Category Archives: Brevets

Living On In Memories

This past weekend I had one of the best rides of my life on the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet, and that’s not the randonnesia talking. The course layout, weather, and randonneur fellowship combined to set up a practically perfect 375 miles.

Early morning fog lifted out of valleys to reveal the lush terrain in which we would ride for the weekend.

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The sun warmed the Shenandoah Valley, but cloud cover conveniently rolled in on many of the exposed afternoon sections of our route on both days. Temperatures were never exceedingly hot, meaning riders could focus their energy on pedaling without worries of overheating.

We were also treated to a double tailwind– the pink unicorn of randonneuring. The only other time I’ve experienced a double tailwind was during the 2011 edition of PBP.

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Before ride organizers John and Cindy bid us adieu, our friend Bill Beck spoke about Lynn Kristianson, the designer of this particular 600K route as well as many of the D.C. Randonneurs’ brevet courses. Lynn died this past week, and Bill suggested that we remember her along the way, as we crested ridges and took in the beautiful valley vistas of the route.

Lynn heavily influenced my growth as a randonneur when I was first starting out. She introduced me to the Shenandoah Valley, and the eccentric world of randonneuring.

In 2005, I became part of Lynn’s all-woman fleche team, the Randonnettes. This was my first randonneuring event, and I felt so lucky to be part of it, as though I had somehow gained entry into a secret club. At that time I was just thrilled to be a randonneur, and didn’t realize or understand the rarity of the all-woman team Lynn worked so hard to recruit.

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My dad was very sick this year and during his illness, he told my sister that he believed people lived on through the good memories you hold of them. As I rode our 600K, I thought about my good memories of Lynn.

Lynn believed a view was worth the grind of a tough climb. She never feared hills and she liked quiet roads in the country. She wanted to involve more women in randonneuring, and I am a direct beneficiary of that.

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The tangible memories Lynn leaves behind include the formation of our club, the D.C. Randonneurs, as well as many intricately thought-out and visually stunning routes like this past weekend’s 600K.

But the best memory I hold of Lynn is that she thought to introduce me to Felkerino, my tandem partner and best friend. Lynn didn’t know it when she did this, but she helped me discover true love. I thought about that a lot as we followed the route she plotted for us this past weekend. For that I will always remember her.

Randonneuring Beneath the Stars

The sun flares orange and pink, drops behind the mountains, and leaves us. Felkerino and I pause to don night gear, assess our 600K progress, and estimate the hours of night riding ahead.

Around sunset I usually find myself taking the occasional long look toward farmhouses. Are they eating dinner? Watching a movie? After riding over 200 miles, that sounds like a relaxing way to end the day.

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Our evening will not include any couch-sitting, however. We push on. Felkerino lights the way forward, but as my view is largely blocked by his body I look side to side. And up.

I love to tilt my eyes to the night sky during brevets. It’s one of the perks of stoking a tandem. Stars I never see in the city easily pierce the midnight ceiling of the country.

As we ride upward, tree leaves and branches block the sky-scape, turning the road an even darker shade of night. We descend and stars reappear.

A lightning bug dips by my periphery and I gaze off into the trees to search for more of them. The organic light show of the lightning bugs’ pulsing illumination hypnotizes. I wonder if this is how they talk to each other.

My ears absorb the steady babble of a creek to our left. We round a bend and its gentle rushing transitions to our right. In night’s quiet, sound is sweetly amplified.

We weave in and out of patches of honeysuckle. Oh this delicious smell! Will I ever become tired of it? I drink in its fresh flowery scent.

Near the water I hear little spring peepers. “Ribbit. Ribbit.” What is your chorus, little frogs? They all talk at once, yet seemingly in tune with each other.

We wind and rise to the overnight. After a brief shower and nap, we resume course, dropping away from town into another valley.

The waning moon is around two-thirds full, and casts a wide soft light all around. We don’t chance it, but I believe the stars and moonlight could guide our path this night.

There are no cars, no streetlights. Cows lie in pastures, sleeping. We are the only people on this twisting road, although other riders must be near by.

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We spot the dusty pastels of first light and I am glad for it. The night is cool, and I anticipate the energizing warmth daytime will bring.

At the same time, I will miss the sleepy solitude of night that has made me so alive. The moon and stars gradually recede from view and we ride into the dawn.

Randonneuring: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

Randonneuring events allow ordinary people like me to participate in extraordinary bike rides. Brevets changed my definition of a long day ride, from a century to more than double that– distances I previously could not even conceptualize pedaling.

The randonneuring community helped me feel okay as a rider who does not move particularly fast, but has a body that has proven itself durable over time and distance.

Yes, you must be in some semblance of decent physical shape, own a road-worthy bicycle, and have the free time to take on a brevet. But as long as you maintain an overall speed of 10 miles per hour, an ordinary person will be a successful randonneur. Continue reading Randonneuring: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

The Mind’s Journey

I began this year feeling quite uncertain, almost ambivalent, about the brevets. The past year has included some serious and unexpected health issues in my family. These scrambled up my head, and prompted a reassessment of that big question “What am I doing with my life?”

There are so many more important things in life than bike riding, I told myself. Why, when there is so much to experience in this one life, would brevets be worth all the effort and occasional annoyance?

Before the brevets began, my family’s health situations seemed to settle somewhat. Despite my reservations about randonneuring and my “one life” choices, I signed up, just to see how the season would go. Continue reading The Mind’s Journey

Randonnesia Strikes on the Mother of All 300Ks

“We’re too blessed to be depressed,” a church sign at mile 70 read. Our riding group of three shared a chuckle. We had just climbed Wolf Gap, Mill Gap, and were en route to more gaps and roads with words like “church” and “mountain” in their names. The path ahead gave us pause. Continue reading Randonnesia Strikes on the Mother of All 300Ks

Experience: a Randonneur’s Frenemy

This weekend, Felkerino and I rode our first official brevet of 2015, the D.C. Randonneurs 300K out of Frederick, Maryland. I was feeling pretty lackluster about the whole thing, but the forecast indicated spectacular conditions, leaving us no excuses to skip out on a ride in the countryside with rando buddies. Continue reading Experience: a Randonneur’s Frenemy

A Dose of Reality on a 200K

Felkerino and I met up with bicycling friends Eric, Jerry, Barry, and Joel to ride the classic D.C. Randonneurs “Old Rag 200K” route. Jerry had some weird rattle in his rear wheel that would not go away, Barry was riding a loaner bike since his main rando ride was in the shop for repairs, our Schmidt generator hub failed, and Eric’s shifter broke in the final five miles.

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Other than that, the day was spectacular. Continue reading A Dose of Reality on a 200K

We Interrupt This Brevet for …

Sometimes when riding my bike, I feel like I’m inside a video game that’s throwing all manner of obstacles my way, and I have to react and deal with them in order to move on to the next level.

Stopping to put on night gear. Photo by Felkerino
Stopping to put on night gear. Photo by Felkerino

Last weekend’s 600K had a fair number of these– enough that I began to take notice.

Continue reading We Interrupt This Brevet for …