Friday, August 7, 2015

The Top Ten Things to Remember at PBP

I can’t remember the last time I approached something with this much anticipation. Getting my driver’s license as a seventeen year-old, perhaps? Having been sidelined from the last edition of P-B-P in 2010 following a run-in with a car, I have been steadily building towards this event for the past five years. I first learned about P-B-P during 2007, though, during my inaugural year of randonneuring, when it seemed that everyone around me had caught the bug.

With fewer than ten days to the start, I’m afraid that we’re long past the time when additional physical training will provide any benefit. In fact, hard training this close to an event is more likely to leave a rider tired, sore or even injured. At this point, the best I can hope for is not screwing things up. Here are my top three goals at the moment:
  • Showing up with everything I need.
  • Showing up well rested.
  • Showing up with the best possible attitude.
While there will be many things running through my mind during the event itself, here is a list of the top ten things I hope very much to remember along the way:
  1. Enjoy! This is an amazing cultural, historical and athletic experience. I have no real goals other than to finish within the time limit and to enjoy myself throughout the event. I hope to connect with old friends and make new ones as I soak up the beautiful countryside and spirit of this unique event.
  2. If it won’t hurt in two weeks, keep riding. This famous advice attributed to Lon Haldeman has helped inspire countless ultra cyclists to work through difficult times. While it’s easy to focus on the discomfort or pain during the ride, it’s also important to place things into context and remember that most ailments feel better shortly after the ride ends.
  3. This too will pass. Every long brevet or ultra race I’ve completed has had its share of highs and lows. I’ve been known to compose Craig’s List ads for my bicycle during certain lows, but I’ve also found over and over again that the lows always pass and the highs will return. A short break, a tiny nap, some additional calories, a good conversation - these are just a few strategies to shift the energy.
  4. It’s really just a long bike ride. As special as this event is, I don’t want to be intimidated by its uniqueness. It is, after all, just another bike ride. I hope to keep my focus on completing the various stages within a favorable timeframe, while remembering that I have successfully completed events as physically demanding in the past.
  5. Sleep mostly at night, ride mostly during the day. I chose the 84-hour start since it provided the opportunity for a morning start, which is my strong preference on long rides. I can function on very little sleep, but riding through the night without sleep has left me in unpleasant and unsafe situations in the past. While I love night riding, I feel safest and most productive during the day and so hope to complete most of my riding in daylight.
  6. Every minute counts. Time not wasted can be applied and enjoyed elsewhere. I don’t plan on pushing the envelope through every moment of this ride, but every minute I save through careful efficiency is a minute I have in the bank.
  7. Eat before hungry, drink before thirsty. My nutrition plan hinges on moderation and never getting so hungry or thirsty that it affects my performance. I’ll be riding with a range of pocket foods, but hope to also eat mostly real food in moderation.
  8. Keep focused at the controls. A great deal of time can be consumed in the controls. My top four priorities at every control in order of importance are: get the card signed, fill the bottles, use the bathroom and grab some food. If the lines look terrible, I’ll be sure to grab food or use the bathroom outside of the controls, but this will mean separate stops, which of course means more time off the bike. 
  9. Shoot for a negative split. While I don’t imagine that I will literally be able to ride stronger in the second 600K than I will in the first, I try to imagine that I can do just that throughout the event to help me preserve the gas I've stored in the tank. 
  10. Stop and smell the roses from time to time. Since this is such an amazing event, I want to savor every minute. By riding efficiently, I hope to be able to stop for the occasional photo or take advantage of the unexpected. 
If I'm able to stay focussed on these ten things, the rest should take care of itself. Now if I can only be sure to show up at the airport with everything I need.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Rapha Rising Challenge: A Little Bit of Cramming for PBP

Like clockwork, the Rapha Rising Challenge appears each year in the third week of July to coincide with some of the most epic climbing stages of the TdF.  This year, though, I was unable to lock in any of the details despite several attempts, so I figured they made a shift at Rapha HQ. As I've said before, I'm a sucker for a good challenge. If I know that a group of cyclists are off somewhere trying to do something possibly not possible, I have a hard time not joining in. Throw in a patch and I'm there! As luck would have it, I happened to be scanning Instagram a week ago Saturday and found that #rapharising had begun that very day. The challenge? Climb 9366 meters (30,728 feet) in 8 days. What could be so tough about that?

Climbing is good training. On this there is no debate. Ever wonder why the winner of the Tour de France is always a good climber? In part because being good at climbing makes you good at other things, too. It's also easy for a good climber to put some serious distance on a poor climber, but that's another story. I love that I live in a hilly area because I've found that riding hills can often make up for limited time on the bike. My general equation is that as a ride shortens, it needs to go vertical. Climbing this much in a week would hopefully make the hills of Brittany a bit easier to roll over next month.

It occurred to me more than once while I was riding this week that 30,728 feet is a respectable cruising altitude for a 747. It's almost 6 miles above the Earth! To climb this high on my bike was going to take some planning. Since I was working this week and needed to take care of a few important family jobs, I didn't have endless time to get this done. As a result, I chose some of the steepest hills in the area and rode up and down them multiple times. Since I live near a ridgeline with multiple hills, this wasn't as monotonous as it sounds, and doing a few hours a day of hill riding put me in some very lovely spots.

My planning wasn't perfect, though. On the final day of the challenge, I awoke with over 8200 feet left to climb! To make matters worse, it was raining with thunderstorms in the area. I had risen at 5:00 am to get out and finish things off in the first half of the day by riding over the Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz multiple times, but when I got there in my car the storm had actually picked up intensity and the entire mountain was shrouded in fog. This was not looking like a particularly safe way to train for PBP, so I threw in the towel and drove home. Who needs a stinking patch anyway? After sitting in bed reading the paper for a few hours, I saw the sun poking through the clouds and threw on my kit and rode out the door to hit the ridge a bit closer to home.

As a result, my profile looked like this:

All in all, I slipped in under the wire. My patch should be here when I get back from Paris.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Catskill Climbfest 200K: PBP Tune-up Edition

Passing the Ashokan Reservoir with the Catskills off in the distance.

Some days it feels like I'm attempting to complete PBP on the absolute minimum amount of training possible and on others I remind myself that I've ridden a full series, a few hilly 200Ks and a fleche this year so everything should work out OK. Having completed the Lap of the Lake 1000K last summer without difficulty also brings me comfort as I realize that there is likely some residual fitness in there that I'll be able to draw upon in a pinch. With PBP a little over a month away, I wanted to top off whatever training I have under the hood with a challenging 200K and so put out the word and collected six friends to join me in the effort.

It was great to have such broad geographic representation on our little adventure with Robin L. (NYC) and Ed S. (NYC and Millerton, NY), Bob T. (NJ) Don N. (CT), David D. (CT) and Andrey B. (Rosendale) clipping in at the 7:00 am start.

One would be hard pressed to find a nicer 200K to ride on a warm summer day. There are two epic climbs on the Catskill Climbfest that give the route it's name. On each of these hills, our band split up a bit, but regrouped at the following controls, which made for a nice day of social riding that was (hopefully) neither too fast nor too slow for any of the participants. In between these two climbs are some healthy rollers and absolutely lovely valleys. It's a route replete with low traffic roads and stunning views. Deep in the heart of Rip Van Winkle country without cell phone coverage for much of the day, it's easy to feel like you've entered into a different world. I've never ridden a 200K I like as much. To ride it with friends brings additional pleasure.

There's nothing quite like a chicken salad sandwich at mile 90.9.

Even with some leisurely stops at the controls, we all finished at around the 10.5 hour mark, which left me feeling as though the day was not only fun, but that it, perhaps, also left us stronger than when we started.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Qualified! The Catskill 600K Ride Report

The Catskill 600K out of Westfield, MA is one of my all-time favorite brevets. As I've written before, this one has a little bit of everything: epic hills, rolling farmland, quaint Hudson Valley towns, abundant roadkill and more! The most noteworthy characteristic of this year's Catskill 600K, though, from my point of view, is that it marks the final qualifying brevet in my run-up to PBP.

There was a small field on this late season event with only 13 riders clipping in at the 4:00 am start. Fortunately, several were friends of mine so the early leg of the ride was filled with anticipation and small talk as we caught up and discussed plans for both the current weekend as well as PBP down the road. One of my friends, Patrick C. did not even need this brevet for PBP qualification having recently completed the NJ 600K, but he was up for adventure and hung in there like the true pro that he is throughout the weekend. By the time we reached the first control, the field had spread out a bit so that it was just Patrick and me riding together. We held onto this partnership for the rest of the event with Chris T., Jim R., and David D. riding at roughly the same pace just a short distance behind us. This would be confirmed each time we pulled out of a control to see this group rolling in throughout the second half of the ride. 

Most of us hit the sleep stop at about the same time, due to a nasty flat I developed as we pulled into Saratoga Springs in the gentle night rain. When I couldn't find the sharp culprit, I was pleased that Patrick recommended simply using the spare tire I packed for emergencies.  The sleep stop was moved about 12 miles closer to the start this year, which was excellent as I far prefer crossing the rollers into Cambridge, NY in the morning rather than late, late, late at night. After a delicious dinner of lasagna, salad, pickles and salty chips, we took turns showering and falling into bed in one of three rooms devoted to the purpose.

Patrick and I optimistically gave Mary a 3:30 am wake-up request, which allowed us 90 minutes of solid sleep. Rolling out at 4:00 am was not as painful as it might have been, but it was not so wonderful either. The skies were brightening, but the rain fell as a mixture of thick fog and drizzle and we feared it was only a matter of time before it worsened. After the morning rollers, we hit Cambridge and confessed that we both really needed some additional rest. We found a Stewart's Shop with hot coffee and warm benches and set our alarms for 30 minutes to allow for a solid caffeine nap to regain our focus. I'm pleased to report that we both knocked off immediately and found the nap remarkably restorative.

The break in Cambridge allowed Bob O., who had slept a little longer at the overnight control, to leap frog us so when we arrived in Bennington, VT, we met up at the McDonald's for coffee and eggs. We knew that the next 15 miles were destined to be all about climbing, so we lingered as long as possible to ensure that we were fully caffeinated and caloried for the ride ahead. The climbing starts almost immediately upon leaving Bennington and represents the final epic climb of the route. Once at the top of the pass, riders must continue through a series of rollers, but soon the route involves quite a bit of descending into and through Western Massachusetts.

Patrick, Bob and I would ride together for the balance of the day with a nice stop in Shelburne Falls at the legendary McCuskers Market for lunch. The skies cleared in the afternoon and, as luck would have it, we even ran into ride organizer Don P. about 30 miles from the finish and so had a lovely conversation (complete with a motivating pace) on the final approach. Ultimately, we finished in 37:20, which was far slower than I had originally hoped, but well within the required time for PBP qualification. Thanks to the attentive approach taken by the Don, Lois S. at RUSA HQ and the ACP liaison in France, results were processed in record time and I found myself officially registered for PBP within 48 hours of completing the 600K. This meant that I successfully made it within the pre-qualification window and would not lose my spot at the 5:00 am start with the rest of the 84-hour group.

While I might like to feel a bit stronger at this point in the season, I could not be happier with my qualification for PBP, which represents an accomplishment years in the making. There are still many details to line up yet so far, everything has fallen into place. With only 52 days left until the start, though, I need to redouble my training efforts without crossing the line into overtraining and compromising my ultimate performance.

Up next: Plenty of riding both near and far. The Catskills Climbfest 200K permanent on July 12 should provide a good tune-up as well as a way to measure my overall fitness as I work to dial in my exact PBP strategy.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Central / Western New York 400K: Just One More To Go!

As a result of a very hectic spring calendar with work and family obligations around every corner, I found myself riding through the Finger Lakes on a 400K last weekend in one of the very last brevets of this distance on the RUSA calendar. While not completing the ride was not really a possibility, the added pressure did cross my mind from time to time. Living in the Hudson Valley, I'm blessed with four brevet series within two hours of my house, so it's rare that I pack up the car and drive 4-1/2 hours to a ride start. This means that I rarely get up to the Finger Lakes region, which is too bad since the vistas are gorgeous and the roads ideal for long distance cycling.

The ride began on Saturday morning at 6:00 AM at RBA Pete D.'s house side-by-side with a 600K. Due to the lateness of the season, the field was extremely thin with only three starters on the 400 and seven on the 600. With a field this small, I knew that it was quite likely that this would be a solo attempt at the distance for me and so I settled into a pace that felt good from the start. The first and last 30 miles of the route hug the beautiful southern shore of Lake Ontario and conjured fond memories of my experience on the Lap of the Lake 1000K last summer among a much larger field of riders.

After about 30 miles, the route turns south and heads towards the Syracuse area and into the heart of the Finger Lakes. Not long after the start, I was approached by Boston rider Keith C. who had gotten off to a late start riding a sweet Seven Mudhoney with an abundance of youthful energy. When we were chatting and he asked if I was retired or still working I realized that it may be time to step up the training a wee bit or to at least grab a bottle of Grecian Formula at the pharmacy. After our initial conversation, Keith and I leap-frogged a bit until finally settling into a more or less common pace. While he took a bit longer in controls than I had planned, I'm sure that I was riding a bit slower than he would have preferred, especially on the hills when my legs seemingly turned to stone.

Luckily, the weather could not have been more favorable. There was a slight wind out of the north, which aided our progress during the first half of the day and dropped off completely after dark as we made our way home to the finish. There was only one long stretch of open field were we caught a headwind and this reminded us just how lucky we were and how bad it could have been. As the sun began to fade, we approached Lake Skaneateles, one of the loveliest of the Finger Lakes, and arrived in the charming village of the same name on the lake's north shore just as the sun set in time for a welcome meal.

The last time I rode this course, I recall not liking the last 100K all that much, but this time around it was quite pleasant despite the very cold temperatures that set in after midnight. The sky was filled with stars and the moon rose over expansive fields that would soon be filled with corn and other treats of summer. The roads were largely free of traffic and, despite some concern over the quantity of alcohol purchased by drivers at the penultimate control, we did not run into any trouble with cars on the last stretch. Shivering at 43F along the final 50K, I have to thank Keith for his graciousness in not dropping me like a bad habit. We both finished in 21:13, long after we had planned, safe and sound and 3/4 of the way qualified for PBP.

Up Next: One of my favorite brevets of all time, The Catskill 600K on June 20-21.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Another Step Closer to Paris: The Bash Bish 300K

What do you call the Bash Bish 300K when the road that leads to the falls is closed and forces a detour? Easier. Like many of the Westfield brevets, this route has been fine-tuned over the years and takes in some outstanding roads very well suited to long distance riding. We found ourselves on either quiet back roads or larger state highways with low traffic and wide shoulders throughout most of the day with all of the roads providing beautiful views of some pretty majestic countryside. One can see why the Berkshires are a popular vacation and retirement destination.

We could not have asked for much better weather on May 9 for the Berkshire Brevets Bash Bish 300K out of Westfield, MA. The start was scheduled for a civilized 6:00 am, which allowed for a bit of sun to erase the dawn although there was some fog during the first segment that forced me to remove my sunglasses for a short while. The route, which I have completed once before, is lollypop shaped with both the start and finish covering the same 50 miles or so. The first and last 25 miles take in a lovely stretch of “blue highway” known as Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway, a one hundred year-old road that was the first to cross one of the peaks in the Berkshires. The climbing on the way out of Westfield is never really too extreme and more than worth it on the return after 160 miles of hilly riding.

The controls were a bit of a time-suck on this event. The first, at the Great Barrington Dunkin’ Donuts, comes at mile 49. I ordered a yummy bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and an iced coffee that really hit the spot, especially since I had not eaten a proper breakfast at the start of the day. The bottleneck at the checkout line was less than ideal, but all told, the control took about 10 minutes to get through. We hit the second control in Kent, CT right three or so girls’ tennis teams from a local tournament seemed to descend for lunch. The cafĂ© makes a mean sandwich (the cost of which is covered by the brevet entry fee) so it’s unlikely that I’ll change plans in the future, but it would be possible to simply get the card signed and stop somewhere else in town for a little caloric resupply to make it through in less time.

I did meet up with a few other riders, but none of us rode together for very long. I caught up with Maine randonneurs Christine T. and James R. at the start and spoke a bit about Paris logistics before we each fell into our own comfortable paces. I also rode between controls one and two with fellow Hudson Valley rider Hans J. and was pleased to catch up and meet the man behind the Facebook profile. A few other riders, such as Ted L. and I seemed to leapfrog one another for most of the day.

As I dial in my training for PBP, I’m eager to gauge both my fitness and my efficiency in controls, knowing that both will make PBP not only easier, but also more enjoyable. Through stronger riding, better planning and greater efficiency, I’m hoping to shave a bit of time off of my previous attempts at the brevets I will be undertaking this spring as I fine-tune my riding, eating and sleeping plans for PBP.  This strategy has had me riding solo for much of the past two brevets, but the information I’ve been able to gather while listening to my body and focusing on my own performance and limitations has been well worth it.

I was pleased to finish the 300K in 13:30, which was a bit under my target for the day, shaving 55 minute’s off of my 2013 result. Of course, the detour shaved a bit of climbing off the ride so the comparison is not exact, but I was pleased with the results anyway.

Up next: the Western and Central NY 400K through the Finger Lakes on June 6.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Finally . . . Brevet Season Begins with the Shelburne Falls 200K.

My initial attempt to complete a 200K brevet this year was thwarted by a postponement due to snow. Since I was unable to ride on the scheduled make-up date, I converted my registration to the second 200K on the Berkshire Brevets calendar and rode the thoroughly enjoyable Shelburne Falls 200K route yesterday on what was by all accounts a marvelous spring day.

Like the other Berkshire Brevets out of Westfield, MA, the route of the Shelburne Falls 200K is exceptionally well designed. This was my first time on this particular course, but the section between Westfield and Shelburne Falls was familiar from my experiences over the years on the Catskill 600K. The roads themselves are scenic and take riders through lovely back roads in northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont. While not particular hilly, there are a few sections of climbing, especially after the turnaround, that create the wonderful illusion that the entire second half of the ride is downhill.

The temperature at the 7:00 am start was just above freezing, which required a complete layer of warm clothing including full-fingered gloves, leg warmers and a wool cap. As the forecast called for a much warmer afternoon, I threw care to the wind and brought my Arkel trunk bag filled with alternative gear and a place to store layers as I peeled them off later in the day. I was very pleased, as temperatures rose into the 60s, to be able to strip down to bare legs and arms, swap out my gloves and exchange my wool hat for a wool cap. Not sweating my way to the finish helped me not only enjoy the ride tremendously, but also to maintain a more brisk pace.

I started the event in a small pack of riders including a few friends who it was nice to catch up with before my pace began to feel rather individualized. Consciously rejecting the pull of the lead group, I fell in with a couple from New York moving along at a brisk pace. We rode for an hour or so together, swapped a few tales and were joined by two other riders along the way. At one point, I realized that the group’s pace was likely to have an adverse effect on my stamina and so decided to drop off the back to settle into a more comfortable and manageable rhythm. Riding alone requires a different level of attention to detail than riding with a group following a pre-programmed GPS. As my bike was not GPS-enabled yesterday, my attention shifted to the cue sheet, which was clear, accurate and easy to follow. While it’s easy to skip navigating after falling in with a group, I actually enjoy the process of navigating by a cue sheet, which can be meditative and reinforces the self-sufficient spirit of randonneuring in my mind.

One of the lovely features of this event is that Don, the Westfield RBA, has arranged details with the controls so that the staff of the cafe and lunch spot were eager and able to process our cards and produce first a snack and then lunch in record time. Heck, the clerk at the cafe even offered to fill my water bottles! The result was a nutritious refueling that was very easy to execute in under 10 minutes, which is all the time I needed to spend in either spot. I was familiar with McCusker’s Market, which serves as the penultimate control on the Catskill 600K, but Mocha Maya’s was new to me.

One of the grimmer aspects of the day was the grueling headwind for the first 63 miles of the event. As we headed north, the wind was fairly relentless especially over a ten-mile section into southern Vermont. This was coupled with a gradual incline over the same distance to make this section less than ideal. After the turnaround and a little climbing, though, the hills and winds were behind us and it seemed to be downhill with tailwinds all the way to Westfield. The second half of the ride, after stripping off unnecessary layers, was some of the best riding I’ve done in a long time. The roads were gorgeous and the feeling of riding in summer clothing was a welcome sensation indeed. The tailwinds helped me recapture some of the time I may have lost in the morning and I finished in 9:09, which was just nine minutes off my goal for the day.

I was glad to be riding the bike I’ll be bringing to Paris with me this August. While the dynamo hub, rear rack and trunk bag were not necessary on the 200K, my plan to ride all of my events with this bike loaded as it will be on PBP makes sense to me as I dial in just what I’ll need for the big event. The extra weight is more than made up for by the added comfort and peace of mind. My climbing speed is not what I would like it to be, but it’s still early in the season and my time riding with others yesterday reminded me of how helpful maintaining a brisk pace will be to my training in the weeks ahead. Frequent hill repeats will also become standard operating procedure. With a successful finish on the Shelburne Falls 200K, I now have my first qualifying brevet behind me on the long journey to Paris.

Up next: the Bash Bish 300K on May 9.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Just Under the Wire (or The Walkway Over the Hudson 100K Rewind)

As anyone in the Northeast will tell you, it's been cold, really, really cold this winter. Not only has it been uncharacteristically cold, but it's also snowed more than average and since we've not experienced a single thaw, most of that snow is still right where it fell. A few weeks ago, I read this interesting article about the work that ice breaking ships are doing to keep the Hudson River clear for shipping. Did you know that 70% of the home heating oil in the Northeast travels up the Hudson River? I didn't. I thought about this, though, on my recent attempt at the Walkway Over the Hudson 100K permanent as I looked down from the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge at the long trail left behind on the river signifying that life goes on despite the deep freeze.

Last weekend was not my first attempt at the Walkway 100K during the month of February, but it would be my last. I had set out the week before during what I thought was a suitable lull in the snowfall. I left my house on Saturday morning after the temperatures climbed to 17F from below zero at dawn. The forecast called for snow at 3:00 pm so I thought I would have just enough time to complete the loop before things got dicey. Sadly, this was one of those days when the local weather team underestimates the speed of a storm and so I found myself pedaling into a slippery whiteout 30 miles from home as I neared the turnaround.

So Old George would have likely soldiered on into the storm, but getting hit by a car on a brevet will teach a body a few things about second chances. As a result, I decided that successfully completing a P-12 was not quite as important as living to tell the story, so I reluctantly called my wife and asked her to pick me up. Imagine, if you will, how delighted she was to get the call. Torn between the joy that comes from realizing that your husband has developed some common sense and the irritation that comes from being asked to leave a warm couch by a cozy fire to drive into a snow storm, my wife came to my rescue. In the meantime, I needed to find a safe place to wait for my wife to arrive in the 18F weather. I spotted a school building on the horizon and pedaled over to seek shelter out of the wind. Being a Saturday, the school was sealed tight, but I found an unlocked van nearby and climbed inside to wait. I called my wife to talk her through a white-knuckle drive past emergency vehicles and spun-out cars when what should I hear but the worker in whose truck I was sitting return to pick up a few tools. Needless to say, this gentleman was not pleasantly surprised to see a lycra-clad stranger sitting in his truck. Luckily, I was able to talk him out of hitting me, but I soon found myself standing on the sidewalk again in the cold wind. What normally takes 30 minutes had taken my wife over an hour to cover since traffic had slowed to a crawl. After giving the matter some thought, the electrician invited me into the building to wait.

One of the reasons I was so intent on completing this 100K permanent on the second to last weekend in February is because without it, my quest for the P-12 would be dead in the water and I was off to Boston during the final week of the month to attend a conference leaving only February 28 to get the job done. So after failing in my first attempt, I was stuck shoe-horning the ride in at the last minute. As luck would have it, though, we experienced a thaw last Saturday with temperatures rising into the mid-20s. While still well below freezing, I was able to extract a small stream of water from my frozen bottles all the way to the turnaround and there was no fresh snow on the roads. The sun, now approaching a nearly spring-like position in the sky even gave the illusion that this winter wonderland may some day give way to green pastures.

In order to ride in the warmest part of the day, I delayed my start until 12:45 pm. I realized during the ride, though, that this late start left a question mark looming as to how I would recross the Hudson at the finish. The Walkway Over the Hudson, for which this permanent is named, is generally a lovely way to return home from a long ride, but the gate schedule is somewhat more mysterious and unpredictable than I would like. Would the it close at 5:00 pm or at sundown which was scheduled to arrive at 5:49 pm? How would this team of chilly park rangers interpret "dusk," which is advertised as the formal closing time of this narrowest of state parks. The alternative to crossing the river at this latitude is the Mid-Hudson Bridge that includes a pedestrian walkway, but one that is not reliably plowed during the winter months. The thought of a DNF on this ride and a call to my wife for a rescue terrified me in equal measure. Luckily, as the sun dipped low on the horizon, I approached the Walkway to find the gate open and slipped through to pedal across the crusty, snow-covered span to my awaiting car.

Up next: the Westfield Early Spring 200K. One day this winter must end.