Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sometimes a brevet is just a bike ride from then to now to next. Stillwater Retour 200K

Two weeks after riding around Lake Ontario, the recovery is well underway. Now, in between family and work, comes the thinking about, and preparing for, the next big thing, the farthest ride yet, that is now just two months away. One thing about randonneuring, there is always another big thing.

Since the last one, after the three days it takes for my foggy mind to recover, during the two weeks it takes for the body to recover, I've been cross training a little. But, to prepare for a big brevet, you have to ride the bike. Luckily, sometimes, a brevet is just a bike ride.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crossing boundaries - Lap of Lake Ontario 1000K July 2014

Take a look at a globe, any globe. Look near the eastern side of North America along the US - Canada border and you will see Lake Ontario.  Lake Ontario is 193 miles long and 53 miles wide. Its north shores are in Canada and its south shores are in NY State. The border crossings are bridges at Thousand Islands on the East and Niagara Falls on the West. Lake Ontario is one of the Great Lakes formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. 

The Lap of Lake Ontario is a 1000 Kilometer (622 miles) long randonneuring event that has a simply stated goal; ride a bicycle around Lake Ontario, carry everything you will need with you, and complete the trip in less than 75 hours. The ride had no drop bags or pre-arranged sleep stops. Each rider would be responsible for figuring out when, where and how long they slept, ate and rode.

I was one of the 42 riders who showed up to take on the challenge. Riding across an international border would be a first for me. Also, although I have completed one 1200K, this would be my first attempt at a 1000K. For several of the other riders this would be not only their first 1000k attempt but their longest ride to date. Completing the ride would put many of us in new territory - in more ways than one. Everyone of us would have a different experience taking on this challenge. This is a bit of mine.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

First Friday Writing for Randos: We are such stuff As dreams are made on

{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 Tempest 
 Act 4, scene 1, 148–158
by William Shakespeare 

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed. Be cheerful, sir.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the day that the sun stands still: East Creek 600K

On the Solstice, the sun pauses in the sky before it transitions to a new season. As long as humanity has looked to the heavens and searched for meaning, we have taken this event as a cause for celebration. Less so now, but there was a time when people danced for rain. A time when we knew the meanings of the shape of clouds and the names of the full moon. We once built structures of stone that aligned with the stars on midsummer's day, the longest day, the Solstice. 

Call it what you will, but a celebration so specific in time yet so global in performance must come from a quality intrinsic to our very nature, one inherent to our humanity. If we, as Carl Sagan said, are made of star stuff, then on the Solstice day we celebrate our origin; our collective journey through the universe. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Englewood 400K - The longest of the short rides.

We couldn't have timed it better. After riding 150 miles of seemingly endless rolling hills and short steep climbs on the route that trended up, we reached Ellenville, NY. Then we started the 4.5 mile climb up the Shawangunk (pronounced SHON-gun) Mountains just as the sun began to set. Our road, Route 52 East, climbs 1400 feet. On our left, the setting sun sets the bare rock aglow in warm light. On our right, a lush green valley of manicured farms and occasional pristine points of church spires unveils itself as we ascend; the buildings shrinking into the expanding scenery. The sun gently illuminates the valley, filling it with a final light, closing the curtain on a beautiful day. Miles away, west of the valley, another mountain range runs parallel to our route. The distant range receives the setting sun as a sleepy child receives a parent's gentle kiss: softly, with stillness, believing in the promise of tomorrow. 

I seem to climb in time with the setting sun, rising as it descends, which pauses it in the sky, slowing time, extending the spectacle. The quiet beauty of the vista magnifies the labored effort it takes for me to make this climb. A young couple, barely teenagers, watches the sunset from an overlook. As I approach, they turn to me and with the eager shyness of two young people on their first date, they smile, clap a little, and congratulate me on my effort. I smile, imagining that they see someone doing an evening fitness ride and think that they have no idea how I got here and how far I have yet to go. I call out "Thank you! But I'm not done yet!" The boy replied, "You're almost there!" I smiled, thinking - yup, just 100 more miles to go.

Friday, June 6, 2014

First Friday Writing for Randos - 2013 London - Edinburgh - London 1418km Randonnee

{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 Susan Otcenas's account of her 1418km (881 mi) ride from London, England to Edinburgh, Scotland and back to London (LEL).}


2013 London - Edinburgh - London 1418km Randonnee

by Susan Otcenas

I am not a natural athlete. Not even close. In high school, I played trombone in the orchestra. The only trophies I won were in thespian competitions. In college I gained the typical Freshman Fifteen, studied economics, and smoked a pack a day. In my 20s and 30s, I gained more weight, started a business, bought a house and “settled down”. But as I approached my 40th birthday, I knew I needed to make some changes. And my bicycle, which I’d always ridden for pleasure and exercise, became the vehicle for those changes.

Four years ago I found randonneuring, and it changed my life. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why my bicycle is better than yours: An article for Bicycle Annually by Ridethedell.

You may think you have a very nice bicycle; your bicycle may, in fact, be very adequate - for you

But well-informed, historically knowledgeable, experienced and discerning riders would certainly agree that, when it comes to intrinsic value and inherent worth, my bike is better than yours.

Please allow me to educate you as to why.

In the time it took to press the shutter and capture the image, the bicycle sproinged ahead leaving only this shadow. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

First Friday Writing for Randos - It was a good ride.

{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 anonymous  comment posted by a Randonneur in response to a blog post about the 2014 PA 300K Bevet which was, by all known accounts, a bit of a challenge:

I don't know if my sin was a deadly one yesterday but I lied to myself twice - 
blamed a well aged prostate for needing a bio break half way up Millbrook and then 
I lied again when I pretended not to be able to mount on a 15% grade, 
then used my 24 inch gear, 
which indeed 
was not much slower than riding. 

First time that I ever walked a hill while cycling and 
that one is not a lie. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

PA 300k: Grace and Humility

A while back, when I began Randonneuring,  I was talking to the husband of a friend of my wife - which kind of makes us friends by some marital variation on the transitive property of equality but not the kind of friends who do stuff together when the wives aren't involved which is kinda odd when you think about it in detail - but, I digress. Anyway, I tell the guy - I will call him "the guy" to protect his identity and because basically his real name is really not what this is about  - I said to the guy - 
"Yeah, we do these long bike rides under a time limit. The shortest distance is 200k  - about 125 miles- and the longest is about 1200K -about 750 miles.
Now the guy was no couch potato. He had ridden a bike across the country and had lots of  real outdoor adventure trips under his proverbial belt. When I tell the guy about the sport, he replied with something to the effect of  
"Wow, you must have some real demons chasing you." 
That kind of took me aback. Because even then, I knew that ultra distance bike riding is one sport where the one thing you cannot escape is yourself.

That conversation came to me again during the arduous 300K that the PA Randonneurs put on yesterday. In the course of that ride, I came face to face with some unexpected realities. But instead of demons, I would call them angels. And each of them had a name.