2023 Brevet Series
Last year I started training for attempting Paris-Brest-Paris in 2023. My training started last fall and went really well. I seemed to have made a full recovery from my knee injury last year and was quite pleased with how I paced myself on the 200 km and 300 km races. But ultimately, the never-ending rain on both the 400 km and 600 km eventually did me in, causing me to retire early on day two of the final brevet qualifying ride and dashing any hope of PBP this year. Here’s a quick summary of training and how the races went.
I started getting back on the trainer in the basement in the fall of 2022. COVID hit me pretty hard, causing a reset in October, but put a lot of hours on the bike in November and December to close out the year strong. I was able to stay on my training schedule more or less throughout the winter and into spring of this year. Wouldn’t have been able to sweat all those virtual miles in Zwift without the help of some aerobars and Civilization V to help pass the time!
PBP was going to require travelling with my bike, and when I started going on some week long work trips this past winter, it seemed like a great opportunity to both test out travelling with a bike and get some relaxing training in while away from home. I opted to bring my gravel bike down just in case anything bad happened, plus it was a great forcing function to make me finally upgrade it to a 105 groupset, allowing me to share components and wheels between my two bikes. I bought a Post Carry Transfer Case (150L) and successfully brought it down to Florida and enjoyed some great morning biking. Breaking down the bike and reassembly took about a little over an hour, but the case performed really well. I wasn’t even charged extra for being oversized!
200 km - Wachusett and Purgatory
This was a cold and raw ride. Took longer than last year but I made good improvements in how quickly I went through controls, how often I used the restroom, and eating and drinking appropriately. No cramping from last year. I did start to feel a bit of knee throbbing but nothing too serious. Overall content with the first long ride of the year.
300 km - Fifty Barn 300k
This ride was by far the best. The route was awesome, with some punch climbs at the beginning, pancake flat along the river valley, long but well-paved climb on the back half, followed by nice descents to end strong. Weather was perfect, with little wind and goldilocks temperature. Really happy finishing under 15 hours with all the climbing this route had. I had a gum graft procedure 12 days prior to this, resulting in my eating a lot of soft foods (think apple sauce and pudding). Thankfully my stomach held up really well.
400 km - Portland and Back
This ride was by far the worst. The forecast was for 15-20 mph winds coming from the North West, with rain coming in the afternoon. Because of this, everyone tried going out strong to avoid the rain as much as possible and try to beat the headwind before it picked up too much and carry that back as a tailwind. Sadly the forecast was too optimistic, with 20 mph winds coming off the water at Hampton Beach causing me to struggle to go more than 6 mph while in my lowest gear on flat ground. I was only a couple miles outside of Portland when the skies opened up and I got absolutely soaked. I stayed at the turnaround for 2 hours, hoping to both dry off and wait out the rain, but neither happened. The return home was a slow, cold (most of the night ride was in the low 40’s), wet ride that carried on forever. The only thing going for me was that nothing hurt, and all I needed to do was finish the 600 km to punch my ticket to France.
The only thing that went well this ride was my new seat post. This ride has a lot of gravel, so I got a Cane Creek eeSilk carbon seatpost that really saved my ass from all the small bumps and thuds from the ground. So glad I got it!
600 km - Over the Kancamagus
This ride wasn’t nearly as miserable as the Portland ride, as the rain didn’t come down as hard, nor was it nearly as windy or cold. But where the rain lacked intensity, it made up for it with longevity. The first 5 hours of the ride were great, getting us well into New Hampshire at a comfortable temperature and only wet from sweat. I listened to Stephen King’s 11/22/63 the entire ride, which really helped keep my spirits up and legs going.
I had an amazing pizza (probably more due to the circumstances than the merits of the restaurant) in Lincoln, NH as I tried to get some energy before tackling the climb up and over the Kancamagus highway. Had to get off and walk for a few minutes a couple times on the way up, but overall happy that I never cramped and paced myself well to that point. The ride down, even with the precipitation, was fantastic, going over 40 MPH at points on smooth pavement with no cars.
I finally rolled into the overnight control just before 1:30 am, after 16 hours straight of light to medium rain. The overnight was fantastic, a rented community center with hot showers and hot food from the volunteers. I slept great for 4 hours before getting ready again and heading out the next morning for the remaining 200 km.
I’ve never done back-to-back long rides before, especially with little sleep in between. I really had no idea what to expect. The remaining 200 km was basically the same as the back half of the Portland 400 km ride, but I’d be riding in much better weather and during the daytime the entire way. I started out quite slow and sore, but figured I’d need a bit to warm up and get loose again. My knees were starting to act up again, but I told myself I’d go at least an hour before making any decisions one way or another. I passed the one hour mark and was still going, but it was becoming increasingly clear that my knees were not getting any better, and with only 10 hours left to go the final 100+ miles (including any stops and down time), I was going to either barely make it back or have to push myself harder than I was going currently. The flats and downhills were fine; it was putting down the power on the climbs that made my knees scream in pain.
|Ride||Total Distance [miles]||Total Time [h:mm]||Average Elapsed Speed [mph]||Total Moving Time [h:mm]||Total Resting Time [h:mm]||Average Moving Speed [mph]||Total Elevation Gain [ft]||Average Elevation Gain [ft / mile]|
In addition to the races, I put a lot of hours and miles on the bike (outside and virtually) for the first 6 months of the year.
|Statistic||Total January - June 2023||Average per Week|
|Elevation Gain [ft]||123,163||5,132|
Knowing what happened last year, I decided it wasn’t worth messing my knees up again. Even if I had finished the 600 km, I likely would have been off the bike for several weeks to recover, and ultimately not be in good enough shape to have a successful PBP. Despite not finishing my qualifiers and being able to go to PBP this August, I’m not upset or disappointed. Weather this spring was consistently terrible. I opted to save my knees and try again for PBP sometime in the future. I’m enjoying the rest of the summer, including much shorter rides, and look forward to being a tourist instead this August in France.