Wednesday, August 29, 2007

back from the Continent

Well, I’m back.

We finally touched down here at Oakville International at about 7:00 pm Sunday night. That was a loooong trip. Short by Aussie standards, but for us, we were glad to walk through the door. Clause had us up and on the bus to CdeG at 5:45am (controle 1). Our flight did not depart until 1:30 (controle 2). Then 10 hours in the air (we arrived here 45 minutes later @ 2:15) (controle 3). A little time going thorough customs @ SeaTac (controle 4), and the final leg, a Tour de I-5 South for another hour and a half, and here we were (controle 5).

It was a challenging ride. I say challenging because I think the wheels will be worn off the term “epic” very soon if they have not been already. I can’t in good conscience say that it was the hardest thing I have ever done (remember, I’ve raised teenagers, fought forest fires, argued with loggers) but it was a lot harder than PBP ’03. I can't recall the last time I did something this hard.

But it was not just hard, not just miserable, it was also fun. I think those two elements are the ying and the yang of something like this. Whenever I tell folks that PBP is the most fun you can have on a bike, often times I get a screwed up look in return, like they just discovered a bit of persimmon skin stuck between their teeth. The words don’t come out but I know the gears are churning out the question “How can you think something like this is fun?” Well, I didn’t say it was easy. There’s fun in eating an ice cream cone at Coldstone, and there’s fun summiting Mt Rainier.

The thing is the two components (fun and hard) are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to do something that is really hard, AND simultaneously really fun. You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to get that. I heard a lot of people say they abandoned because it just stopped being fun. I can respect that, these decisions are individual and should be made based on your personal criteria. For me it obligates going a little past the discomfort part to get to the go/no go decision. In the words of the venerable Phil Liggett I had to reach into my ‘suitcase of pain’. By day three I found that I was dragging a steamer trunk of pain and discomfort along behind the bike and was regularly dipping into it with a long handled soup pot!

Truth is, this ride really produced very little physical pain for me. I came out of it feeling much less body pain than on any previous 1200, or 1000K brevet I’ve ridden. (Many thanks to Steve Hampsten, Kent Ericson, Corey Thompson, and Cycles Tournesol for a VERY comfortable, reliable ride). But there was an abundance of discomfort. Heavy rain and head wind in the night on big climbs can do that to you. At times I thought “sheesh this is unbearable”, but almost immediately I’d fall back on the notion that this was just another shitty weather, rainy ride. Hey, we do this, and though it seems unbearably ironic that I’d travel half way round the planet to ride in the rain, I was here, it was raining and I’d had that experience enough to know that I’d get through it.

There were lots of points at which the fun factor was being pancake flattened by the weight of the “this is freeking hard” part. But I never got to the point of thinking “this is too dangerous to continue. That’s my decision point. Though I had a few close calls I never really felt like I was riding for any prolonged period where I was dangerously exposed. So I rode on. It waa when I hit a couple low spots that I took some inspiration from the 1000K I DNF'd in the spring. When can a DNF be helpful? When you can use the exerience to help you keep going on a subsequent ride.

And I did get some great stories, they’ll come along here later, I got that good PBP bong hit that just brings out a silly grin and a chuckle from time to time, I rode with some great people, renewed some old acquaintances and made some new friends.

There is a bitter sweet note though. Those of you who are really into this have probably already determined my finish time and have a burning question to ask, but are just too darned polite to do so. Those who are more casually aware may not know what I’m talking about.

The time limit for PBP is 90 hours to qualify for the medal. There are many situations that justify adjustment for a riders time, but ultimately you must either finish within 90 hours or receive an adjustment to the time allowed to finish.

If you look deep enough you’ll find that my finish time was 90 hours and 13 minutes! This will be it’s own topic in the Chronicles. down the way. I’d like to tell you there is a Jean Paul Sartre story here, a heroic epic, but I’m sorry to report it’s much more akin to Don Quixote.

In the following weeks I‘ll be posting vignettes of my time at PBP. I’m disinclined to post a ‘start to finish' narrative, I’ve got a couple other approaches in mind that I think will be entertaining. Stay tuned!

I had a great time, it was hard, and I finished!


  1. Looking forward to hearing some details. Sounds like you've got some good stories cooking.

  2. Welcome back and well done! I csn't wait to read some of your stories, and I can't believe you missed the medal by 13 minutes!

  3. DrC, I am always struck by the wisdom of your words. You are an inspiration in how to approach rando events -- and life. Glad to hear you're home safe and healthy.
    Best wishes from Oz, Melissa & Scott