The Last Ride of My First Super Randonneur Series: A Hilly and Hot 600K Brevet

In an effort to put all my old ride reports either on this blog or The Daily Randonneur, you’ll notice that I’m sharing a few “vintage” pieces. This one is the story of my first 600K experience from 2005, and is also the first story I ever wrote about randonneuring.

I never intended to become a randonneur. I did not even know what a brevet was, let alone think I would be completing a Super Randonneur in the same year I was introduced to randonneuring. I anticipated completing the fleche and thought maybe I would occasionally participate in a century-plus distance every now and then.

Nine years later I’m still riding with Felkerino and randonneuring with the D.C. Randonneurs. We’ve completed three 1200Ks, including Paris-Brest-Paris and a 1000K together. Life continues to unfold in ways I did not imagine.

As I re-read this story, I am pretty sure it is not be the best ride report I ever wrote, but perseverance through the unexpected and then-unknown distances, the difficulties of my first 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K brevets, in addition to the culminating thrill of finishing the final ride of a Super Randonneur series inspired me to memorialize this time. 

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Photo by Bill Beck

It all started with an invitation to be part of a fleche team. Sure, I thought. Sounds fun. I’ll do a fleche. I will ride with my friend Andrea. It’ll be great. Then I met Lynn K. I met Crista and Chuck. THEN I met Ed Felker, and the next thing I knew I found myself on a tandem.

Now I’m riding a Rivendell Romulus and doing a fleche! Two months later I’m riding a tandem on a 200K, another 200K, a 300K, a 400K, and next I am crying under a tree on a 600K. Could my free time be spent any better way than this?

It was a bumpy beginning for me on my first 600K, and I was a little bit derailed around mile 140. The ride was a combination of hot, humid, and hilly conditions unlike any I had experienced before.

Ed was doing such a good job of leading us through it, but I could not keep up with the heat beating down on us. So we stopped, had a little tandem team meeting, my body temperature lowered from near-combustion hot to extremely hot, and we pressed on.

These solemn moments were filled with active dialogue among all my inner voices.

Can I do this ride? No, I can’t do this ride.

Maybe I can do this ride.

Why am I doing this ride?

Who else is doing this ride?

Is it hot on this ride?

Wow, it is too hot to do this ride!

Ed is doing such a great job on this ride. He is so cute. Too bad he isn’t on his single bike. Then I could be home sleeping!

Think of all the enjoyable activities I could be doing in AIR CONDITIONING!!! List them now!

However, as we began to go through Goshen Pass, the discouraging thoughts dissipated and the only voice left was, YES, YOU WILL DO THIS RIDE!!!

Goshen Pass was outstanding, and Andrea Matney and Dave Gaudette had waited up for us at the Recreation Area. I was so happy to see them.

Ed and I got off the bike, discussed how great it would be to jump in the river and refilled our Camelbaks.

We all pedaled together to the next control, enjoying the scenery and the shade which, Andrea later stated, was worth its weight in gold.

I decided that statements like this are very good for thinking about on long rides. I killed at least four miles contemplating the weight of shade.

After we passed the control in Goshen, Ed, Dave, Andrea, Jim Lehman, and I meandered on, sauntering up Big Hill like it was a flat section, ha ha, eventually stopping to rehydrate at Reid’s Country Store near Botetourt County.

The woman running the store had just come from a family wedding, and she told us to look for the party as we went on. She also reassured us that the ride would continue to be hilly.

Sure enough, about fifteen minutes after embarking once again, the wedding celebration appeared on our left. Andrea yelled, “Congratulations!! We heard all about your wedding!”

The sun began to set and we discussed the word “epic.” Dave commented that someday he would like to do a brevet that contained no adjective at the beginning. Just a ride would be all right.

We also talked about how Andrea was the only female rider on a single bike. Dave stated, “Andrea is representing single women riders everywhere.”

We ran into Matt Settle again at the next control, who put the idea of pasta in our heads. He said that was where he was headed next, pasta in Buena Vista . Matt rode off.

Chris Mento met up with us, and we all took off together into the nighttime. For the next 17 miles, I kept thinking about pasta, and how yummy it would be. I was certain it would be the best meal I had ever tasted.

We rolled into town around 10:00 pm and stopped at Nick’s Restaurant. The staff there informed Ed that they had decided to close early because they had no customers.

Ed gave us the sad news. Andrea said to us, “Well, what are we?” I guess we are cyclists, not customers. We moved on, dejected cyclists.

Andrea scouted out another Italian place for us, but pasta was not to be our evening meal because people in Buena Vista apparently do not eat supper after 10:00pm. We thought we might have to eat dinner at the Exxon when I heard both Ed and Andrea yell, “Subway!!!” I have never heard two people so excited for Subway sandwiches.

After inhaling our meal, we had our control cards signed, and rode on to Raphine. The temperatures were much cooler now, and all the lightning bugs were out saying hi to us.

Jim impressed us with his very high tech lighting system, and it was a great group ride into the Days Inn at mile 238. Woo hoo!!! We all scurried off to our hotel beds, except for Matt; who kept on riding!

After we woke up (2 ½ hours later), Andrea was experiencing nausea. We gave her a Pepcid to calm her stomach, and it seemed that she would have consumed a whole packet of Pepcids in that moment if it were possible.

Although disappointed to learn that you are only supposed to take one every twelve hours, one seemed to do the trick for her, though. Somehow I was able to get back on the bike. Andrea and I had switched jerseys because my shoulders had roasted the day before and I had only brought sleeveless jerseys along. Oops! Lesson learned.

As Chris, Andrea, Dave, Ed, and I rode to the Churchville control, I tried to keep my mind on breakfast. I am riding for eggs, bacon, and home fries, I kept saying. Ed and I talked about how Clif bars and gels sounded yucky to us both.

We stopped a few times along the way and filled our bottles up with some tasty spring water. I had never had water directly from a spring, and it was delicious! Chris, Dave, and Andrea rode on ahead, with Chris thinking that the control cutoff was 8:15, rather than 9:15a.m.

After breakfast we rode on to Bridgewater to take another break. I am riding for a break, I said to myself. I liked my new approach. After each little segment, I would find a new purpose to ride.

Before we arrived, we met Vernon and Betty, who were cruising the route to check on everybody. They rolled down their windows and said, “You guys are crankin’!” Well, that was very inspiring to hear, but we were on a pretty nice downhill when they were saying it.

At the Quarles Store, Vernon, Betty, and Bill Schwartz hung out with us a little while, and we talked about the brevets and our upcoming tour with Chuck and Crista. Vernon recognized Andrea—”Hey you’re one of the fast people on the Wednesday night ride!” Ed drank his coffee, I got my first dose of bag balm for the day, and we rode on.

After this stop, Chris and Dave rode ahead. Andrea, Ed, and I were concerned about the heat since it had almost done me in yesterday so we took it easy, stopping several times under some excellent shade trees and enjoying the breeze. Ed said we were doing it like a weekend century. Ok, I can do that! Andrea talked a lot about the adventures of her cross-country tour, and we rode along, tired and happy.

Throughout the brevet, Ed talked about how well his wool base layer was working. He was sure it was wicking away sweat, heat, and body odor. I assured him, it might be wicking away sweat and heat, but not so for the body odor. He said that wool didn’t smell.

Andrea suggested that he smelled like a sheep. Later she added that when I was “smelling the barn” on the end of long rides, that maybe in reality it was Ed I smelled. And that is when I knew we were all getting quite loopy.

Vernon, Betty, and Bill came to check on us one last time while we were on Route 42, and Bill told us that the people who finish brevets last get a special prize. He never told us what the prize was so I am still waiting to find out.

Vernon gave us the emotional disposition of the riders left on the course. He said Jeff Magnuson had just left the last control and was smiling away. That was good because when we saw him in Churchville he was not smiling away!

We eventually reached the last control with 45 minutes to spare. Somebody in the store asked us how far we were riding. I answered.

“Don’t you know we have cars now?” the man stated. Cars? Whoever heard of driving a car when you could ride your bicycle?!

After the last control, it seemed like we picked up the pace a little bit, but it could have been all in my head at this point. I had purchased some finishing prizes for myself, a packet of Skittles and some Twizzlers, and they had provided me inspiration to carry on.

I announced to Andrea and Ed that I was riding for my candy prizes, and I would only eat them at the very end of the ride. Ed said that he was riding to not ride any more.

We enjoyed the tandem friendly rollers of Back Road, and then I had the daylights scared out of me by the rollers on Middle Road. That road was not my friend, and the traffic was too aggressive for my comfort. After Middle Road, Ed pulled over to the side for us to cool down and have a quiet moment together before we rode the last few miles.

We climbed into Middletown , and cruised into the finish at the Super 8. It was so thrilling to see everyone cheering for Ed, Andrea, and me. Andrea and I had finished our first brevet series, and it was so incredible and fun to be finishing it together.

Crista gave me a hug, and I was fighting so hard not to cry because she had inspired so much confidence in me throughout the year. Those early weekend mornings and winter century rides had paid off.

I thought about how great it had been to ride with Andrea and Ed throughout the day, and how supportive the DC Randonneurs had been of me throughout the fleche and the brevet series. It was an oustanding finish!

I also reminded myself how lucky I was to have met Ed Felker (thanks to Lynn K.), and to be able to share the challenge of these rides with him. He taught me so much about randonneuring, always prepared the bicycle for our rides, made excellent coffee in the wee hours of the day, was sensitive to my newness to the sport, and alleviated so many of my worries about doing the long rides.

With Ed, I felt like we could ride anything, go up any hill, and ride forever. Ok, not forever, but at least 375 miles!

Even though Paul Donaldson informed me that I will only be able to be in the running for “World’s Greatest Randonneur” when I start steering the bike [as demonstrated in the photo to the left], I feel extremely satiated for completing the 2005 D.C. Brevet Series. Now it is time to start preparing for 2006.

 

4 responses to “The Last Ride of My First Super Randonneur Series: A Hilly and Hot 600K Brevet

  1. Love it! As I contemplate, someday, riding my first brevet this is a great perspective to read.

    Like

  2. Until I read this repost, I had forgotten how difficult it was to keep my mind occupied and keep negative thoughts at bay on my first few brevets. Now, I just merrily roll along for the most part. Occasional negative thoughts pop up, but they are easy to deal with, and I never get bored. I am much more in the moment as a cyclist, and I was not even aware of this, until just now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great observation. That is probably the case for me, too, though I admitted to envying a family watching television in the evening hours as we rode the 400K two weeks ago. However, thoughts like that are momentary. I wonder why? Mental adaptation or familiarity, maybe? I definitely think that I’ve come to expect highs and lows during rides and I keep pedaling through the lows knowing they will eventually pass.

      Like

  3. this is a great chronicle! very funny in parts…

    and i saw the instagram photo: that is an awesome HEADLIGHT!!! and dynohub.

    are you doing the 600K on dyno power?…

    Like

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