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Oct 4, 2023

Bonjour listeners! This week we bring you part 1 of my discussion with James Gracey and his experience at the 2023 Paris Brest Paris ride. Starting with his beginnings in Mississippi to braving the awe-inspiring 1200-kilometer cycle race, James offers us a riveting account. It's an ultimate test of endurance, perseverance, and grit, accompanied by the impressive camaraderie of the cycling community. We touch upon the importance of mental preparation, time-management, and effective strategies to conquer challenges.

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

[00:00:00]Craig Dalton (host): Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

This week on the show, I'm welcoming my friend, James Gracey to come on and talk about Perry breasts, Paris.

In fact, our conversation went so long. I'm going to break it up into two episodes. Have you ever seen those riders typically on steel bikes with maybe a rack up front and certainly a bag on the front of their bars, riding the roads potentially coming home at six, 7:00 PM. As you've long shelf to your gravel bike and been doing something else. The type of rider that's been out all day. Maybe they're wearing wool clothing, but they've got a little bit of a throwback vibe. I was a little bit unfamiliar with the sport of Renda nearing. But along the way, I've actually had a couple guests. I remember Yon from Renee. Hers was a big, random. And a rider. And also Tim from Kitzbuhel. I showed up one day riding one of those bikes on a ride I was on. I never really thought too much about it and about the history of this sport, but with James signing up or attempting to sign up for Perry, Brest, Paris this year. I dug it a little bit more and learn the history of the sport. Learned that it's a hundred year old event. It's the oldest cycling event in the world. Learned a little bit about what it takes to qualify I became fascinated by both the sheer endurance challenge of this 1200 kilometer ride, but also the culture around it. Now as James will mention in our conversation, he's relatively new to the scene. I've known him for 25 years and always known him to attack many, a cycling challenge, but he wasn't part of that random air culture. Much more than six, eight months ago. But he dove right in God has qualification for Perry brass Paris. And completed. The 1200 kilometer journey. Just in a Nick of time under his 84 hour time limit that he set off for himself. I thought the story was so fascinating. I thought I would share it with you. With gravel bikes, we have a similar type setup to these random airbikes they're often. They're designed around comfort and obviously long distance performance, just like many of our gravel bikes. So the way I think about it is the Renda near community. Is the kissing cousin, the older cousin. Of the gravel cycling community so i hope you enjoy the conversation as i said i'll break it up in the middle to put it into two roughly 45 minute episodes and with that here's my conversation with james gracie James, welcome to the show.

[00:03:04]James Gracey: Thanks. Thanks for having me Craig Dalton. Welcome to the kitchen. Welcome to the kitchen This is where it all happens

[00:03:09]Craig Dalton: this is a little bit of a detour for the gravel ride podcast because there wasn't a lot of gravel in Paris Brest Paris, but Talking to you over the months in preparation for this and talking to you during the event It just seems too good not to capture these stories Because i've always thought after I had learned about randoneering through a couple past guests I've always felt like it's the kissing cousin of gravel and a lot of the mentality is similar to some of these gravel events.

So that's a long introduction, but I want to first start off by just asking a little bit about your background. Super quickly, where'd you grow up and how'd you discover the

[00:03:46]James Gracey: bike? Uh, I grew up in Mississippi, uh, which is not a super bike heavy, uh, area. And I, um, bought a bicycle. When I was 12 years old for 120 from Sears, I thought it was awesome.

And I remember going, uh, my very first time that I reached another city limit sign, which was like four miles from where I lived, I was like, I just rode to another city. It was Marion, and I was like, that is awesome. I was like, I went home, I rode to another town. And then after that, for years, I would ride to another town, or ride to another town, and I thought it was incredible.

And so I kept buying bicycles that were, You know, probably beyond my capacity to spend on a bike, but that's where my, that's where I wanted to spend whatever money that I had. Yeah. And did

[00:04:37]Craig Dalton: you start sort of taking bigger and bigger adventures as you became older?

[00:04:41]James Gracey: And yeah, yeah, yeah. So I w I would take, uh, when I was 15 or 16, I'd ridden maybe up to maybe up to a 100 miles.

And, uh, when I was in college, I took some bicycle trips. I worked at a bike shop And so I got inexpensive gear there with a discount, and I would take trips either back to my home, which was, like, the first time I did that trip was 140 miles. It's 90 on the regular highway. Uh, or I would, when I was in college, I'd ridden down to Florida to see a friend on a mountain bike because I didn't have another one.

And I just, I thought it was awesome. From Mississippi down to

[00:05:21]Craig Dalton: Florida? Yeah. And did you, were you? It sounds like the bicycle was a mode of adventure and exploration, but were you, were you discovering racing? Were you interested in racing? Uh, I

[00:05:33]James Gracey: did mostly. I rode, I raced a little bit of bikes, mostly I did triathlons.

Okay. I was doing triathlons when I was, uh, 14 and 15 in Mississippi, which is some of the oldest triathlons are, are from Mississippi. Was that right? They were from the, they were from the mid to late seventies. Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama has some of the oldest ones. Super interesting. And, uh, I was a swimmer growing up.

And, and I would run to swim practice, like when I was 12 and 13, which is a couple miles each way. And so I just kind of, it made sense to put them together. Yeah. And I raced triathlons for 30 years.

[00:06:09]Craig Dalton: And you moved progressively into the longer distances.

[00:06:12]James Gracey: Into longer distances, and I did longer trips either by myself, like I bet a friend of mine when I was 25 that I could ride the Natchez Trace in three days.

I bet him 20, and I have his 20 still in my, in my closet that he signed. Uh, and it was super hard. It was really hard. It was in July. It was 100 and something degrees every day, and there's no services on the Natchez Trace. Um, Which is actually this, this pen that I have, uh, given to you is actually a challenge, going to be a challenge pen at some point in this talk about the Snatch's Trace 444 that you and I may could do together.

Okay. Uh, next year. And, uh, I did, I did that ride and it, it changed, it was, that was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. And, I really enjoyed that. It's a, it's by far the best way to see the world. You're going slow enough that you can see everything, but fast enough that you're not walking and you're not going to see the same thing over and over again for days on end.

You can really, you can really move through an area or a state or even a country on a bicycle in not that much time. And it's, it's, it's hands down the best way to see the world. So I'm going to fast forward

[00:07:33]Craig Dalton: maybe 30 years of time. So many, many Ironmen under your belt. You and I connected probably 20 years ago doing Ironman triathlons, but we've also had some other off road adventures together.

We've done the Leadville 100 together. Um, we've gone to Europe a couple of times, road riding with a group of friends and gravel and gravel and gravel. Yes. Yeah. For the listener, James was on that Girona gravel trip in November of 2022 that I talked about on the podcast previously. So you've done a bunch of things.

Cycling has always been part of your life. I've been fortunate enough to be your friend and been invited to do things with you and encouraged to do things with you. Earlier this year, the beginning of the year, you came up to me and you're like, Hey, I'm going to do Perry, Brest, Paris, you want to do it?

And you said, here, there's all these things you need to do in order to do it. And I was like, dude, that's the type of invitation that I love one, but two takes me months and months and months to get my head around. So Perry, Brest, Paris is the oldest cycling race in the world. It goes from Paris to Brest, back to Paris, 1200 kilometers.

Self supported and a 90 hour time limit. Is that correct? There

[00:08:53]James Gracey: are, uh, there are three different time limits that are self selected. Okay. You can choose to do an 80 hour time limit, an 84 hour time limit or a 90. I chose 84.

[00:09:02]Craig Dalton: Okay. So we can get into that to just set the stage because this is a gravel cycling podcast, the sport of randoneering in cycling is its own interesting thing.

That's been around, obviously, since the. Yeah. But it's this concept that you've got multiple distances that are sort of official distances of Rendon air cycling. Can you just kind of talk through a little bit of your understanding of it?

[00:09:29]James Gracey: Yeah. So it, uh, the reason it probably ties directly back to a gravel podcast is 130 years ago, they were, it was, it was born in gravel.

It was born on either dirt roads or farm roads or whatever they had at the time. This predates almost automobiles. Uh, they had automobiles, but they didn't have roads. And, for the most part, I haven't done, I've maybe done one or two brevets that didn't have gravel in some sections. Some of them were six miles or eight miles.

There was some gravel, uh, in Perry Brest. Not much, but percentage wise pretty small, but it may have been a couple of miles. And... And the idea that you're doing it on your own, especially back 130 years ago, that you're doing it on your own, self supported, likely with solid rubber tires back then, I don't remember when.

They wouldn't have had a need for pneumatic tires at that point. And have to change everything and carry everything that you need to support your bike. Because you might get lucky and have a break in a town with a bike shop, and you might not. You might have a break in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning.

And so, the idea behind that and self reliance is core to rent a nearing. It is core to the series that they have. It's core to just the whole idea of, I'm going to go do this thing. Whether it's a certified ACP Brevet, or whether you just want to go ride for whatever the distance is, usually they're pretty long, by yourself, and you want to be able to fix and do everything that you need.

And whatever... Stumbling blocks you encounter along the way that you will be able to overcome them on your own. Yeah. Or, through the assistance of another randoneur, or, whatever, right, but that's, that's still on your own. If you were really hungry and you go ask the farmer for an apple, yeah, he gave you the apple, but you have to go get it.

Got it. Uh, and so that's what, what, uh, that's, that's what the whole sport is about. That's what the whole um, uh, section of cycling is about. Yeah. And. They're on gravel all the time. Like I rode a gravel bike on this ride as did a significant amount of people. Yeah. When I wouldn't do that on a road bike.

[00:11:52]Craig Dalton: When I see, you know, when I see the people in the Bay area that I consider to be randomers, they're often on steel bikes with a bat, a large bag up front. Yeah. And I would always see them and think. You know, that guy or girl is probably out for a long ride and you'd see him coming through our town of Mill Valley, going back to San Francisco at like 6pm, like having been out all day.

So the, the, and the tire, I mean, the tire sizes that I often see on these road bikes were

[00:12:20]James Gracey: quite big. Yeah, they're 35s or 40s. Yeah, yeah,

[00:12:23]Craig Dalton: exactly. And that's, you know, I had, um, I had Jan Herne from Rene Hurst tires on at one point and he was telling me in the background of our, Conversation about the type of writing he likes to do and how gravel was nothing new for him because he'd been riding, you know, 47 seat tires tire on a road bike for many, many

[00:12:44]James Gracey: years.

Yeah, you have, uh, like the idea that you would do it on a, on a road bike with 23 or even 25 it's, that's pretty uncomfortable. You're on the bike for a long time and comfort is comfort is key in a gravel bike has longer wheelbase. so I don't know many other people who are so blessed with the opportunity and the journey and Well that's in the back.

corrected that So it's a part

[00:13:15]Craig Dalton: of my That's and sustain it

while you're, because public transport done Perry Breast Paris before and introduce the idea

[00:13:26]James Gracey: to you? Uh, I actually learned about Perry Breast Paris in 99 and the guy that told me was a Worked at one. It was a customer of mine in Mississippi and He told he had just come back from the 99 ride and he told me about it.

I was like, I'm gonna do that That is definitely something I'm going to do. Yeah, and then when I found out how There's no brevets in Mississippi or Alabama where I lived at the time, or very few, and there was no internet, really, so you couldn't really figure out how to do it, so I back burnered it, and had thought about it for a while, and didn't, I didn't even know it was every four years until last year, I think, uh, and then, uh, one of my friends from Mill Valley, Ray Keane, had gone, uh, to the 2019, uh, Uh, addition and then he was telling me all about it and I followed him the year that he did it in 2019 and And he said it's not that hard you to join a club or you have to join a club.

That is Russo the randoners of the United States Russo sponsored that they have ACP rides. So the ACP rides are brevets that are specific to qualification for Perry Brest and probably some other ones, but it has to be an ACP sanctioned event. And to get into those, you have to do four qualification rides within the prior year before Perry Brest.

Uh, so they're not all over the place. And that's one of the things that made it seem so arduous, back 15 and 20 years ago, was that I don't know where any of these things are. I've never ridden overnight. I've never ridden for that long. So I was, had been a bicycle mechanic for a couple of years, but I doubt I could, you know, relace up a wheel on the fly to try to get you to the finish line.

And, uh, so listening to him go through all of that, it sounded like maybe, maybe it was doable. And then when it came back around in, uh, this year for 23, but he and I started discussing it in 2022. Cause you really, some people prepare for it for four years. Most people that I spoke to prepared for it for two years, and I started, uh, training, I, I really got registered for this in January or February.

And so you only have a couple of months to do all four qualification brevets.

[00:15:53]Craig Dalton: And what are the, what are the distances of

[00:15:55]James Gracey: those brevets? The distances for qualification are 200k, of 300k, of 400k, And

[00:16:03]Craig Dalton: it's not just riding 'em. You have to ride them in a prescribed amount of hours. Right.

[00:16:06]James Gracey: In a prescribed amount of hours.

Yeah. So like the 600 K that I did had a 40 hour time limit, which is totally doable unless you have a problem. If you have a problem in the middle of the night, you have to wait for support or to get to a town that can help you out. You're probably not gonna, yeah, you're probably not gonna make it. As you sort

[00:16:23]Craig Dalton: of said, you had a pretty intense schedule because of.

The late time in which you started this pursuit. Most

[00:16:29]James Gracey: people had already done one or two that allows you to preregister. Kind of at the end of 2022. And so then you can convert that to a full registration. You're almost guaranteed to get in. And I didn't, I didn't do that. And so I had one flexible date from February until the race, or until the, it's not race, until the event.

That I may could have moved one thing, but I would have had, uh, Instead of driving to Sacramento to do the 600K, I would have had to fly to Southern California or Arizona to get it in. And it just happened that every one of them, like even when I started the 200K the day after spring break, I hadn't ridden a hundred miles since I was with you in Spain, which was six months before that.

And I was just as worried about that as I was about the event. Because it had just been a while. And, um, and I flew in. I got back, I got home late at like midnight and left at four to go do the event. But I don't know anything about these events. And the second one, uh, that I did, there were only four people signed up.

You don't know that. So I showed up and there was a guy on a motorcycle there, three other riders, and he said, Well, there's only four of you, so have a good ride. And that was it. Then we were off. There's no like start. There's no banner. There's no start gun. He's like, have a good time. But there are, there are

[00:17:58]Craig Dalton: check in points that you have to get stamped or

[00:18:00]James Gracey: something.

There are, uh, and I did, I did, I brought my, my, um, passport, which is what you have to stamp at the ride. Uh, and so in the, in the ones that are, that are not a big event, like the one for four people, they are non, uh, there are controls that you have to stop at and you either have to purchase something And get a receipt that's time stamped.

Yeah, or take a picture of yourself in front of wherever this control is so for a 300k there might be six or seven controls where you have to roll up to the grocery store or One of them was a stop sign Uh an intersection sign. There's nothing you just have to take a picture of yourself in front of it Yeah, and if you forget to do that, then you don't you don't you qualify and

[00:18:47]Craig Dalton: that the Your success in these qualifiers, does it get logged somewhere?

[00:18:54]James Gracey: It gets logged with RUSA and with San Francisco Randonneurs. So you joined a

[00:18:58]Craig Dalton: local club and you submit the fact that you did this event and you have your control pictures

[00:19:07]James Gracey: and they log it somewhere. Yeah, so you submit those either pictures or receipts. You scan all the receipts and you send them to whoever was in charge.

Of the event that day. The qualification event. Yeah. And so if the event is over Sunday at midnight, you have until Tuesday afternoon at some point to get them either all of their receipts or the pictures and you know, and then they see that you have gone to all of the locations in whatever appropriate timeframe and send it into 'em.


[00:19:38]Craig Dalton: 200 kilometers, 120 miles, I can get my head around. I've done that 300 kilometers. Hundred 80 miles. Yeah. I can stretch my head right around that and say like, okay, start early in the morning. Keep plugging away. Possibly. I'll get that done. I've done, I think maybe on our coast ride, maybe we did 130 miles.

Yeah. One year, which was the longest I've ever ridden. Okay. So 180, the 300 k, maybe you get it done in, in one kind of, yeah.

[00:20:09]James Gracey: Fell swoop. Yeah. You don't, you don't stop for, you don't stop to like sleep. Okay. And then you don't even, you don't take naps. You just, you, you'll stop to have lunch. You just keep

[00:20:17]Craig Dalton: plugging away, but obviously like you're starting in the, in the daylight and you're ending in the darkness or starting in the dark.

[00:20:23]James Gracey: Yeah. That's like an 18 hour ride probably. Yeah. Uh, some, somewhere in there, you're probably 15 to 18 hours. It's been on the, depending on how much climbing you're doing. Yeah. And then

[00:20:33]Craig Dalton: now bumping up to 400 K, 600 K. To me, that's just, Otherworldly like it's just the territory haven't been in

[00:20:42]James Gracey: before it's definitely I had the exact same thoughts at 400k If I couldn't have done it in a different order, I couldn't have started with the 600 I would I don't know I wasn't really mentally ready for that.

Yeah, and so the 400k is you're not going to bed You're gonna take a hour and a half long lunch and sit down as much as you can Um, wherever that is, do you remember the time limit for a 400 K? I don't. Okay. Uh, we came in, uh, we started at C it's either six or seven. And then we came in about 2 a. m. Okay.

And you sort of, you

[00:21:14]Craig Dalton: sort of implied this, that you couldn't have started out and done a 600 K right off the bat. Yeah. What did you learn? I mean, you, you did ride with some other PE people, some more experienced randomers over time. Right. I, one

[00:21:26]James Gracey: of the, one of the true benefits of, of doing it in San Francisco or San or the Bay Area, including Sacramento.

'cause there's a lot of, lot of, uh, r years in Davis Yeah. In Sacramento, is that they have a lot of experience. So I would ride with them and just ask question after question after question. What do you do? I, I didn't even know there was a backdrop until we were on a. A, uh, 400 K and a guy said, yeah, well, yeah, there's a backdrop.

You service you can sign up for. I thought I was gonna have to carry everything that I needed. Yeah. For three and a half days. And food, just food is a lot. Um, you know, I knew I could stop and buy things, but they also said you can't stop and go to a grocery store and get a cliff bar. It's not how it works.

Like they don't have those things there. You can, you're gonna get a ham and cheese sandwich, or you're gonna get a croissant and a coffee and that's what you're getting. Yeah. And so, I was like, well, I don't know if I can make it on that. So when I learned all of these things, writing with people that had done for Perry Brass, and hearing all of their stories.

One year it was 100 degrees, one year it rained, and basically got rained out at a super high DNF rate, maybe 12 years ago. And to know all of the things that could possibly happen, it was definitely a boost, because I'm learning and asking them questions for,

Yeah. And that's all. It's a free, it's a free gift of, it's a free education. If you just want to do some pulling with them and wait on what one guy was sick. And so we waited, he didn't feel well. So you wait on him and make sure that they are getting the best support from you because you're going to turn around and need it from somebody else.

[00:23:10]Craig Dalton: Yeah. I think it's so interesting because I mean, you know, many of us have road riding backgrounds and, Shorter distances. You're drafting You're breaking away there's the kind of push and pull of the peloton but there seems like there's more community to this because Way way into the the mileage you need people.

[00:23:30]James Gracey: There there was uh, the the 300k that I did I didn't I hadn't really I didn't really meet anybody on the 200 Because I was in a hurry and had to get go pick up one of my kids And, um, so I didn't want to stay and chat and the 300k we were probably 40 miles in and I had a battery die on my shifter. I didn't have a spare battery.

I just didn't even check it. And I looked for, I made four stops for batteries. It was Sunday, places are closed. They don't have this very specific battery shifter, or shifter battery. And he said, I've got one. And then he had to loan me this battery, had to loan me a screwdriver. If he hadn't done that, I wouldn't have, I would not have been able to go to Perry Brest.

Because I didn't have another, didn't have any flexibility in my schedule. And when I was asking, I said, I really do appreciate this. It means a lot to me. He's like, oh no, we take care of everybody. His words were, we take care of everybody because we will need to be taken care of. And I saw that over and over and over again.

And not only the, the lead up, uh, qualification brevets, but also in the event. People you don't know, you've never met. It's, it's not unlike a professional cycling event where two people are in the breakaway or four or five. They're working together for a common goal. Helping each other. And then at some point, that falls apart.

But for that, for that time period, they are You're essentially on the same team. You're essentially doing things for one another. Even though you have diametrically opposed, you know, team programs. And you will eventually split apart and sprint to the finish. And you hope to crush them. Like that, that crushing part never really happens here.

But, but, if you do, you know, somebody's, uh, going two or three miles an hour faster than another one. Like you're going to... It can't continue. Like, they're not there to necessarily get you to the finish line if you had just met. But there is definitely a commonality in the riders and in the community where it's, they support one another all the time.

And likely someone would say that during the event I helped them significantly. And I definitely would say that I was helped significantly. It's definitely, uh, morale and, you know, People, uh, coaxing me along at, at certain points.

[00:26:04]Craig Dalton: Yeah. So for the 400k and the 600k, are you sleeping during those?

[00:26:10]James Gracey: Not for the 400.

It's just too, it's too quick. I mean, it's, um, it was, uh, 20 something hours. Okay. I think. Um, and that was actually a pretty flat ride. The 300k was harder. It had a lot of climbing in it. And I was riding with people faster than me. Yeah. So I was struggling to keep up with them every time. And then the 600, we went to, we went to sleep on purpose because I wanted to see what it felt like to ride.

Uh, we rode two, 250 or 260 miles. And I wanted to see what it felt like to sleep little and then wake up and ride again. Yeah. Did you sleep in a hotel or? We slept in a hotel. Okay. Yeah. There was not a predetermined. We just got to Winters, I think, or somewhere in, in, uh, um, kind of by Sacramento. And did you sleep

[00:26:57]Craig Dalton: a considerable amount of time or just a

[00:26:58]James Gracey: small amount of time?

I thought it was, uh, I thought it was not very long. Yeah, we slept for like three or three and a half hours. Okay. And then people that came in after us when we went out to get breakfast, so I think we came in at, we got a room at like maybe 230. And so we went out to get breakfast in the hotel and we're like, where's, they're like, where'd you go?

You're the last ones up. And I know people came in after us and they maybe laid down for like two hours, right? Crazy. Yeah. Well, it didn't make sense to me. I only slept for two hours after 260 miles. If you have plenty of time to well, that's the thing like we were not in danger of not making yeah But I think they were they were probably just using it as a training Experience.

Yeah, I mean

[00:27:47]Craig Dalton: and it's interesting We're recording this right on the heels of lachlan morton, uh setting the tour divide record We haven't talked about this, but he he basically committed he's like I don't want I want to sleep every single night and there'd been this trend towards Sleeping less and less and less and he's like I just need to sleep.

I don't want to be miserable doing this. And he still beat the record. So it's just kind of curious to hear you say that. The other crazy thing is, so you've done, you've miraculously, in my opinion, you managed to squeeze in all the required training events, all the Brevets, you've gone up to 600 kilometers, which is insane, but the frigging event is 1200 kilometers.

So, and I, yet, I mean, we can skip the, you had a busy summer. But you get on a plane, you go to France, got your bike ready, your gear ready. Now

[00:28:39]James Gracey: what? Um, we were, we went to, I went to France with my family and we were there 10 days before the event. And I rode, I,

I had a very, uh, busy summer with just kids stuff. And so I didn't ride. The only riding I did in the summer was basically the bourvets. To, to qualify and then occasionally paradise

[00:29:05]Craig Dalton: loop with me for one day

[00:29:07]James Gracey: I mean it wasn't much and I did a bike trip with one of my kids to Summer camp which is right before a trucking which was a which was a two and a half days And so I hadn't really written much and the only thing that you got from For me personally some people would probably ride more I guess, is if you just think about it a lot and you think about the position you're going to be in and you I would try to prepare mentally for what you know is going to happen.

There's going to be a time in this ride where you think, What am I doing? I'm not ready for this. I don't have the legs for this. I don't have the energy for this. I've made a mistake. I gotta, I gotta quit. Yeah. You know you're going to get there. And so I think about it a lot. So even when I was on spring break and I had this like just a 200k coming up.

what do you think? Or you're just sitting there and I was like, I'm thinking about a ride that I have to do in seven days that I'm nervous about, but I know that if I think about it enough, it will definitely help me during. It will definitely help me prepare. It's not a. As much as as writing itself close

[00:30:15]Craig Dalton: to it, but there's, yeah, there's some, there's some great lesson there, James, and just like you can.

Preview in your mind, the things that can go wrong. A

[00:30:22]James Gracey: hundred percent. And you just get ready for him and you're like, all right, if this happens, what am I going to do? If this happens, what am I going to do? It's, it's just like any other training. If you know, any training you do for anything in life, whether it's professional or some personal training or athletic training, put yourself in that position.

So, you know, you have that in the bank and I can go to the bank and make the withdrawal when I need, whether it's in the energy department, cause I need to keep going or mentally that, Hey, I've already been here. And I'm ready to have the answer of like, this is what I'm going to do, right? Even if it's, I'm going to chill out and sit down and I'm going to drink as much fluid as I can for 10 minutes.

Even if it's just that. I'm ready for that and I'm prepared for that. And so, uh, going into that, I did get to ride some when my family was, we were at Ile de Ré and it was, it's a bicycle friendly island. Where you just ride between these towns. And so I would do a couple of rides. I was there and I rode, I rode, uh, once in Paris trying to fix a flat.

I was like, I'm just gonna go ride to every bike store. But, and they were all closed. And, so, I didn't really have time to think about it, honestly. Like, much. Until the day before the event, because I'm with my family, and we have all of these activities that we're trying to kind of squeeze in, and let the kids enjoy the area.

And then, When they're getting ready to go and I'm getting ready to start was the same day So I went to pack it pick up with them so they could see all of it and I'm really glad I did. Yeah I'm glad that They got to see like the excitement of it and people are really over the top and costumes and all of the different velomobiles One guy was on an elliptical, which, I don't think he finished, he may have, I couldn't imagine, like if you think what the ride itself is hard, like being on an elliptical, and standing up for three and a half days, like I couldn't imagine, and, uh, there was a lot of excitement there, so it was really, it was awesome to get ready for it, even though you're not, there's no way to like, there's nothing to do, there's no more training you could do, and even if you did, you would just be hurting, you'd be hurting.

Yeah. Putting yourself in a, in a worse position by trying to go like train, loosening up after a long flight and driving a lot like that was needed for sure.

[00:32:47]Craig Dalton: Quick detour just on your equipment. So what, what were you riding? What, you know, what frame material,

[00:32:51]James Gracey: what kind of riding steel? It's an Olivetti.

It's a frame builder out of, uh, he was in Mill Valley and now he's in Colorado. And, um, 30 twos, I think I switched tires right before I left based on the guy at sports basement. I said, what do you think about these? And, and they were, I ended up with tubes in them, uh, at the end because I couldn't find a hole in one of them before I started.

So I put a tube in it, but I changed it. I searched for four flats.

[00:33:24]Craig Dalton: And then are you, what kind of bags are you using? Like where are they located on the bike? And are you preparing to. CAREY Yeah. HAYDEN

[00:33:33]James Gracey: So my favorite bag is the bag that Craig Dalton let me borrow which is my top two bag that has a little magnet on it because I couldn't find it anywhere it was awesome because you can get to everything really fast.

Uh, I did carry um, I carried a, like a bike packer's bag off the back, uh, that's expandable that you could get, you know, I had, uh, I had arm warmers, lots of food in there. Uh, emergency, I all emergency, like blanket. I ended up with a sleeping bag in there because I, I didn't know where we, it was supposed to rain at one point, so I grabbed a sleeping bag from my, from my, um, uh, drop bag and I had a down, and I had a top two bag.

So the top two bag, all, all I had in it was pills. I've got pills for, you know, B vitamins and multivitamins and amino acid pills, and lot tons of salt. I took all the salt that I needed for the whole ride.

Caffeine. Look, I'll, I'll, you've probably seen me like go through a bag of pills, like there's a bunch of different things in there. It's

[00:34:41]Craig Dalton: a lot. It's a lot. Keep us

[00:34:43]James Gracey: old men going. And you keep going, like, here's a lot of just, uh, vitamins that you take to make sure you're not deficient in something. And I have, even though I couldn't pinpoint, oh, if I, if I'd had more vitamin B or vitamin D or E or potassium or something.

Uh, that wouldn't have happened, but I've never not finished and I usually just keep the, a steady flow of all of those things going kind of all day. Was that something

[00:35:07]Craig Dalton: that's just a James Gracie, I've been an athlete for my whole life thing? Or did you, did you learn

[00:35:10]James Gracey: that from others? Yeah, no, it's just what I've been doing for anything long, uh, over, over the years and either trying to prevent a cramp or, you know, or just feeling like, ah, this stinks.

I really want to quit. Yeah. Like in keeping your mood elevated, like rhodiola. I did one guy, I take rhodiola pretty regularly. One person that had done four, uh, peri breasts before he said, your rhodiola is, is key. I was like, I'm taking rhodiola. What is that? It's a, it's for mental function and acute. So you like keep your mind sharp is what I would call it.

That's what, how he described it too. And I was like, I do take that. And if I could pinpoint one thing to take, it's that, besides salt and potassium, magnesium. It's that I saw people, I, I would notice my mind going on a detour for sure, and I would have, I would, I would have some rodeo. And then I'd come back to like, Oh, I was just on a mental trip, mental trip that did not exist.

[00:36:10]Craig Dalton: Well, we might get into, if we have time, some of the mental trips, some of your fellow riders took you on in their own journeys. So you're at the start line, as you said before, Perry Bros Paris, every four years. Very

[00:36:21]James Gracey: international. Yeah, 71 countries. Uh, at some of the larger controls they had 28 interpreters.

Wow. Um, and so somebody's not getting interpreted somewhere, is my guess. Yeah. Uh, but they had, um, it's a very international event that has, everybody is so excited. You don't really notice the excitement until kind of later in the ride because that's why, that's, that's literally what's keeping them going is their, a hundred percent focused on this event, and may have been focused on this event for sixteen years and never completed it.

And, uh, started it and didn't finish it. I started it and didn't finish it. Most people you talk to were repeat PeriBrass, Paris, Randonneurs, and they had, uh, they had, you know, end up in the bus. There's not even a bus. I made that up. You have to figure out your way. You have to figure out your way when you stop.

You have to figure out your way home. And so they all had a story of like, I was very far from finishing my first time or my second time. Yeah. Clearly the math

[00:37:26]Craig Dalton: wasn't going to add up. Yeah. Yeah. So you mentioned there's multiple different start times. One of them was you could start with 90 hours. You start at night.

Yeah. Sunday night. Sunday night. You elected to start 84 hours Sunday morning. Monday

[00:37:40]James Gracey: morning, Monday morning, 5. 15, which

[00:37:42]Craig Dalton: seemed logical when we, you and I were discussing it at one point, but then everybody, the logic get, got lost

[00:37:47]James Gracey: immediately. Yeah, everybody had different, uh, rationales for whatever they picked.

Obviously the 80 hour group is going to be a faster group. And so maybe there are faster riders in there and you can catch your draft wherever you need. You don't, if you're a, if you're a 16 mile an hour, like steady state rider, you don't want to ride with the 13. He's just pulling, right? It's not doing you any good.

You want to ride with a 16, 17. And so, those guys also leave Sunday night. Uh, the 90 hours, which is the bulk of the, the bulk of the entire event contingent, Uh, I think there were, I think there were 5, 000 people, or 5, 500, Uh, or maybe even 6, 000 that left Sunday night. Sunday afternoon. So they start at four and they end at ten, I think is the last, the last leave time.

So they're consistently sending out all of these people. And then, I didn't realize that it was broken down that way. So I left, there were only, there was only, uh, two or three groups behind me. So I'm at the end. Okay. And so, if the fast people in those two or three groups pass you, which they did very quickly, Uh, There's nobody else to like help you out because you're,

[00:39:03]Craig Dalton: I mean, you're going into it.

You're, you're hoping that you're going to find some Patago groups to draft, to ride,

[00:39:09]James Gracey: to ride with. And the first day it was definitely like that. The first hour of the event. It was, they blasted off, like I'm hanging on barely. I'm like, what am I doing? I knew I should slow down, but I'm also don't want to be literally the last person in the entire 8, 000 riding by

[00:39:29]Craig Dalton: myself for to someone the other day and I was like, I, the temptation for me to follow a wheel is just too

[00:39:34]James Gracey: strong.

And that's how, that's how it is at every event. You just can't, even when you think I'm going plenty slow, you're going too fast. Just slow down. Yeah. And, um, Um, and so they, they're, they took off, I don't know how fast they're going, we're, I think in my first, like in my first couple of checks, we were going 28k, something like, it was like way too fast.

And there's, you know, it's all rolling hills, there's about 40, 000 feet of climbing in the whole event. No mountains, it's just rolling hills the whole way. And, the groups, the group that I left with, there was maybe 2, 000 that morning. 1, 500 of them are ahead of me. They're gone. And the fast guys of those groups are gone, gone.

And there's about 500 behind me. Each group is about 250 to 300 people. I was X. There's X, there's Y, there's Z. And then there's plus. I think the plus were maybe ads. And so there's maybe 700 people behind me. And so that makes the second day... Someone did tell me if you leave in the 84 hour group, you're going to be riding by yourself a good bit.

Yeah. And the second day I rode by myself almost the whole, almost the whole day. And

[00:40:43]Craig Dalton: what kind of terrain are you riding on? You mentioned it's undulating. It's no big mountains, but obviously mostly paved, as you said earlier. Yeah. But are you going through little French villages?

[00:40:51]James Gracey: All the time. Okay. It's, it's, uh, it's consistently small towns.

Even if you got into a big town, I don't know, a big town may have been 10, 000 people. Yeah. So not that big. It may be a little touristy. And it's beautiful French countryside over and over. I mean, it's just like, it's, uh, I never got bored of it, but it, it was to say it's farms and fields and livestock and sunflowers and corn and over and over and over again.

And then through this, through the small towns, they would have roadside stands for you all over the place. Where they, were

[00:41:30]Craig Dalton: they at the control stations or just randomly?

[00:41:32]James Gracey: At the, at the controls, they have meals. And so if you left in the 90 hour group, like Ray, my friend from Mill Valley, showed me a picture of one of his meals.

Yeah. Leaving in the 90 hour group. And I said, what is that? And he said, that was my meal at the second control. What did the picture of your meal look like? You don't want to take a picture of it. It was terrible. All the good food is gone. But I'm also not having to wait in line for food or the bathroom.

Yeah. Or to get your stamps. Yeah, so that that's maybe a benefit and I've maximized my my daylight riding for sure because I left at daybreak Yeah, and so those the controls are There were having some pictures of them. They're pretty big. They have a lot of support They have a lot of people there Some of them had even mechanics shops like they'd have a couple of tents and if you just needed something basic They could help you out Uh, they had food, they were in cafeterias in elementary schools and middle schools, I guess is where most of them were.

So they could set up and prepare meals and we would have pasta or sandwiches or something like that. Uh, if you asked anybody, everybody that I talked to, including me, if you asked anybody what is the defining characteristic of the event, it is the people of the region, hands down. They, this is their event.

This is something that a 10 year old has been watching, you know, when he was 6, and then maybe if he remembered when he was 2, with his parent. His parent was watching it with his parent, or her parent, and then also with the great grandparents. And this entire lineage of people would come out, and a great grandfather is there with his great granddaughter, and he said, I'll watch this race, this ride with my great grandfather, because I've lived in the area the whole time.

That's wild. They never, I mean they were there to support you. People were past us for three days honking and cheering and just people in the region. They would come up, they would have roadside stands with either a tent or no tent. They'd have a, some kind of table or folding table or a farm table out there with, with items that they had prepared themselves.

Cookies and cakes, tea, lemonade, coffee. Uh, lots of baked goods, lots of croissants, and coke. Uh, some at night they would have soup that they've made for themselves. It's all free. Uh, and then occasionally there would be a road, a big roadside tent that was set up as a fundraiser. And you would pay a dollar for a soda and, you know, or a euro and two euros for sausages that were, I don't know if they were, they were amazing at the time.

They were fantastic. I was very happy to have them. And, uh, so you would then give a pin, right? So you'd give a pin to one of the kids that would come up very proudly and present you with all of the things that his, either they have prepared or their parents have prepared for you. And they would be very excited to get the pin.

They'd look at their mom and dad. Yeah.

[00:44:33]Craig Dalton: You were explaining to me offline that San Francisco, all the different clubs create.

[00:44:39]James Gracey: Tens from

[00:44:39]Craig Dalton: all over the world you have a bunch of them on your person and you give them to anybody shows you an act of kindness Yeah,

[00:44:44]James Gracey: or just somebody that's cheering and or you know, and you know rooting for you Basically, yeah like at the end I was meeting with I had lunch with some of the people that I did the ride with and I was Like they were they really did.

What we decided was that they really treated you like was a hero to them Like you may as well have been a two hour stage winner to them They would come up and they would be so excited especially the kids to see you and it was Amazing. It was it would bring you to tears that especially because you're in a weird mental state and you're like, this is so great And you know and them supporting you in that way day and now you could be it'd be 3 in the morning Or 5 in the morning or 10 at night and there were people out in front of their homes or opening their garage You know, that's literally on the street And they would open their garage and say, Oh, we got coffee and soup and, you know, uh, some fruits.

Yeah, it was, it was awesome.

[00:45:42]Craig Dalton: So, this is where we're going to take a break for part one. We'll have part two in your feed next week. I hope you're enjoying the conversation thus far. Our pal James is about halfway through Perry, Brest, Paris. And I can't wait for y'all to hear some of the stories that in see you in the next 600 kilometers.

As a reminder, if you enjoy what we do here at the gravel ride podcast, ratings and reviews are hugely appreciated. Or if you're able to support the show financially, please visit buy me a gravel ride. Until next time here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels