I’ve been vaguely interested in randonneuring for a long time—after I completed my first Austin-Houston ride, I met a guy who was into it, who suggested I ought to check it out. More recently, I started lurking on the local randonneuring group’s mailing list. After my failed attempt at the TABR, I decided I needed more experience at long distances, so I finally joined RUSA. The first ride organized by the local group after that happened to be on the 100th anniversary of the first brevet organized by the sport’s governing body, Audax Club Parisien. That seemed like an auspicious beginning.
Most (all?) of the local brevets start and finish at a convenience store that’s barely a mile from my home, which is convenient for me. Yesterday’s ride had 16 people sign up, which I understand to be a good showing.
I had laid out my stuff the night before, aired up my tires, etc, so I’d have a minimum of things to do in the morning. Got up at 5:00, ate breakfast, got suited and booted, and was out the door by 5:20.
We were all at the start with time to spare. Jeff, the ride organizer, gave some preliminary instructions. It seemed as if everyone else knew each other—I was clearly the only first-timer, and there were quite a few PBP veterans. Jeff pointed out a couple of guys to me and told me they’re fast—that he knows I’m fast, but I shouldn’t feel like I need to hang with them. I told him I was planning on riding my own ride.
We were rolling on time 6:00 AM. We agreed to ride together for the first 20 or so miles, at which point we’d stop at a picturesquely decrepit old store for a group photo, and then ride at our own pace.
This and the neutralized start at TABR are the only times I’ve ridden in a group in many years; this was the first time I’ve ridden in the dark in a bunch perhaps ever. Our route out of town was mostly new to me—occasionally we were on streets that I’d ridden before, but for the most part we weren’t. The dark, the new streets, and the riding in a pack all made the first hour or so a new experience.
After the photo op in Cele, we got back onto the road in small clots of a few riders each. I was in the first group back on the road, and after just a mile or two, I wanted to get moving. Partly this was to warm up. Partly this was to make good time before the day got hot. Partly because I’m out of the habit of riding in a group and was ready to ride on my own. And partly this was because, although brevets are not races, I do know the riders pay attention to times, and as the new guy, I wanted to lay down a marker. So I shot off the front.
At this point, I was mostly on roads that I’ve ridden before. I hunkered down on my aerobars and jammed. Despite having had a cold for the past few days, I felt good.
At mile 40, one of the two guys Jeff had pointed out to me as being fast rolled past me like I was going backwards. We said “hey” to each other and he was gone. I forgot his name. Very tall, very thin, weird setup with bars set super-high using what I think is a Bike Friday stem. In any case, I didn’t see him again.
Made it to Taylor and kept going. The route after that was mostly roads that are new to me. I had my bone-conduction headset on, reading me directions and playing DJ sets that I’ve downloaded to my phone.
The country between Taylor and Lexington is pretty flat, agricultural, not a lot of trees, and a lot of the fields had been harvested recently, so were bare dirt. I was mostly just in the zone, focused on my riding.
Made it to Lexington, where the ride turns around, at about 9:30. I think there’s a restaurant in Lexington where I could have gotten solid food, but I didn’t look for one and the only one I knew of—Subway—was closed at that hour. Stopped for a big Snickers bar and a bottle of Gatorade (I’d eaten a couple of Clif bars up to that point). As I was rolling out of the parking lot, another one of the brevet riders—on a heavy-looking Soma with flared gravel bars—rolled in. We said “hey” and I kept on going.
There’s a spot just outside Lexington where the road is under construction and narrowed down to one lane; instead of flaggers, there are stoplights controlling traffic. When I rolled through this on the return leg, I saw most of the other riders were waiting to get through on the other side. And a bit further on down from them, I saw the one guy participating on a recumbent trike.
Made it back to Taylor, thought about stopping for tacos, didn’t. Kept going. Had an energy bar when I got just past town, in the shadow of a privately operated prison.
When I got back to that old store in Cele, I saw there was a couple of cyclists there hanging out. Initially I thought they might be part of our group, and was puzzled that they would have gotten past me. It turns out they weren’t, and we had a nice chat. It seems that the Cele store is only open weekends, and has good barbecue. Which was tempting, but I still had 20 miles to go and didn’t indulge. My legs had been threatening to cramp up a little before this, and stopping for a bit seemed to hit the reset switch on that, but I didn’t want to linger for too long.
Most of the remainder of the ride was on the new-to-me roads we had rolled out on, but now I could see them and place them in context. They avoided some unpleasant roads that I’ve ridden on many times just out of habit—I’ll need to add them to my repertoire. I made it back to the starting point without incident, and then back home.
Early in the ride, I thought that I might be able to hold my average moving speed at 18 mph for the ride. I have the RwGPS app report my stats every 15 minutes, and I had a few 15-minute periods where I was rolling at 19.9 mph, which is great, and was keeping my average at 18 mph for pretty much the first half, but it slipped slightly on the return, and over the last 10 miles, it slipped considerably. My rolling average wound up being 17.7 mph—I’m still quite content with that, and this was by far the fastest 200K that I have the receipts for. I didn’t eat enough (4 Clif bars, 1 Snickers bar) and maybe didn’t hydrate enough during the ride. Writing this the next day, after a big post-ride snack, a big dinner, and solid night’s sleep, I’m still a bit tired.
The weather wound up being perfect. A little on the cool side to start. The day did warm up, but wasn’t brutally hot. The wind was that rarest of things, still for the outbound leg and a slight tailwind on the return.