Monday, July 2, 2012

Boston-Maine Red Eye Express

MA-NH Border, Dirigo Dynamo
I still can't believe this, but over the weekend I took part in the first annual Dirigo Dynamo - an unsupported overnight bike ride from Boston to Maine along the New England coast, returning by train in the morning. An homage to the Dunwich Dynamo in the UK, the Dirigo Dynamo was designed to end at the seacoast and to coincide with the full moon. Dirigo is the state motto of Maine and it means "I lead." When this ride was suggested to me, it sounded exciting and knowing both of the organisers (Jon and Brian) I had faith in their leadership. But I also had serious doubts about my ability to do it. The full length of the route was over 200K (120 miles), and I had not ridden that kind of distance before. Neither had I done long rides in the dark before, let alone any all-night rides. As the weekend of the Dirigo Dynamo approached I grew increasingly worried. Could I handle the miles? Could I handle the unlit roads? Could I ride through the night without sleep? Expressing these concerns to others was pointless, because for most cyclists I know a ride like this is either a piece of cake ("Of course you should do it! How else will you ever work up to a 1200K?") or too absurd to contemplate ("Are you insane? You are taking this cycling thing too far!")

Souped Up Seven, Dirigo Dynamo
When I finally made up my mind to go, there was only a week left to prepare and I started making frantic changes to my bike. I swapped saddles twice, unable to decide which was less likely to cause me pain after 100 miles. I switched my tires for wider ones. And I borrowed a dynamo front wheel from a friend. I then quizzed every randonneur I knew about the merits of various reflective vests and helmet lights, finally acquiring these items days before the ride. In the end it all came together, and my bike - though looking rather frankenbikish - was well equipped for night riding on country roads.

I studied the route and made a plan, my strategy being to pace myself and stick with the slower riders. I also made a bail-out plan in the event of emergency. I thought carefully about food, deciding to opt for specific foods based on my experiences on previous rides. 

Dill Pickle Packed, Dirigo Dynamo
Everything I packed on the ride fit either into this deceptively small Dill Pickle bag or in my jersey pockets. This included: tools, two spare tubes, a bungee cord for securing the bike on the train later, a jacket, clear glasses for when it grew dark, band-aids, pain medication, sun screen, chamois cream, food, and a small toy cat (lucky charm). In my jersey pockets I carried money, ID, phone, and more food. I had the route downloaded on GPS and also brought cue-sheets in case the GPS malfunctioned or someone forgot theirs. 

The food I carried included: 6 single packets of almond butter, a bag of sun-dried tomatoes, a bag of dried cranberries, a packet of Stinger "energy chews," a banana, and a small carton of chocolate milk. There was a dinner stop planned at midnight, so this was meant to tide me over in addition to that meal. I filled my water bottles with a home made "salty lemonade" mix, over ice. One had a higher concentrated mixture than the other, identified by the colour of the bottle. 

Bloc 11 Start, Dirigo Dynamo
The meeting point for the ride was at 5:30pm on Saturday evening, at a cafe just a mile from where I live. I planned to stay up late the night before and sleep late on the day of our departure, but I was too nervous and woke up earlier than intended. All through the night I had anxious dreams. In one dream, my hands went numb and I lost the ability to shift gears, just as a hill was coming up. In another dream my dynamo light stopped working. Not only did I fail to get a good night sleep, but I was so nervous that I had trouble eating all day. But finally I force-fed myself an early dinner, got ready, and set off. 

Bloc 11 Start, Dirigo Dynamo
When I arrived, the reassuring sight of several familiar bikes calmed me down a bit. The Mercian, the Rawland, the Bianchi 650B conversion - I was in the right place. Before I even entered the cafe, I knew who would be there. There was a total of 6 of us gathered. In addition to the ride leaders I was pleased to spot JP Twins and Somervillain

Bloc 11 Start, Dirigo Dynamo
I also recognised Scott (on the right) from the Ride Studio Cafe. He comes to the Sunday rides but we'd never been introduced until now. I had mistakenly thought Scott was a racer, but it turns out he is a long distance rider. The only person in our group other than myself riding a modern roadbike, the contraptions he had it equipped with were fascinating.

Minor Mechanical, Dirigo Dynamo
As planned, we set off at 6pm and aside from a quickly-resolved mechanical issue (loose fender bolt) our departure from Boston went off without incident. Nonetheless, I found this first leg of the trip to be highly stressful. There is no easy way to leave town heading North and for what must have been 10 miles we navigated busy suburban roads, with tricky intersections and impatient drivers, in 90 degree heat and humidity. The hyper-vigilance and constant clipping/unclipping this required exhausted me. But just when I was starting to feel worn out, it was over and we were cycling on idyllic country roads. 

Bloc 11 Start, Dirigo Dynamo
The interesting thing about a long distance ride is that it can go through personality changes. This was to be the first of many. As we headed North toward the New Hampshire border with the city behind us and the sun gently setting, I had the sensation of having broken free. The roads ahead were endless and beautiful. The ocean awaited. The temperature was dropping. The night's approach seemed like a friendly thing, not threatening. We were staying together as a group, and I felt good on the bike. Maybe I could do this after all.

Melinda's Cycling Frog, Dirigo Dynamo
Before I knew it, we were at mile 25 and approaching our first rest stop. At this stage I had just gotten warmed up and was feeling remarkably good. The cycling frog that greeted us seemed to be cheering me on. 

Melinda Lyon, Dirigo Dynamo
At this rest stop we visited Melinda - a well-known local randonneur - who would also be joining us from that point on. Here we were offered lemonade, bathroom facilities, and water for our bottles, before we promptly continued our journey.

Boxford MA, Dirigo Dynamo
It was around this time that the sun began to set. I turned on my lights and tried not to get nervous about the approaching hours of darkness. Soon after we set off, there was a natural split into a faster and a slower group and I stayed with the slower. There were three of us: myself, Brian and Somervillain. It was agreed that we'd cycle together at a pace comfortable to all and by no means leave anyone behind in the dark.

The next 30 miles were the part of the ride during which I felt most energetic and optimistic. The night came gradually and there was no distinct moment when the realisation of darkness hit me. Some roads had occasional street lights installed, others were pitch black. When we rode under overarching trees it was darker than when we rode under an unobstructed sky with the full moon. There was a lot of variety and not just a blanket, uniform darkness. All three of us had excellent lights, and riding in a cluster we had a cozy little oasis of light surrounding us. Descending in the darkness was a thrill. I conserved my energy and coasted a great deal downhill, and without the visual context it felt like falling. Climbing in the dark was a different kind of thrill, because often I would not see the hill coming but would all of the sudden feel it - having to downshift quickly. I have no idea why I enjoyed this, but I did; it became a sort of game.

Fireworks! Dirigo Dynamo
As we approached the New Hampshire border around mile 50, I felt strong and elated from the newness of cycling in the dark. And as if to celebrate this, we were greeted with fireworks. I have never watched fireworks while cycling before, so this was quite an experience. Just as we made a brief stop to eat and check our equipment, the last burst of them lit up the sky and we managed to take some feeble snapshots with our camera phones. We then proceeded across the bridge to the New Hampshire Seacoast - briefly catching up with the faster group, which was now joined by one more cyclist - Hugh, and his beautiful Heron bike. Once in New Hampshire, the 5 of them surged ahead again as we maintained our tamer pace. In another 20 miles, we would meet up for dinner in Portsmouth. 

MA-NH Border, Dirigo Dynamo
It is so odd how I can go from feeling great on a ride one moment, to not feeling as if I can continue the next. It happened around mile 65. We had just passed a precarious section of the New Hampshire Seacoast - Hampton Beach, with its rowdy drunk revelers and dense traffic - and were now continuing north through the gorgeous and quiet town of Rye. With the ocean on our right, saltwater marshes on our left and very few cars on the road, this was an idyllic stretch of the route. But suddenly - just as we were riding through the most scenic part - I felt a sharp pain in my lower back, like a strained muscle. This has never happened to me before, and I did not know what to make of it. So I ignored it at first, but it intensified to such an extent that I had to stop and stretch on the side of the road. When I got back on the bike it was fine at first, but just a couple of miles later the pain returned and became unbearable again. With just a few miles left before our dinner rest stop, I began to wonder whether I'd have to implement my emergency bail-out plan. This thought upset me, so I clenched my teeth and kept cycling, arriving at the Portsmouth Brewery around midnight and at mile 68, in terrible pain.

Portsmouth Brewery Rest Stop, Dirigo Dynamo
The faster group was already waiting for us, and they'd ordered plates heaping with nachos covered with vegetables and cheese, to which we gladly helped ourselves. 

I then snuck away to the ladies' room with some diaper rash cream in my pocket. Now that I was off the bike for a few minutes, I became aware that I had developed painful rashes everywhere. What I saw in the florescent bathroom light was worse than I'd imagined: The skin around my shins was broken where it came in contact with the edges of my socks. The skin around my calves was broken where it came in contact with the hems of my cycling knickers. My wrists, the skin around my collarbone, and other, less publicly visible areas, were suffering the same fate. A couple of fingers on my right hand were bleeding from rubbing against the brake hoods. I have very sensitive skin and it must have been unusually humid for this to happen. I applied diaper rash cream everywhere I could and wrapped my fingers in band-aids. Later I took an Advil while eating some more nachos. I also went outside and stretched, trying to understand what muscle I'd pulled to cause the kind of pain I had experienced for the previous several miles. Would it improve after some stretching or would it only get worse over time? 

Portsmouth Brewery Rest Stop, Dirigo Dynamo
At dinner we learned about the other group's adventures. Apparently Melinda's derailleur had developed a problem, so she removed it, making do with a single ring. Later more things would go wrong and she would end up finishing the ride in single speed mode. Nonetheless they were all in good spirits and Jon impressed us with his beer drinking ability.

Amidst the merriment I was trying to decide what my course of action should be. What bothered me about the idea of bailing, was that I wasn't even tired. My legs were fine, I could keep pedaling. My energy levels were far from depleted. I ate, I drank, I went at a moderate pace - I'd done everything right. Where was this weird back pain coming from? As I brooded over this, my cycling companions suggested an alternative scenario: As the slower group, we could alter the route slightly and make our trip an even century (160K). As it happened, there was another train station at exactly this distance, making it a perfect end-point for the ride. Brian was under the weather and not feeling strong enough to do the 200K route. Somervillain did not mind the shorter option either. And for me, this would mean cycling "only" another 30 or so miles. Frankly, at that stage I did not feel that I could ride another 5 miles, let alone 30. But somehow this plan nonetheless seemed perfect and I did not want to break up our nice trio.

Illuminated, Dirigo Dynamo
In order for the milage to work, we edited the rest of the route to hug the coast the entire way. The original route involved a lengthy detour, because the main bridge connecting Portsmouth, NH to Kittery, ME (they are separated by a bay) was under construction. However, I happened to know that there was an alternative bridge allowing for the same coastal crossing. Though technically not open to cyclists, in reality it was perfectly cyclable and allowed us a scenic and direct coastal route all the way to the train station in Wells, Maine, without the inland detour. This would make our total trip an even 100 miles. We said our good-byes to the fast group and set off.

I led the way to the nuclear submarine, behind which the onramp to the bridge was hidden, and we crossed over to Maine without incident. The next 25 miles were a bit of a blur. My back pain kept returning. When it got to be too much, I'd ask to stop and stretch. I was also grateful that Brian asked to stop occasionally. Our progress through this section was slow and laborious. It was a gorgeous route and I tried to enjoy the beauty and the quiet despite my discomfort. 

Nocturnal Beach, Dirigo Dynamo
The night was serene and welcoming. Rural Maine is spooky, but in a way I find to be almost seductive rather than outright scary. There were dilapidated farm houses, thick woods, endless marshes. We could smell the ocean on our right, but only barely see it, which added to the mystery. The full moon helped light the way.

We encountered almost no cars along this stretch, but we did encounter a bicycle policeman around York Beach, at what must have been 3 in the morning. I believe he asked about a lost boy or maybe a suspect in some misdemeanor. I wish I'd taken a picture of him, because now I am wondering whether I imagined this. Around 3 in the morning was also when I got quite sleepy and came close to hallucinating. A couple of times I thought Brian and Somervillain were taking to me, when they weren't. The road ahead got blurry. I saw things from the corner of my eye that weren't there. It was as if I was starting to dream while still awake and pedaling.

Brian P, Dirigo Dynamo
And then, just as suddenly, I felt alert and refreshed again. We were just pulling into the town of Ogunquit, with only 5 miles to the Wells train station from there. And all the sudden it felt like morning, even though it was still pitch black outside. We would definitely finish the 100 miles and we were having a good time.

Wells, ME - Dirigo Dynamo
Around 4am we began seeing food delivery trucks, joggers and dog walkers on the roads. Feeling a fresh surge of energy, we made the final miles to Wells, even circling around the train station a couple of times to make sure our ride was a full 100 miles. We checked our computers and saw that our average speed had been 13mph. 

Wells, ME - Dirigo Dynamo
We collapsed outside of the station doors, as it would not be open for at least another hour.

Wells, ME - Dirigo Dynamo
As the sun rose, the station opened. We then waited inside for the 6:30am train. The lady at the station was delighted to learn that we had cycled all night from Boston and were about to take the train back. 

Bikes on Downeaster Train, Dirigo Dynamo
On board the conductor allowed us to take our bikes right into the passenger's car. We sort of jammed them in between the seats. The train car was air conditioned and for the first time on this trip I felt cold. I was glad that this allowed me to make use of the jacket I'd packed. I put it on and promptly passed out in fetal position next to my bike. 

Bikes on Downeaster Train, Dirigo Dynamo
When I opened my eyes we were in Boston, and still half-awake I ushered my bike out of the train. We then took the commuter rail to Somerville (all three of us are practically neighbours) and I - just barely - rode the last mile home from the Porter Square T-station. Then I collapsed and did not wake up until 2pm. And then I took the longest bath ever. And I ate. And I ate some more. Cycling, eh?

Wells, ME - Dirigo Dynamo
To those of you still reading, I will say this: Randonneurs tend to downplay the difficulty of these rides, but since I am far from a real randonneur I can tell you the truth. Riding long distance is difficult; it is not all flowers and sea breezes and happy pedaling. It is difficult to cycle 100 miles with almost no breaks for the first 68 of those miles. It is difficult to ride all night without sleep. You might get tired. You might hurt in ways you did not even expect. You might feel miserable. So the question is, why do it? As I find myself longing for another ride, I wonder the same thing. For some it's an athlete's high, for others a sense of accomplishment. But I think for me it's more about the magical adventure - adventure that overrides the occasional pain and effort of it. I mean come on - riding my bike from Boston to Maine under a full moon? Beyond my wildest dreams, plain and simple. Thank you to everyone who supported me through this, you know who you are.

More pictures from the ride here. Yet more pictures from Somervillain here. And more still from JP Twins here and Jon here. Thank you for reading!

81 comments:

  1. Congratulations on finishing your ride. Coincidentally I read this right after reading your post -

    http://bostonbiker.org/2012/07/01/welcome-to-the-pain-cave/

    I think he sums up the long ride excellently though everyone's experience is different of course.

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  2. It sounds as though you've come a long way from your first moves into cycling three years ago. We had the Dunwich Dynamo in England this weekend which I would like to have tried but alas I had to travel overseas, where I am stll and will be for the next week or so. It was nice in a vicarious way to read your account of the New England version - and especially so since I am originally a New Englander and would love to ave ridden Boston-Maine.

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  3. Yay! I'm very proud for you and I can't wait until I'm able to do the same type of thing. Thank you for the inspiration, and your honest description of your struggles.

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  4. Good gosh, what a feat. Congratulations. The lights and reflective items were especially good to see, as well as how the bikes were rigged. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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  5. Well done! An inspiring story and the photographic style perfectly complements the piece. All the sudden it felt like morning!

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  6. Great post! I think your summation of how hard these long rides are really nailed it, and is an important warning. I did my first 200K at the beginning of May, and despite careful preparation, I am still recovering. I have every intention of doing more brevets in the future, but I will approach them with the respect they deserve.

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  7. What a wonderful ride report. I'm so glad you came up with a Plan B that you could happily complete with a full sense of accomplishment. And, with just a few changes of place names (and removal of easy access to train stations!), every word might just as truthfully have been written about our beloved -- and equally magical -- Dunwich Dynamo. Pedal on. :)

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  8. You might consider one of those 24-hour non-sedating antihistamines to cut your tendency to break out in rashes. I tend not to think of myself as having sensitive skin, but I reliably get a rash from whatever adhesive holds band-aids on (I gave blood last Wednesday, I can still see the marks on my skin from the bandaid).

    Did you ever make sense of the back pain?

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    1. It's not so much a rash, as the skin rubbing off by virtue of coming into contact with clothing, slight friction and sweat. I don't think an antihistamine would work for that?

      Back pain - I think I may have pulled a muscle turning around, but don't know for certain. I don't typically have back problems, so not sure what to make of this.

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    2. If your skin's really that tender, then no, but if there's any histamine reaction going on at all, it will push everything in the puffy, tender direction. If this happens regularly in the summer, you could certainly try some experiments to see if it helped or not.

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  9. Congratulations on your ride!

    Reading this post was such a joy for me since I was riding a similar ride at the same time. I rode a 400k ride as a part of the New England Randonneurs brevet series this weekend that took us from central Vermont down near the Massachusetts boarder and back on Saturday. It is now the longest ride I've ever completed.

    Much like you the biggest challenge was managing pain (mostly saddle) and then the resulting hand pain as I tried to not put as much pressure on my derriere. The pain was considerable, but I didn't really consider quitting at any point, and eventually did finish.

    Like you there is an attraction to just the idea of biking though the night through beautiful territory. Who could deny the wonder of such a journey? For me, this is a compelling opportunity and its hard not to want to explore what its like to bike all night, to be out there in the dark, to experience the reaches of effort and ability.

    It is ironic that towards the latter part of the ride I found myself almost numb to the beauty of my surroundings. All I could really focus on was simply finishing.

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  10. yay! good for you! I was talking with Jon about the Dynamo while managing the Boston 400 a couple of weeks ago, and was so tempted, but it conflicted with prior plans that I had to go up to Vermont to hang out at their 400k. Perhaps next year.

    You might feel miserable. So the question is, why do it? As I find myself longing for another ride, I wonder the same thing.

    there's a thing amongst climbers and mountaineers about Type I and Type II fun. Type I is something that is fun in the moment -- a good meal, a fantastic concert seen with friends, a lovely party. Type II is something that can be daunting or challenging or even frightening in the moment, but once it's over, time has a way of smoothing such edges and you look back on it and think, "huh, that wasn't so bad."

    Endurance cycling is very much Type II fun.

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    1. I first encountered Type II fun while doing a lot of hiking in the White Mountains. In the moment, if asked why I was doing it, my usual answer was "Because it feels so good when I stop!" At other times, I'd describe it as something that was fun to have done, if not to do.

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    2. Actually for me it was Type I all the way, and even during those miles when it got difficult I had the strange experience of enjoying myself in parallel to the discomfort.

      I was talking to an experienced long distance cyclist, and he was saying that the 1st time he did a century he was so miserable in the end that he wanted to throw his bike away. I never had that feeling thankfully; toward the end I was already thinking "Man, I gotta do this again!"

      That said, I cannot, absolutely cannot imagine doing a 400K. Multi-day trips with good night sleep in between yes, but not those crazy brevets : )

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    3. first: congratulations on completing this ride. I myself have just started riding brevets, and my first 400km on july 2 was hard, but it's really just the logical next-step of the 200s and 300s.

      I also had unexpected (knee) pain on the 400, probably because of a slightly maladjusted bike. But my experience tells me that when your body is used to riding a long time, it gets less painful. 4 years ago 100km seemed really far, now 200 seems commonplace.

      Hopefully that progression will continue for me, as I hope to ride PBP in 2015.

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  11. I am so happy to read about your successful adventure. I look forward to seeing many more stories like it!

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  12. Congratulations on finishing!

    Now you know some of the things that are liable to cause you problems if(when!) you do long rides in the future too, so you can prepare for them ahead of time.

    I've also found that riding longer than usual distances really points out comfort issues on the bike too. Little things that don't bother you on 10-15 mile rides really can make you ache on 60 mile rides.

    I hope your back settles down and doesn't give you any more pain too!

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  13. Oh - I meant to say in my last comment that I very much liked the photograhy in this post.

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  14. I would love to do a night ride like this.

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  15. No kidding. After romanticizing rando stuff for so long.

    Full moon, everyone drunk or tired, weekend, summer, sleep deprivation. Do it if you want, do it once; eventually it'll catch up to you. Or not.

    Yup this back issue butt pain thing...whatever. It can be fixed through...

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  16. Let me be the first to say "great ride report!"
    Please tell us you are writing a book.

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  17. Well done, girl. What I like about your blog is that you are not a champion but another struggler.

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  18. Wow. I'm definitely in the "Are you CRAZY" camp...having no desire to ever ride that far in one trip. But I admire your courage and determination. Congrats on making it!

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  19. Excellent ride description! I too want to engage in some longer rando events and they seemingly look easy - but I start to struggle at about hour 2.5 - 3.0.

    I have sensitve skin as well - I hope your recovery goes well today!

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  20. I love the photographs.

    I read your posting this morning, then clicked over to local news and there, near the top of the list of articles, was one about a biker who crashed into a tree on a strenuous ride.

    The article noted that he was "wearing a helmet." (The wearing of helmet or not is always mentioned in such articles. In the photo one can see that it was an expensive one.) He started biking two years ago, at age 40, and lost a hundred pounds. He commuted to work by bike. His wife said that he had "a driven, competitive personality." Such is the material of which the newspaper constructed a narrative to frame – or not – what happened.

    In spite of what his wife said, I imagined, reading the story, that his internal narrative may have been something like yours.

    Like you, I ride for adventure. I hike for the same reason, and for the connection with wilderness hiking offers. Most of my hiking friends hike with me for the sense of accomplishment they feel doing things that approach their physical limits in dangerous places. They are more skilled athletically and in wilderness survival than me. They hike with me because I can take them to remote and exotic places and get them back - it is a navigation skill, and planning skill that I offer. I hike with them because they seek and find danger and are able to escape it safely, usually. That adds to the adventure for me. Each of us brings something to the experience. One friend has an exceptional sense of humor – it helps us remarkably in times of danger and fatigue.

    Biking, I seek urban adventure, mostly. I think you are fortunate to have friends who invite you to enjoy such adventures, such dangers. You have not named what it is, and don't need to, but I imagine you bring something to the adventure for your friends. Perhaps, n part, it is your ability to frame it.

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    1. I for one greatly appreciate Velouria's documentation and photography of the rides that we're both on! And really, even if someone brings nothing more than good conversation and companionship to a ride, that's bringing a lot.

      As someone who was on this ride with V, I have to agree on just about all her points WRT the unique experience that night brought to riding, like the warm comfy glow our headlights provided. I was initially skeptical about how much I could enjoy the ride (many of my friends questioned the ride, saying something to effect of "but you can't see anything, what's to enjoy?"), but the same things that define "scenery" by day defined a new kind of scenery by night that's just as good but different. The silhouettes of houses and farms, of trees. The stillness. The sounds of nocturnal creatures. And being able to "claim" a country road all to yourself and ride right down the middle through rolling countryside was what stood out as spectacular to me.

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    2. I too have heard that night time riding is disappointing because you can't see anything, but I think the full moon changes that. I also loved the different degrees of darkness we experienced depending on terrain. Oh and the absolute lack of cars for 20+ mile stretches!

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  21. I realize you could not cram all of this into one ride report, but I would love more details about the food you chose and the home brew lemonade. How often did you eat and drink? Why those foods? I am still having trouble with this and burn out on 50 mile rides.

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  22. Did you ever figure out what was causing the back pain?

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    1. Not sure, but I think that I pulled a muscle whilst turning around on the bike to look back. It's not a general back pain like you get from not being used to drop bars, but an isolated muscle cramp in a specific location (lower right). Next time I will try stretching more before the ride and hopefully there will not be a repeat.

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  23. Way to go, V!
    I gotta say, its almost hard to believe that you had to borrow a dynamo wheel.
    I take it you rode Rte 1 into Wells? I've only ridden from the Wells train station to Ogunguit during middle of the day and found a nice 10 mile route to avoid Rte 1 during the summer daytime traffic nightmare.
    It's nice that Amtrak allows bikes on that route, but it looks like they only allow bikes onto the one car at the hight platform in Wells. Hopefully they will find away to accommodate more bikes in the future throughout the Amtrak system.
    BTW, there is another (much shorter, 30 miles or so, midnight to 8am) overnight ride around Boston likely the 2nd weekend in August - the Back Bay Midnight Pedalers Historic/Architecture tour. Details usually have been posted on the Boston Biker site a few days in advance.
    I'm super impressed,
    Mark

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    1. I sold my Rivendell, which was my dynamo light roadbike. I did not think that I'd be doing overnight rides any time soon, and my battery light is plenty for just a few hours in the dark. Now I will have to reconsider.

      The Amtrak Downeaster is unpredictable when it comes to their bike policies. We were lucky in that there were almost no other passengers on the 6:30am Sunday train, so the conductor was lax about the rules. The faster guys who took the train further North at noon were not as lucky and had some issues.

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  24. You really show us in this post (and others) how you've grown as a cyclist and athlete despite personal fears and challenges and self-doubt. You show us by example how we can too stretch ourselves and be more than we thought. Congratulations.

    Re your skin outbreak, I can definitely recommend a product that my very sharp dermatologist uses (no conflicts) and that I have found to be very good: It's Eucerin Aquaphor Healing Ointment (available everywhere) and it really works wonders, seriously. Now, go rest some more and eat big and hearty. And give your little lucky charm kitten some warm milk. Jim Duncan

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  25. Congratulations on your ride! It sounds like it was a really rewarding experience. I'm definitely with you on riding for the adventure of it... the only problem is that it's like a drug. You start needing more and more of it for it to feel like a big adventure. So here's to getting hooked! :)

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  26. Colour? I bet you cross your sevens, I do too:) What, pray tell, is this fantastic salty lemonade?

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    1. Salty lemonade recipe forthcoming in the next post : )

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  27. Congrats!!!

    And I too would like your recipe for "salty lemonade". :-)

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  28. I have never cycled at night - twilight at 12,000 feet - but never past twilight. You make it sound interesting but I think I will do this ride in two days during daylight one of these days. Good for you for trying and suceeding!

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  29. Thanks for sharing and congrats! Riding in the wee hours of the morning is, indeed, memorable. For a couple years I worked at a restaurant which closed around 2 a.m. and got to cycle home through woods and along a white water river. Rushing water which could not be seen, winding paths and roads which were only visible for ten meters in front of me...moon producing erie light, and no moon equals inky black!

    So what's next V? Another rando? Perhaps borrowing a pair of sew-ups and doing a road race or criterium?

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    1. It's hard to say, I am not any good at any of it. In theory I would love to race some day, but I am terrified of criteriums and with good reason - I have't the handling skills for them. Maybe a long road race some day. For now what's next is probably to catch up on some work and have a cheeseburger : )

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  30. Glad to see Dunwich Dynamo is taking off elsewhere (and congrats). For once, we have advantages that americans can't compete with.

    a) We're further north, so our summer nights are shorter (Alaska excepted).

    b) nowhere in Britain is more than 70 miles from the sea (the DD is gratuitously long at 120 miles).

    c) the east coast is eroding, so the DD gets shorter every year - I plan to do it when I'm 70.

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  31. What a milestone! I am impressed by your nonchalant attitude to riding in the dark, but then you must be used to it from all the commuting you do.

    How did you like riding a century on the Seven? Honestly I am still surprised you find that bike comfortable. I remember test riding a friends prized titanium steed and you could not get me off that thing fast enough. Guess it just goes to show how different we all are! Looking forward to the review.

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    1. Oh I was a nervous wreck about riding in the dark, far from nonchalant! But it was not nearly as scary as I thought. Riding with others, having good lighting, and the full moon all played a role.

      I am very comfortable on my bike. You are right that we are all different.

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  32. I have not been able to get past my 85 mile hump so I bow down with praise. Congrats!

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  33. Well done! I can only get to 73 miles :-(, have never tried distance night riding - sounds great.

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  34. Sounds like a lovely, but challenging ride. I started riding more at night last summer as a way of beating the heat. A couple hours after sunset, it's often much cooler, and the car traffic is lighter. Doing the Midnight Marathon Ride this spring also confirmed that I like riding well into the night. I've read of some of the overnight rides leaving London, and wished there were more rides like that around here, so glad to see this done. I just need to work up to longer distances and faster speeds.

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  35. Bravo! Well done, and a smart decision to alter the route and do "only" 100 miles. I've done a few rides that long, and it's always a challenge and a rewarding accomplishment.

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  36. Thank you for sharing your Dirigo Dynamo experience! Your words and photos artfully captured what this ride is about. I find your tenacity respectable as well. Hope to see you on the next one!

    PS- The Portsmouth Brewing Co. ale was delicious—wish I had taken one for the road : )

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  37. What an epic adventure--the derailleur that breaks, the skin that rubs off, the heat, the cold, the hunger. I've ridden over 100 miles in a day and I've ridden throughout the night in 24 hour relays. But I would have to do a lot of self-convincing to take on a ride like this.

    I'm impressed by you accepting the challenge and proud of your resolve to pedal on. You are a real randonneur.

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  38. Congratulations on completing your inaugural randonneuring experience! It sounds like it could be the first of many others. I especially appreciate your transparency in describing the nitty gritty of the ride and not "white washing" it. I think this is one of the good things that sets "Lovely Bicycle" apart. I look forward to reading about your future adventures.

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  39. Well done. You are correct about the adventure, esp. on overnight routes which you've not ridden before. It's new. You are OUT there! Rural! You are self-reliant. Food and fluid must be planned for in advance. Nocturnal animals are on the roads, but not cars. Stuff happens. You adjust. You are a randonneuse now.

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  40. Randonneuring is like childbirth. The memories of the pain fade quickly and you are left with something special. If not, no one would have siblings, and people wouldn't keep doing these rides. I haven't intentionally downplayed the difficulty when I write about my rides, but I've tried to emphasize what makes me keep coming back. The sense of accomplishment from doing something outside your own comfort zone is amazing, and addicting!

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  41. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring story of this ride. I want you to know you have inspired me and I just got my first road bike with drop bards. I will be doing a triathlon in September and reading your blog has helped me get over my fear of road cycling.

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  42. Once again, I'm so impressed. I rode portions of that route on May 5th starting from Rye, NH to Salisbury, MA The original plan was to ride to Plum Island and pull off a 1/2 century ride, but things did not go as planned - and we only did a measly 32 miles. I can't believe you rode this in the dark - I'm very familiar with Hampton Beach. All I can say is Wow!

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  43. Sounds like an interesting trip. Your back pain could be a lot of things, but one thing that is rather common is short strong quads (cyclists get these easily), but it could be that other muscles such as the glutes are too short/strong in comparison to other muscles as well. These type of problems often get worse. I'd start stretching these muscles regularly, or even better, get massages every now and then. My ex gave me one when I had not been able to walk normally for two days and had a really bad pain. Suddenly I could walk normally again so this made a lot of difference, even if she has no massaging education it helped.
    Your post makes me want to try something similar. Vacation is coming up and it is still light most of the night here in Sweden.

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  44. great post, it captures the experiential part of cycling so well, the mood swings, fluctuations in energy and then experience - as well as - for me - the way really getting to know a landscape only happens on the back of a bicycle (walking being too slow and other vehicles like watching TV through windows), and the exhaustion that makes one feel as if one is entering a whole new level of experience

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  45. Congrats on your finish! It sounded pretty miserable. It's easy to relate Ti your story because many of us experience all these personal hurdles on just about every ride over 20 miles long. Its great to have someone explain how it really is out there. I also bet this ride will have more participation next year as a result of your story.

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  46. Indeed, the ride was a pleasure and challenge. I admired your cautious pluck, which at times inspired me to continue. Thank-you for joining us, you are a fabulous cycling companion.

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  47. Well done.
    The most important thing that I've found when doing long rides are the lyrics from a David Gray song that got stuck in my head when I ran in and out of a control to get signed in.

    'A Moment Changes Everything'

    You've experienced it. You have to trust that a moment will change everything. Highs to lows, tired to energetic, pain to bliss. Just pedal on, or get off for a moment and enjoy the view...

    Great ride, and congrats.

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  48. "For some it's an athlete's high, for others a sense of accomplishment. But I think for me it's more about the magical adventure..."

    ...and disrespect of your body. But let's not worry - your ego will feel accomplished, people will pat your back and call "well done", and you can add this ride to your list of "bragging rights". You can also feel a part of that special group of cyclists that are not "ordinary". And what a great post for your blog. Oh, well. People who go on disrespecting their bodies eventually run aground; then they wonder what hit them and why. I think deep in your heart you know better than this, Velouria.

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    1. Doing something that pushes you a bit physically while at the same time is very fun is not the same as disrespecting your body. Knowing your limitations helps. The first time I rode a bike for transportation (only a couple of miles!) I felt more scared and physically battered than I did during the ride described in this post.

      You run a bicycle commuting blog. I imagine many people out there (drivers who think transportation cyclists are insane and suicidal) would have similar things to say to you as you just wrote here. It's all about perspective.

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    2. Velouria, I agree with you. At the same time there is a huge difference between biking to and from work during the day, and biking 160 km at night when the body/mind is supposed to sleep.
      Your body warned you and it was ignored...rather a drug was taken.
      Our bodies are not designed for certain things, and pushing those barriers leads to poor health.
      The mind considers many things "fun"; some people consider fun running utlra-marathon through Death Valley...
      We don't know what other stresses are affecting our health (besides our cycling) and most of the time we can't tell consciously...until a health problem develops.
      I don't think we were designed to do strenuous exercises throughout the whole night.

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    3. Being allowed to stay up late doing whatever you want is one of the perks of being a grownup.

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    4. Our bodies have evolved to cope with all kinds of stresses that most of us never experience. But occasionally riding all night when you're in shape for the distance and otherwise well-rested is no worse for you in the long run than any number of other activities people consider fairly normal. Personally, I feel a lot less cruddy after being on my bike for 24 hours than after a long flight, for example, which usually involves running around to and from the airport with luggage, losing lots of sleep, sitting cramped in an uncomfortable airplane chair for hours, eating bad food, running around some more with luggage, and being jet-lagged.
      While the back pain is an indication that there's a problem somewhere (fit, position, saddle, technique, muscular imbalance, etc, etc, etc....), it doesn't necessarily mean that the activity has to be inherently damaging. While activities like soccer or football run people's bodies down at a fairly young age, long distance cycling is something that many people keep doing for decade after decade and continue participating in successfully much later in life. 16% of the members of Randonneurs USA are under 40; 17% are over 60. That tells me that it can't be THAT bad for you.

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    5. Michael,

      In several ways the overnight century was less strenuous than a daytime century. Firstly, the pace was slower. Secondly, it was under darkness of night. The air was cool. After catching up on sleep the next day, I was in way better shape than if I had done a daytime century in 90 degree sun.

      The human body has evolved to be able to do things outside of its comfort zone, and we become stronger from exercising those abilities.

      I've been more tired staying up all hours of the night with a screaming baby than I was doing this ride, yet humans have evolved to cope with that parenting rite of passage.

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  49. Wonderful posts today by Martina Brimmer and Heidi S. Alexander showing how the athletic and personal challenge of excelling at a sport changed their lives. And we are all amazed at the valor and skill and courage of the amateur athletes in the revetour. Velouria is in that tradition as she finds her own sweet spot of aptitude and ability in a sport and shares it with us. In a way, she's also our everywoman who inspires the rest of us to excel.

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  50. I saw that the post was tagged with a Seven tag... But no really clear pictures yet :(

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    1. There is a better picture of it here. I will try to post more soon.

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    2. I look forward to it, is that purple handlebar tape?

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  51. Well hey now, I sold you those Stinger chews and gave you some zip-ties at Ace the otherday.
    Cheers,
    SA

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    1. Didn't buy the Chews from you, but I did buy a helmet light and clear glasses : )

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    2. Ahh well I sell those chews to everyone, we eat them like candy in the shop.
      Cheers,
      SA

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  52. Congratulations! Great ride report! Thanks to your inspiration, I'll take a long (for me) ride tomorrow.

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  53. Long-time reader, first-time commenter... I'm a Seacoast NH resident who rode the Dunwich Dynamo for the first time last summer. It had long been on my List of Must-Do Rides, partly based on the positive press from Jack Thurston's London-based radio program, The Bike Show (http://thebikeshow.net/).
    The Dun Run stands out as my favorite ride of 2011, as well as my first through-the-night ride. Riding into the sunrise on the Suffolk coast was wonderful. Would love to ride the Dirigo Dynamo next year.

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  54. I'm sorry I missed this the first time round. Well done on an excellent sounding ride. It inspires me to get the lights on and get riding in the dark.

    With regard to longer rides and sore backs. I almost always find some back pain on longer rides and try to restrict myself to no more than 2 continuous hours in the saddle. And when I stop I always get completely off the bike. I find 5 minutes is plenty for the back to get back to some normality. One more thing I do is get out of the saddle every now and again. It definitely helps.

    Once again, great ride.

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  55. Great post! My folks live on the coast in North Hampton Beach. During my visit, I rode up to Portsmouth and was dismayed to find the bridge into Maine closed. Where is this alt-route you speak of? I'm heading back up there soon and want to make my originally planned ride.

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  56. thanks for sharing.

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  57. Wonderful post! I am also wondering what your alternative route was- did you detour through Dover?

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  58. This sounds like so much fun! I just clicked through to this post after a series of google searches.

    The pain and the mechanical issues are all part of the experience. Were it easy, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

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  59. Look at you! What a nice smile in your #1 pic! Most bicyclists seem to be smiling, I think.

    Thanks for all your incite, not half of which I've read, but already I know it's good!

    I'm so late to this 2012 party, it's almost that time for the 2013 date. Best good wishes and safety for you if you do it this year.

    Good is good. Thanks for your goodness!

    David Pearce,
    Washington, D.C.

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