Category Archives: Rando Reflections

Suffering

Last look at the Co-Motion Speedster

I recently read a thoughtful post by Double the Speed of Wheels that explored the concept of suffering and how some riders consider it a kind of badge of honor.

In my years of riding and randonneuring, I have also observed this infatuation with suffering.

Generally, I prefer to minimize viewing my rides through the lens of suffering or characterizing them as such. Challenging? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Frustrating? Sometimes.

Perhaps I define suffering in a narrower way than some. Injuries or illness may prompt suffering, or it may come as a result of losing a person we love. By opening our hearts to people and experiences, we make ourselves vulnerable to the eventuality that we will suffer in some way.

There are only two times I recall coming close to suffering during a ride. The first was during the Cascade 1200K, when my saddle turned on me on the third night and every time I stopped to use the bathroom I cried because of the pain. The second was during the Endless Mountains 1000K, when my knees hurt so much that I could not ride my bike for more than a month after completing it.

I know that those who race exert themselves in a way I do not. They push themselves at a level where there is an ongoing feeling of discomfort. But is it suffering? I like to think not.

I’m not trying to avoid suffering, exactly, and I don’t wish to live in a pain-free bubble. But I don’t think I have to go in search of suffering. I think it knows where I live and will pay me a visit one day. As long as I can help it, though, it won’t be during a bike ride.

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.

Now I post more about whatever is knocking around in my head, and wonder as I press the big “Publish” button if anyone who reads this blog may have felt something similar or have some perspective to offer. I have enjoyed the progression.

I also write, as my friend Nick commented recently, as a way to memorialize my experiences and to say “I was here. I did things.”

Recently I compiled my posts by year (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) and I have added those to the menu at the top.

Chasing Mailboxes readers, you have been so encouraging over the years, and the feedback I have received from you has been helpful, inspiring, and thought-provoking.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in the Chasing Mailboxes challenges and to those who have written guest posts for the blog. This blog is better by your being part of it.

Thanks to Bill Beck for all the rando photos he has taken of Felkerino and me over the years.

I am so appreciative to those that have stopped by to read Chasing Mailboxes. Many thanks to you who have commented, liked my posts, and encouraged me in one way or another to keep writing.

Finally, a special thank you to Felkerino, my randonneur and real-life spouse, for sharing so many of these great adventures and memories with me.

Cheers, everybody.

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.

Twitter is another excellent source for real-time-randonneur action. While riding buddy Alec B. was riding the Shenandoah 1200K, I periodically checked his Twitter account for photos of the ride and progress updates. Alec’s Twitter was my main source for learning about what was happening on the ride.

Twitter and Facebook accounts are ideal for checking in the ACP brevets as well as RUSA permanents, but they are AWESOME for looking in on the progress of “big ride” like the 1000K and 1200K distances. If you can’t be on the course with the riders, then following their updates is the next best thing. Pictures, tweets, status updates… your legs never get tired from pedaling, but you still have an insider’s view of the ride.

In the past, I’ve followed blog updates (and those are great, too so please don’t stop doing them, ride organizers!), but over the past couple of years I have turned more to Twitter and Facebook since more and more randonneurs seemed to post ride updates via these outlets.

Twitter and Facebook are also good for following rides in faraway places. I have eagerly followed events in Australia and the UK. Twitter especially is a great tool for checking in on events and randonneurs, and it is perfect for a quick shout of encouragement to riders. Felkerino and I have benefited from the virtual support of riders we know personally as well from those who are part of the global randonneuring community (big thanks for that, tweeps and Facebook peeps).

Twitter. Facebook… and here I thought they’d never be useful for anything. :)

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.

I developed a level of understanding of my body with regard to the brevets over a few seasons of randonneuring. I figured out how to get myself around a course without too much drama, but I realized that at some point I had started to fret about my “place” in the randonneuring community.

I worried I was not measuring up, not doing as well as I should, that I was perhaps even a randonneur poseur. This self-defeating attitude began to permeate my ride experiences.

The inception of this blog and the idea that the ride would also include or result in a story became another way for me to visualize and anticipate my ride experience prior to it actually taking place.

I did not want a brevet to be overtaken with how I perceived I was doing relative to everyone else, and wondering if I did not measure up because I wasn’t as fast as so-and-so or wasn’t riding as much as so-and-so. I know this may sound silly to all of you, but I’m telling you, I wasted time pondering these things and my blog ride reports really helped me refocus.

Brevets are one of the ways that I spend my leisure time, and I do not want my leisure time to be a big puddle of negative. My aim is a net enjoyable experience. Isn’t that part of why it’s called leisure time?

Unnecessary self-flagellation over things I had no control of was not part of my desired story or experience. I wanted to explore the beauty of being outdoors, positive and interesting interactions with people on the ride and at the controls, a story that captured the moments Felkerino and I shared and the sensation of riding a bike for miles and miles from sunrise to sunset (and then some). I wanted my story to be about working through whatever unexpected challenges the ride offered.

When I visualized my ride stories with these elements, I began to take note of them during brevets. My experiences became less tentative and I savored rides in a new way. I also renewed my appreciation for the life circumstances that have allowed me to participate in randonneuring events over the years.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t include negative or uncomfortable things that happen along the way. Nor does it mean that I paint an overly rosy picture about a ride.

However, this process has brought me much more in tune with the positive parts of  rides. I now commit to the best day I can have on a bike whenever my feet clip in for a ride. I see it reflected in my stories. I’m writing my way to the ride I want.

Randonneur Crazy People

Felkerino and me, with Rob Hawks on PBP 2011 (c) Antoinette Galon

Felkerino and me, with Rob Hawks on PBP 2011 (c) Antoinette Galon

How many miles does one have to ride to meet the minimum crazy threshold? Has anyone figured it out?
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In Pursuit of Bliss

Quickbeam and me

If you ever decide to dabble in the randonneuring arts, it’s likely going to be of benefit for you to work on your patience. In randonneuring, all parts of the ride unfold in their own time.

No matter how furiously you pedal, the top of the climb will be reached when the road resolves to stop going up. The headwind may fight you down every bend, and you have no say when it will ease.

You can chase after moments of bliss, but they will avail themselves to you in their own time. Even if you have a sense of when your mental dips and second winds come, you cannot predict when a moment of brevet perfection will appear.

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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.

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Throwing Away the Cycling Spreadsheet

Quickbeam and Capitol

A funny thing happened to me at the end of April. Funny to me, anyway. I lost interest in tracking my cycling miles, and stopped caring about the number of days I rode each month.

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Springing Over the Edge

Image

After a winter considered cold by many in the Mid-Atlantic—including me, who grew up in Iowa but has since become weak to the elements– Spring finally broke through.

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Why Ride Brevets?

Randonneuring requires a certain level of commitment (no, not that kind of commitment). Early rises, car rides, bike maintenance and tuning, convenience store dining, and long days and even evenings in the saddle are all part of the randonneur lifestyle.

Photo by Bill Beck

Photo by Bill Beck

Given that most of us do not have unlimited leisure time, what is it about the brevets that appeals enough that we’re willing to dedicate so much of our spring and summer (for some, even more) to it?

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