Cranbury 600k – the ride

I don’t think we even skirted Cranbury never mind pedalling one stroke in that wee town.  The start of the Cranbury 600k was switched to the Days Inn in Hightstown mainly because they could accommodate such a sizeable group and the fact that when we began the Cranbury 200k, a local neighbour had complained so much about us taking their parking spaces on a Sunday morning.  So we began in Hightstown.

There were a fair number of riders for the 600k and I was quite taken aback at how many people had turned up.  The organisers and volunteers with the New Jersey Randonneurs are a great set of people and they are very enthusiastic about their sport.  I think most people who experience a brevet with them always have good things to say.  This ride there was no exception.  With such a large field, and because we were starting at 10pm, it was recommended that the fastest 20 riders or so should set off first.  I debated whether to go with them, bearing in mind how I reacted to the fast start for the 400k, and in an instant, I was off and cycling with them.  I bid Alma farewell and was gone.

Everything was going fine until about the 8th mile.  The leading group got separated by either a red light or a stop sign – I don’t remember which.  The three of us stuck at the stop sign raced across the intersection when it was safe to do so and tried to catch up with the leading group.  They were going at some pace so it was taking an effort to make any progress.  I remember going over a bridge with a turn and saw a gaping big hole coming straight towards me – very little notice.  I tried to jump the bike over it but failed. I heard something fall from the bike but could not determine what it was.  I stopped and checked everything but it all seemed fine.  I was still perplexed as to what had made the noise.  I continued riding.  Then all of a sudden I realised it was the second water bottle.  I turned around and was going to go back for it but I had ridden a little while and saw two other riders coming the other way.  I turned back again after mentally working out I had enough water capacity with one large bottle and 32 fl. oz. on my back.  The second rider pulled in behind me. I missed a left turn as I was not concentrating on the map.  I turned around and as I approached the right turn now, I saw a couple of other cyclists make the turn.  I fell in behind them.

My front light was flashing.  I am not too sure if that was from too little power or too much; I suspected the former.  The five of us, one tandem and three solo bikes, continued on for a short while when I noticed that we had missed another turn.  I was the second last bike and I turned to the rider behind me to see if he would confirm that we had missed a turn.  He did that and I shouted to the other three that they had missed a turn but they continued to ride onwards. I and the other rider turned around and followed the correct route.

I began chatting with the other rider whose name was Jake.  He asked if the flashing light bothered me; I replied saying it didn’t and thought it was the cache battery that was affecting it.  I am thinking that the flashing light must have bothered him as at some point I realised he was no longer riding with me – I had left him behind somewhere.  Some miles further down the route, and without having seen another cyclist in some time, I saw a glimpse of a large group of riders approaching from behind and they were gaining ground fast.  I suspected that they must have made a wrong turn as all the faster riders should have been ahead of me.  As they drew level I asked if they had made a wrong turn and they confirmed they had.  The water bottle had been a blessing in disguise as I too could have been with the group when they made their wrong turn.  I slipped into the group and rode with them all the way to first check point.  I found out from one of them that my rear light was dim and on its way out so decided that I would get batteries at the Wawa.  I didn’t know what size I needed.  We got there just after 1:oo am – the first 50 miles down.

We got our cards signed and bought something from the Wawa.  In my case, triple A batteries which Leroy helped me get the rear light working.  No disqualification this time.  I noticed that everyone seemed to be going off in pairs and as I didn’t have a cycling buddy that I knew I set off on the next stage by myself. It wasn’t long before the main group caught up with me and again I slipped into the group.  I did my fair share of pace riding.  It was still dark as we rolled into the second check point.  I had felt a little sleepy and was pleased to get to the Wawa at 4:05 am.

When I left the Wawa, I left with the group.  I finally learned it is better to ride with the group and I do my fair share of setting the pace, when I can.  This section had us going down near the coast and it was turning into dawn as we rode.  There were a lot more bridges on this section and it was beginning to warm up substantially.  We missed a turning on a bike path and we all turned around to retrace our steps.  If I had been by myself I would have made the left turn where I noticed the mistake thinking it would be running parallel to the original route and there would have been no advantage gained.  We made a pit stop and continued on.  A couple of miles from the next check point, Mordecai got a puncture.  He was riding a fixed gear bike.  We all hung around waiting for the flat to get fixed and then we continued the next couple of miles to check in at the Corner Cafe and a nice breakfast.  I had pancakes and a cheese and ham omelette.  Dawn was the volunteer for the check point and she gave me a tube to recompense for the one I had given her on the 400k.  I hoped I wouldn’t need it.

After breakfast, we continued on to the information point.  There was a question on the brevet card that we had to answer – something to do with a pizza shop.  It was easily answered when we found the pizza shop.  We grabbed a drink and continued on to the next stop, another Wawa.  When we reached this controle, we had completed 189 miles which was more than half way.  I was getting a little tired and we still had another 28 miles to go until we reached Walter’s where we were going to sleep, if possible.  I don’t remember this control at the time of writing.

Walter’s could not have come soon enough.  I was quite slow by the time we got there and we did not arrive as a single group.  It took some time before I got a shower so I watched the USA vs Ghana world cup match as I waited. I felt as if people were sleeping when I was waiting to shower but they had reached the controle before me so it was only fair.  After showering I crept upstairs and rolled into a recliner.  It was warm up there but it was respite from the high heat which had become brutal in the afternoon.  I didn’t really sleep and didn’t really doze – just rested with my eyes closed.  I got woken up to let me know part of the group were taking off.  I got ready to go and found out that the other part of the group was not ready to go.  With hindsight, I should have stayed and tried to sleep.

This section was my worst.  I felt I had no energy and was quite disillusioned with the ride.  I was ready to quit and throw in the towel.  It was shocking to see how easily I could get into that state so I would make my way to the next rest stop and see what happened after that.  I felt as if I would not be able to make the remaining 124 miles after getting to Daretown.  I spoke to another Paul who said they were getting a room in a motel at the next stop and would crash for two to three hours.  I spoke with Alma and let her know that I was continuing the ride and that would crash in a motel for a while.  She had worked out a route how to get to me if I gave up.

The next section was actually my best.  I agreed I would meet Paul and Joseph at the next stop and set off with some other riders.  As it turned out, we got split at some lights and Doug and I ended up riding the next few miles by ourselves and I felt as if we breezed through that part of the ride.  We both took turns at leading and we had a fast section.  Well, I had a fast section, Doug probably had faster sections.  We reached the next stop.  I waited for Paul and Joseph and then we grabbed Jake who had crashed in the parking lot and all of us cycled to the motel and crashed until 2am.

The next section was very monotonous and I am not too sure if it was a good thing that it was dark. It seemed as if we were in no man’s land – no towns or villages or even houses for miles.  The GPS unit lost itself and I had it zoomed out so much that it seemed as if I was barely moving at all.  The road seemed to follow the road on the GPS but the GPS seemed a few miles behind.  It was like that for about six miles but it had been one continuous and windy road all that distance.  The GPS finally beeped “Course Found” and I zoomed back in once I was satisfied it was not going to lose the signal again.  I wasn’t too sure if it wasn’t because of the humidity.  We eventually stumbled upon civilisation and rolled into the last check point before the end.  Rick was manning that place and had been there since 6pm the previous evening.  It was now 5:44 am on the Sunday.

After a fairly lengthy break, we set off again.  The morning was soon heating up and we were taking on liquids rapidly.  I was getting sick of sugary drinks and wished I had the third option of plain water.  We took turns at leading the pace and eventually made it to a final watering hole which was not a recognised stop.  We had ten miles left to go and I phoned Alma up to let her know how close we were and she said she was coming down to pick me up.  Those last ten miles seemed to go quite quick and we had a few little climbs which I was pleased to finally have some break from the almost constant flat.

We rolled into the Days Inn again and got out brevet cards completed.  We had been on the road for 36 hours and 20 minutes.  The end time was 40 hours so we had over three hours spare.  My actual cycling time was just over 25 hours so that meant I had over 11 hours of stopping time.

It had been some ride and I was pleased that I had made the decision to continue on else I would have been here writing about the end of a dream.  Instead, the dream of Paris next year is very much alive and I am wiser for the ride I did at the weekend.


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2 Responses to “Cranbury 600k – the ride”

  1. jud Says:

    Congratulations Paul,

    It sounds like you had a lot of different challenges but successfully met them all. Look forward to seeing you on future brevets.


    • Paul Murray Says:

      Thanks, Jud. It was a rewarding experience though I didn’t appreciate that at the time. I hope to build on that. Yes, look forward to seeing you on future brevets.

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