Paris-Brest-Paris: Days Away

Hello from the quiet zone.

As the quadrennial Paris-Brest-Paris approaches, Mary and I completed our final training ride on Sunday – a leisurely 71 mile roundtrip to lunch in Poolesville, Maryland, with just under 4,000 feet of climbing.

The corn is tall. It’s time to go to PBP

It’s a weird time, emotionally and mentally. I want to ride these days but I also don’t want to get injured or crash. I was initially distracted on today’s ride, thinking I should be packing and taking care of other travel details.

Still, it felt good to get out into the humid summer heat that has been a constant feature the last few weeks in Washington. We know we’re in 1200K shape when we can knock out 71 miles and not feel it in our legs afterwards, which was the case today.

The outing caps a period of pre-event tapering to rest and regroup. We wrapped up our really long rides with a very hilly and hot 600K ride on July 20-21.

The randonneur life: daybreak in Thurmont, Maryland

Since then we’ve been trying to get lots of sleep and good nutrition so that we don’t get sick on the trip to France next week. The main goal is to arrive at the start line fresh, sharp and motivated.

Last weekend we mostly stayed off the bike. Sunday’s ride was a last shakedown to test some changes I made to our new Co-Motion 650b travel tandem that our 600K prompted: different handlebars for me, a different seatpost, and other small changes. We’ve dialed most everything in and are ready to start packing.

New bike! Provisional name: the Green Apple

I think I shouldn’t be nervous. Rationally, we know what to expect: this will be my fifth time at PBP and Mary’s second. We’ve ridden other 1200K rides, including one last summer, the sublime Coulee Challenge in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We’re in familiar territory, I tell myself.

Still, this is the “big show” that we’ve been preparing for since last year and it’s difficult not to fret over little things.

The nerves come through in wanting to buy bike things, like new shoes and jerseys, even though I don’t need to make any changes in my gear and clothing. I did buy some of that stuff, but it’s all staying home.

I also find it hard to reflect on how we’ve gotten here; my mind keeps flashing forward. This was kicked into high gear by seeing the final Tour de France stage start in Rambouillet, where PBP will begin.

We previouly rode PBP from St. Quentin en Yvelines, so the start in Rambouillet will be a new one for us (as it will be for everyone).

That said, let’s recap our summer our training program. These rides followed our qualifying series that ran from April to early June.

Into West Virginia on July 4

Our plan was to put in a block of big rides in June and July, and we can declare success. The progression of 1,058 miles over that period included:

  • June 22: 200K permanent from Frederick, Md. See my story here.
  • June 29: 178-mile ride to Shepherdstown, W. Va. and back
  • July 4, 6-7: 318-mile roundtrip to Pittsburgh from Cumberland, Md., over hilly back roads and the GAP Trail. Day 1, Day 2 & Day 3.
  • July 13-14: Easy 18- and 40-mile local test rides of our new Co-Motion steel 650b travel tandem
  • July 20-21: The infamous Kit’n’Kish 600K permanent from Frederick, Md. through the central Pennsylvania mountains. A massive heat wave made this one extra challenging once we got out of the forested highlands on the second day. Day 1 and Day 2.

We used a similar training plan last year for the Coulee 1200K and the same pre-ride rest period, about three weeks, and we had a good ride there, so we should be good for PBP.

Sweating out the miles on the Kit’n’Kish 600K permanent

All that’s left to do is get the bike and gear packed up without throwing in all kinds of extra clothes and spare parts we won’t need. It’s just a four day ride, right?

We’re staying at the Novotel Golf Course hotel in St. Quentin en Yvelines starting Aug. 14 until the early morning of the 19th, when we ride over to Rambouillet for the 5 a.m. 84 hour start.

If you are riding PBP, please say hi when our paths cross, and Bonne Route!

4 thoughts on “Paris-Brest-Paris: Days Away

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