RUSA Member Profile: Bill Beck of D.C. Randonneurs

While some of you may already have read this feature in the most recent issue of American Randonneur, I like to repost pieces I do so that those who may not subscribe to the newsletter or who prefer to read it in a blog format may do so. I hope you enjoy.

I’m rolling out a new segment called “RUSA Member Profile.” In these interviews, we’ll feature RUSA members who are not only ride brevets, but who also volunteer and support the rides in their area.

My first interview is with Bill Beck, active member and rider with the D.C. Randonneurs and former member of the RUSA board. Many thanks to Bill for kicking off this series with us!

What is your home club? 

D.C. Randonneurs

Finishing a 300K with Bill
Finishing a 300K with Bill
How did you begin/become involved in randonneuring?

I was signed up for the Year-Rounder program of the Ultramarathon Cycling Association (UMCA), in which you are supposed to ride at least one century per month. I was looking for a century ride in March of 2006 and saw a 125 mile “brevet” being run by DC Randonneurs.

125 miles didn’t seem THAT much longer than 100, so I signed up. It was my longest ever ride.

Then I did the 300K and learned the meaning of “bonking.”

Although the longer distances sounded impossible at the time, our co-RBA, Lynn Kristianson, convinced me to ride a full series since the routes that year were supposedly “mellow”– although I recall lots of not-so-mellow hills.

Photo time on a 300K brevet
Photo time on a 300K brevet
How would you describe the terrain of the D.C. Randonneurs brevets? 

The terrain in the Mid-Atlantic varies from pancake-flat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to hilly in the Piedmont to mountainous in the western end.

Most of the D.C. Randonneurs rides are in the Piedmont and mountainous regions with about 8000 feet of climbing per 200K, with some going up to 11,000 feet per 200K.

The climbs are typically not so long, but can get over 20 percent in places. I’ve got a 26×34 granny gear and know how to use it.

You were the D.C. Randonneurs RBA from 2008 to 2012, and served on the RUSA board from 2012 to 2015. You remain a very active volunteer, including organizing brevets and doing volunteer checkout rides, while also managing to ride many brevets and other RUSA events. How do you balance the volunteering with your own riding? 

Volunteering and riding don’t seem to interfere much with each other. In fact, it’s usually an advantage to be the organizer or volunteer who does the checkout ride, since you get to pick a day with nice weather!

Bill, riding High Country 1200K
Bill, riding High Country 1200K
What do you like about volunteering?

As a rider, we usually only see similarly-paced riders who finish at about the same time as we do. The organizer gets to see all of the riders at the finish and hear how things went.

Also, when I’m organizing, I usually drive out on the course to take pictures of the riders (usually when they are grinding up hills and are therefore slower targets), so I get to see everybody out on the route as well.

As a member of the RUSA board, or as an officer for a local club, you get to see what goes on behind the scenes, and even help implement new things. For example, it was fun to see the new RUSA Ultra R-12 award move from an initial suggestion to an available award with a medal that you can order from the RUSA store.

What is one of the randonneuring achievements you’re most proud of and why? 

I’m most proud of completing the Southern Appalachian Super Randonnee 600K and my own Big Savage Super Randonnee 600K, mainly because I wasn’t sure if I could do them.

I like the idea of making rides more challenging without necessarily making them longer, so that sleep deprivation doesn’t become as big a factor as it often does on 1200Ks. The Southern Appalachian route also includes the highest peak in the Eastern U.S.– Mt. Mitchell– which is a bonus.

Southern Appalachian SR600K

How would you sum up your randonneuring experience?

My top priority for a ride is always to finish. Next is feeling reasonably good at the finish. And sometimes a fast time is a priority. But I’ve gotten old enough now (63) that “fast” is a downward-moving target.

I often think “keep moving” is a good motto for brevets, although I do stop for pictures and enjoy a nice sit-down meal with friends on long rides.

You are also an avid photographer, and almost always take photos during rides. What inspires you to take all the photos you do, and how does it add to your ride experience? 

There are two motivations. One is hearing from other riders that they were able to make use of the pictures for their blog, computer background, Facebook page, or something similar. It’s also fun to be able to look back at rides from years ago.

The second reason is that we see such amazing scenery on our rides, including sunrises and sunsets (often on the same ride!), and I’m still trying to capture some of that beauty in pictures. Taking pictures makes me pay more attention to what’s around me.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your insights and experience.

If you know of a good candidate to feature in a future edition of “RUSA Member Profile,” send me an email through the contact form with the member’s name and email. Please also include a short biography about their randonneuring, and I will follow up with them. It’s that easy!

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