Category Archives: DC Randonneurs

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.

Action shot. Courtesy of Mike Wali
Action shot. Courtesy of Mike Wali

My lack of winter cycling miles really has gotten into my head. As spring has popped all over the place, my urge to ride has returned, but too late for any brevet build-up.

The lapse in riding discipline means Felkerino and I are using the brevets to ride ourselves into brevet shape. I’m not sure what kind of sense there is to this method, but there you go. It makes brevets a little more mentally intimidating and physically difficult, but after yesterday’s 300K I’ve made some peace with that.

Sunrise 300K brevet

Even lacking ship-shape fitness, I knew from experience that Felkerino and I would finish, barring any major mechanical. After more than ten years of randonneuring together, I have finally found confidence in our abilities to pedal through a ride. There is also a familiarity with how these rides usually go, both when we are well-conditioned and when we’re gritting it out with rubbery legs.

The Frederick 300K course is front-loaded with climbing, and includes three significant climbs: through Catoctin Mountain State Park, a beast of a steep rise over Big Flat (not flat, NOT FLAT!), and a gentle but steady climb back over South Mountain. The final 60 or so miles of the 188-mile course are generally flat to rolling.

Tandem and ORF

Not surprisingly, the climbs hurt, especially the segment over Big Flat. My knees yelled at me, which they seldom do on shorter brevet rides, and my recovery after the effort took longer than normal.

As we descended the other side of Big Flat to our second control at mile 71, my ego reminded me of how we had gone over that ascent in previous years. Less pain, more seated climbing, slightly faster. With more winter hills and miles, that climb would have had less lasting impact on my legs.

Heading to Big Flat 300K brevet

One of the key elements to randonneuring is accepting that time is always moving forward. We ride out into morning darkness. Oranges and yellows begin to rim the horizon, and eventually sunshine peeks over the mountains (if you’re lucky!). The sun gradually swoops up and over us as we ride.

As the sun glides through the sky, we urge ourselves forward to make the most of the daytime hours. Given that Felkerino’s and my lack of riding meant that we were moving a mile per hour or so slower than usual, we silently agreed to brief refueling stops throughout.

Tractor on the 300K brevet

I carried extra pocket food, including a couple of sandwiches, to eliminate reliance on convenience store food. Sometimes eating junk from stores is a fun indulgence, but other times it leads to post-consumption regrets. [Insert post-convenient-store-consumption anecdotes here.]

Years of riding together have taught us that as long as we eat and drink properly, we’re fairly hardy. Our legs will eventually recover from hard climbing efforts and as the terrain lets up, we can move steadily. Based on our previous times on the Frederick 300K, I was hopeful we could complete our jaunt before the sun disappeared.

Felkerino tandem barn 300K brevet

Conditions for this ride were extremely favorable, and reminded me that it is much easier to make progress when the sun shines all day and the temperatures are warm. You can just ride more energetically when weather goes your way.

Over the last year I’ve begun to see experience as a dear randonneur frenemy. It reassures me that Felkerino and I have a grasp on the tips and tricks of efficiency, nutrition, and how time passes on a ride.

But experience also conjures memories of the ways that off-season riding and improved cycling fitness pay dividends when it’s time to show and go on a brevet. It dispassionately warns of the physical discomfort you will likely endure if the requisite miles aren’t already in your legs.

We rode much of the day solo and eventually intersected with Patty, Dylan, and Roger in the last 40 or so miles. Their easy conversation increased my enjoyment of the day. I smiled and took a few photos.

Patty, Roger, Dylan 300K brevet

We then grouped up with Paul D., Dieter, and Carol for the final twenty or so miles and again, time flew by in lively conversation. My body’s minor aches disappeared. Covering the distance of a brevet is always an accomplishment, but it is the social aspect– the opportunity to connect with new people and old rando buddies– that keeps me connected to the rando game.

At 7:05 p.m., we were done for the day, with sun still in the sky. My frenemy, experience, came through for us. I rewarded myself with a slice of pizza and control room conversation, and on the drive home, began anticipating the next brevet. Experience tells me I better bring my climbing legs.

Thanks to Mike for organizing, to the volunteers who helped, and to everybody who rode with us! Full set of pics from the day here.

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

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 …

Don’t Look Back, Keep Your Eyes on the Road: 2014 Super Randonneur Series

Felkerino toward Crozet

After a year away from the 400K and 600K brevets, 2014 has been a year of re-learning the brevet ropes. Unfortunately for me, this process has also had me on the ropes at various times throughout the spring rides.

I’m happy to say it’s all done and behind me. Felkerino and I got out there, did the work, and rode the brevets we needed to once again complete a Super Randonneur series (200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K) with the D.C. Randonneurs.


My body held up well. I am relieved to report that I have the normal aches and fatigue that come after a big ride, but no residual pain from any of the riding this year. Success on the physical front.

However, my state of mind over the course of the last two rides (the 400K and 600K) is a different story. As I wrote about the 400K, I had difficulty being present and setting aside my worries about what was to come.

Continue reading Don’t Look Back, Keep Your Eyes on the Road: 2014 Super Randonneur Series

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.

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

Figuring Out the 400K Brevet

DC Randonneurs 400K-Matt

After rolling into the finish of the D.C. Randonneurs Northern Exposure 400K, I heard myself enthusiastically discuss our ride and revel in the adventure shared by Felkerino, Matt, and me over the last 20 hours and change of riding.

Incredible valley vistas and invigorating climbs! The cutest dog chasing us! A sublime night ride! Clouds clearing and a glowing crescent moon guiding us home! Roads so quiet you could hear peepers sing to you and creek waters whisper encouragement! A giant shooting star! The best mocha I ever had… at mile 230… from McDonald’s!

This fluffy dog wanted to join us.
This fluffy dog wanted to join us.

Who was this person, another part of my brain wondered. What’s with all the exclamations about this great ride? Doesn’t she know that much of her day was spent with an undercurrent of worry and an almost obsessive urge to press forward?

Continue reading Figuring Out the 400K Brevet

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.

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

Second Chances: The D.C. Randonneurs 300K Brevet

D.C. Randonneurs 300K, Photo by Bill Beck
D.C. Randonneurs 300K, Photo by Bill Beck

This past Saturday, the D.C. Randonneurs ran their 300K brevet out of Warrenton, Virginia. It was my third time on this particular 300K route (although I did ride it one additional time as a no-credit “fun ride”), and I was determined to make this year a different experience than 2012.

Last year I experienced a new and awful feeling while riding– the urge to stop and go home. Upon reflection, I think a number of things contributed to this, some of which I postulated in last year’s ride report: fatigue; a rainy forecast; and an unexpected been-there-done-that sentiment toward brevets.

Regardless of the cause, though, the result was I was not mentally prepared to pedal 188 miles and it took a lot of effort to get myself back into the flow of the ride.

Memories of the negative thoughts that arose during last year’s 300K were strong in my mind as I began to ready myself for Saturday’s ride. Continue reading Second Chances: The D.C. Randonneurs 300K Brevet