Saturday, October 20, 2007

Italy Brevet and DNF

Oh, woe is me. For the fist time in two years of Randonneuring, I DNF'd a brevet.

I signed up for a RUSA 300K brevet out of Italy, TX put on by the Lonestar Randonneurs, my home organization. I arrived early and felt great. The weather was quite cool but expected to warm up to the high 80s with stiff south winds. There was a good turnout split evenly between the 300K and a 200K route offered at the same time. Most of the riders were wearing light jackets. I opted to leave mine behind as I knew that a few minutes of riding would warm me up and I would just end up carrying the jacket for no reason. That was a good decision.

The route was basically south for 95 miles then back to the start in an elongated loop. We all started out well and for the first three miles, I was riding up in the front group. Then, I noticed I had left my pump in the car. Oh, bother. I'm not that fast a rider and I knew I would be drifting to the back of the pack and possibly end up riding on my own. The thought of getting a flat out on a rural road wasn't very appealing, especially since my cell phone usually doesn't get a signal unless you can throw a rock and have it land on an interstate highway. I've done a couple solo 200K rides without a pump and although I've always been lucky, I spend the whole ride looking down at my tires wondering if they're going low.

So, I reluctantly slowed down, did a U-turn and hightailed it back three miles to the start, got the pump, and set out again, 20 minutes behind and facing the prospect of fighting increasing headwinds to make the first control 30 miles away.

I put in some good effort and rode much of the route in the drops, making really good time. Most of the winds were coming broadside and weren't hurting speed too much. I worked pretty hard, wanting to at least catch up to some of the slower riders so I would get some help with the wind later on.

About a mile from the first control, I caught my first rider, Don. Unfortunately, for him, just as I came up to him, there was a loud snap and he broke a rear bladed spoke. I stopped to help him out and we got the spoke, which broke at the nipple, wrapped up out of the way and opened up his rear brake. But the tire was still rubbing the chainstay. Don had a spoke tool and was going to simply adjust the nearby spokes to true the wheel up a bit and so he sent me on my way.

At the control, I met up with a Nelson, who was just about to depart. I ran into the store, got my card signed, went to pee, and back on the bike. Shortests control stop ever. Couldn't have been longer than three minutes. But Nelson was taking it real easy, so I continued on ahead chasing down another rider.

I caught two more riders, both doing 200K, before I saw several more in the distance. So I kept chasing and finally caught Sharon, Jeff, Edward, and Dennis. Edward and Dennis were doing 200K, but Sharon and Jeff were doing 300K. Perfect! I like to ride with Sharon and Jeff and at the speed they were riding, I felt I could keep up with them for the duration, or at least down the turnaround point where we would pick up a tailwind. At this point, we're at mile 50.

Just as I'm starting to feel good about things, I start getting some stomach cramps. Now this is unusual. I've rarely had this on a ride. So, I hang on for the next 6 or 7 miles to get to the second control in Mexia and head for the restroom.

Afterward, I was feeling better, but still a little strange but I pressed on. It was only 13 miles to the next control anyway. Well, those were some of the longest 13 miles. I kept having stomach cramps and eventually fell of the back of our small group for the last couple miles into Teague. Once there, it's back to the restroom.

By now, I'm really feeling wiped out. I'm worried that I might be coming down with food poisoning or some other ailment. I'm 75 miles from the start, and that's about 75 miles from home! Since I was about 2 hours ahead of the cutoff for this control, I considered just staying behind for an hour to see if I felt better. But that would mean fighting the ever increasing headwind the next 30+ miles to Jewett on my own. And if I wasn't feeling very good, It would really be a chore. And even then, I might need to call it quits with an even longer wait for a ride home.

So, sad to say, I decided to just quit then and not risk it. I called my wife, who wasn't very thrilled with having to come pick me up, then go out of our way home to collect my car from Italy.

Of course, you know what happens. After about an hour, I get to feeling better and by the time my ride appears, I'm back to normal. Oh, well. I didn't need the brevet for mileage goals or any other award other than to keep my second R-12 series going. So, I'll need to do at least a 200K next weekend for that. But, I did get in 50 miles of good tempo riding, and that should count for something.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Welcome to a journal on cycling. I expect this to be weighted heavily toward randonneuring, a form of long distance, self supported, non-competitive riding, but probably touch on other forms of cycling as well.

So, what is randonneuring?

Randonneuring is a form of long distance riding. It's not touring as the rides are done all at once with little, if any sleep. It's not racing, though the rides are timed and you must ride a predetermined route within a prescribed time.

Basically, you are given a cue sheet and possibly a map by the ride organizer. You, and everyone else who turns out for the ride, start at a specific time and follow that cue sheet to the finish - usually the same as the start point. The rides are typically 200, 300, 400, or 600 Km long. That's between 125 and 375 miles. However, there are sometimes rides as short as 100 Km or as long as 1200 Km.

Randonneurs tend to be great folks and go out of there way to help you overcome any obstacles along the way. In fact, finding ways to overcome problems, mechanical, health, weather, etc. is a great source of pride among randonneurs.

For more information on the sport of randonneuring, check the Randonneurs USA link on the left. There, you can find a much better description of what randonneuring is all about and links to local organizations that host rides.