Last night was my second "Tuesday Night Surprise Ride" which is lead by a Cascade Bicycle Club member. The route the leader Mike takes is up to his whim. It's fun, sociable, I learn new routes in Seattle, it's also safe and comfortable in the crowd.
There was a mix of men and women, about 12, mostly older riders. The ride was a 25 mile loop and we averaged around 10-12 mph, including breaks and stopping, which was pretty leisurely. The route we took was from Gasworks park to Ballard, through and north of Carkeek Park, almost to Shoreline, down to the Northgate area, and down to about 90th NE where we hooked up with the Burke-Gilman trail and back. Twenty-five miles actually covers quite a lot of Seattle in a single ride.
This was the first time I had dinner with some of the group. We ate at the Blue Moon Burger joint across from Costas in Fremont. One of the members (I forgot his name) was a 61-year old veteran bicyclists, who said he had done racing and long distance cycling in his youth, and had also completed the remarkably difficult Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) event. The PBP is a 1200km ride, which you must complete in 90 hours, and you are entirely unsupported. To join requires qualification achieved by completing designated 100km to 600km rides given by sanctioned clubs during the year of the event (and he said also the year before.)
Just to give a scale of the distance of the Washington 600km ride: It is a circumnavigation of the Washington Olympic National Park, which if you have driven, is quite very hilly ride. This ride must be completed within a 48 hour period, and there are various control stations you must cross within a time limit.
I asked our veteran rider about what it was like to complete PBP, and he said during it he started to hallucinate near the end, due to exhaustion and lack of sleep. Instead, he recommend perhaps bicycling in other ways in France, e.g. from cafe to cafe in Paris.
The PBP, incidentally, was an event I was looking at earlier in the day. (I've been curious what rides there were in Seattle, and I was lead to the Seattle Randonneurs site, which links to the PBP.) To comprehend the distance and difficulty, I had spent some time doing the math. What it might be like to do 600km over two days? Would that be like riding the one-day STP twice? Two back-to-back RAMRODs? 600km certainly seems ambitious but doable. But I had my concerns, and our dinner group talked about just how physically damaging these events could be.
Our veteran much preferred and recommended some of the multi-day, state-crossing events he has done. I asked about the famous RAGBRAI (Ride across Iowa), since someday I thought it might be cool if my father who is in Iowa could meet me along the way. RAGBRAI seems notorious for participants who emphasize more the drinking and partying than the actual ride. (Take a look at Teamartini, as an example.)
I haven't even done my first STP, but I'm thinking ahead to next year. Already, I'd like to consider training for RAMROD and the one day STP, RSVP (Ride to Vancouver), and maybe RAW – Ride Around Washington depending on my vacation time and Hitomi's interest. I'm sure Hitomi could be convinced to try RSVP (a more scenic and exclusive event) and maybe RAW, assuming there's good food stops. We'll see how things go.