Monday, October 1, 2007

Conquer the Coast - Corpus Christi 2007

This weekend, my wife and I traveled down to Corpus Christi, Texas, for their 4th annual "Conquer the Coast" endurance ride. We originally signed up for the 25 mile ride, as my wife had just purchased a new road bike and we wanted her to be comfortable, but she told me she wanted to do the 65 mile ride instead (the only other option apart from an 18 mile time trial).

We got into Corpus at about 9:00pm and made the registration book just before they closed,upgrading to the 65 mile ride for an extra $10.00 each. No worries. Then, back to the hotel for an early night before the ride.

At 6:30am on ride day, I was awoken by a massive clap of thunder! Lovely... A major storm had hit the area, and roads were being closed down. Even the local Naval Air Station had closed down, which was supposed to be part of the 65 mile ride. We got in touch with someone at the starting area while we were still at our hotel and the decision was initially made to delay the 65 mile ride for an hour. We ate some of the hotel's free continental brekky, then another call - 65 mile ride canceled, 25 mile ride still on! My wife and I loaded up the bikes onto the car real quick and headed to the start line.

We were still getting sorted out at the start line when the ride started. We joined in the back, and for the most part had an okay ride. It rained through the ride a fair bit, and we got utterly saturated. At the turnarounf/half-way point, we took a quick rest for drinks and snacks before heading back to the start/finish line. Shortly after that point I came across a lady who was having issues with a flat tire. I stopped to assist, telling my wife to continue and I that I would catch up. Thirty minutes, a broken tube valve and impossibly tight tire to put back on the wheel later, and I was off again. I hooned past everyone to catch my wife, averaging about 33 km/h, but couldn't reach her. I crossed the finish line just fine, picking up my finisher's medal and meeting my wife for some free pasta and beer!

Because we had left the kids with their grandparents back home, we could then enjoy a relaxing afternoon and evening in Corpus. We toured around a bit in the car, and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at Landry's too. After that we hung out on one of the piers drinking coffee and watching the local fisherman.

The next morning, it was rather nice! We awoke to sunny skies and gentle winds coming in from the Gulf. With a few hours to spare, we popped on our bikes and rode another 25 miles, just for fun. Despite the two flats I got en-route, it was a very nice ride and took our weekend tally up to 50 miles! Not a bad effort!

Next year we'll be back, and the coast shall be conquered!

Monday, September 24, 2007

A New Bike for the Mrs!

I got a nice little bonus from my company, so decided to use it to get my wife a road bike. She has been riding a Raleigh mountain bike for a year or so, and was even taking part in some rides/triathlons with it too! Last Saturday, she and her riding buddy rode 47 miles on their mountain bikes, so I knew it was time to get her on a road bike.

We shopped around and came across a very nice Bianchi Eros. It had a steel frame (kinda heavy but she was okay with it0, carbon forks, decent gear set and was generally a sound bike. She loved it after the first test ride! So, we got quite a good deal on it (saved about $300) and she is now a Bianchi owner, just like moi!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clipless Pedals

My wife bought me some Shimano clipless pedals for my birthday! I've been out on them a few times, and it didn't take me too long to get used to. It does feel a bit strange being attached to the bike like that, but it works quite well. I am able to generate a fair bit more power on my rides. No falls yet, although folks tell me will happen...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hotter 'N Hell 100

This past weekend I rode and COMPLETED my first century ride - 100 miles!!!! Based in Wichita Falls, Texas, the HH100 is one of the biggest rides in the country. Riders must reach the 60 mile mark (aka "Hell's Gate" within six hours of the start time or be forced to ride a smaller ride). The rides are typically done in sweltering, windy conditions and it's a pretty tough ride.

I had been preparing for this ride for quite some time. Not as seriously as I wanted to, however. During the previous week, I rode a total of around 40 miles around my local area, and also put 10 miles on the stationary bike at the gymnasium. We drove up to my in-laws place, which is still about 2 hrs away from where the HH100 was being held, but my plan was to have an early night, wake up at about 4:00am and drive the rest of the way to be there in time for the 7:30 start. My plan went just fine, and I actually arrived an hour earlier than planned, which gave me time to gear up, register, and meet my riding mates at the start line.

All-in-all, there was about 11,000 riders for the event. There were different rides available, ranging from the 10mile beginner's ride through to the 100 suicide mission. While at the start line, I was still trying to determine whether or not to attempt the full 100 miles or veer off from my group and ride the "Metric 100" (100 kms). I was feeling really pumped and energized, though, and in my mind I had already made the decision to do the full 100 miles.

After a cannon blast and an awesome four-ship T-37 Air Force flyover, the ride got underway! I had read that previous starts were slow and tricky as all 11,000 riders made their way through the start gate. But this morning, the start was staggered in a very organized way, and we were off and rolling in under ten minutes! That was perfect, as I was concerned the longer I stayed on the start line, the lesser my chances of making Hell's Gate. No major incidents at the start, except a few folks losing their water bottles which caused the rest of the riders to be more cautious.

Some research I had done online indicated that riders who take on these big rides should "eat before they are hungry and drink before they are thirst". This was my mantra for the ride. The previous night I ate a decent steak dinner at Luby's, and ate bagels and bananas for breakfast with coffee and Gatorade on the drive up to Wichita Falls. Throughout the ride, I set my watch timer to a recurring 10 minute countdown, just to remind me to take a drink of water or Gatorade (I had a bottle of each on my bike). At each rest stop, I ate like a pig (lots of bananas, pickles and cookies when I could) so as to build up a decent energy store for the remaining ride.

I came upon the decision point to ride either the 100 kilometers or the 100 miles. My body felt fine, mind was focused and I just rode straight part the turnoff without a second thought. No turning back now...

The first 50 miles was relatively incident-free. We skipped the first rest stop to buy time, and stopped at the 20 mile mark for about 10 minutes or so. Skipped the 30 mile stop and got to the 40 mile stop without issues. At the 50 mile mark, however, my left toeclip came mostly off the pedal due to a screw that had somehow loosened during the ride, so I had to stop at that rest stop and get it repaired. Shortly after departing that stop, it fell off again! I borrowed my friend's knife and cut it off completely, deciding to instead ride without it (still had the clip on the other pedal, which was just fine).

We made Hell's Gate (complete with folks dressed as devils with pitchforks, spurring us on) with 30 minutes to spare. I was so excited and pleased that I got there. After making that checkpoint, our riding group decided to kick back and just relax and enjoy the ride. That was at about 12:30 or so, and the temperatures started picking up at that point. From then on we stopped at each rest stop and took it easy on the roads, trying not to overdo it.

Between the 70 and 80 mile mark was the hardest for me, psychologically. My legs were trapped in a rhythmic pedal, eager to keep moving around the comfortable pace I had set for the ride. My mind, however, started wrestling with the thought of retiring. It was getting hotter, and it seemed that there was a new gentle slope to climb with each corner I turned. When i got to the 80 mile rest stop, however, I knew I had just 20 miles to go and needed to finish the ride. Another long rest stop, more grub in the stomach and I was off with the group again.

The 90 mile rest stop was a fun stop, but between that and the end there were some chaps who had set up free beer and hot dogs in the factory that they owned. We pulled in and enjoyed some free booze, chatting about the ride, before setting off through the streets of Wichita Falls to finish the ride.

The finish line was good fun. I felt a ping of energy as I new I was finishing the ride and picked up the pace as I cruised through the streets of Wichita Falls. My wife, kids and mother-in-law were waiting at the finish line for me, and it was hugs all around. I couldn't believe I had just rode 100 miles!!! Brilliant!

The ride was exceptionally well-organized. My hat (bike helmet?) off to the volunteers and sponsors - excellent event. Would i do it again? Most likely. There is a 100 mile ride closer to home in October, and then I'd like to try for the MS150 (Houston to Austin) tide in April of next year.

They say the temperatures got to around 97 that day. I did certainly feel very hot, especially with the heat seeming to emanate from the road below us too. The winds were okay, nothing to really complain about but they did, at certain points, add to the workout.

So, my first century done and many more fun cycling miles to go...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bike Serviced and Ready To Go!

I plonked the bike in for a quick tune-up before the big ride. For only $40.00 I thought it would give me some extra piece of mind before I took it on long distance rides. The gears were playing up a little bit, especially in the mid-range, and I figured this was just the new cables loosening up after a few months of use.

Turns out I made a good move. The rear derailer was actually bent outwards, which the bike mechanic thought was rather weird, and the bearings in my headset were a bit rough. So, he fixed it all for me and now it rides like a real dream!

I also bought a new Giro helmet today. I needed something with a bit more ventilation than my current helmet and a sun visor to help with the sun, and found a good model for sale pretty cheap at the local Academy (the same model was $15.00 more at a dedicated bike shop).

All I need now are some new gloves, and to keep up the training, and it's time for the big ride (Hotter 'N Hell 100). It's two weeks away now and I think I will be safe and not try and do the full 100 miles. There is a decision point where the riders can decide upon 100 miles or 100 kilometers (a.k.a. "Metric 100"). I feel good about 100 km's, much better than doing 100 miles. But, I'll make the decision on the day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

So much for starting an aggressive training plan...

Two weeks ago I signed up for the Hotter 'N Hell 100 Mile bike ride. I was originally aiming to do just the 50 mile ride but a mate of mine suggested I sign up for the 100 mile and then decide my actual target distance the day of the race. Sounds fair.

I was going to pick up the training this week, and try to get out on the bike each night. But, the weather has put a stop to that. As can be seen below, we have lovely storms forecast pretty much each day of the week.

So, it looks like I'll be training at the gym instead. If the forecast is right, Sunday should be relatively decent and I am planning a 50 mile ride East of Austin just to get the ball rolling and prepare for some long distance endurance riding.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Let's Ride!

Inspired by the current Tour de France? Perhaps.

But, anyone who has been reading my astronomy blog for the last few months would realize that it has changed its theme, somewhat. Small blog entries surrounding new bike purchases, occasional attempts at large scale cycling events and the odd moan and grumble about the poor weather hampering with training activities have been interfering with geeky posts about observing the heavens with fancy telescopes. We can't have that - no!

So, in the age of free blogospheres and publishing one's life activities for the world to see, I decided to create this here blog to capture my cycling goals, adventures and mishaps.

I've actually been cycling for many years. Back in my home country of Australia, I often rode my old Graecross Trekker mountain bike into the main city area to terrorize pedestrians and up into the local mountain ranges for some serious endo~ing and general tomfoolery. Actually, I averaged around 150KM per week, which isn't bad.

Since moving to the States, I'd bought another mountain bike to keep me going, an el cheapo Raleigh M150, which I have ridden here and there. I never really got back into it, though. Early this year, however, I met some folks who got me a little hyped about it, and after much thought and procrastination decided to get back into long distance riding again.

Two months ago I purchased a new road bike. It's a Bianchi Via Narone with Sora gear-set. It's the 2007 entry level bike for this manufacturer, but cost me around $700.00. I am told you can't spend much less than that for a decent entry-level road bike. Anyway, this bike test-rode the best out of the others I tried for the same price range, and anyway, it just looks cool!

In the last few months, I have been trying to get into the flow through frequent Sunday morning rides averaging between 15-30 miles and two hard sprint rides (about 8 miles) a week. It's not brilliant, but it's a start. Also, back in early June I rode my first major event, a 35 mile fun ride in Fayetteville, Texas. Lots of rest stops with free water, Gatorade and fruit and cookies. A really fun event that got my motivation lifted way up there!

So now I have a goal. Next year, I think in April, will be the next MS-150 ride, a two-day charity ride benefiting Multiple Sclerosis suffers. Total distance is 150 miles (although folks tell me it is more like 180 miles!). This is the ride I am going to train for, and this blog will serve as a record and, maybe, a motivational source for others to try and do something similar.

Here's the deal. I am overweight by about 30 pounds. Being in my 30s I have let things go somewhat. Still, in the three months that I have had the bike, I have actually lost 20 pounds total. So, if I can keep up the cycling with the light dieting I am doing, and partake in a few other cycling events between now and the MS150, maybe I can reach my target weight and have fun doing it.

So, come back often, if you're so inclined, and see just how committed I remain to this adventure!