Photo by Bill Beck

Writing Your Way to the Ride You Want

Can you write your way to the ride you want? To a certain extent, I think you can.

Throughout my time randonneuring, I have gone through different phases. My primary goal during my first series of riding brevets was to finish within the time limits. This was also a time of intense learning about fueling and fitness, melding as a tandem team with Felkerino, as well as getting to know the randonneuring community.

After starting this blog in June 2010, whenever I planned a ride I also imagined myself writing a story about it.  This awareness helped expose negative and energy-wasting elements that had intruded into my riding.

I developed a level of understanding of my body with regard to the brevets over a few seasons of randonneuring. I figured out how to get myself around a course without too much drama, but I realized that at some point I had started to fret about my “place” in the randonneuring community.

I worried I was not measuring up, not doing as well as I should, that I was perhaps even a randonneur poseur. This self-defeating attitude began to permeate my ride experiences.

The inception of this blog and the idea that the ride would also include or result in a story became another way for me to visualize and anticipate my ride experience prior to it actually taking place.

I did not want a brevet to be overtaken with how I perceived I was doing relative to everyone else, and wondering if I did not measure up because I wasn’t as fast as so-and-so or wasn’t riding as much as so-and-so. I know this may sound silly to all of you, but I’m telling you, I wasted time pondering these things and my blog ride reports really helped me refocus.

Brevets are one of the ways that I spend my leisure time, and I do not want my leisure time to be a big puddle of negative. My aim is a net enjoyable experience. Isn’t that part of why it’s called leisure time?

Unnecessary self-flagellation over things I had no control of was not part of my desired story or experience. I wanted to explore the beauty of being outdoors, positive and interesting interactions with people on the ride and at the controls, a story that captured the moments Felkerino and I shared and the sensation of riding a bike for miles and miles from sunrise to sunset (and then some). I wanted my story to be about working through whatever unexpected challenges the ride offered.

When I visualized my ride stories with these elements, I began to take note of them during brevets. My experiences became less tentative and I savored rides in a new way. I also renewed my appreciation for the life circumstances that have allowed me to participate in randonneuring events over the years.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t include negative or uncomfortable things that happen along the way. Nor does it mean that I paint an overly rosy picture about a ride.

However, this process has brought me much more in tune with the positive parts of  rides. I now commit to the best day I can have on a bike whenever my feet clip in for a ride. I see it reflected in my stories. I’m writing my way to the ride I want.

16 thoughts on “Writing Your Way to the Ride You Want”

  1. I do this! I’m still learning how to channel and focus the story-writing energy into my rides in a way that complements rather than distracts, but… yes, the relationship is symbiotic.

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  2. Sheesh! What can I say? My philosophy is throw a leg over the saddle and start pedalling! Hopefully I’ve not forgotten anything too important, but if so, oh well, I’ll cope somehow. It’s the journey, the unpredictability that is so cool and freeing. Who knows what we will encounter? The story writes itself. Relax, breathe in the open road, and embrace whatever transpires on the pilgrimage. There is no right or wrong, just style and panache. And rest assured you have a whole ton of that and we love it!

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  3. Not measuring up is something I fear, too. Heck, I haven’t started a blog because I don’t feel I’d measure up to ones I admire like yours! But thinking of the story, savoring the adventure, I can relate to that.

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    1. So weird to feel this about measuring up, no? For me, it took active concentration to put that aside. I think comparing among my peers might be a way I try to make sense of the complexities of the world, who knows. Regarding the blog, though, you should jot down a few post ideas and just start typing!

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  4. Interesting column. Applicable not just to randonneuring but to reminding ourselves to live the life we want to live. Mindfulness.

    My ride reports are letters to a future me, to remind me of how things were when I was young and could still do this crazy sport :-) Well, sometimes they are after-action reports to help remind me what worked and what didn’t. And maybe they are partly letters to as-yet-unborn grandchildren so they can know their grandfather wasn’t always old and feeble.

    I’ve always like the title of Richard Feynman’s book “What do you care what other people think?” For the most part that’s how I try to live, doing what I think is the right thing and doing my best. But sometimes (e.g. yet another photo of me with sunscreen smeared all over) perhaps I should care more what other people think :-)

    Nick

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    1. I love seeing the ride reports as letters to a future self. I have also written posts as a way to sort through or learn something. I’ll have to check out the book you mention.

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  5. I always tote a camera with me, even on errand jaunts because I want to have the ability to capture an image for the blog. However, on longer trips, I imagine what I’d write about in a humorous or upbeat manner. But we’d be fooling ourselves to completely discard any low feelings. It’s part of cycling long distances. We experience the miles in a visceral way: sore muscles, sweat, elation at passing a cute puppy, anger at a vehicle screaming by too closely, or savoring a mocha chip ice cream cone. We are vulnerable on two wheels, which exacerbates the highs and lows.

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  6. I like this a lot. I found myself doing something related while racing ‘cross very badly over the last couple of seasons; even at the worst moments I would find myself thinking, ‘Well, at least I can try and be funny about this on the blog’…

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  7. I just started blogging and riding again after letting similar types of negativity stop me from doing them. After reading this post and all the comments, It’s wonderful to realize that I’m not the only one who deals with this and that the hard work will pay off if I keep at it.

    PS, Your blog is one of my favorites. Thanks so much for writing it!

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  8. Thanks for the comment! :)

    This totally makes sense to me. Blogging sometimes convinced me to do things that are out of my comfort zone just so I can write about them, it helps me (often, not always) focus on what I want to remember rather than negatives, and it gives me a reference point to see what did/didn’t work and how I’ve progressed. And the responses of so many people in the cycling community have really driven home to me that you don’t have to be fast or particularly talented to belong, often you just have to show up and do your best.

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