2005 Boston 300K Brevet

"Max, please get off the phone! Max? Max! Don't ride until you're off the phone!" I pretended not to hear Tracey Ingle, co-organizer of the Boston brevet series. Ahead of me, a string of red lights was moving quickly out of the Hanscom Field parking lot. I realized that my lights were off. I was steering one-handed. I didn't want to lose the red lights, but I couldn't get off the phone, either. It was 4am, and I'd awakened Kara because I'd realized that my wallet wasn't with me. Kara was rummaging for it all over our apartment.

John Bayley leaned over to try to turn my lights on, but just then a skunk ran across the road and we almost crashed into each other. So he abandoned that plan and rode next to me instead, so I could share his lights.

I stayed on the phone, debating whether to quit the brevet and ride back to Cambridge to look for my wallet along the side of the road. We were on Bedford Road now, down one hill and up another. People started joking with me: "Max, this is a ride, not a conference call!" After not finding the wallet at home, Kara volunteered to ride out to Hanscom Field herself at daybreak to look for it. Everyone agreed that I didn't deserve a wife that good. I hung up the phone and turned on my lights, just in time to hit a pothole and lose a waterbottle. I turned around to pick it up. John waited for me, and together we chased back to the main group. Phew. Hopefully things would quiet down now.

We had a large, strong group with all the usual suspects: John, Ted, Melinda, Glen, Rick, Jeff, Chris, and many others. We cruised south on Rt 126 at an easy pace. I stopped thinking about the wallet and began to enjoy the ride. Daylight came gradually as we pedaled west on Rt 135 to Hopkinton, traditional starting point of the Boston Marathon. Light mist enveloped the hollows, and chickadees called out from the bushes. Birds swooped ahead of us.

Somewhere near Upton, John took off ahead, his pedal stroke smooth and effortless on his new light blue J.P.Weigle. Bill O'Mara and I, next to each other at the front of the group, exchanged glances and shrugged. Still too early to go that fast. John became a little spec in the distance, then slowed down to let us catch up. My cell phone rang. It was Kara. She'd found my wallet on the ground in Arlington, a few miles from home. Lots of cheering from everyone around me: "You'd better do dishes for a month now, Max."

The stop at the Oxford checkpoint did not take long, just enough to wolf down a couple of sugar cookies and stuff my jersey pockets with PayDay bars. Glen Slater and I led the group to the top of the Nichols College climb. We were both having a good day, and Glen, as usual, was cycling like a fast rider thirty years his junior.

We rolled into Connecticut, along open meadows and past a landmark red barn that belongs to the family of an Apache helicopter pilot and is covered by a wall-size American flag. John and I came to discuss decades-old European soccer goalies. Somewhere between Gordon Banks and Dino Zoff, we found ourselves on Rt 169, heading south.

The infamous Rt 169 rollers are a lot easier when one heads south, towards the coast, rather than north, as had been the itinerary in previous years. But they weren't exactly easy, either. John, Rick, and Ed Kross set a fast pace. On a couple of the climbs it was all I could do to stay in contact. The descents became a chance to relax and look around the farms and elm-lined meadows around us. Stopping at an intersection, I noticed that the group had splintered. Melinda, Ted, and Glen weren't with us any more, and those of us who were left were no longer riding two-abreast.

The Voluntown checkpoint provided a brief rest before we tackled the long gentle climb to Sterling, CT and headed east into Rhode Island. There were now ten of us: John, Jeff, Rick, Chris, Bill, Mike Ferraresso, Mieczyslaus Burzynski, Ed Kross, Dan Levesque, and myself. We picked up an eleventh, Henry, who had been dropped by a very fast lead group, two riders who eventually finished in 9:52.

For many miles I felt great and spent a lot of time near the front, but conditions slowly became more difficult. Fierce winds picked up from the northeast and blew against us. The pavement in Rhode Island deteriorated to ruts and sand-covered potholes. We took a wrong turn. The midday sun demanded a slower pace. After 20 or so moderately punitive miles, we reached the welcome haven of checkpoint three, Bruce Ingle's station wagon parked next to the Shell gas station in Uxbridge, MA. But the wind continued to be a nuisance: gusts made it difficult to deal with food packaging or pour energy drink powder into water bottles. We were back on the road in 15 minutes. Glen, Melinda, and Ted arrived just as we were leaving.

The final leg presented few difficulties except for a temporarily swollen stomach. For about an hour, near Framingham, it felt bloated and hard to the touch. I became weak, unable to transmit any power. I sat at the back of the paceline and dreaded every rise in the road. Then, almost as suddenly as it had appeared, the problem went away.

And none too soon, either. As we emerged on Rt 126 north, the pace heated up. Bill shot off the front and quickly gained several hundred meters. John also accelerated, but remained half way between Bill and the rest of us. I led the chase. 50x15... 50x14... 50x13. I started running out of steam. I glanced back at Rick: his grimace said "no way." My legs felt stiff. 50x14 again. Then, from a few feet behind, I saw Chris move up like a freight train. "Get on my wheel!" he shouted. We surged forward in Chris' wake, and ahead of us John slowed down. In a few seconds we had bridged the gap, and John led the chase for Bill. Bill didn't stand much of a chance now. We passed the Lincoln town line at 26mph after 180 miles of riding. Bill was with us again, smiling a little sheepishly. John is fast, no doubt. I pushed myself to stick with him at the front of the group on the final climb up Bedford Road, and then it was all downhill to Hanscom Field, where we arrived at 3:23pm. 11:23 is my best time so far for a 300K brevet.

We had ridden fast enough to avoid the forecast rainstorm, but my luck did not hold out much longer. The rain came down heavy as I pedaled home to Cambridge. Time for a warm shower once again.