Sarah lives in Connecticut but grew up in Minnesota just a few miles from the Coulee Challenge start.
I became a RUSA member on January 3, 2018 and registered for the Coulee Challenge on January 6 as an outside goal, since I’d never ridden a brevet or done more than 154 miles in a day. There was something comforting – poetic – about going home to Minnesota for my first Grand Brevet. The whole thing seemed like such a stretch – I’d done innumerable multi-day rides, supported and unsupported…but nothing like the Coulee Challenge. I was not a confident climber. But I wanted – still want – to ride PBP in 2019 and needed to know how my body would hold up. Besides being on home turf, the Coulee Challenge offered great support, so I could focus on the physical challenge and not logistics.
I think what surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the other riders! I joined a small group on the first day and stayed with them until day three, when I broke off. I missed them the rest of the way. Making friends was an unexpected pleasure, and I learned a lot just by chatting. The sense of community was amazing. So was the sense of strength I got from grinding up those coulees and making it back to Apple Valley within the time limit.
I spent most of day four with a rider whose sense of humor matched mine, for good and bad. I finished the ride laughing (hard enough to make the bike wobble!), which bodes well for PBP, I think, though we were clearly a little giddy. This was not a beginners’ ride – seasoned Randonneurs were clearly the majority, gauging by the loads of experience I benefitted from along the course. But, as a novice super randonneuse, I do recommend it for prepared newbies, because of the support and encouragement the organizers provide over tough, beautiful terrain.