Category Archives: Rando Reflections

Quickbeam at Memorial Bridge

Things to Do During Your Taper

Ah, the taper. Time to back away from the long efforts, rest the legs, eat good meals, and ready for the big day.

What’s a person to do with all this new-found spare time?

Ensure the bike is in good working order. Is anything showing wear and tear? Are any weird sounds coming from the direction of your bike? What do the tires look like? How does the saddle feel?

Figure it out. Tune the bike up. Do some parts searching on the internet just because. Somehow end up looking at running skorts and shoes.

Obsess about your training. Review your training log over and over. Ask it to tell you its secrets. If you are not maintaining a training log, try to recreate one from memory.

Compare your current training log to training logs of the past. See how they match up. If they don’t, what happened to make them different? Try to do all the math associated with this exercise without a calculator. It makes it more intense.

Make lists! You’ll need a list of what you’ll wear on the event. How many days is it? Three? Okay, that’s three separate lists. But wait, you need one more list for those items that you’ll have with you all three days, like shoes and rain gear.

What clothes will you want to wear all day and into the evening hours? Your tried and true pieces. But you just purchased new shorts and want to see how the chamois holds up on a long ride. Should you put these on your list? You know what to do.

Another group of lists should be made to cover food and nutrition. Yes, there will be stops for food along the way, but it’s always good to carry some essentials with you. What will they be? Go to the store and buy them. Don’t try anything new. Don’t do it!

Stock up on baggies. Randonneurs love baggies. Small baggies are useful for protecting cue sheets from rain. You can carry food in a quart-size baggie. Gallon baggies are perfect for parsing out each day’s clothing. It’s all baggies, all the time.

Bag some sleep. Knowing that the hours of shut-eye will be reduced during your event, focus on going to bed a little earlier.

When you get into bed, think about how over the next few days you will not be able to get this kind of sleep. No pressure!  Can you practice sleep deprivation? I say no, but it’s thoughts like this that are keeping me awake at night.

Check the weather. Where does your event take place? Towns 1, 2, and 3? Perfect. Enter each of these towns into your favorite weather website every few hours. What does the forecast say now? How about now? And now?

Look at the event listserv or Facebook to see if anyone has said anything annoying or foreboding about the weather. Wonder why no one but you knows the rule about never talking about the weather.

Adjust your event clothing selection, as appropriate. Prepare for the worst. Buy more baggies.

Write blog posts about your taper. Instead of twiddling your thumbs wishing your were out riding, publish a blog post. After posting, edit it a few times and check regularly to see if anyone commented or liked what you wrote.

Make a music mix to inspire you. Every event needs a soundtrack. Who will write yours? As for me, I’m going through a retro phase so I choose this.

What’d I miss? Surely I missed something? Make me a list of what I missed!

Felkerino and me. Photo by Jerry

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.

Our summer cycling consisted of a few back-to-back overnight trips of over a century to 200K each day, a 969-mile tour in the mountains of Colorado, and a 540-kilometer tune-up ride through Pennsylvania three weeks ago.

We tried to keep our mileage up while also conditioning our legs in hilly terrain. The Appalachian Adventure 1000K is not a flat ride.

I also maintained general fitness with weekday commutes, trips to the gym for strength training, and a solid running base (mostly because I have some fall events planned, not because of rando-fitness. Even so, running does help my cardio).


Over the two weeks since our 540K outing, we have been keeping the legs loose, but not putting in any more big efforts. At this point, it’s time to taper.

We have the miles we have and we now focus on being rested and mentally ready.  In looking at our previous years’ training for a ride of this distance, our training and our taper look fairly similar.

Other people have their own ways of preparing for the 1000K and 1200K distance, but this has been a formula that works for us.

We put in the miles over some challenging terrain while avoiding burnout. We managed our other life responsibilities more or less effectively, and maintained our enthusiasm for long-distance riding.

The big event awaits us.

Quickbeam and the Potomac-summer

Bicycle as Escape

I never seem to tire of writing about bicycles. I love talking about them, dreaming about my next bike trip, figuring out the perfect bike commute setup, pondering the ins and outs of randonneuring… you get the idea.

This love of riding bikes led me to start Chasing Mailboxes. I was searching for an outlet to write more creatively, compared to the technical writing and editing I do in my work, and wanted to focus on a topic that I felt passionately about, but was not overly intimate.

Chasing Mailboxes is a platform to diary the sensations experienced while cycling, These may include moments of discomfort, jubilation, frustration, or even self-doubt. It’s remarkable how the simple act of riding a bicycle can serve as a petri dish for so many physical and emotional states.

Most days I keep in mind that, as immediate and strong as my sentiments are, they are thoughts about bicycling, not anything more profound or grand than that.

This week that feels particularly true. As part of my regular life and work I follow the headlines and news of the day. The news this week has not been good. I won’t go into detail about it here, but if you read the news you know.

Sometimes my bicycle and the writing I do about bicycling are my way of escaping. Bicycling gives me an open road where I can contemplate freely as the breeze flows over my body.

The landscape distracts and the physical effort takes me inside myself which, in a way, is an escape from the sadness and pain in the world.

Maybe that’s cheating reality. I just wanted you to know.

Co-Motion and Wildflowers on Rollins

Spreadsheet Ruminations: Are You There, Legs? It’s Me…

Co-Motion on Rollins Pass

Three months ago I ditched the spreadsheet I used to document my bicycle lifestyle, opting instead for a non-quantitative approach. There’s more to life than counting up the miles, I told myself. I want to explore it.

Over the last three months, I have documented many rides with journal entries and taken photos along the way. Other rides live in my memory and still others are at least temporarily forgotten.

This last week I started longing for that spreadsheet again.  Felkerino and I went for a ride on Saturday and my legs felt totally dead. Small rises took more effort than they should have, required more recovery than normal. Are you there, legs?

Dead legs?! That wasn’t supposed to happen. I planned to return from our riding in Colorado with the indefatigable strength of a giant. Ready for anything. Rawr!

With the exception of my daily commutes and the occasional run, I had taken most of the last two weeks off the bike and easy on my legs. Clarification: When I say “off,” I mean no century or thereabouts rides and no runs longer than four miles for the last two weeks. And still I was feeling exhausted.

Instead of pushing through the longer ride we planned, we divided our ride in half, opting for 87 miles rather than the 160 or so we set out to do. In cases like this, I think it’s best to listen to the body.

Felkerino and I will ride the Appalachian Adventure 1000K checkout ride for our club, the D.C. Randonneurs, at the end of this month. I’m excited about taking on this challenge, and want to make sure I’m ready.

Just as amping up the miles is important, so is rest and recovery after our two-week, just under 1,000-mile tour. I want to make sure I can take full advantage of the mountains and miles in our legs. Riding our brains out after a certain point can become counter-productive.

As someone (Jeff N.) wrote after my original post about ditching the spreadsheet, a mileage log can help validate whether you’ve done the homework you need for your ride.

A mileage log can reassure. That is why I actually think it would be helpful to me right now. Instead I find myself looking back at individual posts. I wonder if I’ve done enough riding overall, but the way my riding is laid out now (i.e., through stories on this blog) I don’t see my training/riding in the aggregate.

What I’ve always disliked about a training log is that it sometimes compels me to chase miles just for the sake of raising my miles. BUT what I’ve liked about maintaining a training log is that it gives me a visual of my training over weeks and months, and helps me understand why I might be having energy dips.

I was thinking today that the story I tell myself is that I am not an athlete. I’m a person out exploring the world by bicycle. That is true. However, I also do a fair amount long-distance riding and running. That doesn’t make me an athlete, but it does mean I have bicycling and fitness goals that a training log can help to inform.

I’m not going to fret too much about recreating my miles or writing all my miles down from today forward. Spilled milk and all that. I have to accept the riding I’ve done and go with that into this 1000K checkout ride. I’m confident what we’ve done is enough, provided we complete one more big training ride (stay tuned!). I’ll get back to the mileage log at some point, most likely in 2015.

And you? What are your thoughts on the whole mileage log thing?

Four Years of Chasing Mailboxes

2014 D.C. Randonneurs 600K, photo by Bill Beck
2014 D.C. Randonneurs 600K, photo by Bill Beck

In the middle of a love affair with bicycling and Washington, D.C., I wrote my first post for Chasing Mailboxes. Four years later, this blog is still going. The love affair has hit some sticky wickets over time, but most days it continues, too.

In the initial year, posts read more like postcards than letters. More reserved with my topics and content, I often wrote from the outside in, contemplating what the blog’s audience would think while I composed each post.

Over time, that changed and this space became a place for greater reflection. Continue reading

Twitter, Facebook, and Randonneuring, oh my!

Stopping at a control on the 600K. A perfect time to tweet!
Stopping at a control on the 600K. A perfect time to tweet!

Since riding PBP in 2011, I’ve developed a Twitter and Facebook addiction for tracking randonneuring events. It originally started when I discovered that I could follow ultra-running events like the Barkley Ultrarun in practically real time. That was so cool! Even though I have no thought of every doing Barkley, the fact that I could have a little as-it-happens window into the event felt pretty amazing.

I then noticed people like Mark Thomas (Seattle International Randonneurs) and Jerry Phelps (North Carolina Randonneurs) posting Facebook updates of their rides. Fantasy randonneuring!

It was great to check in on what other RUSA members were riding, and even see pictures of their riding companions. Through Facebook I’ve virtually accompanied people like Mark and Jerry on numerous brevets and permanents. Continue reading

Writing Your Way to the Ride You Want

Warrenton 300K. Photo by Bill Beck
Warrenton 300K. Photo by Bill Beck

Can you write your way to the ride you want? To a certain extent, I think you can.

Throughout my time randonneuring, I have gone through different phases. My primary goal during my first series of riding brevets was to finish within the time limits. This was also a time of intense learning about fueling and fitness, melding as a tandem team with Felkerino, as well as getting to know the randonneuring community.

After starting this blog in June 2010, whenever I planned a ride I also imagined myself writing a story about it.  This awareness helped expose negative and energy-wasting elements that had intruded into my riding. Continue reading