Thursday, April 28, 2016

Old Saybrook 300K: Simply Perfect

How is it possible that I haven't posted anything to this blog since January? It certainly can't be due to my outrageous training schedule. Those plans didn't fall into place as I had hoped. I guess things just got busy around here with work and family and there didn't seem to be much to write about in the doldrums of winter. Now that spring is here, though, I feel reborn as a randonneur.  Recently, I was presented a nearly perfect brevet experience. The weather was ideal, the route was spectacular and well-suited to early spring riding and the company was quite pleasant.

I've wanted to ride the Old Saybrook 300K out of Westfield, MA for many years, but the timing never seemed to work out. This season, though, it fit into the spring calendar just perfectly. The route is advertised as "moderately hilly," but it seemed mostly flat to me as I pedaled with enthusiasm from the foothills of the Berkshires down to the Connecticut shore and back. While I haven't gotten out for as many long rides as I would have liked, perhaps it was the rest immediately before the event that left me feeling full of energy.

It was great to see Bill R. at the start, but I knew that with his sleek velomobile well-suited to the terrain this would be the last we saw of each other for the day. Little did I know that Bill would rack up a personal best on this route with a nearly 10-hour finish. After RBA Don P. said a few words to those assembled at the 6:00 am start, I quickly fell in with a spirited group at the front and hung on until just before the first control when I decided to back off the pace a bit to preserve my stores for the long ride ahead.

My favorite section of the route was the state park we crossed on our way to the shore, which was peaceful and beautiful with the early spring sunshine cascading through the trees. The pavement felt like butter under my new tires. I'm a sucker for a ride with a destination and the Connecticut coast did not disappoint with deep blue water glistening in the mid-day sun. The rest stop at the turnaround just a few feet from the beach was maintained by a very enthusiastic group of cyclists from a local cycling club who pulled out all the stops to provide world-class care and feeding. After a tasty barbecue chicken sandwich, I was back on the road again.

I reunited at the controle with two of the fast riders I had been riding with earlier in the morning and we continued on together for the second half of the day. I had ridden with Simon and Jan on previous brevets and it was great to catch up as we enjoyed the weather and the route on our way back to Westfield. After the penultimate control, when we started to smell the barn, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. Luckily, since I had held back a bit in the morning, I still had plenty of energy under the hood. As a result, I jumped to the front of our little group and laid the hammer down for the last 20 miles into Westfield.

I had privately set a goal of finishing within 13:30 as this was both my time on a different Westfield 300K route last year AND the time at which we were required to switch on lights and don reflective gear. These were both motivating enough to keep me going and I was pleased to end not only within my target time, but also without having to stop to set up my lights.

Up next: "The Return of the Five Boro Bike Tour" starring George and Elias