So I’ve taken a few steps towards my cycling goals for 2013.

  • First, I signed up for RUSA membership!  I am proud to be RUSA member # 8198.
  • Second, I contacted the route owner for what I plan to be my first-ever RUSA ride, a permanent populaire.  He’s been most helpful in corresponding with me about the process and I am very eager to start.  More on this in the near future.  As I told my friends about joining RUSA and starting to coordinate my first ride, channeling Obi-Wan Kenobi, “I’ve just taken my first step into a larger world.”
  • Third – I registered for RAGBRAI!!  Now there’s not a heckuva lot to do but wait, as they won’t announce the winners of the computer lottery for participation till May 1st – nearly half a year from now.  However, the next key date for the 2013 RAGBRAI is January 26th, when the route and overnight “host towns” for this year’s ride will be announced.
  • Finally, I ordered two copies – for myself and my buddy Mr. V – of the official GAP / C&O TrailBook for 2012-13.  This informative book is full of maps, facts, and info regarding history, services along the trail, and other useful stuff.  After waiting eagerly for a few days, it arrived today!  Each of us will digest the contents of this in the coming weeks, using it principally to inform our daily plans as to what we want to see and do during the duration of our late-May ride.

I’ve also started doing a little preliminary research regarding plans for what to see & do upon arriving in DC at the end of that GAP/C&O ride.  Our tentative itinerary provides me (or us depending upon Mr. V’s intentions) with a couple days to see the sights in DC.  I’m planning to get around by a combo of bike and the Metro and see a lot of neat stuff.  I want to have a decent plan of attack before arriving so as to see as much that interests me as possible.

Obviously I’m eager to carry out all these cool plans for 2013 – and they are coming closer to reality!

So on top of my already-busy planned bicycle schedule for 2013 (dipping my feet into RUSA rides, riding the full GAP/C&O Trail from Pittsburgh to DC, riding RAGBRAI, possibly riding Crater Lake, reprising our October ride of the Katy) I’ve found what appears to be another beautiful weekend-warrior ride which I hope to do.

Raccoon River Valley Trail (henceforth, RRVT) in Iowa is one of the longer paved bicycle trails in the US, at 56 miles.  Doing some reading & research, it seems like a beautiful, enjoyable bike ride, whose beginning is just over three hours from where I live.  What I have in mind right now after a little research is to drive there on a Saturday morning, ride the High Trestle Bridge Trail, which is a 25-mile trail which ends roughly 9 miles from the RRVT; bike the 9 road miles between the two trails and connect with the RRVT; ride that to the end, stay overnight there and retrace the route on Sunday.  Each day would therefore offer roughly 90 miles of cycling, with almost all of it on flat, paved, beautiful trail. The High Trestle Bridge looks spectacular and would be an excellent post-sunset end of ride destination.

While reading about this cool ride has got my appetite whetted to go there right away, this will probably be a weekend adventure for sometime in April or May timeframe – an excellent “appetizer” for the GAP/C&O ride.  Also, at this writing, it isn’t clear to me whether the High Trestle Bridge is lighted year-round or only certain months – and if so, when.  This is an important aspect to the timing of the plan.

So, for the next few months, it’s unlikely I’ll be talking much on the blog about this ride, but it’ll be in my thoughts 🙂  I’ll plan to do it sometime early next riding season.

(Below is the High Trestle Bridge at night, courtesy raccoonrivervalleytrail.org)

My 2013 Cycling Goals

November 1, 2012

Autumn always brings introspection and a consideration of the past and the future.  In line with that, I’ve identified my major cycling-related goals for 2013.

I’m very animated and excited by these goals.  Just as were the two that I set for 2012, these goals are nice “stretch” objectives – things that (for the most part) I either couldn’t do right now, or would struggle mightily to do right now.  And like some other cycling goals I’ve set, I find it semi-difficult to imagine doing some of these.  Just what goals oughtta be.

So, in chronological order of occurrence:

1)  Join RUSA. Start to participate in, at a minimum, populaires.  Ride at least one permanent (not necessarily a brevet) by end of year.  Shoot for RUSA’s 1000-km award and maybe – not considering the year a failure if I don’t succeed here – their P-12 patch.

For my non-cycling friends, quick definitions:

RUSA is the national governing body of randonneuring. Wikipedia defines randonneuring thus:

In randonneuring, riders attempt courses of 200 km [124 miles] or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits [BP note – each checkpoint also has its own time limit] … riders … are expected to be self-sufficient between controls.

Common randonneuring rides are:  brevets (pre-calendared, group rides of 125 miles or more under RUSA rules); permanents (same distances & rules as brevets but can be ridden solo with coordination with that route’s local owner and set up ad-hoc with the route owner’s consent); and populaires (same as permanents but 100+ km instead of 200+, so typically 62ish miles – for more inexperienced prospective randonneurs).

RUSA, as the national governing body, defines the rules and certifies a given ride as having been completed according to those rules; they compile your “stats” (mileage, events etc) and there are various awards available based upon annual mileage, consecutive months of RUSA rides, etc.  The “easiest” or lowest-level RUSA award is arguably the 1000-km award, given for 1000 kilometers (620 miles) of RUSA-certified rides within a calendar year.  Another lower-level award (albeit still admirable for the dedication it implies) is the “P-12” patch, which is bestowed to a rider who completes at least one populaire (62+ mile RUSA-certified ride) in each of 12 consecutive months.

I’ve been interested in randonneuring now for many months; but I’ve lacked the shape to truly dream of participating.  I posted in this post many months ago that I sensed that I may want to become a participant in this sport; and I do indeed want to give it a try.

I will sign up for RUSA membership shortly; and starting early in 2012 (presumably sometime in January) I will plan to attempt my first populaire.  And go from there.

2) Ride the GAP/C&O trail.  This is 2 separate bike trails (Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail), which however meet and hand off one to the other forming essentially a single trail, 325 miles long, which one can ride from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.

The current plan is to do this with my buddy Mr. V, who was also my ride partner on last month’s Katy Trail ride.  Our current thinking has us doing this the last weekend of May, and riding from Pittsburgh to DC (versus the other direction).These are tentative plans and may change; and, all other details (total # of riding days, day-by-day mileage and stops, etc etc) are yet to be ironed out.

3) Ride RAGBRAI.  For my cyclist friends, no other explanation is needed.  For my non-cyclist friends:  RAGBRAI is an annual week-long bicycle touring event (the largest bicycle touring event in the world) which takes place in Iowa the last week in July.  The route changes from year to year but always starts at a community on the western border of the state and ends at the eastern border.  The route averages about 470 miles over the week and goes through 8 “host communities” each year (including the two endpoints).  Registration to RAGBRAI is limited to 8,500 full-week riders and 1,500 individual-day riders.  Together with the support for those folks, organizers and volunteers, and other hangers-on, the event becomes a little rolling army of well over 10,000 people rolling across Iowa from small town to small town.

Many cyclists have done multiple RAGBRAI’s; many return year after year.  I (being still a neophyte) have never done it; if I do in 2013 it’ll be my first.  I say “if” because, since registration is capped at 8,500, some folks who apply for registration do not make it.  A computer lottery is held to determine who participates. Registration for next year begins November 15th (2 weeks from today) and May 1st is when you learn if you made it.  I’ll apply on opening day and be crossing my fingers.

4) Ride the Crater Lake Century.  Crater Lake, Oregon is one of the most beautiful places in the United States.  This is a lake that occupies the caldera formed 7000+ years ago by the collapse of a volcano.  The lake is fully enclosed within the “crater”, having no contact with outside rivers or the ocean; this is commonly credited for the almost surreal blue color of its water. 

There is a road along the rim of the crater which is widely considered both one of the most beautiful drives in the US, and one of the most incredible bike rides in the US.  Bicycling.com named Crater Lake one of its top 50 rides in the country (one ride per state).  Each year, a couple of different organized rides take place here, typically in August.  Specifics vary, but one of the most popular is a century ride which begins in the basin, rides 30 miles or so there, climbs up the canyon to the rim of the crater, around the rim road, then back down to the canyon, for a total of 100 miles with a LOT of climbing.

Of my 4 “new” goals for 2013, this is the only one that I won’t feel completely crushed if I don’t accomplish; although I am deadly serious about working toward it.  Crater Lake is situated roughly 5000-8000 feet above sea level; that by itself makes riding more difficult than here in Kansas, but in addition this is a century (100 mile) bike ride that involves several long and/or steep climbs.  It’s not a ride for a novice or those who are not in shape.  It’s a difficult ride.  I fully INTEND at this point on doing this ride – and I will be working hard with this one in mind – but as the time nears, if I’m not ready to do it I’m not ready.  I will live with it, and plan to do it in 2014.

5) Ride the Katy Trail in October.  This is the only goal that is not brand-new, as Mr. V and I obviously rode the trail this year.

But we both had an amazing time and, at ride’s end, were already sad it was over.  We’re planning to return again next year, tentatively in mid-October.  There’s some possibility of riding from Machens to Clinton – opposite this year’s direction – or we may again go west-to-east.  Either way it’ll be a lot of fun.

As mentioned, several of these goals are stretch goals for me in one way or another.  I’m very excited by all of them, in different ways.  It’s a cool grab bag of cycling plans for 2013, and I cannot wait. I’m going to be working hard to put myself in position to accomplish them.