I have given considerable thought to whether or not to publish this post. Slowly I have learned that putting real names out on social media can have many consequences, frequently unexpected consequences.
Lots of my friends are about to toe the line for the 17th Paris Brest Paris Randonneur. This 1200km ride is the Hajj for randonneurs the world over. I won’t be there this year but was lucky enough to ride it in 2003 and 2007.
The goal of every rider is of course to finish and randonneuring being what it is, the finish is what each rider receives official recognition for. Of course many strive for a fast time and a few make serious attempts to be the first finisher. I wrote in 2003 of seeing the first finishers on their return leg outside of Loudeac, about 400K into the event for me and 800K for them. This would be slightly less than 24 hours into the ride. I was just getting a good start and they were winding it up. Other riders have other goals; you can start with the 90 hour group, or the 80, or 84 hour group. Though the event is officially 90 hours, if you choose one of these shorter time starts, that’s the amount of time you have. There is a Charley Millar award for US riders who complete the event in less than 54 hours, pretty audacious goal.
I am of the 90 hour persuasion. Even in peak condition I would be unlikely to finish in less than 80 hours. I can see lots of benefits to going faster, but I have never taken the sport seriously enough to do what was needed to get dramatically faster. As a matter of fact I am a member of La société Adrian Hands. In order to qualify for membership you must have completed PBP in no less than 88:55. Note that means slower, not faster. Hey, we look for distinction where we can find it, right?
I’ve been asked by a few first timers about how to get to the finish of PBP. It seems odd that I would be queried, I think the best bit of advice I have seen is this blog post by Mark Thomas.
One thing I have advised on a couple of occasions is to watch for Duane Wright, and ride with him! Do this and you have a very high likelihood of finishing. Duane is old, he may even be as old as me, and he is slow too, but not nearly as slow as me. But he has an uncanny knack for arriving at the finish of almost any rando event within the time limit. Sometimes just barely, but under the wire just the same.
In 2005 I rode the Gold Rush 1200K in Northern California, much of it with Duane, it was a very enjoyable experience, Duane and I have a fair amount in common, and I think it fair to say that Duane sees life as a comedy not a tragedy, as do I. We kept each other laughing on the way out and back. There were times when I seriously questioned his judgment, knowing that by extending a break, here or there we would be jeopardizing our chances of getting into the next control in time, So acting on my own ‘better judgment’ I’d go off on my own, into the heat of the day rather than opting for a noon day siesta allowing the sun to settle a little. He always made it.
On that ride he received the coveted Lanterne Rouge award, traditionally awarded to the last finisher. Although he was not the last finisher he did deserve the prize because he was so strategic in his use of almost all the time available.
So when I advise riders to watch for Mr. Wright, what I am saying is this: If your plan goes sideways, and your plan B goes off the tracks, when all else seems to be pointing you in the direction of a DNF, watch for Duane Wright and if you see him, ride with him; You are more than likely to finish, and those last few miles will be funny!
PS: I get a few posts on blogs and facebook from the riders in France. I know many people think that relations between France and the US are 'strained', and I believe that is based on what we read in the papers and reports of interactions between highly placed officials. At the macro level, meaning people like you and me interacting face-toface with French people like you and me, in France there is no strain. I picked up this note this morning on the Randon USA discussion group, it is the perfect example of the state of relations between France and the US:
"I was fiddling with the bike at my hotel this morning, adjusting the
height of my saddle, and the seatpost binder bolt broke. This is
about ten hours before my 9 pm start time. It should have been
fairly easy to get the remainder of the broken bolt out, but it wouldn't budge. The bike shop nearby could not fix it except for kludge that looked like it might possibly work for the entire trip. 750 miles with an iffy seat attachment, this is not good. I was about to leave the shop when another mechanic arrived, riding with his Dad. They took me to their house, worked on it for an hour and a half and fixed it! They must have broken half a dozen drill bits in the process. Really nice of them. Of course they wouldn't let me pay them.
My start timke is in about four hours. Time for a little nap."
If we could just tone down the political rhetoric at the highest levels I am certain that international relations the world over would be in a better state.