Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Saratoga 300K: Just under the wire.

This past Sunday I rode in the Saratoga 300K, my second formal brevet of the year. With gentle rollers, this event looked like a good 300K to finish in under 12 hours to satisfy one of the requirements of the Cyclos Montagnard R60 Challenge. The nine (yes nine!) controls would make it tricky, though. At five minutes per control this would add 45 minutes to the ride. My goal: 1-2 minutes per control, except when I needed water and I would take the full 5. I rode with all of the calories I would need on the bike in the form of Perpetuem, Hammer Gel and a few solid bars. As Sunday approached, the forecast grew more ominous with predictions of rain growing from 20 to 30 to 80%. I came prepared with the full complement of fenders and raingear, so naturally we didn’t get a drop all day. 

On Saturday night, I pulled into Schyulerville and checked into the Old Saratoga Motor Inn. I’ve grown quite fond of this quaint town near the headwaters of the Hudson River over the years through John Ceceri’s brevets and ultra races. This was my first time in this particular motel and, let me tell you, it is a randonneur’s dream. The proprietors not only welcome bikes into the rooms, but check-out time is “whenever you’re done” at which point riders are invited to come back and “take a shower, take a nap, whatever you need.” And if that weren’t enough, at check-in the owner made sure we took his cell number just in case we broke down or needed any help along the way. “Just call me,” he said, “and I’ll just come up and get you in my truck.”

There was a small field of eight riders this time around that included several local Hudson Valley cyclists. Don and I shared a room and Andrey and Gene were there with their velorfred.com mobile. Have you visited Velofred lately? They sell great rando equipment of all shapes and sizes. Our pal Stuart from Woodstock also showed up as did a rider from Boston and one from Syracuse in addition to our organizer John.

The ride started at 4:00 am and in my great haste to get under way, I actually missed the first two cues on the sheet. The first elicited a few groans and the second caused me to add two bonus miles and one bonus hill into the route. Angry with my own carelessness, I hammered through the next ten miles to meet up with the field by the first control. After muttering something like “we shall not speak of this again” and getting my card stamped, Don and I rode off together for the next 60 miles or so trading pulls and catching up on life. At about mile 70, he pulled over and urged me on and so for the next 120 miles I rode solo.

The day was beautiful with spring in its full glory all around us. Flowering trees and light green buds adorned the trees. I saw a variety of signs and portents along the way: a small red fox (alive) and a pileated woodpecker (alive) and a porcupine (dead). I also came across the most dramatic chicken tree-house I’ve ever seen, with a three story spiral staircase encased in chicken wire. I also saw an eerie white “ghost bike” monument to indicate the location on a quiet back road where a cyclist lost his life to a car.

The wind was calm all day except for the 21 miles around the Great Sacandaga Lake (where it seemed to blow off the lake in all directions from the epicenter) and the final 10 miles along the Hudson. This last stretch is also the final 10 miles on the Saratoga 12/24 race course, so I was very familiar with those headwinds as well as the final climb up into town.

Fighting the clock, I dug deep into my reserves in the second half of the ride and finished at 3:53 (11h 53m), a mere 7 minutes before hitting my self-imposed 12 hour limit. I knew that every second counted throughout the entire 190 miles. It’s critical to spend time wisely and luckily I didn’t run into any mechanical trouble along the way. John’s wife Kathy was there at the finish with sandwiches and salad. We caught up as I enjoyed one of several dinners I ate that day.

With two events down, I have two more to go in my quest for the R60 honor. The Boston 400K (in under 16:12 hours) and the Cranbury 600K (in under 24 hours) both loom large on the horizon. Next up: a father-son ride this weekend in NYC on the Five Boro Bike Ride. I hope it’s a bit drier than last year, but we’re prepared either way.


  1. Congratulations on beating this goal, and best to you on those remaining.

  2. Thanks bullcitybiker! Hope you're having a great season too.

  3. Well done George! Your in good form already.

  4. George -

    I really like following your efforts. That was great strategy looking at your control times and planning nutrition. Now the fun starts with the longer rides.

    I managed a sub 24hr 600km in 2007, with the last 400 solo. It can be done!

    Best of luck on the 400!

  5. Swarmcatcher, Dodger - Thanks for the kind words of encouragement! Best of luck to you both in your seasons!