2006 Westfield 100K Populaire

It was dark already when Chip and I arrived in Westfield on Saturday, March 18, after riding the 110 miles from Boston. A clock in front of a bank announced that it was 7pm, and that the temperature was 18 degrees Fahrenheit. It had been a rough ride for me, possibly my all-time distance-divided-by temperature maximum, more punitive even than the crazy 200K brevet that Chip and I rode all by ourselves in an ice storm in April 2003. At least that time there had been snow and ice on the pavement, an element of challenge just in staying upright, and a kind of childish fun in cutting through snow drifts and sloshing into puddles. This time there were no diversions: the pavement was dry and the sky clear, and the cold air stabbed my lungs.

Chip barely noticed: he had been commuting 50 miles daily since early January to and from his new job in Littleton, and seemed inured to the cold. When we hit the first big climbs, between Sterling and Paxton, he glided over them in perfect form, as if on a summer joy ride, while I struggled with stiff legs and the raspy wheezing of cold air in my chest, and fell so far back that I lost sight of him. Insistent voices argued that I should turn around and go home, that I needed a break, some hot chocolate, maybe even a whole season off. But somehow each time I gave myself a few more miles to make the decision, and pretty soon home in Cambridge was further than the motel in Westfield, and anyway, what would Chip say if I abandoned before even really starting?

So we ended up examining our ride's altitude profile on Chip's GPS over ample portions of overcooked linguine at Pasquale's "Italian" restaurant in Westfield, and the next morning a cold but sunny sky welcomed Don Podolski's early-season 100K populaire, where we saw Russ Loomis and Dave Cramer and other mainstays of the New England brevet scene. And then, after lunch at Bickford's in Westfield, we cycled back together to Boston, in air only slightly warmer than Saturday's. Three hundred and sixty kilometers in sub-freezing temperatures to participate in a 100Km event does not necessarily make much sense, but there was no denying the spare beauty of the frozen marshes and apple orchards, and of the pale winter sunset's long shadows among the pine woods of Wachusett Reservoir. I realized I probably wouldn't be taking a season off after all.