Wednesday, November 26, 2014

K-Hounding - Growing the Pack

Bill Olsen is New Jersey's First K-Hound (2009)
I'd heard about the K-Hound club soon after my entry into the Randonneur style of riding.  My impression was that it was limited to a group of mileage junkies from Texas.  It was amazing the numbers these folks were racking up.  I didn't think it was achievable so I didn't dwell much on it. Those first years of Randonneuring I averaged only about 2,000 RUSA kilometers per year, far short of the required K-Hound minimum of 10,000.  We didn't really have any permanent routes in the region back then so all the official k's were achieved by brevets.  The majority of my bike mileage consisted of commuting and free rides.  I often did the free rides with friends.  We would just sort of decide where we would go on any given day.  Sometimes just making up the route as we went along.

At the finish of my first K-Hound 2011
From the start I dutifully logged all my mileage and was steadily increasing my annual totals.  The first big mileage year happened in 2010 where I logged over 12,000 miles on the roads.  Despite all those miles my official RUSA total was just over 6,000k for the year.  At that point we had a few 200k permanents available in the state. Some of us were doing the R-12.  While perusing through a back issue of the American Randonneur magazine I came across an article on K-Hounds. This time I read through it with more interest.  It really got me thinking that with 12,000 miles in a single year it would only require me to partake in more official rides, cutting back on the free rides, to get the required 10,000k.  I looked up the results history of a few of the highest kilometer riders and noticed a strong trend to 100k permanents.  Some of the heavy hitters were knocking off several of these a week.  This made perfect sense as 100k rides take less time and are easier to recover from.  Currently, we had none of this type of permanent in the region.  I quickly went through the process of developing the first one.

From that initial 100k permanent others were spawned off.  RUSA announced the P-12 award that year which gave lots of riders an incentive to undertake these routes.  I found myself doing a lot more structured riding, many of it with fellow randonneurs.  It was easy to understand why the Texas crowd was so taken by the lifestyle. It really became a lot of fun doing these rides. Many more riders were getting on the R-12 and P-12 bandwagon as a result of the increase in permanents.  We rode anytime we could.  Even late at night.  We would work them in whenever we had a window of time and acceptable weather.  My kilometer totals accumulated quickly.  By October I was over the 10,000k threshold.  Bill Olsen of New Jersey also made the list by the end of the year.


There was never any question in my mind about continuing the K-Hound pursuit after that initial year.  It had become an enjoyable way of life.  While structured riding required a bit more planning than free riding it had one huge thing going for it.  It was purposeful.  I never bailed out on a permanent that I had started.  There were no half-way measures.  Either finish the ride or receive zero credit.  That wasn't the case on a free ride.  Often a 100 mile ride gets cut short because it's windy, or cold, or it's taking longer that what was planned.  A permanent doesn't work that way it's PASS or FAIL.  No middle ground.  Most of us are not fond of failing so we soldier on even when things are unpleasant.  In 2012 I made the list for the second time.  Bill Olsen did as well.  Mostly he was doing PA Brevets and 1200k's all over the country.  Many of his kilometers were earned on Grand Randonnees which was quite a bit different than what I was doing.  Only on occasion would we see each other on the same ride. At our year end Holiday get together a couple of riders let me know they had taken the K-Hound as a goal for the next year.  One of them was my friend Paul. A frequent riding companion of permanents and brevets. He's known by the rando community as PJ Lang.


It was nice having a friend in the chase that year.  Although, everyone's situation is unique.  Paul is a busy guy and deals with a long commute to work, typically undertaken by train.  This was a lemon that he quickly turned into lemonade.   He developed a 100k permanent route to his job.  Getting up at an ungodly early hour he would ride this point to point permanent, work all day, then take the train home.  Some weeks he managed it two or three times.  Along with the longer brevets this was a sure fire plan to meet the goal.  It took a lot of determination on his part to follow through on those early morning rides.  Some were unpleasantly cold, wet, or both, but he did them anyway.  I remember joining him for his final K-Hound ride in early December.  He had an ear to ear smile on his face when we pulled into the final control. I thought it was great that he was now part of the club.  Bill Olsen would repeat as a K-Hound.  And, another New Jersey Randonneur, Patrick Chin-Hong. made the list as well.  The pack was slowly growing.

Paul a two time K-Hound (2013, 2014)

I had asked Paul at the end of 2013 if he expected to chase the K-Hound for another year.  He instantly said yes, which did not surprise me.  What was a bit of a surprise was another friend Chris Newman announced she would be going for it too.  I was delighted to have another frequent riding companion and ecstatic that New Jersey had its first female K-Hound in the making.  Most will remember the winter of this year as none less than horrific.  Frigid temperatures combined with frequent snow and sleet made any riding a challenge.  I managed only two official rides in January, which met the R-12 and P-12 requirement.  Fortunately in February I spent some time in California and racked up 800 k's.  I was hoping for better weather in March, but it never happened.  Again, I only managed the minimum.  Meantime, Paul was doing well with his commuter permanent.  Amazingly, Chris was joining him for some of these early morning rides.  They both had totals far above mine.  I began to question whether I would make the goal this year.  I was a little nervous about it.  Most of April was cold and windy, but there was not a lot of precipitation.  I finally got in a decent month totaling 1200k.  Both Paul and Chris were still tearing it up and were far ahead of me.  It took me until July to hit full stride with a 1900k month.  This was followed by a 2200k month in August.  I joined Paul for his K-Hound ride and was thrilled to see him be the first NJR to make K-Hound for the year.  He met the goal by the middle of September.  Before the end of September I had my biggest monthly total of 2500 kilometers and my fourth K-Hound Award.  This was thanks largely to the Natchez Trace 1500k which I rode with Chris.  She still needed another 1,100k after the finish of the NT.  A lull in riding due to work and family had her playing catch up as the fall approached.  An experienced and accomplished randonneur always finds a way to get it done.  Paul and I joined in on her K-Hound ride in late November.  Neither Patrick or Bill would make the list this year leaving just the three of us as the local dog pack.


After four years in a row I don't have to actively think about whether I will attempt the K-Hound next year.  It's on auto-pilot now.  Rarely, does it feel like a chore, mostly it's just fun,  I'm hoping that there are others who want to go for it.  Group rides are typically more fun than solo rides.  I can tolerate being alone, but I'm not a loner.  Both Paul and Chris prove that you can be a person with a busy life and manage this award.  Determination is the only requirement.  All other skills will be picked up along the way.   Howl if you want to join the pack.


There are now five New Jersey Randonneurs who have made the K-Hound award.  While he wasn't awarded it at the time Bill Olsen is actually the first to achieve this when he accumulated 9,308 RUSA kilometers in 2009.  While the total is less than the required 10,000k a retro-active rule change in 2011, which allowed for the inclusion of foreign earned kilometers, brought his total above the minimum.  Bill then earned two K-Hound awards in 2011, although one was for 2009.   The five recipients have earned a total of 11 of the annual awards. 

As of the end of 2013 New Jersey is only surpassed by four other regions in the total number of K-Hound Awards earned (Lone Star Randonneurs, Seattle, North Carolina, San Fransisco).

A Happy Chris on the final K-Hound ride of 2014

Christine Newman's K-Hound Story written in September of 2014:

I fell in with the wrong crowd. That’s the simplest explanation I can give for how I came to be pursuing the RUSA K-Hound award. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say I fell in with the wrong pack if we are going to stick with the canine analogy.

My buddy and NJ RBA (does that make him the “top dog”?)  Joe Kratovil earned his first K-Hound award in 2011.  I was not too aware of the award at that point although I have a vague recollection of thinking it was an unobtainable prize created by those crazy Texans who all appeared to be members of some rabid K-Hound cult.  Joe was only the second rando from NJ to earn K-Hound status and we had a nice little pizza celebration after he pedaled his 10,000th K. I secretly thought he had taken randonneur lunacy to a whole new level but he’s a nice guy and I like pizza so I was happy to help him celebrate his achievement. Fast forward to 2013 and now another riding buddy, Paul Shapiro was in hot pursuit of his own K-Hound award having being influenced by Joe, who had become something of a K-Hound whisperer. I watched Paul’s end of year, “mad dog” efforts to reach 10,000Ks  which involved riding 1100Ks in November in New Jersey.

Well now I know how Paul fell under Joe’s spell. Joe is very subtle. During a ride he will casually say something like “You are riding really well this year. I bet you could get K-Hound”. Or “K-Hound isn’t that hard only 200Ks per week”. Or, most insidiously “I can e-mail you my mileage spread sheet which makes it really easy to chart your kilometers and will keep you motivated to reach the 10,000K mark.”
As I write this I have ridden 6920Ks, all of which I have recorded on my Mileage Quest 2014 spread sheet.  I have gotten up at 4:15 am more times than I care to acknowledge to get in early 100Ks on my days off from work. I have been roped into riding the Natchez Trace  and now have to ride even more Ks to train for a brevet I never even contemplated attempting before Joe whispered in my ear (“1500K!! All in one ride! 15% of K-Hound status in one brevet – it’s like they are giving you the award!!!) At this point, I feel pretty good about my chances of achieving k-Hound status although I know that anything can happen and it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. I do know one thing for certain. If those Texans think up some new and even more extreme award, I am wearing earplugs when I ride with Joe and Paul!



1 comment:

  1. Rats!

    I made a nicely written comment, but since I was not signed in to my blog ID when I wrote it, blam, it got blown away when I attempted to publish the comment and sign-in all at the same moment. AARGH.

    Anyway, for any prospective NJ or other K-Hounds that may read Joe's nicely written article, the only foreign kms that count toward the RUSA K-Hound Award are grand randonnees of 1200 or more kms.

    Also, Joe, I think you shorted NJ an award somewhere along the way. I'm pretty dang sure that when I update the state/club stats on the K-Hound blog in another couple months, it will show 5 NJ individuals have earned 12 awards.

    Bill - 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013.
    Joe - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.
    Paul - 2013, 2014.
    Patrick - 2013.
    Chris - 2014.

    Only four other states have had more individuals attain K-Hound status.