Thursday, February 18, 2010

That was so much fun ...

So began an email message I sent to a short list of ride pals a couple weeks ago. It went on to say that the permanent we had done on February 6th was so much fun that I was planning to ride it again, only this time in the opposite direction (counterclockwise).  This is a little out of character for me,(two 200K perms in two weeks)  but I had also put in my order for another stellar day with the NWS so figured it should be spent on the bike.

I didn’t expect many to jump on board as most perm riders are disinclined to ride the same route repeatedly. My good friend Peter is the exception having ridden the Hood Canal Perm 11 times in January! For the metrically challenged, that’s 1,200 2,200Kms (... math, not my strong suit) or roughly 1,366 miles, ... in the PNW, … in January! El Nino aside, that’s some serious road time. As an aside, this is a route that starts with a ferry boat ride from Seattle to the Kitsap Peninsula, so if you plan to get an early start you have to factor in getting up early enough to get to the ferry dock, then the 45 minute ride across the sound, just to get to the start. Oh Dark Thirty indeed. Knowing Peter I am sure that is not the sum total of his activities for the month.

This brings up a point worthy of mention: I am really impressed, on the verge of astounded with how dramatically randonneuring has grown. Not just the numbers of new riders entering the sport but also levels of performance, especially at the upper levels of the sport. Time was when completing a Super Randonneur series and a 1200K brevet in the same year was a big deal. I recall one year when I got all the requirements of the ACP R-5000 in one year, I thought I was something! Nowadays 10,000km of brevets and perms is the entry point for those who want to be in the elite group of totals for the year. It’s not uncommon now to hear of riders putting in 15,000 or 20,000 Km of brevets and perms. Two, three or more 1200K brevets in a season? Sure why not. Two SR series is not uncommon and three is not unheard of.

I am enormously impressed and inspired by these accomplishments. Mostly because these are not sponsored professional athletes but normal people. Well maybe not normal in the 'normal' sense but these are folks with families, with jobs, lawns to mow and weeds to pull, with many of the other aspects of a life to maintain. It’s that part that impresses me. Somehow many of these mileage monsters are able to avoid succumbing to what I call the ‘racer mentality’, where everything that gets eaten is first weighed and analyzed for caloric content, every physical activity has to conform to a training plan, every ride must hold to a predetermined measure of watts, calories, heart rate, or perceived level of exertion. Sure like racers, randonneurs are ‘different;’ but we’re different in a different way.

So the friends I only see at the start are inspiring me, the rhino in lycra to step it up a bit. My friend John and I will form up at the Lacey Starbux Saturday the 20th for an 0630 start. It will be a faboo day, sunny and 75, tailwinds the day long and the best part is this will be the first 200K in the history of rando that is all downhill! I know this because when I rode it clockwise a couple weeks ago I'm sure it was all uphill. This is going to be a lot of fun.


  1. "Somehow many of these mileage monsters are able to avoid succumbing to what I call the ‘racer mentality’, where everything that gets eaten is first weighed and analyzed for caloric content"

    When someone rides 15,000kms or more of events (not to mention any "unofficial" mileage they may ride) at a relatively slow speed compared to racers, not many of us are worried about an extra ounce or two.
    First, when you ride that much you can fuel on just about anything you darned well please and not have to worry about your weight. Heck, I'll be lucky to get in 4000km of events and 9600km total for the year, and I'm losing weight even with the Bacchanalian mountains of food I consume.
    Secondly, 36 spoke wheels, stainless steel fenders, 32mm tires, canvas/leather luggage with brass hardware... These aren't the things which cry out "weight weenie". Sure, to some extent we're all looking out for where to shed a pound (whether on ourselves or our bikes), but I haven't encountered the true weight weenie personality on any of the SIR rides: The riders who'll spend an extra $100 on this year's version of a part because it's 2g lighter than last year's model.

  2. Right, I think we are on the same page here. But I am sure you know someone who has tumbled down the rabbit hole of looking to 'get better' to the point of what could be seen as obsession.

    Sometimes breaking through a threshhold compels one to see that if they just take it one step futrther, then they could be just that bit "better", and so the progrssion begins. Loosing a little more weight, upgrading to a carbon fiber watt meter holder, low spoke count wheels, and as mentioned counting and timing calories. I have heard friends say "no, I can't do that race (or brevet), it interferes with my training".

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on racing or racers, I'm just saying that high mileage randos play in a zone where it would be easy to slip into that 'racer' mode, and for whatever reason, it seems not to happen very often.

    What appears to happen more frequently is people with a background in racing migrating to randonneuring or so it seems to me. No science or survey to bear this out, just my view from the behind the barriers. You were a racer, how would you compare the environment or mentality of racing to randonneuring. Me? I've never raced.

    Yr Pal,Dr C

  3. Hiya Doc,

    Regarding your point about the growth of Randonneuring, that fact is evident here in the Bay Area too. So far this year we've had two brevets: Jan 23rd, Lighthouse 200km and the Feb. 6th Two Rock Valley Ford 200km. We've averaged about 100 riders for each. In 2008, my first year as RBA, we had something like 65 riders for our first two brevets combined. For our last event in 2009, in November we had 65 riders, and for next week's 300km we expect about 100 riders. Yep, interest is definitely up.

    rob hawks

  4. Rob;

    It will be interesting at the end of this year to see numbers: Numbers of members, events ridden, kilometers ridden, all that. Do y'all have records of participation from past years? I'm sure that some of what we are seeing and will contiue to see in terms of increases has to do with the Pre-PBP cycle but I suspect that if we looked at things over a 12 or 16 year period we'd see a pretty steep increase in the last two years or so. Probably the year AFTER PBP is the best measure of how many cases of infection have taken hold.

    Yr Pal Dr C

  5. You were a racer, how would you compare the environment or mentality of racing to randonneuring.

    This being only my second season of randonneuring, and my first season of looking at breaking into the really long distances (600k and up) I don't know if I'm fully qualified to speak on the similarities/differences.
    I haven't noticed much similarity between my former tri-racing weight/aero obsession and my rando rig. I rode a carbon, aero bar, aero wheel speed machine and kept myself below 5% bodyfat when I was racing tri's.
    17 years and 40 pounds later, I'm pretty sure I got all the speed demon out of my system when I was a wee youngster, and I'm more content to ride at a moderate pace and enjoy myself instead of trying to finish as painfully fast as possible.
    I still have a training schedule but I'm more willing to let it get "interrupted" by things like an afternoon out with my fiancee, or taking my dog for a hike up Little Si. Back in my racing days, it would have taken a naked supermodel offering me a sports car with a trunk full of beer to distract me from my training.

    However, I've seen some very strict plan adherence for people who are intent on making it to Paris next year... and that might be the difference for me: I don't currently have any PBP dreams. I'm not gunning for a 1200k, a Charly Miller award, or looking to hoist Vincent from his mileage record. I've got a pretty much plain-Jane goal of making it to an S-R this year, so my uber competitiveness is in remission.

  6. I agree about growth but as far as 10000k+ being "not uncommon", there were only 14 RUSA memebers who did it last year, which is still a pretty select group :-)