Real Life Lessons From Randonneuring

I started randonneuring because I wanted to see what the distances beyond 100 miles held for me. I hoped randonneuring would make me fitter and stronger, and help me see new places.

What I did not realize, though, is that randonneuring was stealthily strengthening me in other ways, too. Over the past two years, other life pressures have pushed themselves to the fore, and I have not been paying as much attention to the actual riding.

Instead, I’ve found myself leaning on my experiences as a randonneuse while I tackle other challenges, and it’s really been helping me through.

D.C. Randonneurs 300K, photo by Bill Beck
D.C. Randonneurs 300K, photo by Bill Beck

Venture outside your comfort zone. This year in particular, I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to trying some new things. It’s been exciting, but also challenging to do because these new things take time to learn and master.

When I first started riding, I had no idea what to expect, especially during 300K-plus brevets. But I wanted to see what distances further than I’d typically ridden would bring so I pedaled away to find out. Over 10 years later, I’m still showing up.

Breaks are good for you, but don’t take too many. People are not machines. You can only sustain constant forward momentum for so long until you need to ease up or take a break. Maybe even nap in a ditch or on a picnic table.

Feel no guilt for taking a break every so often, but remember that the clock keeps ticking. Don’t stop pedaling for too long; you might not reach the finish.

Riding toward the rain. Photo by Bill Beck
Photo by Bill Beck

Discomfort is sometimes necessary to accomplish the larger goal. My years of randonneuring I have taught me what to expect during any given ride, and I know that brevets of 300K and longer contain moments of discomfort, either mentally or physically.

It may rain or be cold. Or really hot. The course can become tedious in places, and I will think of many other activities I’d prefer doing besides the ride I’m on. My once-comfortable saddle turns on me. This happens in my non-cycling life, too.

Not every moment that passes in our life endeavors is enjoyable, but these uncomfortable times may be necessary to reach the place we want to eventually be. Ultimately, the discomfort is worth it.

If injured, you should stop. Forward progress is important, but if it’s resulting in lasting physical or mental harm, then stopping is your best option.

It sucks to do that, and you don’t get the reward that awaits you at the finish, but there are cases where the punishment of continuing is too much. In these moments, energy is most usefully spent ending the ride so that you can heal the body.

Keep going. Injury is one thing, short-term pains are another. Long-distance riding isn’t always a cornucopia of nice and pleasant. Uncomfortable moments happen, and fatigue will often pay a visit when you’d least like it to.

I refuse to let momentary (when I say momentary, this could be 50 miles or more) adversity deter me from pedaling forward. Finishing is important to me, and as I wrote about our recent 300K, if you keep going you might find yourself in the middle of a good ride.

South Dakota

On rare occasions, you have a perfect ride. It doesn’t happen often, but perfect ride is out there. And sometimes, that perfect ride is your ride. Conditions are ideal, everything goes smoothly. You find bliss.

That possibility is what inspires me to clip in and start pedaling. The potential for bliss in other arenas of my life keeps me moving forward. In a broader sense, this is hope.

6 thoughts on “Real Life Lessons From Randonneuring

  1. You are so awesome! I am out of my comfort zone at 50miles. LOL. I am pushing myself harder this year, though. Your words are inspirational. You should do the Trans Am race someday! Hope to meet you here in Oregon in a few weeks. What bike(s) are you bringing to the west coast?

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  2. Very inspirational. I must admit I tend to stick to 20 – 25 mile local rides as really pain doesn’t come into it, but I definitely need to up my game after reading this. It’s not that i can’t do it as I have done a 100 miles day but rather I have become too lazy. If the rain here ever stops I will be getting out and upping my mileage gradually now. After all it’s no longer Winter. Keep the wheels turning.

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  3. i love reading your posts, they’re truly inspirational. You actually inspired me to ride London to Paris in 24 hours.. just a little harder than I was expecting 🙂

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    1. Wow, Jonathan, that’s awesome! How long was your route? Rides that long almost always have at least one pain point, I’ve decided. The severity of the pain point varies, though, depending on a variety of factors. Congratulations again!

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