The DC Randonneurs pulled off yet another challenging, high spirited and scenic ride this past Saturday – this time running the 106 km (66ish miles) Glen Echo Populaire. I rode this populaire last year as a foray into the world of randonneuring, and recall grinding hills, aches and pains, and near-bonks amidst a stream of other riders who were just having a grand old time.
Things were, in retrospect, quite a bit different this year. As I rode through the fog to check in I was greeted, and shouted a hearty “howdy” to a handful of faces that I’ve come to know over the past year. The inimitable Ed and Mary, the amazingly friendly Mike Wali, ever cheerful Adam and Crystal, and fellow Hoppy100 randonista Lisa to name a few. Other familiar faces were there as well, but we haven’t gotten to know each other yet. Oh, and lest I forget – Justin, who we collectively goaded into riding the night before.
I knew the drill by now (at least for shorter rides) and that was relaxing. I felt pretty prepared with my gear, knew how to check in, and didn’t feel self-conscious about snagging a bagel and peanut butter from the snack table. A few pre-ride announcements and we were off. I quickly settled into my own pace (very important) and in no time found myself past many of the River Road rollers and at the first control, where I joined up with Justin for the next 35-ish miles.
Last year I struggled with the portion of the ride on Slidell and Peach Tree Roads (and the last 8 miles of River Road). And here is where I take offense with the Montgomery County road-namers. I implore them to ditch the cutesy names like Peach Tree and get real – us cyclists need some help! Slidell could equally be named “Grinders and Views Lane”, and Peach Tree ought to be “Uppy Downy Woodsy Street”. Add some “vista”, “hill”, heck even “mount” into the road names and I’d be a much happier camper. Managing expectations is important!
Into Poolesville we went, fueled by monday morning quaterbacking (why did they keep RGIII in?) and a study of land use and development patterns in Montgomery County. We also met up with Martin, who matched our pace quite nicely, and was a great fellow to talk with as well. I’m jealous of his California to New Orleans tour to see Jazz fest.
At last into the final control at Glen Echo Town Hall, sometime around 2:55pm. A whole 13 minutes better than the year before, with a lot more fun, a lot better understanding of using all my gear ranges, spinning at the cadence that works for me, fueling properly, dressing properly, and chatting away the miles – everything seemed to work better. Do I credit that to a year of learning? I suppose so. Damn it feels good to learn things and then use them to your advantage!
The DCR annual meeting was inspirational, to see just how many people are fully involved in this sport, and how many of them are at the top of the sport in this country.
It got me thinking – all last year I considered myself a “Randonneur-in-training” – I rode two of the easier brevets and the populaire. I felt like an outsider looking in. Each ride was an opportunity to learn, which I did, but knew I still had a long way to go. At this point in time though, what should I consider myself? I plan on doing a few more events this year (admittedly the easier ones), because the challenge and camaraderie is a powerful motivator. When does one become a randonneur – must you complete events over 200km, must you ride through the foulest of weather, do you need to complete the super-randonneur series? I am still not sure, but I am moving towards the opinion that one can use the randonneur title when they take on the attitude of someone who “just keeps on pedaling”, is willing to challenge themselves, is slightly nutty, and also knows their personal limits. Maybe that means I am there?
A year later and things have changed for the better. Maybe next year the hills that didn’t loose their steepness in 2012 will finally succumb to nature and flatten themselves a bit. Wouldn’t that be a treat!