Category Archives: 1200K & 1000K Rides

Bon Courage: Theresa’s 2015 Paris-Brest-Paris

Sometimes when conditions conspire to limit my ability to be outdoors, I turn to the stories of rides gone by for inspiration. Today I’m honored to post one such story, Theresa Furnari’s 2015 recount of riding Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP).

As I read “Bon Courage,” I remember the dedication and tenacity one needs to take on a ride like PBP, the anxiety of unexpected challenges, and the thrill of the ride experience.  Continue reading Bon Courage: Theresa’s 2015 Paris-Brest-Paris

From Randonneur Rookie to PBP 2015: An Interview with Eric Williams

This brevet season Felkerino and I had the great pleasure of getting to know Eric Williams, member of #BikeDC and the D.C. Randonneurs.

In Eric’s first year of randonneuring, he completed a Super Randonneur series, a 1000K brevet, and Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP). And he just keeps on riding. He has the rando fever! Continue reading From Randonneur Rookie to PBP 2015: An Interview with Eric Williams

The Randonap

Since beginning my glamorous randonneuring career in 2005, I’ve not only ridden in places I never imagined, but I’ve dozed in an assortment of spots I never before would have considered comfortable or conducive to sleeping.

Ride long enough, sleep little enough, and you too will find yourself mastering the strategy of the perfect randonap. Continue reading The Randonap

PBP 2015: To Go or Not to Go Again?

The turning of the calendar to 2015 also means the arrival of a “PBP year.” Paris-Brest-Paris, the most heralded, historic, and international of all grand randonnees now peeps its head around the corner and beckons to us randonneurs, a mere eight months away.

I thought that deciding on a return trip to PBP would take little internal debate. I would set my sights on it, no matter what. Yet, as of this writing, I feel mixed. Like the self-help books taught me, I drafted a list of pros and cons to aid my decision-making. Continue reading PBP 2015: To Go or Not to Go Again?

All Dressed Up For PBP: The Towns Along the Way

This is the latest in a series of posts I’ve been planning about the incomparable international randonneuring event, Paris-Brest-Paris.

Previously, I wrote about Drew Buck, who completed PBP 2011 on a 1900 Peugeot, a as well as the tandem bicycles (Post 1 and Post 2). Today I’m talking about the towns along the PBP route. Continue reading All Dressed Up For PBP: The Towns Along the Way

The Overnight Ferris Wheel: Mile 418 on the Appalachian Adventure 1000K

Felkerino and I returned to the Appalachian Adventure (AA) 1000K course this past weekend to staff the second night of the actual event.

Front group AA1000K

Having ridden the pre-ride exactly the week before, I had a fairly vivid memory of my own shattered mile 418 arrival. The second day took more out of me than I bargained for, and it was only through redemption under the sweet crescent moon during our night ride that I mustered the desire to continue.

Continue reading The Overnight Ferris Wheel: Mile 418 on the Appalachian Adventure 1000K

Enduring the Pain Point

Mile 250 of our 625-mile ride. Fatigue courses through my body. My skin has that beat-up feeling from multi-day endurance riding. The sun is shrouded in fog and the road keeps going up.

Mile 372. Crawling through Douthat State Park. It’s peaceful and wooded, but night is falling. And the road keeps going up. And did I mention? We’re crawling.

I’m sick of it all. Sick of pedaling. Sick of riding so many miles and feeling as though I’m making no progress. Sure, the hills make it pretty, but I’m pretty sure they’re killing me. Why am I out here?

I am swallowed by the pain point. Every endurance event has at least one– that segment in the ride where the mind rejects the physical endeavor, and pesters with distracting questions and frustrations.

Continue reading Enduring the Pain Point

Appalachian Adventure 1000K Pre-ride Report

Felkerino wrote a day-by-day summary of our weekend 1000K pre-ride. It was intended for those who will be riding the event this upcoming weekend, but I thought others might enjoy reading it, too.

Throughout the ride, I shared our progress on Instagram. It was a new experience for me to share photos of the ride as it happened, and I’ve included those (as well as the captions) along with Felkerino’s report to give you a flavor of our experience.

Thanks, Felkerino!

Continue reading Appalachian Adventure 1000K Pre-ride Report

Preparing for a 1000K Brevet

After a summer of bicycling, the Appalachain Adventure 1000K is fast approaching, and Felkerino and I will be riding it.

Given that the Appalachian Adventure is a late summer affair, Felkerino and I maintained a pretty big base of mileage since finishing the Super Randonneur series with the D.C. Randonneurs.

Felkerino and cornfield

Despite not tracking my cycling miles, I still have a good sense of our weekend rides throughout the summer. Continue reading Preparing for a 1000K Brevet

More Tandems at Paris-Brest-Paris 2011

After digging through the photos archives, I discovered more tandem shots worth sharing from the last edition of PBP. That is, they are not hopelessly blurry or otherwise terrible. Perhaps you will even recognize some of the randonneurs. Continue reading More Tandems at Paris-Brest-Paris 2011

Tandem Bicycles at Paris-Brest-Paris 2011

Events like Paris-Brest-Paris are difficult to unbox all at once. Some aspects can be, such as the immediacy of the ride experience and the emotions and physical states experienced.

Felkerino and me, bike inspection

Others take time to absorb and appreciate especially when, for many of us, PBP occupies a small space in between a flurry of other activities and responsibilities. It also happens after an intense period spent building our stamina through longer rides, including a full brevet series and summer training. Continue reading Tandem Bicycles at Paris-Brest-Paris 2011

PBP Memories: Drew Buck and his 1900 Peugeot

This week BBC News ran a feature about Drew Buck, a long-distance cyclist from Somerset, England, who is famous in the randonneuring community for completing Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) multiple times on vintage bicycles.

Drew Buck arrives at PBP. Love this shot. Photo by Felkerino
Drew Buck arrives at PBP on his vintage retrodrive Peugeot. Love this shot. Photo by Felkerino

The article prompted me to search through my own set of photos from the 2011 edition of PBP, and I realized that Felkerino I had the pleasure of encountering Drew Buck at various points throughout the ride.

Continue reading PBP Memories: Drew Buck and his 1900 Peugeot

Colorado High Country 1200K: A Breathtaking Trip Out West

The Colorado High Country 1200K is a 90-hour, four day jaunt through about 750 miles of the great states of Colorado and Wyoming. Felkerino and I rode it last month and this month I wrote my story about it.

Welcome to Colorado

I fretted a lot in the months leading up to the ride. Weather, terrain, altitude, training, gear choices. You name it, I worried about it. To top it all off, Felkerino caught a bug right after we flew into Colorado, which had us waffling about whether or not we would even make it to the starting line.

Someone told me the only way to curb the nerves is by starting the event. Then you can put all your energy into turning the pedals over (and over and over), and you have no need or time to stay up late scouring workout logs to assess the adequacy (or not) of your preparation.

Ranch en route to Walden – Day 3

After ride organizer John Lee Ellis sent us off into pre-dawn, things fell into place. Ride preparation, good luck, as well as the excellent event organizing and volunteer support flowed together to create an amazing and unforgettable ride.

Our days laid out in the following stages:

Day 1:  Louisville, Colorado to Saragoga, Wyoming. 219.9 miles
Day 2:  Saratoga, Wyoming to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 198.1 miles
Day 3:  Steamboat Springs to Walden, Colorado. 181.3 miles
Day 4:  Walden to Louisville, Colorado. 147.5 miles

I’ve assembled this report like a highlight reel. It doesn’t follow any chronological sequence, really. Rather, it lays out the highlights of what made this ride special.

Preparation.

Despite my dampened motivation about the brevets this year, Felkerino and I still got out there, knowing that the High Country awaited us in mid-July. The D.C. Randonneurs series set up well for us, as we participated in our 600K the weekend of June 9. I finally got my act together during this ride, moving efficiently through our brevet with the knowledge that we’d be clipping in for a ride twice that distance one month later.

After completing the 600K, we settled into maintenance miles for the next few weeks. Given that the 1200K began five weeks after our 600K, we felt it made no sense to put in any additional big efforts, as it would not improve our fitness and we needed some recovery to put the pop back into our legs.

Our approach worked, and we showed up in Boulder with fresh legs (though Felkerino did have a harsh little cough he was managing up until the day before the ride) four days prior to the official start.

The following morning, Dave Cramer of Massachusetts, Bob Olsen of New York, and I got together for a shakedown ride to Boulder. The next day Felkerino and I went out and rode up to Jamestown using a route one of our Twitter connections cued for us. These rides gave us an opportunity to test out our legs as well as the bike. Both felt good, ready to take on the big event.

The pre-event rides also allowed us to explore the area, and feel like we were really on vacation. Yes, the ride was part of our vacation, too, but it involved intense physical work and sleep deprivation. Not so vacationy. It felt good to arrive to the Boulder area a few days early in order to acclimate and enjoy a couple of mellow days. And being a cyclist in Boulder was awesome. Everywhere I turned it seemed like there were people out riding their bikes. It was a sport rider’s paradise.

Pre-riding with Bob and Dave around Boulder

Ride Organizing.

If ever a ride challenged an organizer’s routing skills and flexibility, this one did. In the days leading up to the ride, wildfires burned in Poudre Canyon, which John Lee had planned for us to ride through on both Day 1 and Day 4. Another fire broke out near one of the roads we would use to travel to Laramie. Firefighters contained the blazes in Poudre Canyon, but all of the burn resulted in a landslide that blocked the road there. John Lee diligently proposed new route possibilities, including the possibility of crossing Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the United States, on the final day.

Fortunately for us, the fires near Laramie were contained prior to the ride start, and the landslide in Poudre Canyon cleared in time for us to experience it on the final day. Thanks to John’s routing skills, we were treated to many beautiful roads and mountain passes, some of which were last-minute substitutions. And no Trail Ridge Road… PHEW!

John Lee Ellis at the top of Willow Creek Pass – Day 3

Good Weather, Cold Mornings.

With the exception of a few raindrops on the first day of the High Country, the weather was almost ideal. As soon as the sun rose over the mountain so would the temperatures. For four days, we left the muggy air of the Mid-Atlantic behind and breathed the crisp dry air of the West.

Mark T and Dave on Day 3

The sun would shine brightly throughout the day and, in order not to worry about burning, I wore sun sleeves that my friend Barry recommended I purchase. “They weigh nothing and cost next to nothing.” It was $30 well spent. Protecting my arms prevented a sure sunburn, since I could never apply enough sunscreen to keep up with the strength of the sun.

Winds were always manageable, even through some of the more wide open spaces. We even had the pleasure of riding with some tailwinds.

The latter three days started out cold– in the high 30s to low 40s, I would guess. Mentally, I did not accept that July mornings would be this cold. I brought booties along, but thinking I would not need them, I left them in my drop bag until I endured two mornings with numb toes and stiff ankles. I’ll never forget the beauty of Gore Pass, and I’ll not soon forget how frigid my feet felt.

I brought along a wool skull cap, and then laughed at myself for even considering that I would wear it. Into the drop bag. As we descended Cameron Pass on the final day, our acceleration into the cold morning numbed my brain until all that remained was a vision of that sweet warm purple wool skull cap. If only if only. I know Felkerino was feeling the discomfort, too, as I ended up loaning him my helmet cover.

Sunny Day 4 Morning in Poudre Canyon

Volunteers!

Randonneuring encourages self-sufficiency. There is no SAG wagon if you break down and for the most part, riders are on their own to figure out food needs and any mechanicals that arise throughout the day.

Nevertheless, events like this need volunteers for whatever level of support the ride organizer wants to offer (within the RUSA and ACP rules, of course). For us, that support included a snack oasis at a somewhat desolate spot near the Wyoming border, as well as super-efficient staffed overnight controls.

Riders at the Oasis in WY

At each overnight stop, someone immediately signed our card, assigned us a room to sleep, told us where to park our bike, and directed us to food. Volunteers laid out drop bags in advance of our arrival so we knew right where to find them. After hundreds of miles of riding, their help meant a lot.

Volunteers in Walden, making it happen

To top it off, we ate hot breakfasts every morning. Awesome! With food being the fuel to get us through the ride, I had extra appreciation for the hearty control meals. Thank you, thank you, volunteers!!

Star-Filled Skies.

I forgot how breathtaking stargazing can be. On a ride as long as the High Country, I can guarantee that Felkerino and I will be pedaling plenty of miles in the dark. Sometimes those segments can be monotonous, especially in the stoker zone, as you pretty much see nothing on all sides unless someone else’s headlight illuminates a peripheral patch for you.

The evening riding on this ride was absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced. Felkerino and I had the company of other riders so I often had that peripheral light helping me. We were the only traffic on the road so the riding was perfectly peaceful. The stars gleamed brightly in the sky, with the luminous dust of the Milky Way visible to the naked eye. It’s been years since I’ve seen skies like that.

With skies that stunning, I looked forward to our early morning departures from the controls. We were fortunate to arrive before dark each of the three nights of the 1200K so we moved up our exits from the controls the next day as a result, leaving at around 2:30 each day.

Up in the night sky, I saw planets, constellations, and maybe I even spied the Curiosity Rover at one point. Kidding! I did not see Curiosity. On the fourth and final day, our riding group of Dave Campbell, Bill Beck, Felkerino, Jeff Bauer and I pulled over for one reason or the other. The night sky drew our glances up and we all paused to savor its beauty.

Scenery.

The High Country represented the first time I’d ever ridden in Colorado and Wyoming, and I could not get over how awesome it was. Having done most of my endurance riding on the East Coast, I was more used to shorter and steeper climbs, with more limited vistas.

Riding out west contrasted starkly to the east. While both are beautiful in their own way, the majority of the climbs on the High Country 1200 were about a billion times longer and graded more shallowly, with the exception of the two-mile pitches to the summits.

Sumitting Willow Creek Pass on Day 3

Almost all of the summits on our ride were forecast with signs that read “X Summit. Two miles. Whenever I saw that, not only did I know we were close to the top, I also knew that it was time to get out of the saddle and grind away.

Willow Creek Summit – 2 Miles

John spaced out the climbing well. Even though each day involved plenty of climbing, the descents and mellow sections in between the mountains allowed us time to rest and recover. As I said, the passes were long, but usually forgiving in their pitch. The water flowing through the mountain creeks, blissful light of sunrise and late afternoons, open views from the high plains, and the mountain landscapes served to distract from the sustained effort of climbing for miles at a time.

The High Country 1200K made me feel like Felkerino and I were a couple of bada$$es. Climbing mountain passes on a tandem will do that. Climbing mountains that are graded enough to make you work, but not so steeply that your knee cartilege starts wearing off will do that. This route crested several passes over its four days, and each one of them was spectacular.

Mark T. on Gore Pass – Day 3

John also included a section known as “20-mile road,” a 20- mile road about 10 miles too long that rivals the Heartbreak Hills of the Endless Mountains 1000K in its steep dips and climbs. This was a last-minute addition to the route due to the fires outside of Boulder. Apparently, the road was originally dirt, but had been paved in recent years to accomodate the traffic in and out of a coal mine that had been built in the area. We would arduously climb up up up, standing in the granny, only to give back all the ground we had gained in a brutally swift downhill.

Tim A. on 20-Mile Road

By the last five miles of that road, I started to take it personally whenever we would give up any ascent, knowing that we would have to recoup it somehow. It was a gorgeous, but mentally and physically challenging stretch of the course. Just when I thought I might have to write John a strongly worded letter, we reached our final granny grinding ascent of 20-mile road and arrived at the control. I was slightly frazzled and aggravated, but with knee cartilage intact.

Fortunately, 20-Mile Road abutted one of my favorite parts of the route, Stagecoach Road. This peaceful stretch wound through a state park (also called Stagecoach) and by a lake. We passed through in late afternoon on the second day of the ride. Long shadows and warm light made for a beautiful 15-mile or so run through this lush green undulating section. It also included some zippy downhills, resulting in some fun tandeming back to Steamboat Springs.

Jeff B. on Stagecoach Road

As I mentioned, Poudre Canyon opened up to the public just days before we passed through it. The transformation of the canyon due to the fire was shocking. The sour burnt smell of scorched vegetation lingered in the air. You could trace the path of the fire by looking at the land. A tree that completely escaped the fire’s wrath stood beside others that had not been so lucky. It was hard to comprehend. As we left Poudre Canyon and entered the towns near it, homemade signs stood in people’s yards thanking and recognizing the firefighters for all of their work.

Rando Cameraderie.

One of the other riders remarked during Day 2 of the ride that our randonnee was really a group ride. “Some weird kind of group ride,” I remember thinking. “The longest, hilliest group ride I’ve ever been on.” As the ride progressed, I think I understood his comment.

Our ride was clearly organized into four distinct days. At the end of each day, a comfy bed and warm food awaited. Riders were welcome to continue further, but they then had to figure out their own sleeping and eating arrangements. Most riders stuck to the pre-determined stages of each day, which meant that we were all riding within hours of each other each and often crossing paths throughout the day.

We spent many hours in the pleasant company of other randonneurs. That was great. People were serious about completing the ride, but not so serious that they wouldn’t engage in conversation about rides gone by, scenery, bike tech talk, or whatever comes up as a topic on brevets.

Jimmy, Mark, and Ed at Gore Pass on Day 3

There were some sections that Felkerino and I rode in solitude, but not many.

At the finish. Thanks for waiting for us, Dave and Bill!

It’s difficult for me to express how much it meant to keep the company that we did, so I hope the photos I’ve included give you some idea. Thanks to everybody who rode with us and helped the miles go by.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Dave Campbell and Bill Beck for waiting for Felkerino, Jeff Bauer, and me at the finish so that we could all ride in together with the same finishing time.

Made it!

Until a ride actually unfurls beneath your front wheel you have no idea how it will go. You work away faithfully, put in the miles, make travel plans, do the other real life stuff you gotta do, and watch the weather websites like a deranged hawk. You imagine what the ride will be like ride based on your preparation, ride descriptions, weather forecasts, and any ride reports you can get your hands on.

I feel so relieved and grateful that Felkerino and I had the ride we did. I know it’s because of the good luck we had with the weather, the gorgeous landscape and carefully planned route, the efficient and hardworking volunteers, and the people with whom we shared the adventure.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen and thanks to you all for reading.

Memories of Donald Boothby and the Cascade 1200K

Donald Boothby, a Seattle randonneur, died of cancer this past week. I did not know Donald well, but he left such an impression on me during the 2006 edition of the Cascade 1200K, that I wanted to share the fond memories I have of him.

One of the best things about randonneuring is the people you have the chance to meet.

In 2006, I embarked on my first grand randonnee (on tandem with Felkerino), the Cascade 1200K. I’ll never forget that ride: the whole new experience of the 1200K distance; the heat; fellow riders from all parts of the country; and the incredible volunteer support provided by the Seattle International Randonneurs.

Among the volunteers on that ride was Donald Boothby, an avid randonneur and tandem rider. Donald, like many of the volunteers, followed the randonneurs through the 90-hour course and helped out by providing food and water along the way. Volunteering on a 1200K is an intense experience, as arduous as the ride itself, only you don’t get a medal at the end.

Continue reading Memories of Donald Boothby and the Cascade 1200K

Colorado High Country 1200K Photos

Hard for me to believe that the Colorado High Country 1200K is now in the books. Felkerino and I spent the last six months working toward this event, and suddenly it’s back to business as usual. No 1200K on the horizon, just the regular routine.

To keep the post-event blues at bay, I’ve been reviewing, uploading, and captioning my photos of our four days of riding.

Below is a preview of each set. To see each day in detail, just click on the corresponding image and you will be taken to the appropriate flickr set. I hope you enjoy taking a virtual ride with Felkerino and me.

Continue reading Colorado High Country 1200K Photos