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Aug
03

Nova Scotia Fundy Park 1000k brevet report

Note since this is a report of a 1000k ride over 3 days the report is relatively long, so if you are short on time, scroll to the bottom to the last paragraph with the summary section.

A brevet is a predetermined route that needs to be completed within a certain time limit, typically on a bike. The routes are approved by RUSA (Randonneurs USA) or in Canada by Randonneurs Canada. Along the route, at strategic points, are controls with their own time limit. Note, you can also be too early and will have to wait. At these controls you need to get your brevet card time-stamped and initialed as prove you made it.

The Novia Scotia Fundy Park 1000k is organized by the Nova Scotia Randonneurs and their rides typically start out of Halifax. The name of the route is derived from the Bay of Fundy where most of the route came along. See the route here. Since a 1000k (613 miles) is a lot of riding in one helping the route has 2 night controls at hotels along the way that provides drinks, food, showers and a bed. The first night control was after 250 miles and the 2nd control after 456 miles. Some folks elect or are forced (when slower) to skip the night rest. I prefer to get a good night sleep to avoid drowsiness.

 


Preparation / Bike setup

Events away always require extra attention to the preparation as you are not wearing your kit while leaving the house. I’m probably not the first who showed up at an event (Washington Hill climb) without my cycling shoes. A multi-day event with drop bag requires some additional prep. A drop bag will be brought to the night controls by the organizers. To keep everything organized I made 3 bags. In each bag I put my kit for the day, a ziplock bag with on-bike food (energy bars, raspberry licorice and my favorite honeywaffles) for the day, and 3 ziplock baggies per day with portioned skratchlab for electrolytes. I also made hearty rice cakes as I find these to be nutritious and a welcome change from all the sweet energy bars. The rice cakes (Allen Lim) required extra logistics with the multi-day event as they are perishable. For the drive out I put them in a cooler bag with a big chunk of ice.

 

Since there is night riding involved I installed the latest Sinewave head light that comes with a USB charging port. The light is powered by a hub generator (SON 28) and during the day I can power my phone and Wahoo bike computer. To make sure I have enough water during the ride I had Ride Studio Cafe install the 3rd bottle cage holder. With the fenders and filled bags, my everOrange (my name for my Seven Evergreen) weighs 38lbs. That is something you notice when climbing a hill, on the other hand descending one, the weight gives me turbo boost.

On Thursday July 5th, I drive up the Portland Maine to catch the ferry from Portland. Just before Portland I pick up Steve Lavoie a randonneur from Concord NH and we drive up together to the event. The ferry leaves at 2:30pm and we arrive with plenty of time left. It is still really hot in the 90s. Once the ferry takes off it cools off. The ferry is a double-hull and has a speed of 40mph. The crossing to Yarmouth takes 5 hours. But since we sail into Atlantic time we lose an extra hour. By the time we reach the hotel it is 1am in the morning. Fortunately we have an extra day before the start.

Saturday is the start of the event, so on Friday we decide to checkout Mark Beaver’s (the event organizer) beautiful new bike store in Halifax. Steve needed some tubes and CO2 cartridges. That morning during breakfast we met some of the other rides that stayed at the Chocolate Lake hotel. Two Canadian riders from Winnipeg and the tandem couple, John and Ann, from Holderness NH. In the bike store I chatted a bit with Mark about some sightseeing ideas in Halifax, so Steve and I biked to the citadel, the Point Please park. In the park we meet John and Ann and ride together back along the boulevard and have a lunch stop at the Bicycle Thief. I wanted to visit the Maritime museum to learn a little more about a devastating ship explosion that had happened in 1917. There is a link with Boston here as Nova Scotia every year sends a Christmas tree to Boston for the help provided during the disaster. When back at the hotel we meet Eric Nichols, another New Hampshire Randonneur. Eric knows Halifax well and had some good restaurant suggestions. I was looking for something with pasta, so we ended up in a hipster restaurant called the Lion and Bright. I ordered (carbo loading) 2 main courses; the sate skewers and a pasta dish.

We needed to back at the hotel at 7:30pm as Mike came by to pickup the drop bags. Mike also gave us on overview of the course and gave us a headsup that on the first stretch along the Bay of Fundy we would have the wind in our back. I remember thinking that we would then turn west and follow the Bay of Fundy into the wind. The only logistical issue we had to deal with was what to do with the car, as the hotel did not allow us to park while we were riding. Eric came up with a solution as there is a P+R near the start.

 


Day 1
Distance: 249mi, Climbing: 10500ft, Moving: 15:04, Elapsed: 17:56, Avg speed: 16.5mph, Calories burned: 8685.

The start of the ride was Saturday morning at 5am, just before sunrise. Steve and I drove to the P+R and parked the car. Pumped up our tires. I was messing with my backbag straps but finally was on my way to the start. I had turned on my satellite track so Paula, my wife, could check whether I was indeed riding this brevet. When I arrived at the start most of the 21 starting riders were already there. We had gotten a breakfast bag with yogurt and an energy bar from the hotel, so I was juggling eating my yoghurt, loading the route and saying hello to the other riders. After a quick talk by Mark and a group photo, we were off for the first 250 miles.

From experience I prefer to have an easy pace when rolling out, however, this morning that was not meant to be. After 100 yards we already started climbing and the Canadion riders were setting a brisk pace. Mark and Michelin, Nova Scotia randonneurs, lead the group out of Halifax along the harbour. With the harbor cranes silhouetting against the sunrise, we headed north to the Bay of Fundy. The wind soon picked up and varied from cross to into our face, so it was useful to stay in the pack.

After 10 miles we started a gradual climb for about 15 miles. And then nature called. It caused me to burn a match to get back in the group. Just when I got back and before I had a chance to recover, we started a descend and that is when the group fell apart. John and Ann on the tandem bombed down with two riders on their tail. Steve and I were just too late to catch the bullet train and spend another match the whole way down to work our way back to the tandem. I hate spending energy on the down hills but trying to stay in a tandem requires that sometimes. After 44 miles we hit the first control in Burlington with the tandem, myself, Steve and 2 Nova Scotia Riders John and Kray. I noticed that the batteries on the satellite tracker were low and bought the last 4 triple A batteries in the store.

While we preparing to head out the other riders came in. We rode off with the 6 of us and quickly came into the rhythm of getting in the tandem slipstream down the rolling hills. We soon got great views of the Bay of Fundy and saw the other side of the shore in the distance we would be riding in the afternoon. As soon as we headed East we got the wind in our back just as Mark had promised the night before. We picked up speed until the tandem broke its rear shifter derailleur cable that left John and Ann with only 3 gears. This forced them to walk up the rolling hills. They made calls to a bike shop in Truro 30 miles away. The store had no tandem cable in stock, but the night control team dropped one off at the store as John had one in his drop bag). Besides a brief glimpse at the next control we would not see John and Ann again until later at the night control. We had a good breakfast at the Frieze and Roy General Store (oldest General store in Canada). Maybe that was why it took a little long for our food to be served.

One by one riders left the General store and soon consolidated in a group of 8. This would come in handy as we soon turned West for a 55 miles stretch into the wind towards Parsboro. By this time the wind had picked up and we started doing turns up front. We are now past 120 miles and it is lunch time. I start to feel a little worn and warm and water is running low. Fortunately, we hit a market where we stop. It is not a control, but a good place to buy water and icecream. One by one we start riding again. We soon regroup for the windy push to Parsboro. Then, 15 miles before the control, we hit a 300 foot climb. It is steep and I can’t keep up with the group and get dropped out of the back. After the descend I am now by myself fighting into the wind. Oh boy, mentally I am preparing to ride the rest of the 90 miles by myself. At the same time I  notice that my tubeless back tire was getting soft. Since the seal breaks without pressure, I will never be able to get it inflated. I stop besides the road and put air in the tire. I notice when I pump; air is escaping along the valve, NOT GOOD. I pump careful and get it up to pressure.

When I finally arrive in Parsboro the other riders were still sitting in the Tim Horton; the control at mile 160. I order a chicken soup, strawberry / banana smoothie and a capucinno. Just when my order came in other riders are leaving. Steve was kind enough to wait for me. When I get back to my bike, I notice the rear tire is now completely empty. I try to get some air in with my hand pump but with a broken seal only a air compressor can get them back on. Time to pull out the inner tubes (carried 2 spares). I expected installing the tube, to be a messy affair with the sealant, but the tire had dried out. That explained why it was not holding air anymore.

Steve and I ride out for the last 80 miles, we are now heading north to Moncton, it is starting to cool down and the wind is sideways and in our back. After a while the food is kicking in and my legs are starting to feel better. Steve and I start to take turns pulling and we start to catch up with the other riders. Halfway to Moncton we are with 4 and then we fly along a ridge with the wind in our back. We see 2 red lights twinkling in the distance, it turned out to be Mark and Michelin. We ride the rest of the last distance together to the hotel. The hotel is busy as there is some kind of car event going. Fortunately, we have our own conference room where we can store our bikes. I take a quick shower and then head back to conference room for pizza and beer. By then John and Ann had arrived as well with the now fully geared tandem. They must have been flying. I take one beer and head for bed. I fell asleep immediately and woke up refreshed just before the alarm went off.

 


Day 2
Distance: 208.5 mi, Climbing: 8993ft, Moving: 13:18, Elapsed: 15:06, Avg speed: 15.7mph, Calories burned: 3855.

The breakfast room is open at 5:45 am, so Steve and I decided to set our alarm clocks at 5am to be ready to ride out immediately after breakfast. After fruit juice, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages and coffee we are ready to roll. I topped off the air pressure of my tires. The rear tire was fortunately holding air. At 6:15am we roll out with John and Ann. In the beginning we start with a slower pace to get the legs warmed up. Pretty soon we are back into riding the rolling terrain back south. The wind is relative quiet for now. After 25 miles riding south we come up the Fundy Bay again. The views are stunning. We are now heading south west into the wind again and follow the coast towards Alma. From the signs of the roads it seems we are near the 5 islands attraction. Unfortunately we don’t see them.

In the last section before Alma we get some of the steeper rollers and Steve and I were making sure we did not get too far ahead of the tandem on the climbs as John and Ann would just bomb by on the descends. We would slow down at the top and jump on their wheel on the crest of a hill. Just before the control there was a really long, steep climb and we were wondering if that was the biggest climb of the ride as Mark had pointed out at the ride review. The last descend into Alma was a bombing descend in the wheel of the tandem, here I hit 52.1 mph.

At mile 54 In Alma we found Kelly’s Bake Shop and clearly my eyes were bigger than my stomach: I ordered a beef soup, a coffee and a apple pie, which turned out to be huge. While stuffing myself some of the other riders came in, which was good as I could share some of the apple pie. Seems I made some new friends. I asked Mark if the hill we just finished was THE hill or just an appetizer, turned out it was just an appetizer. The real climb, of about 1000 feet, started about a half a mile after the control. Luckily it was a steady gradual climb.

When Steve and I left, the tandem had already left 5 mins before us. We thought we would not see them again that day. After entering the Fundy Park (which inspired the route), the road quickly pointed up to 15%. That soup and apple pie now sat kind of in the way. Lots of campers and trailers passed us on the up-hill which after 2 miles evened out, although it continued to go up and down for another 20 miles. Occasionaly we would see the tandem in the distance. In the tree covered park we were pretty much shielded from the wind. We  then did a lond descend and headed south west for 12 miles back into the wind towards the next control in Sussex. This was a hard section, especially after spending our legs on the hills and the heat picking up. On top of that we had a roaring gusty wind in our face. Steve an I took 1 km pulls when we finally pulled into a Tim Horton. No sign of the tandem. We met a nice waitress telling about her cycling brother and brought us ice to cook our water bootles. I ordered the winning food combo I had the day before. While we are eating we see a number of other riders pulling into the gas station on the other side of the road, they decided not to go in the Tim Horton as they did not want to be to cold we heard later.

When we left it looked like the other riders had already left. We were looking forward to this next section pointing East as we had the wind in our backs for about 75 miles. We made good time but did get very hot with the wind in our backs. So we had to stop halfway to refill our water bottles at a gas station. There we found the tandem and John A caught up to us. Turned out the gas station riders hadn’t left before us. I was so hot I held my wrists under the cold water for a minute and soaked my hair.

We pulled out of the gas station and ended up on a highway with long rolling hills. John A, who had caught up to us, seemed to still have fresh legs as he had a running start while we were still trying to get our legs working. But at some point the tandem picked up speed and, despite my protesting legs, I had to put down some power to stay in the tandem’s wheel. Pretty soon we were flying along the highway with the wind in our back regular cruising at 30mph on the rolling terrain. Just before our next control the tandem got a front tire flat and John almost lost control of the tandem. Fortunately it did not happen earlier at high speed with us right behind it. Looking at the hole it seemed it was a tube failure (not a pinch or puncture). After we passed the world’s largest lobster we arrived at the control in Shediac. Shediac is a bustling coast town with lots of traffic. I got some coke and nacho cheetos, which I had discovered the day before as a nice salty snack.

From here it was “only” 50 miles to the night control in Port Elgin. Most of the route was along nice coastal roads and towns, the last 20 miles we were on a busy highway with big trucks. Fortunately it was still light. On this stretch I was really counting down the kms, and was low on energy. Those cheetos might taste good, they were not energizing. We pulled into Indian Point motel at Sunset. A little gps snafu steered us over a foot bridge which was pretty cool but required John and Ann to get off the tandem. We arrived around 9:30pm. The hotel room I had for myself had 2 queens beds, and parking the bike in the room was great, as it is ez to make it ready for the next day. After stretching (this worked really well each day) and a quick shower I went to the room with the food and drinks and had my best hot dog ever. Did not know a microwaved hot dog could taste so good :-) Here we heard that the heat and the hard wind had taken its toll; Some of the riders had to abandon the ride. Again Steve and I decided the set the alarm for 5am.

 


Day 3
Distance: 166.5 mi, Climbing: 4600ft, Moving: 9:58, Elapsed: 12:12, Avg speed: 16.7mph, Calories burned: 3297.

When I woke up it was still dark, it was 4:15am so woke up before the alarm, but stayed in bed until the alarm went off to rest my legs some more. After prepping my bike I thought I keep my last rice cake in the fridge until the last minute. I had been eating a rice cake everything 100k and it provided a nice base set of calories. They were ez to eat and I was suprised that they did not spoil in the heat. Off course after leaving the motel I left that one rice cake in the fridge. Breakfast was a bagel with jelly and cerial with chocolate milk (a winner). The coffee machine had some trouble, but after Mark worked on it we got our caffeine boost.

Whith John and Ann on the tandem, Steve and myself rolled. We called out to John A to join us but there was no answer. The first part of the route again was along a beautiful coastal road towards the first control in Tatamagouche (Sounds like a Starwars planet). The wind had died down again and when it picked up was helping us a little. After 55 miles we arrived in Tatamagouche and since the coffee shop was closed went for the Fish and Chowder place. It did not serve chowder this early, but it had a fantastic lobster roll. When we arrived it have been relatively quiet and we got our food in reasonable time, but when the Nova Scotia riders arrived it was busy and they had to wait 1.5 hr for their food to arrive. By that time we were already on our way to next control, the Earltown General store and Bakery, which was almost at the top of our highest point of the day. After a relatively quick stop we rolled out to finish our climbing and descended fast behind the tandem into Truro with only 60 miles left.

This is were disaster struck and I thought our 1000k was over. On a busy part of the road with construction going on, there was a lady about to step on the crosswalk and the tandem hit the brakes, Steve could not stop in time and after colliding with the tandem seem to do a flip while attached to his bike and landed on the road. I was able to avoid both and stopped besides the tandem. I dropped my bike to the side of the road to see how Steve was doing. He was not unconscious, but was a little dazed. From all directions people came and asked if they should call 911. We said to hold off for now while we were assessing the damage. Steve checked his arms and legs which seemed ok and asked if we could help him to a shady spot. A helmet inspection showed no damage nor scratches. Steve turned out to have some road rash on his arms and right knee and a bruised upper thigh. I checked his bike and the damage was a heavily bend front rim that would not turn and a skewer cap cut off. Turned out it had hit the brake rotor which was bent as well. I pulled out my spoke wrench, and, still a little shaken, was only making slow progress to true the wheel. By that time Steve felt much better. He took over the spoke wrench and trued his wheel in no time. John was already calling the bike shop (where he had been the day before with the broken shofter cable) to enquire if they were open. But since the wheel was fixed we were ready to roll. When we discovered the bend rotor, Steve fixed that in no time as well. The whole incident took about 20 mins.

We then rode out gingerly watchin Steve and see how he was doing. Offcourse, within a mile, someone absent-minded almost walked into Steve crossing the road. Some explicit verbal commentary was exchanged. Pretty soon we passed the bike shop but since both Steve’s wheel and the Tandem’s rotor were behaving we pushed through. We were now noticing it was Monday as there had defintely been an uptick in traffic and between the noise of the cars and our enemy the headwind my ears had a sensory overload. On top of that, it was really hot and halfway between Truro and Halifax we needed another stop to refill the water bottles. Everone bought a gallon, eh sorry 4 liters, of water and after filling the water bottles dumped the rest over our heads. I also bought a bag of ice to put in the water and filled an arm warmer with ice and put this around my neck to cool off. This helped for an hour for the hottest part. Downside was that all the melting water dripped into my bib, yikes.

About 10 miles before the finish, a cyclist along the side of the road ran towards us and started cheering us on. It turned out to be a rider from the Nova Scotia Randonneurs. The tandem started to pick up speed as if it smelled the stable and both Steve and I could barely keep up with them. Not long after we saw the port of Halifax and I got the harbor photo shot that I wanted. At 6:17pm we rolled in the final control, the Armview restaurant, and we were finished. The Nova Scotia Randonneurs sure know how to pick their finish control as they had a nice patio, a great nacho platter and plenty of beers. Then, about 30 min later, John A rolled in. Unfortunately he did not have time for a beer as he had family commitments. He’s got his priorities straight. The total elapsed time (including stops) was 61:17.

Return home
After the ride we had dinner at the hotel and again had 2 entrees as I was so hungry. Steve and I made plans for our return trip and we decided to take the ferry to st John, which would be a 2 hour drive to Digby, then a 2 hour ferry trip (which turned into 3 hours as on arrival we had a delay due to unloading dock failure). Then a 5 hour drive back to York to drop Steve off at his car and then the last hour to Lexington. I arrived back home at 9pm. Pff…….. oh, it is a workday tomorrow.

 


Summary:
Distance: 624mi, Climbing 24093ft, Moving: 38:20, Elapsed: 45:14, Avg Speed: 16.3mph, Calories burned: 15837

Over 3 days I rode with my buddy Steve the Fundy Park 1000k on Nova Scotia and part of New Brunswick. Besides the first day when our friends John and Ann had a mechanical with the tandem we rode with them as well. Especially in the first day we rode with some of the Nova Scotia Randonneurs. The ride was hard due to the daily gusty winds and the heat. We were challenged in the last 60 miles where Steve crashed into the tandem but despite scrapes and fixable mechanicals, was able to continue. Our total time (including food stops and 2 nights with each 5hrs of sleep) was 61hrs and 17 mins. By successfully concluding this 1000k ride we can skip the Paris-Brest-Paris 2019 waiting list and pre-register, fortunately we can rest a little as PBP is more then a year away.

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