Category Archives: Rando Reflections

PBP Qualified…

Our recent finish of the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet means that Felkerino and I have now qualified for Paris-Brest-Paris.

Riders must complete four brevets in order to register for PBP. The general sequence of rides is as follows:  200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K brevet. Because Felkerino and I were unable to complete our club’s 200K brevets, we substituted an additional 300K instead.

Scheduling conflicts impeded our completion of a Super Randonneur series; we lack a 200K in our current suite of rides. While I hope we can find a way to still slot in a 200K, it still feels good to have reached the PBP-qualifying milestone.

Although we are a seasoned randonneuring tandem team, completion of the longer brevets is never a given. They require effort and planning, along with a certain degree of physical and mental discomfort somewhere along the way. Successfully reaching the finish line of these rides is always an accomplishment.

Around last year at this time, our ultimate goal was to show up in France for another edition of Paris-Brest-Paris. Now that PBP registration season is upon us, our goals have drifted in a different direction.

In January, I wrote a post that basically outlined the pros and cons of doing PBP again, and received some thought-provoking feedback. A couple people commented about the relatively narrow window that exists to do these sorts of things.

Felkerino on the 600K brevet

Some mentioned the ability to go back and apply experience from our previous PBP rides to make this one even better, and the rare opportunity to ride a large 1200K event with like-minded riders in a place where people don’t question what you are attempting to accomplish.

Others wrote about the importance of exploring new challenges. After weighing it all, I still imagined that we would pack our bags for France when August came.

The landscape changed for me in the months since I wrote that PBP pros and cons list, such that I am yearning to go west and be immersed in the mountains, and to experience that comforting smallness that has always enveloped me when I bike tour there. The clock I want to dominate my movement is the sunrise to sunset clock– not control windows.

The pressure and post-event fatigue that comes with riding a 1200K– even a tandem-friendly one– is not what I hunger for this summer. I desire open road and quiet contemplation, time to stop and look around, and a full night’s sleep.

Part of me would love to be there to meet new randonneurs, see familiar faces, and be part of the largest and most historic randonneuring event, but the eagerness I had about riding PBP has faded, and I must follow the path that truly calls.

Kip, Dylan, and me on the 600K brevet

Instead of PBP, Felkerino and I are currently plotting a two-week tour in the Sawtooth Mountains. We will ride a loop from Boise, Idaho to Missoula, Montana and back.

We’ve spent the last three years riding in Colorado so this year we are seeking out uncharted terrain for our tandem. For those interested, here is a basic Ride With GPS outline of our route– Part 1 and Part 2. If you have toured in the area, please pass along any route suggestions, food recommendations, or any other bits of wisdom!

When August rolls around, I know I’ll be miss being part of PBP. I’ll avidly follow fellow D.C. Randonneurs and other rando-buddies as they make their way out to Brest and back with event’s rider tracking system. Fantasy PBP!

I’m excited to cheer from the sidelines and hear people’s stories upon their return. I wish all the best to those who have qualified for PBP and will be training through the summer for this grand event. It’s going to be awesome.

Finding Your Randonneur Superpower

When you begin to dabble in the randonneuring arts, you may have an inkling of what your cycling strengths are. You may develop additional skills for riding long-distance. However, it is only through doing brevets over time that your randonneur superpower will reveal itself to you.

I have never been a fast rider, but fortunately I have good endurance to compensate for a lack of speed. I also have Felkerino riding with me on the tandem, and he is a helpful engine for my legs. My stomach rarely turns on me during long rides because years of trial and error have led me to figure out the foods my stomach will readily digest.

Felkerino and I have dialed in our tandem partnership so that we are in unison about our approach to a ride. We know the ups and downs in each other’s energy flows and have learned to navigate them and help each other out as a ride goes on.

Yet none of these are randonneur superpowers. No, the superpower is something distinct. For a long time, I was certain I had no randonneur superpower. I didn’t ride fast. I couldn’t ride for hours non-stop, subsisting on two water bottles of liquid nutrition. I would not be able to finish a 600K brevet without stopping somewhere for a little sleep, like some can.

Recently, I discovered one of Felkerino’s superpowers. No matter where we are, Felkerino has an eagle eye for spotting porta-potties. It’s remarkable, and has come in handy on many a ride.

Heading out for Day 2 of the 600K. Photo by Shab
Heading out for Day 2 of the 600K. Photo by Shab

But this year I learned of a superpower we share.  As I’ve mentioned several times, this year we were fit, but not to the level that we enjoyed in prior years. Because of that, we dedicated ourselves to riding efficiently, and being judicious with time off the bike.

Felkerino and I generally try to ride with the goal of taking one hour off the bike per century ridden. As a ride goes on, time off the bike may increase somewhat, but generally one hour per century is our goal.

Surprisingly, during the spring brevets we were able to achieve excellent efficiency with our time on and off the bike. We seldom dilly dallied at controls– one of my favorite things to do on a brevet. I often brought my own food on rides so I would not wander around convenience stores wondering what I should eat. Both of us stopped drinking Gatorade and switched to better hydration habits.

We were regularly able to stay on the bike for 50 miles or so at a time without a need for breaks in between segments. We still took short rests when necessary, but for some reason, we didn’t seem to require them as much as we had during other years.

This on-the-bike discipline surprised me. It could only mean one thing– our randonneur superpower had come to us. I spent so many years waiting for it to manifest and finally, in 2015, it did.

Time to ride this bike, MG.
Time to ride this bike, MG.

Despite not being in the best brevet shape, we were able to complete rides in times comparable to other years, and I attribute this to our increased efficient movement.

I’m not saying that Felkerino’s porta-potty superpower isn’t a good one. It sure is. But the ability to ride efficiently as a team far surpasses it, and made a big difference to our overall brevet experiences. It gave me a sense of forward progress, and motivated me to keep pedaling.

After the 400K, I was convinced this year meant my randonneuring farewell tour. But now that the 600K has come and gone, I’ve forgotten those feelings. My superpower reinvigorated my affinity for randonneuring. Who knows? If I keep riding, maybe I’ll discover another one.

What about your randonneur superpower? You know you’ve got one… everybody does.

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

600K Brevet Packing List

I’ve been readying for the weekend’s big ride– the D.C. Randonneurs 600K. I stew in my nervousness and look frequently at regional weather forecasts. I burn off steam with short runs and rides, during which I consider and reconsider all I need for two days of pedaling. Continue reading 600K Brevet Packing List

Transformation and Inspiration

It’s surreal to recall it now, but bicycling– even running– were largely absent from my life during my post-college twenties. I worked long hours, drove my car, and attended many a happy hour.

For a time that life seemed alright, but as the years progressed I noticed small disconcerting signs. I gained weight from a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Twinges emanated from my lower back because of all the daily driving and stress from long hours at my job.

Happy hours felt like a hamster wheel to nowhere, replete with superficial bar chat, and a feeling that I was wasting time and money. Probably because the conversations were superficial, and I was wasting time and money.

Something had to change, propelled from the inside out. Continue reading Transformation and Inspiration

Summer Legs on the C&O

Lately I haven’t had a lot of words to describe my riding. I have things to write, but my mind has been fuzzy and my motivation rather stilted with regard to writing any posts. I also have some work things that have required my time and attention.

However, friends, I have been riding. My summer legs are starting to come in now. These are the legs that show themselves during the brevet season. They have the urge and strength to ride and just keep riding. How long? Until daylight ends. Until the battery in my headlight dies. Until dinner. Until I need to be in bed for work the next day. Continue reading Summer Legs on the C&O

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

Randonneuring In Retrospect

I’m a randonneur romantic. Sure, longer brevets almost always include periods where I question my recreational pursuits due to discomfort, exhaustion, or some dissatisfaction with a route segment, but they don’t hang on. Eventually, those feelings fade and bike riding reclaims its place on my list of favorite things to do. Continue reading Randonneuring In Retrospect