Tuesday, January 31, 2012


January 2012, Shell Beach

There is a reason for the question mark in the title. Quite simply: I feel am not there yet, in opposition to my idealistic and naive expectations, and in contrast to what I suggested ten months ago. Then again, I did hint at that time already that - who knows - the big life style change might bring along some psychotic disturbances.

Over the last year, I was fortunate enough to accumulate some of the most rewarding long-distance rides ever. True, I missed the last of my three big goals for 2011; but even that miss came with its own rewards. In parallel, however, I have not been so fortunate in some other areas, mainly related to my lifelong fragility of the respiratory tract, in particular during the last third of the year. Some special other circumstances (not everything belongs in a blog) made that my last post, over three months ago, became a thinly disguised admission of, shall we say, discouragement.

That's the moment to say Thank You to my friends who called me up or otherwise let me feel, more or less cautiously, that they wanted me to be back on the bike and in shape again, soon. I am particularly grateful to those who managed to inspire me with new goals and who shared their own doubts about how far and for how long we randonneurs and unconditionally excessive long-distance riders really should go with our common delightful obsession. 

And so I am back on the bike. Here is proof of it. 

For this first little ride since the finish of PBP, I had to borrow Fabienne's bike (I had left mine in Europe). When she emailed me the question how her bike was doing, I sent her the above picture in response, with the caption "It's under the cow." - I rode out from Shell Beach (which has been mentioned many times before in this blog; e.g., scroll down to the end of this) to test my legs and lungs on the See Canyon climb (nearly 800 ft in 1.5 miles). I didn't expect to perform well, and I didn't. But the climb gave me good sensations and made me very happy ...

This was nearly two weeks ago, and since then I tried to maintain a minimum of rather casual training, mainly for the purpose of improving my health. However, there is currently so much else going on in this retiree's life (traveling back and forth for family obligations between Mountain View, Shell Beach and Los Angeles, among much else; I do have plans to reveal some of it later in this blog) that the "training" involves more setbacks than improvements.

But, no complaining: the obligations are often quite sweet, and the fact that I have lost the focus on preparing for and achieving ambitious goals on the bike makes me spend more time on thinking and philosophizing about my raison d'être in this stage of life. It's a matter of reshuffling priorities. I know I am not alone in this situation.

Since I committed myself to become a randonneur apprentice, about six years ago, I have achieved more than I could have reasonably expected, even though I did not succeed at everything I attempted, and even though I didn't get to attempt everything I wanted. The failures were precious as well, because they made me experience where my limits are. The scheme of RUSA awards appeals to some childish desire to gather brownie points; I admit that I gathered enough of them to become an Ultra Randonneur. I even received gentle comments which questioned my denomination of apprentice, given the substantial list of completed brevets and randonnées.

The above might sound a little as if I was trying to motivate my retirement from randonneuring. Not so quick!  I still want to maintain my ability to safely, healthily and not too slowly ride long distances on a bicycle and I want to be ready again for Paris-Brest-Paris 2015. And I honestly believe that randonneuring is inherently a never ending apprenticeship.


With all this being said, I plan to include in this blog over the coming months more and more subjects which are not related to bicycling. I want to demonstrate that the randonneur apprentice does well to deemphasize the focus on long-distance bicycling events and to expand his horizon to unrelated endeavors.

Because that turns out to be now my fundamental understanding of being in retirement ...

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