It wasn’t long ago that winter was the time when most riders either found something else to do, or rode indoors on the rollers. A few hardy souls would venture out through the winter for occasional rides but they were the exception, even in the rando community. I’m not talking about ‘back in the day’ (God I hate that new century jargon!) This was the reality just a few years ago.
This could easily be spun as the cobweb shrouded memory of a crabby old man, but if you take a little time to look at ‘records’ such as they are, it is easy to see that a big change has occurred. The RUSA website tracks brevets and permanents ridden and if you compare results for say, 2005 with 2010, you quickly see evidence that something big has happened. Surfing the blog-o-sphere, (actually the blog–o-sphere is so ‘last year’ - the new currency of social media seems to be Facebook) I find that friends are riding permanents of anywhere from 100K to 300K … in January! A week or so ago, friends rode a 600K ACP Sanctioned brevet and many clubs are already well into their first series of brevets. This in itself is notable, but more amazing is the fact that these are not just outlandish acts of brazen self promotion; these are just the same brevets, and in many cases the same riders that we used to see in March and April. Amazing is the new normal. Of course the fact that this is a PBP year adds a certain jolt to the current, but even so, I find this trend nothing short impressive.
I rode on New Year’s Day but have been off the bike much of the time since. I’ve been a little under the weather, metaphorically and literally but it seems the bow is swinging into the wind now and I expect to be back in the saddle more consistently (I hope!) Please note: I DO NOT have a 600K brevet planned anytime soon.
Late last year I undertook to develop a few 100K perm routes that would give my winter riding additional structure; incentive to ride in the short days of the year. I can ride a 200K perm but I am slow enough that in the dead of winter I will be starting, and finishing in the dark. That in itself is not a show stopper, but add in inclement weather (cold rain) or icy/frosty roads and the incentive has to stand up to a pretty impressive array of disincentives. 100K mitigates many of the challenges that come with 200K.
Little did I know that something was developing concurrently that would help give these rides a little more meaning. The P-12 is a new ‘award’ ginned up by the folks at RUSA central to encourage us to get off the couch and out on the roads. The P-12 rewards riders who ride a 100K or longer sanctioned event once a month for 12 consecutive months. We randonneurs do love out control cards, our cue sheets, and shiny bits of recognition. The P-12 dovetails nicely with my home grown permanent efforts. Better though, I see the P-12 as a great incentive to get newbies, spouses, and innocent bystanders to engage in the ‘rando way’. Randonneuring is growing but there are still many potential riders who are scared off by the long distances. The P-12 offers a 'wade in' not dive in approach. Some will say that these new riders probably won’t progress to the longer distances, to which I reply, “So what?” More riders who are fluent in randonese is a good thing.
Saturday I rode the Centralia –Tono 100K Perm. Earlier in the week we had a couple blue bird days, but the demands of work are relentless. This was originally planned to be an outing for Mrs. C and I on the tandem, but she had graciously accepted my gift of a sinus infection so she was out. I elected to go for a ride any way.
The weather forecast was not promising. As early as Wednesday the forecast was for “rain-70%”. Here in our part of the world we have many colorful terms to describe precipitation, but among locals it is understood that any forecast that actually uses the term rain means you will get soaked. The 70% part is subject to interpretation; Optimists say it means that there is a 70% chance that you will experience precipitation and conversely their optimistic view that you have a 30% of no precipitation at all. Realists say it means that you should expect to get soaked for at least 70% of the time. Anytime the number is above about 30% both camps agree it is wise to bring a raincoat.
Later in the week the weatherman started predicting wind. Some predictions were for winds as high as 35mph (ouch!) By Friday night the forecast was for rain later in the day and wind building out of the SSW at 15 to 18 mph in the afternoon. A good reason to get an early start.
I took off at 8:00am under heavy clouds, reasonable temperatures for February, and little to no wind. I made my way slowly along the route expecting something to go wrong, (Murphy ’s Law has been dogging me lately). Though I didn’t have any mechanical catastrophe, there was this:
As the countryside rolled by, the wind did pick up.
I was not riding strong so just staying ahead of the clock. At the half way point in Rainier I neglected to get a receipt at the convenience store so had to go back for another purchase, the time on the receipt said 11:20 which happened to be the exact closing time for that control. Great, I’m riding on the edge and will be pushing what appears to be a monster head wind on the homeward leg. I considered abandoning but figured I cooked this thing up and ought to stick it out. Plus, I need the miles.
Though the wind was blowing, I counted me blessings; it was not yet raining, I knew how far I had to go, and because I was on home ground I had no navigation worries; just put my head down and try to keep those pedals ticking over. I did pull the classic Dr Codfish stunt of bonking within the last 5 miles. This is something you would think I would learn to avoid, as many times as I have done it in the past. My good friends Narayan and Robert have both stood around waiting for me to reignite the boiler on rides in years past. Zeno’s Paradox seemed to come into play; As the distance to the finish got shorter, the wind speed increased and my ‘landspeed’ decreased. The further I went the worse it got, you know the drill: 10 miles to go, and speed is 10 miles per hour. 8 miles to go and speed is 8 miles per hour, and so on and so forth. According to Zeno, motion is an illusion and so it seemed for me.
As I racked my bike and went across the Safeway parking lot to get my final receipt as proof of passage, the first few raindrops fell. Thirty minutes later I was home and that wind was driving sheets of rain across the landscape.