Sunday, May 2, 2010

Boston Brevets 200K - (5/1/10)

Ride: Boston Brevets 200K
Goal Time: 12:30:00
Real Time: 12:10:00 or so

The second section of the Brevet absolutely slaughtered me. At the Hollis town line I had to stop and eat one of my sandwiches and an apple (before I was going to turn around and find the second control). It had become quite obvious that I missed a turn somewhere since the controle was the Brookline Elementary School and I was about to leave Brookline - damn.

So as I retraced my steps trying to find my missing turn, I happened to be passed by all the same people who had passed me while I returned to Milford Center earlier in the section. Now they gave me real confused waves.

But, I get ahead of myself. I left my house in Cambridge at 5:15 AM to go to my first brevet. What they hay is a brevet, you might say? (hay and say rhyme with "brevet", by the way) . I guess so does way. Anyway,

A brevet is a self-supported long-distance bike ride. The largest and most famous is the Paris-Brest-Paris which is a 1200km ride that happens every four years - the next one is in 2011. But, there are Brevet (also called randonnee) Series in many places. A series is commonly 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km. (In fact to ride the Paris-Brest-Paris you must qualify by riding that said series in the same calendar year.) Someone who does a brevet can be called a randonneur. For more explicit (and probably less confusing) descriptions of randonneuring and brevets check out Randonneurs USA FAQs and site:

The 200km Brevet was the first Boston trip of the New England Randonneurs of 2010. Like all their brevets it runs out of Hanscom Field on the town line between Concord, Lincoln and Bedford. As my legs don't really start working right until I've done 6-10miles, the 14 mile ride from Central Square to Hanscom was a great warm-up for me. I pulled into the starting area right before 6:30 and got myself signed in - spending the next half hour stretching and preparing.

The remaining riders began pulling in (most drove). Initially, it looked like the typical cycling crowd with bike shorts and clipless pedals galore. The importance of this I'll get back to later.

About ten miles into the ride seven of us had grouped together at a pace I liked and through most of the first section we stayed pretty well in this 5-7 people group pushing each other and flew through the first section - averaging 15 mph until the first controle (checkpoint) in New Boston, NH. At the controle there is a volunteer who stamps your brevet card and a collection of various biker fair to rejuvenate your energy - cookies, bananas, pop-tarts, etc. That's where I really started talking with people. They turned out not to be the typical cyclists I meet on club rides. These people were actually very supportive - rather than judgmental.

Three of us left New Boston together heading for the second controle in Brookline, NH. I said that this one should be easier because its only 40 miles (never, assume). The brevet vet in my group simply said: "There is a reason it's shorter." Turned out to be quite hilly - including a fantastic downhill on 122 where I got the bike up to 37 mph!

As we got into Milford Center, the directions became confusing and the trip around the main square was like the Griswalds doing Picadilly Circus. But, we navigated it well - sort of. Matt pointed to a bike shop (which turned out to be convenient). Once we determined we were going the wrong way, we headed back into another circumnavigation of the square and then out of Milford on long not so steep hill on Union Street - almost exactly halfway through the ride. This is when disaster struck!

I tried to shift into a lower gear and my chain wedged itself between the first and second cogwheel. No amount of work between me, the other two guys and a fourth cyclist - who was not involved in the brevet could do anything. The unattached rider told me that there was a cycle shop in town. Which there was, along the wrong turn in Milford, and he was on his way there. I walked the bike back into town, passing several riders who were on the brevet. they were ready for me as the unattached cyclists had already spoken to them. Well, they were able to fix my chain, and repair the broken spokes (a completely different problem from earlier in the week). I'll recommend Souhegan Cycleworks in Milford to anybody up that way.

40 or so minutes later, I was back on track. Unfortunately, now I was completely alone. It is a lot harder riding by yourself. Whether this is physical in someways, I also think it is psychological. I figured if I could fight my way over the next 35 or so miles I could make it back to join up with people at controle number 2. Which, turned out it could have been true. After bypassing Brookline Elementary School and stopping on the town line, I rode back into Brookline Center and bought some water. Here everyone who had passed me on my return trip to Milford was now passing me again after leaving the second controle.

After a rest and some water, I was ready to conquer the last portion of the ride - back to Hanscom. Alone and tired my average plummeted. My goal had been 12:30:00. So, while still on pace for that, I was kicking myself for the 1:20:00 I spent at the bike shop and missing the turn for Brookline Elementary School- unghhh. Alone through the roads of northern Mass I fought my way back and turned up back at Hanscom - the next to last rider to finish. One of the guys who had passed me twice and was packing up his car congratulated me. I smiled.

While the brevet was done, my riding was not. I still had 14 miles back to Cambridge, before Wendy's and sleep.

My cycling average was 13.4 mph over about 10 hours on the bike. While my elapsed average was 10.3. Next time if I don't go the wrong way or have to stop at a bike shop - it'll be great.

I reached two milestones during the ride. First, the 160 was my longest single day total (easily breaking my previous 107). Second, I broke 1000 miles for the year.

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