Category Archives: 400K

The D.C. Randonneurs 400K Brevet: A Long Ride to a Pizza Party

Riders at the 400K Brevet Start (Photo by Felkerino)

Riders at the 400K Brevet Start (Photo by Felkerino)

This past weekend Felkerino and I organized the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet. Of all the spring brevets the 400K is the one that, as a rider, I find most daunting. It starts at 4 a.m., and is the first of the brevets that requires hours of night riding. Riders roll out in the dark, and arrive in darkness, too.

I overhead the staff at the hotel where we staged our ride called our 400K a pizza party. That made me laugh. If the 400K could be considered a pizza party,  it’s likely the most hard-earned pizza you’ll ever eat.

This brevet was particularly challenging due to the dreary weather. Riders set off under dry skies, but that ended about an hour into the event and the remainder of the time was spent riding in rain, drizzle, a stint of no rain, more rain, and more drizzle. During the later evening hours, the rain let up and mist filled the sky, fogging up people’s glasses and making nighttime visibility more difficult.

The up-side of the day was that it was not terribly cold, although the temperatures did not allow riders to stop for long without getting chilled. Winds were also light for most of the route.

Happy finishers on the 400K

Happy finishers on the 400K

This course, called the “Firefly 400K,” was originally run in 2011. It is a loop that starts in Warrenton, Virginia, meanders down to Charlottesville, and back. Overall, the terrain is rolling with no major mountain climbs. That’s not to say that it is an easy course, only that there are no real mountains on it.

Twenty-six people came out for the event, and all but four riders finished within the time limit. Those who abandoned or did not officially finish all made it back to the hotel under their own steam.

Felkerino and I organized the club’s 400K last year as well, which ran out of Frederick, Maryland. While I preferred the Frederick course, we encountered logistical issues with start and finish locations, and moved the ride to Warrenton this year.

George Moore and Nick Bull pre-rode the course last weekend for us, and helped us in preparing the ride materials. Thanks to both of them for checking out the ride and being there for early morning bike inspection. It felt strange for Felkerino and I to not pre-ride the course ourselves, but we are taking a break from the “big rides” this year. More on that some other time.

Everyone who attempted the ride on Saturday has my admiration. The weather made an already challenging 252-mile ride that much more difficult. I know there are those few people who like to exclaim their love for riding in the rain, but I am not among them. I’ll take a sunny day over a rainy one almost any day.

I’ve been riding regularly with the D.C. Randonneurs since 2005, and it’s been educational to see what organizing a ride entails. Until organizing, I took a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for granted.

400K Registration and Check-in

400K Registration and Check-in

I’ve gained a real appreciation for all the brevet details that must be managed. Control cards and cue sheets need to be made. A pre-ride of the course should be done. Volunteers need to be in place to register riders and inspect bikes for appropriate lighting and reflectives.

Food and supplies need to be purchased and set out. Most importantly, you need the pizza place on speed dial so that you can offer riders food at the end of that long effort.

Over a 400K distance, the field becomes quite spread out. Riders have 27 hours to complete the course.  This year, people finished in small groups of ones and twos between 9:30 p.m. until just before 6 a.m. The 400K is an all-night pizza party, you see, not a slumber party.

Organizing a ride is work, but it’s fun, too. It’s interesting to see all the riders in their various stages of lucidity before the ride start. Everybody has their own way of approaching these early mornings.

Some are outwardly excited and chat animatedly. Others are solemn and mostly silent. I see some riders who focus intently on their stuff, packing and repacking to make sure they have everything they need for the long day ahead.

After hours of waiting in between the roll-out and the final miles, the last control is also an exciting place to be. It’s a thrill to see riders successfully finish such a long ride. People are in various physical and mental states after riding that far.

400K Finishers

Between Saturday night until Sunday morning I saw riders who just wanted to finish and immediately head off for a shower and sleep, and I also hung out with those who wanted to catch up from the last time we saw each other and relive some of the day’s experience.

A friend of ours once described volunteering at a brevet finish like being at a party where everyone is tipsy except for you. I see what he’s saying. The 400K is a big accomplishment, and there is something indescribable that’s released during the finish.

Take a combination of endorphins, relief from being done, the physical exertion from riding from 4 a.m. until dark and then some, and add a little sleep deprivation and you’ve got one goofy 400K pizza party.

400K Brevet Pizza Party

400K Brevet Pizza Party

(The finish is also a time where organizers get feedback about the course. We have some lessons learned about this course which the club will keep in mind for next year.)

Going from rider to organizer you  interact with riders that you might not otherwise, due to your differences in pacing and style. For Felkerino and me, that meant we got to share a little bit in everyone’s ride.

Several riders completed their first 400K this past weekend. Of those, I want to give a special shout-out to our rando-buddy Mike Binnix of Severna Park. Mike attempted a 400K last year, but was unable to go the full distance.

This year, I knew Mike was going to make it. He had unfinished business with the 400K and I could hear in his voice when we talked at registration that he was all in on this ride, determined to finish. Twenty-six hours and 252 miles after departing Warrenton, Mike finished his first 400K. Well done, Mike. I’m really happy for you!

Mike B. finishes the 400K

Mike B. finishes the 400K

Congratulations to everybody who rode this weekend and to all the finishers. Thanks for letting us be part of your adventure. We had a great time hosting the 400K brevet and pizza party.

D.C. Randonneurs 400K

Some of you may know that Felkerino and I spent the last couple of months preparing to run the D.C. Randonneurs’ 400K.

Randonneurs doin’ what randonneurs do… on the Frederick 400K

The ride went off this past Saturday, and I put together a non-ride ride report of the experience.

Ed and me at the 400K finish. Up all night and still smiling! (c) Bill Beck

It’s not posted here, though. Find it on that other blog I know, The Daily Randonneur. Hop on over and check it out.

D.C. Randonneurs – Frederick, Maryland 400K Brevet

What is 252 miles, starts at 4 a.m., and has many hills and valleys? It’s the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet. Ha ha ha!!

I may be laughing now, but I certainly was not on Saturday morning when my alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. I never imagined that my idea of fun would require this kind of early riding rising. I propped my eyelids open with toothpicks, felt heartened by the comfortable morning (or evening?) temperatures and forecast, ate a banana, and hoped for the best.

I tend to ride myself awake on these rides, and Saturday was no different. The sun came up, and by 8 a.m. I was happy to be on the bike. For a blow-by-blow of the route’s twists and turns, see the D.C. Randonneurs website. For an impressionist view of our ride, read on!

  • Excellent ride organization and volunteers.

Chris and his volunteer crew were extremely organized. Check out the route markings he left on the C&O Canal for us to make sure that we all knew where to exit. The combination of the “R” with the arrow gives it extra style points.

D.C. Randonneurs exit here

I was also quite impressed by all of Chris’s organizer accoutrements, including his Official Brevet Clock and his 400K Ride Organizer Binder, complete with the club logo.

Chris, with his official clock and event binder (c) Bill Beck

  • Spectacular weather.

This requires no explanation. Just. Perfect.

Outside of Mercersberg, Pa. Beautiful day for a ride.

Descending to Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

  • Cyclocross!

Our route included a brief bit of cyclocross, where we had to hike our bikes from the C&O Canal Towpath up to the road. You don’t get that on every brevet.

Cyclocross on the 400K

  • Friendly and fast controls.

The controls were great! People were so nice about signing our cards, and Kane’s Subs in Newville provided super-fast service to make sure we got fed and back on the road quickly.

C&O Bikes in Hancock, Maryland. Thanks, guys!

Kane’s Subs in Newville, Pennsylvania. Fast and friendly!

  • The hidden and unpredictable pop machine stop.

150 miles into the ride, close to “Short Cut Road,” which was my favorite street name of the ride, Felkerino and I started to feel like we were slogging along and in need of a break. Felkerino’s eagle eye caught sight of a pop machine underneath the awning of a church and Felkerino, Alec, and I bee-lined our way over to it.  Pops were only fifty cents. What a bargain!

Alec fed the machine a dollar, pushed the button for cherry Coke, and out popped an iced tea. I put in my fifty cents, selected Power Ade, and was served a root beer. It made me want to keep putting in money and pushing buttons to see what various drinks would come out.

  • My best obligatory cow photo yet!

I do not have the gift that Felkerino does in the obligatory cow photo department. Even though they are obligatory, I don’t always end up with one. But look at this beauty. I was so proud to be able to add an obligatory cow photo to my brevet photo set.

Obligatory cow photo goodness

  • Varied terrain that kept me mentally engaged, sometimes forced me out of the saddle, and had Felkerino and me hitting 50 mph on three different downhills.

A few of the climbs had some mighty payoffs. The descents off of Snickers Gap, Tuscarora Mountain, and Big Flat were wild and dreamy. I even heard a “WHOAH!” from two teenagers who were outside in their yard as we passed by them at 50 miles per hour. It must be somewhat unusual to see a bike flying by you at that speed. Yeah, that was pretty fun.

Descending Snickers Gap in the morning sun. 50 mph, baby!

  • Dramatic dog action shot!

What can I say? This is my best “Don’t eat me, Fluffy,” shot yet!

Dog action shot. DON’T EAT ME, Fluffy!

  • Good Samaritan moment!

Felkerino, Bill, and I paused in Arendtsville to put on our “don’t hit me” stuff, and Bill forgot to buckle his Carradice. He noticed it a few miles later when something fell out. He lashed it back up and said, “I hope nothing else fell out.”

A few minutes later a couple drove by, held up a jacket, and asked, “Did one of you drop this?” Turned out that Bill’s jacket had fallen out, and they had been working in their yard (which other people apparently do on weekends) and seen it happen. They retrieved the jacket, hopped in their car, and drove down to intercept us. Is that nice or what?!

  • Beautiful night riding

The night riding of the early morning was lovely, as was the night riding of the early evening.

My bike comes with a ready-made draft (Felkerino) so I was protected from both bugs and any evening cool. The skies were clear and the moon and calm winds made for peaceful night riding.

Last year’s 400K ended in strong downpours. Remember those? Memories of last year’s rains helped me appreciate the dry evening miles.

In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the last bit of daylight. (c) Bill Beck

Night riding on the 400K. Nice camera, Bill! (c) Bill Beck

  • Fine riding company.

I love brevets because it’s always fun to run into see and ride with other randonneurs. Yes, I enjoy the social aspect!

It’s simultaneously fun and odd to embark on a 252-mile “day” ride with other people. And it’s just great to be out there with people who like to spend time on their bikes as much as we do. We don’t all run in the same social circles, live in the same places, or even pedal at the same pace. However, when we come together on a brevet, we form a unique community. I’ve met people through randonneuring that I probably would never have met or gotten to know otherwise. I love that.

Chip

Alec, Charlie, and Scott

Riding together on quiet roads

Bill, climbing through the Michaux

Does it get any better than this? (c) Bill Beck

Our group at the finish. Yay! (c) Bill Beck

There are even more photos! See mine here, Felkerino’s here, and Bill’s here.