There was a small field on this late season event with only 13 riders clipping in at the 4:00 am start. Fortunately, several were friends of mine so the early leg of the ride was filled with anticipation and small talk as we caught up and discussed plans for both the current weekend as well as PBP down the road. One of my friends, Patrick C. did not even need this brevet for PBP qualification having recently completed the NJ 600K, but he was up for adventure and hung in there like the true pro that he is throughout the weekend. By the time we reached the first control, the field had spread out a bit so that it was just Patrick and me riding together. We held onto this partnership for the rest of the event with Chris T., Jim R., and David D. riding at roughly the same pace just a short distance behind us. This would be confirmed each time we pulled out of a control to see this group rolling in throughout the second half of the ride.
Most of us hit the sleep stop at about the same time, due to a nasty flat I developed as we pulled into Saratoga Springs in the gentle night rain. When I couldn't find the sharp culprit, I was pleased that Patrick recommended simply using the spare tire I packed for emergencies. The sleep stop was moved about 12 miles closer to the start this year, which was excellent as I far prefer crossing the rollers into Cambridge, NY in the morning rather than late, late, late at night. After a delicious dinner of lasagna, salad, pickles and salty chips, we took turns showering and falling into bed in one of three rooms devoted to the purpose.
Patrick and I optimistically gave Mary a 3:30 am wake-up request, which allowed us 90 minutes of solid sleep. Rolling out at 4:00 am was not as painful as it might have been, but it was not so wonderful either. The skies were brightening, but the rain fell as a mixture of thick fog and drizzle and we feared it was only a matter of time before it worsened. After the morning rollers, we hit Cambridge and confessed that we both really needed some additional rest. We found a Stewart's Shop with hot coffee and warm benches and set our alarms for 30 minutes to allow for a solid caffeine nap to regain our focus. I'm pleased to report that we both knocked off immediately and found the nap remarkably restorative.
The break in Cambridge allowed Bob O., who had slept a little longer at the overnight control, to leap frog us so when we arrived in Bennington, VT, we met up at the McDonald's for coffee and eggs. We knew that the next 15 miles were destined to be all about climbing, so we lingered as long as possible to ensure that we were fully caffeinated and caloried for the ride ahead. The climbing starts almost immediately upon leaving Bennington and represents the final epic climb of the route. Once at the top of the pass, riders must continue through a series of rollers, but soon the route involves quite a bit of descending into and through Western Massachusetts.
Patrick, Bob and I would ride together for the balance of the day with a nice stop in Shelburne Falls at the legendary McCuskers Market for lunch. The skies cleared in the afternoon and, as luck would have it, we even ran into ride organizer Don P. about 30 miles from the finish and so had a lovely conversation (complete with a motivating pace) on the final approach. Ultimately, we finished in 37:20, which was far slower than I had originally hoped, but well within the required time for PBP qualification. Thanks to the attentive approach taken by the Don, Lois S. at RUSA HQ and the ACP liaison in France, results were processed in record time and I found myself officially registered for PBP within 48 hours of completing the 600K. This meant that I successfully made it within the pre-qualification window and would not lose my spot at the 5:00 am start with the rest of the 84-hour group.
While I might like to feel a bit stronger at this point in the season, I could not be happier with my qualification for PBP, which represents an accomplishment years in the making. There are still many details to line up yet so far, everything has fallen into place. With only 52 days left until the start, though, I need to redouble my training efforts without crossing the line into overtraining and compromising my ultimate performance.
Up next: Plenty of riding both near and far. The Catskills Climbfest 200K permanent on July 12 should provide a good tune-up as well as a way to measure my overall fitness as I work to dial in my exact PBP strategy.