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.

Another reason I love the randonneuring events is because they introduce an additional level of commitment and discipline to Felkerino’s and my riding. Early weekend wake-ups for training rides in the hills become standard routine.

I incorporate more focused cross-training into my weekdays. Overall time in the saddle goes up. Bike mileage steadily increases and peaks until the carefully scheduled taper goes into effect.

After all that, I stand rather anticlimactically at an uncivilized hour in a generic hotel parking lot with my brevet card in hand ready to see how our months of hard work will pay off. Despite the unassuming circumstances, randonneur show time has arrived.

Over the course of 10 years of brevets, I’ve ridden rides that while they were happening, felt they were devouring me with their difficulty. Yet after I completed them and time did its work to soothe the event-inspired discomforts, a blanket of bliss wrapped itself around me.

Almost always, my body forgets the fatigue and frustrations of an event. My mind looks beyond pain point memories, or reconstructs them as necessary parts of the ride experience. Without the low moments, there can be no highs. The post-ride sensations that usually remain are so powerful and positive that they compel me to take on the next big ride.

D.C. Randonneurs 600K. Photo by Bill Beck
D.C. Randonneurs 600K. Photo by Bill Beck

But that is not what happened on my most recent 1000K. In August, Felkerino and I rode a 1000K where the memories that lingered were primarily pain points. Despite the passing of time, my recall of this ride is not the savoring experience I’ve come to hope for and even expect from randonneuring.

When I remember this particular event, what I’m most happy about is that Felkerino and I pushed through and did not quit. We also enjoyed some pretty sweet night riding, too, but generally my point of pride is that we showed we can gut out a rando event even when we’re not enjoying it.

I’m still puzzling through why this ride’s memories evoke such  overall dissatisfaction. One month before this 1000K, Felkerino and I were completing a sublime two-week bike tour of Colorado.

We liberated ourselves from the clock and were not constrained by a prescribed route. Having all day to travel 100 or so miles in the summer sun was a treat. Maybe bike touring through the Colorado Rockies spoiled us, and we were unprepared for the rigors of a 1000K brevet.

On the other hand, maybe it’s because I’ve been doing brevets long enough now that their novelty has worn off. I know the general flow of an event, from a 200K up to a 1200K. I know the fitness that’s required complete them. I’m confident that Felkerino and I have a fairly tuned system that sets us up well for finishing rides.

Perhaps waning sunlight and winter’s freeze dampened my enthusiasm for long rides, and the arrival of springtime will reshape my August 1000K memories and rekindle my affinity for randonneuring.

At the very least, I hope a brevet or two with Felkerino through the emerging blossoms and greens of spring will generate new memories and bring back to the fore the seductive sensations I’ve always loved about randonneuring rides.

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