My Thoughts About Participating in a Rando Fleche
I’ve just recently signed up as a member of RUSA.org. I think I sent my membership fee in back in late November (2016) if I remember correctly. My original reason for signing up was to force myself to do some long bike rides for my “training” needed to be somewhat competitive this summer (late June, 2017) at the USA Cycling masters national track championships. I plan to enter the two TT events then: 500m and 2k. But after signing up I noticed the Awards link on the RUSA Web site, and I got to thinking I would like to pick off some awards. The main three I want are Honor Roll on the PA_Rando Web site for the SR series and the R12 series (these would get me SR and R12 awards at RUSA), and the RUSA Cup award (takes 2 years usually to get). Participating in the PA Fleche this past weekend was something I needed to do in order to get the RUSA Cup award.
Before this past weekend, the longest ride I’ve ever completed was 150 miles which I did solo in 2015. And that ride was a complete aberration for me. Before that the longest ride I’d completed was a 130-mile road race as an amateur CAT-2 competitive cyclist when I was age 18. I’m now almost age 55 (in June). So long distance cycling is not something I have ever done much of.
I found the Rando Fleche to be a fair amount of planning and work compared to other Rando rides I have done so far this year. I’ve completed three 200k rides which will help me qualify for the R12 award I mention herein above. For those rides all I had to do was enter, show up, and ride. Which is a sharp contrast to what I had to do to participate in the Rando Fleche. For the Fleche I had to find a team to ride with, then I had to get accepted as a member of that team, then I had to help with the route planning (this involved a bunch of back and forth via email), and then I had to figure out what to pack for a ride that would last 12 hours in daylight but also 12 hours in darkness with a temperature drop. The last thing I had to do was help coordinate the transportation issues before and after the ride. Rando Fleches are not Point-of-Departure equals Point-of-Destination. My team’s point of departure was Lawrenceville, NJ. And the point of destination was Quakertown, PA. At the end of the ride we had to get from Quakertown back to Lawrenceville.
After having completed the Rando Fleche I must say I am glad to have participated in all the ways that I did. The funny thing about the ride was that it felt incredibly similar to the many group rides I have gone on with friends over the years – just longer and partly in the dark. We were not out to decimate our fellow riding buddies, and we had a policy of
“nobody will be dropped.” This is in sharp contrast to the 200k rides I have done earlier this year where the strongest riders push on and drop whoever will fall off.
I have to admit that I have never been a fan of rest stops during a bike ride. I suppose this dates back to my competitive cycling days during my teen years. I push pretty hard during a training ride, and when I stop to relax my body really shuts down. It’s quite a struggle for me to wind myself up after a break. This is true if I’m out for a 50 mile ride or a 240 mile ride. I don’t particularly like the process of getting wound up again. Participating in a Rando Fleche requires me to relax and allow my body to shut down several times. The only thing that made the rest stops better for me during the Rando Fleche was I was never really pushed during the ride. Allowing the weak link in the group to not be dropped forced me to ride at a relatively leisurely pace the entire ride.
Was all the extra planning and work outside of the ride worth it? Yes, and no. I’m glad I did this one, but I’m not sure I really want to do another. However, I didn’t dislike the experience. If I were to be approached by the right people at the right time, then I am sure I would agree to join their team. I’m just saying I didn’t feel like all the extra effort required for this ride was worth doing it over and over again. I suppose saying “Been there done that” is how I feel about the Rando Fleche.