In an attempt to avoid gutting it out like it seemed we too often did on many of last year’s brevets, Felkerino and I have been taking advantage of snow-free roads to build our endurance for the upcoming randonneuring events.
While it gave me confidence to know that Felkerino and I had the experience to successfully complete brevets on less-than-ideal base miles, my lack of overall conditioning definitely lowered the fun factor on our rides. With these thoughts in mind, Felkerino and I used the early months of 2016 to ride in search of our brevet legs.
Neither of us put up big Monday-Friday miles, but we have both tried for an average of at least 50 miles of riding. Not much, but something to keep the legs loose.
We have also both been running during the week to increase our overall cardio fitness, I have a running thing coming up, and I recently returned to the gym in hopes of strengthening my lower back and core.
All of these activities help, but the most essential pieces of our pre-brevet buildup are the weekend rides. The weekend rides are when we go earnestly in search of our brevet legs.
For January, that meant two centuries. Nothing too hilly, but regular rollers and the occasional climb to make us comfortable with doing the 100-mile distance.
In February, we planned two additional Saturday centuries, and added on a shorter 40-mile or so Sunday ride after each. Felkerino threw in a third Saturday century, but I was sick that day and stayed home looking enviously at his Instagram photos.
The first of the two February centuries Felkerino and I rode together was similar to the rolling January century. After establishing a century as our base distance, we took off for Skyline Drive at the end of the month to give our legs the hill work we thought would pay off in the coming months.
As our final ramp-up to longer days in the saddle, we joined our friend Jerry this past Saturday for a 157-mile jaunt from our front door out to the big ups and downs of Maryland and West Virginia, and back. It was an honest challenge on a cool, but not unbearable day that peaked in the 40s with light winds.
Some might advocate miles over distance (why do a century when you can do a 200K?), but given our other interests and responsibilities Felkerino and I prefer to ride shorter, yet still challenging, rides.
This approach also works better given fewer daylight hours in winter, and means we don’t have to deal as much with the day’s temperature fluctuations quite. We can start a century at 8 a.m. and be off the road before darkness falls.
Our 157-mile outing was the only ride where avoiding the dark monster wasn’t possible, and we chose quiet roads and a multi-use path for our evening re-entry into the D.C. area.
Even with this abbreviated schedule, riding in search of brevet legs is as humbling as it is rewarding. While it is truly a treat to play outside on our bikes all day as we leave the business of work at home, my body reminds me of all the things I didn’t do after the spring brevets and summer fun ended.
Regaining fitness in the winter months after a luxurious break from the more disciplined riding required by brevets makes me second-guess why I dialed back the riding in the first place. Donning layers and riding through the cold sporting balaclavas and lobster gloves amplifies the humility of the experience. And generally, cold weather saps more energy out of me than a warm summer day will.
However, if we ride concertedly in search of brevets legs, we inevitably find them. After this weekend’s 157-mile ride to West Virginia, I can spy mine just beyond the next mailbox. It’s exciting. After all our diligent searching through the winter months, we’re finding our brevet legs just in time.