I was going to write you a story of our Pittsburgh Randonneurs 300K, but it’s an amalgamation of spent feelings punctuated with mental snapshots brought about by a beautiful course on a perfect weather day that began with a full Flower Moon that set as rays of spring sunshine came up into a brilliant blue sky, accompanied by the lightest of breezes most of the day. So I’ll tell you about that instead.
Over the years we’ve been randonneuring together, Felkerino and I have seen the character of several of our favorite brevet routes change, some to a point where we have had to retire them. Two-lane roads that once were mellow fill with SUVs and trucks zipping by. Other country roads become pass-throughs as density pushes out from city centers.
The Castleman’s Run-Morgantown-Connellsville 300K course RBA Dan Blumenfeld designed was refreshing. Our bikes took us far away from any hustle and bustle and led us right into the rural chop of the Alleghenies. Hardly any cars, just us, the views, and the road under our wheels.
For us, a course like this involves a few trade-offs, but I’m willing to make them this year. Maybe every year, we’ll see.
Since we are in DC, this means an hours-long drive to the starting point. More food planning is required as there is less opportunity to refuel during a ride that traverses relatively more remote areas.
Further, at least in this part of the country, it means that you better bring your climbing legs. That often separates riders from as everybody rides the ups and downs at their own paces.
Because Felkerino and I are on tandem we never ride alone. Never! Like, not one minute! Maybe this sounds hard and it definitely takes some getting used to.
Yet even as we coordinate each pedal stroke together, a course like the Pittsburgh 300K becomes so immersive that a person can be alone with their thoughts, even on a tandem. And courses that can meld teamwork with time for individual contemplation are winners in my book.
Randonneuring is a beautiful activity because there are so many ways to approach and appreciate it. Ride with your friends. Be by yourself. Try to go fast. Slow down. See new places. Complete a lot of kilometers. Chase trinkets.
This year, my randonneuring has become a series of stretching rituals. Stretch my body to meet the physical demands of a ride. Stretch time to hold onto every moment the day can give. Stretch the mind to let thoughts fly until they shift from preoccupations into abstraction. Stretch the vantage point from six inches in front of me to whatever can be seen from the perch of a saddle.
A course like this weekend’s 300K facilitates the best kinds of stretching in all of these areas. The route, the weather, and the company of other riders conspired to make it all fit together so perfectly.
We rolled into the finish just as the sun slipped away. One of the kids from the neighborhood, who happened to be standing in the middle of the street with his buddies (!), stuck out a hand for a high five. Gotta love small town life.
I didn’t take him up on it, but I should have. We earned it.
It was one of those rides that ends and you think, I could keep going. I want to. I feel great. Yet when you stop, that feels great, too. When’s the next ride?
What a day.
Find my full photo set of the ride here. Thanks to Dan for putting together a spectacular course and to those who kept us company along the way.