Monday, May 19, 2014

Blue Mountain 400k Ride Report

View from Summer Hill Rd
photo compliments of Doug Haluza

Heading towards New Ringgold
photo compliments of Doug Haluza

Preliminary results for the Blue Mountain 400k have been posted at:
...Please let me know of any corrections or other issues.  Results will be submitted shortly, and become final, pending RUSA certification.

It seems that weather for the 400k each year coincides with the first warm, humid day of the year.  Indeed, that was case this year for volunteer preriders, Patrick and Cecilie Gaffney, who took one for the team.  As noted in their preride report, those conditions made the hilly legs from Water Gap to Pine Grove quite a bit tougher. But conditions on the day-of-the-event were nearly ideal -- at least for those who prefer cool temperatures.  And those riding into the early morning hours on Sunday had rather cold conditions: my cyclometer recorded a low temperature of 35F on some of the valley roads.  Once again, the waterfalls and streams along the course were flush with water from the recent heavy rain earlier in the week.

The Blue Mountain 400k has always been one of the more challenging routes on the Eastern PA calender. The course changes this year were actually intended to make it a bit kinder and gentler.  The segments along the Delaware River were extended and at least on paper, those rollers along Old 22 didn't seem so bad.  But of course, you don't ride on paper, and in reality, the route seemed much tougher.  But the riders clipping-in proved to be even tougher: All 22 starters made it back in good time for another 100% finish -- congratulations to all for that remarkable result on such a challenging course.  Of note, Greg Keenan completed his first 400k -- this distance is a big milestone for randonneurs, and a stepping stone to tackling the longer brevets -- congratulations, and well done!

Long-time PA Randonneur, Rick Carpenter returned from his new home, south of the Mason Dixon line to ride with us again.  Rick took some fantastic photos (with captions added), posted here:

Don Jagel writes: "...Thanks for another great PA 400k.  The real star of the day was volunteer extraordinaire Len Z., who, starting with a restaurant quality breakfast buffet (and cleaning up after all of us), met us a Milford to sign everyone in, and then surprisingly met us all yet again at Church Hill Road with water and snacks.  All of this was accomplished on his way over to Princeton to take care of the final control for the NJ 300k brevet.  Talk about over the top...Thanks Len!  I got my mechanicals out of the way early by first breaking my rear derailleur cable before getting to New Hope.  Rick C help with the replacement by holding the light at all the right angles so I could find the little holes under the brake hood to feed the new cable into place, thus making for a quick repair.  Then 2 miles past Milford I got a flat on the rear tire.  That was the most mechanicals I have ever had on a single brevet.  Doug H did mention that mechanicals happen in three's so I was afraid that the thought alone might jinx me into having another mechanical, but the rest of the day was mechanically uneventful. The first half of the ride was a nice warm up with the hills gradually increasing after the Water Gap.  The hills in the second half of the route more than made up for the flatness of the first half.  I think this was the most challenging 400k I have done.  I caught up to Norm, Peter and Jan at Blondies and rode with them for most of the miles back to Quakertown.  I did not get enough calories at the New Smithville control, so the last leg starting with the climb out of Macungie (Thanks for that route suggestion Rick!), and Kings Highway really did me in leading to a strong bonk with only 2 miles back to the Hostel.  I was truly overjoyed to get to the final downhill on Clymer Road, and once again see Pat at the finish (Thank You Pat.  Looking forward to seeing you and Cecile at the 600k). This was a 400k I won't soon forget/remember....."

Joe Fillip writes: "... Tom: Thanks to you and to all of the volunteers for a great 400 Km this 
weekend. Although I do say "great" with some relief knowing that's it's behind me! ...I suspect that the finishing times will confirm my perception that this was one tough ride. All good, though. Always great to ride with you and such a wonderful group of randonneurs! ..."

Susan Rodetis writes: "...My cyclometer clocked 40 as the low temp; figure a 30mph descent or two, that lowered the wind chill to 28. No wonder I was cold and partly hypothermic by the end. And I was sooooooooo underdressed; quite the opposite of what I usually am. We all learn...."

Guy Harris writes: "...Interesting and surprisingly challenging course, thanks. Despite living in this area for over 20years I didn't know much about the Hex highway/old Rt. 22. I went through this section between 7:00 and 10:00 so had the benefit of daylight for most of it. Kings Hwy was "fun" and I had the benefit of darkness for that one! Blondies and the diner in Bowmanstown are nice stops to look forward to. Many thanks to Len, Norm, and Pat for helping out on this one..."

Jan Dembinski came all the way down from Vermont to ride with us, once again.  Jan writes: "... Another wonderful 400!  I’ll be telling lots of NE randos about the lovely, quiet roads in PA (so many of them were so, compared to NE roads).  Great course.  Of course the last 75 miles were mild torture, especially with Norman and Peter pushing the pace.  I’ll be back in a year or two...."

Doug Haluza writes: "... double kudos to you Tom for both organizing and finishing a particularly grueling 400k. And big thanks to Len Z for earning double bonus points by supporting two brevets in the same day--it's always a nice surprise to see a familiar face on a long, lonely ride. ... I'm puzzled with how the route changes actually made the ride seem even harder. My 25h finish is a personal worst for a 400k, so it is definitely the hardest 400k, and probably also the hardest brevet I have ever done. It really hurt on the long leg back in the dark (at least as bad as the last 200k of a 600k). The only thing that kept me going was that pressing on to my bed at the hostel sucked less than sleeping in a ditch. It was great to have company (including you) in a big group at night, because it would have been really dark doing that solo in the dark. ...Thanks again for this really intense experience--makes you really feel alive...."
You can view Doug's photos at:

Larry Midura writes: "...Really enjoyed the 400K route! Liked your choice of new roads with a gentle start along the Delaware to the Gap then picking up the traditional Blue Mt. route...."

Dan Aaron writes: "... Thanks for running another stellar event.  The route was scenic and challenging. Sign me up for the 600 on May 31.  I am obligated to ride it since I've already written my limerick. ...."

Bill Olsen writes: "...Tom - Thanks for the great route on Saturday's 400K.  The initial section down to New Hope and back up to the Milford Controle was beautiful, especially when seen through the early morning fog, and clear moonlit morning.  It was nice to see the 100% completion rate, especially knowing the challenges the route presented, although having finished, I'm not sure how many of us would have been up for another 200K, as will be required in two weeks..."

Special thanks to both Cecilie and Patrick Gaffney for checking out the course with their volunteer preride -- this was their 3rd check-out ride in a row, along with Pat manning the finish at the hostel and cooking the post ride meal.  For the 600k, you'll see Patrick and Cecilie taking the start on the day-of-the event. Thanks also to organizer Norman Smeal for helping with the start controle and sending us on our way. Thanks also to Doug Haluza for helping out at the start/finish. And as noted by Don, a big thanks to Len Zawodniak for supporting both the PA400k and NJ300k on the same day -- that must be a first-time feat, that I doubt anyone would even consider attempting.  Len recounts: "... I had a great weekend. I got up early to make breakfast for my friends, then took a nap. Later I met my friends at a bakery for second breakfast. I rode my bike for a (short) distance in the PA hills, took another nap in the sun and read my book, while waiting to see my friends again!! How good is that?!..."

Next up, is the 600k in two weeks on May31st.  Details have been posted at:
The current cuesheet posted is from 2013, and some route tweaks are being contemplated -- let's hope the changes don't end up making the course so much harder like they did for the 400k!

-Tom Rosenbauer
Eastern PA RBA


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  2. Additional photos of this fabulous 400 frolic can be found here: