2006 BMB 1200K

by Ken Silvestri

If you are not a cyclist you may never have heard of the BMB.   But even if you are a cyclist you still may not have heard of the BMB.  Why? Because this is more on the fringe of what most people call cycling.

For us and most of the people we ride with the BMB is just another ride in their quiver of rides conquered.

The BMB is acronym for "Boston - Montreal - Boston". Hmmmmm what does that mean?  Well it is the start - midpoint - finish of a 750 mile cycling event where the clock does not stop ticking. But don't just fixate on that big mileage number. There is another factor to consider. The hills. Even on a flat course 750 miles on a bike would be a long way.

This course is anything but flat though. It starts in Boston near sea level then heads into the Green Mountains of Vermont before turning around and going over the mountains a second time on the return. Even the approach to Boston is hilly. Each major downhill on the way out is logged into our memory banks because we know it will be an uphill on the way back. This 1200K has over 30,000+ feet of climbing in all.

It would be nice if you could do all the climbing in the beginning of the ride so you could have it easier on the return leg when you are tired, beat and worn out from hundreds of miles of riding with little or no sleep. But this is not a "nice" ride and you will not be able to coast down a hill to the finish.  You will be tortured with hills until you get off the bike. It is an ugly situation for sure.

Team riders Joe Gaudio and Ken Silvestri qualified for this event in 2005 by completing  all 4 brevets within the time limit. A brevet is a timed RUSA cycling event. Each rider must be self supported and complete the event in a predetermined amount of time for it to count.  Team rider Kelley Behrens finished the 200K,300K and the 400K but two thirds of the way through his 600K his legs cramped badly and he could not finish the event. The 600K landed on the hottest day of the year peaking at 103 degrees with high humidity. Ken and Joe begged Kelley to continue but he knew his legs were finished.  He had endured the 400K that was in the pouring rain for 20 hours and finished. The 200 and 300K's were under his belt also. But it did not matter the severe cramping would end his quest...this time. Kelley was in good company though.  Half the starting field would not finish this event due to the heat and humidity.

Only what is called a "Super Randonneur" can qualify for a  1200k (750 mile) run like the BMB.  To become a Super Randonneur you must finish a 200K, 300K, 400K and a 600K in the same year.  In case your metric conversion skills need polishing let me break that down in US miles.  To qualify for the 750 mile clock does not stop cycling torture session you need to do the following. First run a 200K 125 miles followed by a 190 mile run. After completing those two you still need a 250 and a 385 mile cycling event to qualify.  A of these with a time clock that does not stop.

Let's put  these mileage numbers into perspective. It sure is easy to say 200K or 125 miles. Right?  Cakewalk.  But exactly what is 125 miles? Well it is Niantic, Connecticut to Manhattan, NY or Tucson, AZ  to Phoenix, AZ.  How about a 600K what is that in layman's terms?  That is Niantic, CT to Washington  DC or Tucson, AZ to San Diego, CA!!!  Could you hop on a bike in Tucson and ride a bicycle without sleep to San Diego?

Remember the BMB is a 1200K.  Twice as far as a 600K. That would be Niantic, CT to Charlotte, NC or Tucson, AZ to Oklahoma!!! Remember the clock does not stop.

In 2005 Ken and Joe did just that and qualified for the BMB competing all 4 events. Wow, what a workout that was for us.  Hey we did it though. We are ready for the "big one" now. Or are we?  Some of the other riders were doing two of each of the qualifiers to prepare.  We wondered why anyone would endure that level of suffering for more than the bare minimum required?

After finishing the 600K we knew why others were doing double qualifiers. You need to double up to get in shape for a 1200K.  The 600K nearly killed us and it took out Kelley out of the picture. That was only half a 1200K.  Who were we fooling?  Just ourselves. No way were we ready.  This series of qualifiers was  schooling for all of us.  A quick and dirty course on toughness.  We were not ready.

In 2006 the trio teamed up again with a new sense of reality. The bare minimum will not work. We will have to join the others in doubling up.  We will have to train harder and get more miles in if we want to finish the BMB. After what Kelley went through in 2005 to be foiled at the end would be enough for most people but not Kelley. He falls into one of two categories as I see it to attempt this feat again. He was either hard fast and determined to succeed or was just pain stupid. Well Kelley is a computer specialist so he is not stupid. He is determined not to be defeated.

The team trained hard in 2006 and rode every event they could.  On each ride they would ask past BMB finishers about what it took to be a BMB finisher.  It was encouragement from super riders like Russ Loomis, Sandy Whittlesey, John Jurczynski, Melinda Lyons and Bill  Schwarz that helped push us forward.

This time all of the team reached Super Randonneur status and qualified for the BMB. With a stepped up training routine and plenty of miles already logged in we felt strong.

On one of the last brevets we were riding with Bill Schwartz quizzing the only guy to have completed every BMB ever ran on what it takes to finish.  He told us we were strong and would be able to finish the BMB. "Hell your stronger than I am". We were in!

You can't think of a ride like this as 750 miles when you are at the starting line.  That number is scary and way too big.  Just look at it in segments. Job #1 make it to the first checkpoint. After that focus on the next checkpoint and get there.

The event started for us at 2AM as we awoke for the 4AM start in Boston. We all tried to get plenty of sleep the night before but you can imagine how hard it was to fall asleep knowing what was coming up.  We all hit the sac at the host hotel by 8:30 but nobody fell asleep until well after 11PM.  In just a blink of an eye the alarm went off and it was time to get up and get ready.  Even if we had fallen asleep at 7PM the 2AM wake-up still would have felt too early.

I told my wife the day before, when you wake up at 7am I will have already been riding for 3 hours. When you eat lunch think of me, I will still be riding.  When your work day is over and you are driving home I am still on the bike.  After a nice warm shower, dinner and a little TV you will be ready for bed..... I will still be pedaling. 

The alarm will go off for you again at 7AM the next day.  While you sip that morning coffee shaking out the nights cobwebs, I am still on the bike I am still pedaling.  I will be pedaling again though your lunch and entire work day. After that refreshing shower and tasty meal remember I am still on that bike.

When you slip into that comfy bed I will still be pushing as hard as I can to complete the ride. And even when you wake up the next day I will be on my bike. We will ride for 70+ hours. Get the idea?  This is no afternoon leisure bicycle ride. This is one ugly ride.

In 2006 Kelley Behrens, Joe Gaudio and Ken Silvestri reached their goal of completing the BMB and the right to wear the BMB jersey.