There are other classic audax events but there is only one "Paris Brest".
Partly it is due to the international nature of the event. 6000 riders from all around the world; a continuous parade of happy and healthy people doing what they love best. Then there are the volunteers, a support crew of thousands who have given up days or weeks of their time to support us with food, beds, coffee and encouragement. Of course France itself makes a great contribution with its beautiful villages, well kept towns and smooth roads. And then there are the spectators, standing or sitting eating by the side of the road and supporting us with applause and appreciation.
There were times during the qualifiers when I questioned my motivation. I had done the ride once before, in 2007, and approaching it for the second time my mental state was quite different. There was much less nervousness, less anxiety that the challenge would be too much, more a feeling that it might be a pleasant way of spending three days.
The challenge is to ride 1200km within 90 hours, but I had no intention of trying to achieve more than getting in before the time limit, which is what I did last time. As it happened I kept going for the first 600km and arrived in Brest with time for a reasonable nights sleep. In this way I managed to avoid what for me is the most unpleasant part of riding this type of event - getting up in the dark. The third night I rode through until around 2am and had another good sleep.
I think that riding it on a recumbent bicycle might actually be described as cheating. It certainly makes it very much less challenging as it takes away almost all of the elements of pain and discomfort. It becomes just a long bike ride with an element of sleep deprivation that is not severe and is easily cured by a ten minute nap. Also the terrain is well suited to us laid back types as for the most part the hills are rolling and you can keep up a good pace. By the last 200km I was well warmed up and riding really well, which meant that I comfortably made it to the final control within 80 hours and felt as if I could of done more if I needed to.
Recovery takes a while. Plenty of sleep and some easy wandering around the streets of Paris with my new friend Tobit was an excellent way to ease myself back into normal life. The experience is addictive though, perhaps because of the extreme physical and emotional states you experience. I am already planning some more adventures for next year.