With my first permanent behind me, I’d like to share a few observations and perhaps some rookie mistakes. It’s very easy to look at the relatively low average speed required to complete a brevet on time and assume it will be easy (the speed, I mean). Like many road riders, I cheat myself by tracking only my “rolling average” speed. I prefer to see that I averaged 18-mph on a brisk ride since that reflects my active effort. But the fact remains that hills, intersections, turns, breaks, and mechanical difficulties all impact the average speed during a long ride. It doesn’t matter that my rolling average during my first 200km ride on October 7th was 15-mph or that I hung out at 18-19 during my best stretches. My overall average speed with stops was 12-mph instead of a more favorable number. Add the fact that I left 10 minutes after the clock started and you can see how minutes count. I had 13 hours to complete 127 miles and I took almost 11 including my delay at the start. That still left two hours to spare. But what if I had had a flat? Or two flats? Or a broken spoke? Or maybe a split tire or other casualty that required a longer stop?
Speaking of average speeds, I also learned that a brevet is a place for riding to effort instead of riding to speed. It was a bit of a letdown to not be able to ride at my “normal” speed of 17-19. Like many cyclists in my regular circles, I ride in groups (draft benefit) and I usually don’t ride on “bad” days. Brevets are often sparcely attended and are ridden by diverse riders. They also take place rain or shine, windy or calm, and through daylight and darkness. Odds are a randonneur will wind up riding alone, in the wind, in the dark, in the rain, or any combination of them all. I’m assured this will make me strong if I can overcome the boredom. I just need to manage my expectations and recognize that my “performance” won’t be as good as I’m accustomed. I will likely take the advice to ride with a heart rate monitor and ride to a targeted heart rate regardless of speed.
Nutrition was more of a challenge than I expected. Most of my local rides are between 30-50 miles. I can easily ride 30 miles with just a simple snack or Gu shot. A 50 miler might require some cookies or a banana. Recovering from either of those rides requires only a good lunch. Centuries require more calorie intake. Organized centuries can be easy because of frequent stops which are stocked with a variety of food, water, and energy drinks. I can actually GAIN weight on an organized century ride. A brevet has none of that. I found myself so focused on trying to maintain a speed or to stay with the group that I fell short on my nutritional needs. I didn’t completely ignore my needs. But the lack of routine stops (reminders) combined with my drive wound up leaving me depleted and, as a result, riding more poorly than I should have. I actually finished my first permanent with more food in my pockets than when I left. And my body had given me some alarming signals about my dehydration. Luckily, I spotted them early enough to avoid the need for medical attention.
My solutions to all of this… the plan, anyway… is to rider slower, even if it means riding alone, and eat/drink more frequently. I’ll probably set some sort of alarm to remind me so I don’t lose track of my meals.
My last observation applies mostly to me. I’m in the rare minority of road riders who prefer to ride with a Camelbak. I drink more frequently when the water is right at my fingertips. There was a time when I rode more than one bike. I didn’t want to be on “Bike A” and realize that I left my flat-kit on “Bike B.” So I had started carrying that gear in the Camelbak. Eventually, I started carrying first aid supplies, too. The extra weight is not a bother on my shorter local rides. But it may have taken a toll on my body throughout a longer brevet. Since I spend the vast majority of my time on one bike these days, I went ahead and moved the flat-kit back to the bike. The first aid kit will ride in my handlebar bag. I’d still rather have the supplies and not need them than the other way around. The Camelbak will have only water once I mount my air pump to the bike. That plan removes four or five pounds from my back. From there, I can either move to a smaller Camelbak or choose to keep my existing one in case those empty pockets can come in handy for carrying wet clothing.
Well, that’s my plan. Let’s see if I stick to it. The bottom line is plan, plan, PLAN. I’ll also do a better job of packing my things before the ride so I can unload quickly at the start. I’ll carry the bike outside of the car on future events so I don’t have to assemble anything in the dark. I have a century ride this weekend. I’m not sure when I’ll do another permanent. Knowing the randonneurs around here, I’m sure it will be soon. 😉
Learning Cap Donned,
Scott, RUSA #8059