Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Another Step Closer to Paris: The Bash Bish 300K

What do you call the Bash Bish 300K when the road that leads to the falls is closed and forces a detour? Easier. Like many of the Westfield brevets, this route has been fine-tuned over the years and takes in some outstanding roads very well suited to long distance riding. We found ourselves on either quiet back roads or larger state highways with low traffic and wide shoulders throughout most of the day with all of the roads providing beautiful views of some pretty majestic countryside. One can see why the Berkshires are a popular vacation and retirement destination.

We could not have asked for much better weather on May 9 for the Berkshire Brevets Bash Bish 300K out of Westfield, MA. The start was scheduled for a civilized 6:00 am, which allowed for a bit of sun to erase the dawn although there was some fog during the first segment that forced me to remove my sunglasses for a short while. The route, which I have completed once before, is lollypop shaped with both the start and finish covering the same 50 miles or so. The first and last 25 miles take in a lovely stretch of “blue highway” known as Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway, a one hundred year-old road that was the first to cross one of the peaks in the Berkshires. The climbing on the way out of Westfield is never really too extreme and more than worth it on the return after 160 miles of hilly riding.

The controls were a bit of a time-suck on this event. The first, at the Great Barrington Dunkin’ Donuts, comes at mile 49. I ordered a yummy bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and an iced coffee that really hit the spot, especially since I had not eaten a proper breakfast at the start of the day. The bottleneck at the checkout line was less than ideal, but all told, the control took about 10 minutes to get through. We hit the second control in Kent, CT right three or so girls’ tennis teams from a local tournament seemed to descend for lunch. The cafĂ© makes a mean sandwich (the cost of which is covered by the brevet entry fee) so it’s unlikely that I’ll change plans in the future, but it would be possible to simply get the card signed and stop somewhere else in town for a little caloric resupply to make it through in less time.

I did meet up with a few other riders, but none of us rode together for very long. I caught up with Maine randonneurs Christine T. and James R. at the start and spoke a bit about Paris logistics before we each fell into our own comfortable paces. I also rode between controls one and two with fellow Hudson Valley rider Hans J. and was pleased to catch up and meet the man behind the Facebook profile. A few other riders, such as Ted L. and I seemed to leapfrog one another for most of the day.

As I dial in my training for PBP, I’m eager to gauge both my fitness and my efficiency in controls, knowing that both will make PBP not only easier, but also more enjoyable. Through stronger riding, better planning and greater efficiency, I’m hoping to shave a bit of time off of my previous attempts at the brevets I will be undertaking this spring as I fine-tune my riding, eating and sleeping plans for PBP.  This strategy has had me riding solo for much of the past two brevets, but the information I’ve been able to gather while listening to my body and focusing on my own performance and limitations has been well worth it.

I was pleased to finish the 300K in 13:30, which was a bit under my target for the day, shaving 55 minute’s off of my 2013 result. Of course, the detour shaved a bit of climbing off the ride so the comparison is not exact, but I was pleased with the results anyway.

Up next: the Western and Central NY 400K through the Finger Lakes on June 6.