Friday, August 7, 2015

The Top Ten Things to Remember at PBP

I can’t remember the last time I approached something with this much anticipation. Getting my driver’s license as a seventeen year-old, perhaps? Having been sidelined from the last edition of P-B-P in 2010 following a run-in with a car, I have been steadily building towards this event for the past five years. I first learned about P-B-P during 2007, though, during my inaugural year of randonneuring, when it seemed that everyone around me had caught the bug.

With fewer than ten days to the start, I’m afraid that we’re long past the time when additional physical training will provide any benefit. In fact, hard training this close to an event is more likely to leave a rider tired, sore or even injured. At this point, the best I can hope for is not screwing things up. Here are my top three goals at the moment:
  • Showing up with everything I need.
  • Showing up well rested.
  • Showing up with the best possible attitude.
While there will be many things running through my mind during the event itself, here is a list of the top ten things I hope very much to remember along the way:
  1. Enjoy! This is an amazing cultural, historical and athletic experience. I have no real goals other than to finish within the time limit and to enjoy myself throughout the event. I hope to connect with old friends and make new ones as I soak up the beautiful countryside and spirit of this unique event.
  2. If it won’t hurt in two weeks, keep riding. This famous advice attributed to Lon Haldeman has helped inspire countless ultra cyclists to work through difficult times. While it’s easy to focus on the discomfort or pain during the ride, it’s also important to place things into context and remember that most ailments feel better shortly after the ride ends.
  3. This too will pass. Every long brevet or ultra race I’ve completed has had its share of highs and lows. I’ve been known to compose Craig’s List ads for my bicycle during certain lows, but I’ve also found over and over again that the lows always pass and the highs will return. A short break, a tiny nap, some additional calories, a good conversation - these are just a few strategies to shift the energy.
  4. It’s really just a long bike ride. As special as this event is, I don’t want to be intimidated by its uniqueness. It is, after all, just another bike ride. I hope to keep my focus on completing the various stages within a favorable timeframe, while remembering that I have successfully completed events as physically demanding in the past.
  5. Sleep mostly at night, ride mostly during the day. I chose the 84-hour start since it provided the opportunity for a morning start, which is my strong preference on long rides. I can function on very little sleep, but riding through the night without sleep has left me in unpleasant and unsafe situations in the past. While I love night riding, I feel safest and most productive during the day and so hope to complete most of my riding in daylight.
  6. Every minute counts. Time not wasted can be applied and enjoyed elsewhere. I don’t plan on pushing the envelope through every moment of this ride, but every minute I save through careful efficiency is a minute I have in the bank.
  7. Eat before hungry, drink before thirsty. My nutrition plan hinges on moderation and never getting so hungry or thirsty that it affects my performance. I’ll be riding with a range of pocket foods, but hope to also eat mostly real food in moderation.
  8. Keep focused at the controls. A great deal of time can be consumed in the controls. My top four priorities at every control in order of importance are: get the card signed, fill the bottles, use the bathroom and grab some food. If the lines look terrible, I’ll be sure to grab food or use the bathroom outside of the controls, but this will mean separate stops, which of course means more time off the bike. 
  9. Shoot for a negative split. While I don’t imagine that I will literally be able to ride stronger in the second 600K than I will in the first, I try to imagine that I can do just that throughout the event to help me preserve the gas I've stored in the tank. 
  10. Stop and smell the roses from time to time. Since this is such an amazing event, I want to savor every minute. By riding efficiently, I hope to be able to stop for the occasional photo or take advantage of the unexpected. 
If I'm able to stay focussed on these ten things, the rest should take care of itself. Now if I can only be sure to show up at the airport with everything I need.