Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 April 200K - a change in perspective.

Given a choice of climbing vicious hills or riding into hours of unrelenting headwinds, some Randonneurs will choose hills and some will choose headwinds.

But some will choose both.

Friday, April 4, 2014

First Friday Writing for Randos - The Rando Way

{First Friday Writings for Randos - A monthly post that features pieces from other writers that touch some facet of the Randonneuring experience, even if that was not the author's intent. It's stuff that's best read out loud - slowly.} This month it's an excerpt from Jennifer Chang's account of her Cascade 1200 Ride in 2010.*

Randonneuring is hard. It stretches you to your limits. And in a way, it’s a lot like life.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pennsylvania Blue Mountain 200K - Riding on winter legs.

The dawn of the first Saturday of Spring came crisp and cold with a hint of possible rain. The edges of the waning moon glowed softly through a thin cover of clouds. 

Thirty-four riders gathered in and out of the Milford New Jersey bakery, milling, queuing and circulating before the start of the brevet. The big turn out after an unusually cold and snowy winter brought some faces I hadn't seen since summer, others of friends with whom I rode over the winter and a few not yet met. A rush of excitement, a mix of eagerness and uncertainty, familiar and unknown, animated the morning. This felt like a beginning,  a new season, the start of things to come.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A new roof on an old barn - the Millstone River Ramble 100K

Winter pauses and gives Spring a test day - blustery with the promise of warmth. I ride with two friends along the banks of a canal on smooth quiet blacktop. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

First Friday Writing For Randos: Today

{First Friday Writings for Randos - A monthly post that features pieces from other writers that touch some facet of the Randonneuring experience, even if that was not the author's intent. It's stuff that's best read out loud - slowly.} This month it's a poem by Mary Oliver.


Today I'm flying low and I'm 
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Asterisk* ride (aka Montezuma's revenge)

Randonneuring offers many medals, but the R12 award has a special meaning. Earning it takes one year of monthly rides of at least 200K in length. Unlike a single event medal, the R12 awards consistency, perseverance - in short, commitment. Miss one month, and a year's worth of effort is lost. Other riders may be faster, more traveled, may cover greater distances but even a below average rider with above average perseverance can build a streak of R-12 awards that literally takes years to accomplish.

Living in the northern U.S. adds another level of challenge to the R- 12 as winter can close roads with ice and snow.

I have ridden at least one 200K rando ride every single month since my first randonneuring event in April 2010. This March would make 48 months straight - four years - without fail. But February comes before March and, weather wise, February in the northeast United States is no gimme. That was especially true this February.

In my part of the world, the polar vortex of 2014 brought arctic temperatures and layers of unrelenting snow. New snow fell on old snow and, in between the snowfalls, the temperatures dropped to single digits.

There were a couple of windows of opportunity. The Pa Randonneurs rode on February 1 and got the February ride done. I passed on the ride for a family event. Then there was my birthday weekend when the temps rose into the balmy 50s for a brief spell. I chose not to ride that day either. By the time the last week of February arrived, I had not been on a bike for over 5 weeks.

But I had plan. I had a work trip to San Diego in the last week of February. Just add a day, take a bike and *boom* problem solved. I would just ride my 200K in the Golden State where winter meant sunny 65 degree days. In fact, I would ride a 100K and a 200K! I made arrangement to ride a 100K permanent called Old Town to Carlsbad and two days later, the Montezuma to Mesa Express permanent. All together it would be 195 miles up and down the beautiful coast north of San Diego. Ha! Take THAT Polar Vortex! Life is good!

Since it was the first time I was going to fly with a bike, I decided to take the fixie. I figured that if a bike was going to get damaged by either my bad packing or someone's bad handling, the fixie was the bike I wanted to risk.
 {For those who may not know, a "fixie" or fixed gear bike has one gear. That gear turns with the wheel. If the the bike is moving the pedals are turning.No changing gears and no coasting - ever. To ride it is to keep pedaling. Always.
I hadn't ridden the fixie on a 200K since September but hey, the ride descriptions made the course sound relatively flat. No problem!

The first ride was just about as good as I imagined. Better in fact.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Dare to go farther. Dare to do more.

The popular biking blog Chasing Mailboxes DC, saw fit to include Iron Rider in a series of interviews on bike related bloggers. I am thankful and honored by the interest and the recognition.  If you like blogs about biking, running and getting the most out of life then you should definitely make Chasing Mailboxes a bookmarked site. I do.

For those who may be interested,  the interview is here: Iron Rider Interview (click for link).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Riding Grand Randonees The Olsen Brothers' Way - an in depth interview.

“The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.”  Douglas Adams 
Bill and Mark on another excellent adventure - 2012 Taste of Carolina 1200k
While someone can properly call themselves a Randonneur by completing a 200K brevet, successfully completing a Grand Randonnee - a 1200 kilometer (750 miles) brevet - can be considered the crowning achievement of the sport. The quadrennially held 1200k Paris-Brest-Paris may be the original and ultimate Grand Randonnee but there are now Grand Randonnees across the United States and around the world. 

Of the small percentage of cyclists who are Randonneurs, an even smaller number complete a Grand Randonnee. Of that small number, even fewer complete two in a year. Of that tiny number a select few complete more than two.

Mark and Bill Olsen are two of the select few in the country who have ridden more than two Grand Randonnees in one year. In fact, between them, the Olsen brothers have successfully completed over 60 randonneuring distance rides.

In 2013 alone, they rode 12 Grand Randonnees, with Mark riding four and Bill completing all eight of the grand randonnees offered in North America.

Even more impressive (to me), the Olsen brothers complete these epic rides at a pace that allows them to eat, sleep and enjoy the ride. Bill has described his trips as vacations and bike tours.

I want to have that kind of experience on Grand Randonnee. So, having struggled to complete one 1200K, I was eager to learn how they are able to complete so many. Mark and BIll graciously agreed to answer my questions. What follows are their detailed and informative responses.  

First Friday Writing for Randos - What the research doesn't tell you.

{First Friday Writings for Randos - A monthly post that features pieces from other writers that touch some facet of the Randonneuring experience, even if that was not the author's intent. It's stuff that's best read out loud - slowly.} This month it's an excerpt from the Chasing Mailboxes D.C. blog:

Photo by MG

 Endurance: What the Research Doesn’t Tell You
By MG*

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seldom have so few done so much for so little.

January 31, 2014

The rowing seat slides along the monorail. I pull the chain. The flywheel accelerates and decelerates, its whirring increases, peaks and decreases. 24 strokes a minute, sometimes 26, sometimes 22. Each stroke pulls at the muscles of my overly tired back as my overly tired thighs extend my legs against the resistance of the machine. The minutes accumulate stroke by stroke by stroke.

It is the last day of the month long indoor rowing challenge. Back and forth - I have repeated this action over 50,000 times in the last 31 days. Pull and recover - over 35 hours pulling this chain. Today is the last day.