Rando Q&A with Chris Newman, NJ and PA Randonneurs

We’re back on the East Coast for today’s Rando Q&A, talking with PBP-bound Chris Newman of New Jersey. Chris rides regularly with the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Randonneurs, and Felkerino and I had the pleasure of riding last year’s Endless Mountains 1000K with her. Here’s what she had to say on the Rando Q&A.

1. When did you start randonneuring?

I rode my first 200K Brevet in 2005. Prior to that my biggest cycling challenge was riding the same flat century every October since 1995.The idea of riding a hilly 125 miles was intimidating but I was up for something new.

That first 200K was the longest ride I had ever done. It was the middle section of a 300K which was being run concurrently. I thought those riders doing the 300K were crazy and I knew I could never attempt such a distance.

2. Why did you start?

I was in my local bike shop and I saw a post card advertising randonneuring. I took the card home and checked it out on the web. It appealed to me because it appeared that I could ride pretty slowly and still finish. I had tried racing once and dropped out before I could experience being lapped by the entire field. And for me cycling was a stress reliever so I was not interested in a lot of intense training (HAH! How blind I was!).

3. What is your home club?

I ride a lot in Pennsylvania and also in New Jersey so I feel as if both of these groups are my home club. I also belong to the D.C. Randonneurs, but I haven’t had the opportunity to get down that way too much.

Chris and the Bilenky

4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?

I think my favorite distance is the one I have just successfully completed!

Actually, it would have to be the 200K. I have ridden so many of them now that I feel really comfortable and confident. I can usually sleep pretty well the night before the start. Most of them start at a reasonable hour, not at the god-awful hour of 4:00 am. In the summer months, a 200K can be completed in daylight. The distance is short enough that I can have fun and be quite relaxed but long enough to still present a challenge.

5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the SR series?

For me the most challenging distance is the 600K. I have trouble sleeping the night before a big ride so I always start quite sleep deprived. I am unable to sleep at the overnight controle because I am too wired and usually a bit sore so I just take a shower, grab some food and get back on the bike. This means I am usually starting up again around 2:00-3:00 am and those first few hours in the dark are really mentally challenging. Once the sun comes up I feel better but it is a long night.

6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?

I have only completed one 1000K so far. I rode the Endless Mountains 1000K in Pennsylvania last August as a test for PBP this year. I DNFed PBP in 2007 and I decided I needed to complete a domestic 1200K before going back to France. I figured if I could finish Tom’s 1000K I could handle PBP.

The most enjoyable and surprising aspect of the 1000K was seeing most of the other riders at the controles in the latter part of the ride. I am usually at the lantern rouge end of the group so I rarely see the speedy riders after the start. But the long distance levels the playing field somewhat and since I didn’t sleep at the first overnight controle I was out ahead of the lead group on day two. Of course everyone eventually caught and passed me but I saw them again the last day. I hadn’t expected that –I was pretty sure I would be out there alone so it was great to have company. And my finishing time was not far off from the leaders so I felt good about that as well.

Finishing such a challenging ride and feeling good at the end has given my self-confidence a tremendous boost. Although it might be wearing off a bit as the big day approaches!

Curbside dining on the Endless Mountains 1000K

7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?

I enjoy the challenge randonneuring presents on so many levels. There is the most obvious physical aspect of the sport, but I think the mental challenge is almost as great. In the middle of a long ride, in the middle of the night, it’s often my brain that causes me the most problems, not my legs.

I love a sport where a slow rider who can read a cue sheet can finish ahead of a speedy rider who can’t. I love traveling to new places by bike and I have really enjoyed meeting and riding with some great people. I love to conquer all the climbs Tom R. throws my way although I can often be heard complaining after a particularly gratuitous hill.

And, of course, who wouldn’t love a sport where so much cool gear is required?

8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?

A good ride is one in which I don’t get hurt, enjoy myself, finish within the time limit, and learn something new. These were my goals for my first ride and they continue to be my goals six years later.

This past year I have also been lucky enough to ride with some great people (Katie, Joe, Paul, Joe, Shane, Nigel, Jon, Janice, Laurent, Al) instead of riding solo as I have done so often in the past. A good ride for me now includes sharing it with friends.

I had a great ride two days ago with Joe Kratovil. We promised to take it easy at the start but ended up really pushing the pace. I love the route we had chosen, the day was warm but otherwise perfect for a ride, and I learned I can push myself beyond my comfort zone and still have a great ride.

9. What are the qualities a randonneur has to have to be successful?

I think to be a successful rando you need to missing the part of your brain where common sense resides. It also helps to be stubborn, mentally tough, adventurous, and self-confident.

A good sense of humor is extremely helpful and the ability to walk around convenience stores in ridiculous biking gear without feeling self conscious is vital to success. Also, the fortitude to use any rest room available, no matter what the condition, is a key factor for brevet survival.

10. How do you define successful?

Success, for me, is to just ride my ride, keep my goals in mind, and not be influenced by the what other riders are doing. Sometimes the hardest part of a ride is reigning myself in at the start when everyone else is tearing away up the road and I find myself alone within the first few miles. I am seldom the last finisher but I am always the lantern rouge at the start.

Thanks for being part of our Rando Q&A, Chris, and I can’t wait to see you in France! (I love saying that, can you tell?)

3 thoughts on “Rando Q&A with Chris Newman, NJ and PA Randonneurs

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