Monday, May 14, 2012

The Princeton 300K: A Little Confidence Grows with Each Ride.

The Princeton 300 is the longest ride I've attempted since my August 2010 accident. It's an old favorite that takes in large stretches of the New Jersey countryside I prowled in my younger days. The Princeton 300 is also the first event of that distance I ever completed in 2007 during my first year of randonneuring. The weather forecast could not have been better on Saturday with blue skies, still air and temperatures peaking only in the mid-70s. For these reasons and more, it was a perfect day to stage my return. 

We rolled out of Princeton before dawn and traveled north over smooth, barren roads to the first control in Whitehouse just a few miles away from my mother's home where I had awakened several hours earlier. Throughout this first 40 or so miles, I rode at the front of the pack with a few old riding buddies swapping the usual tales of rides past and future and bikes custom and vintage.

After the first control, the field spread out a bit and, while I was disappointed not to hang with the big dogs, I knew that maintaining my reserves was the only way to approach this day. Riding strong throughout the event and simply finishing the ride with some gas in the tank would bring me great relief. With over 9,000 ft of climbing, this is not a ride to take casually. Although it was hard to let the rabbits go, I knew this was the wise choice.

Support on NJ Rando events is fantastic and this brevet was no exception. Ride organizer Paul S. was cheery at the start and and finish and made countless appearances at controls, both secret and announced, throughout the day. NJ Rando stalwart Bob O. was on hand at both the start and the first control and it was great seeing RBA Katie R. and diehard NJ Rando volunteer Jon L. at the Blairstown control. Their smiling faces mitigated any pain and suffering I may have been feeling as I contemplated the nasty Jenny Jump climb that punctuates the turnaround.

Attuned to my own rhythms, I spent much of the day riding alone which eliminated the need to feel as though I was either holding someone back or riding slower than I would like.  In all, I felt fairly steady, if not truly strong, throughout the day and finished without any noticable pain, despite the requisite suffering.

They say you can't go home again, and I do believe that's true, but just as I was rounding the corner to enter Hacklebarney State Park, I ran into an old friend I haven't seen in quite some time. John R. is the master teacher I worked with 25 years ago as a teaching intern fresh out of college. While we've seen each other since that time, it's been a while and it was good to catch up and see yet another encouraging face when his wife Barbara arrived to pick him up.

With the main work of basic recovery behind me, I'm on my way to rebuilding an endurance foundation. Completing a full brevet series in search of the Super Randonneur (SR) award issued in Paris to recognize riders who completion a full series of qualifying brevets (200K, 300K, 400K and 600K) in one season will make that return even more sweet. This weekend's Princeton 300 also served as the penultimate ride in support of my R-12 attempt. Only June remains.

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