Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This is a 2006 ride report from a dear friend here in Macon after finishing a 1,200 Kilometers = 745.645 mi bike ride. When I need some inspiration or a reality check about my own goals this story always comes to mind. It's a great read even if your not much of a true hardcore endurance cycling fan.

Definition -

Brevet, or randonnée, is an organised long-distance bicycle ride in the sport of randonneuring. Cyclists - who, in this discipline, may be referred to as randonneurs - follow a designated but unmarked route (usually 200km to 1400km), passing through check-point controls, and must complete the course within specified time limits. These limits, while challenging, still allow the ride to be completed at a comfortable pace - there is no requirement to cycle at racing speeds or employ road bicycle racing strategies.

Randonneurs do not compete against other cyclists; randonnées are a test of endurance, self-sufficiency and bicycle touring skills. Riders are expected to carry appropriate clothing for inclement weather, spare parts and tools needed for likely repairs. Brevets frequently involve night riding, when participants are required to carry lights, spare bulbs and reflective gear. No specialist bicycle is required; most riders use either a racing bicycle or a fast touring bicycle - several manufacturers provide models with a Randonneur or Audax name to reflect their target market. Those are usually racing bicycles with mounts for a baggage carrier and mudguards. On many brevets recumbents and velomobiles can be seen, as these types of bicycles are well suited for long distances.

Steel bikes, mudguards, and Brooks saddles. 5AM, Bonifay FL , and the
start of the first 1200K brevet in the south. Now, in addition to
> Paris-Brest- Paris and Boston-Montreal- Boston, there would be
> Bonifay-Gadsden- Bonifay.
> I was totally unprepared, having my longest ride at 54 miles in the
> preceding several months. But the weather promised to be good, no
> excuses about scheduling around teaching, and if not now, when?
> So I rode fixed gear for 2-3 weeks, 83-93 inch up the hills, and spun
> on alternate days. I was confident I might at least make it to the
> Alabama border. Until my light failed and I was on my backup light at
> the start (the light had worked fine when I changed the batteries the
> day before). And my computer started acting up. And I forgot to seal
> my rear bag until I started riding and another rider said ("Perhaps
> you wanted it this way, but your bag strap is dragging on your
> wheel.") Me nervous?
> Especially reassuring aspect early on were the terrific etiquette and
> bike skills evident among riders. Most had done at least one, and
> many had done several 1200s, so I relaxed a bit and tried to learn.
> It was light as we turned into Georgia the pastures of Florida turned
> into pine forests, and we passed a busy Georgia Pacific plant. Loaded
> trucks flew by us on 370 but, as far as I know, caused no incidents.
> The turn onto 62 heading into Blakely was probably the riskiest
> section of road on the ride – heavily trafficked, no shoulder, but it
> lasted only 10 miles until out first control.
> The large group that had been riding together whittled down at the
> control, with some opting for a meal, (I loaded up on V8 in my
> bottles) while Larry from Miami and Dan from Missouri and I went
> ahead. On the 60 miles from Blakely to our turn into Alabama , we had
> a preview of coming attractions – lots of rollers. The headwind was
> 10 mph, and Larry was a horse leading us on. We traveled along the
> Chattahootchee river though not close enough to see it. The
> conversation was lively and the miles passed easily with low traffic.
> Turning into Alabama on CR 4, the winds picked up a bit but were not
> especially troubling, and we rolled into Opelika at 6 PM. Larry, Dan,
> and a strong rider from Ontario attempting to qualify for RAAM left
> shortly thereafter, while I opted for a 3 AM rollout. But, being a
> newbie, I was too anxious to sleep, and welcomed the chance to get on
> the bike again.
> The route to Cheaha still had 1000K and 1200K riders, but at Cheaha,
> the 1000K returned to Opelika , while 1200K continued to Gadsden .
> There were several short steep (15%) pitches getting to Cheaha, and
> Joe Arnold's advice rang in my ears "Don't attack those hills!".
> Well, attack was the last thing on my mind.
> Cheaha is not steep, and only 3 miles long, but it was still a relief
> to get to the top and turn towards Gadsden . I was riding alone now
> and wanted to get to Gadsden before dark. Lots of hills, with several
> steep short climbs. I was elated on arriving in Gadsden as I felt
> this was the toughest stretch. But when I left at 10 PM with Mark and
> Bill Olsen I changed my mind. It was in the 30s and damp, and I never
> really figured out how to get warm. We stopped in Oxford where I put
> a garbage bag under my jacket as a wind blocker and that helped some.
> I was incredibly grateful for Mark and Bill as these dark cold miles
> with climbing left me feeling pretty low. The 10 PM start probably
> had something to do with too, as I was working on 2 hours sleep
> (despite having had a fair amount of time off the bike). Mark and
> Bill are just the right riding companions – considerate, strong, and
> cheerful. Thanks!
> We left Opelika at midnight Sunday heading back nearly the same route
> we came up. It was warmer than the previous night, and no wind, but
> we took it easy, looking to pick up bonus miles. I managed around 20!
> Looking at our pace and the cut off time, I worried about our pace
> and went ahead. With 140 miles to go, my stomach protested violently
> and I spent a fair amount of time in the bushes (randonneuring tip –
> don't put V8 in bottles – the bottles became contaminated and I had a
> hard time drinking anything from them. They might even have been the
> source of infection though they were washed daily). But when I wasn't
> cramping or nauseous, I felt surprisingly good. Olsen wisdom in
> keeping the pace back I think, as I now felt we had been doing a
> reverse split. The winds had shifted so we could have head/cross
> winds back too, I still felt strong enough to maintain 19-21 mph on
> the flats.
> The roads back to Bonifay were gently rolling, low traffic, and,
> smelling the barn, I was able to keep a good pace. Except for the
> hour in a fortuitously placed Port A Let – miraculous! Squeamish
> readers move on. Squatting in the woods does not allow for the kind
> of relaxation necessary for, you know. So being able to sit a bit was
> a great relief.
> A shower at the motel and a quick debriefing with Joe and I drove back
> to Macon . I think at least 2/3 of riders finished. There were a
> couple of wheel failures, one rider struck by a mirror, without
> serious injury, but the ride was without serious incident. Mark,
> Bill, and David were right about there pace and finished in good
> stead. Great ride guys!
> My time was 83 hours or so. It was a challenge, one of the harder
> things I've done, and I am not sure I will do another. Oh, I know it's
> usual to feel this way, and I am still a bit nauseous, so perhaps that
> colors things a bit. Have to go now.

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