It's not like it's been an actual obsession, but ever since I began randonneuring in 2007, I've set my sights on riding in the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K Randonneur. That event, which is held only once every four years, begins tomorrow and I will not be among the starters. PBP has served as a beacon for me as I've become a more seasoned randonneur. Long-term goals are like that, they provide a lift and inspiration during hard, wet training rides and on cold mornings when you just don't want to get out the door to ride. I don't know if it would be as physically demanding as London-Edinburgh-London, but I can't imagine that there's anything quite like riding through the French countryside with 5000 other cyclists from all over the world tracing the course of an event that's over 100 years old and started long before the invention of bicycle gears.
When my family and I were in France last summer, I ate a few extremely tasty Paris Brest pastries (first made in 1891 to commemorate to the inaugural PBP race) and even went so far as to scope out a suitable hotel room in Versailles near the start of PBP in preparation for this summer. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men . . .
My 2010 season was built around the twin goals of completing a full SR series as quickly as possible and finishing a 1000K brevet to qualify for early preregistration for PBP. Needles to say, I was unsuccessful at both. I crashed on the 600K in the last 75 miles and (while I completed the event) my hopes of finishing the whole series in 60% of the allotted time were dashed. But it was the accident on the 1000K, though, that really set me back.
Shorty after the accident, I was under the impression that PBP 2011 was still possible, but as weeks of rehab and physical therapy turned into months, I realized that my goals needed to change accordingly. Most of the time, of course, I'm simply ecstatic about the following facts: a) I'm still alive, b) I was not damaged more severely, c) my wife and kids provide such incredible support, love and joy to me, and d) I can still ride pretty well over long distances. Sadly, PBP was not meant to happen for me in 2011 and I now sit stateside ready to follow my friends as they ride their hearts out on the journey between Paris and Brest and back. I am eager to chart the frame numbers of riders who have been my companions on events near and far over the past four years. I'll also be scanning my Twitter feed for updates from riders along the way. Simply search for #pbp2011 for the latest tweets.
The next edition of PBP will begin exactly 4 years from tomorrow. I will be 50 years old and I will be on that starting line just outside of Paris looking west towards Brest with joy in my heart.
PBP 2015: Tom Petty was right, the waiting is the hardest part.