By PAUL JOHNSON
OK rando stud (studdete) now you've ridden a full SR series, you've even sent away for that snappy looking extra medal. The sun is now rising later, cresting lower, and disappearing earlier. The days are getting short and you are officially (after the last club brevet) in the 'off' season. You're out riding your bike on those cool fall days, enjoying the hard-won fitness you developed riding all those tough spring and summer brevets. So what's next, Randonneur? "We're going to Disneyland?"
Well if the Magic Kingdom isn't in your future you have other "opportunities." Either the bike goes back in the garage and you dig out your Wii bowling controller, or … you begin the quest for that elusive R-12 medal. A 200k once a month; just one lousy, stinking 200K, every 30 days, how hard could it be? I mean after all you've ridden a bejillion kilometers over hill and dale since March, right? A 200K is a cake walk! You could do that on the neighbor kids sidewalk bicycle, right? It might seem so, especially when you consider the shorter mileage of these events and the fact that you only have to do one 200K each month. The fact is, there are surprisingly few RUSA members who have achieved this goal. It is not the "epic-ness" of the events but the consistency of the riders that makes the difference.
Here then are Dr C's top 10 tips for getting this little gem in your cigar box by this time next year:
10. Consistency! This award is truly the essence of randonneuring. Remember, you don't get this award for going faster, longer, or higher. Just keep plugging along, keep the pedals turning, get into each control before it closes, once a month, for 12 months and you'll get the medal. Repetition is a common element of consistency so getting your mind set to follow and repeat routines will help you succeed. Did I mention that consistency is important here?
9. Planning. Your 200K-or-better ride was hard to do April through September, but October through February gets harder, surprisingly harder in many parts of the world. You can plan a permanent but when you get up and it's raining/sleeting/blowing, and the weather man says "Happy November," without a plan, it's pretty easy to roll over, shut off the alarm and say to yourself, "Maybe it will be better next weekend." And, you may be right, maybe it will, but that's not a plan, that's a wish. This is where Tip number 6 (See below) comes into play.
8. Make Yourself Accountable. Tell your SO, friends, boss, anyone you want to support you (and anyone who wants to see you fail) that you are planning to ride a 200K every month from now until whenever. It's easy to walk away from a commitment if no one knows about it, not so easy when you are standing in the hot lights. Here's a trick, probably the easiest shortcut to a medal: Get one of those 12 month calendars. Now, on the first Saturday of every month write "200K." That's it; You have just taken your first step toward strategically planning your R-12 success. This way, your SO (and you, and anyone else who counts) will always know what's at stake if (s)he wants to try to talk you into that Origami Folding Workshop, or the Monster Truck Rally.
7. Seek Support. Now that you are "out there," on the record going after this challenge, send a note to your rando friends' list (friends, yeah, let's call them friends). Let people know you are going to be doing this: That you plan (tentatively) to ride the first Saturday of every month, and that you are looking for like-minded wackos to share your enthusiasm (read "shared pain" here). Randonneuring is all about self sufficiency and commitment, but it is easier to get out of bed at oh dark thirty on a rainy November morning when you know that three other people are standing around in the dark at an inconvenience store waiting for you. In other words, misery loves company.
6. Stick to The Plan, …. or Not! There will be some days when it is unsafe to go out and ride your bicycle. You will have to decide if it is just too unpleasant or too dangerous. In 2006 I rode away from the house for the 6:00 a.m. start of a 200K permanent in the dark and fog. I had forgotten to reset my computer so I pulled over under a streetlight and just as I put my foot down the bike went out from under me. I went down on my butt as though I were on the ice with Tanya Harding! That "fog" was freezing fog. Meanwhile a hundred miles to the north a friend was starting a permanent in the Bellingham area and had a similar occurrence, only when he went down, he broke his hip! This is the reason you plan the brevet for the first weekend. Something may come up that makes it unsafe or impossible to ride that Saturday. When this happens you then have 3 more weekends to bag the ride. At any rate, get that ride in the books as early in the month as you can: You'd hate to get within two or three months of getting this medal only to fail because you "put it off" one weekend when you could have ridden.
5. Be Prepared. The boy scouts have nothing on us. All the stuff you do to prepare for rides in the regular season still applies, but this time of year adds its own challenges, some obvious, some not so much. First, be prepared for cold, and in my neighborhood, wet. Of course the obvious challenge that comes to mind is rain. But you may be riding a perm in January or February when it is not rainy, or cloudy but brilliantly cold. If you are tooling along in bright cold sunlight, even when it is above freezing, you'll be putting out a lot of sweat. If you are not wearing wool, think about bringing along at least one change of garments. When wet, many synthetics offers poor insulating properties so anytime you stop cranking out the watts you will get cold fast.
It's easier to forget things when you are in hibernation mode. You don't want to show up on a ride and realize that you left your helmet or shoes back at the ranch. If you are a real rando stud and ride to the start, then this is not going to be a problem. For me, there are very few rides that start close enough to my house that I can ride to the start. So consider packing the night before and making a list…and checking it twice!
4. Bring Spares. Spare tubes, spare gloves, spare ear warmers, a squeeze bottle of lube, spare ibuprofen, all that stuff. Put this in a gym bag that you dedicate to riding these things through the winter. You may never plan to use them but it's so much nicer to pull out the "spare pair" when you do need them, then to have to ride with those "gardening" gloves you had to buy at the 24-hour grocery store at the start. You can also become someone's instant best friend when they realize they showed up with only one sock!
3. Bring a Towel. That ride home in the car can be a relief or it can be a mess. Of course if your main ride is a 72 Chevy PU with the rusted out door panels it might not matter what goes on with the seat covers. But your wife's new Volvo, that is another matter. So a towel, a container of waterless hand cleaner, and one of those squirt bottles of alcohol based had sanitizer go a long way to making the ride home tolerable. A pair of sweats can make a long drive home much more pleasant. These should all go in "the bag" (see Tip number 4).
2. Stay in Touch with the Permanent Coordinators. I don't know how it works in your club but up here in "Purple Sox and Birkenstocks" nation, the Perm Coordinators are exceedingly helpful and will do what they can. But you can't send a note saying that you rode a perm yesterday and you want credit for it tomorrow. So get familiar with the procedures and let these guys know your plans in advance (remember, Planning?)
1. Share the Load. If you get a nice little group together that starts riding these things, rotate or divvy up the duties of getting the cards and cue sheets, collecting the ATM receipts, sending them in to the perm coordinator, etc. This will reinforce the idea that we're all in this together and we're going to share the pain, the epic stories, and the glory. These may become your ride pals on brevets next season or somewhere down the road, you just never know.
Once you've gotten that R-12 award you'll find it means more than you thought, especially if it's taken you more than one try like it did me. An unanticipated benefit is that you'll be in much better shape at the start of the next season.
—Yr Pal Dr Codfish