Cracker Swamp Update

It is less than three months until the Cracker Swamp 1200 and registration still hasn’t opened. I wanted to update you on why that is and to let you know the status of the ride.

Executive Summary: The go/no-go decision on the Cracker Swamp will be made on August 31. Either registration will open that day or the event will not be held in 2021. If it is not held in 2021, the next Cracker Swamp will take place in Fall 2024.

Why the Delay and Uncertainty? I really thought that widely available vaccines would have brought us to a good place where normalcy would prevail and we could move forward without the constant pandemic umbrella hanging over our heads at every turn. I never anticipated that the vaccination rates would be so low and the pandemic is back, or remains as the case may be, with a vengeance.

As a result, Central Florida’s hospitals and EMS systems are currently overwhelmed. As of yesterday, according to our medical director, my county had several hospitals at or beyond capacity with ER bed wait times at seven hours. Nearly 50% of admissions to a floor are for COVID; more than 96% of those admissions are unvaccinated. Our EMS can no longer transport from a call to the hospital; fire/rescue is providing that service and they are at capacity. Conditions are worse, in some cases much worse, in the parts of the state the Cracker Swamp runs through.

There are consequences to an uncurbed pandemic. The consequence of full emergency departments, overflowing hospitals, and potentially delayed EMS response is that it would be irresponsible, in my opinion, to hold a four-day ultracycling event when it’s foreseeable that someone might need medical care and help either wouldn’t be there or we’d be taxing an already overburdened system. Overnight brevets, where people are riding at night, sometimes alone, and sometimes without the best situational awareness after days in the saddle, present heightened risk. In the face of at- or near-capacity medical and EMS resources, those risks are unacceptable to me. If the Cracker Swamp were taking place in August or September, it’d be cancelled for this reason alone.

But who knows what November will bring. The pandemic has taught me that predicting the future is a fool’s errand. However, we’re fast approaching a time when significant money must be firmly committed and an educated guess about the impacts of the pandemic on rider and community safety must be made. That deadline is the end of this month.

Give It to Me Straight; What Are the Odds? Not good. Unlike during the previous spikes in pandemic-induced hospitalizations, this time there are no state or local efforts to try to curb the spread of the disease. The other downer, of course, is that infectious disease doesn’t respect state boundaries or care about politics. What’s raging in Central Florida right now will soon enough be coming to your communities, too, and that could negatively impact the prospects of holding the Cracker Swamp, even if things begin to improve in Central Florida.

Why Not Hold a No-Frills/DIY/Rider-Capped Cracker Swamp?  Principally for the same reason. While reducing or eliminating volunteers, food, swag, overnight support, on-course support, and other organized aspects of the Cracker Swamp would move the go/no-go date slightly later, it would not change the fundamental calculus when it comes to the impact of an unchecked pandemic on our first responders and hospitals.

Secondarily, the Cracker Swamp is not a no-frills ride or a permanent. It was conceived as a large social event that emphasized community and camaraderie and not just as another bike ride or excuse to bag miles and medals. Preserving the character of the event is key, second only to making reasonable decisions about participant and community safety.

This Sucks. Tell me about it.

Got Any Good News? Absolutely. Keep things in perspective: This, too, shall pass, (although I sure thought it would have by now). Randonneuring isn’t going anywhere. Paris-Brest-Paris survived two invasions and a pandemic. What the ACP and their forbearers and the early organizers of PBP didn’t do, though, was try to run big, long cycling events during wars and out-of-control pandemics.

If you’ve read this far, thank you and thank you especially for your patience and understanding. If you have questions, please contact me. If you would like to be taken off this distribution list, or know someone who would like to be added to it, please let me know that, too.

Thanks and stay safe and healthy,

Brevet Updates: 2021


Long time, no events. Some good news, all around:

(1)  San An 100K this Saturday, 8am. No fee; registration required. Hope to see you there. This likely didn’t make it on to many of your calendars and that’s fair. So we’ll do it again toward the end of the month.

(2)  Up! All Night ACP 200K registration is also posted. Hope to see you there.

(3)  Cracker Swamp? But of course. Registration and Details coming June 15, 2021.

(4)  What about other brevets? Make-ups likely in the Fall. Stay tuned.

(5)  Audax? Yes, returning in January 2022. And it’s not just a Florida thing anymore.

2021 Brevet Updates

Here’s where we stand as we approach a year into pandemic life here:

(1)  This upcoming weekend’s 400K is postponed. We’ll host it later in the year when we have a better chance of more people feeling comfortable with overnights, night riding, and when we’ve all been riding distance a bit more than most of us have been lately.

(2) In it’s place, we’ll host a 200K RUSA brevet on March 6. Registration here. If this is successful, we’ll host more 200Ks this Spring to get folks back into the swing of things.

(3)  Plan on the 600K in April not taking place in April. Plan on another ride(s) that weekend. If we’re lucky, it’ll be a 200/300.  If not, it’ll be one of those rides for certain (unless things take an unfortunate, and unexpected turn for the worse with the pandemic). We’ll reschedule the 600K later in the year, if we have time and if/when more folks are more comfortable with that distance (many of us have not been riding as much) and with the overnight and, hopefully, for when we can confidently offer support.

(4)  What about the Cracker Swamp? Keep holding the dates. It’s looking like it’ll be good-to-go. We’re waiting for some better intel on what the lay of the land will look like for what overnight accommodations and support can reasonably be (and thus how to price the ride so we’re both fair yet don’t go broke). Good news: if you want to ride, you’ll be in the ride: no queues; no waitlist; no nonsense. We’ve all had enough stress lately.

(5)  Where’s my stuff from 2020? In a pile on my desk. Mea maxima culpa.

Stay safe and healthy,

Remembering Jacquie Schlitter, 1967-2020

We are sad to report Jacquie Schlitter’s recent passing after her fight with cancer. Jacquie became a randonneur in 2011 and completed a full series that year, culminating in a joyous and successful, if somewhat sleep-deprived, Paris-Brest-Paris (a result of “Too many French cafés”). That little vignette, which she shared with me as we approached Villaines-la-Juhel, typified Jacquie’s awesome nature. Jacquie would be in the middle of doing something really tough, really extraordinary, and totally wiped out and yet there she was, despite being on the edge, with a huge smile on her face and not only having a good time, but spreading positive energy to everyone she came in contact with no matter who they were. Anytime you saw her pig-tails flying in the breeze (usually up the road!), you knew you were witness not only to one of the strongest riders ever to put a bike on the line, but to someone who knew how to have a great time and always supported others.

Several years later, Jacquie completed the infamous beer-and-wine-soaked loop-style 1000K we ran in October 2014 to gauge interest in such a route design. Would returning to the start/finish each night be too boring? Or would riders enjoy having a basecamp and starting each day together? Leave it to Jacquie to prove the concept of an event that emphasized camaraderie (see above, taken after Day 2). The ride and route design were huge successes in no small part thanks to Jacquie and John whose enthusiasm for ultracycling and sharing its joy with others were positively infectious. Jacquie completed the 2016 Cracker Swamp in the same grand, enthusiastic style.

Jacquie, we sorely miss your spirit, your speed, and your hugs. May all your roads from hereon out be freshly paved and the wind forever at your back.

January 2021 200k/300k Brevets Postponed

The 200k and 300k brevets scheduled for January 16-17, 2021 are postponed. The pandemic is out of control and there is no evidence that it will continue to be anything other than out of control six weeks from now.

While I remain committed to the principle that your safety on these rides is ultimately your responsibility, not mine, I am equally aware of my duties to public safety and public health as an event organizer. There are a finite number of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers and a finite number of paramedics and other first responders who can bring you to them. People get hurt on brevets and over the years a number of riders have required paramedic and hospital services, including in-patient care. We will not organize brevets at a time when doing so risks adding to the historic overburden on our healthcare system and runs the unacceptable risk that you or someone else doesn’t get prompt care or care that they would have otherwise received were we not in the midst of a once-in-a-century public health crisis.

We will reschedule the 200k and 300k if possible, in the Spring if we’re lucky and in the Summer or Fall if we’re not. You’ll still get ACP credit for them: the ACP has been wonderfully flexible with rescheduling because of the realities of the pandemic. Our first event, then, will likely be the March 6 400K. March is hopefully far enough away that the holiday surge of sickness, hospitalizations, and death is waning and that a more responsible, selfless public response to the directions given by healthcare professionals has lessened the public health and safety risks associated with organized cycling events.

No one is more disappointed by this decision than I am. This will be my 17th season riding brevets, which is longer than almost everyone reading this, and I miss our organized events terribly. But doing the right thing isn’t about feeling good or making people happy or giving people what they want. Doing the right thing is usually hard and it makes people upset and disappointed. I share your frustration.

In the meantime, by all means, get outside and ride your bike. If you’re desperate for organized rides and RUSA credit for riding your bike, ride in other regions or ride permanents. Please continue to be smart. Now more than ever, be attentive and mindful of your safety and the safety of anyone you’re riding with or around. Be well, stay safe, and see you on the road.


Update on 2021 Brevets


You can probably tell from our silence that we remain in the midst of a global pandemic. Here’s where our region stands:

1. The 2021 calendar is available on the RUSA website and it’s also below:

200 — Jan. 16, 2021 (Tavares/Eustis)
300 — Jan. 17, 2021 (Tavares/Eustis)
400 — Mar. 6, 2021 (TBD)
600 — Apr. 17, 2021 (TBD)
100 — June 5, 2021 (San An 100K)
200 — July 23, 2021 (San An Night Ride)
200 — Sept. 11, 2021 (RM Anniversary Ride; St. Petersburg)
1200 — Nov. 4, 2021 (Cracker Swamp)

2.  You’ll notice a couple of things about the calendar. There’s no flèche. There are also no audax brevets. These are my favorite events and they’re also incompatible with a pandemic. I await their riotous, gluttonous return in 2022!

3.  Where’s the registration pages / How firm are these events? These are related questions. Do not expect registration information for the January brevets to be posted until mid-December at the earliest and possibly as late as the end of the year. It’s possible these rides will not be held. They could be rescheduled to the Fall. We simply don’t know now. We could have national/state/local stay-home orders or other circumstances that require cancellation or make it the responsible thing to do. RUSA could require cancellation. I could be sick. Trust that we’ll have the rides if we can and trust that I’ll communicate more information as soon as it’s reasonably responsible to do so. What I don’t want to do is to announce that everything is on!!!11!1! now only to have to pull the plug later and leave folks disappointed, out money, and with their time wasted.

4.  What changes can we expect for the brevets? Specifics will be announced when registrations open and expect that they may change from one ride to the next as circumstances necessitate. I can say with certainty that in January there will be no support or SAG of any kind before/on/after the ride, you will be required to wear a mask at the start/finish and while inside any building, and brevet cards will be replaced with another method of validating your passage through controls.

5.  As for the Cracker Swamp, we’re certainly hoping that we can have it. It’s 11.5 months away, which is like 3 eons in Covid Time. What is certain at this point is that registration will NOT open in February as I’d hoped. I think it’ll be impossible to say what the ride can look like — or, as is most germane to an organizer, cost — in November as soon as February. So if you’re interested in the ride, save the dates but stay flexible otherwise. And don’t sweat it: everyone who wants to ride the Cracker Swamp will be able to.

6.  Stay safe.

RBA, Central Florida

Events and Permanents Update: Where We Are

Today RUSA announced that it has reopened permanents, effective August 1. All the details are here, and you should study them carefully. The program is totally different than what we’re used to. Consider it a brand new thing; we’re all figuring it out together.

RUSA also announced that brevets remain suspended. There is no plan for resuming brevets; assume brevets will remain suspended for the foreseeable future. RUSA has made no announcement on events, but it’s presumed that they will remain suspended for the foreseeable future. As soon as I have more any information, I’ll share it.

Here are my thoughts on the current state of affairs, in my usual blunt style, but offered in the spirit of keeping both you and our beloved sport alive:

–First, don’t be idiots. The effect of what RUSA did here was to turn every member into an RBA. Anyone can organize a group perm, anytime, on any existing route, with any number of people and you guys are free to provide all the awesome support and post-ride festivities we’re used to. According to RUSA, “[Y]ou may ride a Permanent in a group with other RUSA Members.” Pay your ten bucks, gather up all your friends, and go ride together as much as you like. Same as an event, but you get to pick your riding companions and you don’t have to deal with me. But, with great power comes great responsibility.

To be frank, this is completely idiotic and I disagree with what RUSA did here totally. 40 people on a perm? You’re good. 2 people on a brevet? Nope. So here’s the deal: use common sense, which is tragically in short supply these days. If you guys start organizing large perms, … you’re going to kill the golden goose. Someone, somewhere is going to screw this all up and they’re going to screw it up for everyone and then RUSA will shut it all down again. Please, please, please don’t let it be any of us who is the cause of this going away. Let me be clear: don’t organize group perms, period. If you do, keep it quiet, keep it off the socials/Strava, and keep it to you and one or two other riders.  If you guys organize the massive perms that you’ve done in the past, let’s just say that this isn’t going to last long. Plus, that’s just dumb: Florida is currently an international pariah state for its level of unchecked community spread. Stay safe and don’t carry on as usual, because we’re pretty far from what’s usual and heading in the wrong direction. RUSA’s announcement today doesn’t help at all.

–Second, please don’t cannibalize our region. According to RUSA’s new rules, there are no perm owners and anyone can get any route certified as a permanent. Out of respect, please don’t add any of the Central Florida Randonneurs brevet routes to the perm library. And when, someday, we’re allowed to host events again, please ride them and support them and don’t offer up competing group-ride perms of your own. The effect of RUSA’s new perm program is to let y’all go out and do your own thing, and I know many of you will cherish that, but please reflect on the 149-year history of randonneuring which is brevets, and the connection that brevets have to that history, and that we have a duty to pass that tradition and history on to the next generation. So I hope you value that somewhat and that you’ll help rebuild this region when the time comes for it. It’ll be a long road back.

Third, above all else, be smart and safe. This is just riding bikes. It’s not worth dying for, or causing harm to others. We’ll get through all this and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the flip side.

Take good care,

Well, That Was Short Lived: July 4 100K Cancelled

RUSA just announced that its “soft-reopen” of brevets for July is on hold in light of the completely terrible, awful, internationally embarrassing CV-19 numbers in the United States. RUSA made the correct decision: RUSA is a national organization and it needs to have its eye on the big picture and to treat and support all RBAs and riders the same. I only wish that our state and national leadership was as sound and fact-based as RUSA’s. I can’t thank RUSA enough for it’s leadership in these tough times and you should, too. We’re lucky to have such responsible, responsive, national leadership.

Short version: the July 4 Pinellas Beaches 100K populaire is officially cancelled. That said, my family and I will still be riding that route starting at 7am sharp. If you want to join us — in a socially distanced, responsible way — then let’s meet at Bay Vista park. Rolling 7am, sharp. No waivers. No ride leader. No RUSA credit. No nothing. But if you want … bring a cooler, some ice, and a growler or two and connect with me after the ride. You won’t be disappointed.

COVID-19 Plan

While we’re all excited to get back to riding, to do this successfully – read: as safely as reasonably possible under the circumstances – there are some changes to how our brevets are organized and ridden in light of the on-going global COVID-19 pandemic.

First, it is all of our responsibility as members of our communities and families and for our own health and for the health and safety of everyone we come into contact with, to know and follow all applicable local laws and guidance concerning public health and the pandemic. This is especially challenging in Florida, where there is an absence of clear, consistent direction from state officials and, as a result, municipalities and counties have enacted varying, sometimes conflicting, ordinances. We all need to recognize this uncertainty and also that national, state, and local rules and guidance can change radically and quickly and that this might determine how – or even whether – a brevet can be run. It is each rider’s duty to exercise good common sense, to stay informed and flexible, and to make decisions not just for themselves, but others, too.

With this in mind, the following rules and procedures will apply to Central Florida Randonneurs brevets:

–Anyone who is sick, thinks they might be sick, thinks they have any symptoms, or thinks they might have been exposed to someone who is sick or someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 needs to not ride and must stay home. And if you’re awaiting a COVID-19 test result, do not ride, regardless of the circumstances that caused you to be tested. Not only is participating in a brevet under any of these circumstances irresponsible for your own health and the health of everyone else you come in contact with, but your doing this might, single-handedly, cause brevets to cease immediately and indefinitely.

–Brevets will be unsupported. There will be no support on the route or at the controls. There will be no event volunteers. SAG will not be provided under any circumstances. Each rider needs to be fully prepared to participate in the brevet without any organized support of any kind, including if they DNF on-route. Riders are reminded that it’s permitted to have your own support/SAG, but that it is forbidden to take support other than at a control. That includes food, water, help with a mechanical, … anything at all. That’s a long-standing RUSA/ACP rule and it remains unchanged in any way, as does the prohibition against “ride alongs.”

Brevets will not have organized social gatherings before, during, or after. As soon as we can reasonably bring these back, we will.

Masks. Riders in Pinellas County must wear masks anytime they enter a building. Note that there are exceptions to this legal requirement and that if wearing a mask indoors is problematic for you for any reason, then it is your responsibility to research the legal exemptions to that requirement and determine whether you think any of them apply to you. Riders must wear masks when checking in for the ride until they depart on the brevet. That’s not Pinellas County’s requirement; it’s mine: No mask, no ride.

Outside Pinellas County, be aware that there are a patchwork of laws and ordinances with various exemptions to indoor mask requirements (or no requirement at all) and that if you choose to enter a building without a mask that you should research whether that is legal. Of course, regardless of what the law requires, each rider must obey all directions from any business owner concerning masks or other conduct in their place of business. Simplify your life: wear a mask.

I’ll also have hand-sanitizer at the check-in, but you are encouraged to bring your own on the ride.

Maintenance of social distance. Riders are expected to maintain six feet of separation from others. Don’t congregate in groups off the bike. Be aware that social distancing is required by law in some of the communities you will pass through unless, for some reason, it’s not possible. Simplify your life: practice six-foot social distancing all the time, everywhere.

Group riding: Riders are discouraged from riding in groups other than with those they live with. How riders ride together – whether at all, how far apart, etc. – is up to the riders. You are all adults and are all expected to communicate with each other on this topic. Of course, if someone asks that you not ride near them, honor their request.

–I will post the RUSA-required waiver on the website in advance of brevets so you can review it at your leisure. You can print and sign yourself, or I’ll have some available at check-in. Same as before: ink signature required; no “electronic” signatures.

–All events are now $10 per event; we’ve still got insurance and over-head, sadly. Payment should be made electronically, by PayPal, prior to the ride start. I’ll take cash – exact change only – or a check at the ride start.

Brevet cards are eliminated for the time-being. You’ll get a brevet card after the fact to memorialize your ride, but they will not be issued at check-in.

Controls; start/finish procedures.  All controls, including the start/finish control, will be “photo” controls: take a photo that shows you and your bike at the control. All controls other than the finish control are untimed. No receipts, no signatures. Just make the overall time-cut and you’re good. At the completion of the ride, you must email me your photos, all in one email (mind the size of the photos or they’ll get bounced). Don’t send them to me one at a time. When you finish, you can go; there’s nothing to sign.

Brevets are now “show and go.” Once you are checked in with me at the start, you can start your ride. Consider a “7AM start” to mean that you can start any time from when I have checked you in up until 7AM, which is when I’ll depart, as I’ll be riding, too. Your official ride time will be your finish time minus your start time. Don’t forget the starting photo!

–If you DNF, you are still required to let me know that, as soon as it’s safe and practical to do so. We want to make sure you’re accounted for and safe!

Changes and new information will be communicated on the website’s page for each event and, if necessary, to registered riders by email.

–What is the plan for making up missed brevets or hosting other brevets?  Depending on the success of this brevet – e.g., how these procedures worked — we will hold the additional calendared event, other than the 600K which will be rescheduled assuming that that’s prudent (it should be).  We’ll also make up the ACP 200 & 300K brevets. (Expect that, additional brevets will be similarly bare-bones, with no overnight support or hotel arrangements; we’ll all be on our own.)

–What about audax brevets? They remain suspended until further notice — through 2021 at a minimum — per the UAF. The audax format is incompatible with pandemic mitigation.

Final words. Let me be blunt: this all sucks. But we’re all in this together. Let’s set a great example for everyone else in how we ride. It’ll keep the lights on here and at RUSA and it’ll give our loved ones and friends confidence that we’re being safe and responsible. Also, if you’re not comfortable with riding yet, or with the reopening, or with any of these procedures, then please don’t ride. No worries; that’s a totally valid call to make. Brevets have been around for almost 150 years. They’ve survived world wars and even a prior pandemic. They’ll still be here next year or whenever. What’s important is ensuring that you will be, too, and that your enthusiasm for randonneuring endures. Key to that is ensuring that you feel safe and comfortable (and that those who love and support you feel that you’re safe and doing the right thing, too). Like all other aspects of an endurance sport, don’t push it. Taking your time and taking things one at a time is almost always the way to get to wherever you want to go. So, see you on the road or on the flip side and, until then, stay safe.

COVID-19 Update: Brevets & Cracker Swamp


Couple of updates:
(1)  Brevets remain postponed nationally through at least the end of June.  We’ll know mid-June about July and going forward. If possible, once we reopen, we’ll make up at least some of the postponed rides from the spring.

(2)   The Cracker Swamp remains on, but as you know, everything is day-to-day. Running the event at all is, obviously, dependent on getting the green light from RUSA to hold events. It’s also dependent on redesigning the event to accommodate what are likely to be significant changes in how we’re used to randonneuring. For example, we’ll have to rethink how to have our legendary end-of-day meals in a safe yet still fun manner. Shared hotel rooms, too, are something that we may not want to do, or that all riders may not want to do but, at the same time, doubling our hotel bill (which is more than 65% of the budget) isn’t possible, either. In short, we don’t know what this will look like but trust we’re thinking about it. If the ride can be held, it will be, but expect that’ll it’ll be … different.

(3)  Permanents! There’s insurance secured for them, so expect their return. There’s no date for this yet — there’s significant logistics work to do in redesigning the program — but I suspect round-about the time brevets reopen, we’ll have perms, too. Stand by for further.

Stay safe,