Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tip #4 - First 200 km Tips

 Welcome to randonneuring.  More than anything, a 200 km is about learning that 100 miles (a century) is not a magic number.  You can go any distance you want.

More than my other tips, I'll be quoting dogmatic randonneuring tips in this post.


  • Pace yourself. 
  • Be responsible for your own navigation.
  • Eat regularly.
  • Carry the equipment you need in the 300 km, 400 km, and 600 km.  Make sure it survives 200 km.
  • The slower you are, the faster you should control through if you want to see other riders.
  • Keep moving.
  • Keep time in the bank.


- Pace yourself. 
  • Experienced randonneurs ride at the same pace at 4 AM as they do at 10 PM.  Or for a 200 km, at 7 AM and 5 PM.
  • I've learned that if we over-extend my heart early (zone 4 - over 150 bpm) for the first 2-3 hours of a ride, my average heart-rate declines for the rest of the day and I never recover an upside in heart rate.  If I stay in zone 3 early on, I can hit all heart zones as needed most of the day.
  • The ride out Rt 51 to the first control is nominally flat, but we climb onto the plateau after that.  Don't over-extend on the flat.
  • Don't pedal downhill.  Recover.  Even when you don't need recovery.  That's what anciens do.

- Be responsible for your own navigation.
  • Even if your plan A is to keep someone actually navigating in sight, keep track of turns yourself with your cue sheet and cyclo-computer.  
  • If you can't see the cue sheet at all times, that is a problem.  Fix it.
  • Losing your cue sheet is a problem.  I did that on my first 200 km.  Mount it where it doesn't get lost.  Carrying a spare cue sheet is prudent.
  • A GPS can help relieve stress, but don't always believe it.  Use to help advise at turns.
  • Be safe, but often you can walk around bridges closed for work.
  • Do team up with other riders.  However, if you want an experienced randonneur to stay with you, explicitly ask.  We are used to everyone being self-accountable.  It is especially ok to ask another rider for help if you are impaired or having navigation or equipment difficulties. 

- Eat regularly.

  • I eat breakfast before starting out.  Generally 2 or 3 hours before leaving.  For a 4 AM departure, I may eat main breakfast before going to bed.
  • I  normally carry two water bottles for sports drinks and a camelbak for water.  That normally gets me between controls spaced 50 miles apart in typical weather (typical grand randonnee conditions).
  • It's hard for me to leave the house without enough food on me and my bike for 50-100 miles.
  • Do eat what you take on the bike.  It took me several years to eat what I started out with.
  • On the Kittens and Puppies 200 km, if I've been dropped on Rt 51, I might skip refueling at the first control, to get out in front of the other riders.  I carry enough to do that.
  • If you feel like you can't go on, stop and eat something.
  • If I have something that hurts, I may take Aleve.  It  takes about an hour to take effect on me.  
  • I find that taking electrolytes really help me keep my strength up and avoid cramps.  The bigger you are, the more likely you are a fan of electrolytes.

- Carry the equipment you need in the 300 km and 400 km.

  • Mount your lights and make sure they stay on.  At least one frame mounted headlight and one frame mounted taillight. Redundancy is highly encouraged.
  • Ditto on fenders.
  • Most randonneurs ride with their ankle reflectors on even in daytime.  It also helps tag us on the road to each other.
  • If you have generator lights, run with them on in daylight to be better seen.  It is generally worth it to keep a taillight on all day too (Planet Bike blinkies run 3 days on two AA's).
  • Have enough tubes and ways to inflate them.  Perhaps a tire, depending how much you trust your tires.  Enough tools to make small adjustments.  If yo don't carry a chain tool, carry a spare link.  I've broken chains twice on randonneurs (I didn't have a chain tool either time - Stef bailed me out one time).

- The slower you are, the faster you should control through if you want to see other riders.

  • I've always played the game of turtle and hare. I've been the turtle.  Often in my career I've overlapped hares on the road by controlling through faster.
  • Note to hares:  Don't get anxious when you see a turtle leaving before you.  It is a social thing to do.
  • I like there-and-back routes because all riders get to see other riders on the road.  Even when I was the last rider on the road, it raised my spirits to see other riders on the ride as we crossed paths. 
  • One reason to try not to be last is that there is someone behind you that can help you if needed.  That day I controlled through at Al's Corner after being dropped on Rt 51 was a day I broke my chain.  Stef was behind me with the biggest multi-tool ever.

- Keep moving.
  • It's amazing how far you go if you just don't stop.
  • It you looking for a reason to stop, find something else to do.  Whether a nature break or adjust something, that helps to pace the stop.  Do things you can't do moving.
  • It is ok to walk.  If I feel I can't climb anymore, I'll sometimes get off the bike and walk for the distance of say two telephone poles for a break.  Admittedly, I watch my mirror so people don't see me.  However, it is within the rules to walk.  I once walked the last 3 miles or so of a brevet (up a mountain), when I had a chainring bolt loosen and jam. 

    - Keep time in the bank.
    • I always try to leave controls at least an hour before control time.

    -  Other comments
    • No one is accountable for anyone else, but everybody should look after everybody else.  Note where people are on the road before you and after you.  When you cross paths with another randonneur on the road, short conversations about typical rando topics are typical.  They help people check on each other. 
    • Don't feel bad about imposing on strangers for help.  I've walked into car repair shops 80 miles from home, told the rando story, and borrowed tools for repairs
    • Tell the truth about how you feel if it the topic comes up.  Don't whine.  But it is ok to express how you really feel.  
    • An old rando rule of thumb if something will heal within two weeks, don't let it worry you.
    • Most things heal within several weeks.  If you hit an exception, know it.  But most ways you can hurt yourself on an ultra do heal.  
    About Jim's first 200 km
    My first 200 km was in Ohio, with a motel start.  I arrived the night before, and saw the casual camaraderie during check-in.  Outbound we hit a bridge out, so we had to pass bikes down and up a 3+ ft concrete embankment and and cross a stream.  I carried my cue sheet in a jersey pocket and lost it - so I had to borrow one.  Close to the turn-around point, we had a heavy and cold downpour.  I remember a female ride talking about the value of carrying a dry set of riding clothes - I typically have carried a spare jersey and shorts since that ride.I finished the ride.

    This is a continuing list of tips in what I explain what works for me.  What I did may or may not apply to you.  However, it should inform your decisions of what can work for you.  I am writing this series because one of Pittsburgh's riders asked me to do it

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