With an athletic career that began with his junior high school chess team, Mark has developed into one of the most committed long-distance cyclists in the Seattle area. He is the president of the Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR), a board member of Randonneurs USA (RUSA), amasses huge yearly mileage, and always ends his epic rides with a tasty beer.
50 (going on 5, according to my daughter)
BA Physics, Harvard College ’81; JD, University of Virginia Law School ’86
High school physics teacher; big NYC firm tax lawyer; corporate tax and finance guy; bike shop owner
Year started cycling:
Returned to cycling after a dozen sedentary years in 1995 when I moved to Seattle area.
How did you get into cycling?
A friend of a friend welcomed me to Washington by suggesting that I do Seattle to Portland (STP). “Sure,” I said, “what is it?” I started with STP, Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP), and Ride Around Mt. Rainer in One Day (RAMROD), but soon found my home in the local randonneur community in 1998. Challenging, long, scenic rides with great people – I was hooked fast.
Any other cycling gear you love at the moment?
Schmidt SONdeluxe generator hub with LED headlight to see the road I’m actually taking and eWerk generator powered charging gizmo for my GPS so I know which road I should be taking.
What were your athletic experiences before cycling?
Junior high school chess team. Does that count?
What does your yearly cycling schedule look like?
For the last couple years, I’ve ridden about 10,000 miles of randonneur events (brevets, permanents, populaires).
Which other sports do you do? What kind of cross-training do you do?
Coffee drinking, wine tasting, and beer guzzling. Some hiking and skiing, but these days I ride year round.
What are some of your cycling highlights? Tell us about your most memorable ride:
Often my most memorable ride is the one I’m on or just finished. Beyond that, I’d say that one major appeal of randonneuring for me is sharing the common experience of randonneurs around the world. I enjoy riding the 1200km “grand randonnees” in different countries. My first Paris-Brest-Paris (in 1999) stands out. Thousands of fellow riders cruising through the French countryside for four days to the cheers of the townspeople. A great group of Seattle riders with whom to share the experience. New friends made from many different countries. In July of this year, I had a quite different and equally extraordinary experience riding the first ever 1200km brevet in Asia in northern Japan. As the only participant from outside Japan, I enjoyed the unfamiliar language, food, road signs, etc while doing something very familiar.
Over the years you’ve done quite a number of randonneuring events in foreign countries (Australia and Japan in 2010 alone). Outline some of those experiences for us.
1. Canada 1999: Vancouver Island 1000km. Lots of remote solo riding. Bears.
2. Old England 2001: London-Edinburgh-London 1400km. Endless hills. 14-page cue sheet. Beans on toast.
3. Australia 2001: Great Southern Randonnee 1200km. Along the Great Ocean Road. Headwinds gusting to 60mph. Vegemite. DNF.
4. Canada 2002: Rocky Mountain 1200km. Breathtaking scenery. Long pass climbs.
5. France 2003: Paris Brest Paris 1200km. Second visit. Thousands of riders. Pastries.
6. France 2007: Paris Brest Paris 1200km. Third visit. Sixty riders from Seattle. Best sleep.
7. Australia 2008: Great Southern Randonnee 1200km. Successful rematch. Koalas. Magpie attack!
8. Scandinavia 2009: Super Brevet Scandinavia 1200km. Denmark, Sweden, Norway. Multiple ferries. Buckets of beer on the table each night.
9. Japan 2010: Hokkaido 1200km. Gracious hospitality. Rice balls and octopus. My fastest 1200.
10. Australia 2010: Perth-Albany-Perth 1200km. Spectacular southern skies at night. Vanilla creamed rice. Kangaroos.
As the 2010 road season winds down, what’s on your radar for 2011?
I’m looking forward to my fourth quadrennial Paris-Brest-Paris in August. And lots of other rides with friends.
What’s your favorite Seattle-area ride?
Seattle Randonneurs’ “Four-Pass” 600km brevet – Snoqualmie, Blewett, White, and Cayuse passes packed into one great weekend.
Do you have any advice for folks getting into cycling or for cyclists thinking about getting into randonneuring?
I’m not very good with advice, but can share what works for me. Lots of people will tell riders that they need this kind of bike, that they should train that way, that their clothing should be made from this or that fabric, that they should worry about their fork’s trail, that they should rely on ths food, etc. I know less about those things than most other riders. My approach focuses on the great and simple joy of riding a bicycle. I try to experience that every time I get on my bike. I began riding (and randonneuring) with that and an old bicycle. Over time and with the help of many others, I found equipment, nutrition, and training that suits my riding, but those are only useful to me if I’m having fun.
To the outside observer, randonneuring equals cycling while sleep deprived. What’s the attraction that the rest of us are missing?
For me, it’s testing personal limits in a sport that values cooperation over competition. It’s the allure of scenic and challenging courses close to home and around the world. It’s the chance to ride with others who share the same passion. And it’s fun.
I suppose that I should also point out that sleep deprivation is not an inherent part of randonneuring. The time limits are somewhat generous. The total pace, including all stops, required to complete a brevet is 15kph (9.3mph) for brevets up to 600km and less than that for longer ones. As a result, the time limits of rides longer than a day permit sleeping for many riders. For example, a rider who maintains an on-bike pace of 13mph and who stops for an hour during every 100 miles of riding can take a six hour sleep overnight sleep stop and still finish a 600km brevet in two hours under the time limit. Riders who make slower progress or take longer breaks will start to give up sleep. As an Australian friend explained, in our sport you can “make up for a lack of ability with a lack of sleep.”
What keeps you excited about cycling?
The kid in me. I like to ride my bicycle. I like new challenges and new places.
What obstacles get in the way of cycling?
The usual, I suppose – weather, other obligations, inertia, expense, etc. Cycling makes me happy, so I steer around the obstacles as best I can.
The Velocity Blog’s “Rider Profiles” highlight the accomplishments of some of our amazing local cycling athletes, and provides insight into their lives that may inspire us all.