This is my 10th year in randonneuring. Five times I have completed the super randonneur series of 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k. I have set a goal this spring of completing another PA series, which would be my fourth, in addition to my two series completed in NJ. Saturday was the 300k, leaving out of the familiar Weisel Youth Hostel in Quakertown, PA.
There were 30 riders who began the 300k route and three others who opted for 200k. I now had two 200ks completed over the past month or so, but my mileage was still under 1000 for the year, so I had lingering questions about my endurance. It seems as though there is a rule of 2/3rds in play here. If you have successfully completed 2/3rds of the distance in an earlier ride, you are decently prepared for the extra length.
The super randonneur series is well calibrated to building endurance. I’m not saying that you don’t have to put in other miles to be ready, but to some extent just completing the 200k gets you ready for the 300, which prepares you for the 400, etc. But no matter how many times you complete the series, it seems like a daunting task when you’re doing it.
I’d completed a PA 200k with Roy in late March, and struggled to keep up with him. At that time I had gone seven months without riding any brevets, as family commitments made it impossible for me to ride long distances. We finished the ride in 9:55, which put us in the bottom third. Given the strong, determined riders that RBA Tom Rosenbauer attracts for the PA rides, there is certainly no disgrace in that. But I thought I was feeling strong in the last couple of weeks and thought I could do better on the 300k.
The 4:00 a.m. start was tough. It was dark, I only got 2 hours of sleep and I kept worrying that I forgot something. (I had, but only a bandanna, not a helmet or shoes.) I started with the pack but then my frame pump fell off the bike, as I hit a big pothole. By the time I remounted, the main pack was gone. That was just as well, as I wanted to pace myself on this ride.
I decided to aim for a time below 15:00. Last year I rode with Shane and Roy and we finished in 15:05, but I had nearly twice as many miles in my legs. During the first 38-mile leg of the 188-mile course, I picked my way through the last half of the field, until I caught a large pack of about a dozen riders in Bethlehem PA at the bottom of the Route 378 hill. I rode with that pack until the first controle, where we arrived just as the convenience store was opening.
Walt P., who also had not been riding as much lately, joined me for the start of the second leg, but his usually very strong climbing legs were not there yet and I pulled ahead on the climb of Blue Mountain. I past several riders on the climb and then caught three more at the foot of the descent, including Dan B., a PBP finisher last year who decided to ride with me. We would end up staying together the rest of the ride. I told him about my sub-15 hour goal, but he wasn’t convinced he was going to be able to do it.
Walt caught back up a little before the second controle at mile 68, which was the apple pie and hot dog place in Water Gap, PA. It turns out that there were about eight riders in front of us of the 30 starters. At the start of the next leg, Dan was convinced we had taken a wrong turn. I called out to him that it was correct, but he was confused and continued to backtrack down a hill. Not wishing to add an extra hill, I kept on and shortly after the crossing of the Delaware into NJ, I caught up to Frederick C., and we ended up staying together, along with Dan, who caught up at the Hainesville control.
My power meter wasn’t working so I was just judging speed by my watch and the cue sheet. We reached the half-way point at mile 94 in about 7 hours. That meant that we could break 15 hours with a 9-hour second half. That sounded reasonable, although my legs were already protesting loudly. Somehow, though, we kept going through the next two controles at a slightly lower pace and made it back to the hostel in 14:57, having achieved my goal. It was Frederick’s longest ride to date, so quite an accomplishment for him. Dan has completed many PA 300ks but he still seemed happy with the result this time. This time we finished in the top third, which for me is always a challenge on one of Tom’s rides.
I definitely could feel I was getting some endurance back, which is a good thing. Now it’s on the PA 400k in two weeks and then the 600k two weeks after that.