You've heard someone say it, in fact you've probably said it, "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt". This is a phrase that's used to indicate a complete level of experience with a given task, event or goal. But in my mind it begs the question, "Now what?".
Maybe some would ask, "So what?". These are people who are not interested in ever-increasing levels of achievement. For them the phrase, "able to sit up and take nourishment" is a good response to the question, "How's it going?". But even those people are not without the desire or need for an award for achievement. Witness grandparents who are eager to show pictures of grandchildren to complete strangers. Those pictures represent some kind of award for their achievement. If you doubt me, think of how many grandparents actually have those pictures on T-shirts or badges that they wear.
We are cyclists. And awards for us are no less important, but are harder to come by. Unless you are willing and able to ride cheek by jowl with other cyclists at speeds only the young can sustain (and only the fearless are willing to), then you will have to be satisfied with the ubiquitous event T-shirt.
Unfortunately, that T-shirt is given to us at the start of the event, not the finish, and the one given to a rider who rides the family fun 15 mile route looks exactly like the one given to the rider who finishes the Billy Goat Spectacular. Not much of an award for the time and effort it takes to train for a difficult event.
"C'mon Miles," you are saying, "The satisfaction of doing your best is enough." If that were true, then everyone would check the "bareback" option on the registration form to avoid getting that T-shirt. And no one would wear their ____ride T-shirt the next year to show that they are returning participants. (Note: it's a rookie mistake to wear the new T-shirt the day of the ride. You will see this, however.) No, we want and need awards, too.
Randonneurs USA has a great award program. After finishing a brevet, you may receive a pin for your finish, then your brevet card is returned to the organization where your right to an award is validated. You may then order a medal of the specific brevet you've ridden.
There are other awards, both in house as well as international awards available. For instance, you may decide that you want to receive the R-12 award. This is awarded to RUSA members who ride a 200K ride each month for 12 consecutive months. Or there are the distance awards to randonneurs who complete 1000K 2000K 3000K 4000K or 5000K in RUSA events during the year.
The Audax Club Parisien awards a Super Randonneur award to randonneurs who complete an ACP-sanctioned brevet series of 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, and 600 km in a calendar year. And these are only a few of the awards that it is possible to train for and receive.
Most of us put in long hours of training on our bikes, and we want those hours and that training to count for something. We also want to somehow differentiate ourselves from cyclists who choose to spend less time or train more informally. The awards program offered to randonneurs fits the bill exactly. It is a way to set your sights on ever-increasingly difficult challenges, train for them, reach them, and receive an appropriate award for your efforts. And the award for any of these challenges will not be the same as the T-shirt received for the 15 mile family fun ride your neighbor rode last June. It will be an award you'll be as proud of as those pictures on your facebook site of your new grand-baby.