Randonneuring and The Art of Finding Your Way Home Again – 200km
Kittens and Puppies 200km Brevet, Pittsburgh PA – March 15, 2015
This was my first ride with a new group (to me) in Pittsburgh, the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen. Many of these men and women have been riding for years, and several have ridden Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP).
It was great to meet new riders, from Jim Logan, the head honcho, to Dan Blumenthal, super nice guy, total beast on a recumbent, and guy who has a gps inside his head, and Stef Birch, one of the strongest women riders I’ve ever met, and others.
I rolled up to the start at Jim’s house at 6:30AM for the 7AM start. There was a bonfire in the driveway and lots of people getting ready for the ride. I remember feeling a little nervous. My Garmin 510 was acting up (couldn’t pull up the turn-by-turn guidance). I hadn’t printed the cue sheet (because I was going to rely on the Garmin – um). And my glove was pissing me off.
I got the glove fixed and then hoped I’d be able to hang on with others for this ride so that I could get from start to the finish and not get lost. In our ACP-legit reflective gear and lights, we set out into the Pittsburgh morning, straight into a massive headwind. No amount of indoor training prepared me for this ride straight into a headwind all the way to Ohio. But I was in good company with really nice people, and we all commiserated.
I learned from the riders that there are three types of fun. Type 1 fun is the type where you’re enjoying the thrill right in that minute. The more common type, Type 2 fun, is where you enjoy the fact that you did something. It was painful, but you’ve already forgotten that part. You’re happy you did it. A lot of ultracycling is probably Type 2 fun (probably more the training rides than races, as the best moments – and I have had many of them – definitely fall into the Type 1 category).
Then there is Type 3 fun, which means no fun – you don’t want to do what you’re doing, it feels like torture, and this really sounds like burnout. We all want to avoid this in our training because even the best of things if in excess (says the ultracyclist, I know), can become Type 3 fun and lead to burnout.
Anyway, back to the ride. So how would I classify this? This was Type 1 and Type 2 fun. It was the first long ride outside on the bike, but into a cold headwind. Yet with really cool people and when you ride 100km into a headwind you do feel a little like a badass inside. Plus the tailwind on the way back can be amazing.
When I finished the ride I was completely tired and satisfied. Parts of my body hadn’t hurt like that since the last ultra ride I did (last November) and you can’t simulate that experience on a trainer. It’s the contact points that get you. Not legs being tired, but all the places your body contacts the bike: feet, seat, hands.
I didn’t get lost, thanks to Dan and the others, and that was a huge relief. First brevet done. Harder than I thought, nutrition NOT dialed in at all, which meant I had a long way to go, not only for PBP qualification, but also for the upcoming Race Across the West.
Another learning point I gleaned from Dan was the advice to use every brevet ride as a rehearsal for PBP – to really work on nutrition, to carry all the gear you’ll carry in PBP (because you pack your own gear for several days of riding), both to make sure you’re used to the load and can fit it on your bike, as well as figuring out what you do and do not need to survive and thrive in these rides. This ride I just had my roadie setup – with it just being ~120 miles I wasn’t too concerned, but his advice was definitely noted. Plus, I needed a more self-sufficient way to get through a ride. This time around I was relying a lot on fellow riders. So this I would need to tweak.
Finally, it being my first long ride of the year, I set out without my usual Generation UCAN concoction – totally didn’t plan the nutrition side of the ride – so it was convenient store grub and whatever had been left over bar-wise in my bag. Okay, so nutrition also needed to be tweaked.
With all these lessons learned, I’d be ready for the next qualifier.