2005 Boston 200K Brevet

The 2005 edition of the 200K Boston Brevet was an unmitigated suffer-fest. The weather forecast didn't look good on Thursday and Friday, and I knew that the anticipated Nor'easter had materialized when I was awoken, around 3am on Saturday, by the sound of windswept rain pelting the bedroom window.

Three hours later I was on the road, dressed in a long-sleeved wool jersey, wool leg warmers, and full-body rain gear. Chip, my long-time brevet companion, was sitting out this event due to knee problems, so I rode alone through the wet, empty streets of Cambridge and Arlington.

I arrived at Hanscom Field a few minutes before the 7am start. There were many familiar faces: Glen Slater, John Kruse, John McClellan, Jeff Scornavacca, Chris Candiello, and Rick Gowen from Connecticut, whom I'd met at last week's 200K in Westfield. It was a mini-reunion of sorts, with lots of gallows humor as everyone tried to put on a brave face despite the weather. And the weather certainly showed no sign of improving: my cue sheet was a damp mess before I even managed to fold it into a ziploc bag. Good thing I wouldn't need it for the rest of the day.

One thing I would need, however, was my left glove shell. The shell is black, like my glove liners, so we were several miles down the road before I realized that I must have left it at the start. No big loss, I figured: the right one did not seem particularly waterproof anyway. I had also removed my water-resistant rainpants in favor of just the wool leg warmers, to give me more freedom of movement.

After the first couple of climbs near Westford I found myself in a small group with Rick, John McClellan, Patrick Autissier, and a couple of others. We alternated pulls at irregular intervals into Mount Vernon, NH: sometimes you'd try to pull into a gusty headwind, and other times you'd suck mud off the wheel of the guy in front of you. Yummy.

I began to feel very cold. On the descent into New Boston I made the startling realization that I had no feeling whatsoever in my hands. I had to look down to the handlebars to ensure that my fingers were properly positioned over the brake levers. I also couldn't open my hands all the way, but at least I could still close them, which proved useful for braking.

At the New Boston checkpoint I had some trouble talking and eating. I was shaking uncontrollably. I felt that we'd been pedaling fast, yet it was after 10am---I had lost my sense of time. Tracey Ingle laughed at my frozen clumsiness, and then she became super-helpful, feeding me cookies and making emergency waterproof mittens for me out of plastic shopping bags. What a fantastic idea! John and Patrick took off immediately to stay warm, while Glen and a few other riders arrived shortly afterwards. Glen looked scary---blueish nose and lips, and uncontrollable shivering similar to mine. He mumbled something about hypothermia. I shook my head and mumbled back, "Not yet." Then Eric "Bicycle Bozo" Ferioli drove up in the second support vehicle, carrying my lost glove shell. The newfound glove, combined with Tracey's awesome plastic mittens, made me think that maybe I could finish the under my own power.

So Rick and I set off together on the second leg of the brevet. The rain never stopped, but it abated. A couple of times we almost saw the sun through the clouds, and the climbs around Mason helped me to warm up. Rick's deep-section rims gave him trouble in the strong cross-winds, and I had to stop to eat a Power Bar because I hadn't regained enough dexterity to pull it out of my jersey while riding, but otherwise we had a good ride. We arrived in Brookline at about 12:40, wolfed down some bananas and bean soup, and set off immediately with Patrick and John, who had arrived at the checkpoint a few minutes ahead of us.

The rest of the brevet for me was a blur of rain, wind, and road grit. We alternated pulls, though Rick really spent more than his fair share of time in the wind. He gradually pulled away from us a few miles before Westford, and we did not catch him until a mile from the finish, with Hanscom Field already in view. At this point we were all pretty ragged. I felt cold and exhausted. I really didn't know if I'd make it over the last little climb before the finish. I told John, "I'm bonking, I'm bonking!" but in the end somehow I stayed in contact with my companions. The four of us finished together at 3:12pm, 8 hours 12 minutes after start. Not the greatest time, yet only five riders had finished ahead of us, out of a field of more than 50 starters. Clearly other people had suffered in this weather too.

I sat in Tracey's warm car for a long time before I built up the courage to come out into the rain again and cycle back to Cambridge. I arrived at home at 4:30pm, after 244Km in the cold rain. I stood in a hot shower for the better part of a half hour, and then burrowed into bed under a heavy down comforter. Sleep never felt so good.