This week the Rando Q&A is off to the Midwest to talk with Dan D. A randonneur out of Wisconsin, Dan has traveled to various places to ride brevets and grand randonnees. I had the pleasure of meeting him during the 2011 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris.
Dan has written a fair amount about his cycling on his blog, Dan’s Rando Adventures. It contains many good ride reports so when you’re done reading this post, go check it out!
1. When did you start randonneuring?
I started randonneuring in 2007 by riding a late season 300K.
2. Why did you start?
In my younger years, I did lots of cycling including a 1300 mile tour when I was 15 and some racing in high school and college. Over time I migrated to running and developed an interest in doing some ultrarunning events.
After some recurring injuries, I decided to go back to cycling. But by that time the long-distance bug had bitten me, so I wanted to find a long-distance event.
Originallly, I just wanted to do a double century. However, there really weren’t a lot of options for a 200 mile event reasonably close to home. I defaulted to a 300K brevet in Delavan, Wisconsin with the Great Lakes Randonneurs. Once I got started things just sort of took off. Once I did a 300K, it seemed unavoidable that I would have to try a 400K.
3. What is your home club?
I live about 2 ½ hours from two different clubs, so picking a “home club” was a process. From 2007 through 2010, I rode almost exclusively with the Great Lakes Randonneurs.
In 2011 and 2012, I have done most of my rides with the Minnesota Randonneurs. I have really enjoyed riding with both groups.
4. What is your favorite distance of the Super Randonneur series (200, 300, 400, 600K) and why?
First off, I have to say that any brevet is a good way to spend a day. However, my favorite distance in the Super Randonneur series is the 400K, directly contrary to conventional randonneuring wisdom.
I like the 400K because it packs almost every aspect of randonneuring into a one day package. A 400K invevitably includes several hours of night riding, numerous controls and the need to manage your food and liquids. Additionally, the time limits are generous enough that there is plenty of time for conversations and longish meal breaks with other riders.
Two of my wackier randonneuring memories come from 400Ks. On my first ever 400K in 2008, we ran into epic rains and flooding that caused numerous roads on or near the route to be washed away. A group of eight of us ended up spending the night in a Red Cross Shelter set up in church eating pizza and sleeping on the floor.
On another 400K, the group I was in noticed that a farmer on the route had set up a zip line in his front yard. By sheer luck the farmer was outside and invited us to give it a try. MG has referred to “necessary stops” in prior posts. At the time, a zip line adventure seemed like a necessary stop.
5. Which distance do you find the most challenging of the Super Randonneur series and why?
I have always had my toughest days on the 600K rides. For some reason, which I have never understood, I am invariably more sore and uncomfortable on Day 2 of a 600K than on any day of a 1200K. I think I tend to start thinking about being done as soon as I start the last 200K.
6. If you have done 1000Ks and 1200Ks, what do you like about them?
When I started randonneuring in 2007, I thought that 1200Ks were way out of my league and a lot on the crazy side. However, after my first Super Randonneur series, trying a 1200K seemed like a challenging adventure.
Since then, I have completed four 1200Ks and have enjoyed every mile. I completed Granite Anvil in 2009, Last Chance in 2010, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) in 2011, and Shenandoah in 2012.
I like the 1200Ks more than any other distance. I really like the rhythm that develops over the four days of a 1200K. I think that most of us spend too much time trying to balance too many things in our daily lives. On a Grand Randonnee, life simplifies down to eating, sleeping, and pedaling (and lately, sending tweets or blog updates).
The other great thing about 1200Ks is that you generally get to ride in new parts of the country, or world, and follow routes that locals have carefully picked to showcase their areas. I have also been lucky to meet and ride with some really great and diverse people on the 1200Ks that I have done.
It seems that the pool of riders doing 1200Ks is pretty small so check-in day at a 1200K takes on the air of a family reunion. I’m not sure I’m part of the family yet, but I’m working on it.
7. What is it that you love about randonneuring? That is, what keeps you coming back ride after ride?
I really enjoy the challenge and sense of adventure that comes with setting off on a long bike ride. It still seems absurd to me to try and ride a bicycle the distances that we ride. Most randonneurs are fun to ride with and I really enjoy the relationships that I have developed over time. Additionally, you just never know what you’re going to see or what’s going to happen on a brevet.
8. What constitutes a “good ride” in your view?
The short answer is that almost any ride is a good ride. Obviously, some rides are better than others. For me, those rides tend to be rides that have lots of scenery and fun people to ride with. I rarely ride pacelines or worry about drafting on brevets. It’s lots more fun to ride side by side with others and share stories and wisecracks about whatever happens during the day.
9. What are the qualities you think a randonneur has to have to be successful?
Most randonneurs don’t fit the mold of super athletes. In my opinion, the most important quality in a randonneur is a “never say die” attitude. Successful randonneurs have a mindset that they are going to find a way to finish the ride no matter what happens.
I think it also helps to have the ability to delude yourself about what you doing. I think the best way to fail at a 600K or a 1200K ride is to spend too much time thinking about riding 600K or 1200K. In other words, it helps to be able to convince yourself that you’re really only riding the 30 miles to the next control.
10. How do you define successful?
At the most basic level, I consider any ride that I complete to be a success.
At times, I will set time goals for myself on certain brevets or permanents. However, I tend to not get too worked up about it and will usually forget my plans if I run into someone fun to ride with or if something interesting develops during the ride.
Zip lining on a brevet? Now that doesn’t happen every day. Thank you, Dan, for being a guest contributor to the Rando Q&A series. You’ve had some awesome rando experiences and I’m so glad you shared them here!