Enjoying Every Mile on the D.C. Randonneurs 400K

Stopped at mile 110 of our 252-mile ride, someone asks us where we started.”Frederick, Maryland,” we respond.

When asked where we’re going we again say, “Frederick,” and then pepper in a few additional details about our day’s route.

“Will you camp along the way?” our dining neighbors inquire.

“No,” we answer. “We’re doing the whole thing today.” Mic drop.

Our dining neighbors are speechless. I check the math to make sure I’m not lying because now their reaction has me speechless, and I want to make sure I have our story straight.

Yes, we really are riding 252 miles today. I buy a mini-pumpkin loaf for the road (I mean, if we’re riding that far, I’ll definitely need it) and we’re on our way again.

We’ve had these conversations so many times, but they still take me aback.

It is a ridiculous number of miles to ride in a day, I suppose. And yet, this year, I’ve been loving the long rides in a way I haven’t since at least 2014.

I’ve never been a real morning person, but last week when the alarm sounded at 2:30 a.m. I was almost eager to start. “Yay long rides! Let’s do this!”

Weaver’s in Hancock, Maryland
I can’t really explain or justify the appeal of the long ride with one simple answer. It’s a hodgepodge for sure. Time to catch up with Felkerino. Miles on our gorgeous Spectrum tandem (a sleek contrast to my Surly LHT, no offense). Separation from our devices. An exhausting yet refreshing escape from the city and workaday life.

Last year, brevets beyond the 300K held no appeal. “Been there, done that,” I said with finality. Nothing new to prove or see here.

This year I’m excited to explore what these long rides offer, just because. I accept the sleep-deprivation, hotel bill, terrible coffee, gas station dining, and time away from home without concern. We’ll make it all work somehow. Let’s ride!

Many randonneurs talk about the 400K being a ride of separation – from casual randonneur to somewhat serious randonneur. Instead of 5 a.m., we clip in at 4. Hours of night riding are inevitable.

The 400K is just that much longer and requires a different type of dedication than a 300K. I’m not saying a 300K is easy, but tack on an additional 100K, and you have that much more challenge in a day ride.

Meal number 2 for Jerry, Felkerino, and me. I don’t normally eat like this
In the 11 years I’ve been randonneuring I’ve seen people come and go for so many reasons. They burn out or other activities take precedent. Last year I saw myself exiting the rando-stage, too.

But 2017 is different and this year I haven’t even been training for the brevets, really. I’ve been riding my regular commute and putting in the weekend miles with Felkerino so that a long ride seems doable. My fitness is solid, but not remarkable. I’m not paying that much attention to cross-training.

During the brevets, we ride with purpose, but allow for flexibility as well. On last weekend’s 400K, we stopped for two hours and 45 minutes, and indulged in a couple of decadent extended breaks. It slowed our overall finish but increased our ride’s fun factor exponentially.

A couple of longer food stops divvy up the day, and give us moments to pause and goof around (i.e., waste a little time). We can impress and/or shock the locals with our riding plans.

After all of our riding and stopping, we rolled into the hotel at 20 hours and 9 minutes – a fairly typical finish for us. But my body and mind felt strong throughout the ride, which is not generally the case for me on a 400K.

Frankly, I did not expect to feel such fondness again toward randonneuring. As I said, I thought I was en route to departing the rando scene. There’s a lot of good stuff a person can accomplish in a day if they aren’t consumed with riding a 400K brevet, you know.

But riding 252 miles in one day feels pretty great, too, and reminds me that our bodies are capable of accomplishing things that many find unfathomable. At times, even I find it so. But just keep pedaling, and you can do it!

After 11 years I’m grateful I’m here, still showing up for brevets with Felkerino, and enjoying as many miles as I possibly can.

10 thoughts on “Enjoying Every Mile on the D.C. Randonneurs 400K

  1. Mary, you inspire me with your writing AND riding. You’ve also piqued my interest in this crazy adventure. The idea of it enthralls me and scares the crap out of me!

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  2. Hello MG.
    I always enjoy your posts, and especially this one. Just completed #6 200K for my attempt at a r-12 for the year. Have a 300K brevet in the bag and am shopping around for the 400 and 600. During this last 200K perm, had some time on the clock towards the end and went skinny dipping in the Chicahomminy River at a secret swimming hole. Added some spice to the adventure.
    Am older than dirt and slower than mud, but can occasionally drop all but the fastest mailboxes using a combination of determination, fortitude and treachery.
    John.

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  3. Good Lord! We ride a quite a bit, but 252 miles in one day? no thank you! Dang! That’s crazy. You are tougher than most. Speaking about tougher than most, our daughter Molly recently ran an Ultra – 50K. She was second for women in her age group. She’s tough too!

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