2004 Boston 300K Brevet

The supported 300K Boston Brevet was held on May 15, but I couldn't make it because of a friend's wedding. Bruce Ingle was kind enough to organize a self-supported make-up ride on May 22, the date on which the supported ride had initially been scheduled.

But at 3.45am on Saturday, May 22, Bruce and I were alone in the Hanscom Field parking lot---no one else had shown up! Bruce gave me my brevet card, we waited for 4am, and then we set off together. I kept a fast but sustainable pace as we headed south along Rt 126. We talked a little bit, but mostly we rode silently through the dark night. Soon Bruce turned right on Rt 20 towards home and bed; he wished me well as I continued south on Rt 126.

It felt lonely and a little crazy to be heading out alone at this hour, but soon the sky began to lighten. And with early light came the song of birds: cardinals, chickadees, and many others I did not recognize. The woods and fields on either side of Rt 135 were alive with birds. I could not see them, but they kept me company with their incessant calls.

I felt strangely sapped of energy. The steep climb on Leland Hill Road seemed steeper than on previous occasions, and when the rain began to pour down I became convinced that I would not make good time. So I was surprised when I arrived at the checkpoint in Uxbridge at 6.34am, a minute ahead of my time riding with the lead group in 2003.

My morale suddenly much improved, I headed south towards Rhode Island. It had stopped raining, but the weather was still grey and hazy, and the landscape acquired a mysterious, almost magical feel. I remember in particular a section of Rhode Island Rt 102 surrounded by tall, arching maples that almost blocked the sky from view. The road ran straight for miles over rolling hills, and the lines painted on the asphalt disappeared into milky white mist in the distance. Almost no traffic disturbed this peaceful scenery.

I arrived in Voluntown at 9.19am, faster than both of my previous times. But as I stood in front of the deli counter at the Voluntown grocery store, trying to explain to the dour lady serving me that yes, indeed, it is ok to eat a sandwich with no meat on it, I realized that having to buy one's food at each checkpoint is not the ideal recipe for a fast brevet time.

I was back on the road about 25 minutes later, feeling frustrated and chilled to the bone. (The deli lady, by the way, had decided that if she could not feed me meat, she would at least give me plenty of mustard, rendering my cheese sandwich almost inedible.)

The steep rollers on Rt 169 to Pomfret punished me as usual, but I was marginally faster than on previous occasions. I built up a rhythm, trying to stay in one cog in the rear, and shifting between the 50- and 36-tooth chainrings on the alternating climbs and descents. But after about 200Km, as I tackled the last steep climb into Pomfret itself, my legs were empty enough that I resorted to spinning in my very lowest gear, 36x27, to keep my speed above 20Km/h.

Shortly the hills ended, but then, alas, the wind began. It blew steadily from the northeast as I headed in that direction along Rt 197 into Massachusetts, up past Nichols College, and onward along the Maine-Virginia bike route to the third checkpoint in Oxford, MA. I was spent from pushing into the wind and very hungry. Yet I couldn't see anything that I wanted to eat: I didn't want to go to the McDonald's next door, so I spent some time combing the shelves at the Mobil station designated as the checkpoint. Eventually I settled on Gatorade, some peanuts, and a small box of Pringles. The Pringles were a bad choice, the result of exhaustion and a craving for salt. Next time I do an unsupported brevet I will bring plenty of food from home.

The next several miles I felt terrible and inched along at a glacial pace. The wind blew hard in my face, and I could not exceed 25Km/h no matter how hard I tried. It was not until Southborough that I caught something of a second wind and felt stronger again. The proximity of the finish motivated me too. I knew that I would not achieve a sub-12 hour time, but I thought I could still make 12 1/2 hours. I pedaled hard on the numbingly rough pavement of Pelham Island Road, and harder still as I headed north on Rt 126. I gave it all I had on the last significant climb of the day, Bedford Road in Lincoln. But 4.30pm came and went as I waited for a red light at the intersection with Rt 2. The last couple of miles were an all-out sprint, if you can call it that after 300Km, and I stopped in front of the Civil Air Terminal at Hanscom at 4.36pm. I was happy with my 12h36m ride, especially considering that I had spent at least an hour at checkpoints.

I picked up a receipt from the airport ATM machine to document my time, ate half a Power Bar, then headed slowly home, the headwind still blowing hard. When I got home I showered and took a nap: it did not take me long to fall asleep after 339Km and 2779m of climbing.