Boston Fleche 2011 -a late ride report in brief
Posted by Susan on August 28, 2011
Okay, I’ve been away, being busy with other things, but here’s a short report:
This year’s Fleche took place between June 2 and June 5th. Dena, Pamela, David and myself
started our epic ride Friday at 7pm in Arlington. We expected to reach Brattleboro, Vermont by 5 am the next morning. From Brattleboro we’d turn around and head back to Arlington. Our ride was 235 miles long, included about 14,000 feet of climbing, and had to be finished within 24 hours.
I was very excited for this ride: I believed I was physically prepared, and I was looking forward to riding the Sketchy on its first epic distance challenge.
While we all understood that the temps were going to dip into the 40’s, none of us realized just how cold that would feel since the previous couple of weeks had seen temps in the joyous 70’s. The cold set in quickly after dark, and when we reached our first checkpoint at about 9:30 pm, we were all digging through our bags to find those extra layers. Everyone of us had a light wind jacket, light tights or knickers, and light gloves, but no one had the truly necessary items: thermal tights or warmers, an insulating jacket or sweater, shoe covers and balaclavas. Yes, it felt THAT cold, the night was absolutely brutal! My legs felt iced, my hands and face were numb, and I shivered on every descent. At one point right after leaving a warm checkpoint (an enclosed ATM kiosk where we took shelter from the cold for just 15 minutes) I had an out-of- control case of shivering: my upper back and shoulder muscles were contracting so tightly that I was shaking my handlebars and creating a terrible shimmy throughout the whole bike! To top it all, there was a 10 mile descent early in the morning, brutal after working up a sweat on the previous climb.
This was a classic example of not preparing for the worst that would be likely to happen. We all knew the temperatures would drop, and all of us are experienced cyclists who should know better, but we failed to pack the appropriate layers, and had to cope with feeling chilled for about 8 hours!
We met the other Fleche team at brunch the next morning, and they had also suffered just as miserably as ourselves. They were perhaps even less prepared (not having a warm ATM kiosk stop planned en route), one of their riders was lagging behind, and the team considered leaving him, but didn’t for fear that he would die of hypothermia!
What I remember the most about this Fleche (writing about it almost 3 months later) is how miserable I felt upon re-entering the cold after the warmth of the ATM kiosk; the feeling of elation at seeing the sun rise, the savoring of wonderfully rich coffee at the Leverett Co-op, and the anger I felt at the end of the ride about having to climb more hills after already climbing uber hills around Wachusetts! This anger was a new experience for me. Those last few miles of hills broke me. At that point, I could not understand why I was doing this ride, and I swore to never do this again.
I still hold the same opinion. I hope I never do a Fleche again.