Interview with Sarah Hreha

CCNS athlete Sarah Hreha has got her sights on one of cycling’s oldest achievements! Riding from Paris, France to Brest, France, and then back again. This is a ride not measured in hours, but in days! She has finished rides of 300, 400 and 600k in preparation for France in 2019. We sat down with her to talk about why she chose this as a goal, and some of the challenges she has faced along the way.

CCNS – Sarah, you are currently preparing for Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200 kilometer ride in France. For those unaware, what is a brevet and why led you to becoming involved in participating in them?

Sarah – A brevet is an official ride of at least 200k with control points a rider much check in at, and a time cap that the ride needs to be finished within. When someone successfully completes the Paris-Brest-Paris event, it is certified and registered in France and the rider’s name is added to a roll of honor dating back to 1891. It was the idea of having my name inscribed in the “Great Book” of Paris-Brest-Paris, the most famous of brevets – that first piqued my interest in randonneuring. PBP’s record dates back to 1891, and while it may now be an excel file on a computer somewhere, I imagine it as a heavy leather-bound book full of hand-written names!

CCNS – Wouldn’t that be cool. Surely there are some well-known names in that book! What was your biggest concern when you first started considering the Paris-Brest-Paris event?

Sarah – My initial concern was straightforward: Could I ride 1200 kilometers in 90 hours? Once I’d wrapped my head around that, I found out the route has ~33,000 feet of climbing! So that was one too.

CCNS – Now that you have completed a couple of long 600 kilometer Brevets, some that were quite hilly, has your concern shifted towards something else?

Sarah – I guess I have the same fundamental concern as at the beginning, just a more informed version. After completing the qualifying series (as a trial run since you have to qualify for PBP in the year you ride it) I now know what it feels like to ride for 25 hours straight, and what my skin feels like after a 600k.

CCNS – Tell us about your training and prep for the longer events you have done this year. You’ve had some interesting challenges regarding the technology and gadgets needed to complete a ride of several hundred miles.

Sarah – I spent a lot of time in the saddle, year-round, getting physically ready. As for gear, I had to comply with the reflectivity gear rules (Having a vest, ankle bands to be safe), and there are lighting requirements that each rider needs to adhere to. I needed lights that would run all night and that were bright enough to keep me safe on unlit roads. A lot of people use lights that take disposable batteries but I couldn’t stand the waste of that approach so ended up with a hub-based generator that runs front and rear lights, and can charge a USB device. My wheelset with the dynohub wasn’t ready right away (order months in advance!) so to power my Garmin for rides longer than 8 hours I had to find a power stick that would work. I still use it… And I finished a 25-hour ride with 100% charge on the Garmin and only about a third of the stick depleted. You don’t want to lose your nav – but charging at stops would be problematic. My setup is fantastic because if the power stick fails, I still have 8 hours or so to troubleshoot the issue.

CCNS – Any words of advice for anyone looking to complete their first full-day or even multiple-day brevet?

Sarah – My advice to someone would be to think about the issues you had on your longest ride to-date and imagine them magnified. A LOT! Could you continue? Make sure your contact points are ok. Be prepared to do basic bike maintenance on the road. Think through your eating. Ride with people when it’s working and don’t if it isn’t. Don’t go into the red if you can help it. Ask for help if you need it.

Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to express your thoughts with the CCNS Community. Congratulations again on a successful 2018 and good luck in 2019!

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