March 2, 2012

Interview with Pamela Blalock, part 2

This is part two of an interview with Pamela Blalock, a versatile cyclist from New England, USA. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.Pamela Blalock, part 1

These sound to me like impossibly difficult rides, and you mentioned that you have also participated in them on a tandem. When was that?
In 1992, two tandems completed BMB: one with two men, and the one I was on with my partner at the time, Steve. I think there has been at least one tandem every year since, but I don't know for sure. It is a challenging tandem ride. John and I completed the ride on tandem in 1994.

Is riding a tandem an advantage, disadvantage, or just a different experience?
I'm going to say it's different. There are advantages and disadvantages. You always have someone to ride with and talk to. But if something goes wrong and one get sick or injured, you both have to slow or stop. On the other hand, one can help the other through a rough spot. But one can't ride off to get help if the bike breaks down. With the extra weight, tandems are harder on parts. They also are going to be a bit slower up hills and faster down.  The tandem likely will climb at the average of the two riders' paces. In our case John climbs faster than I do on a single bike, so we climb faster on the tandem than I do alone, meaning we go faster together than I would alone -- this is an advantage. But if one has to stop to sleep/pee/eat, then both have to stop.  Tandems can be hard on parts, so chances of a mechanical may be increased. Finally,  the tandem is just harder on our butts -- which you can imagine is an issue on a 750 mile ride. Being able to stand will help a lot in this regard, but I do find I have to do a lot more standing on the tandem than on my single. The reward for doing this challenging thing together is amazing.

They are not races, no one wins and stands on a podium, or gets ranked. And  professional cyclists are banned from entering. But that doesn't mean it is not competitive and perhaps extremely competitive. How does participating feel ... race-like or not so much?
Any time two riders go out, it's competitive :-) PBP does recognize the first finishers. The results book from 1991 and 1999 was listed by hour. I believe now it may be alphabetical order. Everyone gets the same medal, but it does have the time stamped on the back. At PBP,  the front end is very competitive. There are team tactics and some not so nice things go on at the front. But for 95% of the riders, it's really all about finishing. People help each other out and cheer each other on. It is very friendly. Similar to a running marathon.

I learned that the ride's "Great Book" lists the names of all successful riders in it since the beginning in 1891. That's excellent, very cool!

When asking me about solo touring, people often suggest that I must be particularly brave, or strong, or fast. I usually respond that I'm just essentially stubborn. In your blog I read you describe yourself as "Stubborn Pamela." Do you think that stubbornness is a characteristic of cyclists?
Stubborness is not a bad quality to have to keep pushing when you have nothing left. There are certainly times that flexibility is called for, so I wouldn't say it's all about being stubborn. I am persistent!

That's a really good descriptor, I'll have to remember it. Also many people say to me things along the lines of … why would you want to ride up those hills?  isn't that hard? There seems a bit of an implication that it is a touch crazy. Well, maybe eccentric. And I have a hard time explaining just how "addictive," or compelling, or fun it is.  Does something with a compelling or addictive quality like that happen with long-distance cycling?
There is no doubt this type of riding is addictive. There are some who can do PBP once and then move on. I have not done a 1200km in many years now, but I still do many of the other events (up to 600km).  I just love to ride.

Riders must qualify for these endurance rides, completing a series of shorter, but still long rides, of 200, 300 and 600k, I think. What other long rides do you participate in, do you have favorites and if so, why?
My favorite distance event is the Fleche. This is a team event, where 3 to 5 riders have a destination and 24 hours to get there, taking a route of their choosing and covering at least 360km. I love the camaraderie of this event. I've also done a few Gran Fondos in Italy. These are 200km rides in mountainous areas with 10,000 of your closest friends. This type of ride has recently arrived in the USA. These days I do a few 200 and 300km rides, usually a fleche, and then a few super short hill climb races.  

You have written that you get a fair amount of training through commuting to work and that you continue to ride in the New England winter. Do you do other kinds of training and if so will you describe that?
I just ride, admittedly I ride a lot. I joke that if fitness is a side benefit, so be it.

Do you have any particular tours or randonnees planned for the next season or two?

For the reader who, like me, isn't familiar with the event, Quadzilla is an annual endurance ride held in the New York Finger Lakes region. It begins in Ithaca, NY and consists of four consecutive days each  of 125 mile rides. When finished riders will have circled all eleven of the finger lakes. For more information and registration, visit Quadzilla.

Pamela, Thanks! You have a great deal of useful information on long-distance rides, specifically on training and qualifying,  bikes, lights,  shoes & pedals, tires,  and bags on your blog, The Blayleys: John and Pamela's Cycling Adventures. In addition to what is there, the reader will find more information and reports at The Blayleys, not just about PBP and BMB, but about touring in France and other countries, and all sorts of other things. Readers can find information about rides in their area at RUSA (Randonneurs USA.) 

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions for me! Enjoy your 12,000 or so miles of riding in the coming year!


  1. Hi Pamela, thanks for mentioning QuadZilla! The website for QuadZilla Staged, 4 days, 200km brevets per with bag sag:

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reading and for adding your information. I've incorporated it into the text of the interview also. If I got anything wrong, please let me know.

      Best of luck for a successful event!


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