Counting Past 100
BBC members are some of the strongest riders in Maryland. I should know. They have been dropping me on hills, crushing me on sprints, and shucking me off the back of pace lines for more than a decade.
Yet when I ask these stronger, faster and younger riders if they’d like to venture out on a ride of more than 100 miles, they will often recoil in horror. The turkey vultures circling overhead are just waiting for them to cross that magic threshold so the ugly birds can pick riders’ exhausted bones by the side of the road.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The miles beyond 100 are pretty much the same as the miles on this side of the century. If you can do a century with relative ease, you can do 200, 300 or more miles. It’ll just take a little longer.
It’s not our hearts, lungs and legs that keep us under 100 miles – it’s our heads.
My favorite example of this phenomenon is Diane Van Daren. One of the greatest ultra-long-distance runners in the world, she routinely will run 100 miles or more – often on rugged, hilly terrain. The secret of her success? An operation for epilepsy removed the part of her brain that tracks time and distance. Literally, she does not know how long and how far she’s run. (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jATSSgWg-M)
To those who assume that ultra-long-distance riders have lost at least part of their minds, I must admit we have – in a sense. We’ve mentally removed the obstacles to longer distance riding.
And you can, too. One of the easiest ways is to join a ride sponsored by the DC Randonneurs (see: www.dcrand.org). These longer rides, called brevets, start at 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) and can go as high as 1200 kilometers (about 750 miles) or more. They’re not as competitive as racing, but records are kept of finishing times. If you beat the ride deadline, you get a medal (if you like that sort of thing).
Why would you want to ride that far? Well, first, it’s great fun. You experience the same conviviality that marathoners enjoy, but the trip lasts longer and it’s not nearly as taxing on your body as running.
Importantly, it’s an adventure. Reaching for bigger miles is not like rolling a routine 100. There’s always something challenging – from flat tires to mountain passes to sudden storms – that demands some extra grit and innovation.
Finally, you discover something important about yourself. You’ve accomplished something that most other riders never dare to do. You’ve demonstrated to yourself that you can do something special.
Greg Conderacci is somewhat creaky testimony to the idea that bicycles can be your friend .... for a long, long time. A rider for more than 40 years, he raced in the days of leather helmets, toe clips and down tube shifters. More recently, he has twice done the world’s oldest bicycle race (the 750 miles of Paris-Brest-Paris), did a similar ride of 1,000 miles in Italy, qualified for Race Across America by doing 500 miles in 40 hours, and done several rides of 200, 400, and 600 miles or more. He has ridden 3400 miles coast-to-coast in 26 days. Today, he rides about 8,000 miles a year...much of it at distances beyond 100 miles.
Written for the Baltimore Bicycle Club February 2013
By Greg Conderacci