Randonneur: A cyclist who is trying to complete sanctioned
long-distance bicycle events inside a certain time allotment.
Official rides or Brevets are over preset routes and distances, and must be
completed within a set time limit with check-ins at control points. Riders are
expected to be self-sufficient on all rides regardless of the distance or
weather (rain or shine, day or night). Randonneuring is more like rallying
than racing. All riders successfully completing the course within the allocated
time are eligible for awards rather than just the front-runners. Riders are
encouraged to work together — they compete against themselves and the route
rather than fellow riders. The theme of randonneuring is to promote individual
health, goal setting, and achievement — all within a non-competitive athletic
The standard Brevet series consisting of rides with distances of 200, 300,
400, 600 and 1000 kms. The standard Brevets are conducted under the rules of
the world governing body —
Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM)). Each ride in the standard series serves
as a qualifier for the next longer distance. The Super Randonneur is an honor
for randonneurs having done a full Brevet series of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kms
in the same year. It is also required to qualify for the longer distance events
such as the Rocky
Mountain 1200 — a 1200K ride held every other year in British Columbia and must be completed within 90 hours.
I arrived in Kamloops from Manitoba the day before the ride and spent most of the next day
sleeping in my motel suite. About 8:30 pm, Wednesday, I drove to the starting
place and unloaded the bicycle and drop bags, immediately noticing that my
bags were among the largest in the pile. I checked in, had my bicycle inspected
and then waited for the 10 pm start time. During my wait, I met Matt Settle and
his wife Liz from the USA. Liz was not riding but she was very encouraging
and I started to relax. Just before 10 pm we were given last minute instructions
and set off.
|Here we are at night getting ready to start the RM1200 ride
Approx. 50 cyclists headed into the night in a stream of red taillights. I was near the back of the pack
feel more comfortable) and when we got on the highway I began to introduce myself — I didn't want to be
entirely on my own out there. Gradually the cyclists spread into a few groups and I was part of a middle
The night was beautiful. It was so warm I did not need a jacket. I got the impression in the dark that we
climbing a lot, but gradually so I was having no trouble. Descending in the dark was a new experience for
There were a number of very quick descents that were rather frightening for someone who has not had
experience — let alone doing it in the dark. After awhile a beautiful full moon came out making the night
At one point I found myself riding alone. It was very peaceful and quiet with
the moonlight streaming down, but at the same time I was a little concerned
about riding alone, so I let a group of riders catch up. They were Italians who
spoke hardly a word of English. I rode with them until they took a break.
Fortunately just then Matt (in photo at the left) came along so I rode with him.
|Matt Settle from Greenville, SC
A while later we rode into a cloud. I had been struggling with a bit of a sore throat and congestion, and
added humidity didn't help. We began looking for the first control at Clearwater, but the fog made it
impossible to see street signs, and the first control ended up being about 10K past the town. We had a
stop there at 4 am, even though it was 134K into the ride, but I did replace the water in my bottle. I had
up with Kamloops tap water and it tasted awful.
The sun began to rise displaying beautiful scenery . . . and on the side of the
road, almost within arm's reach, a large black bear! Matt and I quietly rode by
and when we had passed, it crossed the road. Unfortunately we hit quite a long
section of construction before Blue River. The road was really rough, and the
dust was thick — which didn't help my throat at all, and I pretty much lost
my voice for the rest of the ride. There was a restaurant (and about a billion
mosquitoes!) in Blue River (228K) where all the riders stopped for breakfast.
I met a couple riders from Saskatchewan — Richard Koch (in photo at the right), and
someone else on a recumbent. I bought bottled water and when I emptied my
spare bottle with Kamloops water in it, it was brown — yuck!
|Richard Koch from Saskatoon, SK
I set out on my own into the construction, but not long after Blue River I began "leap-frogging" someone
thought was one of the Italians. After a while he talked to me and it turned out he was British — Robert
We ended up doing the rest of the ride together.
At Tete Jaune Cache (338K) we stopped for tea and I called my parents. I learned that the internet site
been updated at all yet, so they were pleased to know where I was. At Mt. Robson, Robert and I stopped
something to eat before climbing the Yellowhead Pass.
We arrived in Jasper (443K) at 9:40 pm after almost 24 hours of riding. I still felt pretty good but was glad
take the break. We spent almost 6 hours there. I showered, and slept restlessly. I think I got about 1.5
sleep, but perhaps I got more.
When we left Jasper about 3:30 am, it was cool and overcast. After the sun came up Robert and I saw a
black bear munching on a tree by the side of the road, but it didn't seem to notice us. It started to rain
first that wasn't so bad, but then we got cold and the wind increased, so we stopped at a little café for a
tea and to let the storm blow over. I had a burst of energy just then and after about 2 hours of hard riding
arrived at the base of Sunwapta pass. Not very far up the climb I realized I was going to have to walk, but
I started walking my roadie shoes had no traction on the wet pavement, so my progress was very slow.
decided that to make it up the pass quickly, I would have to go without my shoes, so I walked up
my sock feet!
My father, John Barach, an unofficial volunteer, was waiting at the Columbia Icefields (548K) and he
provided support for me at each of the controls for the rest of the ride. After a break at the Icefields,
Robert and I sailed down the other side of Sunwapta and arrived at Saskatchewan River Crossing in no
time. We took a short break there and continued on to Bow Pass. I made it up most of that one, but had
to walk the last bit. I arrived at the top with the German riders who cheered me on. We were told that the
ride was going to be "downhill all the way from now on," but it felt like there were a whole lot of uphills to
At Lake Louise (676K) all the riders had their "mug shots" taken by the ride photographer, and there
Robert and I were joined by Chris Wilby (in photo at left), another rider from Britain. We sailed into Field down the
Kicking Horse pass, so fast that my eyes watered and I couldn't see. I wish my computer, which had died
earlier, had been working!
|Chris Wilby from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, UK
Near Golden (760K) the ride became quite challenging for me. Night was falling and there were a few
significant climbs and descents. Not only that, but we were riding on the TransCanada highway and there
wasn't much of a shoulder. My right Achilles tendon was really starting to ache by this time and when we
reached one particularly steep climb, I had to walk again. The climb took me only about 10 minutes, but
by then I was completely alone, and faced a long curving descent into Golden in the dark on that narrow
busy highway. That descent seemed to take forever and I began to wonder if I would ever reach Golden. I
think I wore out my brakes going down there! Despite all that, I arrived at the control before Robert and
Chris because they had taken a wrong turn! I think that control was the most confusing one to locate and
was made more difficult by the fact that it was dark and the end of a long day of climbing. I've never
climbed so much in one day before!
|Resting just before Bow Pass
My father picked me up and took me to the motel where I showered and got 3 good hours of sleep. I
packed up again, rode to the control to collect Robert and Chris, and we set off for Roger's Pass at about
4 am. I taped my ankles because both Achilles tendons were quite sore but part way along I discovered
that the left one wasn't taped quite right. Fortunately just then, Robert stopped for a 10-minute nap and I
was able to make repairs.
There were a number of long climbs even before we got to Roger's Pass — all of which I did on the
bicycle, irritating my already-sore tendons. The descents from those climbs were very cold in the early
morning and I was very glad I had worn tights, sweatshirt, jacket, and full finger gloves. I heard later one
rider attempted those descents in just a jersey and shorts and appeared to be suffering from hypothermia.
And then we began the climb up Roger's pass. I stopped a few times to shed clothing (it was hot again)
and for a little break, but was able to cycle all the way up the Pass. The tunnels were interesting . . .
especially when the vehicles upheld the tradition of honking all the way through them!
|Asleep at Roger's Pass
The road to Revelstoke was predominantly downhill so we made up some time, and I didn't have to pedal
much which was a relief to my tendons. I arrived at Revelstoke (908K) with the Germans and, after some
difficulty, we found the control where I rejoined Robert and Chris. The temperature began to climb and
we stopped near 3 Valley Gap for something cold. We were joined by a 4th rider, Grant McLeod (I
believe), from Saskatchewan. The 4 of us rode along a scenic little detour which was nice because of the
shade and lack of traffic. It would have been perfect except for the few steep hills which were starting to
really bother my tendons.
|Getting directions from Dad to get out of Revelstoke
We arrived in Salmon Arm (1012K), planning to sleep, but it was only 8:45 and the others weren't feeling
sleepy yet. My ankles were in a lot of pain, and the soles of my feet were also burning from the heat and
my shoes. I headed to the washroom, pulled off all the tape around my ankles and soaked my feet in cold
water in the sink. I was also able to get some ice in a bag for my tendons.
|Rob Gray packing up to leave Salmon Arm
|Phillip Pilch from Scarborough, ON, Canada
We decided to try to make it to Vernon that night, and left Salmon Arm close to dark. The directions for
leaving Salmon Arm were very confusing and took us up another steep hill, which I had to walk up
because my ankles were too weak to ride it. I felt like we were wandering aimlessly around Salmon Arm
forever but eventually we left the town and got into the country headed in the right direction. We had
been joined by a 5th cyclist, Phillip Piltch from Scarborough, Ontario (in photo at the right), who seemed to have some idea where he was
going. But every time we stopped to check our direction and then got going again my tendons would
scream in pain. Just when I was thinking I could use a break, we were waved into a Secret Control. I ate
and took a short nap, and feeling rejuvenated, we started out again toward Vernon. Moments after leaving
the Secret Control we encountered another long steep hill and I just couldn't ride up — I had no strength
left in my ankles. I walked yet another hill.
|Rob Gray from Leicester, UK
After what seemed like an eternity, we got to the final road into Vernon with another 8K to go. Grant and
Phillip rode ahead and disappeared into the dark. Robert (in photo at the left) and Chris had slowed down, and so I was riding
alone. All of a sudden I experienced my first exhaustion-induced hallucination. I thought the ground was
covered in broken glass as far as eye could see. I desperately swerved all over the road trying to avoid it,
and then it began to occur to me that it was highly unlikely there would be that much broken glass out in
the middle of nowhere. I looked again, and it was all gone. A little while later Chris caught up to me as I
was walking up another hill. I tried to point out an intricately carved face I saw in a hedge on the side of
the road. He didn't know what I was talking about and a few minutes later I realized that I was just
looking at a tree.
I was becoming increasingly irritable with pain and weariness when we had to count down street numbers
to find the control. I thought I still had a few streets to go and there were no signs to indicate the
presence of a control; but there was a very steep-looking hill. The thought of going up another hill was too
much for me, and I burst into tears — the pain, exhaustion and frustration had taken their toll. Just then
Chris indicated to me that we had arrived at the control! With great relief, I soon found myself lying down
in an upper bunk.
After an hour and a half of sleep, at 6 am, Robert, Chris and I left Vernon (1087K) and headed down the
last stretch to Kamloops. Chris hooked up with someone going faster, but there was no way my tendons
could keep that pace, so Robert and I plodded along to Falkland where we made a "chip-stop". The
volunteer photographer happened along and confirmed that there were 7 riders behind us. We let a
number of them pass us during that stop and then we carried on. Robert was fighting sleep, and so he
decided to take a little nap in the ditch. I was just going to sit and nurse my pain, but also fell asleep.
Later we made another stop in a small town. However, time was marching on and we had to get moving to
finish in time. Fortunately the road finally went down, and we sailed down a number of hills, making up
some time. We kept a fairly good pace going into Kamloops and arrived at 2:33 pm. Sunday afternoon.
When we arrived there was a crowd (including my father) on the edge of the road cheering us on. We
rounded the corner to the final control and there were even more people congratulating us, helping us off
our bicycles, and herding us into the building to get signed in. It was almost overwhelming!
|Rob and Charlene at the finish line
Despite the pain, I really enjoyed myself and would do the ride again. The scenery was spectacular and it
was so interesting to meet people from all over the world who do this sort of riding.
A few things I learned:
|Don't pack so much!
||I had enough supplies for about 12 1200K rides. The volunteers and
controls were great and there were places along the way to get supplies.|
|Do make sure the bike fits
||I suspect that my saddle was too high and may have contributed to the
Achilles tendon pain.|
|Liquid nutrition is definitely the way for me to go!
||I hardly ate any solid food along the way and mainly drank my Ensure and
iced tea, but I felt the best I have ever felt on a long ride — no nausea or
|Get better gearing . . . or more practice on hills!
||I know Robert would tell me I need ONE gear, since he rode the whole thing
on a fixed gear bicycle, but if I do the ride again, I'd like to have gearing
so that I can spin up more of the hills.|
|Be sure to use Johnson's & Johnson's Daily Protection Cream to prevent
saddle sores, plus one generous application of Johnson's & Johnson's Diaper
Rash Ointment after the ride.
||I had no saddle sores!|
|My bike: Giant OCR3
Click here for my personal results
-- By Charlene "Machka" Barach
Read about my next long ride: the Paris-Brest-Paris (France), 1225 km, on Aug 18-22, 2003, plus a trip through England and Wales.
MY HOME PAGE
Charlene Barach (Machka)