When I determined that I'd be unable to participate in PBP this year, I thought about which other epic events I might use as goals in my recovery and return to endurance cycling and the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee (D2R2) immediately popped into my mind. D2R2 has grabbed my attention for several years, but it's never quite fit into my schedule. The Rapha Continental boys had even made a film of their effort. It's a ride no self-respecting endurance cyclist should miss. This year, the ride fell on the day following the one-year anniversary of my accident and we had no family or work commitments on the calendar. With 412 preregistered riders on the 180K loop, it was going to be a fun day.
I rolled into Deerfield, MA around 9:00 pm on Friday and quickly set up my trusty old 2-person tent and attempted to sleep. With a 6:00 am rollout and a full day of climbing ahead of me, I wanted to snag as much rest as possible. Needless to say, I tossed and turned more than I would have liked before nodding off. I woke up with the dawn, changed into my cycling kit and rolled over to the food tent to savor some amazing organic French roast Peruvian coffee (these are some classy folks) and half a bagel with cream cheese. Riders who left before 6:30 were offered the opportunity to record frame numbers and rollout times in a spiral notebook at the start to time their rides. The sound of bagpipes echoed throughout the valley as a young guy played to send off riders in time trial rather than mass start fashion into the glow of the foggy sunrise.
D2R2 is truly a unique event. It has a reported 16,500 feet of climbing over 180K, 70% of which are comprised of dirt carriage roads. Knowing that before starting was helpful, but nothing could really prepare me for the experience of riding on dirt roads at such steep and relentless pitches. D2R2 included (by far) the most challenging single day of cycling terrain I've experienced. Much of the challenge involved marshaling technical climbing and descending skills more common to mountain biking than the road riding I'm used to. Luckily, I was rolling on a set of 30mm Grand Bois tires inflated to only 75 lbs which helped stabilize my bike and dampen vibrations considerably. Every now and then, we'd cross a few miles of pavement which simply felt like riding on butter. In fact, I wasn't at all bothered by the extra bonus miles I picked up on paved roads along the way. It was like recharging.
The rest stops were welcome ports along to the way with cold five-gallon bottles of water propped on ingenious gravity dispensers. I filled up at each chance I got and took advantage of the Hammer Heed powder in various flavors along the way. The first check point at mile 36 was placed at the top of a serious slog of a climb which made it all that much sweeter. My pace on the ride was much slower than I expected. Going into the ride, I thought: 110 miles + 16,500 feet of climbing = 8-10 hours of riding. When I looked at the clock after the first hour and saw that I'd only ridden 12 miles, I realized this was going to be a LONG day.
All in all, D2R2 lived up to my expectations. I'm pleased that my legs and lungs held up and, while my time was nothing like I'd hoped it would be, I did not roll in DFL. Luckily the weather held for most of the event, but a light drizzle started to fall in my last hour or so of riding. Tragically, Hurricane Irene followed close behind and many of the roads we enjoyed on Saturday no longer even EXIST after the rains and floods of Sunday's storm. Reports of several feet of mud on the field we used for camping and eating and complete roads such as Green River Road eroding away to nothing are enough to send shivers down your spine. Ride founder and organizer Sandy W. worked with BikeReg to set up the Green River Village Restoration Fund. Riders and interested parties can donate to recovery efforts online until September 11, 2011. Money will be used to rebuild the lovely community park we used as a lunch stop on the banks of the Green River. Fortunately, the historic covered bridge (above) is still standing but the park next door is toast.
Next up on my calendar: a local 200K permanent in September and then the VT Fall Classic 200K brevet out of Burlington in early October which includes plenty of hard pack dirt roads. I may have developed the passion for a new flavor of suffering. Perhaps this will also be the year to snag that elusive R-12 award after all.