Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pedal Power Wildflower Ride

Yesterday I participated in the Pedal Power Wildflower Ride, benefiting the Hill Country Children's Advocacy Center. I did the full distance, 60 miles, through the lovely hill country. I even tacked on a couple of miles at the end to make it a full 100 kilometers, aka a metric century. Despite this being one of the worst years for wildflowers since I've lived in the area (due to drought conditions), it was a nice ride and we had good weather. I survived the ride, maybe a little worse for wear, in just under 4 hours.

I got very little sleep on Friday night. After going to bed about 11, I was rudely awoken just past 2am by a beeping UPS. I rolled over to look to see what time it was, and then realized the power was out. Shortly thereafter, my house alarm went off because the phone line was down (I have a VoIP system). I couldn't get back to sleep until after the power came back on, about 4:45. What little sleep I did get after that point was very light, so it barely seemed like I had slept. I got out of bed about a quarter to 6 and started getting ready to ride.

I arrived at the ride meeting place, the LBJ state historical park visitors' center. I registered and met up with some co-workers (my company paid our entry fees). We rode the half mile to the start line, where they had some breakfast set up. At a quarter to 9, all the employees were rounded up for a group photo, and then we made our way to the starting grid. I started toward the front of the pack when they let everybody doing the 36 or 60 mile rides go. The shorter 12 and 23 milers started later. It started out at a pretty easy pace, and quite bunched up. After a couple of miles, it started to stretch out, but at least where I was in the group, the pace hadn't really picked up. When we got to the first little hill, I kicked up my pace and started passing people. First I passed clumps of riders, then more ones and twos. After a while of not seeing anybody in front of me, I would start to think that maybe I was in the lead (not that that means anything on a non-timed charity ride), and then I would see another rider up a ways. Somewhere in the first 10 miles, I passed a co-worker (I'll refer to as TH) who was probably the fastest rider of anyone from the company (with the possible exception of me). I was riding about 16-17 up hills, 20+ mph in the flats, and faster downhill.

At some point in the first 20 miles, I caught up with the only other tri-bike I had seen, and shortly thereafter some jerk in a diesel truck came up blowing his horn. Almost all of the roads this ride went on had either no shoulder, or what little shoulder there was was virtually unrideably rough. Most of the roads were rough chip-seal. My aero water bottle was rattling most of the time. For the most part, the best the roads got was to have a stripe sufficiently worn down to nearly be smooth. Which is all to say, when this jerk truck came up, I had no intention of getting out of the road. As far as I could tell, everyone was riding as far to the right side of the road as they could, and we had a right to be there. This ass had no grounds to be such a jerk and blow his horn at us. When he passed, I gave a furtive finger to the truck, just barely removing my hands from the bars, if at all. The guy then slowed down and stopped, straddling the oncoming lane of traffic. I was afraid he was going to start a fight or something, so I kept riding as if he never existed, and I presume he made a left turn, I didn't look back to see for sure.

I had passed the first rest stop at the 13 mile mark, but stopped at the second one in Willow City at the 20 mile mark. I refilled my water bottle and ate one of the granola bars they had for riders. I've learned that my flat kit doesn't exactly like to stay in its cage behind my saddle when going over bumps. As this was a pretty bumpy route, I had already had to circle back and retrieve it twice by the time I stopped. I managed to procure some duct tape, and the kit stayed in its place for the rest of the ride. TH had caught up while I was taking a break, and we left together, along with someone who works for a company we work with. I'm not sure how close TH kept, but the other guy was drafting off of me for a while, until he had a mechanical issue (at least that's what he said when we met again in Willow City). Going north on TX-16, we went down a nice long downhill stretch. I cranked it to top gear, and was going about 40 mph. It was fun, but in the back of my mind I knew we would have to pay the piper.

The Willow City loop was one of the rougher roads we went on, and definitely had the most cattle guards. In a good year, the loop is a spectacular place to see wildflowers, particularly the beloved bluebonnet. I saw mostly small bunches of wildflowers, and one small patch of bluebonnets. I had kind of hoped to get a picture of the new bike with wildflowers, but it wasn't meant to be. All of that elevation we had lost screaming downhill unfortunately had to be made up in a relatively short distance. According to my GPS, it was a gain of about 600 feet in 3 miles of road. I started out climbing too hard, and my legs were soon on fire. I stopped at what I thought was halfway up, but was maybe only a third of the way to catch my breath. I ground out the rest of it in my lowest gear without stopping again, but my bike does not have low enough gears to make that kind of climb easy. "Granny" is an ass kicker, so to speak. Once the road plateaued, it took me a while to bring my heart back down and start bringing the gears back up. After that point (which was miles 35-38), I could still go pretty fast in the flats and downhill, but I could not climb any more. When I was near the end of the loop, an Alfa Romeo car club made something of a procession past.

I stopped for a longer period the second time at the Willow City rest stop. TH came and left before I got back on my way. The remaining 20 miles were certainly not all downhill, as many people were joking. I would have been fine if they were flat miles, instead of rolling hills. At mile 51 my right quad started to cramp up. I tried to ignore it for a couple more strokes, but it didn't seem likely to work itself out. I stopped, got off the bike and stretched and massaged my leg until it calmed down. I had a gel and gatorade to try and combat further cramping, and started up again. TH passed while I was stopped, apparently he had stopped at the rest area a few miles back. I caught up to him again just as we were getting back into the park. My GPS was showing me at just under 60 miles at that point, but I was determined to make it a full 100k, and based on my elapsed time at that point, I wanted to do it in under 4 hours. About as fast as I could manage at that point, I rode to the parking area and back to the start/finish area and clicked my watch off at 62.41 miles in 3:59:11. Made it! I ate a barbecue sandwich, a handful of cookies, and drank pretty much whatever fluids I could get my hands on. I packed up and drove home, getting back at 3, exhausted. I took a nap, but it wasn't nearly long enough to make up for exertion or lack of sleep.

Today I had to do a pre-ride for a HOG chapter ride I'm leading next Sunday. The ride is to Enchanted Rock, and I had thought that since I was already out that way, I would drive the route in reverse, but I was so tired after the ride I didn't want to even attempt it. I was geared up to ride the Fat Boy, but I pulled it out of the garage and it didn't quite have enough in the battery (after sitting for I'm not even sure how long) to fire the motor. I tried putting the charger on it for 10 minutes, since it seemed so close, but it still wasn't enough. I ditched my plans to go hiking, and jumped on the Night Train. It's a good thing I didn't ditch the pre-ride and say it would be fine, because one of the roads I had picked had an unpaved section. I think most riders like seeing a "Pavement Ends" sign even less than I do, so I have to change the route. I was expecting it to be a hot day, but I was actually kind of chilled in just a t-shirt when I got to the park. I decided I would pay the admission and go for a little hike, even without food or water. It warmed up pretty quickly, though, once the clouds that had been around all morning broke up. I didn't stick around the park for long, just to the top of the rock and back. I ate "lunch" at a gas station in Llano while scouting a new route.

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