Monday, October 1, 2012

It was a Lovely, Wet, Great Day

Riders arriving for the 7:00am start

This fellow was riding a very nice Velo Orange machine as we leave Burlington 

Jake and John

Me, maybe near Jeffersonville

That's John up ahead as we track down the last few miles headed into Jericho

This was the pack I rode with for most of the second half of the ride at a stop in Charlotte; welcome company through the rain, mud, and long miles. All of us were well fendered except for the guy with the muddy butt

My pal John

Emily, a rider from Boston and inspiring bag maker. We had a great time talking along the way. She rode the whole thing on a fixed gear

Others from our little group as we close in on the finish

Mike checking in riders at the finish with coffee and pizza at hand

Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding the last event of this season's Vermont brevet series, namely the Fall Classic 114k/200k.

Doing these rides makes me just so happy.  I love the challenge and the spirit which brings together a distinct slice of people who choose to spend many, many hours churning away on their bikes to experience a rare mix of beauty, exhaustion, exhilaration, and finally, relief.

A brevet is not a race and I believe this is the most compelling aspect of the whole event. Any sense of success or failure is fundamentally self-created. There is no external pressure to ride any faster or further then you feel comfortable doing. You can take it easy if you like, stopping frequently and enjoying the scenery, you may even sit down for a meal along the way. Conversely, you might find yourself compelled by the structure of the event as a test of organization, efficiency, and determination.  No one wins and no one looses in a brevet, but we all get to experience how well we worked through the day.

The day started out overcast and the prediction was for rain in the afternoon. For most of the day I was in the company of other riders, enjoying various casual conversations along the way. Unlike earlier rides, the lead pace was more relaxed and I enjoyed moving swiftly without feeling the desire to keep up with any particular pack. The controls seemed to have the effect of regrouping riders throughout the first few stops.

After one particularly jarring dirt downhill in Jeffersonville,  I discovered that Nancy's iphone (which she had graciously lent me for the day) had bounced out of one of the pockets of my handlebar bag. After a good look in all the places I might have misplaced it, I decided I had to go back up the road and find it. It wasn't hard to make the decision to turn around, but it did mean dropping away from the folks I'd been riding with. Somewhat surprisingly, I found it after a bit of searching and it was none the worse for the wear for it's time on the edge of the road.

I headed off again and enjoyed the company of a new variety of riders. I didn't really care about my overall time and was glad to mix it up with new folks. To my surprise my frequent fellow traveller John appeared from behind. It turns out the folks I had be riding with previous to the cell phone mishap had taken a wrong turn and added 7 miles or so before getting back on route--hence putting me back with some familiar faces.

Lunch was a brief stop at the Village Cup in Jericho. I had a welcome hot cup of coffee and a sandwich I'd packed as the drizzle started to become a little more persistent. This was the point of divergence for those riding either the 114k or the 200k. I headed off on the 200k route with a rider named David.

Over the miles out of Jericho a loose collection of riders coalesced into an informal yet steady group of seven riders. Everyone seemed game to settle into a little group. Perhaps there was an undercurrent of awareness about the distance still to travel as the weather was deteriorating--company is always welcome in such circumstances. By the time we descended into Richmond the rain had come on full force.

Later I described the experience of riding with this group to Nancy as sort of like riding on a train. If you had a mechanical issue or had to make a random stop you might find yourself left off behind somewhere. If you were quick with your stop and huffed it you'd likely catch up, but you could also find yourself riding alone. At the end of the day after all the rain and and mud and chill, I was very grateful that I was in this small troupe; their presence kept me moving, kept me company, and reinforced my will to keep going. It would have been harder to muster that standing alone in the middle of nowhere soaked to the bone and feeling oppressed by the miles still to go. I enjoyed the seeming cohesiveness in terms of effort and speed; it felt to me that everyone was pretty much moving along together at a pretty natural pace.

The rain eased up later in the afternoon and with it my optimism was restored as we narrowed down the miles into Burlington.

Unlike earlier rides, this one featured many stretches of dirt road and a bunch of climbing. Again I was exposed to parts of Vermont I'd never seen before. According to the the numbers from the event description the 200k / 127mi ride had roughly 65 miles of dirt and about 9600' of climbing. I guess its not surprising that my usual trot up the stairs last night was a little more sluggish then usual.

This summer has provided me with a great introduction to randonneuring and I am excited for next year. John and I have talked about perhaps forming a fleché team for the spring. I have long dreamed of riding a fleché and I would be really excited to have the opportunity.

Update: A few other riders have posted about their experience of the ride:

-Mike, of littlecircles plus some photos:

-Greg, of Yakbicycle

-Velouria, of Lovely Bicycle
plus some photos:




bmike said...

nice report dave. it was good seeing you again, and wonderful that you made it up saturday night for the meet and greet (despite the issues with getting a group of us all in the same room at the same time!).

really enjoy your write ups, and you've nailed with this bit:

"Any sense of success or failure is fundamentally self-created."

exactly right. while in the past i have worked hard to go fast, i have since just enjoyed being on my bike. and i let the sense of failure fall away when i reached the first control and realized i (as the organizer!) left my brevet card on the counter at the start, in my haste to see everyone off. another rider offered his, as he was just out enjoying the day - but i declined. the ride is often what one makes of it - despite time, numbers, mileage, speed, etc. etc.

in the end i missed the final cut by a handful of minutes as i kept soft pedaling and stoping to wait for friends i thought were just behind me. they never caught up, and finished nearly 40 minutes behind me... its al good though.

so glad you have enjoyed these rides, and are looking for more. makes me feel that i've done my job when folks enjoy themselves and have a good experience.

a fleche you say?
if i could regain my fitness over the winter i would be interested in joining you. but only if i feel i can be part of the train. daddy time has taken its toll on my mid section and my speed...

see you soon. maybe an early winter VT organizer meeting somewhere convenient. with good coffee and pasty. that has a hen on the door?

Dave said...

Hi Mike,

I think it was a great event and perhaps the weather even helped solidify the experience into a slightly more tight-knit vibe then if it'd been all nice. Something about the hint of adversity...

Yes, I'm still dreaming of the opportunity to ride a fleché and it'd be great fun to do it with you. This season's rides have given me the confidence I needed to know I could do it that was lacking in years past. John says he has a friend who might want to do it as well, so maybe we'd have a team right there.

I very much enjoyed the night-before gathering. If anything I wish there were more social time before and after the rides, but its all rush rush before and then everyone gets back at a different time, so that's hard to do. Maybe next year we can have either a mid-summer barbeque or a post season gathering for anyone who participated... when you start to put everyone together there really is a solid bunch of randonneurs in our neck of the woods.

I look forward to a get-together in the next few months to talk over possibilities for 2013. Red Hen sound great.

greg said...

Glad to see you had a nice ride Dave. I don't know what they do at the Village Cup, but their coffee always tastes extraordinary. Maybe it's because I only drink coffee there on the Fall Classic after all the climbing! Anyway, good to "hi" you again at the ride :)