What to like about the RUSA P-12

Randonneurs USA (RUSA) recently introduced a new domestic award called the P-12.  To qualify for this award a person must ride a sub-200km randonneuring event for 12 consecutive months. You cannot qualify with an event that is longer than 200km. This award is modeled after the popular R-12, where riders must complete an event that is 200km or longer for 12 consecutive months.

A couple of years ago I completed an R-12 and, while I was glad to have done it, I did not feel the need to do another one. I felt pressure to complete an official 200km ride or more each month. I am not the most organized person so sometimes it was a hassle to schedule 200km+ rides if there wasn’t a club brevet that month. For the most part, this wasn’t so bad, except for the trickier months like December and January. Holidays, snowstorms, and scheduling permanents, oh my! I was also somewhat lazy about riding or driving to ride starts. I prefer riding straight out my door.

On the up-side, I had good randonneuring friends who helped me schedule a few permanents and made for excellent riding company. Thanks to them (and my great tandem partner) I completed the R-12 and bought myself the medal as everlasting proof of my accomplishment. Then I put it in my desk drawer and went back to just riding brevets and touring.

OK, now that I have established my street cred (or the street cred I had at one time) let me take you back to my story.

The P-12 award. Why a P-12? The RUSA site notes that the P-12 “is intended to encourage riding shorter events, particularly in harsh climates where longer rides might not be offered.” Initially, that made no sense to me. RUSA encouraging people to ride shorter events? Can they do that?

However, as I was out riding a 100-mile populaire with Felkerino and friends a few weeks ago, it hit me. Why not encourage shorter events? There’s a lot to like about doing a winter ride that starts in daylight and finishes in daylight. Those winter 200km permanents can be painful, especially when the sun is loathe to make an appearance.

8 a.m. Populaire Start = daylight!

I loved that Felkerino started our populaire at 8 a.m., enjoyed a leisurely coffee stop AND lunch, and rolled into the finish just after 5 in the afternoon. No need to worry about starting with throbbing hands and feet and finishing with the dark monster bearing down upon us. It felt so good! So civilized! I know we can’t do that every weekend, given that we like to do longer randonneuring events, too, but sometimes it’s nice to relax into a more moderate challenge.

During one of our decadent coffee stops, I discussed the P-12 with some of the others in our group. Turns out there are more appealing elements about the P-12 than I had even considered!

Variety in ride length. Populaires are between 100km to 199km in length (or 62 to 123 miles). There is a lot of flexibility in ride length! Have something going on in the afternoon or want to do just a “fun ride?” Arrange for a shorter populaire. Want to ride a century, but don’t feel like the extra miles for a 200km? Choose a longer populaire. Want to challenge yourself to a hilly route, but not wanting to exhaust yourself with 200km of hilly? There’s a populaire out there with your name on it!

Ease of routing. A populaire is also easier to route. Not being much of a router, I don’t know the complexities of planning and controlling 200km rides, but I have heard from a verified expert that a populaire is much easier to route than a permanent. This has inspired me so much that I am considering figuring out a route for a populaire that begins close to my house. Perhaps the P-12 will encourage randonneurs to try their hand at routing as well! What better place to start than a populaire?

No award or medal. If a rider successfully completes a P-12, there is no award or medal to purchase. That’s right. No hardware. I like that. No need to save up those pennies for a P-12 medal, just the pure pleasure of 12 consecutive populaires!

Time out for a photo on the Populaire

You see? There’s a lot to like about the P-12. I may not do one this year, but I would like to do more populaires and perhaps make it a goal for 2012. What about you? Any P-12 plans in your future?

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