DAY 1 – Greensboro, NC – South Boston, VA – 235 miles
This would be my second Grand Brevet. I felt like I am in good enough shape to sign up for it. I was planning everything with Hamid from DC Randonneurs ( who is also the new Northern VA RBA) . He has a ton of experience with 1200 km rides. This will be a good learning experience for me.
On the morning of the ride me and Hamid arrived with 45 minutes to spare. We completed the bike inspection and made some final adjustments. It was nice to finally see all the participants.
All 14 of us headed into the darkness at 4 am following the line of taillights. We were expecting hard first two days. 65 % of the climbing is actually on Day 1 with 16 000 ft. After pulling the stats on Strava I can`t help but notice two category 4 climbs ( Gradient of at least 3% and score of 8,000 or higher = 1 km at 8% ) . The goal was to use fresh legs and make good time while watching my Hearth Rate. I spend some time in the front with Mark Thomas and we chatted for a bit. This was his 10th Grand Randonee for the year and his RUSA number is 64. Enough said.
Me and Mark were in the front , then Hamid and another rider behind us. I turned around at one point to realize that Hamid was not there any longer. . . Larry Graham caught up to us and told us that he had a flat tire. Always suck to get a flat when is cold and dark but I am sure he will handle it. A Deer also was crossing in front of us, then possum. Got to be careful I guess . . .
Later on we were on Blue Ridge Pkwy heading North towards Roanoke ,Va. I remember some sharp hairpin turns on the climbs and then a dog was chasing me on the gravel as I was going up! I guess I should have listen to one of our DC Randonneurs members and bring some treats for the dogs 🙂
Five miles before 3rd Control at Wirtz, Va I ran out of water. What a rookie mistake. On the other hand heat and climbing makes you drink a lot of water. My focus was now ensuring that I am well hydrated for the rest of day one. Mark went ahead, Jan and Larry were close by , and Jeff a little behind. As I was about to leave the control, Hamid arrived . Instead of leaving I waited for him to get some supplies , rest and up the hills we went again . . .
The sunset on day one was Spectacular. I can`t even describe it with words so here are few pictures :
With night gear on, we were pushing forward with the hopes of finishing before midnight. We ended up arriving in South Boston at 11:25 pm.
DAY 2 – South Boston, VA – Haverlock, NC – 234 miles
We overslept and after 5 hours in bed finally departed. Look at the sunrise on day two:There was tingling feeling developing in my right knee and I was hoping that it will disappear with rest. Unfortunately after few hours of riding it came back. I was now dealing with this permanently. The hills from day one took a toll on me and running out of water did not helped either. I guess I have to suck it up now.
Things were not to get any easier anytime soon. The second day had plenty of climbing as well and we were still facing some headwind. I decided to soft pedal , take some ibuprofen and apply some gels on the knee. The support was top notch and our superstar Volunteer Larry was all over the place. Him and Tony did an excellent job.
We were immediately on a bumpy road after leaving a gas station control early in the morning. The road gave me a headache that was also going to haunt me for the rest of the day.
Towards the coast we went. It was great to see all the bikers later that day and Hamid was very excited. They share our pain because cars tend to push them around just like they do it to us. It was a group of about 50 bikers coming into town. Great feeling to see them all respecting us and giving us a hand sign. The handmade Pizza was just so delicious. We offered the bikers to switch bicycle for a motorcycle but that didn’t work 🙂
It was also very interesting for me to pass along all those cotton fields in rural North Carolina. I’ve never seen so much cotton fields in my life !It took us awhile to regroup with Hamid as he was ahead of me. There was no point staying together if I am moving slow. We figured that I will catch up later when feeling better. Eventually it was me , Hamid and Jan. Now we can ride together in the darkness and help one another.
I kept applying creams on the knee just to maintain the pain. Things got even worse as nigh fell down and I was not able to move my head too much. My back was also stiff. . . I was just nodding and not talking much , just like a robot. The Gravel section was also on the same night after we made a wrong turn with Jan and almost ended up on the highway. My hands were already beat up from the gravel and bumpy road and the aero bars didn’t even save me. The good thing is that the overnight control was not far.We arrived at the overnight in Havelock , NC at 1:50 am. This is actually perfect and it looks like we wont have to ride in the darkness on day 3.
DAY 3 – Havelock, NC – Benson, NC – 165 miles
We finally woke up in time for hotel breakfast. The food was actually really good.
I was mostly on my own on day 3 until I bumped into Hamid and Jan at Emerald Isle. We were now by the coast and It was so beautiful. There was also these high Bridge crossings over the water and I even managed to snap few pictures :
As soon as we entered Morhead, NC into Atlantic Beach things were looking a lot better. This was a flat day with only 2 000 ft of climbing in 165 miles. The result was that I felt a lot better and was able to move a little faster. As you can see from the Map, we were on this island strip for about 30 miles and it was so nice. Surrounded by water on both sides , beautiful houses, Palm trees and a nice bike trail along the way. This is a place that I actually want to visit again.
I couldn’t resist and stopped numerous times to take pictures. The sky was simply amazing . So far we have been lucky with no rain and overcast for the first 2 days.
Bumped into Hamid and Jan at Emerald Isle.
Things were heating up quickly. I got some more cold water and poured some on my head as well. We stayed together for a little and then Hamid vanished in the distance. Time to enjoy the scenery and take more pictures. We finally had a tailwind and it was still flat. What else can I ask for ?Everyone already had a great Haloween decoration setup. I guess my night riding is not going to be boring after all !
My core temperature was still high so I prioritized on liquids. Pickle juice helped but I couldn’t resist and had a beer at launch to fight off the cramps 🙂
Later on , I remember stopping at Mt.Olive. I was so hungry, but there was nowhere to stop prior that. After asking few locals I found the best Pizza place in town. They told me that my food will be ready in 6 minutes so I started setting up the night gear. Ten minutes later the Pizza was finally ready. It was very nice but I had to eat it in like 2 minutes and press on. No time to waste. . .
The sun was slowly coming down and so was Day 3 :I was pushing north on Rt. 50 towards the overnight at Benson, NC. My goal was to arrive there by 8 so I don`t have to do too much night riding. This was still a decent day with almost 12 h riding for 165 miles. We all felt like the hardest part is now done. 200 km to go on the last day and it was all going north ( tailwind ).
If I recall correctly the hotel for this overnight was not what we expected. A shower and a bed is a shower and a bed i guess. . .
DAY 4 – Benson, NC – Greensboro, NC – 116 miles
We got up in the middle of the night and had a nice breakfast at the near Waffle house :This would be a fun day. Only 115 miles remaining until the 10 pm cutoff. After refueling the engines we departed. It was already raining after we left the control at Angler , NC.
I was definately taking advantage of every moment I had to stretch my legs and lay down on the floor 🙂 True rando experience – sitting down next to Antifreeze bottles.
We met Aleksey there and he was also dealing with some knee issues. At 8:20 am we arrived at our final control before the finish – Pittsboro, NC. It was time for more pictures:I took the photo as Hamid dropped something on the ground and got a nice smile out of him 🙂 We now had almost 60 miles to the finish.
My knee was still giving me some issues and Hamid vanished again in the distance. We regrouped soon afterwards. Unfortunately, we saw Aleksey on the side of the road. He said that everything was ok, but later on we found out that he crashed and his frame was broken . . .
The spirits were high as we can now smell the finish line approaching. It was all laughs and giggles until the end and we had a great day of cycling with Hamid. The rain even stopped. He told me that I didn’t take one nice picture of him and so I did and here is the proof :Sadly, with about 30 miles to the finish I was still in pain. We wanted to finish together and kept waiting for one another for 3 days. Hamid said that he will wait for me down the road and gave me some Arnica cream for the knee. I waited a little for the medicine to kick in and left.
By the way I have a new nickname – “Young Jedi” 🙂 Still trying to figure that one out. Maybe because I tend to always put a good fight . . .
The knee was soon feeling a lot better and I was flying. All was well until I got close to Jamestown ,NC.
With about 30 miles to the finish I got pulled over by the police ! The officer told me that I wasn’t completely behind the white line and crossed on switching signal. He was a cyclist himself. Not much I can say, except thank him for the work he is doing.
I then climbed up the next big hill and waited for my riding partner Hamid. Here we were still together after a 4 day adventure and finishing at 1:54 pm with 8 hours to spare in 81 h 54 min. This is improvement of about 7 hours from PBP and we slept for about 15 hours combined : )
Not much festivities at the finish. I just wanted to shower and drink some cold beer. Jeff arrived just minutes behind us. The next finishers were Metin with his FIXED bike , Jan from Vermont and Mark Thomas(finishing his 51st Grand Randonee).
It was such a pleasure to share the road with these great human beings.
Here is the official list of all finishers. Congrats to all