I’m not very brave. I like the NJ brevets as they are familiar and I know I can get around the courses (well, except for Laurent’s hilly 600). Still, given my work schedule, I was forced to look for a 300-km ride somewhere else this year and the Boston 300 seemed the best bet.
I didn’t have fun on this ride but that’s certainly not the fault of the organizers. They were very well organized and super supportive at every controle. They gave us a good cue sheet, fed us well, encouraged us, and were there until the end (with Hershey’s chocolate even). You can’t ask for more than that. So the main reason why this ride was not fun is because I got myself all worked up about possibly getting lost somewhere in the wilds of Connecticutt, about not being able to climb some of the hills, about being bitten by vicious dogs (the cue sheet warned us about CT and RI dogs), and about not getting around the course in time. So I was exhausted when I started. Given my condition, I actually did pretty well–finished with 40 minutes to spare.
The first segment, 48 miles to Oxford, rolled through some suburban and rural country, nothing too tough. Probably the most difficult aspect of it was the headwind for the last couple of miles up to the controle–oh, and the flat tire I got during this stage. I only had about 15 minutes in the bank when I got there, so I quickly took care of business and got back on the bike for the next 58 miles to Sterling, CT. This was a challenging section. Connecticutt is hilly and we rode a long stretch that was constantly up and down. Something I discovered was that small towns in CT are built on the tops of hills. This became clear when I realized that every turn that I was anticipating, and which came at an intersection in a town, only happened after I climbed yet another hill. Somewhere in this stretch I started to feel really drained, even a bit sick. I stopped at a market, bought a banana and water and also took an electrolyte capsule. This did the trick. It was a good thing, though, that I wasn’t aware of the long hill you have to climb right before the controle. Of course, there was also a headwind to make it just a bit more challenging. However, the friendly volunteer at the controle and the excellent turkey sandwich I chowed down on, really revived me.
The third segment is the shortest, 38 miles, but it makes up for its shortness with climbs. I thought Rhode Island was flat! Not. Still, the fact that it was fairly short made it go by pretty well. The penultimate controle was staffed by our ride organizer and he had all sorts of treats for us, as well as advice about getting through the “Framingham maze, ” as he put it. He suggested that I watch the arrows on the road along with my cue sheet to get through this section in a timely manner. I was a bit sceptical. Fortunately for me, another rider who was riding just a bit faster than me and had both local knowledge and GPS, offered to be my guide through this section. So, for the last 48 miles, I rode with Harry–and I’m glad that I did. Framingham is full of little, dark suburban streets, and these sections alternate with very busy commercial roads. It would have been a good deal more difficult on my own. Thanks again Harry. We were both flagging toward the end of this last section and needed a couple of stops for Gu and other snacks. There’s one last hill a few miles before the end that lets you know just how tired you are, but once you’ve crested that, you just have to cruise in to the finish.
I’m proud of myself for finishing this ride, but I wish I could convince myself to relax a bit, to know that while it’s certainly possible for things to happen to make it impossible to finish or finish on time, it is also just as likely that people will help you out, and/or that you will find ways to get through the course. This is a good ride. There’s certainly enough of a challenge in the hills, none of which are huge but get your attention with their constancy in the middle two sections. And I agree with the organizer that the Framingham section is a maze, so coming close to the end and when you’re tired, it probably presents as big of a challenge as some of the hills. It reminds me that randonneuring is a good deal about good navigation–keeping your wits about you and paying attention to the cue sheet.
Thank you to the organizers and volunteers for an excellent event.