The randonneuring series goes through rides of extended lengths of 200, 300, 400, 600 and finally 1200km. I considered riding an organized 200km (125mi) ride in Pennsylvania, but with a threat of rain, and the cost and hassle of driving far and having limited sleep, I bailed on that idea. As part of my limited training this year, I had already done a 125mi and 175mi ride, so I knew that I was capable of the distance. I had also limited my goals for 2012 to a 400k ride at most, so doing them all in order was not a requirement this year.
I was able to talk Peter into coming with me, since he was planning on the Green Mountain Double (200 miles on VT dirt roads) which required finishing a 300k road ride. I rented a hotel room for the night before our ride starting at 4am, and lights were out before 10pm with alarms set for 3am. Like most of my early morning rides, I had laid out my clothes in order, so that I won’t be going through my bags trying to find everything in the morning. I made an oatmeal packet with the coffee maker, packed up the car, and we were out by 3:45am, with the ride start less than a mile away.
Only 7 had signed up for the 300k route, though another ~45 were coming by 7am for a 200k route that mostly followed the same roads later in the day. Three launched off right on time, and I found out at the end that they finished in under 12 hours, so I’m glad I didn’t chase after them. With the first few miles of the ride, we split off from the other rider who didn’t trust that we were taking the right turn. I think he stopped to check the route, but we kept on rolling since the GPS was pointing to exactly where we should be going.
The first loop into Connecticut was 48 miles, and we made it in good time, trading the pulls. Around 5:20am, it was getting light out, though it was still cooling down until the sun was actually above the horizon. At 7:02am we were back at the bike shop from the start of the ride. I had prepared a bag at the car, knowing I’d want to change up a few things, and that worked well on this ride. I was able to dump the extra jacket and booties, swap gloves, and get fresh shorts and socks. I grabbed some more food and refilled my bottles and we were off around 7:30 for more. I could have swapped the wheelset too, but felt that the wide tires would offer more comfort.
Lately, my low point hits at around 75 miles in, and this ride was no different. I suddenly lost all motivation to keep going, thought about turning around then, and cancelling future plans of riding anything else long. I stopped at the next intersection, saw that my blood sugar was low, and after 15 minutes I had recouped and was feeling great again. Two guys flew by on time trial bikes, so Peter and I had to go chase them, of course. Well, that wasn’t too hard, cause these guys were going oddly slow considering how much they must have spent on those bikes, but we rode with them for a short while. Two others joined in (from the 200k start) and we rode together up a big hill until everyone else had dropped off the back. Oops.
We got to the 2nd checkpoint – a coffee shop called Mocha Maya’s, and stopped for a surprisingly long time. It did feel great to relax for that hour and catch my breath now at the halfway point. As part of our registration, we got a coupon for a free drink and pastry, and while all the food was likely to have eggs and I’m allergic, I passed on my brownie to Peter and got a hot cocoa for myself. My sugar was doing good at that point, though the Dexcom had hardly done much in the past few hours to tell me how my sugar was. We did see a dozen or more of the 200k riders leave shortly after we arrived, and the one 300k rider behind us came in shortly before we left.
Now headed into Vermont, the route just goes uphill for 20 miles. I was expecting more of a mountain, but it was just a steady incline that felt easier than the sharper points on the profile we had already hit. The 200k route splits off before the climb, so we were unlikely to see anyone again until the end. The route in Vermont was great riding, and there were very few turns making the route simple. This was exactly the kind of riding I was looking for – meandering roads through the countryside, into the hills, and with no traffic in sight. We did stop once for a soda and maple candy, and then finished the climb before getting a chance to roll downhill, though for not all that long. There was an information control where we had to write down what was down the train tracks, and we got a history lesson of the 5 mile long Hoosic Tunnel that was cut through a mountain with amazing precision.
The route follows a river for many more miles, and we meandered along it until we were back in Shelburne Falls for the 3rd control point. The stop was at a place similar to the Greenstar food coop, and our coupons provided a turkey & cranberry wrap (an odd combination outside of November), and a “Recharge” drink which is coop lingo for watered down juice. After 40 minutes we were off again, to finish the last 40 miles. By this point, I was feeling good again, just a bit winded and not able to easily continue going nearly as fast, so Peter was pulling the whole time while I followed closely. Well, really, Peter pulled most of the time after the first 50 miles, and I was grateful for the help!
With just 15 minutes before sunset, we made it back to the bike shop for the official end of the 300k, at 7:30pm. Though a 300k is at least 186.5mi, we had a few detours, short wrong turns on parallel roads, and extra segments from the car and were dangerously close to reaching 200 miles in the day. You can’t ride all day long and stop so short of a double century, so with 20 minutes of softer pedaling, we completed a double. I actually felt like given another short stretch break, I’d be good to go into the night, though I would have to lower the pace and take my time. Fortunately for this day, we were done and back at the car.
If you made it this far in the ride report, maybe you’ll enjoy this awards section:
Most popular roadside trash: Mini liquor bottles – I saw dozens of these throughout the day, hopefully unrelated to the ride…
Favorite food while riding: Beef jerky, the good stuff, not Slim Jims this time! I ate a handful at every stop, that I had pre-cut at home.
Best segment of riding: Whitingham, VT to Monroe Bridge, MA – It was mostly downhill, nearly no traffic the whole stretch, and beautifully green
Angriest driver: The guy who yelled “show some courtesy!!” as he honked, passed quickly, and turned into the park not 10 seconds later. Sir, I’m so sorry that I inconvenienced you by half a second. You might also want to learn about courtesy.