BMB - the civilized way
I finished up BMB
with an ear to ear grin, feeling almost perky. I got 8 hours of
sleep per night, had no night riding, ate great meals and even
had beer with dinner. In fact, I was able to sleep late Thursday
morning, have a lovely breakfast in the hotel restaurant and start
at 10AM. Dinner that night was fabulous barbecue, followed by
a nightcap in the bar at the inn. I had a great long hot shower,
and slept in a comfortable bed. Each day, I had great food at
various cafes along the route, as well as enjoying the splendid
spread put out by the BMB staff. I took advantage of massage in
Middlebury, just before having a great dinner at one of the fine
downtown restaurants, accompanied by some local brew. The final
evening on the road saw me enjoying another fabulous dinner and
local brew at a downtown Brattleboro landmark, and then another
8 hours of restful sleep in a comfortable bed.
How could I do all this on BMB? Did I ride along at 30mph? No.
It was because the M in my BMB stood for Middlebury. I was one
of those Quad Centuries riders who had way more fun than should
be allowed. And I'm writing an article to rub it in.
For those who have done BMB or PBP, and like seeing old friends
(and making new ones), but maybe just want to take it easy one
year, or just get more sleep, or have more fun, or stop to see
some of the cool things you can't do on a 1200K, Quad centuries
is the way to go. And for those who are contemplating doing a
1200 km some day, it's a nice introduction.
Now, make no mistake, 4 consecutive days of rides of almost 200
km on the BMB course is no cakewalk. But no matter how tired you
feel at the end of each leg, you can look around and find a 1200
km rider who looks much worse!
I've done BMB quite a few times myself, and have a couple of
PBP medals too. And even though I had the time of my life last
year on PBP, I was ready to sleep in on weekends this year, instead
of starting brevets at hours that should never be seen with A.M.
after them. John claimed similar desires, but when his brother,
Dave, and friend, Declan, from Ireland decided to do BMB, he started
talking about riding with them. What would I do for those four
days? At the last minute, I decided I was reasonably fit, and
would be lonely in an empty house, so I signed up for the Quads
(BTW, Jennifer strongly discourages last minute riders - so sign
Despite my aversion to early hours, I planned to start at 4AM,
and ride out with John and the lads a while. I'd booked an inn
in Putney and planned to do some shopping there and then have
dinner at Curtis' outdoor barbecue restaurant. But I met some
other quads riders at check-in and thought it would be nice to
have some company for the full day, and the other days too. When
Jennifer told us that quads riders had to start at 10, my decision
was made. I could sleep in. Well sort of. John, Declan, Dave and
I were sharing a room. So I still had to get up at 3, when they
did and then head back to sleep!
After a couple of more hours of sleep, I rose, had a leisurely
breakfast, and then got ready to ride. Did I mention that it was
somewhat of a last minute decision to ride? Well, this wasn't
the only last minute thing. I'd also done the thing I tell everyone
not to do. I had a new bike too. The forecast had been for rain,
and my bike with fenders has no gears. While Quads is easier than
the 1200 km, I do still have enough functioning brain cells to
know I need gears to get through the 20,000 feet of climbing on
this event! But my bike with gears and no fenders also isn't the
best for carrying gear.
So on the Sunday before the ride, I was at the Lars Anderson
show, and I spotted an Independent Fabrications Club Racer at
a good price. I must confess that I'd actually decided a few weeks
prior that it would be ideal for randonneuring, and had a dream
that I had one. (I had even talked a friend into buying one) So
there it sat, the bike of my dream. It had a Tubus Fly rack, and
fenders and 28mm tires. And it was pretty close to my size. And
the price was great. It was actually the prototype, and was being
sold by the builder himself! Well, I couldn't'resist. I didn't
initially plan to break it in so quickly, but that forecast of
rain and the ease of carrying 4 days of gear just pushed me to
consider it. I rode it to work on Monday. I changed out the drivetrain
for a triple and swapped to a shorter stem, and decided to use
it for the ride. It could not have worked out better. Using measurements
from my other bike, I got the fit just right, and everything else
worked perfectly. I definitely recommend this bike to anyone who
wants clearance for reasonable tires and fenders, and braze-ons
for fenders and rack. It even comes drilled for low-riders, a
perfect place to mount my lights! But enough of my commercial
for IF. Onto the ride.
The 10AM start was interesting. All the Quads riders were there,
and the hardcore 1200 km riders who wanted a fast time, as well
as the folks doing the RAAM qualifier. The field split before
we left the parking lot. This isn't to say there weren't strong
riders doing Quads. We just weren't in THAT much of a hurry!
I'd met Holly the evening before at checkin. Holly is well known
in randonneuring and ultra circles as she travels all around the
country doing lots of events, making lots of friends, and logging
lots of miles. She's also quite famous for her cookies! Holly
was riding with Melanie, Nick and Jim. They invited me to tag
along, and I am so grateful, as their company really made this
ride great fun for me.
The 10AM start has the advantage of extra sleep and an open restaurant
for breakfast, but the disadvantage of traffic, especially along
route 20. I was looking forward to getting on quieter roads, where
the group could actually ride along and talk some. We took our
first break at the Sterling Ice Cream Bar, where Holly went for
a hotdog. Holly is a hotdog fanatic. She absolutely thrives on
them. She knows every hotdog stand between Newton and Middlebury,
and I think paid a visit to each and every one of them! I have
a similar relationship with coffee. We have a joke around our
house about coffee shop constipation - the inability to pass a
coffee shop. This is also one of the great things about doing
the Quads. With so much less time pressure, a rider can stop and
enjoy local flavors.
After the stop, we had a small group of Nick, Jim, Holly and
me. The next few miles were the beginning of the hills. I talked
a lot about riding at digestive pace, which is one well below
the V.O. Puke threshold. Apparently the rest of the group has
a higher threshold than I do, but we were able to regroup at the
secret control at the top of the hill in Princeton. By this point,
my lunch was mostly digested, and we stayed together the rest
of the way. We had a lovely break at Bullard Farm, where we chatted
away with David and Sherry. They alerted us to the plans for blueberry
pancakes on Sunday, but also said we'd need to be back through
Then it was off for the next leg, up and over Mt. Grace, and
then up a climb by Pisgah State Forest. Apparently road crews
in New Hampshire got word a bike ride was coming through, so they
dug the road up just in time for us. Fortunately, it wasn't too
long a stretch, nor was it on the really steep part. Jim and I
got ahead a bit on this section and road on into Brattleboro together.
Holly and Nick stopped for hotdogs! Johnny was running this checkpoint
and we all had a great chat. There was abundant food, but I was
saving myself for a dinner I'd been planning for weeks. It was
late enough I would miss the shops in Putney, but I would not
miss my planned dinner.
I was staying a few miles further up the road, so we all arranged
to meet for coffee in Chester about 25 miles away the next morning,
and I got back on the bike for a few more miles to get my reward
for the day. If you are ever passing through Putney, you might
notice a little place called Curtis' Barbecue. It has a couple
of grills under a shelter. Curtis is usually grilling away, and
in the company of his pet Vietnamese potbellied pig. Next to this
is an old school bus where they take your order and do the final
preparations of chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, baked potatoes
and beans. You can get Curtis' special barbecue sauce on everything.
There are a bunch of picnic tables scattered about, and some toys
for the kids. And it is absolutely worth riding a bike 120 miles
to get to it. I had half a chicken, some beans with bbq sauce
and corn. It was awesome. Then I rolled down the hill to the Putney
Inn, where I had a nightcap before settling into my soft warm
The next morning, I had breakfast at the inn, and then headed
off slowly to Chester. Riding alone for this first part meant
I could ride at a nice digestive pace. I got into Chester and
found a café, set my bike out where the group would spot
it, and ordered coffee and some strawberry rhubarb crumble and
staked out a table on the porch. Jim, Nick, and Karen rolled up
a little while later, and also ordered coffee and pie. Holly stopped
for a hotdog, and wanted to press on, saying we'd catch her. Karen
and Jim were feeling frisky and ready for the chase and took off.
Nick and I enjoyed a more relaxed ride to Ludlow, as if climbing
Andover Ridge and Terrible Mountain could ever be considered relaxing!
Here we found Terry, who I was more used to seeing running Bullard
Farm. I also found some great baked potatoes and brownies, which
Someone in the group needed a bike shop, so we all stopped at
Mountain Cycology in town. I ended up buying a wool jersey, which
I had mailed home. This helped make up for missing shops in Putney!
We eventually got started again. I'd mentioned a little bypass
to the group, which involved some lovely views, and a bit of dirt.
Jim was interested, but the others wanted to stick to pavement,
some Jim and I took the detour through Sherburne. The views were
indeed spectacular, and we got the bonus of a bit of wildlife,
as we saw an otter scurry across the road.
We stopped in Stockbridge for sandwiches. The folks who run the
general store there put out a welcoming sign for BMB riders every
year. They also make great bread and their sandwiches are one
of the highlights of the trip for me. While we were stopped, Holly,
Jim and Karen rode by, but we all got back together in Rochester
a few miles later. At this point we were all getting tired, and
the dreaded and featured climb over Middlebury Gap was all that
lay between us and hot showers, hot food and warm beds. The climb
was tough, but we all made it to the top, and let out cheers as
we did so. We regrouped and put on all our warm clothes and headed
down into town. It was here we saw the first sleep deprived 1200
km rider heading back. We looked much fresher and happier!
We made our way into the checkpoint, where I had a shower (thanks
to a loaner towel from Chris) and massage. Nancy was doing a great
job running this control. The food here looked and smelled great,
but I wanted to save room to go out. We looked through the restaurant
listings and decided to go to a place called Woody's. We picked
the restaurant, partly on name. Mutual friend and fellow randonneur,
Woody, does 1200 km rides every other year, and this is an off
year, but it just seemed appropriate to pick this restaurant.
It was a grand choice too. We had a great view of the river, wonderful
local brew and good food. Melanie joined our dinner outing, and
we all had a fabulous time talking about how much sleep we were
all getting, and wondering if we'd ever consider a 1200 km again,
when you could have this much fun! We eventually turned in for
the evening and planned to meet up at the control at 7AM.
I awoke early and decided to head back over to the control. It
turned out I just missed John, Dave and dec. They had come in
around 10 PM, got some sleep, and headed out shortly before I
came in. Maybe John and I have such a deep connection that his
alarm woke me (from 2 miles away in my B&B).
I chatted with Chris and Pierce, and tried my best to understand
one of the French riders hanging out at the control. I will always
wonder if I understood his story properly though.
After a light breakfast at the control, Nick, Jim and I decided
we'd aim for a pancake breakfast at the Hancock Inn on the other
side of the gap. Climbing the gap first thing in the morning wasn't
too bad, and knowing that pancakes were on the other side was
good motivation. Holly and Karen passed on the second breakfast
- probably since there were no hotdogs. They expected us to catch
them, but Jim suffered a couple of punctures, and we didn't see
them until the next control in Ludlow. Coming into Ludlow, we
sent Jim off to the bike shop to get a new tire, while Nick and
I went for food at the control. Here we had a great pasta salad,
and those now famous brownies. Jim came in just we were finished
and were itching to go, so he sent us on our way, figuring he'd
catch us on one of the many climbs in the next leg. (Jim was the
strongest climber of the bunch).
Terrible and Andover were a challenge, but I seemed to be getting
into my climbing rhythm, and got over them. I must say I was thrilled
with how well my new bike was working, but also quite happy I
had put on the triple crank. I got into Chester and decided to
ride down to the hot dog stand to see if Holly and Karen were
still there. If so, I'd be social. If not, I'd find a café.
I found a very bummed Holly at the convenience store. The hot
dog stand was closed. Nick came in a few minutes after I did,
and we decided to be social for the rest of the day. We waited
quite a while for Jim, but did not see him. We finally decided
to press on, hoping all was OK or at least fixable.
We got a little frisky at this point and did a few top of climb
sprints, but regrouped and chatted and socialized quite a bit.
At some point Holly suggested a pee break. We stopped near a wooded
area, but she decided to ride down the hill to a side road. A
few minutes later Karen decided the woods were good enough and
headed into them. Nick decided to roll down toward the side road,
and Holly emerged about the time he arrived, and they continued
on. Karen rejoined me and we figured we'd get back together soon
enough. But despite putting the hammer down, we weren't gaining.
At one point on a long climb I caught sight of them, but we just
couldn't bridge. After a while we started joking about Holly attacking
on the pee break, and how we would make her pay later. As we headed
down into Putney we saw them at the stop sign. When we arrived,
Holly was livid, yelling that she's been chasing US for miles,
and how dare we attack on the pee break! Nick tried to tell her
we were behind, but the communication broke down, and she thought
we were ahead. We did have a great laugh about it for the rest
of the weekend, and had great fun telling anyone who would listen
how Holly attacked us during a pee break. It was hysterical watching
her offer up her defense! I will say that she can hammer right
along on an empty bladder!
We got into Brattleboro and gorged ourselves on fried rice. Despite
our plans to go out to dinner, we were pretty hungry, so we had
some appetizer. Jim eventually rolled in, and told us his tale
of woe and expense. He headed out of Ludlow and immediately broke
a spoke. He was riding trick wheels, and the local shop didn't
have an appropriate replacement spoke, so he ended up buying a
wheel! This turned out to be his second new wheel for the ride.
Due to shipping problems, he'd already borrowed a rear wheel from
Pierce. Now he had a new front. We later joked that he'd be on
a new frame by the finish!
We'd arranged with Gerry to take a break from officiating and
go into town and have dinner at the Latchis Grill, and get some
local brew. The Latchis has their own brewery, so it is truly
local and fresh. This meal was fabulous, as was the company. Gerry
passed on the beer, and instead opted for lots of strong coffee,
since he had a long night ahead checking on riders.
Another full nights sleep in a comfortable bed was followed with
a light breakfast at the control, in anticipation of blueberry
pancakes at Bullard Farm. The group seemed to being having such
a good time that they didn't want it to end. We had quite the
leisurely ride into Bullard Farm, but fortunately the griddle
was still fired up when we arrived. The pancakes were awesome.
At this point we were seeing lots of 1200km riders, and having
to apologize for being so chipper and fresh. I was also feeling
eager to get back. I wanted to see John, and we also had massages
scheduled for Sunday night. So after breakfast, I left my companions
for three days and joined up with some other folks hurrying to
get back. I tried to keep up with Kathy and Dennis, but Kathy
was just too strong for me. Fortunately there were lots of other
more fatigued people around! I rode back and forth with George
for a brief while. George was on a bent and absolutely flew most
of the time, but occasionally I'd pull back up to him. Eventually
I met up with Tom and our paces were quite similar. On any other
day, Tom would blow my socks off, but his extra miles and less
sleep proved a good equalizer. We rode the last 50 miles together
and had a great time talking and motivating each other. Tom talked
about how any 1200 km rider would love to latch onto a fresh quads
rider for the last leg. But I kept asking when we'd find that
fresh quads rider! Tom had been having some foot problems and
in fact when I came upon him he was alternating pedaling with
one leg. I joked that it would only count as a 600 km that way!
He pedaled with both legs the rest of the way in!
Just as we were coming into Wellesley, we caught up with John,
a veteran of many BMBs. I was actually starting to worry about
getting lost. We'd been descending a long time, but John knew
the way in. So the three of us finished up together, and I applauded
the two real riders I had just finished with. After all, I was
just a quads rider here for fun. They had ridden the hard event.
John, Dave and Dec were there to great me. They'd finished in
the wee hours of the morning and apparently had a great sleep
adventure on a pull out sofa bed in the parking lot lobby. I arrived
just in time for food, so while scarfing down lunch, I heard all
sorts of stories about everyone else's ride, and thoroughly enjoyed
the atmosphere as we cheered for all the new arrivals. And I was
fresh and bubbly and bouncing off the walls. What a difference
I just want to say thankyou to Jennifer and Pierce and all the
folks running checkpoints and doing roving support and mechanical
support and massage, and everything else. It was so great coming
into checkpoints greeted by friendly and encouraging folks. I
know these guys had much less sleep than anyone and worked really
really hard to make this event great. And it truly was.