I had never in my life felt worse than when I rode the last thirty five
miles of Paris-Brest-Paris. Never have I felt as exhausted and sore or the
wanting to lie down and sleep. But it would have taken major catastrophe to
prevent me from finishing PBP. As bad as I wanted to get off my bicycle,
I wanted to get that last stamp more. I would have ridden through a brick
wall, it already felt like I tried it, even though at this point I don’t think
I had the power to hit a wall hard enough to do any damage to it or the bike.
I rode up to the finish area at four-thirty in the morning. There
was no crowd of cheering people, just officials and a few other finishers. A
good friend named Steve was there and he took my picture. I’ve offered him one
thousand dollars for the negatives. If I looked half as bad as I felt it
would have been a bargain. It was a terrific sense of accomplishment to
walk into the final checkpoint and turn in my route card. I celebrated by
drinking a Coke, wrapping myself in a space blanket and laying down on the gym
floor twenty feet from the officials table to sleep.
I had set a goal of completing PBP in approximately seventy hours, give
or take a few hours. My finishing time officially was seventy one hours and
twenty eight minutes, somewhere in the top fifteen percent. That sounds pretty
good until you compare it to Scott Dickson’s time, He finished first in forty
three hours forty some minutes, beating me by twenty eight hours.
After attending a PBP reunion and seeing what some other PBP finishers
whom I qualified with had done with their memorabilia I decided that this
should be completed before my memories fade. I would like to especially thank
a few friends who were extremely influential in my decision to attempt and
successfully complete PBP.
Most importantly I thank Al Istvanek (Big Al), who was an early riding
partner and first mentioned Paris-Brest-Paris to me. I call him Big Al not
because he is a large person, Al is actually shorter than I am, but he has a
heart and personality which are befitting of the name. He taught me to set
goals and setting goals became an integral part of my training, completing
each brevet ride, and PBP itself.
I also thank Steve and Jenny Bashaw, who I have known almost as long
as Al. They always have the courage to accept the challenge of riding longer
ultra-marathon events and somehow convinced me to take the challenge. Steve
has never lost the enthusiasm which can be very contagious when you are not
exactly sure what you’ve gotten involved in. Steve and Jenny gave me the
inspiration and desire to ride PBP.
Lastly I need to thank Lon Haldeman and Susan Notoranglo who hosted
the brevet series and answering the thousands of questions which I asked.
Questions which were answered patiently, honestly and helped me plan my ride
A little history about PBP. Paris-Brest-Paris is the oldest single
stage race in the world. The course, quite obviously begins in Paris and is
an out and back route to Brest. The terrain is hilly not mountainous, I found
it very similar to riding near home in Southeast Minnesota. The total length
of PBP is usually seven hundred fifty miles, this years route was actually
a little longer at seven hundred sixty five miles. After seven hundred fifty,
another fifteen miles didn’t make bit of difference, except by then I was
only averaging ten miles an hour, so it added approximately an hour and a half
to my time.
Paris-Brest-Paris is a randonneur ride, it is not a race to see who
can finish first. It does have a maximum time limit of ninety hours to complete
the route. Randonneur rides have a specified number of checkpoints to pass
through on the route. Each checkpoint has an opening and a closing time.
If you arrived at a checkpoint too early, you waited for it to open. If you
arrived after the checkpoint closed, your ride was over. Average riders like
myself didn’t worry much about the openings and closing times, the windows to
check in were open sufficiently long enough. Seven hundred fifty divided by
ninety means you only need to average about eight and half miles an hour. That
sounds easy enough until day number four in the saddle with only a few hours
Part of the requirements for riding PBP was to have your bicycle
equipped with lights and fenders. The reason for the lights was clear enough
but I never understood the reasoning for the fenders, until that first
qualifying ride in the rain. They didn’t keep you drier, they did make it
easier to draft someone and they also kept you cleaner. Any other gear
or attachment was allowed, except for motors. Any kind of a human powered
cycle is allowed. I saw a few tandems, a triple, a couple of tricycles, a
Moulton, almost all other bicycles were standard diamond frames.
I first heard of Paris-Brest-Paris during club and training rides
about five or six years ago. I had just given up running and was in the
process of discovering cycling, the concept of long distance riding seemed too
brutal to consider the difficulty of PBP. Big Al was a frequent training
partner that summer, we rode RAGBRAI together and discussed riding a double
century the next year. That winter I heard of a double century ride close to
where we lived. Early in the spring Al and I got together during an attitude
adjustment at a local pub and decided to ride in the Paul Bunyan Double Century
ride. Somehow I talked my sister and a friend into crewing for us. Our plans
were set, all we had to do was prepare mentally and physically.
Not knowing what to expect I trained as hard as I could that spring.
The ride was scheduled for late June and I wanted as much of a mileage base as
possible before the ride. Looking back I believe I worked harder getting ready
for that ride than for any long ride since. I set many personal bests for
contiguous distance and speed getting ready for PBDC. We had set a goal of
completing the ride in twelve hours, not real fast but not slow, we tried to
set a realistic attainable goal. When the day of the ride came I felt good
and strong, the winds were light and the temperature was about were I liked it.
Al and I had a good first century, just under five hours. We decided to take
a break at the midpoint while I swapped tires because of a slow leak. The
second half, on the return, was slower into a head wind. We rode and worked
together until we were one mile from the finish when Al flatted. I rode on and
finished in a time of 11:02, Al came in eighteen minutes later. We felt proud
and celebrated with toasts of three dollar a bottle champagne, leaving about
half the bottle on the finish table for later finishers.
The next two years I returned to ride the Paul Bunyan Double Century
and lowered my finish time each year. With each long ride I was learning some-
thing new about myself and riding ultra-marathon events. I relied a little
more on experience with each ride and a little less on preparing a high mileage
base. I was also ready for a new challenge. The year before I had heard of a
ride which sounded interesting, Double Trouble.
Double Trouble is a double century ride on Saturday from Crystal Lake
Illinois to Champagne Illinois. Then on Sunday you ride back from Champagne
to Crystal Lake. The ride started out well for me I was in a group which was
traveling at a good pace. I was making excellent time, until I flatted. This
occurred at the sixty mile mark and there were no other groups close behind.
I repaired the flat and took off alone. I caught some of the riders at the
halfway check point. I grabbed some food filled up with water and was off
alone again. This time I new the rest of the ride would be on my own. The
wind was now blowing right in our faces, I had a feeling this was not going to
be an easy finish.
My premonitions were correct, I felt pretty beat up when I rolled into
Champagne that afternoon. I hoped I could recover for tomorrow and the two
hundred miles back. I only had about five dollars with me, the rest of my
money and change of clothes were with the crew I had not seen since the one
hundred twenty mile mark. They were also crewing for a friend who rode slower
and who also had the misfortune to make a wrong turn and ride a few extra
miles. I didn’t sleep too badly that night, I did wonder what the return would
We arose at four thirty to prepare for the five AM start. I didn’t
feel as stiff as I expected. Immediately after starting two groups formed,
one fast and one slower. I went for the slow group because I could not catch
the fast group. I soon began to feel good, relaxed and was riding strongly.
The pack was large and this made me nervous. About twenty five miles out there
was a small rise and I attacked, only five other riders stayed with me. When
we looked back we noticed that we had opened a larger gap than expected, not
wanting to slow down we picked up the pace slightly and dropped the big pack.
The six of us rode together the rest of the day and finished together. My
riding partners pulled me in the last couple of miles, I began to fade badly
about five miles from the finish. Total ride time for the two days was twenty
three hours and six minutes, good enough for an outstanding finisher award.
While talking with my friend Steve Bashaw in the spring of 1991, he
mentioned that he and Jenny had just completed the first brevet ride for PBP.
I immediately asked more questions about Paris-Brest-Paris and found out that
next years ride would mark the centennial of the event. Before hanging up the
phone he had convinced me to qualify for PBP.
To qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris each American rider must complete the
brevet series two years in a row preceding PBP. The brevet series consists of
four rides of increasing distance. The first brevet ride is two hundred
kilometers, the second and third are three hundred and four hundred kilometers.
The last brevet ride is six hundred kilometers. Each of the brevet rides has
checkpoints which have specified opening and closing times, just like PBP.
This is to better prepare riders for PBP. The brevet rides were supposed to
assimilate conditions of Paris-Brest-Paris as closely as possible.
I was told that I could only do the first two rides here in Minnesota
and would have to do the last two rides at a regional qualifier. This did not
upset me since it meant traveling to Harvard Illinois to do the last rides
through Susan Notorangelos club. I looked forward with a little apprehension
to riding the four hundred kilometer event, the finish would be in darkness.
The six hundred kilometer qualifier just happened to be the same route as
The first two brevet rides were uneventful and completed here in
Minnesota. The first brevet was very hilly and difficult, the second was
flat. As mentioned previously, I was required to ride the next two brevet
rides at Harvard Illinois, the four and six hundred kilometer brevets
respectively. Lights were also required for four hundred kilometer brevet
because we would be finishing well after dark. I had never ridden at night
before and this would be a new experience. I had decided to use a generator
setup rather than battery, I did not want to be dependent on batteries in the
middle of nowhere.
As I drove to Harvard the night before the four hundred kilometer ride
I was not looking forward to the next day, it rained almost continuously and
well into the night. When morning was breaking the weather had improved, cool,
partly cloudy and with a stiff headwind. I was elated, I would rather ride
into a wind than in the rain. The ride began well with many riders working
together to combat the wind.
By midday it was quite warm and clear skies, without a hint of what it
was like the day before. Just short of the turn around my luck started to
turn, I had a flat. I was experimenting with lightweight rim strip tape and
it began to fail. With mosquitoes eating me alive, I repaired the fourth and
last one in the dark. If it were not for my riding partner that day I may not
have been able to complete the event. Thanks for the help Cline Preble. That
was a valuable lesson to learn, never experiment during an important ride.
My last brevet ride for the 1990 season was the six hundred kilometer
event and was to follow the same route as Double Trouble that I had ridden
last year. There was a certain amount of comfort being familiar with the
route. The weather for this ride matched last years, hot, sunny, and a South
wind blowing in out face for the first two hundred miles. I found a group of
riders to work with and felt real good through the first half of the ride.
I have felt the most difficult part of a double century rides is
between one hundred twenty and one hundred sixty mile marks. You are tired
and you know there is still a lot of ground to cover before the finish. After
one hundred sixty miles you feel you have invested too much effort and are very
determined to finish.
At the halfway point there was one other rider with me sharing time
breaking the wind. I felt good through this section and continued to ride
strongly. My pulls became longer and we began to pick up other riders who were
slowing down. When we arrived in Champagne the group numbered about a dozen,
I had pulled most of the last twenty or thirty miles. Even though I felt I
rode stronger than last year my time was five minutes slower. The weather
forecast predicted tailwinds for the return.
The return trip was a beautiful day for a ride, two hundred miles of
flat land and a terrific wind to push you all the way. We started at dawn and
the wind was already blowing. After a short stretch of side wind the route
turned North and it was time to put the hammer down. The scenery disappeared
behind us like you were riding a rocket. It felt great to ride that hard and
fast without getting fatigued. That return was the second fastest double
century ride I have ridden and I felt pretty good at the finish.
The brevet series for 1991 started early and we had a qualifying ride
every other week. The first one was scheduled for the end of April and the
last was for the first weekend in June. The first brevet ride we rode in a cold
rain on the way out. By the time I reached the turn around I was wearing every
piece of clothing I had with me. The rain did stop, unfortunately we had to
ride into a headwind on the way back. This was a strong wind, I was not able
to get past third or fourth gear on the entire return. Actually I was doing
everything I could do to keep rolling. This ride was everything you would need
to test your intestinal fortitude except hills, they would be in the next
In contrast to the first brevet ride, the weather during the second
brevet ride was terrific, warm and sunny just the way I like it. I considered
it early season and I was still trying to muster as many miles out of the tires
I ended last season with. This was a mistake. I pumped the tires up went to
get water and came back to a flat tire. While I replaced the tube the ride
started, I guess I would start late. I began to reinflate the tire. As luck
would have it right when I spotted the inner tube poking out through the hole
in the side wall it blew out again. Now I would have to patch one of the tubes
and boot the tire. I would be starting real late, about twenty minutes late.
I rode this entire ride solo, I didn’t mind it was a beautiful day. There were
no serious hills, well just a few. One section there were little roller
coaster hills, short and steep. You would ride down fast, roll half way up the
next, hammer a few strokes then clear the top. I find these kind of hills lots
of fun in a tail wind or when you feel somewhat fresh.
The third brevet ride resembled the first, it was wet. It was not as
cold and we could ride through the rain without putting on extra clothing. It
was real wet, when it wasn’t raining hard it was drizzling. This was the ride
which was such a disaster for me last year. Other than being wet everything
went well, the lighting system worked great. Thanks, to Jim Craighead who
replaced all the original wiring on the unit and built a bracket so the
generator unit was positioned on the top of the front tire, within reach,
instead of under the bottom bracket. On this ride I found that the fenders
did not keep you drier but they sure did keep you cleaner. This was the four
hundred kilometer brevet and we were required to have our lighting system and
fenders on the bike to qualify for PBP. The finish control checked that every
PBP entrant had proper lights and fenders. I wanted to also ride a better
time than last year and finish before midnight. My finish time was just under
my self imposed curfew at eleven fifty nine. That made it fifteen hours for
the four hundred kilometers.
The last qualifying ride would be a two day affair similar to last year.
We would ride the same route as the previous brevets, and than ride a little
further. The first days distance was about two hundred and ten miles and the
second day would be a mere one hundred sixty. The weather for this ride was
just like the three hundred kilometer brevet, hot, sunny, and a little humid.
Day one went fine for me. I didn’t ride hard intending to save something for
the return. I slept badly, if any at all and woke up feeling grumpy. The
morning ride started at 5:00 AM, I started about 7:00 AM. I really started
with everyone else but didn’t get rolling comfortably until just after the
first checkpoint which included breakfasting on a couple of cookies and a Dr.
Pepper. This was good because this was the hilly difficult portion of the ride.
It was also sixty miles to the next checkpoint. I planned to ride straight
through and carry a third bottle of water. This would be about the distance
between checkpoints on PBP. The plan worked well for me, I was able to ride
aggressively into the next checkpoint. The rest of the ride seemed like we were
fighting some headwind. I had caught up to Mark Walters from Winona, a PBP
qualifier, we rode together the last part of the ride. Neither one wanted to
push hard at this point, we just wanted to cruise easily.
Paris-Brest-Paris was scheduled for the end of August, there was still
two and a half months to either wait or train before the big event. I did not
want to over do it and get burned out yet I did not want to be complacent. I
decided to do nothing different with my training except do a couple of double
centuries. I wanted to keep motivated so I choose to do some other events,
each one different in a way. Each would require riding at night and each was
at least a double century ride.
The first event would be the most difficult, I wanted do compete in the
Michigan 24 hour challenge. Since starting long distance cycling I have
been fascinated by the Michigan 24 hour challenge, my goal was to do three
hundred fifty miles. I enjoyed riding the 24 hour challenge. It made me ride
hard all day, through the night and to continue more in daylight until the
finish time, a good training exercise for PBP. I had a good ride and easily
made my goal, I even quit early. My total millage was three hundred sixty one.
Another training event I had devised was to do the last two days of
RAGBRAI. I was fortunate to have friends and family doing RAGBRAI for the
entire week and they had a vehicle pass. I intended to drive to the finishing
point on Thursday evening, ride the route backwards through the night, meet
my friends and family and ride Fridays route with the rest of RAGBRAI. It was
the most gorgeous night for a ride. There was no wind and the moon was as full
as it could be. A few times when I was alone on the road, and who wouldn’t
be in rural Iowa at 3:00 AM, I switched my generator off and rode by the moon
light. This was another good training exercise because I was experimenting
riding with sleep deprivation. Joining RAGBRAI forced me to ride with
unfamiliar people when I was tired and maintain my concentration.
The last long training event I planned was to do a local century ride.
However, I intended to get up in the middle of the night(3:00 AM) ride to the
event, do the event then ride home. The mileage for the day would be nearly a
double century plus the route would be very hilly. I intended this to be
another good training exercise for PBP since the terrain in France was rumored
to be very difficult.
As the airplane was landing in Paris I realized that the planning and
extra training I’ve done for the last year and a half would soon be over. One
way or another, if I finished or dropped out, Paris-Brest-Paris and everything
involved with it would reach its climax. I wanted to finish. I’m not sure
how I would feel if PBP ended for me any other way. I was determined to
finish. None of my planning or training considered alternative endings. I
needed to ride back to Paris, if only to satisfy myself.
The place where I was to live while in Paris was called the FIAPADD,
it resembled a hostel. It was dormitory style for sleeping and showering,
cafeteria style for our meals. Breakfast was the biggest disappointment, it
consisted mostly of bread. French bread, real French bread has a real tough
chewy crust and breakfast did not become my favorite meal. There was no
air-conditioning at the FIAPADD, I came to believe there wasn’t any in Paris
at all. The FIAPADD was no palace but most of us were not looking for much
more. It supplied a bed and the meals were good, except for breakfast, they
included all the bread you could eat.
The first few days were spent wondering through the tourist sights
of Paris. The city itself was enormous and endless, even from the top of the
Eiffel tour all I could see was city. I could go back and see it all again and
see it all differently. Paris was not like any American city I have ever seen.
Paris-Brest-Paris started on Monday evening. All the riders were
required to go through inspection on Sunday. The inspectors insured that your
bicycle was properly outfitted for a randonnuer ride. We were given number
cards to attach to our frames, the inspector did not like where I placed mine.
They were intended to tie to the top tube and head tube, in the upper angle of
the main triangle. I secured mine to the back pannier rack because if I had
put it were it was designed to be I would have difficulty doing double shifts.
After a little arguing, the inspector in French and me in English I gave up
and went to get more zip ties. I intended to take enough to move the number
back after I left the inspection area. However, a gentleman of more authority
eventually came over and and told me it was OK. I moved on to the next
station rather quickly and the rest of the inspection went smoothly.
During the inspection process we were also given our credentials.
Actually we were given two things, a plastic card with a magnetic strip and
a route card for the checkpoint stamps. I was told that we only needed the
plastic cards because there were card readers at the checkpoints. I decided to
bring the route card and collect the stamps at all the checkpoint anyway. It
was a good thing, because when I pulled into the first secret control and I
gave the officials the plastic card they promptly gave it back. No card readers
at this control, they wanted the route card.
Since this was the centennial ride for PBP a formal affair was scheduled
for Monday, we were all required to attend or be penalized two hours. The
speeches were all in French and it was tiring standing in the hot sun. I walked
across the street and ordered a large mug of beer. I walked back to the Hotel
De Ville, where the festivities and send off ride were taking place. Wobbled
may be more accurate, it was a big mug of beer. After what seemed like four
hours of speeches there was a loud explosion and everyone began the sent off
ride. I found out later they fired a cannon. The send off ride started at
the Hotel De Ville(city hall) and was supposed to end at St. Quentin(the true
start and finish of this years PBP). I was still feeling tipsy from the beer
and got out of the mess early. Now I had to ride through Paris half in the
bag. It wasn’t that bad. I picked out some buildings as landmarks and rode
in the general direction of the FIAPADD.
There were three start groups and start times. The people who
registered for the eighty hour group started at 8:00 PM on Monday evening. The
ninety hour group started two hours later and the eighty-four hour group, the
group I registered for, started at 5:00 AM on Tuesday. I thought that a half
a nights sleep would be better than riding through the first night. It may
have been a reasonable plan but I was too nervous to get any appreciable
amount of rest. It was about an hour to forty-five minute ride to St. Quentin
from the FIAPADD and five other riders left for the start at about 3:00 AM.
In the middle of the night there was no other traffic to worry about
and we generally blew through the lights. Of course we arrived plenty early
and killed time lying around inside St. Quentin sports complex. When the time
was near to begin we made last minute preparations and joined the rest of the
starters out in the street. There were quite a few more people cheering for us
than I would have expected. It would still be about two hours before daylight
so everyone started wearing a reflective vest.
The pace was brisk but not to fast that I couldn’t stay behind someone
as long as possible. With several hundred to one thousand riders in this
start group there were plenty of wheels to draft from. The first checkpoint
was a food and water stop only, it was at about seventy or eighty miles. Since
I was out of water I needed to stop, no more wheel sucking, it would be solo
riding almost the rest of the way. I walked into the food area and bought a
Coke. Before the man brought my change back I had drained it, so I ordered
another. This was a pattern I maintained through out PBP, at almost every
checkpoints I drank two Cokes. I would then fill one water bottle with Exceed,
the other with Ultra-Energy and hit the rode.
I also carried a dozen energy bars which I ate between checkpoints.
It was my plan to use a mostly liquid diet supplemented with the energy bars
for as much of PBP as I could. I didn’t want to waste time standing in line
and then sitting down to eat large meals. I had used all three products
(Ultra-Energy, Exceed, Energy Bars) on rides this past summer and was
comfortable with them, no experimenting now. The plan worked well for me, I
spent minimal time in the checkpoints. This first day we happened to have
tailwinds and I also wanted to take advantage of the weather.
We went though a secret control between the first and second checkpoint
and I began to believe I was further along the route than what was true. I had
not quite recognized the differences between the announced controls or check-
points and the secret ones. My mind was dulled. It took some time to realize
that if it was a control, and not on the map, it was a secret control. Another
difference was the real controls used the plastic cards to check us in and the
secret controls needed our route cards to stamp. I had it all figured out when
I reached the second checkpoint when I was given a CD at the control, now I was
confused again. I didn’t know what I was to do with the CD, in the middle of
France, on my bike. I reached Ludec, about the one third point, at
approximately eleven o’clock that night. This was only Tuesday night. I was
very happy with my progress at this point in the ride. I had begun to catch
and pass many other riders from the ninety hour group.
In Ludec I was greeted by my friend Steve Bashaw who was waiting for
his daughter to come through. I had passed his daughter Jenny, just outside of
Tinteniac the previous checkpoint, and told him it would not be too long
before she arrived. The food from inside smelled real good and I was lured
inside to have a meal. Since the line was long, about fifteen or twenty
minutes, Steve decided to join me and get a tray ready for Jenny. Also joining
us was Doc Holiday from Kansas. I had met Doc when I crewed for Big Al during
his one thousand mile brevet. Doc was not feeling well, he was on the verge
of fainting, and Steve was helping him get a tray of food also. When we were
getting Docs food he said he was allergic to wheat products. Steve and I told
Doc to go sit down and we would bring his food to him. In the of middle of
selecting and paying for all this food Steve heard that Jenny had rolled in,
how he found out I still don’t know. We did manage to get the trays to a table,
get some food into Doc, and get Jenny to her express meal. The only thing I
remember is I selected beef for the protein and next time would choose the
chicken which couldn’t be so tough. It was mighty tasty after a day of Ultra,
Energy bars and Exceed.
I shoved off sometime before midnight and joined up with some other
English speaking riders. It was well after dark and getting cool, the moon
was also full and providing some light. I really enjoyed this part of the ride
because my mind was not too foggy from lack of sleep. Many villages were on
top of hills and you could see the lights form each across the valleys. The
wind seemed to be in my face know, the route was fairly close to the coast and
the breeze was coming off the sea. At least I convinced myself of this for an
explanation for having to work hard. I soon found myself riding alone and
came into the next checkpoint at Carhaix at around four thirty in the morning.
I was pretty tired and sleepy but was determined to continue. Having drank
my Coke I opted for a hot chocolate for a second drink, this was the first time
I was served something to drink in a bowl.
There was a slight variation from a pure out and back route a short
distance after leaving Carhaix. This affected about a twenty mile section.
The route marking was poor and I missed the turn. By time I realized the
error it was too late. I only prayed there wasn’t a secret control on the
detour, missing a secret control would disqualify me. When I pulled into Brest
I was really concerned that I may be DQed. When I went through the checkpoint
someone was also getting their route card stamped, I peeked to see if they had
any more secret control stamps than mine. I certainly left feeling cheered up
since I didn’t see any extra secret control stamps on this other riders card.
I wanted a rest or something to rejuvenate me, I saw a sign for first-aid and
went that direction. The first-aid people were also giving messages and that is
what I was interested in. The message was not a true message but more like a
power rub. It felt good all the same and I fell asleep in the middle of it.
Two goals at once accomplished. I felt hungry again and went to find the
food tent. It was Wednesday morning and I had eaten one meal since Monday
The checkpoint and food in Brest was as far to the West as you could
possibly go without getting saltwater in your shoes. They had us somewhere
in the harbor and the air smelled bad. I was not overly impressed with the
site location but was too weary to care. It was very hard leaving Brest.
Initially leaving the city of Brest was the most difficult. We had to leave
from sea level and climb. Eventually we would gain two thousand feet in the
next ten miles.
Other than the last portion of the ride, the return to Carhaix was the
most difficult for me. It seemed like we had to cross a ridge, I didn’t
remember it from the night before. If it were not for the large numbers of
cyclists heading West to Brest which indicated that by riding through the
night I had gotten ahead of them, I would have been profoundly discouraged.
The wind was very strong and especially at the crest of each rise or hill. I
was in first or second gear and just barely creeping along at times. I
couldn’t wait to get to the next Carhaix, I really was getting discouraged.
When I did pull into the checkpoint I did my usual stuff. I got my
route card stamped, mixed some Ultra and Exceed, and drank a couple of Cokes.
I had now been riding and or awake for the last thirty two hours. I felt it
time to take a nap. I asked in the control where the sleeping cots were and
was given directions. The sleeping arrangements were in a large pole building
used for indoor tennis or soccer. The sun was making it very hot and
uncomfortable and unlike out on the roadway there was no air movement inside.
When I walked in someone was dismantling the beds and making a lot of noise. I
asked the person to wake me in two hours. He told me that he was taking the
beds away and I could not sleep. I said wake me in two hours and turned away.
I slept about one hour and woke up not feeling any better. Feeling rotten
and miserable with nothing better to do I decided to ride on to Ludec.
I was feeling bad but my karma must have been strong because as I
approached my bike I spotted Tom Spantidas. Our bikes were parked right next
to each other, literally touching. You have to know Tom to really appreciate
him. He is about ten years older than me, which shouldn’t divulge either of
our ages exactly, but you could not tell by looking at his legs. You have to
look under his helmet to see his long silver hair, worn in a pony tail. I’ve
I had ridden along side Tom a few times during the brevets, he can also be a
real talker. This was someone I needed to ride with to boost my spirits. I
asked Tom how long before he was to leave and asked if I could join him. He
replied it would be only a matter of minutes and would be happy with my company.
Tom and I left Carhaix about 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon. While he
and I rode together we talked about how PBP was turning out for each other.
Tom said he had started with a small group of friends but because of
personality differences they decided to separate. Toms wife was part of his
support crew as were family members of his former riding partners. I was
wishing I had support and didn’t have to carry all my gear, but my plan was to
be as self sufficient as possible.
Tom was true to form. We kept up a lively conversation ranging through
many topics. We did discuss our progress and we convinced ourselves that we
were having a very good ride. If each of us were able to maintain the current
pace I would finish in around sixty to sixty five hours and Tom would finish
between sixty five and seventy hours. This was optimistic because I knew I
would be needing sleep tonight plus we were riding into slight headwind.
In the middle of the afternoon Tom and I came into one village and had
to pass through a secret control. Here again I confirmed with Toms route card
that there was no secret checkpoint on the loop I missed between Carhaix and
Brest. I was pretty sure I was safe because on the return this morning there
must have been several hundred riders who missed the turn even in daylight.
The ride to Ludec seemed to go quickly, we arrived about an hour or two
before dark. I was hungry again and decided to eat a meal, Tom and his wife
Rita also ate. We both felt sluggish after eating but decided to continue on
to Tinteniac, about thirty five miles down the rode. A few miles out of Ludec
we had to put on our vests and turn on the lights. Each of us was getting
extremely fatigued, at least once we stopped to do something and didn’t get
clicked out of our pedals fast enough and fell over. We would also be riding
along and see the lights of the next town, one of us would say ‘That must be
Tinteniac’. We did reach Tinteniac about 1:00 AM on Thursday, we both agreed
to get two and a half hours sleep. Tom and I went to eat another meal while
Rita arranged sleeping for us. The sleeping quarters for the riders was in
what resembled a school dormitory. By time we actually reached the room it was
2:00 o’clock, someone would come to wake us at 4:30. I took out my contacts,
which had been in for almost two days, stripped my cloths off and crawled
I was being rousted before I felt like I had rested enough. I couldn’t
have slept two and a half hours, I felt stiff, sore, and my eyes were real
gritty. I sat up because I new if I didn’t I would fall back asleep. I had to
wake up Tom again, at least I would get first chance at the bathroom. We spent
about thirty minutes getting ready to roll, it was just turning light when we
We were both still pretty beat up feeling, the conversation seemed to
lag a little this morning. About half way to the next checkpoint we passed
through a village and a young girl had a roadside coffee stand setup. Tom said
he needed some or would soon be falling asleep while riding. The coffee was
pretty strong and when we tried to pay the girl something she refused to take
money. Instead she gave us her address and requested a postcard sent from our
home. I sent her a left over post card form Disneyland with Mickey Mouse on it.
The next control was Forgeres and Tom and I got there around 9:30,
the omelet’s they were cooking smelled terrific. It was too hard to resist,
we ate breakfast. From here we only had one hundred and eighty miles left to
finish. I felt pretty good about an early arrival in Paris.
Shortly after leaving Forgeres the wind picked up. It was a strong
headwind and really slowed me down. I could not keep up with Tom and he rode
on ahead of me. I was surprised to see him in the next control when I arrived
It was about two hours ago that he left me. I told him he had to be concerned
for his own ride and not wait for me. From our conversations before I knew
that is what he would expect me to say and what I believed was right.
The people in the villages and small towns were very friendly. The
children would be out in the street giving high fives or water as you rode by.
The older people would also stand or lean out windows to say ‘good morning’ or
‘good courage’. I was even asked for my autograph by some children in Forgeres.
I remember the smell of bread as I passed the bakeries. Most villages were
organized the same, with the all roads leading to the center like spokes
on a wheel and a huge cathedral in the hub. I never tired of riding through the
villages. Tom and I had lots of fun ringing our bells like crazy when we
passed any local citizen. I also received some kind of response from the old
women when I said ‘Bon jour madame mouselle’, which meant good morning young
The wind never let up or changed direction all day. It became real
hard, I think it was as mentally difficult as physically difficult. I also
began to feel twinges of pain in my Achilles tendon in my left heel. I was
having motivation problems and did not feel like working very hard. I took
a couple of No-Doz to try to perk me up. I new I was riding slow when a
teenage girl passed me on a mountain bike. By the time I rode into Morgan
both Achilles were bothering me. I could not sit or stand without being in
some discomfort, pedaling hard really made them hurt.
I was again surprised to see Tom at the checkpoint. I did take
advantage of the situation this time and asked Rita if she could transport my
rear carrier bag to the finish. The weather was clear so I kept what clothing
I expected and jettisoned the rest. It was now Thursday evening and eighty-five
miles remained. I knew I would finish and wanted to finish that night, I would
not sleep. I did eat and rested for about fifteen or twenty minutes before
I could feel instantly that my bike was lighter, I hoped it wasn’t a
mistake. The first climb out of Morgan was very painful, it hurt everywhere
and I prayed there wasn’t any more like it. I barely crept up and over the
crest. Around dusk I felt like I was riding faster, the wind may have died or
I was delusional. Suddenly I heard someone coming up behind me anxiously saying
something in French. I didn’t have the faintest idea what he was saying but
he was pointing backwards. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure
out I had missed a turn. Some other riders had followed me and we turned
around and luckily had only gone about one kilometer down the wrong rode.
Around midnight it was getting chilly but I didn’t want to stop. I rode
up to an older rider, perhaps fifty-five or sixty years old, he was looking at
his cue sheet and a road marker. I was confused at first but understood that
he was trying to confirm if we were on the correct road. We were soon joined by
a few more riders. I looked on my map and did have the road on the route, they
did not include it in the cue sheet. I did not understand them and they did
not know what I was saying but we all understood the map. We took off again.
At the next town the route markings were bad again and we got lost. I
saw two cars parked in a lot with some people in it and I rode over to ask
for directions. One of the young girls could speak English and I explained to
her what I desired, then she told all her friends. I was pointing to the map
and indicating which town I wanted to get to. They said follow us and they
would lead me to the correct road, so off we went. In the process the girls
took me through the middle of the village and a group of people outside a pub
began to shout. I kept following the car because the girls were leading me.
They took me to the edge of town and pointed down the road saying this was the
road I wanted. I started but noticed that this road wasn’t on my route map.
I turned around and asked the girls to lead me back to the pub. When we got
back to pub I followed the direction the pubs patrons were pointing in and left
after saying thank you. Within a block I spotted route arrows and was happily
on my way out of this town.
It was the middle of the night and I was completely whipped, I came to
a secret control. I was demoralized to hear I had thirty-five more miles to
go. The fatigue was extreme because I had quit taking the No-Doz because I was
passing too much water and was concerned about dehydration. After getting the
route card stamped I went to get food. I ordered soup and a plate of pasta.
The soups were good and flavorful, however they were mostly like a broth. I
had a real soup after putting the pasta in mine. While I was eating the rest
of Toms riding partners pulled in. I filled them in with Toms progress and
they invited me to join them.
I must have been really exhausted because I felt cold and put on every
bit of clothing I had with me. It was apparent that I could not push hard
enough to stay with the group. Both Achilles were in constant pain now. It
would be a slow finish. An Englishmen rode with me for a time and I am glad
he did because I may have been a casualty without the company. There were some
difficult to follow sections near the end and he seemed familiar with this part
of the route. I was perfectly willing to be lead. The last six or seven
kilometers was on a large avenue, when we reached it the Englishman went on
without me. I was so tired that I stood and pedaled a few strokes, then
coasted for a block. I eventually finished and have never done anything as
difficult in my life.
1 rain jacket (windbreaker)
1 long sleeve jersey
3 short sleeve jerseys
1 sleeveless jerseys
4 cycling shorts
1 bib tights
1 reflective vest
1 cycling gloves
1 polypro gloves
15-16 Ultra Energy
12 energy bars
1 screwdriver (four heads)
1 set allen wrenches
1 chain tool (6 inches chain)
1 small bottle chain life
10-12 zip ties
1 Swiss army knife
1 MiniMag light
1 Cateye headlight
1 Cateye tail light
1 Vista light strobe
3-4 rubber bands
1 inner tube
6 tire boots
1 patch kit
1 set tire tools
1 spoke wrench
1 small tube toothpaste
1 contact lens case
1 small bottle lens solution
1 eye glasses
1 small tube udder balm
– Martin Fahje