Sunday, June 4, 2017

Off to the Hills!: The Englewood 300K

When I shared my estimated finish time with my wife, I may have forgotten to factor the hills and my utter lack of training into the equation. While the Englewood 300K didn't exactly kick my a**, it did take longer to finish than any of my previous 300K attempts. The thing is, though, I had a great time riding along some beautiful roads, catching up with a few old friends and even making some new ones along the way. As my pal Susan O. would say, it was a "full value" ride for sure.

I certainly cannot blame my bike for slowing me down. After discovering a few problems on the Cranbury 200K a few weeks earlier, I replaced the full drive train, properly reattached my front fender and installed a fresh set of tires. In short, this beautiful bike purred like a kitten all day long. One of the unfortunate things one discovers, racking up rando miles on a bike, is that distance is rough on a drive train. As you can imagine, I don't enjoy forking over several hundred dollars for new parts, but the smooth sensation of riding on an essentially "new" bike never feels like a mistake. I also found the new Panaracer Gravelking tires that Gil L. recommended to be superior to the POS Grand Bois tires I've been riding for many years. "Supple" may be a nice quality in theory, but changing flats on just about every long ride I undertake has long ago gotten old.

Riding on a well-tuned machine, I spent the first part of the day chatting with my friend Nigel G., which made the time pass quickly during some unexpected rain showers. After the serious hills began in earnest, Nigel and I split up so that he could nurse a sore knee without fearing that he would do further damage riding at someone else's pace. This time alone provided me with a chance to take in my beautiful surroundings as the rain subsided and the hills continued to fill the horizon.

NJ Rando enjoys a well-deserved reputation for outstanding support and this event was no exception. It was wonderful to see Super-Volunteer Steve H., Ride Organizer Laurent C., Katie R. and Lenny Z. at several controls along the way proving that a smile, some encouraging words and a bit of cold water can go a long way on a day like this. After refueling at the Port Jervis control with a (gulp!) bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, I met up with fellow randonneur Vadim G. who turned out to be fine company for the balance of the day. While we had never ridden together, we soon discovered that we shared quite a few friends and common interests and so didn't run out of things to discuss for the rest of this (long) ride together.

It turns out that Vadim also owns a Brompton and was particularly interested in my plans to race in the upcoming Brompton World Championships in NYC on June 18. In fact, I think he's now registered for the race himself. Luckily, Vadim's still in his 40s and so will not provide me with competition in the "Veteran" (AKA Old Fart) category on race day. We spent many of our miles together speculating on how to best approach this unique racing opportunity. Stay tuned for more details.

The final third of the Englewood 300K route connected us with familiar roads through Harriman State Park as we make our way south to the finish. Luckily, despite our casual pace, Vadim and I made it to the scenic park before nightfall and so could enjoy its full glory. After climbing through the park, the general tilt of the route is towards sea level, but there were, of course, a few bumps along the way to keep things interesting.

All in all, this was a fine day in the saddle. With good weather, fine company and lovely scenery, there was very little not to like about this event. I would certainly recommend the Englewood 300K to others, but recommend that you spend some quality time in the saddle in the months leading up to it if you want to finish within a reasonable timeframe. Having taken nearly 18 hours to complete the ride, I made it home much later than I had planned and needed to stop a few times along the way to rest my eyes. All's well that ends, well, though.

Up next: the Brompton World Championships on June 18!