It was 30 degrees and foggy when I left home, at 6:45, still a bit of ice on the swamp, as yesterday's photo shows. Oddly, the forecast promised 75 by the afternoon. I wasn't sure how to dress, but I hate to be cold, so layered up. That was good, because the sun didn't break out until afternoon, though it wasn't foggy, just low clouds. Lots of riders said the same thing, and the people I talked with at the checkpoint midway were all chilly in the wind, or when standing still. That's ok, a brevet is a good thing to keep moving on, better that I didn't stay still. My first brevet ever was today, a 100K, well 69 miles, and I'll count it a success, though it did have its disappointment, even if it was a predictable one.
We started at 8:00 in Westfield, MA, which was easy for me since I live only a 45 minutes drive west. The parking lot was full when I arrived, but I had adequate time to sign in, get my card (new to me and it made me feel nicely official) and use the store's toilet. That was good, not only for the obvious reason, but because it gave me a chance to chat with a few of the other people in line. This was one of many rides sponsored by the bike store New Horizons Sports (there is a list of rides on their site) and was a RUSA ride, but not a club ride, though some of the riders did seem to know each other. Of the few people I met, I lived the nearest. Others came from the Boston area, New York and Connecticut. That surprised me a little. Oh yes, I should tell you that none of the 7 people who told me, with varying degrees of commitment, that they were going to ride made it there.
There were perhaps 60 riders. I didn't count, but estimate perhaps 35 or 40 cars in the lot. I guess out of the group there were certainly less than 10 women. The pack moved together through town. After the left turn at Union Street we went quickly uphill. Not far, not particularly steeply, but nonetheless up, and actually, the group went uphill quickly. I was dropped fast as could be. I felt something like a boulder rolling downhill. Predictable, but disappointing so early in the ride. I did notice a rider, or a few, behind me, but somehow it's the getting dropped part that I paid attention to. For several miles it made me wonder just why the heck I was there, with my limited skills, but then happily it turned into just one more solo ride, something I know how to enjoy.
So, with plenty of time to think about hills, I kept a pretty good (for me) speed up, saw 16 mph and 18 mph on the flats but I'm guessing the pack was holding 20. I never caught them. As I came into Holyoke, the scene on side of the road looked like it was set up for the TDF. Then I remembered St. Patrick's Day. It was a hoot, with many vendors, costumes, and chairs set up.
Somewhere entering Northampton, two riders caught me. They had started late, and we rode together for maybe 5 miles.
My only real error of the day was one wrong turn, which cost me about 5 minutes. Tried to remember the directions ... right at the light, after the bridge ... without checking the mileage. It was the second light that I was meant to turn at. But the two riders from New Haven were still at the control soon after that, and we were able to ride together for several miles ... until a hill, where ... well, you know what happened.
The ride followed the Connecticut River north, crossing from the west to
the east side and back again.
Eating was something of an issue. I crash and burn if I don't eat, whether or not I'm on a bike, when we will call it bonk, it sounds more poetic. So I had along food, including a pbj and banana sandwich. That was good to eat at the control, but too complicated to eat while riding. Next time I'll eat even more like a child, and cut the sandwich into quarters before starting. Chocolate covered almonds, salted cashews and chocolate covered coffee beans were also in my bag. Protein, carbs and drugs, in one handful. Also a Cliff bar, but I couldn't get it open. Also orange sections. Told you I need to eat.
Mostly the road surfaces were decent, but
one stretch was pretty rough, where I caught up with another rider. Tim lives northwest of Boston, and I rode with him for the last 15 miles or so. I thank him. It was fun to have someone to trade stories with and learn from his experience. He rides the entire series of brevets, including 300 and 600Ks, and some fiercely difficult rides from Boston up into VT. Also, it was fun to learn that he knows Pamela Blalock, I think they ride in the same randonneur group. Pamela is an experienced randonneur whom I interviewed a month or so ago, click here for the interview. Pamela said it's definitely better to have company on these long rides and now I think she's right. I appreciated Tim's company.
Tim and I finished the ride together, an hour and change ahead of the ride's closing. And we were not last. This was the longest continuous ride I've done (no museums, cathedrals or long lunch breaks) at a good average speed for me. 68.9 miles in 5 hours 25 minutes. I'll count it as a success. But I'm not ready (I don't think) for next weekend's 200K. Think I'll keep on track for the 135K on May 7. That one has 4 times as much climbing. I'd really like a faster pace on hills. The only solution is probably hill repeats, so that's where you'll find me in the near future.