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Friday, April 19, 2019

400 km Epic Ride in Greece Complete!!!

As you may know, I am trying to complete all of my qualifying rides to turn my pre-registration for  Paris-Brest-Paris into a full registration: 1st Paris-Brest-Paris Qualifying Ride.  With my chilly March 30th - 200 km out of the way, it was onto my Big Greek Adventure.  Knowing I had some time in Greece and I would be missing the 300 km qualifying brevet back home, I felt like I had to find a qualifying ride in Greece.  After reaching out to several bike clubs in Greece, I found Ble Cycling Club and Hector - he couldn't help personally as they didn't have any 300 or 400 km rides scheduled while I would be in Greece, but he mentioned a friend that he knew who was heading up a 400 km ride from Corinth to Thermo and back.  This was my best option: 2.5 hrs away from our home base in Greece.  After much communication (and patience) using Google Translate, Spiros and I figured it all out.  I was all set for a 5:00 a.m.vstart for April 13. I got registered and I had my official Greek Randonneuring number, 4268 - all riders must have a registration number for a brevet to count.

Road this coast for 100 in the light and in the dark!
My wife, Brenda (a real team-player) traveled with me to Corinth, where we rented an AirBnB for 2 nights.  We had a great meal at Soul Kitchen - crazy vibe, great food, a good beer and all for 30 euros.  It was back to the apartment to do final preparation for the big ride.  After dinner, as I was packing up my gear, it was really starting to hit home: 'I am about to go ride 400 km with people I don't know, not sure if any speak english, not sure riding levels and - shit!  It is already 11 pm!'  I had to get up at 3:55 a.m., hop into my clothes and leave by 4:10 a.m. to get to the Agioi Theodoroi train station.  Honestly, I'm not sure I slept for even 2 hours before the alarm sounded.  I had to tell myself 'You'll be fine!'
I quickly brushed my teeth, hopped into my clothes, and grabbed my Mango Custom Infinit bottles and my Cold Brew.  I arrived and parked my car at the train station where I met Spiros. As I feared, he had no English and I - no Greek. However, we managed some basic communication through smiles and gestures, and he gave me my Brevet card. I gave him the 8 euros and, well...  I was set!  I was super prepared and ready to go.  A bunch of riders left right at 5 a.m. Spiros was still there, so I was looking at him. His English was quite limited, but I understood him when he looked up abruptly and told me 'Go, Go!'.  So I joined the other riders.  In this group was Derk (German - been in Greece for 20 years), Ioannis, Stylianos, Maria, Anastasios and now me.  Spiros caught us later with another rider.

We were not even 10 km in as we are making our way into Corinth - one of the riders hit a huge pothole that could have swallowed a Mini Cooper.  He went down hard and right in front of me. I anticipated his move incorrectly and rode right into him, going over my bars and down!  Well, that is a great way to start a 400 km ride!  I had some bruising on both legs and chin, but my bike was fine - I got off lucky so did he!

So onward....did I forget to tell you it was raining? Yes of course, but the weather would clear 3 hours in.  When the dawn broke. we were riding along the Gulf of Corinth-absolutely stunning. We were right beside the waters' edge and we could see clear across to the mountains by Arachova,  where we are currently staying for a month.  Luckily, once we got into our groove, I found that several of the folks could speak english - Maria and Derk in particular. It was great to get to know them.  The first 100 km was flat, and the next 50 km was some rolling hills - until we got to the Rion-Antririon Bridge - an amazing structure.  After crossing the bridge we started the climbing - 5 climbs in total. It was amazing (I love climbing) and the views were spectacular!  Our goal as 6 riders was to get the mountain climbing and descent done in the day light.  As it turned out, our riding abilities and level of fatigue was quite varied - I was having a great day, so they sent me ahead.  After each descent I would wait for the others.  On the last descent -
Double cappuccino please! 
only Spiros came (the others were way back) and he wanted to ride on without waiting for the rest.  I had to move on with him as Garmin can be problematic in other countries.  I felt I need to stay with someone, and that someone was Spiros.  At this point, we had about 150 km left to go.

Spiros and I rode together for another 50 km, and we got to Aigio.  With our limited communication, I found out that he was losing energy.  We stopped at a cafe where I had a double cappuccino and a half bag of Olive Oil Lays potato chips - really seemed to hit the mark!  Before I knew it, Spiros was gone - I wasn't packed up yet, but I took my time, figuring I would catch him.  When I did, we were riding at much different paces - I went
Greece is spectacular - everywhere you look a beautiful scene!
ahead.  It was after 11 pm and I knew we had close to 100 km left.  Knowing there was a group of 4 behind for him if he needed help, I went onward with his support and encouragement.
So how crazy is this?!  I am alone in Greece, riding 100 km back to the start. I had been riding since 5 am.  I figured, 'I am ok. I still have lots of power to charge my devices (Garmin and iPhone);  I have data if I have to use Google Maps; my Garmin seems to be working fine and, well - its on the same path we had covered a half a day ago. I can do this!'
It was actually a pretty magical experience, and I am still in awe that you can continue to average 28-29 km/hr on your pedals 20 hrs into a bike ride - I think I was fuelled on this idea and the odd shot of adrenaline when being chased in the dark by the local dogs.  I was fuelled perfectly on the day: my Custom Infinit blend, lots of Infinit Power, a few Infinit Cold Brews, a few cappuccinos and some baked goods.  I got back to the car alone and that is when it hit me: I was done. Like, I mean - exhausted.  I packed the bike up, got some warm clothes on, and drove the 20 minutes back to the apartment - likely one of the hardest efforts of the day.

I am so grateful to have the health to complete these epic journeys. My motto is: you have to keep moving, to keep moving.  Push yourself a bit beyond what you think is possible. You might surprise yourself and find you can take on something even bigger tomorrow.

- Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

1st Qualifying Ride Complete - Paris-Brest-Paris 2019!!!

Last year, thanks to a fellow ESR rider and friend Tim O'Callahan I dipped my toe into the world of Randonneuring.  In 2018 I did a couple of 200 km Brevets, a 384 km Fleche Ride and the 400 km Cremore Classic.  While riding the Cremore - I learned a lot more about this Paris-Brest-Paris thing, it occurs every 4 years, it is coming up this August and it frankly sounded epic.  I tucked it away quietly and hoped that I could find my way there.

With my 400 km ride last year, it allows me to pre-register for Paris-Brest-Paris and that is what I just did.  I am so excited, my starting time is 8:30  pm on August 18.  We have 90 hrs to complete the 1200 km, we all need a little nervous energy....I am so excited.  There will be 5 of us total riding: Brenda, Tim, Chappy and Matt.  Pretty certain that Geoff will be making the trek to support us at the control points and driving our rental RV.

I have just completed the first qualifying ride, the Rondeau Rando (200 km -  Definitely a tough day - always hard starting a big ride in the rain and near freezing temperatures.  Brenda, Tim, Brian, Lorelei and I rolled out around 7 am for what was cold and wet for the entire day.  Funny when you ride in conditions like that and explore your limits, you appreciate everything, yesterday I had the best chicken noodle soup, the best coffee, the best coffee and finally the best shower at 8 pm - Glorious!!!

Now I am down to 3 more qualifying rides: 300, 400 and 600 km brevets before June 20 in order to convert my pre-registration into a confirmed registration.  Hasn't always been this way, but due to many withdrawals they have added these qualifying rides.  At present, this is what I know about my schedule:
  • April 13th, 400 km - Corinth, Greece
  • May 18th, 300 km - Detroit, MI
  • June 8th, 600 km - Windsor
I always love having something big on the horizon, something that scares and excites me at the same time.  I have that with my Paris-Brest-Paris journey - I will share the highs and lows as they unfold.

- Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada