My first year of randonneuring was 2006. I had known about Lone Star Randonneurs for several years, but had no real desire to ride long distances. Near the end of 2005, I had done several 100-mile rides, so I decided that I was ready for my first 200 km ride—the traditional LSR New Year's Day brevet I'd been hearing about. This was a difficult ride for me, but I finished successfully and earned my first brevet medal on Jan. 1, 2006. My next brevet was another 200 km, in March 2006. I knew nothing about the existence of permanents, and my schedule was such that I didn't make any more brevets that year. Near the end of 2006, I started riding a few perms and ended up with 2000 RUSA km for my first year.
Starting 2007, my goals were to earn the R-12 award, and 5000 km for the year. Dan Driscoll told me all I had to do was ride a 200 km every other weekend for 50 weeks. That sounded easy enough. I began to really enjoy the 200 km rides every other Saturday. There was usually a good-sized group to ride with. I was making many new friends and became hooked on the "friendly camaraderie" and the randonneuring style of riding.
Soon, I was riding 200 km almost every Saturday, 300 km some Saturdays, and sometimes a shorter populaire on the following Sunday. Before I knew it, I already had 5000 km and it was only Sept. 1…obviously time to set a higher goal for the year.
Dan told me that he already had almost 10,000 km and was shooting for 15,000. So I thought, all I have to do is ride with him for the rest of the year, and I'll have 10,000 km! We began riding together, sometimes with larger groups, and other times, just the two of us. I don't think I would have ever reached the 10,000 km mark, had it not been for Dan and all my other great LSR riding buddies. So…many thanks to all of you who rode with me and helped me double my original 2007 goal. I'd also like to thank all the permanent owners and Robert Fry, for cranking out
Attaining goals is great, but the most rewarding aspect of randonneuring is the great friendships that are born from it…friendships that are sure to last a lifetime.
A great year of riding! I never really had a goal of hitting the 10,000+ km mark. It was just a social ride with friends on the weekends, great weather to enjoy or various weather conditions that were character builders along with planning, and a trip to PBP. My only thought was to achieve the 5,000 km medal again and to also maintain my R-12 award which I just achieved for the third year in November. In addition to my great rides with the LSR group and PBP, I was fortunate enough to be on a RAAM team again this year, set a course record at Furnace Creek 508 and the Texas Time Trials.
How do you get started toward 10,000K? Well, for a rookie this was completely accidental. Before joining Randonneurs USA, I was terrified of riding the "impossible" distances that I knew all the randos were riding. The only reason I agreed to sign up was the R-12 award which seemed reasonable and yet still a substantial goal. When we began riding with the randonneurs, my riding buddy— George Elizondo—and I had worked our way up to riding 50 miles at a solid 14-15 mph pace, so we thought why not try this 100k populaire in April? (rookies are so naive...) At the populaire, the group proceeded to ride 30 miles at about 18 mph and if that weren't enough, after a mechanical, Dan Driscoll pulled George and I back up to the rookie group at about 17 mph and I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. It was the hardest bike ride I had ever experienced, and I was hooked.
Past that it was all about training so that I could ride with these randonneurs. George and I put in a lot of training miles at our own pace, taking all the great advice we could from the randos who could drop us in a second but chose to stick with us— they are too numerous to thank by name. All this training and learning was helping us stay with the main peleton for longer and longer each ride. And once the group informed us that we could train on permanent routes instead of riding the same roads around home over and over, training became much more adventurous. Also, they were willing to teach us how to begin developing our own routes (thank you, George Evans).
Finally, I began to be able to hold my own on the rides. With Mark Metcalfe and Dan Driscoll seeking 15,000K, I figured I could ride a route with one of them any time and by doing so learn far more and greatly improve my riding abilities. Both of these gentlemen were very patient with me, putting up with stupid rookie mistakes and waiting on me (or pulling me for miles) when I needed a rest, but continually pushing me to improve. Schedules worked out so that I began riding most of my permanents with Mark and the kilometers began to stack up. Just like Jerry, 10,000k was not a goal until late in the year when we realized that it was possible.
Overall, a lot of good things resulted from putting those miles in: learning the extremely giving and kind nature of the "Rando Way," preparation for completing my first series next year, experience with mapping new routes, and the greatest pleasure— riding with some of these absolutely wonderful randonneurs. I hope in the next year to meet many more.
Cycling has always been my sport of choice. I've been riding at what I call a serious level for over 35 years and more than 250,000 miles. I started out touring, went into racing, then long distance and even Race Across America. RUSA was an easy choice because LSR is based locally and many of the routes are close by. My joke is: "it takes a long time to get this crazy, and yes it helps."
As for how often you may need to ride to accumulate 20,000k of RUSA distance, it took me 81 ride completions and 2 DNFs. My suggestion is to make this a goal at the start of the year if it interests you. I did not start the year with this goal in mind and had to ride over 4,000k in December while working full time to reach it. My motivation to ride this much comes from the love I have of riding and how it makes you feel when your fitness is at such a high level. Even with that said it would become monotonous if not for riding with all the other long distance nuts that join in on these RUSA events. Riding too much, which is the definition of 20,000K, will take a toll on your other life (what other life?). My joke for this is: "I was still married when I left home for this ride."
I felt very fortunate to get through the 2007 season without any major mishap and enjoyed the rewards of riding PBP once again (even if it did rain some). There have been a few moments when the upping of my own goals made me quite fatigued and thoughts of reducing them did occur. That's when you need to look at just the ride you are doing now (forget about yesterday and tomorrow); that makes it much easier.
One of the best things I ever did to my bike for riding repetitive long distance is to add aero bars in a raised and set-back position. This takes all the pressure off of your hands and relaxes your back, allowing you to float through all those miles over and over again. Much credit goes to my wife Linda for her patience to put up with this much riding, the RBAs and permanent route owners for accommodating all these ride requests, and Shellene Foster for riding many of the last few months worth of rides with me.
When Val and I lived in Durango we needed to travel eight to 10 hours just to do a 200k brevet. We never considered accumulating RUSA kilometers because just completing a brevet series was challenging enough. Our riding partners in Durango needed encouragement to ride more than 60 miles. We completed most of our brevets alone unless we rode with Val's rando friends in Denver.
Here in Dallas we have brevets, permanents or populaires within two hours of our house almost every Saturday and Sunday. It was less challenging to do 10,000 RUSA kilometers in Dallas than 3,000 RUSA kilometers in Durango. We have discovered Lone Star Randonneurs like to ride their bikes as much as we do. The best thing about riding in Texas has been the great cycling partners that have adopted us.
The Lone Star Randonneurs have adopted the slogan "ride like a girl." We have so many outstanding females in our club it's sometimes hard to keep up. My wife Robin has been a stronger cyclist than me for the last several years and it's about all I can do to "ride like a girl." I'm proud to point out that five women from LSR reached the 10,000-kilometer plateau. In a sport dominated by men, that's an outstanding accomplishment. Robin and I found our new riding group in what started as a rather unfortunate situation. On an early 600k in Mineral Wells I broke the crank on my bike. I was finished. I found a ride back to my car at the first control. Robin and I were in the car ready to leave when Dan Driscoll insisted Robin get out of the car and finish the ride with his group. Since then, we've become close friends and riding partners. Sometimes things happen for a reason. I'm really glad I broke that crank.
Riding 10,000 km created adventures and lasting memories. We saw towns in Texas we had never heard of—from Tom Bean to Rice, Frognot to Princeton, Rockett to Venus, plus visits to Italy, Dublin, and Paris. We met kind, curious people along the way—control employees now welcome those "crazy bikers" like family. We rode to the middle of nowhere for a bakery or hole in the wall buffet —we do love to eat! We met true cowboys. We saw gazillions of Texas wildflowers, and savored the perfume of bluebonnet fields. It was not always easy, with ever-changing conditions such as summer heat, thunderstorms, snow or gale force winds. But like birds, somehow we soared from point A to point B. Why? To push one's own limits; for the personal challenge and perseverance.
About 700 days ago, the thought of riding a 200k (much less PBP!) was complete science fiction to me! I was quite happy pedaling with my local Fort Worth Bicycle Association and extremely proud of my two centuries that year. That all changed in a hurry. I started dating this fella, Dan Driscoll, and he began slyly converting me into a randonneur! Within six months of first hearing words like randonneur and brevet, I had completed my first series, began building a custom brevet bike, brutalized every part of my body and had stopped keeping count of my century rides. I was hooked!
I really thought 2007 would be a ditto of 2006, just adding PBP, but all those miles kept coming and it seemed to make sense at the time! Then it happened. Instead of Dan always babysitting me, I was starting to hang with the "big kids!" Then I was contributing every once in a while. Then I started getting my own quirks on the rides. I felt like I was getting yet another family. Laughing, grunting, teasing, groaning. Funny how your definition of fun gets all twisted around!
My real life with the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo now includes my co-workers rolling their eyes at my weekend activities. Going from hugely supportive to just plain ol' baffled this year! Finishing PBP was a personal highlight. I was determined to be the happiest finisher and I think I appeared to be the most demented, but oh what a thrill!
Nothing like having a personal challenge, plus a great cheerleader and coach all at the same time. Throw in getting to befriend some amazing people, and who wouldn't want to ride every weekend? It actually becomes the norm when you have great riding friends and wonderful routes. Or maybe it's just something about cold beer and ice cream?