Monday, June 12, 2017

New Holland 200K

It was a hot afternoon. Even now, sitting in the house as the last light of the June sunset languidly eases into the horizon, my body radiates heat. It's as if the afternoon sun soaked deep into my flesh the way summer heat soaks into asphalt and concrete and then lingers before it finally releases into cooler evening air.

The morning started off cooler. We met just before dawn. The New Holland 200K is the last 200K of the Pennsylvania 600K that started the day before. Some of the 600K riders who arrived in the night would start at 5:00 am with those of us just riding the 200K.

The course was a joy to ride. This 200K is a mild route in contrast to the typical Pennsylvania course. It starts in Quakertown and heads west to New Holland over rolling hills and verdant farms. For the 600K riders, the challenge for this route is having to complete it after a hilly 400K the day before. For the rest of us, we get to witness the second day without having suffered the first and, on the basically out and back course, get to see and encourage those who did. All of us keep an eye on the weather and the wind.

Although I had not ridden the 400K the day, I did ride a spirited 80 mile route as part of my training for a big ride later. Today, in the morning, my recovery surprised me. My right knee, although still puffy and swollen from a recent and lingering injury, was not painful. I could pedal almost equally with both legs and give my atrophied right thigh incentive to recover and regrow. I set out at a measured pace with a goal of riding consistently and efficiently.

Night quickly faded. The late setting full moon sat high above the horizon even after sunrise brightened the sky to pale blue. In the restful silence of Sunday morning, the miles went quickly by. I merged and overlapped with riders along the course, enjoying the company.

The forecast for afternoon heat and increasing wind gave us incentive to keep moving before the wind picked up. If we timed it right, the wind would come after the turnaround and be at our backs. We had the rare opportunity for a long tailwind home and I wanted to take full advantage.

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden though this section of Pennsylvania that includes the Lancaster Valley. The views are postcard perfect settings of lush farmlands though slowly rolling hills on roads lined with the markings of steel wheels of horse drawn carriages. That alone seems reason enough to be here.

As promised, the wind picked up to help push me back to the start. I accepted the assist with a smile and rolled through to complete the first 100 miles of the ride. With only 25 left to go, I made short work of the penultimate control, intending to just get it done.

The heat had a different plan. It had been rising throughout the day and, by 1 pm, it finally pushed me to the point where my pace dropped to survival mode. The two bottles of water seemed to disappear too quickly for the distance I had to ride. However, I think the biggest test of willpower came when I came upon a tavern two miles from the finish and decided to keep riding instead of getting out of the heat and getting something cold to drink.

The hostel finish was once again a welcome sight. Inside, a cool shower, cold drinks and hot food awaited along with a happy group of fellow riders. I enjoyed the Randonneurs’ welcome and then headed home to plan for the next one.


  1. Thanks for your interesting and engaging account. Love the first paragraph and the line "the heat had a different plan." I can relate to my time in the Sonoran Desert. I need to peruse the PA route schedule more closely and make a plan to join you all.

    1. Thanks Amy. It would great to meet and ride with you. If you don't make it to PA, maybe it will happen when I travel north.

  2. Always enjoy reading your posts after rides. I had the same thoughts as you when passing the tavern with two miles to go. The ride scenery was gorgeous. I went through 2+ bottles of water in the last 25 miles and had stopped sweating and was starting to get a massive headache. Glad that ride is done.