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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 07-12-08, 10:54 AM   #1
ghsmith54
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Why did you start long distance cycling

I've been riding a lot of years, accumulating more than 10k miles per year for all that time (sometimes a good bit more). I also do somewhere between 15-40 centuries per year, some organized, some JRA, and quite a few 7-10 days of 100+ miles per day.

OK, with that as background, I've never felt inclined to go further. A number of my riding buddies have done multiple brevets (PBP, Cascade 1200, BMB, Rocky Mountain 1200, etc) and I take a fair amount of good natured abuse about just being a "century rider". (Not to hijack my own thread but, to paraphrase the late George Carlin: "Everybody who rides less than me is a wimp, everybody that rides more than me is crazy").

Every year after finishing one of the 700+ mile weeks, I think "I'm in pretty good shape, I should go do a double/brevet/something longer". For whatever reason, I never have. I've had the conditioning, just not the inclination.

I'm not looking for psychoanalysis here, I'm just curious for those who have gone on to ride longer distances what was it that motivated you to do it. Additional challenge? Didn't get enough? Social reasons (friends, significant others, etc)?
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Old 07-12-08, 07:35 PM   #2
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It's like crack...I just want more. More challenge, more time on the bike, more time out on the open road. I love seeing what the next stretch of road looks like. Riding here in California it is so beautiful (as are many other places in this world). I love being away from my desk, my email, my phone, my TV (oh wait that doesn't work anymore). I just want more. Because you don't always have to be having fun to have fun. Fun is a state of mind and I happen to find the "pain" of riding a bike for 13 hours fun.

I got my first road bike in December 2006. By February I did my first century and finished 2007 with 11 centuries. This past March I did my first double and plan to do two more this year. Next year I would like to do a 200km, 300km, 400km, and 600km brevet. If I can do a 1,200km that would be killer too. There aren't that many of the larger brevets around the LA area so it may be hard to make it happen but that's the plan.
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Old 07-12-08, 08:10 PM   #3
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I saw some people pedaling up a local hill and was inspired to do it too. As the hilltop was 70 miles from home and 10,000 feet higher I had to start training for long distances. A year later I was dodging the mountain goats at the 13,000 ft level on Mt. Evans.
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Old 07-13-08, 10:07 AM   #4
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Many reasons. It is something us older folks do rather OK at. It is nice setting a goal and getting it done. The thrill of doing something a bit over the top together with a lot of other equally crazy dudes.
If all goes well LEL is my goal for next year.
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Old 07-13-08, 10:07 PM   #5
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I rode my first century in 1994, and told myself I'd never do anything like that again. In 1997, I rode 2 centuries and they weren't bad at all. I've ridden centuries every year since then.

Between 1998 and 2000 I raced, but by the end of 2000 I got tired of racing. I wanted to do something else. By then I had ridden 13 centuries and a 200 km ride just for fun (not a brevet). I looked into touring, but I wasn't ready for touring then ... it didn't have the challenge I was looking for. Then I remembered something ...

I had cut out an article about something called Randonneuring many years earlier. I dug it out, read it, looked it up on the internet, and knew it was what I wanted to do. I called the number on the article .... and in 2001 I was riding brevets ... and I loved it!! I enjoyed the challenge of pitting myself against the environment and the route.

You can see the rest of the story if you look on my website in my signature line.
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Old 07-13-08, 11:44 PM   #6
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It was a long way to where I wanted to go.
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Old 07-14-08, 07:03 AM   #7
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I think part of the reason I first tried a longer ride this spring was the fact that it would be truly challenging. Even experienced riders DNF sometimes for various reasons, so finishing within the time limits would seem like that much more of an accomplishment. Now that I have done a longer ride, I find it has other allures as well.

There was something special about seeing the sky lighten in the morning after having ridden all night, and the way I never felt as tired as I expected until I got off the bike, or how refreshing the rain felt. At the end of the ride, having done about 400k in 24 hours, I felt that with a brief rest I could go on. So the challenge caught my interest, but the experience has me wanting to do it again.
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Old 07-14-08, 07:06 AM   #8
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Because I like to tour. Can't do long distances , you can't tour.
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Old 07-14-08, 02:20 PM   #9
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Why did I get started in long-(or in my case ultra-)distance cycling? Two reasons, really:

1) I'd quit racing because it was getting to be too much like work: a lot of effort, very little reward. And, being a goal-oriented kind of person, I needed a "reason" to ride.

2) I like to ride my bike. I don't like to stop. Ergo, the longer the ride, the better.

ANd along the way, I've discovered some great rewards:
  • Unlike so much of today's world, ultra-distance cycling is so freaking "real". This ain't no video game or "reality" tv show, buster. You want to get from A to B, but there's a mountain pass in between? You suck it up and haul your sorry butt over it.

    The people I've met along the way (not just other cyclists, but shopkeepers, middle-school kids and just regular folks) really help restore my confidence in humanity. They're almost invariably blown away by the ride I'm doing, but also incredibly kind and supportive.

    And those elusive, "special" moments:
    a herd of deer, spooked by your silent rapid approach, charges through an irrigation canal, and across the road in front of you, headed for the safety of higher ground. And when you pass, you can still smell the water on the pavement.

    Climbing a 14% grade in the high Cascades, a ladybug lands on your speedometer and sits there for a couple minutes. Say what you will, I call that a good omen.

    Or coyotes howling in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere as you pedal on through the mountains. Not many places you can find music like that.

Scott P
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Old 07-14-08, 02:47 PM   #10
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Why did I get started in long-(or in my case ultra-)distance cycling? Two reasons, really:

1) I'd quit racing because it was getting to be too much like work: a lot of effort, very little reward. And, being a goal-oriented kind of person, I needed a "reason" to ride.

2) I like to ride my bike. I don't like to stop. Ergo, the longer the ride, the better.

ANd along the way, I've discovered some great rewards:
  • Unlike so much of today's world, ultra-distance cycling is so freaking "real". This ain't no video game or "reality" tv show, buster. You want to get from A to B, but there's a mountain pass in between? You suck it up and haul your sorry butt over it.

    The people I've met along the way (not just other cyclists, but shopkeepers, middle-school kids and just regular folks) really help restore my confidence in humanity. They're almost invariably blown away by the ride I'm doing, but also incredibly kind and supportive.

    And those elusive, "special" moments:
    a herd of deer, spooked by your silent rapid approach, charges through an irrigation canal, and across the road in front of you, headed for the safety of higher ground. And when you pass, you can still smell the water on the pavement.

    Climbing a 14% grade in the high Cascades, a ladybug lands on your speedometer and sits there for a couple minutes. Say what you will, I call that a good omen.

    Or coyotes howling in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere as you pedal on through the mountains. Not many places you can find music like that.

Scott P
Bend, OR
Man I want to go get on my bike and ride right now after reading that. Thanks!
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Old 07-14-08, 03:22 PM   #11
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because I'm not good at racing....
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Old 07-14-08, 03:44 PM   #12
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For me, It is two factors. 1) Challenge and 2) Health.

1) Challenge. I'm not the strongest man in the group, and I've always been more to the weakest. But when it comes to doing extraneous work for hours on end (max 8 hours, typically), I'm almost always the last to complain. When I was in Army ROTC, I could run for only thirty minutes before I became too bored or too beat up to maintain pace. With cycling, i'm stopping after two-three hours because I have other things that I have to accomplish. Because of the changing scenary, I'm not bored. Due to its low impact, I don't feel beat up. The rides are just me, my machine, and seeing how long my muscles can keep me going.

2) Health. All I have to say is a joke I told a friend last week: A teenager runs up and stops, panting heavily and looking a little green from exertion, "Grandpa, slow down!" I want to be the grandfather that can leave his kids out to dry!

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Old 07-15-08, 06:28 PM   #13
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Thanks to all who've taken the time to reply. There are a few that particularly resonate with me (paraphrasing) and some of my own:
  • The camaraderie and shared experience. Some of the best friends I've made have been encountered on long rides.
  • Being "out in it" - the heat/cold, good & bad weather, nature at both its best and worst.
  • The effort is its own reward. I don't know that I'll buy "health" as a reason (but hey, if it works for you!) since I'm not sure there's much health benefit to be gained from riding 200 miles versus 100 miles but I do think there's a serenity that comes with challenging yourself and meeting the challenge.
  • Exploring the unknown in yourself, seeing what you can do.
  • A different kind of "race"
Thanks again. Additional thoughts welcome of course.
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Old 07-17-08, 09:43 PM   #14
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for me it's the combo of the spirit of adventure and the physical challenge/exhilaration of doing long miles.

I started doing long distance riding at age 16 in 1970 and though I raced (fairly successfully for several years) it was long distance touring that really captivated me. I started with trips from my home in Rhode Island to Montreal, then Quebec, then Nova Scotia and eventually across the US twice and Canada once.

I still love to pick a destination, obsess over the map for a while and then ride there, then come home and stare at the map marveling over the distance I covered and all the cool things I've seen along the way.
Doing more than a hundred miles is always a special thrill for me. These days my longest rides are just shy of 150 but my longest day was a 312 miler through Kentucky and West Virginia that took 23 hours. We were on tour and carrying camping equipment on the bikes. That was in 1974 and I can almost remember every mile of that ride as if it happened yesterday.

I think I am never as fully present to life and what's around me as I am on those kinds of rides.


It has taught me the importance of the journey in every endeavor. That the end point of anything is not all there is but how you get there and the experience of getting there is just as important.

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Old 07-17-08, 10:06 PM   #15
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I'm new to this and my "long" distances are pretty small yet, but I can tell I will want to do more. It was Machka's posts that got me interested in randonneuring, and I hope to ride my first brevet this year.

I think there are a couple of aspects for me:

1) I'm an introvert, and I don't get enough ME time. Setting out to ride a ridiculously long distance on a bike pretty well guarantees NOBODY will bug me - but at the same time, it impresses people and makes them realize I am doing something "real," not just avoiding them. Everyone is happy.

2) I've always thought of myself as active, but cycling is taking me to a whole different level in terms of challenging myself and being able to meet those challenges. I have a feeling of physical competence, power and freedom on a bike that I have never had before, and I'm starting to feel those effects when I'm off the bike as well. I actually have muscles! Visible ones!

3) Cycling is hands down the best medication for my ADHD and anxiety. It is just the right level of stimulation for me, without becoming overwhelming and exhausting.
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Old 07-17-08, 10:16 PM   #16
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I was curious to see how much was too much, or if there was such a thing.
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Old 07-17-08, 11:17 PM   #17
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3) Cycling is hands down the best medication for my ADHD and anxiety. It is just the right level of stimulation for me, without becoming overwhelming and exhausting.
Right on. I have terrible anxiety problems and somehow when I am on my steed I feel like a totally different person. I'm not riding the miles most of you all are riding yet, but I'm working on it. It's the best therapy I've ever had.
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Old 07-17-08, 11:34 PM   #18
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I started cycling long distances because I had demons I had to settle in my teen years. Where as my sister solved her depression with therapy, I solved mine with riding. So I would find myself having ridden 50 to 75 miles a day when i was in my mid teens. It gave me time to connect with myself and settle things out by riding and thinking. I still do the same thing, yet now I ride long distance for fun more often than not.

When MTBMaven said :"It's like crack" he wasn't kidding.
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Old 07-17-08, 11:43 PM   #19
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3) Cycling is hands down the best medication for my ADHD and anxiety. It is just the right level of stimulation for me, without becoming overwhelming and exhausting.
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Right on. I have terrible anxiety problems and somehow when I am on my steed I feel like a totally different person. I'm not riding the miles most of you all are riding yet, but I'm working on it. It's the best therapy I've ever had.
I think this is an awesome concept. For me I love the fact that I have a singular goal and focus. In my normal day job I have so many things I have to thing about. Then there is the side line consulting gig, finishing my masters thesis, studying for the PMP, my wife, my parents, my friends, finding time to ride, etc. When I'm out on the bike all that goes away. There are only but a few things I have to be concerned with. My water intake, caloric intake, not crashing. Life is so simple out there.

I listen to audio book and podcasts while biking most of the time. I have really learned a lot out there. I'm finishing Into Thin Air right now. I've listened to a 7 hour speech on the long term effects of the Treaty of Versaille, the Greenspan book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, The Tipping Point to name a few.
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Old 07-17-08, 11:59 PM   #20
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Right on. I have terrible anxiety problems and somehow when I am on my steed I feel like a totally different person. I'm not riding the miles most of you all are riding yet, but I'm working on it. It's the best therapy I've ever had.
I'm still in the "working on it" stage myself My furthest ride in a day has been 90 kms. Somewhere around 50 I feel like crap, but then I get my second wind. I'm still looking for the next level for that.

Sometimes the anxiety interferes with the preparation I need for a long ride, so I am working on that right now. Finding a route and getting prepared without freaking out... that is the current challenge. Though today I just kind of threw everything I could think of into a pannier and headed out; other than forgetting my detailed map, and consequently getting REALLY lost, and also forgetting to re-apply sunscreen, it turned out OK. And I need to remind myself of that.
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Old 07-18-08, 12:11 AM   #21
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chiming in-this is a great thread that resonates. Carry on.
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Old 07-18-08, 11:59 AM   #22
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<snip>
Finding a route and getting prepared without freaking out... that is the current challenge.
<snip>
Try www.bikely.com. I lay out all my group rides and tandem rides on it. I also enter my brevet routes, even though there will be a club cue sheet, just to better familiarize myself with the route.
Bikely generates cue sheets from "notes" you enter. Gives mileages and elevation gain. At least you'll know what to expect. And you'll make some mistakes, but you can save your routes and edit them after you ride them.

As far as the rest goes - you're on the right track. 3 hours seems to be optimum for generating the appropriate mental and physical state to get you through to the next ride. Hard to find the time, though. Running's quicker but harder on you. 10 running miles seems to equal 80 bike miles.
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Old 07-18-08, 05:22 PM   #23
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ADHD and anxiety. It is just the right level of stimulation for me, without becoming overwhelming and exhausting.

I have found the meditative aspects of long distance cycling (and ocean swimming) to be wonderfully calming and are a huge aspect of why I ride. I do have to take care not to overtrain, however, as it can stimulate a kind of anxiety and mood changes that I do not appreciate. Proper nutrition, hydration and rest keep that in check.
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Old 07-18-08, 05:27 PM   #24
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Just for the challenge and fun of it. Love the sensation, your are out here under your own power and you gotta do it or else.
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Old 07-18-08, 06:03 PM   #25
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I do it to impress girls

actually, in somewhat seriousness, I rode my first century partially because I was recruited to do a charity century ride by a girl that I was flirting with at the time; and I first started to seriously contemplate brevet riding after another female friend was considering randonneuring and looking for a training partner. That person was too swamped with schoolwork to do any distance riding, but I've had fun with it ever since.

And, in complete seriousness, the things that I get out of distance riding is, as others have mentioned, the sense of adventure and challenge; a desire to explore and also gaining a deeper understanding of what my body's capable of when it's subject to extreme stress. The process that I first went through of plunging into a brevet series and going from a 200k to a 300k to a 400k and a 600k, and seeing how my body adapted to handling distances that I once thought of as impossible was tremendously addictive.

Even now, after doing such long distances, I still welcome doing centuries and 200k's because it still feels like there's some new discovery awaiting me somwhere along the ride. I want to find out what that is.
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