The alarm went off at 2:20 AM again. Why, oh why do we keep doing
this? Oh yeah, it's fun. No really, except for getting
up in the middle of the night, it really is fun. This past Saturday
morning, our ride started in West Roxbury, Massachusetts and took
us out onto the Cape and back for a flat to rolling and quite
scenic double century.
As usual we had made plenty of last minute changes to the tandem,
and hadn't gotten to bed as early as we should have, so we were
working on three hours of sleep, but it's a formula that seems
to work for us. Not that I recommend it to anyone else though!
The moon was very bright when we left, and the rain that had
been forecast was nowhere to be seen. Maybe, just maybe we could
ride in dry weather. But that was really too much to hope for
as we passed through several downpours driving to the start. I
changed my mind a dozen times about what to wear. Should I start
in tights or shorts and rain pants. The roads were wet and I was
sure that we would get soaked along the way. The thermometer on
my deck showed 70F at 2:30AM. This was probably our warmest night
all year. But I figured the rain would cool things and people
off. Finally I decided to start in tights, and carry shorts, rain
pants, rain jacket, and lightweight jacket. This would guarantee
that everyone else riding out in shorts and no jackets would have
a pleasant ride! The rains never returned, despite the little
rain dance we performed 150 miles into the ride, but more on that
I finally got to meet Rich Whalen, after conversing via email
occasional. Rich recognized the bike from the many descriptions
I had posted, and came up to introduce himself. I guess our reputation
for last minute changes is really setting in since he asked what
we had new on the bike.
Folks who heard of our tire troubles in Quebec, immediately pointed
out the new spare tire taped onto the rack. We had brand new red
pedals to match the red bike. Actually, I bought them for the
tandem-on-order, but since they matched, and since the old pedals
were 6 years old and the bearings were shot, I put the new ones
on. We also had new chainrings all around. We are obviously putting
too many miles on the bike, judging by the box of worn-out parts
that have come off of it. The wheels were the pair Burley sent
as replacements and had never been used. (We're still waiting
for the Mavic rim to replace the one who's eyelet came loose last
time.) All these parts performed flawlessly. The question of the
day was what would break next!!
We saw Steve Robbins, with yet another unsuspecting stoker on
the back of his Ibis tandem. Jim Merrick, who has ridden Paris-Brest-Paris,
decided after a 30 mile trial ride on Friday to try stoking a
double century on Saturday. I looked around for the Spenco seat
pad, but didn't see one! Remember, I have an Softride beam on
our tandem! We saw all the other familiar faces, and lots of new
ones. There were several people attempting their first double,
and while this is a good route, it promised to be a hot day. There
were around 30 riders. I say around because there was some confusion
at sign in and some riders appeared at the first checkpoint that
they had not expected, like Rich.
John Tobin, who organized the ride, and did a fantastic
job, called everyone together to get started. The route was arrowed
the entire way, and a cue sheet and map were also provided. Riders
could have drop bags at three points along the route at miles
60, 130, and 165, where checkpoints were set up. Riders were to
check in at these controls, so John could keep track of folks.
He would be roving around the course and would bring in any riders
still out after 9PM.
We rolled out shortly after 4, riding out of Boston, with next
to no traffic, at a blistering pace. Folks around here really
don't believe in warming up. We hung around the front for the
first hour chatting with other riders. Three of the riders had
just completed Pedal for Power across the USA; one on a tandem
with his blind uncle. We talked about brakes and downhills, a
typical tandem to tandem conversation.
We started talking with Cathy Ellis, about how much fun she was
having not training for RAAM this year. (Cathy won the
women's division last year.) Steve had just talked with Amy Regan,
who will be leaving Tuesday for the RAAM starting line, and who
was so relieved that the training was over. I hoped Cathy would
talk about how much RAAM had hurt, so Steve would stop making
those *I wanna do RAAM* noises, but she just talked about how
much fun it was :)
We continued on for a few more miles, until we came upon John
Harrigan on the side of the road with a flat and a bad tube. Fortunately,
the roving vehicle had also come upon him and provided him with
a good tube. We offered John some company, which he happily accepted.
While he fixed his flat, we changed clothes, and put some of our
rain gear in the sag vehicle. While I feared that this action
might cause rain, I decided it was hot enough that rain would
be welcome. John also dumped the water in his Camelbak for fresh.
He had pulled it from the shelf after a year of neglect, rinsed
it out and added water. It didn't taste too good, so he decided
to try again. This may have contributed to problems later in the
Just as we started to roll out, we were caught by Peter, who
was thrilled to have a tandem to pull him into the first control.
We had planned to do another double on Sunday and had asked John
before the ride if he would like to join us then. At the time,
his plans had been to do this ride really fast and he didn't think
he would be up to doing another, even with a pokey tandem. After
a while, it became obvious that we were slowing John down, we
tried to encourage him to continue on. He hesitated for a while,
but after we caught Cathy, he decided to resume his chase for
We took a quick break at Friendly's just before the Bourne Bridge,
where we refilled water and Ultra Energy, and munched on some
homemade banana nut bread. Cathy rolled out to try to get across
the bridge, but encouraged us to follow soon, so we could ride
together for a while.
Osman apparently didn't consider a double century enough of a
challenge, so he added to the challenge by riding a fixed gear
for 200 miles. Of course it did only weight 15 lbs, and I almost
tossed it when I picked it up because it was so light. Osman is
one of the thinnest cyclists I've ever met, and after our last
ride with him, we requested he add panniers to his bike, so we
could benefit from his draft, but no such luck this time. He did
pay the price though as he stayed with us on all the rolling hills
throughout the cape, including the downs, where he maintained
cadences in excess of 150. He hit 34 mph, a personal best. (For
those who don't know, a fixed gear has no freewheel, so you cannot
coast - downhills are torture!)
When we were ready to cross the bridge, traffic was heavy enough
that we had to use the sidewalk. The sidewalk is on the left side
of the bridge, and while there is a big fence between you and
the water, there is also a big dropoff between you and the road.
This is the scariest part of the ride, but Steve handled the bike
with the petrified stoker just fine.
We ended up with a small group of 4, Cathy, Osman, Steve and
myself. We had a great tailwind heading out, but knew that meant
a good headwind for the return leg. The trip out included 30 miles
on 6A, which wasn't bad early in the morning. The route back was
more roundabout and eventually ended up on a service road paralleling
6. The traffic was very light, but we paid for it with hills.
We made a brief stop at a Fire Station for bathrooms and water,
and then headed back toward the bridge for the return trip.
When we got back to Friendly's, we found John looking pretty
rough and having a tough time with the heat. I again offered John
our wonderful company (and draft) for the return trip. Neither
Steve nor I realized how sick John really was, and he didn't tell
us. After a bathroom stop and a break in the shade of the trees,
we rolled out toward the final checkpoint at Bridgewater. The
cue sheet indicated that the next 15 miles would be hilly, and
then quite a bit of flatness would follow leading us through the
cranberry bogs. It also indicated the only store was about 15
Our little group left with Osman and John in tow. Osman was still
looking fresh as could be and I just want to point out that drafting
a tandem on a fixed gear is no easy task. Climbing the
first hill, we heard noises from John that indicated he wasn't
carrying cookies anymore - he had tossed them! He swore he felt
better and wanted to keep going. Since he was still hammering
along at 20 mph, we kept moving.
We stopped at the store 15 miles out for soft drinks and ice
for our Camelbaks. While there, Marion and a guy on a Lemond,
who's name I never caught rolled in and decided to join our group.
We had been having a little trouble with smooth shifting and decided
to try to adjust things to make it better. I managed to make it
worse, so we finally gave up and headed out. Just before we left
a small group with 5-6 riders passed. But we were on flat stuff
now, and a group pulled by a tandem would have no trouble reeling
them in. We really picked up the pace into the next checkpoint.
Marion was doing her first double and had ridden a great deal
of it alone, and looked incredibly fresh and strong. She seemed
to appreciate the draft and the company, even if she didn't need
The heat was bearing down with great intensity now, and riders
kept looking at the clouds, hoping they held rain that would cool
things down a bit. Our little rain chant had no affect and we
continued on under the beautiful sunshine.
We found popsiscles and watermelon, along with all the other
usual fare at the last control and took a longer break. John continued
saying that he was feeling better, so we headed out one more time.
About an hour later and only 20 miles from the end, we came to
a traffic light and John's answer to the question, "How're
ya doin?", was "Not too good." Then he collapsed.
We all grabbed our water bottles, making sure not to use the one's
with Ultra Energy in them and emptied them on John's head. Steve
ran off to find a Coke, and then I went in search of ice. Fortunately
John picked a spot in front of a BayBanks air-conditioned outpost,
so we got him in there and tried to get him in better shape. We
called back to the start, to try to get someone to come get John,
and learned that the sag was real busy with several riders in
need of a ride from the bridge.
We gave them our location
and checked with John, who was looking much better. We finally
decided to head on in and come back with our car if no one had
gone out for him by the time we got back. The next twenty miles
seemed to take forever as we hit more and more traffic and traffic
lights, but we finally reached the end. A sag vehicle had gone
out for John, so we could change clothes and eat, while we waited
for the other sags to bring in our drop bags and John.
I signed up for a massage, and pigged out on pasta salad, watermelon,
ice cream and chips (healthy stuff, ya know) and talked with other
riders as they came in. My turn for a massage came up, and I had
just turned over to have the front of my legs done when John was
brought in, apparently sicker than ever.
After trying unsuccessfully to get fluids back into him, we finally
convinced him to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, he was in
such bad shape at this point, we needed an ambulance to get him
there. It took two calls to John's HMO to convince them that we
could not get him there on our own and to get help over fast.
I found this part to be the most frustrating.
First a fire truck with paramedics arrived, and gave John oxygen
and tried to get him in better shape for transport. A short while
later the ambulance arrived to carry John to the hospital. Riders
still coming in were quite surprised by the presence of emergency
vehicles, but were relieved to hear that John would be okay.
Unfortunately, John was not the only rider to end his day in
an ambulance. Another rider was hit by a car, while making a left
turn. She suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, and had her spleen
removed. She is recovering quickly though.
All the other riders came in by the 9PM cutoff and everyone seemed
to have had fun on the ride, despite the heat. We saw Rich again,
who really seemed to enjoy his first double and looked a lot better
than I did after my first. The other tandem arrived, with a now
fully experienced stoker. Jim's only comment was that he felt
beat up, but he was smiling when he said it!
Lindy headed to the hospital right away. Steve and I got directions
to the hospital and headed over about 1/2 hour later. It was quite
a comedy trying to find the place, since neither of us knew the
area and lots of buildings on Rt 1 look like hospitals, but we
finally made it and found John with an IV of saline solution dripping
into his arm and looking a thousand times better. 4 bags, with
a little potassium added, later they sent John home.
Well, we didn't get a lot of sleep that night, so we decided
to do a little shorter ride on Sunday. After sleeping late, we
rose and tried to correct that blasted shifting problem and then
headed up toward New Hampshire for some long hills. After all
that flat riding on Saturday, the hills were actually a good chance
to get our butts out of the saddle. So we still haven't done an
official 600K, but we feel pretty good about our preparation for
BMB anyway. It now less than a month away, but we still have time
to change lots more equipment!
Remove new tubes from the box and see if they hold air. Check
the glue in your patch kit periodically to see that it's not just
a tube of air.
Rinse water bottles and Camelbak bladders out with bleach between
If you throw up on your bike, stop riding. If you are dehydrated,
go directly to the hospital for an IV of saline solution. Do not
pass go. Do not collect $200.
And finally, John Harrigan is the Master of the Understatement.
If he says he's not feeling well, get him to a hospital!