There’s nothing like a goal to motivate you. This season, Lin Osborne has his first 1200K in his sights – the Shenandoah 1200K – and he has been riding with real purpose. I’m one of the many riders who can attest to his fitness – he kindly towed me home on April’s 300K. Lin has been getting in lots of weekday riding with a daily commute of more than 30 miles, and he’s been doing it on a carbon bike that has the look of a classic randonneuring rig.
As Lin packs his bags for the trip to Virginia, he made time for a quick Q&A with RTP. As you’ll see, his sense of humor is still intact. Several members of the NCBC crew will be working at the Fancy Gap control, so it's a sure bet that Lin will have the best cheering section. Lin, we're rooting for you!
This is first 1200K. What attracted you to this event?
To quote the old real estate saw, "Location, location, location."
It's a regional event so I don't have to travel as far or take as much time from work yet I've never seen the Shenandoah Valley. So, it's close enough to be accessible but still is a new adventure. The fact that I'm much closer to home for my first 1200 km randonnee also makes me feel more secure. If I'm successful in my back yard, I'll have confidence to tackle events across the continent and abroad.
Tell us about your training. Have you done anything different this year than in other years?
I haven't followed a structured training program in about 20 years when I gave up racing. Since that time, I've "just been riding" but for the last six years that has meant commuting to work every week day. I ride amazingly little on the weekends unless I'm going out with the local randon contingent. The main difference between this and former years is that I have a new job that's twice as distant as before. I now ride about 32 miles a day and the terrain is considerably more rolling than my former route. I believe it's made me stronger.
Which bike are you taking and why?
A heavily customized 2007 Trek Pilot 5.9. Why? Well for one, I can't seem to keep more than one bike in rideable condition at a time. ;) But even if I had another bike up and running, I'd still use this one due to its low weight and smooth ride quality. I lucked up and was able to purchase a bare frame and thus built it the way that made sense to me for randonneuring, not the way Trek stocked it on the peg. To me, "makes sense for randonneuring" means high spoke count wheels, mudguards, higher bar height plus bar-end shift levers coupled with a 50/34x13/34 drive train. Yep, a one-to-one gear on carbon fiber. It may seem excessive but then I've heard there are a couple of hills on the Shenandoah route. Also, I've commuted on this bike since last November so I know what to expect from it. It's served me well on the brevets so I'm not going to switch now!
Like everybody else, you probably have a bit of nerves. If so, how do you deal with those?
Scotch and melatonin...no, wait.... Seriously, I try to visualize the ride, visualize the fun and adventure I'll have and the new friends I'll meet. I've tried to anticipate how I'll subdivide the route into ride segments between drop bags and gauge the gear and nutrition I'll need to carry and what I'll need to send ahead. I've tried to project an average speed, when I expect to arrive at the drop points and how long I plan to spend at each. In other words, I've developed both a vision for the ride and an event strategy that makes sense to me at least on paper. And well, now it's time for the scotch and melatonin...no, wait.... In truth I think once we're underway and I can develop a rhythm, my nerves will calm.
Are you planning sleep stops or straight through?
I understand that I'll need to sleep but I plan to ride as much as possible and to not lose time at controls. I expect to enjoy beautiful scenery but for me this isn't a sight-seeing trip.
Do you have a daily mileage goal?
I don't have a specific daily mileage goal. Instead, I plan to ride to Harrisonburg (drop point), pluck what I need from my drop bag, rest for a few minutes and then ride to the next control (mile 266). I'll rest longer there before continuing to the turn around at Fancy Gap. I hope to arrive in Fancy Gap by Friday afternoon/early evening. Once there, I'm sure I'll need to rest for a few hours. Afterward I plan to ride straight through back to Harrisonburg, rest, and then ride the final leg back to Leesburg. This is the paper plan, at least. We'll see what the route says about that.
Any other goals on this ride?
Enjoy the company of new riding partners, of the people I meet 'en route' and to enjoy the view. Oh yes, and to finish...can't forget that.
Do you feel our local brevet series prepared you for this event?
That's hard to answer since I've been randonneuring for three years but have only ridden NC brevets. It's difficult for me to gauge how well prepared I am since this will be my first "away game." This I can say: the prime benefit of the local brevet series for me hasn't been physical preparation. That's come from daily riding. Instead the brevets have given me the opportunity to observe how experienced randonnuers/randonnueses approach long-distance cycling. I've learned a lot from my riding partners since my first brevet, a little through talking and a lot through observation. I ride brevets considerably faster now than when I started and I credit as much to being exposed to knowledgeable, efficient riders as to fitness gains from the NC series. A large measure of credit will go to the NC randonneuring contingent if I'm successful on this ride. And if I'm not successful, only I not the brevet series will be responsible.
Have you picked up any helpful pointers from your fellow riders?
Absolutely. A couple have verbally advised me on how to approach the event, confirming that I should stick with what I know and that I'll mainly need more of what I require on shorter distances. (Thanks Branson and Paul!) Given what I've heard, read and observed, I'm convinced that riding as fast as possible while remaining within a sustainable limit is the best approach to success since speed creates opportunity for future rest without running up against the time limit. I'm also convinced that it's important to decide what to carry versus what to leave at home. As others have said, this is essentially risk assessment. I plan to cover the common scenarios (tires/tubes) plus a couple of potential show stoppers (chain, der. cable) but otherwise plan to ride as light a practically possible. Of course, everyone has a different definition of "practically possible" and I tend to carry more gear than others but I don't want to haul unnecessary luggage through Virginia hill country. I'm counting on a base set of clothing and repair items that I'll always carry and then resupply nutrition, shorts/jerseys, and any other needed consumables from my drop bags. Based on what I've been told and picked up elsewhere, I think this is a sound strategy. I sure hope it is.