Thursday, November 5, 2015

Charly Miller Society member, Ed Bernasky's Preparations for PBP 2015

Tom thanks for the fantastic Brevets that you run, they are perfect allaround.   I hope there may be a few tidbits to help a future PBP rider-that is my hope for this long note.

For the New PBP bound rider……don’t forget finishing is everything…….

Successful PBP completion "simply" means finishing under 90 hour, 84 hours, or 80 hours for the Touristes, Randonneurs, and Vendettes groups, respectively. Finishing is everything. That is it. New Randonneur-do not forget this.  So simple in theory.  Paris Brest Paris is hard and trust me, it can hurt.  What else accounts for a  25-30% failure rate?  Anyone who successfully finishes PBP is an Ancien for good reason.  That is THE goal. Nonetheless, efficiency and energy management benefits all riders whether they are full value riders who wish a few extra hours sleep or a rider seeking to do the Grande Randonnee in Charly Time.  Randonneuring is a big tent and some riders consider Brevets to be a personal test, almost like a personal time trial test albeit not a race-that is my view although I do not advocate this old school mindset.  I say this because I shall always offer to help a fellow Rando with problems whether or not I have any time objectives for the ride.  As most of us might know, Charly Miller from Chicago rode PBP in 1901 as an unsupported Professional completing the then course along the Route National on "old" technology in a heroic time of 56:40; and, RUSA recognizes modern day US Randonneurs who equal this feat although quite obviously we all know that there is no direct comparison from then and now. Nonetheless, Charly Miller Time takes some doing.  A good number of Europeans in the 80H group do PBP as a quasi race and the start is brisk and racing experience can be helpful although not necessary.  Other than the start, the controls were empty when I got there and this was one of my reasons for selecting the 80 hour start group.   I did Charly time unsupported  excepting one drop bag in Loudeac although nearly all the riders that I saw were supported and if any future riders wish specific advice, please chat me up on a Brevet. I shared with a few PA Randos that I painfully failed at PBP in 1995 tearing my posterior cruciate ligament after some much too fast times to the initial controls and some special circumstances. It took me years to be free of pain and for a variety of life reasons, it took almost 20 years for my return to cycling.  I am glad to be back.  I have learned and hope the following message comes across that success at PBP on whatever time scale  is to a large extent about pacing, time management, and energy management (don't go too hard, rest when essential, keeping warm or cool, and eating the right energy sources as you go along). Pacing- it does not matter if you are shooting for 88:55 or 56:40. Sounds simple.  Going too hard can do more than result in a DNF.  Pace yourself-it is a long way.  It ain't easy.  Pacing is about energy output-you will go faster initially at PBP because of the mass of riders and the slipstream effect.  Using left over time judiciously is merely the spice in the soup.  Getting it done is the meat and potatoes.

So, what is in this for any misguided, sleep deprived Rando, if anything?  The following random ideas might save you time.  Some are basic. Time that can be spent taking pictures, eating a nice meal, sleeping, or simply spending less time in the saddle (my preference). Spend this time as you wish.  Maybe a cushion for a mechanical or nasty, cold rain.  

What worked?  
1.      Giving up caffeine for 3 months before PBP.  One 200 mg of caffeine on night two at 3 am was all I needed to do the ride w/o sleep.  What a jolt.  Now, I know many may  think this is crazy but please consider it for safety reasons or just stop and sleep for safety sakes.  I was not stopping at that point.  Period.  I would have frozen to death. LOL.  
2.      Losing weight helped with climbing and saving time.  I could have been lighter but I did lose a lot of fat although my fully geared up bike went nearly 30 pounds….nearly twice the weight of some 80H riders.
3.      Polarized training (google Seiler if interested) increased my talking speed (LT1) power by 50 watts (31%) and the increase in my Rando speed showed up in my overall times this year.  Polarized training just fits Randonneuring and is not as punishing for older bodies as many other approaches in my opinion.  Why train?  Because 1230 KM is already hard and most of us can't do multiple 1200K rides per year.  Why polarized?  I only have to suffer one interval session per week and the other rides are relatively easy, fun paced rides albeit lots of miles (talking speed).  I did more than a SR series and got a lot of climbing in.  Lots of PA Rando riders do R12 and more in PA hills; so, I realize this suggestion is pretty basic.  I personally consider a SR series to be a minimal preparation.  I rode 9,000 miles in the seven months leading up to PBP including four 400k Brevets because I consider these to be the acid test of a Rando.  My training was spot on for my objectives. 
4.      Assos S7 Cento and Laniseptic worked for me.  One pair of shorts properly lubed and I had zero saddle issues as if I had never ridden.  The Berthoud saddle is also great for me.
5.      Garmin 800 ran flawlessly using a Gomadic battery pack with Energizer Lithium Ultimates, except the Heart Rate monitor function crapped out.  I never once turned the wrong way or had to search for an arrowed PBP reflective sign that in some cases seemed high on poles for those with German lighting with strict beam cutoffs.
6.      Four water bottles with maltodextrin from  the start got me to Villaine (221 km) and this might be a good idea to get to Mortagne (140km) with a group.
7.      I kept to my pacing limits as best I could absent a functional HRM.  Learning and keeping to them is critical. 
8.      It gets cold and damp during PBP (40-45F at night).  I was prepared with a wool tee shirt, arm and leg warmers, and thin wool gloves and or course, wool socks always for me.
9.      I always try to spend as little time at controls by having a plan before arriving and executing it ruthlessly.  Typically, I put powder into my bottles, get my card signed, fill the bottles, shake and then I just go.  Go.  Eat as you ride slowly.  It is easy to consume 10-20 unproductive hours at controls at PBP.   Be mindful.  This is a learned skill.  I am just trying to say be mindful of when, where, how, and the length of time spent at controls.  It really adds up.  I wasted a lot of time at Loudeac both ways and in Brest because I was confused where things were and there is a ton of walking needed at Brest to get from the control to the foods and then to the toilets and then to get water.
10.  I had fun.   I am fortunate to have been to France many  times and I decided to ride for Charly Miller time and hope for Ian Hands time someday.  When you arrive at Villaine, take it in.  Suck it in.  They are honoring you by treating you like a TDF rider or maybe even almost like a rock star.  Thank the people cheering for you.  It can be overwhelming.  It was for me at times.  Slam the hands of 7 year olds cheering for you in the little villages.  Give them a thumbs up and a Merci.  I would usually wave and then get out of the saddle in response and the French fans would go absolutely berserk.  They really are fans. They know. C'est dur.  The vibes would be good for the next 10 km.  Soak it up.  To me, this is PBP.
11.  I got to Paris early to acclimatize and rest (slept as much as I could).  I did a 50 mile ride Sunday before leaving, an easy 15 mile ride on Tuesday, a very hard 65 mile ride on Wednesday, and an easy 40 mile ride on Friday.  This represents about half my normal non-brevet week volume and I started PBP with fresh legs.  The previous week was about 75% of my normal volume and my last Brevet was the hilly August 2 NJ 300K.
12.  I made sure my bike was in tip top shape having ripped it down to the guts including new chain, cassette, bearings, and all cables, padded bar wrap, tubes and tires.
13.  I generally ate 150-250 calories every hour like clockwork (except one little incident below)
14.  After bonking somewhere towards Loudeac in the cold, damp, dark hills, I knew an extended rest and feeding was needed.   (I could not locate my drop bag in Villaines and some early controls do not have foods yet for the fast riders).   Anyways...I had to spend 45 minutes getting myself back under my control whilst at the Loudeac control outbound. The takeaway message for a new Rando is this.....Managing your energy intake and output is the key challenge for many reasons...BUT….If you need a rest-TAKE A REST.  Don’t quit.  Life will get better in 20-30 minutes.  It may take an hour for your brain to normalize once the glucose levels kick up.  Your mood will improve.

What did not work?  My front derailleur got wacked and thus my right hand got greasy having to stop and unjam my chain frequently and it put back onto the chain ring until I ultimately just used the big ring unless the small ring was essential.  My left rear seat stay broke during the ride and made a lot of complaining noises. Pretty minor blips.  I had hoped to be able to stay with the groups but it was eventually not possible for me to catch the fast riders who were in and out of controls like an Indy 500 pit stop and thus, I rode a lot solo unfortunately. I had some issues with the bag drop service but your mileage may vary.   Everything else went according to plan about as well as can be expected.

I apologize if anything above is unclear or untoward and as I indicated, I just hope there are a few tidbits especially for the new Rando if it helps them.  I know that most PA Randos have much more expertise than me but maybe there is something in there.....

Ed  RUSA#560

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chris Nadovich's PBP Ride Report

2011 has been quite a busy year with PBP and several other grand randonnees here in the USA.  In looking over the various event websites, Eastern PA riders have done very well on the big rides.  With the ancien tradition in mind of leading the way for others to follow later on, I've asked the participants to share their thoughts and comments on the following:
- your event and result
- what was unique or special about the event
- would you participate again
- your preparations, and anything you would do differently
- any links to pictures, ride reports, or other comments you'd like to share

Chris Nadovich kicks off this series with his report below.  Although Chris has only been riding brevets for a couple of years, he has shared many miles with Bill Olsen and as a result, benefited from Bill's vast experience of riding a 1200k.

-Tom Rosenbauer
Eastern PA RBA

***************** Chris Nadovich's PBP Report  ************************
I finished PBP well within the 90 hours. I rode conservatively, aiming to enjoy the experience and simply to finish without anxious time pressure. And that's exactly how it worked out. I never had less than 2 hours in the bank. I ate plenty; slept adequately; and saw enough neat stuff to last a lifetime.

Personal Note: You should know, Tom, that I never would have started PBP without your encouragement; I never would have finished PBP without your tough brevets and useful advice. Thanks for inspiring me
to have my name inscribed in the big book! 

Anyway, my PBP photos are linked here and here.

I received lots of advice and other information prior to PBP. Not all of this information matched my experiences. Here's a True/False list of PBP conceptions and MIS-conceptions based on my experience.

1. PBP is easy --- FALSE
I had a lot of people tell me things like: "If you rode the PA series, then PBP will be easy." Well, although I'm very, very glad I rode the PA series, AND the tough Englewood 600K, AND beat myself up on various other brevets and "training" adventures (e.g. a Trans Am ride) in the years leading up to PBP, there is simply NO WAY that PBP seemed anything like easy. I don't think I would have finished PBP without that training. I did not spend any time "on the edge" but PBP was, never the less, a non-trivial cycling project. Part of this is doubtless the nature of any 1200K brevet, no matter what the course.

2. PBP is basically flat -- FALSE
Much of the riding reminded me of Lancaster County. Lots of long rolling hills through farmland and small towns with churches. Occasionally we'd cross more significant grades, like the grades in and out of Brest, or near Mortagne au Perche. These reminded me of riding out west -- long slogs. There was nothing equivalent to the 15-20% gaps, ravines, and glens we have here in PA, but I wouldn't call any of PBP "flat".

3. You waste a lot of time at PBP controls -- FALSE
If you are riding on the hairy edge of the control closing time, it can be a rude surprise that the place where they stamp your card is a 5 minute walk from where you park your "machine". Otherwise, I never spent more time in a control town than I wanted to. I ate delicious sit-down meals, I took showers, I slept, I drank some beers, and I chatted with riders and whatever locals would tolerate my broken French. Not a minute of it was "wasted".

4. There's no place to sleep at the controls -- FALSE
There were hundreds of open cots at Ludeac. It was a little tighter at some of the other controls, but there was always ample room. Yes, people skip the controls and sleep in the weirdest places: on medians, ditches, under tables, in phone booths, in any imaginable place. But for a mere 4 euros, I always could have a reasonable bed and a pre-arranged wake-up nudge in the "disco morgue" that is a PBP control dortoir.

5. Always ride defensively. Assume everybody else is drunk -- TRUE
This was excellent pre-PBP advice given to me by Bill Olsen. I've been to four RAGBRAIs and I've never dodged so many seemingly drunken bike riders as I encountered at PBP. Riders would swerve erratically,
making crazy lines. They'd hammer past, then put on their brakes and stop dead in the middle of the road. They'd just stand there like idiots, blocking the way. You were never safe from the "drunkards". One time I was stopped under a street light, well off the road. I was adjusting my clothes for the drizzle that had just begun when a rider rode up and stopped next to me. He opened his mouth and I thought he was going to exchange some pleasantries, but instead he bent over and puked right in front of my feet. Unbelievable!

6. Showing up a few days early is a good idea -- TRUE
It adds to the cost, but arriving on Tuesday, five days before the start, is a great plan. I had a blast touring around with other riders -- going to cafes, restaurants, tourist sites, shopping, and just hanging out in the hotel lobbies with everyone.  Beyond the fun of making friends and seeing sights in a foreign country, there's advantage in getting acclimated before the actual ride. There were numerous shakedown tours organized by various groups, some of which rode nearby segments of the course. These helped me feel comfortable, and on start day I began with a couple hours of familiar riding. If I ever do PBP again, and if my schedule allows, I'll stay in France PBP celebration.

7. I'd regret choosing the 90 hour free start -- FALSE
The 90 hour free start was awesome! I lined up at 8:45 PM and was released to start at about 9:10 PM with my exact departure time recorded by the chip as my official start time. There were always groups of riders to join, but not crazy-big packs. In contrast, some people that lined up for the 90 hour mass start had to wait hours in the hot sun before starting. In many cases they were not riding till 8PM and they had to deal with all the insanity associated with giant peletons. Part of the reason the free start went so well was because only a few riders chose this option. There was no crowd. Still, the PBP officials were very efficient with the free starts. I expect that the free start will remain and will still be a very good option in 2015.

8. The French people are wonderfully supportive -- TRUE
There's no way to adequately describe the depth and breadth of support you get from ordinary people. There are people literally everywhere cheering you on. Day, night, sun, rain, in town or out in the middle of nowhere, there are people cheering "Bonne Route!". A little girl handed me a bunch of fresh flowers, at night, in a drizzly fog. She said "Bon Courage, Monsieur." Things like that just melt your heart.

9. Language would not be a problem -- TRUE
I have studied French, and can read it pretty well, but like anybody who's never used their "book language" to talk to actual people, I was initially shy to speak. That reluctance evaporated after some sleep deprivation and on PBP I was yapping away in pidgin French with wanton abandon to whomever would listen. Not that it mattered. Doubtless my Franglais babbling was incomprehensible to everyone -- especially my attempts at French versions of phrases like: "Where the !%#^&* did Claus hide our drop bags?" In general, pointing at things and looking pathetic were enough to get me whatever I needed.

10. Des Peres Travel does a good job -- FALSE
Knowing what I know now, I would never have booked my plane tickets through Des Peres. Yes, he can save you a few pennies here and there with "group rates" but I did not see Des Peres lift one finger to help
anybody in the least when we all needed to rebook because of the storm. I expected travel arrangements to be "pay and forget", with the Des Peres handling rebooking and contingencies (possibly charging extra fees), but that's not how it was. We bought group packages entirely at our own risk, and were effectively on our own thereafter. This was problematic because group tickets cannot be easily altered by anyone other than the group organizer. If I return to PBP, I'll buy my own airline ticket direct from an airline. Even for the hotel, bus, and drop bag, I'd think twice before using Des Peres again.

-Chris Nadovich, PBP 2011 finisher

*** Update 8/8/14***
Claus Claussen, from Des Peres Travel provided a follow-up to the travel difficulties on the return from Paris:  "... I remember that there was a hurricane on the US East Coast. I had told those concerned on Sunday Morning,  that Air France would fix alternatives at the airport, and they did. I pointed out that being on a Sunday, the US Group department was closed, besides the 6 hour time difference. Therefore I could not reach them in the US. All those who went to the airport with the transfer buses, left to the US to Boston and then by train; NY and Washington were closed to all traffic.  Therefor it is unfair to accuse Des Peres of doing nothing, I tried, but the concerned did not want to come with me to the airport. ...."

If you book with  Des Peres and and lock in the prices, you just pay $ 200 and in case  of  cancellation, you lose only  $ 50. If  you buy  your airline  ticket yourself, it is 100% non-refundable.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

PA Randonneurs' PBP Reflective Vest Update #2

The PA Randonneurs' PBP reflective vests have been shipped.  If you haven't received your order, please contact me ASAP.  For those of you who did not opt for shipping, you can pick up your order at the upcoming 200k events on July 30 and August 13.  The current order status is:

We have the following extra PBP-compliant vests available for ordering or size exchanges:

The remaining vests are all yellow, and branded with the PA Randonneurs logo, as shown here:

Contact me at if you'd like to place an order or exchange a size.

-Tom Rosenbauer
Eastern PA RBA

Monday, July 4, 2011

PA Randonneurs Reflective Vests Have Arrived

The PA Randonneurs reflective vests have arrived. The vests will be sent via US mail to those who requested home delivery. Please let Ron ( if you need the vest for a brevet right away, such as the NJ Catskills 600K, and he will get them in the mail first. Vests will also be available for pick up at the next PA Randonneurs event which is the PA R-12 Hawks Nest 200K brevet scheduled for 7/30.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Patience Required

Unlike many web-based processes, PBP registration does not provide instant gratification to which we've grown accustomed. Once you have completed your registration, entered your homologation numbers, and paid your money, you will still need to wait for the folks at ACP to review your submission before you'll receive your Frame Number. This should occur in the next couple of weeks. Patience, Grasshopper. Patience.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reflective Vest Order Update

We just received word from the manufacturer in France that the PA Randonneurs reflective vest order should be shipped from their factory in France to the PA Randonneurs on June 17, 2011. Hopefully the vests will arrive by the end of June.

Check back for more updates as further information becomes available. We will send out an email to everyone once the vests arrive.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Registration Draws Nearer

The latest PBP registration information from Mark Thomas:

Registration for PBP opens Saturday, June 11 (Paris time) - or Friday afternoon in the US. Because the US did not fill up its quota of entries during the pre-registration process, ALL riders can register at this time regardless of pre-registration status. (Over 200 spaces are left as of the morning of 6/7).

New 2011 riders (and any other rider that did not complete a brevet in 2010) do NOT have to wait until preregistration places free up on June 20.

Preregistered riders must complete their registration at this time. Ideally, they would do so before pre-registrations are released after June 19, but our quota status may make that less important. In all events, registration must be completed before July 17.

As cautioned before, everything from me or anyone else at RUSA about PBP is unofficial. RUSA does not manage PBP. Official ACP information on PBP registration can be found here

and here
(especially Articles 5-7)

We have not seen the registration form, but here's my best guess as to what to have available when you go online to register:

(1) The homologation (certificate) numbers for at least three of your four qualifying brevets; i.e., your 200, 300, 400, 600 brevets in 2011 (or longer, if you are substituting a longer brevet for a shorter). If you don't have all four, you must add the last one by the time registration closes on 7/17.

(2) A credit card to make payment for the ride.

(3) For pre-registered riders, please also have the Dossier Number (US-###) and password from your pre-registration. Check your confirmation email from you preregistration for these. If you can't find them, contact me for help.

To get the homologation (certificate) numbers for your brevets in the US, you can go to the RUSA results search page. From, select "Search For . . . Results" from the left hand menu. Enter your RUSA number to get your results. If the certificate number is blank, that means that RUSA has not yet received the certificate number for that event from the ACP.

For your information, the process that results in certificate numbers being posted on the website is not instantaneous. First, your RBA needs to submit the results to RUSA. Then the RUSA brevet coordinator (me) batches those up and submits them to the ACP. Then the ACP numbers the results and sends a spreadsheet back to RUSA. Then the RUSA brevet coordinator posts those numbers to the website.

If a qualifying brevet was done outside the US, you will have to contact the organizer for the certificate number.

Once registration starts and we see the actual form being used, we can update this information with any other registration requirements.



Some other notes:
1. Be certain of your desired start group when beginning the registration process. It is unlikely that you will be able to change it once your registration is complete.
2. The RBAs and Mark Thomas are taking steps to expedite certification of ACP results from now until registration closes. If you haven't yet completed your qualifying series, rest easy. RUSA will make sure that your results are posted as quickly as possible.
3. Don't neglect your training in June & July simply because you've completed your qualifying series. Most regions have brevets scheduled in June and July to help you. Take advantage of these opportunities so you'll be in top form come August 21 and have an enjoyable and memorable PBP.