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Paris-Brest-Paris Postscript

I spent a couple of dazed hours hanging out at the velodrome after finishing. First I got into a long, slow-moving line, and then learned there would be food when I reached the front of it, hurrah. Another cyclist was quite happy to have the chicken that was on top of my pasta, and I was relieved to get more calories on board after those terrible gel packets. Then I hung out for a few minutes in the midst of the hubbub with a couple of other American cyclists, which was where I learned about RP's second serious incident during the ride. At the time, no one was aware that she'd sustained a serious concussion in the accident, and there wasn't much that I could have done other than shake my head at things and figure that the Fates had it in for her this time around. At least I knew she'd successfully completed PBP in 2011.

I had hoped to take the train from SQY back to my hotel room in Versailles, but in my exhausted state I couldn't figure out how to navigate through the station, sections of which were under construction. So instead I slowly coasted the seven miles back.

Showering felt as incredible as you might expect, although I continued to experience one strange consequence of all of the sleep deprivation, a loss of balance. I was okay as long as I either had my eyes open or remained in contact with the shower wall.

I then proceeded to fall asleep while sitting on the bed with a spoonful of yogurt and muesli in my mouth. It was only a microsleep but I took that as a sign that food could wait a bit. That bed was so gloriously comfortable. I was highly satisfied with my decision to pay extra and stay in a hotel just prior to and after the ride.

I woke up six or seven hours later, as evening started to set in, and decided it would be wise to track down a solid, hot meal before sacking out again for the night. One of the closest restaurants had good Yelp reviews, so I walked on over (Yelp's so convenient for narrowing down the options when traveling). Just as I was about to be seated, I noticed another cyclist sitting by himself and asked if he'd like some company.

Just as with the shower and bed, the beer tasted phenomenal, the salad was even better (after days with so few vegetables!), and the pasta intensely cheesy and full of rich, dense calories.

I was especially grateful for the opportunity to compare notes with this cyclist, who had finished in 77 hours, to see what factors he thought seemed to make the difference between his finishing time and my 88-hour finish. It sounded like one of the biggest elements was simply that he'd hopped onto more pacelines and drafted more. While the wind could only really be classed as a "gentle breeze" on the outbound leg, all the little factors do eventually add up. I also remained pretty conservative in terms of power output, heeding the advice of Training for Long-Distance Cycling, while he was convinced that there's a larger margin where one can pick up the pace and experience some discomfort from the effort before one reaches the point of overexertion. I think I ran closer to this "red line" in 2011 and was able to get more sleep as a result, before other factors interfered. So the lesson there seems to be that I should consider experimenting some more with riding with pacelines that I initially think might be moving too fast, and should be slightly less conservative with power output. I am also thinking it would have been helpful if I'd managed to keep up a once-a-week 30-mile intense ride through the summer, but logistics and work in particular made that impossible this year. So in those respects, I'm pleased with what I was able to accomplish and satisfied that my conservative approach worked.

After dinner, this cyclist and I discovered that we were next-door neighbors in the hotel, which was funny in that we kept thinking we were about to part ways and then awkwardly followed each other. I conked out again and got a satisfying night of rest, and then got up early enough the next morning to enjoy the hotel's magnificent breakfast spread. Then I walked around the Versailles gardens for a couple of hours (lovely and relaxing), packed up my disgusting bike clothes, and checked out of the hotel.

At the train station, a Tourist Info guide helpfully gave me a set of directions for how to take the train back to the youth hostel in Paris. When I got off the first train and hauled the fully-laden Froinlavin up the steps, a second train station guy gave me a completely different set of directions that involved walking to a different train station near the Eiffel Tower. Things got somewhat confusing in that section of Paris, what with the throngs of tourists and trying to wheel around my pack mule, but I did manage to find a lucky 5-Euro bill on the ground in the process. Besides, I wasn't in a hurry. Eventually I found an elevated train station with a functioning lift and a train that would take me in the correct direction to a second transfer point.

However, when I reached that second transfer point, I ran into a problem. I'd forgotten that bicycles aren't allowed on the Metro and I had gotten off at a terrible stop where I wound up hauling Froinlavin up and down several sets of stairs in search of my connection. When I reached the transfer point I'd been seeking, I could discern that the sign indicated no bicycles, so I finally decided I would just pop out aboveground, figure out where I was, and figure out how to navigate from that point. But even the station exits were set up to punish scofflaws like me. As soon as I managed to squeeze Froinlavin through, the station officer who had been watching me proceeded to yell at me in French, despite my repeated protestations that "Je ne parle pas Francais!" Well, whatever, lady. I'm leaving and I won't try this again, trust me.

Once aboveground, I determined that the youth hostel was still about 3 miles away. I'd put on a skirt and walking shoes, as I'd intended to wheel Froinlavin through train stations, so the trek back to the hostel became a trifle awkward and consisted of a combination of walking and gingerly sitting on Froinlavin and coasting along. Midway back I paused at a random Indian restaurant so I could stock up on more calories and use the restroom, and eventually, at long last I made it back to the youth hostel, where I could do laundry, pack up Froinlavin, and get ready for the next phase of the trip.


( 7 remarks — Remark )
Sep. 9th, 2015 02:02 am (UTC)
You touch on something I think about every time I think about looooong rides: the tradeoff between going faster and getting exhausted, and getting more sleep. You did this on very little sleep. That sounds -- well, miserable, to me.

I think you'd benefit from a power meter. On the 600 and 800k's you could find what sort of power output is sustainable for a loooong time -- and have an instantaneous measure of it, to deal with the hills. It doesn't take long at 10% above sustainable levels to run heavily into debt. But that 10-40% reduction in required power when drafting means you could cover a ton of extra ground, and the power meter would tell you when to drop off and when to hold on.
Sep. 9th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
I would have liked to have gotten more sleep than I did, but at the same time I'm still amazed by how well I felt considering how little I got. I think to some extent I just remained in "go mode" and so even the 2 sleeps I got weren't actual sleep. Plus there's that element where it's hard to get started again after getting in a good rest.

scrottie has been wanting to put a power meter on me for a long time, mostly to look at my power output when going uphill, because he's convinced that I add an insane amount of torque (I'm a masher through and through!). I actually have some grasp of where I am in terms of power output as a result of so much rowing (erging, actually) - indoor rowing machines give you constant feedback about power output (which is why they're called ergometers, heh).

On the flipside, that would be more numbers and expensive gadgets requiring fiddling, and as S has noted, to some extent monitoring the numbers can suck the fun out of things. I was kind of glad I couldn't see how fastslow I was going during some of the nighttime segments where there wasn't much I could do to bump up my speed (e.g. fog, scary dark winding hill descents).
Sep. 10th, 2015 02:50 am (UTC)
Agreed about too many numbers. I think it's possible to set up a garmin head unit so it doesn't display anything, it just beeps at you if you're over your power threshold. I'm instrumented just shy of up the ying-yang, but the only thing I ever watch is my heart rate, and then only on climbs when I think I'm just about to puke, because it'll tell me if I am in fact going to puke or if I just think that.
Sep. 11th, 2015 09:03 am (UTC)
Sometimes being super sleep deprived is kinda hallucinating-cheery, for me. Do you get cranky instead? There are times I think I would be in a better mood, if not better performing or more attached to consensus reality, if I had to do the sucky athletic thing after 18 hours of being up rather than an hour or so after waking. "This sucks, hahaha" is more my sleep deprived mentality, as opposed to my "hurts, sucks, hurts, sucks" running mantra of mornings.
Sep. 12th, 2015 03:07 am (UTC)
I get depressed, until the point where I'm seriously hallucinating and have lost the ability to remember how to do simple things like type, at which point I seem to get crabby.
Sep. 12th, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
I so rarely experience sleep deprivation that I don't feel like I even know how I respond to it. I can say that mini-naps are a real life-saver.
Sep. 12th, 2015 04:42 pm (UTC)
I get kinda sad and weepy, although sometimes I can convince myself to get slap-happy for a span. It has been interesting to observe others who tend to get angry and pick fights when exhausted (something that S tends to do).

I read somewhere that people tend to have improved athletic performance in the late afternoon/early evening. There's a trade-off there, though, when it comes to big events, because then you spend the ENTIRE day anticipating the thing instead of prying yourself out of bed and getting it over with.

I wonder if there's some way to turn the "hurts, sucks" into some form of crazy black humor so that one's mental energy gets channeled productively. Rowing taught me a lot about mental focus in that regard.
( 7 remarks — Remark )

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