This photo of me as I near the Tinténiac control on the return route turns out to mean a great deal to me. The meaning is two-fold as well. It is clear (to me at any rate) that the photo captures me absolutely enjoying the moment, and enjoying it as completely as I can. With hindsight from two weeks later, though, I know now what that rider in the photo could not: the best was still to come. Imagine then, enjoying something so thoroughly, and then the experience just gets better.
If you have read the notes that describe this blog, you then know that this was not my first attempt at PBP. In 2007, I fell a long way short of finishing. For the following four years, nearly everything I did cycling related was to prepare for a return to France and to take another shot at Paris, Brest et retour. While falling short of obsessive, my preparation was many faceted, and only grew in determination as the four years passed. I felt I was addressing all the shortcomings of the attempt in 2007. I felt by 2011 I was a better randonneur than in 2007. I believed I knew what I wanted to achieve and I felt I had learned how to achieve that. The second meaning that the photo gives to me though is that despite all my preparation and the strong convictions that gave me, I simply had no real idea what finishing this time would mean to me. Finding out just what finishing did mean to me turned out to be stunning.
In my posts on this blog, I try to move beyond a recitation of riding stats and grocery lists of what I ate. Given that, some of my posts get lengthy and by some standards verbose. Paris, Brest, Paris is just not a one-post-experience, so I plan to deliver the story in segments over time (mostly as I finish them), and this post is then a preface. PBP is also not the sum of the route itself and for me the ride began long before that pre-dawn start on August 22nd and did not end at mid-day on August 25th.