Sunday, August 28, 2011

Abondoned, yet Honored

In case you hadn't seen the results, I abandoned after Carhais on the return to Paris, unable to get my feet/shins/ankles to carry me down the roads. More on that another day.

Honored though is how I now feel about the whole Paris Brest Paris experience. It was a true joy to cycle the beautiful country roads that are France. It was a delight to be the recipient of such sweet smiles and serious cheering on by villagers. And it was such fun to connect with cyclists from around the globe.

I am well, touring Paris with my brother, his wife, and Dartre, and I am eager to tell the tales another day soon.

Thanks so much to everyone who cheered us on. Every good wish was meaningful!

The photo is of Dartre and an unknown French finisher who badly wanted Dartre and I to know that he was 74 years old! I'm so glad we went to the finish to welcome folks back. What a kick!

Keep it joyful,


Sunday, August 21, 2011

On to the Grand Adventure!

Hot Diggity Dog Diggity!

Tall Blind Man with a Cane

Nerves are on edge at my hotel. One rider was collecting his thoughts in the dining area, staring out the window. We chatted about the stress, waiting for our 6pm or later departure this evening to begin Paris Brest Paris. He let on that he was seeking to "rewrite history" since he failed to finish last time. He is a gentle soul, and I began to understand that I wasn't the only one with pre-event jitters, or perhaps more honestly for me at least, pre-event fears.

Next, I took a walk into the small, older village that is at the heart of this modern complex. The church, of course, is the center of the center. Nearby at the fruit store, I encountered another rider who openly conveyed his anxieties. He is in the 84 hour start, which is tomorrow. Given he needs only 84 hours, he must be fairly fast. No matter, watching the 90 hour folks getting ready to leave had him second-guessing his start choice. I began to realize that all of us are nervous, regardless of our talents. He was struck, he confided, that after a year since since his first brevet, it was finally here. I did my best to reassure him his start time choice was the right one, but I am permeated by so many similar choice/doubts I don't honestly know whether I was reassuring to him, hollow-sounding, our whether he even heard me through the din of our mutual doubting.

And then at the patissierie, the Tall Blind Man nearly stumbled over the small child's scooter. Recovering, he went for the exit but walked into my chair and me instead. Too startled and handicapped by my poor French I didn't assist him, allowing others.

And that is when it hit me like a ton of bricks just how much anxiety I was carrying. Moved to tears at last, I set up the Tall Blind Man's daily challenges to buy a baguette against my obsessing with whether I should pack this or that item or leave them behind. Will my knees hold up? My ankle? Will I stumble on this or that self-doubt?

Paris Brest Paris is "mythic", as some say, but it is also self-indulgent. It is just riding a bicycle as a self-chosen challenge. It is not the marathon of unchosen obstacles the Tall Blind Man confronts.

Nevertheless, as I said when I first posted over three years ago, I wanted to explore my limits and my beyond-the-limits. I will get that chance starting this evening, and one thing is clear already: it is primarily about the mind and soul. The body will stumble along the best it can.

Note to my mother who may worry reading this: I think what I've expressed here is normal. I started to self-censor, but why? It is obvious that I am not alone in my doubting. Some cope by bantering, a few by continual bicycle marveling, others ride their bikes.

The calling out to departing riders "Bon Courage" I just heard outside my window reminds me of the other reason I sought out this challenge: making connections.

Soon I will be on my bicycle, pedaling away from doubts and toward a healthier self-exploration...with six thousand other riders and several thousand volunteers who are making it all possible.

UPDATE: A few hours later, I am restored and eager. Off to the start line to rally to Brest and return!

For whatever challenges you face, Bon Courage!


Friday, August 19, 2011

After Three PBP'S, for Danes It's the Weather!

At dinner, I accosted a table of Danes, and inquired of their thinking about Paris Brest Paris. Jesper Ahremhont, from Dronninglund (Queen's Wood), Denmark, told me this is his fourth PBP! When I asked about  what was most memorable, he immediately went to the weather. Jesper is second from the left in the photo.

FRENCH FOOD ALERT! While my meal this evening as I compose this is not fabulous by French standards, I just have to proclaim my affinity for cheese boards, or cheese plates. Either prior to, or in lieu of, dessert. What a yummy concept.

Back to randonneuring. Oooph, Bleu Fromage! Tres bonne! OK, really back to randonneuring. The weather for Jesper's first two PBP's was great: sunny. But 2007, rainy the whole time.

He attributes the decline in Danish riders, from 182 in 2007 to 142 this year to the weather in 2007. Also at the table was a rider claiming to be the youngest Dane: on the far right in photo with his father next to him. The younger generation seems to be less engaged in distance riding, they agreed.

So why does Jesper do PBP? As a goal or motivation for training, he says. He and his companions appeared to be fit and well-trained, but each had a beer, I noted. The table of French randonneurs nearby? Why, wine, of course!

Keep it internationally sunny,


Fender Menders at Cycles Alex Singer

My fender was toast, and based on Dartre's phone conversation in French I thought they'd have a replacement. But no, so instead they  cleverly fastened a reinforcing piece over the area that was broken up around the rear brake bridge.

Voila! Cycles Alex Singer workers had me re-fendered. Their shop is a trip, and the bikes...tres manufique.

I'll post more pics another day, but as I asked for one more quick pic of them together they insisted I hurry as they were closing for lunch. That's civilized!

Keep it mended,


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wrong St. Quentin!

“By entering this mythical ride, you will test your cycling agility and your human endurance.

You will strive to obtain your Personal Best or you will try simply to rally the arrival...but you will always do your best to live this adventure while supporting each other and building friendships with those who participate in this endurance monument, which is much more than a simple hike. No place of honor, not any podium, only the pleasure of the challenge alone will help you to overcome the suffering...and the magic moment of the arrival will obliterate the doubtful moments on the roads of Brittany or of Normandy.

You will not be alone: you still be in the company of entrants from all over the world. You will appreciate the charms of France and you will be united by the same goal: to rally BREST and return to PARIS.
You will not be alone: many spectators-or rather admirers-will encourage you throughout your journey, indeed will support you in attaining the fixed goal. You will appreciate also hundreds of volunteers who will help throughout the journey."

Yes, I ended up in the wrong city--long story, but delaying me 5.5 hours. Cest la Vie!

But, I am now at the start and already in 10 minutes here meeting old friends (Dan and Terry from the Fleche this year) and new, from Virginia and California.

The quote at the top of this post is from the organizers of Paris Brest Paris 2003.

Late and tired, I cannot convey any better than what they said in 2003 as to why I am here.

If the picture posts sideways, it is poetic justice as I am posting via my phone, and the St. Quetin sign is from my train journey to the wrong city!

Keep it navigating,

Curio Rando

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Track My Paris Brest Paris Progress in Real Time

Sorry not very many pictures, though we have tons of great shots to show another time. Technical difficulties and very limited internet access limit the posts and pics. Much fodder for post-trip posting, so watch out when we return!

But, if you'd like to follow my progress--and other Seattle Randonneurs as well--check out this web site. You can scroll down to find any Seattle club rider. The event begins on Sunday the 21st, though individual riders start in one of many waves so each wave has its own time limits.

France has been nothing short of spectacular so far! All worth it already, and the Paris Brest Paris has not even yet begun! Best to all who are following, and I am so very grateful for all the wishes of support and encouragement. Every one is meaningful.

And to those who'd like to be here with us this year but who were kept back by ailments beyond their control, it is for you I will be riding. I know how much this means to you, and I wouldn't be here without your early encouragement and suggestions. We will miss you!

The photo is of Dartre on the climb to the castle Fenelon from our cyclo-touring through the Dordogne River valley. Essentially, every hilltop has a chateau of some sort, and it was at Fenelon that we met an admirer of Newton (my bicycle) who had volunteered at the 2007 PBP. He had wanted to participate in 2011, but alas, Life got in the way. I have a picture and more about him later. He characterized the Paris Brest Paris event to us in his heavily accented Anglais as "mythic".

Keep it digitally tracked,


Friday, August 12, 2011

In Country for Paris Brest Paris 2011

Too much to, so perhaps this picture will serve as a thousand words for now. More to come. Pardon et merci!
Keep it in that special Provencal light,