Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Riding with RUSA 25

February 28, 2015

Just minutes into the 200K, I was already second guessing my decision to ride studded tires.The vibration of studs on asphalt buzzed through the handlebars into my hands and arms even as the sound of those little metal spikes grinding into the road droned into my ears and brain. Riding studded tires felt like riding on a gravel road - noisy with extra resistance.

The temperature warranted it - maybe. We were starting the ride at around 10 degrees Fahrenheit after a recent snowfall, so ice was a valid concern. But the roads were mostly clear and the four other riders were all riding normal tires. At 130 miles, with a few bonus miles in a detour, this was already a long 200K. Riding studded tires on winter legs in subfreezing temperatures promised to make it feel even longer. But home was an hour's drive behind me so there was no turning back now - not on the last day of February - not if I wanted to complete an R-12 ride for the month. So, what's done is done, this is my here and now, I would just have to deal with it.
Paul S., who rode over 10,000 RUSA kilometers last year, was riding a fixed gear bike. Chris N. (from PA) was there as were two riders from upstate New York - Pete and Joe. When  you become an American Randonneur you get a RUSA number. I believe the number is just a member count. Recently, the number went over 10,000. Pete's number is RUSA 25.

Paul planned to finish before dark, which - with an 8:30 start and a 5:30 sunset - meant a fairly decent pace. After months of minimal riding, and now on studded tires, I had no expectation that I could do the same. I just wanted to finish. Pete said he'd heard I planned to ride a "glacial" pace and that was fine with him because that sounded like a good pace for him.

Off we went. Paul went off the front. Pete went with him. Joe and I brought up the rear and Chris hovered in the middle. 

We re-grouped at the first on course controle. Paul left. The rest of left a short time later - but headed in the wrong direction. Three off course miles later, we turn around and spend three more miles undoing the screw-up.

Chris rode ahead into the distance as if to make up for lost time. I droned and buzzed along, the studded tires siphoning off speed. Pete, Joe and I hung together in a loose group. 

40 miles in I found myself riding alone. I paused, then doubled back to find Pete on the phone. Turns out that Joe decided that this was not day for him to ride the full distance. He turned back and was heading in, saving 50 miles of riding in process.

Pete and I rode on and fell into an easy, comfortable ride. I rode by feel - no odometer on the bike and no watch on my wrist. Pete and I double checked cues to avoid any more bonus miles and watched a cold sun cross a sharp blue sky. We talked. We rode in silence. We shared the road.

I knew my droning studded pace was slowing Pete down. On a basically flat course, I was working hard to maintain 12-13 mph. Yet Pete rode on, calm and relaxed, without a hint of stress or impatience. 

Night fell. We followed our lights. Changed a flat and pressed on. At the penultimate control, Chris appears - having stopped for slice or two pizza. The three of us ride in to the finish together. 

10,000 RUSA members ago, Pete was out there Randonneuring. 10,000 members later, he's still out there, exemplifying the friendly camaraderie that is the hallmark of this sport.

1 comment:

  1. That Pete is quite a guy. Glad you both finished. Anonymous wife named Sandy