I’ve been a member of Randonneurs USA a couple of times in my cycling life. Many years ago I joined out of sheer curiosity with no real intent to do anything about it. I let my membership expire. I joined again at the beginning of last season with the intent (hope) of doing a 200k brevet. I’m not particularly speedy and I think the longest ride I’ve ever done is about 110 miles- a century with some wrong turns-so this was a bit of a stretch goal. I even had the brevets picked out. But I didn’t really train and as each event approached I would promise myself to get in shape for the next. Procrastination: the story of my non-work life. I did exactly zero rides related to RUSA last year.
To be honest with myself, my interest was primarily generated by reading about other people completing brevets. Living vicariously via magazines and the internet. This spring came and went and I didn’t register for any rides; once again, it was because I hadn’t been training by doing longer rides.
Last week I was reading about people getting ready for Paris-Brest-Paris and I decided to get off my ass and find a Permanent to ride and actually ride it. A Permanent is a route maintained by a RUSA member that can be ridden at any time. Sort of a personal Brevet. A Permanent has all the sport of a traditional RUSA event (time deadline, controls, route to follow) but can be done anytime the route owner and rider agree on. I found a number of routes within reasonable driving distance on the RUSA website, and settled on the Otisville Populaire (108k) route pictured above. It’s an out and back route from New Paltz to Otisville, NY.
A couple of email exchanges later and I was set to ride the route, which I did earlier today. I’m really fond of the New Paltz region so the whole event was a treat. The views weren’t bad either.
It was hot but luckily a lot of the route was shaded. I had to remind myself to keep pushing forward because the route has opening and closing times and I had to reach certain controls within certain time limits. This was a bit difficult because I’d broken my Garmin trying to do a battery replacement two nights earlier. As such, I had no idea how fast I was going. I haven’t ridden with just a cue sheet in quite a long time. Luckily my Garmin mount serves well as a cue sheet holder.
I arrived at the second control with time to spare, which made me feel good about the experience. The patrons of the mini mart control looked at me as if I had dropped out of the sky from Mars. The cash register clock was off by nearly 15 minutes ( the receipt from making a purchase is proof you reached the control on time), but the clerk didn’t understand what I wanted when I asked her to sign my brevet card. I was much quicker on the return trip, which was a good thing because I was getting a case of “hot foot” from pedaling non stop out of fear of arriving late at the controls.
It took me long enough, but I finally completed my first RUSA event. It was a lot of fun. I don’t know if I’m ready for 200k; probably but not in the baking sun of August.
Some lessons learned on this first outing:
- Prevent hot foot by unclipping and walking around occasionally. My route had almost no reason to unclip unit the last 15 miles when I had to stop at a traffic light. It felt so good! I should have pulled over earlier.
- I really dislike having stuff in my jersey pockets. I carry a lot of food and drink mix powder for any ride longer than about 40 miles. Having all that plus a wallet and phone in the pockets is not comfortable for me. The food items in my pockets turned to mush from my body heat. I was on my “fast” bike which is not equipped with rack or bag. I was glad to have a lighter (than 39 lb) bike but would have liked some more carrying capacity.
- Thicker tires rule. Especially when heading out on roads you don’t know. I appreciated having 32c tires and not having to worry about potholes and seams in the road.
- As soon as you’re finished riding, start eating and drinking to replace what you lost during the ride.
- Those industrial farm sprinklers you see watering giant fields…..they put out a lot of water. I had to ride through one in the last mile because it was aimed improperly and spraying the road. It was like riding through a hurricane.