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. 
But it’s never been easy for me. There’s nary a fast twitch muscle fiber in my body. I climb slowly. I’m still 20 pounds too heavy. I probably carry too much crap in my ride bag and I’m a lousy mechanic. Yes, I have a small engine. But, it turns out I have a VERY big gas tank. Randonneuring has taught me that when I pace myself, I can ride pretty much forever. I know how to fuel my body, manage my energy levels well, rarely have stomach trouble, and nearly never get sleepy on my bike. In short, I am a tortoise worthy of an Aesop fable.

Going into my preparation for LEL, I knew it would be those skills that would have to carry me through the event. I was prepared to make up for lack of speed with lack of rest. Still, if I was going to do more than simply survive LEL, I’d have to train carefully.

With that in mind, I set out to get myself to the starting line with the best chance of success. I rode 4,600 training miles between Jan 1 & LEL, including 14 200Ks, 2 300Ks, 1 400K, 2 600Ks and a fleche. I rode several weekends of back to back brevets and permanents. I tested my gear thoroughly, practiced control efficiency, and experimented with food. I also spent 7 months working with a personal trainer to improve my core, back and upper body strength.

Many of those miles were ridden with Lesli. Early on, we decided we would go to LEL as a team. Our riding styles are complimentary; she’s better on hills, I’m better on flats. She helps me maintain a positive attitude at oh-dark-thirty and I help her stay awake when she gets dozey. And despite a zillion hours spent riding together, we’ve not yet run out of topics to jabber on about, resulting in a non-stop commentary that seems to amuse most of our riding companions. I couldn’t ask for a better riding buddy for an endeavor of this length. 
 . . .
  [July 30th, 2013 (day 3), 3:54am, 386 miles]
Breakfast of oatmeal, sausage sandwiches and plenty of coffee. Body moving slowly. After two nights I’d managed to accumulate a grand total of less than 4.5 hours sleep. Time to push off.
Sausages and coffee; breakfast of champions.
Straight out of Moffat, we started climbing the Devils Beeftub. I don't know what a beeftub is, nor why the Devil needs one, nor why this climb is so named. But it was a beautiful sunrise, with the mists hanging over the hillsides. And it wasn't a difficult climb either. Actually, a rather nice way to start the day!

Day 3 selfie, climbing towards Devil's Beeftub.   Working on less than 4.5 hrs sleep.
Other cyclists were up and passing us occasionally, their red taillights showing the way in the dim light. For reasons lost to the mists of the beeftub, Lesli and I started belting out Helen Reddy as we climbed. But of course, we couldn’t remember most of the words…
I am woman hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
Da dah da dada, da dah da da da daa-ah…


To read the rest of Susan's funny, insightful and inspirational account, including more missed lyrics, go to the source:  Small engine, Big Tank.

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