Sunday, July 17, 2011

Great Adventure Populaire

July 16, 2011

My heart rate monitor flashes numbers well above 90% of my max and the numbers are rising. This is a short course, 70 miles, with no real climbing, but our riding pace relentlessly hovers around and above 20 mph. There are hours yet left to ride and I am a clydesdale trying to run with a racehorse. Through open mouth, my belly bellows air in and out of my lungs as my thighs burn in circles to climb the next roller. I take another pull of water from my Camelbak and work at keeping the pace.

The ride was arranged in less than a week. A Summer weekend night under a full moon presented a wonderful reason to go for a bike ride. A few emails and Facebook messages later and I was signed up to ride the Great Adventure 70 mile Permanent with Len Z. Len rides brevets from the front. He regularly finishes first or near first. He rides century a day PAC Tours; in fact, he recently completed their two week 1200 mile Route 66 tour. He also rode a hilly 600k last weekend - solo - and finished in the fastest time. The fact that I actually expressed the desire to ride this one fast meant that I would probably get what I asked for. Be careful what you ask for.

I flatted early on the course. My first flat on a brevet since I began riding brevets. A 4000km streak broken. After leading the charge for a bit, I felt an extra bounce in my seat and a slight wobble in my 40mm rear tire. (Yes, I ride 40mm tires - heavy, sturdy Schwalbe Marathons - that float over road defects and roll over 4000km of road and off-road without a flat.) The bounce grew bouncier. The wobble grew wobblier. It took me a good few of minutes to realize I flatted since I had not flatted on this bike before and this flat was a silent but steady leak.

We pulled over. I pulled the tire, then the tube. Len found the hole in the old tube as I retrieved the new tube from by bag. My practice of placing the presta valve at the tire label meant that we could match hole to tire to check for the source of the puncture. We found a small tear in the tire but nothing stuck in it. I replaced the tube, remounted the tire, then inflated it with CO2. Back on the road with an only slightly soft rear tire. About 65 miles to go. We quickly get back to pace.

The Great Adventure Permanent Starts in Hillsborough, NJ. It is an out and back course with one controle 35 miles in at a Sunoco with inside tables. We started at a diner at 6 pm. The roads are relatively quiet, given the area and the fact that it's Saturday night, and we pass a few fields of July corn that are high as an elephant's eye. We cross a wetland, or maybe it was a swamp, between the small towns. I would tell you more about the scenery but, really, truly, I focused on riding close enough to draft but not close enough to crash, when not leading and keeping pace and watching the course. What I could describe in detail is the back of Len's red white and blue 2007 PBP shirt. That, I now know well.

On the return trip, the full July moon rose yellow above the horizon. Our pace increases in the cooler evening air. Sweat drops evaporate before they drip from my nose. I try to stop calculating how much time it will take to finish and focus on hanging on. My thighs burn up another incline. I tuck into the downhill, flowing into the night, as the Summer air moves over and through me. We ride gray black roads under a blue-black sky. Glide into the night until the wind pulls tears from your eyes.
Once back at the diner that served at the start, we recover with pie and fresh fruit with whipped cream. The second half took less time than the first. A negative split. A good strong training ride.

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