Yesterday I took the first step on a journey that may end with a triumphant return to Paris after cycling 1,200 kilometers from Paris to Brest and back again. What, you say? Ride a bicycle 1,200 km? To what end?
Well, it goes like this. Since I have known him, certainly well before we had any sort of romantic interest in each other, I have known that Roger rode the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) bicycle tour. It came up in some conversation when we were working together; why I knew about it I cannot tell. He's described it more than once as one of the defining achievements of his life. He accomplished this feat in 1987, and trained for it again (possibly 1991?) but broke his collarbone shortly before the ride and could not make the trip. I think maybe that missed opportunity to ride it again has been an un-reconciled key jangling about his pockets for the last quarter-century.
Anyway, he's mentioned the ride to me more than once. "Wouldn't it be cool to do the PBP on the tandem? It would be the experience of a lifetime." I don't know. Sitting on a bicycle seat for 16 hours straight, then getting up to do it again the next day, and the next? I didn't think so. When these conversations would occur (it may be too much to call them conversations, but for want of a better word, that's what I'll use) I would protest. No - I do not want to ride all night. No - I do not want to sleep in a ditch. No - I do not want to ride nearly 750 miles in a stretch. No, no, no.
But, he would say - you have 90 hours to do it. It's not a race! We could do it. We would just need to keep a steady pace, and train, and it would be so cool. And of course, he is right. He has always been right about that. Sort of like running a marathon. I know I could run a marathon. I just don't want to. The very thought of putting one foot down in front of the next for 26.2 miles destroys my will, wearies me beyond hope. It's hard to imagine that I could ever, would ever drum up the enthusiasm needed to train for a marathon.
And that's sort of how I have felt about PBP. I know that we could do it. Maintain a reasonable average pace - 13 miles an hour or so while rolling - and then space out the remaining hours for rest. Come in to the finish in 89 hours and change. No sense speeding around, losing sleep, riding through the night. It's pretty simple, really. Just glue your ass to the seat and keep pedaling 15 to 16 hours, rest for 7 or 8, then repeat three times. Simple!
So here is what happened. One of our cycling friends here in Redlands mentioned PBP sometime last summer. "It will be held in 2015" Bob said. Uh-hmm. "Wouldn't it be cool to go do it?" Bob said. Uh-hmm. Roger said sure, they could train to do it. I'm in for the ride-along. Annie and I could tour the country side while Bob and Roger numb their fannies for four days. Then Roger says "We could do it on the tandem." But he is talking to Bob. Not me. And I thought, no - no one sits on that tandem with my Roger for this event but me.
So I ask him to do some research. Put a schedule together. Show me what it would be like to get ready for this, to do the brevets. What would we have to do, what would be have to give up to do it? I won't eliminate the possibility of going out of hand, but I'm not committing, either. Educate me. And then I can decide.
Well, you would think that he'd have gone off and put something together, but you know - I guess he figured that I was just puffing smoke because he never did any of that. And instead, we began to talk more seriously about one of our other cycling dreams: riding across the country and back. That's where my head has been for the past 6 months or so. I'm thinking ahead, beginning to imagine the packing, starting to figure out how to relinquish duties here in town so that I can be on the road for six months or more next year.
Then, about a week or so ago, Roger got an email from an old cycling pal of his. He'd run into someone that they used to ride with, and got to thinking about doing PBP again. He needed Roger's help to secure the loan of a bike that he felt he'd need to have in order to inspire himself to train and complete the ride. (Must be some bike!) Anyway, wouldn't it be fun to go over and do it together, one last time? So here we go again. I reminded Roger that he'd never gotten me any information on the brevets, or the training - and this time, he came up with the goods.
To qualify for the PBP, you must complete a series of increasingly long brevets (which are bike rides, and no, I don't know why they are called that.) Anyway, there is a southern California cycling club that is offering the first length, 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) on January 3. So I say why not? I will do the first brevet with you. Then we'll see what we think.
I've done lots of century rides, so I figure I can hang in there another 25 miles and do the 200 km. We have plenty of time to complete it - something like 12 hours. It's around here, on roads I have ridden before. And we are planning to do a century with our pals on January 17, so we are going to be ready, anyway.
And so, yesterday, I rode on my own bike when the club went out. I figure this will be better training for me. We did about 53 miles I think. Lamb Canyon route. It's got about 3,400 feet of climbing, so that's about half of what this brevet will entail. Plus a few extra miles to boot. I had two flats, darn it - and Roger and I got separated, so I had to rely on friends to help with the second change. But that's part of what the PBP is about. You rely on your own resources, you get help from friends, you figure it out. And all the while you just keep those legs turning, turning, turning.
And so, we are off!