No, is the short answer. But it wasn’t easy either. 300K is never exactly easy, even if it’s flat. On flat routes especially, there’s the strong possibility of headwinds for at least half of the ride, the chance to be baked by the sun along open stretches, and the expectation that the ride will be easier and faster simply because it’s flat. and unrealized expectations sometimes lead to frustration that gets in the way of having fun.
This year’s NJ 300K, designed to help PBP aspirants get their qualification rides “in the bag,” headed south instead of north, providing us with a tour of farmland including cranberry bogs and blueberry farms, as well as the Pine Barrens, many lakes and marshy areas, and small towns. And despite the fact that the wind that was behind us for a good part of the morning slowed us down during the afternoon, a steady pace was adequate for getting around this course in good time, particularly if you were efficient at controls, which I was. Maybe the biggest challenge for the day was heaving our bikes over the concrete barriers that had been installed just two or three days before our event to block both ends of one steel grate bridge. Since we hit this bridge both going out and returning, we got a decent upper body workout as well.
Several Wawa stops and two Dunkin’ Donut stops fueled us on our journey, and the fabulous volunteer crew met us at most controls and also provided a feast at the finish until nearly midnight when the last rider arrived. Unseasonably cold temperatures at the start and finish probably tested the support crew more than the riders as they were sitting and waiting for riders to leave/arrive…brrrr! And thank you very much for taking such good care of us.
As it turned out, I rode the whole route, with the exception of the first leg, with my buddy and rando mentor, Laurent Chambard. He is better than anyone I know at setting a reasonable and sustainable pace for slower riders, a pace that allows us to finish comfortably as long as nothing catastrophic occurs. So even if my motivation and confidence have been a little shaky this year, riding with Laurent last Saturday allowed me to stay calm and focus on pedaling…. All day, I kept turning the cranks in a steady manner and 17 hours later, we turned our wheels into Mercer County Park and coasted to the finish.
So, the ride was hard enough to demand respect. I came prepared with spare lights, enough warm clothes and snacks to hold me between controls. But it was also a good day for spinning along with a friend, chatting or not, taking in the scenery and looking forward to the next Wawa and more rice pudding! It’s a good day out there when the biggest ‘issue’ is deciding what to eat at the next control. Isn’t this the life.