn’t be riding anywhere near it, but as we weaved our way along the route, it was looking very close. I got the plastic baggies out and started dressing the Garmin and my phone in them, just in case the skies let loose.

In Ware is where I started feeling my feet ache as well as my back issue. Climbing a series of hills without adequate recovery time for my ailments is again making me wonder if I will finish this ride. I actually contemplated aloud about stopping at Control #3 and DNF’ing. (Hmm. I wonder if I my ailments are due to turning traditional gearing instead of a triple or a compact crankset, or if I have a cleat placement issue again. I’m planning on changing the rings to a compact set as the next upgrade, so we’ll see if that does the trick.)

It certainly helped to engage in conversation while riding at this stage, as it got my mind off of climbing ( sometimes), so we chatted and chatted, covering various topics in our lives. Turns out that we are both musicians and are aquainted with a recorder/floutist for Manheim Steamroller. Again, such a small world! As we neared the Barre Dam, I was pretty cranky, perhaps in dire need of some burgers and chicken? 65 miles from the last control, a break was much needed!

Night had fallen around 15 minutes before we reached the Barre Dam. Turned our lights on, and the uneasy feeling of not having an adequate light for the country roads came around again, even more pronounced, now that we were only a group of two in the dark, rather than 14 at the start of the ride. Much less lighting this time around. Upon arrival at the Dam, Emily recited her rendition of, “Barre Had A Little Dam..” Hee!

It was less buggy at the Dam this time, unlike this morning where I was eaten alive by the little buggers. Put on some bug spray just in case, got my card stamped, and got some food. Boy, doesn’t real food taste sooo good right now! Jake, Dan and Andrew were there, and they headed out shortly before Emily and I did. Refilled supplies and took off for the remaining 43 miles to the finish line.

The terrain was pretty much a downhill affair after we climbed our way out of Barre, and the pavement got better as well, making for a better time navigating dark streets. There was a gorgeous full moon out, illuminating through the trees as we rode through Princeton, Sterling and Lancaster. My spirits were lifted by all of the downhills we were on, the rest and energy conservation were much appreciated.

Bolton into Maynard: the bar-hoppers are out in full-force, yelling at us from moving cars, couldn’t really make out hat they were saying most of the time, but a few times I could hear something to the extent of, “you P*ssies.” Felt like retorting, “No sh*t, genius!” If they only knew what we had been doing for the past 17 hours… Stupid drunk guys…

The ride on Route 62 from Acton into Concord was a very long one, the sleep deprivation had firmly taken hold. Everything started to run in slow motion, and it actually started making riding in the dark easier, maybe I was getting more relaxed from riding so long? Weird. I had some serious tunnel vision though, just zoning into the road ahead. So Emily started singing, I think to stave off the mental fatigue. Good idea! La lalala…

Once we arrived at Old Bedford Road in Bedford, the 4 final miles to the finish, I was energized! The final hurdle to get over was on Virginia Road – one more final short but steep hill about a ½ mile from the Hanscom lot. My left quad was getting a slight tweak, the start of a cramp. I gave it one last effort to get up the hill, did it, and descended to Hanscom Airport like a champ!

At the finish, Tracey was there, waving my brevet card that I’d left at the bbq. I thanked her for picking it up, how could I be so foolish, for if she hadn’t found it and brought it along, I would’ve been recorded as DNF, as I would have no way of proving that I’d rode the course! Lesson learned: guard that card! There were some salty snacks at the end, and, if I had decided to join RUSA right then and there, I would’ve had myself a shiny medal for my hard work today, but wanted to sleep on the proposition (I’m now sorry that I didn’t join then – because I will be joining RUSA for sure, I’ve caught the bug!). Tracey took a picture a me and the bike, and then packed gear and left for home.

This event was grueling, exciting, tiring and emotional. There were times that I wanted to quit, call MJ to come and pick me up, and there were times where I looked around me and saw breathtaking landscapes that reminded me why I love to be out here and not in the city. All of the climbing and even the night riding, I loved it all. Loved the company, the atmosphere, and this experience has made me believe that, yes, I can and will conquer anything in my path! 240.5 miles in 20:28:45 total time. Not too bad for my first brevet! Many more of these to come for next year.

Lynda said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention about the saddle sores: I had saddle sores where I didn't know that one could get them.. from all of that climbing, my butt dug into the saddle, beyond the padding section of the bike shorts, so chafing from the non-padded sections created quite the raised welt on both sides. Ouch!

It took two days to recover, including an ashiatsu (oriental bar therapy) session. Didn't take any days off from work.

The series starts back up mid April 2009. The succession of rides is as follows:

100k - April 7hrs
200k - May 13.5hrs
300k - May 20hrs
400k - June 27hrs
600k - July 40hrs
Boston-Montreal-Boston - Late August. 69.5hrs