Planning to train for and participate in something as physically ambitious and logistically complex as Paris-Brest-Paris is not done overnight. I am pleased to announce, however, that with fewer than 260 days until the start, I have begun the process to turn this dream of mine into a reality. Here are the first three steps I have taken on this journey.
- Building Enthusiasm / Learning from Past Experiences
- Blocking out the Time / Building a Plan for 2015
- Researching Travel Arrangements / Making Reservations
Building Enthusiasm / Learning from Experience
PBP has seemed pretty remote for quite some time. A few weeks ago, as I settled comfortably into the "off season" pace of recovery rides and coffeeneuring, I grabbed the RUSA 2011 PBP Yearbook from my shelf and began to work my way through the articles written by past participants. To be honest, as a result of my deep disappointment for missing out on PBP 2011 following my 2010 accident, this is the first time I have been able to bring myself to read this outstanding publication. My first impression, leafing through the essays and photographs, is what a fantastic job Janice C. did collecting and organizing reflections from a wide range of randonneurs from the seasoned ancien to the eager first timer. Both fast and slow riders are well represented and my enthusiasm for the event grows with each page I read.
I've also begun the process of seeding most conversations I have with PBP anciens, either on- or off-bike, with questions about what they've found to be the best way to approach to the event. Questions such as: How crowded are those controls, really? Where did you sleep? Did you arrange transportation yourself or use a travel agent? pepper my conversations. I've also been pleased to see PBP pop up more frequently on the Randon listserv, which has prompted me also to search the archive for past discussions related to PBP planning.
Reserving the time to train and travel to the event is no small matter for a busy professional and parent, so I made sure to lay the groundwork early. Last summer at a staff retreat, I made sure to put in a vote for calendaring 2015 work events so as not to collide with my plans to be cycling through northern France in late August. I also added primary and back-up brevet dates to my calendar after the 2015 ride schedule was published on the RUSA site in early October. As you probably know, RUSA maintains a robust database of past and future events as well as member results to help all of us keep track of our riding and plan for the future. The more I use these tools, the more I am impressed. Just this fall, I realized that it is possible to search for events in multiple regions simultaneously, which is a great service for randonneurs like me who live within a reasonable driving distance from several regional series. Once I identify possible events, I transfer them to a color-coded Google calendar I maintain titled simply "events." Once I see a pattern that looks optimal, I transfer selected events to my "events plan" calendar and hope for the best. While my wife can become a bit irritated by my penchant for "claiming" dates so far in advance, in the final analysis, having complete knowledge of the possibilities really helps with the necessary juggling. This is especially true this year since completing an SR series before the end of June is a requirement for the big show in August.
Once the basic dates leading up to the big event are carved out, it's time to develop a travel plan. Having successfully completed LEL in 2009, I am confident that international rando tourism fits comfortably in my wheelhouse, but planning any trip involves considerable research into both the past experiences of others and the currently available options. Knowing that Des Peres Travel is available to arrange the full compliment of services is comforting, but I am much more likely to save a few bucks and arrange my travel a la carte, which fits more within my general trip design strategy. It looks like I will be traveling to Paris without my family this time around, so it is likely that I will plan to simply arrive a few days early to settle in, adjust to the time change and see a bit of Paris before the ride.
Just a few days ago, there was a post on the Randon listserv announcing that the ACP was exploring the need to modify the event's start date so I will wait just a bit longer to secure non-refundable airline tickets and hotel accommodations before and after the event. This will give me a bit more time to conduct research into the Byzantine world of airline baggage policies and Trip Advisor hotel reviews. Having stayed in Versailles in 2010 with my family, I am familiar with the area and will likely opt to sleep fairly close to the start of the event rather than right in Paris proper. I would rather take a thirty-minute train ride to the center of Paris for excursions than rush to the 5:00 AM 84-hour start on Monday morning or limp home after the event itself. I stayed at a friend's apartment in London before and after LEL and was stuck taking a cab all the way home from the finish due to a labor dispute on the suburban train line. Stumbling into a warm bed a few miles from the finish is much more my style.
Up next: The Journey Continues . . .