The Randonneur Q&A is back, and our first feature in this round is with the D.C. Randonneurs Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA), Bill Beck. Bill not only rides the D.C. Randonneurs brevets, but he also frequently organizes them, homologates our club’s results for RUSA, and often stays until the end of each event, photographing and greeting riders. We’re fortunate to have him as our RBA, and as a guest contributor for the Rando Q&A.
1. When did you start randonneuring?
I started with the D.C. Randonneurs Hyattstown 200K (now the Urbana 200K) in March of 2006. Lynn Kristianson was the RBA and ran the ride from the parking lot of a church. It was my longest ever ride at that point.
2. Why did you start?
I had signed up for the UMCA Year-Rounder program in 2006, which required at least one century ride per month, and I was looking for a century ride for March. 125 miles didn’t seem too much farther than 100 miles, and Hyattstown is less than 30 minutes from my house, so I decided to give it a try.
3. What is your home club?
4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?
Hmm. That’s a hard question. I enjoy the 200K the most because it doesn’t require sleep deprivation or renting a hotel room and I can usually ride hard without bonking.
But I get the most satisfaction from the 600K because when I started randonneuring it seemed impossible to ride 375 miles in a weekend — and it still seems amazing.
5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?
The 400K and the first day of the 600K are almost always hard for me because it seems that I can ride faster than my digestion can keep up with, so I often bonk at those distances.
The 600K adds a second day of riding, so I’ll choose that as the most challenging.
6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?
I’ve done two 1200Ks (PBP in 2007 and Endless Mountains in 2009) and two 1000Ks (Endless Mountains in 2008 and Lap of Lake Ontario in 2010).
PBP is in a class by itself because it has thousands of riders, is in another country, and actually has people on the side of the roads cheering for the riders. I still remember riding into Loudeac on the return trip, climbing up a steep hill in the dark in the pouring rain at around midnight, and there were several people standing out in the rain under umbrellas clapping and shouting things in French that I took to be encouragement! It’s an experience that every randonneur should go for at least once.
The main thing that I like about the non-PBP long brevets is riding through beautiful scenery and the satisfaction of completing the rides. I’m looking forward to the clear air and high mountains on the Colorado High Country 1200 this July.
7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?
I think the main things are the amazingly nice group of people who show up, the satisfaction of completing something that is often very hard but also very simple (keep moving forward!), and feeling better physically and emotionally from all that exercise. Oh, and being able to eat lots of food.
8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?
There are different kinds of good rides. Setting a new personal record after going as hard as you can and sprinting to the finish can be great. Or riding with a group of other riders who have compatible speed and riding style and taking time for sit-down meals can also be great.
So maybe a good ride is one with at least some of these ingredients: beautiful scenery, nice riding partners, or something epic that you can be proud of later. Cool weather, low humidity, and shady roads are often part of a good ride.
Headwind or cold rain are almost never part of a good ride. (Although the Endless Mountains 1240K was a good ride despite some cold rain because it earned lots of points for “epic” and “beautiful scenery.”)
9. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?
The main things are probably tenacity and perseverance. It doesn’t take much athletic ability to keep riding at an average speed of 10 mph, but it can require some emotional resolve (or stubbornness) to keep going when you feel bad or the weather is less than ideal.
Successful randonneurs learn that in most cases things will improve. The weather will get better, you’ll feel better after you eat and much better after you sleep. But if things don’t improve, then try to keep going anyway. Unless going on would do lasting injury, the satisfaction of finishing will be worth it.
10. How do you define successful?
When I went to PBP in 2007 my goals in order of priority were: 1) Finish within the time limit, 2) Feel OK while doing #1, 3) Appreciate the scenery, towns, and people along the way and record them with pictures.
I was lucky enough to get all three of those at PBP and think that’s still my definition of successful for any ride. But I’d choose finishing while feeling miserable and having no time to look at anything over not finishing.
Thanks again for sharing your perspectives and being part of our Rando Q&A, Bill. We wish you the best on the upcoming Colorado High Country 1200K!