Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Fellow Rider's Ride Report

Chris and I flew back to Cincinnati yesterday.  It is a surreal transition.  Chris is working on his ride report and we will also post pictures soon.  We were without computer access the last part of our trip and are now catching up on our family and friends' messages, facebook posts, and blog comments.  What on earth did we do to deserve such a wonderful group of people in our lives?  And how awesome that we now have many, many new friends to add to this fantastic group.  Too cool!

As most of you know, Chris is a bike mechanic at Jim's Bicycle Shop in Cincinnati (in Deer Park).  One of Jim's customers is Todd Williams.  He just posted a great ride report on the bike shop's blog.  Here's the link:  Todd's writing really takes you along for the ride and all of its bumps, challenges, and successes.  Read it and enjoy.

Chris and I took today off from work to recuperate a bit and reflect on our trip.  Chris has jotted notes and his thoughts about the ride and he will do a blog post soon.  We can't thank everyone enough for your support.  We peeked at the statistics for our blog.  It shows that people from the U.S., Sweden, Ireland, France, and Germany have visited and read our posts.  How awesome!  If they are PBP riders or friends and family of a rider, Chris and I hope that they are celebrating their accomplishments.  More than 20% did not finish the ride, but I know that they are still heroes.  Read Todd's ride report above and you'll understand what I mean.  Anyone who sets PBP as a goal is a hero. Because PBP is more than a ride.  So much more.    

Thursday, August 25, 2011

72 hours, 10 minutes

Chris is snoring next to me. Safe, exhausted, overwhelmed. He rode a fantastic ride. Other riders came up to me and told me how strong a rider Chris is and how well he rode his first PBP. I am so proud of him and of all the riders from our hotel. We had a big celebration dinner at the hotel tonight. Even the staff took pictures of our group. I met a local Frenchman who had turned out to cheer on the riders with us at the start of the ride. As it turns out he is in the champagne business. A few of the other spouses pitched in with me and we bought 12 bottles of champagne to toast our riders at tonight's dinner. We included the hotel staff and they did a very sweet toast to all of us as well. Such an awesome experience!

Chris finished his first PBP in 72 hours and 10 minutes. I am so proud of him. He will have stories to share with you soon. A few days rest in our apartment rental in Paris will do him a world of good. I will convalesce with him as it seems all of the spouses have come down with head colds! Sympathy pain? Doesn't quite match the saddle sores, road rash, and leg cramps of our spouses. They look like the walking wounded. And I know that our friends who did not finish the ride are very disappointed. But they really all are heroes.

Thank you again to everyone who has followed along on our PBP adventure. Chris will have more to write after some much needed sleep. Funny, I usually worry about snoring and keeping Chris up when I have a head cold. I don't think that will be a problem tonight! XO, Amy & Chris

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almost here!

One of the hotel staff came up to me at dinner to let me know that Chris was at the next to the last control stop and that he expected to finish around 3 or 4 a.m. (it's almost midnight here as I type this.). He had taken our hotel's number with him and asked one of the volunteers to call for him and relay the message to me.

It has been an emotional time. Several of our friends have had to drop out because of mechanical failures or illness. They have come back to the hotel tired, worn out, and very disappointed. I went into Paris today with the spouse of a rider who had to quit the ride because of stomach problems. The rider had to take a train from Carhaix to Paris. With my limited French, I helped buy train tickets, find the correct train platform, and get everybody back by train and bus from Paris to the small town where we are all staying. It took most of the day, but it helped distract me from worrying and waiting for Chris.

I've been moved to tears several times in the last two days. When the first DNF (did not finish) rider came back to the hotel, we spontaneously clapped as he made his way down the driveway. We have given each rider a hero's welcome. They deserve nothing less.

I am not sure if news has made it back to you yet, but sadly an American rider from DC was killed. I have not heard all of the details, but news of his death has affected all of us and has certainly increased the anxiety levels for those of us waiting for spouses and friends to return. And has made each homecoming that much more emotional.

There are no words that I can write that can adequately capture the meaning of this experience. The people we have met are fantastic. The French people have treated the riders like rock stars. One rider told me that as he stopped to fix a broken spoke, a small crowd of children gathered around him. When he had successfully fixed the spoke, the children clapped and cheered, handed him a bottle of water and shouted, "Bon courage!". I know that hundreds of scenes like this have played out over and over again. Small but powerful reminders that simple acts of decency and kindness can restore someone's dignity and hope.

Thanks, everyone, for following along on this incredible journey. I know we all look forward to hearing Chris' stories. We'Ll update again soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

He's on his way...

The alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. I don't think Chris got much sleep. I know I did not. We watched the first group of riders take off the night before. It was truly one of the most awesome things we've ever witnessed. The look of excitement, determination, and child like wonder played on every face. We cheered and screamed, "Allez!". Grins and waves and hoots of gratitude met our every shout of encouragement. Chris' time group left the next morning at 5am and all of us spouses turned and made as much noise for them as the night before.

Be sure to check Chris' progress by entering his frame number, 8248, on the PBP site. Chris included it in an earlier post. I am a bit loopy with no sleep, several glasses of wine, and adrenaline. The people we have met are priceless. They are and will be friends for a very long time. Once we are back we will post pictures and give you some bios on our new friends. One rider is in his fifth PBP. Amazing! Chris is well on his way...! Love to you all!

Friday, August 19, 2011

We Made It!

After a long day of traveling, Chris and I have settled into our hotel and he is already on the bike checking the lay of the land. There is no computer at the hotel, but we have quickly made friends with someone who has an iPad (thank you, Terry!)

We have met people from Japan, New York, Minnesota, Arkansas, Seattle and Kentucky. We spent a lovely, cool evening (I should have brought more long sleeved shirts!) unpacking bikes, sharing food and wine, and adjusting to the new time zone with a great group of folks. Several riders have returned for their fourth and fifth PBP event!

Chris has his bike inspection tomorrow. He is nervous, but excited, and it is reassuring to talk to the veteran riders. Not much more to report. I think we are still in a bit of a trance - pinch us, are we really here?!

As always, we are grateful for the support everyone has shown us. Your good vibes follow us and will keep Chris company as he pedals his way through this amazing adventure. Mercy, mes amis! We'll try to post again soon. Love, Amy and Chris

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Big Thanks

Chris here.

I wanted to take a quick moment to give a big round of thanks to all my friends and family who have inspired, encouraged, prodded and generally supported me over this past year.  Thanks, everyone!

If you would like to check my progress during the ride, we are wearing id chips that will register what time we reach each control (required stop) along the course.  You can go here and type in my frame (race) number, which is 8248.  This is the first year they've done this, so there may be a few glitches, and I'm not sure how often they update the info.

I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous.  But I am looking forward to the challenge and the experience.  Thanks again to everyone for your support!  --Chris

Amy here.

I may have more butterflies in my stomach than Chris does.  I echo his gratitude and love to each of you - the responses we've received to our attempts at "blogging" are heart warming.  Chris deserves most of the credit for getting this far - but our family and friends have made the journey that much more meaningful.  Thank you.

We will make every effort to keep our blog updated over the next two weeks.  I am so excited to meet the thousands of other riders and their "cheerleaders" who are making their way to France as I write this post.  It's a pilgrimage of sorts. It's bigger than a cycling event.  It's a testament to what an individual can do with equal parts inspiration and determination.  It's about risk taking - betting on yourself and your abilities.  How often do we really allow ourselves to take that kind of risk?  Not nearly as often as we should or could.

I'm not a betting woman, but in this case, I'm putting everything on #8248.  The risk is so worth taking.  We've got nothing to lose because we've already won. 

Love to you all.  --Amy & Chris

Saturday, August 13, 2011

When the Other Woman is a Bicycle...

Chris at a motel during a brevet.  Yup, with "her!"
The text message I sent to my friends read:  Chris is with "her" this weekend.  Anyone up for Mexican food and beer?  Chris was away (again) for one of his qualifying brevets and I had another weekend to myself.  As anyone who shares a home with a long distance cyclist knows, long distance = LOTS of time on the bike.  And when you are with a long distance cyclist who is training for the Paris-Brest-Paris event, the amount of time on the bike increases exponentially!  Which means you, as the supportive partner, must get used to the idea of doing a lot of things by yourself. 

No matter how rational you try to be, you will occasionally find yourself jealous of the bike and the time your spouse spends with her, er, it.  Don't get me wrong - there are times when this solitude is a luxury.  There are other times (like grocery shopping or cleaning the bathroom or taking three cats to the vet) when you wish you weren't flying solo.  Weekends can be especially lonely since Chris works on Saturdays, and Sundays are always a big riding day. 

The Other Woman...
So how do I fill my time?  I do a lot more cooking.  Chris' mistress doesn't cook.  That's one thing I've got on her.  Chris comes home ravenous after his brevets.  We do not have children, but to look at our grocery cart many people would swear that we have three growing teenage boys who are eating us out of house and home.  No, no teenage boys.  Just one endurance cyclist.

Over the last two years of goal setting and training for Paris-Brest-Paris, Chris, his mistress and I have worked out a pretty good relationship.  He still chooses her over me on most Sundays.  But I think I understand their relationship better.  After all, I'm counting on her to get Chris over the finish line in 84 hours or less, and mostly intact.

But I've got news for her.  On the flight to France, I get the window seat.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Details, Details, Details

Hi, it's Chris here.  Amy's been bugging me (she's good at that!) to post some more details about what the heck this PBP is, etc., etc.

Perhaps a brief explanation is in order. 

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is a 1200km brevet (rhymes with "Chevrolet"), or organized ride, in the sport of randonneuring, or long-distance, self-supported cycling.  Organizers of these rides provide riders with a set course with stops along the way (controls).  A card provided to each rider must be stamped at each control and then submitted as proof of completion of the course.  Riders are not permitted to receive any outside help along the course (except at controls), so no sag vehicles or support crews are allowed.  While not races, each distance has a maximum completion time in order to receive credit for having completed the ride (e.g. 40 hours for the 600km).

For PBP each participant can choose a starting group based on one's expected completion time: 80, 84, or 90 hours (the maximum).  I've decided to go with the 84 hour group, hoping that perhaps the crowds will be less at the controls with the smaller starting group, and also preferring the 5am starting time rather than the early evening starting time of the 90 hour group.

To qualify for PBP one must complete a series of brevets, that is a 200, 300, 400 and 600km brevet in the Spring prior to PBP.  Because these must be done by mid-June, they start early in the year: the 200km brevet was 18 degrees at the start in early-March.  Springtime weather is par for the course as well: the 300km brevet ran from Urbana to Oxford and back.  In Oxford a thunderstorm started and kept exact pace with our lowly group, drenching us for four solid hours.  By the time of the 600km brevet in early June, the weather had turned to the upper 90's, and 17 of the original 36 starters had dropped out by the midway point of the ride.  By the end of the day salt crystals encrusted my helmet straps, eyebrows and goatee.

PBP will be a far cry from the ramble around Ohio with stops at out-of-the-way convenient stores as controls.  Each control in France will offer food and drink of all sorts (being France most even publish their menus ahead of time), and later in the ride there will also be opportunities for showers and sleep.  I've elected to pay for a drop bag, allowing me to have access to a small duffel bag twice along the route - changing clothes is heavenly after that many hours on the bike.  This also allows me to restock clif bars, energy drink mix and batteries - the staples of randonneuring for me.

My race number (or "frame number") is 8248.  For the first time, each rider will have a radio frequency chip, which will track each rider's progress.  If all goes as planned you can go to this link and enter my frame number.  This will only tell you the time I entered the last control, so it will not be up to the minute accurate, but close enough.  Amy will help fill in the blanks for everyone with pictures and blog posts while I am on the bike.  With over 6,000 riders expected to participate, she will probably have some interesting things and pictures (hopefully!) to post. 

Thanks for following along on our PBP adventure...stay tuned...!