Saturday, November 29, 2014

PBP 2015: The Planning Begins

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.

  1. Building Enthusiasm / Learning from Past Experiences
  2. Blocking out the Time / Building a Plan for 2015
  3. 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.

Blocking out the Time / Building a Plan for 2015

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.

Researching Travel Arrangements / Making Reservations
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 . . .

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lanterne Rouge: My Coffeeneuring Wrap-up

To say that the Coffeeneuring Challenge was not my highest priority this fall does not convey my fondness for this unique and growing phenomenon. I feel honored to be one of the original coffeeneurs and set out this fall with plans to build upon my past accomplishments to take this challenge to a new level. The trouble is that life simply got in the way. To begin with, October has become a harried month in my calendar with school accreditation visits to supervise as well family demands that have grown rather than lessened now that my daughter has begun her first year of college. With a few six-day work weeks and a trip to Ohio, it's been nearly impossible to squeeze in even the most rudimentary coffeeneuring excursions.

Yesterday, for instance, I was committed to riding a 100K permanent populaire to keep my monthly streak going after dropping off my wife to teach a workshop for childbirth educators in New York City. I selected JB's Yorktown Heights 100K, which begins and ends in Yonkers. The route itself is both pleasant and challenging with over 20 miles of rail trail and additional miles along sleepy (hollow) backroads throughout Westchester County. The only way I could fit in a coffeeneuring ride while staying true to the challenge rules, however, was to add on a two-mile loop after completing the permanent ride. 

Today, with the curtain closing on the 2014 Challenge, I managed to fit in a five-mile loop beginning and ending at the state park where my son was playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. While I was able to succeed, I did not excel -- and this, sometimes, has to be good enough. Out with a whimper rather than a bang. Lanterne rouge it would be.

I can tolerate a Dunkin' Donuts coffee, but I typically don't enjoy it unless I've ridden several hundred miles before drinking one. This was not the case here, it was simply the best I could do under the circumstances. As with randonneuring, not all rides are inspired, but the satisfaction of completing a series is very sweet indeed. So with gratitude and humility, I thank MG for her fine organization and inspiration and promise that I will put in a superior effort in 2015. 

November 15
Dunkin' Donuts, Yonkers, NY
Dark roast coffee and a Pumpkin Pie donut
2 miles

November 16
Dunkin' Donuts, Arlington, NY
Regular coffee
5 miles

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Coffeeneuring Round-up: Chasing the Dream

It's Veterans Day here in the Hudson Valley and I seized the opportunity to enjoy the mild temperatures to ride around the Shawangunk Ridge imagining a hot cappuccino at the end to complete my fifth ride in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Unfortunately, the "barista" at my chosen cafe decided not only to neglect to create a fancy cream design on top, but also served me the drink in a Styrofoam cup. It was as if I passed through the Looking Glass and into the 1980s. It was a lovely ride, but the drink left a lot to be desired.

I had the inverse experience last Saturday with a short and barely legitimate coffeeneuring ride that ended in an absolutely fabulous brunch with my daughter and several of her friends. It was parents weekend at her college, so as loving parents, we packed the car and headed west for a chance to see our first born in her new natural habitat. Since this is her first term away, there was a little delay with the acquisition of a bicycle, but we were sure to throw mom's old beater onto the roof to deliver it in person. 

The brunch was a highlight of the weekend as it provided us the chance to meet our daughter's delightful new friends, which went a long way to helping us imagine her in her new surroundings. We also had the chance to see her perform in a dance concert, which further warmed our hearts.

Post Script - a week earlier, I discovered a new breakfast spot in Kingston when the cafe I planned to visit was not open when I arrived.

Coffeeneur Ride Details:

November 12
The Mud Puddle, New Paltz, NY
32 miles

November 8
The Feve, Oberlin, OH
Black Coffee
One pancake, two eggs and three slices of bacon
2 miles

November 2
The Frozen Rainbow, Kingston, NY
Hot Cider
Toasted Corn Muffin
23 miles

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Walkway Over the Hudson 108K Permanent Populaire is Open!

All of my permanent riding has been on 200K routes until this past August when it occurred to me that adding regular and routine 100K training rides to my monthly calendar would help to maintain my general fitness and aid in my training for PBP 2015 over the "off season," whatever that is. So now I'm in search of the RUSA P-12 award to keep that goal in focus. Until this month, my permanent popluaire riding has been done on the routes of others. With the grand opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson 108K permanent populaire route, though, this is no longer the case.

For those of you unfamiliar with the amazing Walkway Over the Hudson, you are in for a real treat. Opened in 2009, this repurposed rail line 212 feet over the Hudson River is one of the most exciting and dynamic pedestrian parks around. The Walkway itself is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world at 1.28 miles long and connects with two rail trails on either side of the river. A great recent development is the installation of a glass elevator that connects the Walkway with the Poughkeepsie Metro North railroad station making the route highly accessible to those arriving from New York City by public transportation.

The route is almost entirely comprised of quiet back roads that meander through Ulster and Dutchess Counties, cross the Hudson River twice and pass by the lovely Bard College campus and four historic Hudson Valley estates including the Vanderbilt mansion, the Mills mansion, Wilderstein and the FDR Presidential home and library. All this in 108 kilometers!

My first go-round on the Walkway loop took place on Halloween so there were signs of festive merriment in every direction I turned. This ghoulish server brought me a delicious egg and cheese sandwich and a piping hot cup of coffee at the fantastic Historic Village Diner in Red Hook.

So shoot me an email if you'd like to give this permanent populaire a try. Here's a link to the map. Additional information is available on the RUSA site.

Up next: keeping the coffeeneuring spirit alive.