Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shiner GASP / The Rookie Tri

This weekend, like last year at this time, I overdosed on sports and sacrificed sleep by cycling 100 miles on Saturday and volunteering for a triathlon on Sunday. The ride was the Shiner GASP, and the race was the Rookie Tri. Both were great events, but some day I'm going to have to learn how to have a relaxing weekend.

The Shiner ride went really well. Probably largely because I'm a better cyclist and endurance athlete this year than last, it didn't seem as tough. The wind was a headwind again, probably in the same speed range. For the most part, it wasn't too terribly until the final stretch along Texas 95 leading into the town of Shiner, when the wind was directly head-on, and there was less vegetation to slow it down. My legs held up fairly well. I did need to give them a good stretch when I stopped, but it wasn't crippling. I still had some leg left for the last miles, they weren't in utter agony. My "saddle area" fared better this year. I did get some soreness, but chamois cream and a good saddle did wonders at preventing issues. My feet started hurting after 70 miles. It was hardly the worst foot pain I've ever had, but it was pretty uncomfortable in the final miles.
My original plan was to make three stops, about every 33 miles, but my bladder overruled that. There was a big line for the port-o-potties right before the ride left, so I figured I'd be fine to skip it. When that first aid station came 17 miles in, I took the pit stop. I skipped the second station and went on to the halfway point stop. That second stop was longer, I took time to stretch, refill my bottles, eat, pee, before getting back on the road. I skipped the fourth station, and stopped at the fifth, at mile 75. I also skipped the last station at mile 86.
I avoided sugary drinks on the ride (although I did have a soda on the drive from my house to the staging area), drinking mostly water and some nuun, which is basically flavored water with salts. In addition to eating stuff like chocolate chip cookies and PBJ pieces at the stops, I took salt tablets, about one an hour. I attempted to eat a "waffle" on the bike, but it did not go well, I think I lost as much as made it to my mouth, thanks to the chip-seal roads.
I was pretty much riding by myself the whole time. There were a few times I heard somebody on my wheel, but particularly later in the ride, when I looked back going up a hill, they had fallen back. The thing that really bugged me was that there were at least a few packs of people who were not doing a good job of sharing the road. What typically happened was, since I'm a better descender than climber, I would be passed by a pack going uphill, and then there would be no room to pass them on the downhill. I got so frustrated with one group that on the next downhill, I passed somewhat precariously, and dropped the hammer to try to put some more space between us. That seemed to work.
Not that it's a race or anything, I was pleased that my time was less than last year, by about 20 minutes overall and 12 minutes of moving time (for 6:20 and 5:31). I thought the difference would be greater, so I'll say it was because I didn't use my race wheels this year.
I did see (and sometimes pass) quite a few people who did have fancier race-type wheels than the basic ones I was riding on. There were some interesting choices in bikes as well, including a few fixed-gear bikes, cruiser bikes, a mountain bike or two, a recumbent bike, and one trike. In addition to the ones I saw on the road, there was quite a bit of diversity in the bikes on the truck back to Austin that I helped unload after getting back via the bus.
The party in Shiner at the brewery was pretty nice. Probably the best part, in my opinion, was the showers. I might say the beer, but I've never been a huge fan of their beers, and since I don't drink much anymore, when I do I prefer Belgian beer. The food was pretty good, and after two big sausages I felt stuffed to the gills.
I lined up to get on a bus at 2:15, since I didn't feel a burning desire to stick around, and they said the first bus would leave at 2:30. Well, the bus didn't leave until it was completely full, and that didn't happen until after 3. It wasn't terrible sitting on the bus, it was air conditioned, and it was about 95 degrees outside. I actually sat with a co-worker, whom I hadn't seen at all on the ride. It was a little past 4:30 by the time we got back to the parking lot in Austin. The truck with the bikes, despite having left just ahead of the bus, didn't arrive until almost 5. There were only a couple of people there to unload it, so everyone waiting for a bike pitched in and helped. They said there was still room in the truck, so I jumped up to help untangle bikes and hand them to someone else, who set them on racks. When my bike was finally uncovered, about 3/4 of the way through, I jumped out and went to my car. It was hot in that truck, and I was more than ready to be done with the whole ride. I stopped for dinner before I made it home, but as often happens to me after a big day of exercise, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I took almost half of it home.

I got maybe 7 hours of sleep Saturday night. I went to bed at 10, and woke up at 5:15, but was interrupted around 1:30 by thunderstorms. I had no idea they or any rain at all was even expected. It was still raining when I woke up for good. When I checked, the race was still on, and still expected to be on schedule. I left the house at 6, and was parked and checked in at the volunteer tent at 6:45.
I didn't have any long-term plan to be at this race. I never planned to race it the day after a big ride. When I found out several people I know would be racing, I decided I would volunteer. Out of the 800+ competitors, I was surprised that I actually saw most of them. A co-worker, who actually was a rookie triathlete, I somehow ran into before and after the race. The others I just saw on the course.
I was stationed on the bike course, about 4 miles in at a turn from a 4-lane road to a 2-lane. After I left the coordinator, I had zero communication about what was going on, but the sheriff's deputy stationed there had some information. After some delays because there was still some lightning in the area, the race started maybe 20 minutes after the original plan of 8am. I had been sitting in my car out of the rain up until that point, but the race seemed imminent enough and the rain light enough that I waited outside. The pavement makes a terrible transition at the intersection, so there was a fair amount of loose gravel in the road. While I had nothing to do but stand outside in the rain, I tried to clean it as much as possible. After kicking at it for a few minutes, I found the head of a broken broom and used that. Finally about 8:35 some cars came through in advance of the racers. After a few minutes, it was a pretty steady stream until 10:15. The waves were quite mixed up by the time they got to me, but one could still tell the overall trend. First were the best, the open wave; then the "veteran" males; veteran females; "rookie" males; and finally rookie females. I tried to help one woman change a tube while still trying to direct the bike traffic, mainly by proxy with her and the officer trying to fix it. It was only a few minutes before a mechanic on a motorbike came and finished the job. One of the last four or five people to come through was about desperate for water, so I ran over and gave her the bottle I had in my car.
By the end, my arms were pretty tired after waving a giant foam finger and ringing a cowbell for an hour and a half. The foam hand was from the event organizers, the cowbell I picked up the day before in order to cheer everybody on. Two people said they liked it as they rode by. Another said she thought something was wrong with her bike at first. I'm afraid I might have looked glum for the first dozens (or maybe 100) of people who went through. But at some point after 9, the rain had stopped, and the most serious competitors had been by. I really wanted to give cheer to the newbies anyway. They were also more likely to give a word of thanks as they passed, especially the women.
After I was relieved of my duties, I drove back to the main race site. I wandered for a little bit, then got my swim gear out of the car and jumped in the lake. I swam maybe three times as far as what the race swim was, but not nearly as far as the last time I swam in that lake (at Longhorn 70.3).
While I should have gone straight home afterward and taken a nap, I went and saw a movie downtown. If I had realized there was a street fair going on in front of the theater, I definitely would have skipped it.

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