A good Randonneuring course showcases its region. On the ride, you get an intimate appreciation of the terrain, a feel of the place's history, immersed in the geography. Going to the controls to get receipts and brevet cards signed (which seemed odd when I first started) forces you to interact with the locals beyond the basics of buying and selling, you hear their accents and exchange greetings - you talk to people. You get a sense of the soul of the area in a fingers in the cool earthy dirt kind of way. Randonneurs not only ride through a place, we participate in it, we live in it, if only for a moment. Such was the case on this ride.
The Catskill 600K starts near the majestic Hudson River. The scenic course is a visual treat. From the Palisades cliffs along the river, it weaves through mountain towns which run the gamut of mountain town possibilities; from standard middle America to art enclaves, exclusive schools, monasteries, many places of exotic worship or meditation and working farms. Sets of pictures from this year's ride can be found here and here.
The NJ Randonneurs have a detailed description of the Catskill 600K course on their website. They also gave fair warning that finishing would mean lots of climbing - over 22,000 feet of elevation gain.
This would be the climbiest 600k course I had ever attempted. But somehow, despite the fact that I make a much better descender than I will ever make as a climber, I decided that I would keep to a schedule for a personal best 600K. In fact, I would eat and sleep well and finish the second day strong. Yup, that was going to happen, for sure. All I had to do was follow the plan.
I forgot my watch.
Sometimes Too often, despite the checklist, which I have, and the double checking, which I do, something gets left overlooked. In the hotel room at 3:00 am, I realized that I didn't have a watch. I did have my schedule of planned control departures on my cue sheet but not the watch that I had set to the correct time with OCD accuracy. Well the bike computer has a clock and it should be accurate enough, so I'll just have to use that. No worries. I will adapt, make do and keep moving. That is what good randonneurs do after all.
A tropical storm had passed through the mid-Atlantic over the last day. Heavy rain poured for hours. At 4:00 a.m., just as the ride began, the last misty sprinkles slowly faded away. We rode into the wet under a sky still roiling with the last of the storm clouds continuing their northbound path.
The relatively flat first 100 miles or so of the course allowed for group riding at a good pace. We crossed the Hudson River at Bear Mountain Bridge and again at the scenic Walkway over Hudson, each time taking in wonderful aerial views of the river. By the time we reached the second controle the sun shone in a blue sky. We checked, ate and changed clothes and then were off. I had a nice cushion of time and the plan was working well.
I was riding on again off again with Sam C., Rudy S. and George B. At one point, I rode in Sam’s draft as we moved into the wind. Except Sam didn’t know I was there and I didn’t tell him I was on his wheel. Then Sam, realizing we were passing a turn, grabbed his brakes.
My front wheel crossed with his back wheel. I struggled to keep my balance but lost the battle and fell over. The bad news is that I wiped out into a giant puddle on the corner of the turn and the items in my front bag spilled into the water. The good news is that the puddle turned the ground underneath into soft mud which broke my fall. I didn’t get a scratch. Also the things in my front bag, except my reflective vest, were individually bagged in plastic because of the morning rain, so they too were clean and dry. The vest was soaked. As for the bike, the front brake hood twisted in a few degrees or so but it was not damaged.