Ride notes from the second ride, written the evening after, posted much closer to the fact than the first iteration. Here is the route. Again, I learned after the fact that this was "a pretty hard one." I’m starting to think that all of the routes up this way are "pretty hard," which I guess is a good thing? I don’t know. It was a good time, though a harder time, and I regret absolutely nothing.

I’m sure there’s a world in which I went back through the cue sheet and figured out where and exactly when things happened, but it’s already the end of the day again the following day and I’m a little sleepy so we’re not going to be that detailed.

In short it was a very fun ride though also a very hard one. The climbing count is always a little wonky but from my GPS anyway the numbers were 187.75 miles with 13,261ft of climbing. I completed the ride in just over 15 hours which felt pretty good (and I was told it was a good time for a first timer). There were ups and downs in addition to the climbing but already today I’m thinking about the next brevet, which feels like a good sign so far as my enjoyment is concerned. Some other fun preliminary notes are that I went through two towns that have some connection to my in-laws that I’d never been in before, I saw a fox (!) for the first time in New England (and TBH only the second fox I’ve ever seen in the wild in any case), and this was both my longest and most-climbing ride I’d ever done.

As usual the ride was very well run and the support was generous and generally perfectly-timed, particularly the lunch stop. The tricky thing (aside from the climbing and the distance) about the ride was the heat-variable: it was in the 80s and we haven’t had 80-degree days yet this spring, so nobody was really acclimated to that kind of temperature, myself very much included. For the most part I was able to keep hydrated but it was always on my mind, and coming from ultimate, where water was always plentiful on the sidelines, I think I drink more water than maybe most riders do; I’m not actually sure of that but it seems like I was stopping more often. In any case —

One theme of the ride might be that I was always nearly running out of gas but making it anyway.

We’ll start here: I do not drive our car very much anymore. I either take the T or ride my bike into work (or ride the bike into the nearest station to take the T). And the thing is that I’d noticed the car was low on gas when I drove us home from my father in-law’s birthday dinner on Thursday, but had completely forgotten about it on Friday and Alia didn’t drive Friday so the amount of gas in the car hadn’t changed. But the problem, see, was that the ride started at 05:00, and this is sleepy-ass New England, and even the fucking advertised as 24-hour gas station was closed. And this isn’t just the usual "Danny is upset if it’s below a quarter tank" thing, this was a "the car says you’ve got 19 miles left and the ride is 13 miles away" kind of situation. I went to three different gas stations, all closed. But I made it to the ride with a few miles to spare. I stayed reasonably calm in given the circumstances. And I did, in fact make it. But I hadn’t drunk nearly enough of my coffee nor water nor had I eaten either of the two breakfast bagels I’d made myself before leaving.

Suffice to say that I made it, but was on the back foot.

With all my attempts at filling the tank I arrived right around 04:46, which meant I had just enough time to sign in, put on my cycling shoes, and put the bags on the bike (I leave them off when it’s on the rack because I made the bags myself and have only so much faith in my stitch-work; also one of them is really just a coffee bag with a bit of webbing wrapped around it).

But I registered, got my brevet card, put on my reflective gear as it was still somewhat dark, and rolled out with the bunch right around 05:00.

First mistake: I felt pretty good once I was actually riding the bike and so thought I’d try and hang on with the fast kids (I say kids: I was one of the youngest in that group by far, and I’m 31). Still, I was feeling great, hanging on, even taking a few pulls myself (that, actually, was probably the real mistake), and I was just thinking, "Hey, let’s see how far this goes" and then I was thinking, "Hey, I’m still here after how many splits," then "Hey, maybe I’ll try to make it to the first control," and then we hit our first proper gradient and I said, "Well, that was fun while it lasted!" I think I hung with them for just under 40 miles, and it was really fun and nice and I got to chat with a couple of folks that I’d met at the 200k and see some neat bikes. I think my bike computer said we were averaging something like 18mph, which ain’t bad, but then I kind of found myself paying for it later.

So lesson learned, a little bit (i.e., I’ll probably make that same mistake again, but maybe this time fall back into the second group once that splinters off…​).

The first control was kind of a riot because it was staffed by this one poor woman who was trying to do the register so we could buy stuff but also was making pizza dough for later in the day. I’d seen a college friend in the middle of the week who at one point mentioned that on the east coast we’re "not friendly but nice" (as opposed to the left coast where they’re "friendly but not nice") and I was thinking about that when she snapped at me for trying to find the bathroom (i.e., trying locked doors that I thought I’d seen one of my fellow riders exit). But we got to chatting and it was all hunky-dory in the end and anyway the three waters she sold me were very helpful.

So off to the next leg. I’d lost any semblance of a group to ride with, which was fine, so went out solo and slower, trying to find my legs again. I believe this is called "active recovery" and I will say that I believe in it though I never did find my hill-climbing legs the rest of the day. I never had to get off and walk, but I very rarely had the legs I had at the end of the 200k when it came to the hills. Such is life.

Some number of other miles in I got caught by a couple of dudes, Matt (I think — it might have been Mike, forgive me) and Josh(ua?), which was convenient since I was at that point ready to have someone to talk to and also we were on a very busy road so riding together was safer anyway (the talking, of course, happened after we’d turned off the busy road). We had plenty to chat about in different ways — one of them did something managing a software team, one of them was an art teacher and sculptor who was into John Ashbury — and they were great riding companions while we stayed together, up through to the next control and then to the "secret control" which was a super friendly guy with a bunch of water and snacks and 8oz cans of Coke. I never understood drinking Coke during endurance things but now I get it — it’s really quite a perfect thing. Our little group would eventually splinter off for bathroom breaks and shade-rests (this was nearing the hottest and most-sun part of the day), and so I rounded into the lunch control (I say "lunch" but I think I got there something like 14:00?) by myself and had a nice sandwich and pickle-snacks and water and rest. I was still feeling not-so-great leg-wise and figured this would be the time to rest and stuff myself with food and hydration, given that there were both chairs to sit on and shade in which to sit.

The control got crowded though and so I shoved off. I rode with an upper-MA bike shop guy for a while named — I think — Ed, though this might have been before the lunch control, but anyway he was nice to ride with and we talked bikes and also the little Garmin radar thingies — he almost has me convinced it’s what I want for my next birthday. Almost.[1]

This middle part is kind of a blank today. Probably because it wasn’t so fun. I saw a lot of animals and beautiful scenery but the hills were tough and my legs didn’t feel lead-like but felt…​ gluey, maybe. Just not so fresh. I got over the last big guys though into the final control, had a little sit and some more water and food, and then finally, finally my legs seemed to come back to life for the last however-many-Ks it was to go. I still was garbage on the climbs but I at least felt like I could keep up something at least close to my usual cruising speed and there was a lot of descending, which is always good for the spirits. I had some chafing and knee pain and hand-pain by the end but it wasn’t anything unmanageable (and honestly, if I’d packed my handlebar bag snacks in a less-dumb way (i.e., easier to reach) I wouldn’t have had so much left-hand pain). Probably I should someday get a bike fit. Maybe.[2] I also think I just need to ride that bike more often; lately I’ve been logging nearly all of my commuting miles (which make up a lot of my miles in general) on the Riddler bike. Anyway.

What is there to say about the last part of the ride? It happened. I was riding by myself but not mad about it. I was pushing the pace as much as I could to beat 15 hours and came pretty damn close. I saw a fox, which was cool. As it became darker I put back on my new reflectivity thingy and decided I liked it better than that one I’d had before. I switched on my lights and was again glad I finally got around to getting a dynamo for that bike. I scouted for open gas stations as I got closer to West Concord (where the ride started and finished). Jake, the ride leader, and some folks I recognized but didn’t really know were there at the finish and I talked to them a bit and drank another little Coke and had some of the provided snacks, and then went home, where Alia was waiting with a mountain of Chinese takeout.

I think I learned a lot on this ride but I also think it’ll take me a while to let it all sink in. I think, too, that I might actually want to put a bigger cassette on my bike; I never thought that a 30-28 wouldn’t be a low-enough gear, but really, I might have wanted just one or two more down. I really should adjust my front derailleur. My saddle might be a touch too wide in the end (a risk I knew I was taking on when I requested it for my birthday a couple of years ago, though a little chafing might just be expected after you’ve passed the 150-mile mark; I’m going to ask my friend Jim about it). I think it’s probably not worth the convenience to bring spray sunscreen given how much room it takes up in my bag (this was, to be fair, what we had, but I also could have very well bought different sunscreen before the ride). I should not try to pull a group of riders who are clearly much stronger than I am. Or at least not take so long of a pull. I wasn’t always having "fun" but I overall had "fun" and this didn’t scare me off the next ride (though the climbing profile of the upcoming 600 is…​ a lot). I felt pretty good body-wise last night (save that I did think it prudent to ice my knees a little) and my body feels pretty good today even if stairs are a little hard due to sore legs. My cycling cap was amazingly salt-encrusted. It was a good day out on the bike.

1. I am pretty cheap and turning your head is free (though TBH with the wind and car-noise and everything else it’d be nice to have on some occasions).
2. See earlier note about being cheap.