Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Philly Pagoda Pocono 600K (and Pagoda 200K) Ride Report


The Final event(s) in the 2022 Super Randonneur Series, the Philly-Pagoda-Pocono 600K and Pagoda 200K, were blessed with just about perfect weather: mild temperatures, gentle winds, clear skies, and low humidity. With the moon just a few days past new in the crystal clear night sky, riders into the overnight control reported glorious views of the stars above the dark, sparsely populated Poconos.  There were also some Black Bear sightings (eeek!)  

Of those that clipped in for the challenging  600K course 14 of 20 finished (70%) within the time limit. On the Pagoda 200K, also a challenging course, 2 of 2 finished in time. Congratulations and well-done to all!  Preliminary results have been posted for the 600K and the 200K.  Please review the results and let me know if they align with your memory.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

Congratulations to our nine PA Super Randonneurs for 2022.

Veteran endurance rider Amy Lippe, notched her first PA SR and was first finisher on the 600K despite her traditional "leisurely" start, rolling out considerable time after the main group departed the start. A number of riders completed their first SR series, their first 600K, or both. Travis Berry, Ben Keenan, Bill Scanga, and Ben Thompson were all First 600 / First SR achievers.  If any of you head to PBP next year, you will have no problem. Cheng-Hong Li finished his first lifetime 600K. He's missing only an ACP 400K in 2022 to complete his first ACP SR. Brad Layman and Ryan Stanis took their second PA SR award, proving the first wasn't a fluke. And the Gaffney team now has five PA SR awards, putting them in elite PA company. Just another five to beat Bill Olsen's SR total, Pat and Cece, you game? With his PPP 600K finish, Tommy Green achieves an ACP SR award, but is missing a PA 200K for his PA SR award.  Come back in July, August, or September, Tommy, for the remaining PA ACP 200Ks. Dale Houck completed the hardest part of an SR series with his 600K finish in PA, but still needs and ACP 200K for the overall ACP award. Greg Keenan completes his seventh ACP SR with this 600K finish. Greg has six PA SR awards, but missed one this year as he rode his 400K in MD. The Gaffneys are catching you, Greg. And Steve Schoenfelder also grabs his fourth lifetime ACP SR with this 600K finish, his first SR post-Medicare.
Hans Jatzke was the solo day-of rider who completed the 200K course. Hans had some bonus miles in Macungie, but was able to bring it in within the time limit.  
Chapeau! These are tough riders who triumphed over four challenging PA brevet courses with unflappable aplomb.
Five-time PA Super Randonneuse Cecilie undiminished after another tough 600K

Not that there weren't appreciative complaints. The course author received much colorful feedback about the difficulty of certain sections. One particularly despised pitch was the "hill before the hill", a steep city street in Reading that leads up to the Pagoda switchback climb. 

Contemplating the Pagoda from the Hill before the Hill

And newly minted Super Randonneur Bill Scanga questioned the moral compass of the route designers, suggesting that they might have some "issues" that should be addressed in therapy. 


Newly minted PA Super Randonneur Bill Scanga suggests a fourth "P" should be added to the name of the Philly-Pagoda-Pocono 600K

Volunteers are most needed yet hardest to get for a 600K. Fortunately, the necessary crew assembled and did an excellent job running the event. The cornerstone team were the three volunteers at the overnight control: Nick Manta, Mike Anderson, and Jim "breakfast burrito" Bondra. Nick and Mike provided roving "ride saving" support along the most difficult portion of the course, and Jim delivered his namesake food units to appreciative randos who stuffed many of these into their mouths or jersey pockets.  Together, the three volunteers independently managed the overnight cabins. Nick even found time to return drop bags back to the Farm, somehow fitting in some sagging rando passengers with all that luggage.

Also roving the course were pre-rider Brad Layman and the rando-legend Bill Olsen. Brad and Bill concentrated on supporting the course beyond the overnight, at Port Jervis, Millbrook, and Blairstown, encouraging riders through these final miles. Brad also joined CJ Arayata and Woody Felice cheering for passing randos at the Rocky statue, and Brad ran the 200K start and helped set up gear on Sunday.

Riders passing Millbrook Village, a pleasant (albeit brief) resting spot between two major climbs.

Registration at the Flint Hill start was administered by Ben Keenan, who also did some shopping, helped set up the gear Friday afternoon, and slept on the straw without complaint so he could be ready to volunteer again at the 4AM start. As if that wasn't enough, Ben accompanied Brad on the pre-ride. This pre-ride was Ben's first 600K, and first SR. It's not many riders who can say they pre-rode their first 600K to serve as start control volunteer. Pre-riding a 600K without support is a notch-above the normal difficulty. Chapeau to Ben who certainly deserves the Super designation of his first Super Randonneur award -- along with a Super Volunteer award.

Last but not least was finish control captain Jeff Lippincott, who set up the food at the finish, collected and verified brevet cards, and helped pack up at the end. Jeff is a rando veteran and regular volunteer who simply gets the job done.

Well done and thanks to these critical volunteers. We couldn't have run the event without them. You may be tired of hearing it said, but volunteers are essential to these events. If you are an experienced randonneur who hasn't volunteered recently (or ever) please consider giving back to the sport by taking on a significant volunteer responsibility for a brevet, as did the above riders. We have the EM1000K coming up. This will need good volunteers. Is this your turn to help out? 

Pat and Cece write....
Thanks to you, Andrew, Brad, Nick, Benjamin, Jeff, Bill, Jim, CJ & Woody and all the other volunteers that helped out with 600 this weekend.  What a ride! We couldn't have asked for better weather and the route was beautiful.  The early morning descent down to the Lackawaxen was really amazing, and we finally saw a black bear, though not as close up as Greg.  Finishing off a PA SR series really does give a feeling of accomplishment and it wouldn't be possible without the help of the volunteers and organizers.  Thanks again.

Patrick finishing the 600K. "Where's Cecilie?" "She's petting a cow".

Brad Layman writes ...

It doesn't get much more challenging than that [Ed: Brad has randonesia -- forgetting his awesome finish in 2021, which was hours faster and when it was a sweltering 90F]. Congratulations to everyone     who finished and an extra congrats to everyone who completed their PA SR series. If you were like me, heading north out of Wind Gap was especially difficult because the thought of turning back to Easton was very tempting.The miles from Wind Gap to Beach Lake were more of a psychological challenge than a physical one. Thank you Ben Keenan for keeping me company on that section of the pre-ride. Thank you Chris and Andrew for organizing this ride. I hope the club can return to Flint Hill Farm for a ride in the future. Lots of fun hanging out at the finish. See ya next time.

Andreas Prandelli writes...

I would like to thank EVERYONE for the fantastic and challenging Philly-Pagoda-Pocono 600K course. Thank you to the organizers and the excellent Volunteers. Thank you Mike for those incredible 2 hot cups of coffee and muffin, that helped me to drag my tired old body to ride the next 28 miles to the Sleep Control. Thank you Nick and..(so sorry I forgot the name but perfectly recognized the face). After missing the Sleep Control in the dark at 4.00 a.m., riding 10 miles down hill and then climbing them back again, while waving hello to Amy already on her way down the remaining 200K, and then finding the Cottage, you fed me burrito and lasagna and a great coffee and then you allowed me to sleep in your car while safely holding the pan of scrambled tofu. Thank you Chris Nadovich, for another great job done.

Andreas captures a unique perspective of the Pagoda

Steve Schoenfelder writes....

The 2022 PA Randonneurs Philly Pagoda Pocono 600K was probably the hardest and most rewarding ride I have ever done.  Finishing with 15 minutes in the bank after over thirty nine hours of challenge and adventure was truly life affirming. 

And then there is the history.  I had two previous attempts at riding the PPP 600k pre-pandemic in 2019.  The first was an ill-fated volunteer pre-ride with Chris N, ending in agonizing defeat when chilling rains developed as we ascended from Wind Gap forcing us to seek refuge in a seedy Bartonsville motel, and then throw in the towel after hypothermia set in as we sheltered shivering in a 24-hour laundromat in Canadensis.  I got my second chance on event day and was able, after much joy and suffering, to complete the ride in regulation time with forty minutes to spare.

There were a couple of twists this time around however.  First, I had earned my Medicare Card since the last riding and may have aged-out of surviving a 600k.  And then there was the Flint Hill Farm start/finish.  When we finished in Easton in 2019, we had a gradual climb from the Delaware River to the finish.  This time, we ended the ride with an exclamation point by first climbing soul-crushing Lower Saucon Road, followed by an extended gravel grind on the mushy (meaning really loose gravel) Saucon Rail Trail, and finally, the struggle to the top of Flint Hill, which in my mind, is really a mountain.

The weather was about as perfect as one could wish for throughout the ride.  It got a bit hotter than predicted, particularly when exposed to the sun, but that would be nitpicking.  I was blessed to have a great riding partner during the first day.  Greg had visions of arriving at the overnight controle by about 2 am.  I knew that was a mathematical impossibility for me, as I usually take about 24 hours to complete a difficult 400K.  And the first 400K were difficult.  We ran the first 200K at fairly brisk pace as we knew we needed to bank time.  Although there was not a remarkable amount of ascent in the first stretch, there was the challenging climb from the Schuylkill River to the Pagoda and extended gravel-grinding at fairly high speeds along the SRT.  During the long slog to Wind Gap, my legs and stomach were starting to rebel.  And we knew the real work would begin after Wind Gap.  I don’t remember much about the ascent into the Poconos, other than existing in a world of hurt and fear.  Greg would look at me and say,”hey man, maybe you should eat something.”  I must have had enough awareness to remember the stunning clear starry night sky of the Poconos.  And, I recall the deer-there were lots and lots of deer, perhaps entire herds.  After several lifetimes, we arrived at the overnight controle at about 0345 where we were taken care of by Jim and Nick, two of the best volunteers on the planet.  I set my phone alarm for 0630, largely unconcerned whether I would finish within regulation.  All I cared about was having the strength to get to the finish, and that would require some nutrition and rest.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty damn good in the morning after a shower and maybe and hour or two of sleep.  As in 2019, I was the last rider out of the overnight controle.  The weather was spectacular once again.  I felt like I could Git-R-Done!  To my surprise, I caught up to another rider at the Eldred controle.  That was reassuring.  And then there was volunteer and randonneuring legend Bill Olsen at Port Jervis, who probably saved my ride by providing enough water and Payday candy bars to carry me to Blairstown.  My motivation from then on was the thought of a large cold vanilla milkshake from Jimmy’s Doggie Stand in Phillipsburg.  However, that was not to be.  As I reached the Delaware River, I still had over 21 miles and 1,600 ft of ascent remaining, and I knew I was cutting it close.  At this point in the ride, I changed my goal to reaching the finish to finishing within the 40 hour time limit.  So, with a small dehydrated tear in my eye, I pedaled past Jimmy’s, dismounted my bike, and pushed it across the free bridge to Easton.

Half way up Flint Hill, I realized that I could make it in time even if I got off and pushed my bike the rest of the way.  That is always a good feeling to have on a brevet.  Finally, a feeling of certainty and success.  I was greeted by heart warming applause as I rolled into the barn at the finish.  I completed my 2022 SR series and earned yet another lanterne rouge on the heels of this epic adventure.  Now I was qualified to ride a 1200K and could descend into even greater depths of the collective insanity that is randonneuring.

Putting on a massive event like this requires Herculean effort and genius.  Thanks are due to Chris Nadovich who organized this ride and PA Randonneurs’ Regional Brevet Administrator Andrew Mead.  An my endless gratitude to the many volunteers who made the event possible.  Chapeau!

Steve Schoenfelder finishes the PPP 600K despite recently receiving his Medicare card.

Now that the 2022 PA SR Series is in the history books, we move on to our summer R-12 events that tour the cooler Northern regions of PA. The first of these is the Hawk's Nest, Bushkill Approach, on July 9th. See you there!


  1. Some more photos: https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipMioEtfwONwvjhfVZ_wcAcjzTEdwov-YU-_8xv72uwEVNQYXkOpu8hPiZrC0LCG6g?key=c3dvTHlOeVB3WTY0TWpVUVI4U0hZV0JldHRSMXln

  2. Awesome job to the finishers! Congrats!