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

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.

On this weekend’s 600K, I kept delving into the past and recalling our ride from 2012, which was run on this same course. That 600K had gone unusually well after a season of feeling lackluster and uninspired about randonneuring.

Day 1 on the 600K, photo by Bill Beck
Day 1 on the 2014 600K, photo by Bill Beck

I wanted a repeat of that 2012 ride. The conditions were the best a randonneur could hope for: low humidity, daytime high temperatures up to 70, lows in the 40s, light wind, all-day sun, a waning full moon in the evenings that was clearly visible under partly cloudy skies.

Look at my photo set. Aren’t the images beautiful? Who couldn’t have a personal best on a weekend like that?

Carol et al. DC Randonneurs 600K

Felkerino’s and my 242-mile Saturday ride was close to ideal. We rode zippily along into the sunrise in a big group and slowed ourselves to a more manageable pace after the first 60 miles or so.

We ended up riding many of the latter half of the day’s miles in the comfortable company of Rick R., David, and Brian.

We also leap-frogged with Mike Martin and Roger Hillas. Roger was riding in his little ring since his front derailleur had decided it was going to cease functioning.

Brevet life. DC Randonneurs 600K

All was going well, but as we arrived at the Day 1 stopping point, I thought about how great it would be to just stop now and not worry about riding tomorrow. That was my first indicator that this 600K was going to include some Jedi mind games.

The next morning, Felkerino and I struggled with waking up and getting ourselves efficiently out the door, leaving 30 minutes later than planned.

As we rode along to the first control of the 136-mile Day 2, I admired the night sky and the moon, let the cool night air envelop me, and appreciated the quiet of the early hours.

I concluded that I was not enjoying this perfect evening ride and I would rather be in bed than headed toward a roadside 7-11, even with the delightful night riding conditions. I then fumed at myself for thinking such things, which only served self-defeating purposes.

Felkerino and I stopped longer than we normally would at a control 25 miles from the overnight, and I tried to gather myself for the day. As we were there, Mike Martin rolled in and joked about how the 7-11 had everything: dining tables made out of 12-packs of pop; a bathroom; and a variety of beverages and food to pick from. What more could a person want?

Mike left and we spent a couple more minutes changing batteries in our devices. We pedaled along and I was Miss Bad Mood. Good thing there were no people out to say “She’s not pedaling!” as we passed. Who knows what might have become of them?

Feeling really frustrated about my state of mind, I asked Ed about taking a standing break in a sunny spot. That was a nice reprieve, but a few miles later we arrived at the 7-11, where I proceeded to waste even more time figuring out what I should eat for breakfast and wondering why I was still so grumpy after sunrise.

Normally, I would not have needed this much time off the bike to figure out my brevet life. But for whatever reason, this Sunday ride was a slow-going slog.

Espresso on the 600K

Upon entering Fredericksburg a few miles later, we learned that the Marine Corps Historic Half was going on and we serendipitously made an espresso discovery one block later. (Hyperion Coffee– well worth a stop, if you are ever in the area.)

It was a brevet miracle on one hand, and brevet kryptonite on the other because Felkerino and I are powerless against a good espresso. Powerless, I tell you!

We killed more time drinking espresso and eating fresh baked goods, and 30 minutes later headed out the door again. We caught up to John M., Brian, and David and then rode on to the next control.

Brian on the 600K

Somewhere at this juncture, which also coincided with a steady headwind, I began  to completely crumble. We had wasted time we could never recover and were making extremely slow progress.

Over the last 7 hours we had covered about 70 miles, with 66 miles still to go. I decided then and there that we were never going to get there. Never. Even if we kept pedaling, the odometer would continue to mock us by indicating 66 miles to go.

Good vistas on the 600K

Felkerino seemed okay through all of this. He was doing a much better job at managing our day and the choices we had made. Unlike me, he was not looking back to rides past. Or so I thought. After reading his story about the day, I know differently, but he did a better job of managing the thoughts inside his head.

I was so focused on the past that it was like there were two me’s on the course– the 2012 me (doing really awesome) and the 2014 me (falling apart). I ground away mindlessly on the pedals, intensely focused on how great the 2012 600K was. I imagined how far in front of us the 2012 version of Felkerino and me would be, upset that we would never catch up to them.

Finally, I took another standing break and emphatically told myself “This is not that ride! Forget that ride!” I used my inside voice so I did not look crazy.

This self-admonishment seemed to work, and finally, after almost 90 miles of pedaling, I put the past behind me. I forgave myself for the sluggish wake-up, my lack of appreciation for the beautiful night riding, and the many morning stops made. I absorbed myself in the cues in front of me and life got better.

Ye Olde Barn

I began chatting (Ed may not have thought life got better at this, but he went with it) and enjoying myself. The 2012 me faded away and I never saw her again. Felkerino and I rose up into the highlands around Warrenton and took in the views.

Our legs had no pop in them, but we did the best we could to scramble our way into the final control by 4 p.m. We almost made it– 4:01 p.m.

It had taken us 36 hours and 1 minute to complete the ride, just over two hours slower than our 2012 time. As I ponder these two times, I am not disappointed in Felkerino’s and my performance for either time. Both are fine. Good, even, when you consider that the time limit for finishing a 600K is 40 hours.


What bothers me about this year’s 600K is that I could not make the mental adjustments necessary to enjoy Sunday’s ride more. I could not let the past ride exist in the past, and I would not stop berating myself about choices made earlier in the day.

In retrospect (because I like looking in the past so much) I believe I did not talk enough with Felkerino about our Sunday plan and I did not devote enough time  before the event to psyching myself up for the second day of 600K riding.

Because we have several big rides under our belt, I told myself we could just go out there and knock out the 600K. Instead I ended up having a knock-down drag-out mental battle on this 600K. It’s a big lesson learned.

600K finish. Photo by Lane with Bill's camera :)
600K finish. Photo by Lane with Bill’s camera 🙂

Like I said at the beginning, though, I am extremely happy that Felkerino and I returned to doing a full series this year. Even though I struggled at various points during the last two brevets, I had a hunger to finish them that I had lost in 2012. It was good to be back, riding long with the D.C. Randonneurs.

Thanks to everyone who organized our brevets and to all the volunteers who helped make them happen. Also, thanks to the people who rode with us this year. You’re awesome!


  1. “What bothers me about this year’s 600K is that I *could not* make the mental adjustments necessary to enjoy Sunday’s ride more. I *could not* let the past ride exist in the past, and I *would not* stop berating myself about choices made earlier in the day.”

    But… you COULD and you DID. It just took longer than you expected but were prepared for. This is still a total win. You did great. Give yourself credit. For the physical accomplishment and the mental victory too, no matter how long it took to get there.


  2. SR series in the bag! As our RBA always says before rides, “Try to have some fun.” Certainly, for me, that is the trick to keep up for the entire ride.


  3. Great read. It sounds like this is a “grass is greener” kind of thing. I thought life would be infinitely more fun if only I’d slept overnight and taken longer at the rest stops, as you guys did; I imagined that the Day 2 portion would not have been nearly as much of a slog. From the sound of it, though, we had similar experiences (although I had less espresso, tragically).


  4. I love the lessons you relate – so much applies to ultrarunning too. I can recall too many ultras I ran without really mentally preparing – and the “why the hell am I doing this” thoughts tend to slip in when you neglect that.

    I laughed out loud at “Good thing there were no people out to say “She’s not pedaling!” as we passed. Who knows what might have become of them?”


  5. Enjoyed your report, particularly the Vulcan Mind Death Ray you were prepared to deliver if anyone said “She’s not pedaling.” Where I had trouble this year was the first 90 miles, which seemed way, way tougher than I remember them from 2012. After leaving Crozet, I started to settle in to the ride, the terrain got a little easier, and I started to get back on my schedule (after getting delayed by a flat before Wolftown that had me riding solo for the next six hours). When I caught Mike Wali at Howardsville, it made my ride go relatively smoothly until the end.


    • Wow, that is great that so much of your ride went smoothly. Unlike you, I was having a ball on the first 90 miles. It was the 2nd day that was a big challenge!


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