That was fun. I'll keep doing this rando thing.
The Eastern PA 200K Brevet was held yesterday, out of the Weisel Youth Hostel in Quakertown, PA. Departure at 6 AM, 13:30 time limit, 125 miles, and between 10K and 12K feet of climbing.
My original cunning plan was to drive out to Quakertown, PA, directly after leaving work around 3, thusly leaving myself plenty of time to do bike tweaking, meet other randonneurs staying at the Weisel Hostel, and get a good night's sleep. This plan was complicated by the realization in the afternoon that I had forgotten to pack things like brake pads and chain lube (crap weather predicted), a towel, and miscellaneous other sundries. So, I popped in at home, kissed the family and petted the cats, grabbed my forgotten bits, and was on my way a bit later than planned.
Driving to Quakertown is a bit tedious, as the cheapest and fastest route appears to be a combination of two segments of the PA turnpike, a hefty chunk of routes 81 and 78, and a few back roads. Good times, especially in the dark. I arrived around 9 or so, signed in, and unloaded the bike and whatnot. Though the riders already present were too polite to say anything, I gathered the distinct impression that the expectations for my performance the next day were low; ye olde recumbent stereotypes creeping in, I imagine. That's okay; everyone was quite pleasant, and I don't fault anyone for laboring under certain common misconceptions when they have no reason (until now! BWAH-HAHAHAH!!!) to believe otherwise. Good mix of people; several rookies like myself, a bunch of experienced randonneurs, and an entire contingent up from the DC Randonneurs crew.
Woke up the next morning about 15 minutes before the alarms starting going off, and began the day. The RBA, Tom Rosenbauer, had put out a nice spread including coffee, oatmeal, pastries, and enough single-serving Accelerade packets to choke a camel. Gulped down the food, did the last-minute obligatory tinkerings with the bike, and got ready to....BOOM! FLASH! Pouring rain! Thunder, lightning, and meteorological drama of all kinds! So, the ride start was delayed for 15 minutes until the actual lightning stopped.
We started off nice and easy; aside from a mishap on a wet metal grate bridge (a couple of folks took a painful spill), the first leg to Wind Gap was straightforward. The climb up Lower Saucon Valley was a bit rough, as I hadn't really hit my stride yet, and the winding climbs around blind curves always make me a bit irrationally anxious. A bit of fog and humidity was also air-dropped into the fray, but proved insufficient to dampen my spirit. Regardless, we made it to the controle at the Petro Mart in good order. Stamp card, buy beverage, tinker with fender and seat mesh (a recurring theme on this trip), and we're off again.
I started riding with Eduardo (from Philly, if I recall correctly), David, and Crista and Chuck from DC, and ended up sticking with them for the rest of the route. Great company, and it was a good opportunity for me to take some cues from experienced randonneurs.
The "dreaded climb up Fox Gap" (1000' gain over 2.3 miles) to the next controle was certainly nothing at which to sneer, but it wasn't all that bad either. I went with a protocol of "keep the heart rate at or below 90%", regardless of how painfully slow my progress became; this seemed to work well, as I never blew up, and recovery at the top of the hill was almost instantaneous. Answered the informational controle question, then went blazing down the hill to the lunch controle at the Portland Family Restaurant. We passed Kelly and Mary (I think) on the way down, having tire issues on their tandem; apparently, it took almost an hour to resolve the problem.
After a leisurely meal, we moved on. Another decent climb lay ahead, Lomason's(sp?) Glen. Tom Rosenbauer surprised us at the top of the hill with a secret controle, the primary reason for which was apparently to disseminate food and water to those in need. Have I mentioned how well this brevet was run? From there, we shot down to Homestead, where we controlled at the General Store before another set of delightful (yes, that was sarcasm) climbs up Red Hill and Catterly. I think there were two or three minutes of angst at this point, wondering why I was doing this to myself, but it passed quickly. :-)
We dropped our postcards at the Point Pleasant Post Office controle, then did the last real climb up through the park. A good pace back to the hostel, and I was officially a randonneur at 5:07 PM.
I need to work on my packing a bit better. Bringing things such as cameras is wonderful, but only if one intends to use them.
The seat mesh (or, more precisely, the cord binding the mesh to the seat frame) tends to stretch and sag in damp weather. I need to reinforce it, so as to prevent the rubbing of my back on the fender, and subsequent rubbing of the fender on the rear tire.
I became a bit sloppy with my nutrition and hydration around mile 90 or so. No ill effects, but it would have been quite problematic if the ride had gone for much longer (like, just to pick a random example out of the air, an additional 100km...). In hindsight, I think I started playing weight-lowering efficiency games with myself; "I won't fill the extra bottle, so I don't have to carry unnecessary stuff.", but I ended up husbanding the last few sips for the last 10 miles. No harm done, but I should have played it safer.
Overall, I'm delighted with the brevet. I felt good the entire time, and am feeling confident about my ability to tackle the 300K next month. I'm also pleased that I managed to maintain a good pace without overexerting myself, and that I had plenty of extra time available.
Thanks go out to many: to Tom, for putting on a great brevet and tolerating a lot of n00b questions; to Jim Logan, whose example helped solidify this wild-n-crazy randonneuring idea into concrete reality; to Crista, Chuck, David, and Eduardo, for allowing me to ride with them; and to my tolerant and supportive wife and child, for helping me to pursue these dreams.