Thursday, January 7, 2010

Codfish For The New Year and ....

The new Decade?

Life proceeds predictably in most instances. In the past couple weeks we saw ‘year in review’, and ‘decade in review’ discussions going on, they were pretty predictable. The lists of top ten, and ten worst Christmas gifts, the endless collection of office, friends, and family cocktail parties and holiday get togethers. That endless procession of platters of homemade Christmas goodies (ouch!).

So now, predictably, for a brief moment we enter the New Year’s resolution season. I belong to a health club, it’s pretty big, probably more than a thousand members and when the first week of January rolls around you can’t find a parking spot closer than about half mile from the door after work. They actually rent a couple golf carts from the golf course next door and offer a shuttle service of sorts to get you from the door to the car. Seems a little ironic to me: Drive on down to the athletic club in your Lexus, have a pilates, step aerobic, or spin class with ’Jen’ or ’Jeff’ , then catch the golf cart shuttle back out to the car. In defense I’ll say it rains a lot this time of year.

As might be obvious, I’m dodging about, not really laying down any new year’s resolutions here. My reluctance is grounded in the notion that by late February, or sometimes March, you can often get a parking spot pretty close to the front door of that athletic club. I see lots of people make significant commitments to pull themselves up. Health and fitness goals, life style and weight loss changes seem to be big on the list. Lots of these things would make logical additions to my plan for the Codfish of the new decade.

Of course for the Randonneurs in the room, something looms in front of us like that giant terrifying space ship on the horizon in the opening scenes of that new sci-fi block buster. This is what we quaintly refer to as a ‘pre-PBP’ year. I have talked about that here and certainly will again. Just like that giant, terrifying spaceship, this apparition, PBP, blots out more and more of the sun as it draws nearer for many of us. (Is this too much drama over a bicycle ride?)

Goals for the Randonneur in the pre-PBP year take on a particular cast. But this is not just any pre-PBP year, this year things are slightly different. Because ACP, the sanctioning body has not finalized all the PBP qualification criteria, there is a fair amount of uncertainty which of course bleeds in to the ‘Goals for 2010’ topic. How can you realistically set goals if you are not sure of the definition of ‘success? Randonneuring is a big tent so there are all types along for the ride. Some have a very much laissez faire approach while others count every, gram, watt, calorie, and kilometer. Guess which tribe is most disturbed by the lack of a clear set of rules before the ‘race to registration’ actually begins?

As you may have guessed I’m not all that uptight. Because I’m a lumper not a splitter, I am occasionally left on the dock watching the ferry pull away without me.  This year I choose to pay attention as the qualifying rules evolve but at this point I have a very good idea of how I plan to approach riding through the ‘pre-PBP’ year.  Here (generally) are the changes to the rules that we know of at this time:

1. Some countries, (including USA) will have a quota of riders. This could mean that not every yank who wants to will get to go. I remember in past years that there was always a threat of this happening (others seem to have forgotten this) but no one was very concerned back then.

2. The quotas will be determined by a formula which considers:
  • how many riders rode PBP in 2007, 
  • how many ACP approved kms, or events are completed in 2010 and, 
  • What color shoes the top 35 riders from your nation wore in the qualifying brevets. 
Not sure about that shoes part, but there are sure to be other factors not yet announced. Unfortunately number of stale pizza pockets consumed, zip ties applied, spare batteries hauled, or broken pedal spindles will not be factored in. Dang!

3. Riding certain rides in 2010 will allow riders to register earlier: ACP says that riding a brevet of 400Km will qualify you for early registration, a 600K, slightly earlier, and now we hear that riding a 1000K may be a consideration.

4. All this business above has only indirect bearing on qualifying. The qualification requirement remains the same as it has been for years: A rider must complete a series (200Km, 300Km, 400Km and 600Km) in the year of the event (2011) to qualify for entry.

So to start with, the more ACP events I (and you) ride this year, the more I contribute to my (and your) opportunity to get to PBP by virtue of increasing our quota. Not everyone is down with that. Randonneuring encourages self sufficiency so working for the general benefit of all is something of a challenge for some riders to accept. We can be an independent lot. The ACP also is injecting a degree of nationalism into how it organizes, another element that does no necessarily reverberate with all the US riders.

So, what’s on my dance card for 2010? To begin with I would like to ride many more brevets (and many more miles generally) this year than last. I would like to ride a 1000Km event. There are 19(!) of them on the RUSA calendar this year which is truly amazing, and right here in our neck of the woods there are ten. My home club, SIR offers three 1000Km brevets plus the Cascade 1240. Orrando offers one, and BC Randos (Lower Mainland) offer five! There is no lack of opportunity.

Riding events, riding long events has never been the weakst link of my training chain.   Consistency is my Achilles heel. Riding more frequently will be the most helpful thing I can do. More “X’s” on the calendar, more days with ride numbers in them, even just ‘JRA’ miles will help me more than bagging an epic ‘A” list event. I will admit however that riding the Cascade and then the Gold Rush back to back did wonders for my fitness.

It’s not only about miles though. I need help on other fronts as well. I don’t want to dwell on health issies, but suffice to say, I am putting a fair amount of pressure on my ‘crack medical team’ to sort out some upper respiratory issues that have dogged me the past couple years. I’ve noticed recently people asking ‘how are you feeling?” All well meaning but it let me know that I am sliding down the rabbit hole of defining myself by my ailments. I need to get out of that habit, so you won’t hear much about this in the future. If I have a break through recovery, you’ll be the first to know, otherwise I will revert to tried and true methods developed by generations of ancestors: peasant genes, an iron will, and a fiery Scotch/ Irish temper will see me through. It’s right there on the McCubbin family coat of arms:

meus caput capitis est congelo quam is later parietis 
(my head is harder than this brick wall)

Another non-bike obstacle is finances. It is possible that I might boot strap myself into the fitness required for another run at PBP but we may not be able to pay the freight. The whole business is absurdly expensive, and when I contemplate that I always remind myself, ‘this is just a bike ride through the country side’.  I can get the same effect starting out from the back porch and riding to Spokane and back.

Not exactly a gauntlet of goals laid at the castle gates but I think it gives any interested party an idea of what I will be trying to accomplish this year. I am blessed in that most of what I need to put this non-plan into action is at hand. I have a job that pays the bills but still allows reasonable time off to spend more time on the bike. I’ve got a great club offering all the support a rider could need to be successful. I’ve got fantastic biking opportunities right off the back porch (pity the riders in NYC). And I have the full support of my very best friend in the whole world who knows that I’d like to get back to PBP again and who really wants me to. She’s really is my better half, my much better half.

Something not mentioned here is how it feels to ride through the pre-PBP year with your compatriots. It’s actually very fun. In the early season, the shorter events, you see tons of people, then as the season progresses the crowd thins and you start seeing the same folks, again and again. You have those discussions in the motel lobby the night before, or at the Denny’s over breakfast at 3:00am (before or after a ride), or in a collection of lawn chairs behind a pick up tailgate out in the hinterlands as someone whips up a cup-O-noodles for you. “Are you going to PBP?” “Well I hope to, how ‘bout you?”

And thus begins a forging of closer relationships. We actually are all in this together, the rules of randonneuring allow riders to help each other, and we do. Someone stops to loan a spare tire, another demonstrates how to put on a fiber-fix replacement spoke, and little green cans of Bag Balm are shared. So that, at the last official ACP brevet of the season you are making arrangements, loose or firm to get together again next month to do a little crappy weather riding. You are sharing information about travel arrangements and accommodations, you are talking about side trips in Europe before, and after the big dance. You are actually starting to make plans for an extended trip to the continent and you have just gone through 8 months of rigorous bike therapy with your pals. Now you are more than just casual acquaintances, you are compatriots and allies focused on facing a great challenge and adventure together.

If nothing else, this coming riding season will give me that much fun, that rich material for story making and I am really looking forward to it. The uncertainty of qualification requirements drifts away on the wind like a Tibetan prayer flag at 19,000 feet, and the steady step by step progression, up the mountain in the presence of friends fills the consciousness.

So I’ve got some general on-the-bike goals for 2010. I did get that big ole 12 month dry erase calendar for Christmas and I have posted up all the rando events that I could possibly ride off the Oregon Randonneurs and Seattle International Randonneur schedules.

There are other non-rando events too, things like STP, and a few other favored events that Mrs. C and I are partial to. Oh yeah, ORR events are in green and SIR events are of course in blue, the rest in red of black.

Well, that’s the non-plan for 2010. Using the wide angle lens it looks intimidating to me. But what of the Codfish of the next decade? Ouch! Thinking a decade out is a sobering perspective: By this time next decade (if I make it that far) I will have passed through my 60’s and I‘ll be into my 70’s. Where will weight loss, bike mileage goals, and runny nose management fit in my idea of a successful next decade? Will just getting up out of bed and finding my teeth be the major accomplishments? It is a whole different perspective.

Finishing PBP in 2003 caused me to think a bit about my possibilities. It’s not a life altering event, but it is (or was) a milestone. One thing I concluded was that I wanted to ride this event as many times as I could. (I still do) I realized that no matter what effort or providence brought, I would not be doing the jig across Brittany very many more times. Prior to 2003 I used to select some BHAG to shoot for each year, things like climbing Mt Rainier, or hiking the PCT, or STP in a day. PBP sort of changed that (again with the drama!). It makes a great goal, and at my age and frame of mind, four years is a reasonable planning horizon.

I got one more completion in, 2007, a very hard won accomplishment. McCubbins below the stony Celtic earth certainly paused briefly in their centuries long rants about the unfairness of the Kings taxes and smiled a smile to see one of their kith and kin beat his head against the brick walls of Brittany for 1200Kms. I am not sure how many more of THOSE kinds of rides I have in me. OK, it was just a bike ride, and was not life threatening, but at the time, it took almost everything I had. I just hope the toll is not so high in future versions; I may not have the exact change.

In 2011 I will be 62 years old. Not too old to ride PBP, many have done so at that age check out this chart of 2007 entrants. 

In 2015 I’ll be 66. Again, not unheard of as the chart shows but as I contemplate how my body is holding up (or not) and how challenging PBP can be I conclude that success in 2015 would be a great achievement. 2019 would be at the end of the decade we talked about and I would be at the end of my 60’s. Riding PBP at age 70 would be without doubt a BHAG; like contemplating how one might go about digging a privy hole in the soft soil on the dark side of the moon. Something that can’t really even be seen from here, just considered.

I’ll be happy to be alive in August of 2015, to be able to ride a bike, maybe even shifting my work schedule to half days (kidding). Riding west from SQY to Brest, … and back, … in 90 hours? Well, lets just say that suddenly my mileage ‘non-goals’ for this year don’t seem so daunting.

1 comment:

  1. I wish you the best of fun in your quest for PBP, and you can rest assured that I am in no way a competitor for one of the coveted RUSA quota slots!
    I've set up a reasonably full dance card for the 2010 season, which I've extended to the entirity of the year with my attempt at an R-12, but as of yet I've got no quadruple digit aspirations in my future (with the exception of yearly totals).
    Here's to a happy, healthy 2010 season. I'll see you out there!