Training For Randonneur Cycling

BC Randonneurs Cycling Club

Training For Randonneur Cycling, Case 2: Larry Wasik

Getting Away With Murder
by Eric Fergusson

Larry Wasik has been long distance cycling since 1968 (with 12 years off) and has been a randonneur for ten years. He has been a Super Randonneur six times, and has completed PBP and the Rocky Mt. 1200 each once.

I want to talk mainly about how Larry Wasik trained in preparation for the 1998 randonneur season...he didn't.

The Lower Mainland spring 300 km was Larry's first brevet that year and it was mine too. We found ourselves riding together at the beginning and I was bragging to him about how little training I had done and gosh wasn't I brave to be riding the 300 so ill prepared. Larry revealed (and rather casually) that he had been a little busy and had only managed to ride 35 km that year. Oh! Ok. I was 'one-upped'. ("What a show off... bet he won't make it...") But in the end Larry did finish the event without incident and went on to complete the 200-600 km Super Randonneur series with absolutely no training beyond the brevets until after the 400.

There are a couple of important lessons that can be drawn from Larry's experience. To begin with, there does seem to be some truth to the "myth of muscle memory"; i.e., it's not a myth. If you have done a lot of riding in the past, you really do seem to be able to get away with skipping training if you have to. (There will, of course, be limits on your performance.) Is it because your muscles really remember, or are there other factors? Maybe your body is simply remembering its most efficient pace and riding positions. I can't pretend to have a full understanding of this curious phenomenon. I can say though, that there have been a few times in recent years when I too have gotten away with riding randonnées with little or no training - a short cut that I would not have been able take as a new cyclist.

A not unrelated issue is the value of experience. Probably without even having to think about it, Larry would have known his body's limits and would not have pushed his pace beyond what felt safe. He would have known how much food and water was necessary and when to consume it. He would have known the route well and wouldn't have had any anxieties about unexpected difficulties ahead or straying off course.

Larry's case also points to the importance of strategic training. Larry was very short on time in spring '98 but he knew that the Manning Park, Spences Bridge, Coquihalla 600 contained some challenging hills. After the spring 400 he spent his precious training time on the road which goes up to Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain near where he lives. He still wasn't putting in a lot of time, but he was making the most of it, and in the end he again got away with murder - he survived one of the most hilly 600 km brevets in the club's repertoire.

I have two closing points. The first is that Larry's 1998 results are remarkable. The second point is that I would never in a million years recommend his methods to anyone but the most experienced cyclist, and by the way, Larry doesn't recommend them either - ADOPT THE LARRY WASIK RANDONNEUR TRAINING PROGRAM AT YOUR PERIL.

2001 update... Larry completed the 200, 300, 400 and 600 km series and by the end of the year he had a grand total of 1526 km on his bike. You do the math. And Oh, by the way, he rode to the start of the 200 and 400.

2008 update... Larry admits with wisdom and age that he is now doing more regular exercise with weekly spin classes and says that really helps to take the edge off the first 200 of the season.

© Eric Fergusson 1999, revised as needed

(The photo of Larry Wasik is from Paris Brest Paris, 1999.)