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Race Report - Beth Lamie
As I write this, my Sunday run group is enjoying their coffee. As much as I'd love to be with them, I have a really busy afternoon, so getting caught up on some things now and will run later. Thought you'd like to read about my long ride yesterday - get you mentally ready for H2P and B2B.....
I got out to the Berkshires by 7 pm and found my hotel which was right off the highway.
Got unpacked and then headed out to see if I could find the bike shop where the ride was to take place. Westfield is a really cute little town and actually this is where Mikaela went to college her first 2 years. Only problem is the roads are a mess. I noticed this even when driving to the bike shop. I passed a Dunkin Donuts on the way and made a mental note for the morning, and found the bike shop right away. They were still open, so I asked them some details of the ride. One thing I found out was that the course was not marked and the cue sheet had at least 100 turns in the 125 miles so I went from praying to be left alone during the ride (I'm weird that way) to hoping to find someone I liked to ride with.
Went back to the hotel and finished getting the bike ready. I had 4 water bottles, Bento box filled with bars, and two gel flasks. I wasn't sure what the stops would be like, and I wanted to be prepared. I was riding brand new tubulars, so I got to go kind of light on the repair equipment.
The ride went off at 7, so we had to be at the bike shop at 6:30. I got up at 5:30 and dressed quickly to head out to DD for large coffee and a cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter - two luxuries I don't usually indulge in. Back to the room and ate breakfast while watching the sun come up. Got dressed in a base layer, knickers, short sleeve bike jersey and arm warmers. I brought a light rain jacket just in case that I had folded tightly into a zip lock baggie. I was using Assos chamois butter which I highly recommend.
Got to the bike shop at 6:30 and signed the waiver, picked up my brevet card (you have to get it signed at check points) and my meal ticket. Pumped up the tires and lined up at the start to listen to the instructions. We were warned about gigantic potholes and large amounts of sand on the course. I had been told that about 40-50 were doing the ride, but I'd say there were 25-30 at the start. There were only 3 women including me, and most were men between 30 and 40. A couple in their 50's but no one under 30.
And then we were off. My goal at this point was to keep someone in sight so I didn't have to constantly read the cue sheet. I am aware of "cue sheet holders" that people who do long rides use, but I hadn't thought to invest in one. I was checking out the bikes and set ups of all the other folks and I should mention that when I showed up with the Guru it was almost embarrassing because it is such a nice bike. I had the only tri bike and even loaded down as I was for the long ride, it stood out. It was like showing up with a Lotus when everyone else has a Ford truck. But I also listened to everyone talking about their 5 bikes, and this is my one bike, and I really didn't give it another thought. If they were bothered by my bike, no one said so.
The most common bike was Independent Frames road bike. Lots had fenders and many had panniers and cue sheet holders. After the first few turns and climbs we separated into 3 main groups with probably a few stragglers between and behind. I was in the second group. It was nice to see that everyone rode single file and there wasn't a lot of chit-chat. These kinds of rides can be dangerous when you are riding with someone who doesn't pay attention and forces everyone to swerve when they see a pothole or sand at the last minute.
For the first couple of hours we were climbing but I didn't really notice it much b/c we kept a comfortable pace (@16 mph) and it gave us all a chance to gradually warm up. I was glad with my choice of breakfast b/c it stayed with me for the first 2 hours. I kept well hydrated and topped of with gel to stay on top of the bonk. By the time we hit the first check point our group was down to about 7 people and I had gotten to know the other 2 women and one guy who had come with them. They were very nice and one of the women had the whole route in her GPS. I wasn't letting her out of my site!! I really had to pee, but if it meant I was losing her, I'd try to ignore it. Turns out that after we checked in, refilled out water bottles and had snacks, and stopped to admire the view - we were in Shelburne Falls, and the falls are spectacular - Pamela wanted to hit the coffee shop and I knew were there was one, so Pamela, Joel, Dina and I took off for the coffee shop, leaving the other 3 guys behind as they were still eating and stretching. My group all caffeined up while I went to the bathroom. When I came out they were sitting there enjoying their coffee. It struck me that these people were in no particular hurry and I thought, "this is pretty cool. why does everything have to be a race?" After coffee they all visited the facilities and we were off again. I found out that Pamela (GPS) had done this ride before. She had also done Boston-Montreal-Boston and Paris-Brest-Paris. She lived in Watertown with her husband John, who was from Ireland. He was up ahead with the faster group. Neither one of them owned a car and they bike to work.
Dina is also from Watertown and has done this ride - last year with her boyfriend Aaron who wasn't here this time. She has biked across the country, which is where she met Joel, who at the time was living in Wyoming. Joel lives in Somerville and like Pamela and Dina, doesn't own a car. I didn't get what he does for work, but he has one office in Hopkington and one in Cambridge and commutes between the two by bike. Clearly I could learn a lot from these folks.
As we were heading away from our checkpoint, we were heading to the top of some mountain in Shelburne Falls. We were entering into some serious climbing and also the headwind was picking up, so we worked a paceline to get up the mountain. I was happy to see that I was the strongest climber as I was worried about being the weakest link. I was also aware that this might just be naivete on my part, as I'm sure these folks were better at pacing a long ride, so I held myself in check when it was my turn to lead but definitely took extra time on the pull as my way of paying for the Godsend of this GPS lady. I also had extra gel to share with Joel who had underpacked. He also is 6'3", so probably needs more fuel than the rest of us!
The climb to the top was never-ending and when we were ready for the descent, we were rewarded with an even stronger headwind!!! I don't know how this is possible because this part of the ride was a lollipop, but it's probably like most mountains where the wind just howls from all directions. We were actually doing some of the descents in the small chain ring and the arm warmers went back up. It started to flatten out (descents are always over so fast!) and this was the hardest part of the ride for me. We caught up to 2 guys who wanted to work the paceline with us but they pulled a little faster than we had been riding. So while I was grateful for the extra pull, my back was screaming from trying to hang on and stay tucked in aero position. I knew if I was dropped I was sunk, so there was almost no chance to even grab the water bottle.
Finally - thank God - the second check point. It was about 12:30 now and time for lunch. We were 2/3 of the way done with the ride. Our second check point was a health food store/restaurant in Greenfield (I think) and it was awesome. We got a drink of choice (water), half a wrap (humus and chopped veggies) and a cookie (some awesome concoction with peanuts, raisins and chocolate chips). We sat outside and enjoyed our lunch, shared some extra food that people had brought and talked to others. Another bathroom break, got our cards stamped, refilled water bottles and we were off again. Also, as we got out cards stamped, they asked us questions about signs that were along the way, or various buildings as a way of knowing that you didn't cut the course.
This final part of the ride was absolutely glorious. The weather was perfect. We were full and rested from our last stop, the wind died down and we just enjoyed it. The 4 of us laughed and joked like we'd know each other for a while and sometimes just rode and enjoyed the scenery. I'd imagined that it would be all down hill, since the first part seemed like it was all up, but there were still some climbs. They didn't seem as bad without the wind though. It was still a slight headwind, but nothing too bad. We were looking at about 3:30 finish time which was well before the official 8pm cut-off.
With about 15 miles to go, Pamela asked if we could stop at one more coffee shop that she really liked, so we stopped and she got coffee, Joel and Dina got ice cream and I got chocolate. By this point we also had some guy who had latched on to us. He made me nervous because he had no brakes and he had a habit of riding up on your right side. Also, he never took a turn at the pull. But he looked as though he wouldn't make it without us, so we let him hang on.
As we sat and enjoyed our last snack, Pamela's husband John came riding up. He had finished the ride and had come back to ride the rest of the way back with us. He was very entertaining and as we headed out added a nice mix to the group. I loved listening to his accent.
We got back to the shop at @ 4:15, which with all our stops was pretty good time. I really like the leisurely pace at which we took this ride and I'm convinced that's the way to do it. My right shoulder was really, really sore, but that's more due to my injury than anything. Until it's back to 100% (if it ever is), I'm going to widen my aerobars. On these types of rides that are so hilly, I'm usually in the drops with hands lightly on the brakes rather than aero on steep descents and the aero position isn't a factor going up hill. For now I am using that position as a way to stretch out, so I might as well be comfortable. Also, when I'm riding rather than racing, I'll probably rely more on whole food than gels and liquid nutrition. But it's good to have the other stuff as a back up.