Ultra Cycling

After finishing my first Team in Training event in 2002, I was left with a “what now?” feeling.  The formal group training rides were finished and the event itself was over.  I signed up to be a mentor for the next TNT event, but TNT events are far apart and I couldn’t keep asking my friends and relatives to financially support my fund raising goals for TNT.  So I started branching out.  First I joined the Greater Arizona Bicycle Association (GABA) and participated in a number of their major events.  I also started riding most Perimeter Bicycle Association of America (PBAA) rides, earning their “Triple Crown” twice (so far).  Rides were still too far apart, so I started looking out of Arizona at events like the Death Ride and Breathless Agony.  But my cycling experiences were still around a century length and I wanted more of a challenge.

Enter ultra marathon cycling.  In running a marathon is 26 miles.  The cycling equivalent is a century.  I’ve mastered century riding and can now ride a century on any given weekend.  At least as long as I have sufficient rest between harder rides.  I learned the hard way after attempting three really hard centuries in one month and was forced to abandon a 200k because of bad muscle cramps in my legs.  Anyway, ultra marathon cycling is riding longer rides … much longer rides.

In 2004, Susan Plonsky became the Arizona Regional Brevet Administrator for Randonnuers USA and setup her first 200k brevet that November.  She posted an article in the Tucson GABA newsletter about the ride and it sounded interesting.  Some friends had mentioned that brevet rides are slow social events, so I was concerned that my preference for a faster pace might be out of place.  I shouldn’t have been concerned.  While it’s true that many brevet riders enjoy the long distances at a slower pace, there is a small group (or maybe just one or two others) who move at a pretty good clip.  I fit right in.  It was great.  After that first brevet I joined Randonnuers USA with a 3 year membership and have been more challenged by brevet riding than anything else I’ve done so far.  I finished several 200k’s and a full brevet series in 2005.

Close to the same time that I found Susan’s article I also found the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association’s (UMCA) website.  I didn’t think I was ready to tackle a 12 or 24 hour continuous ride or even a double Century (200+ miles), but the UMCA also has the “Year Rounder Challenge.”  The challenge is to ride a century a month every month of the year.  THAT I knew I could do, so I joined to attempt the challenge.  Of course while completing my Brevet series I wound up riding both double centuries and putting in over 12 hours on the bike, so I guess I would have been up to those challenges as well.  During 2005 I met John Hughes and John Lee Ellis two leaders of the UMCA and both amazing cyclists and genuine nice guys.  John Lee is also the Colorado Regional Brevet Administrator and I’ve been able to participate in three of his Brevet events in 2005.

For me Ultra Cycling has been a steady progression in my cycling abilities and goals.  The ultra cycling community is small enough that people start to get to know each other fairly quickly.  Brevets are small events run by people who like long distance cycling, not the dangerous and crazy 5000 people mass starts I’ve seen in some century events.  Both the RUSA and UltraCycling websites have a ton of information on how to prepare for long events physically and nutritionally.  And the people who run the organizations are genuinely concerned about ensuring all the members have the information and guidance they need to complete their personal goals.

If you are comfortable with century length riding and are ready to move up to the next level, Randonnuers USA and the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association are two great organizations to help you get there.  While I don’t see myself (at this point at least) wanting to try the Race Across America, I would at least like to qualify for it and have some nice long fun rides along the way!