Monday, October 29, 2007

Sweatin' Burnt Orange Bike Tour

The Sweatin' Burnt Orange Bike Tour (SBOBT) took place on October 28th. In its third year, the SBOBT has become the primary fund raising event for University of Texas Cycling. As both a student organization and competitive sports team, the club seeks to promote the sport of cycling on campus and facilitate rider development.

The route was though the Texas Hill Country, starting in Blanco and proceeding past many small towns, notably Luchenbach.

The weather has been very nice for several weeks now, with the exception of the wind, which has been rather strong on several occasions. Fortunately, for this ride, the wind was manageable, a welcome break from the Outlaw Trail experience. One section of the course was about due north and into the wind, and that section was tough.

When I left to drive to Blanco, the temperature was about 55 (about 6:45am), by the time I arrived in Blanco (about 8:00am), the temperature was 43 (Brrrr!). I had worn a long sleeve jersey and a vest, so I was not uncomfortable, except for my fingers. I rode around some to warm up, and given the later start, I knew the sun would be shining for a little while before the ride began. That helped some but getting the ride going was the only way to really get warm.

The ride begun at about 8:30am, and there was a bit of jostling during the first mile or so as riders attempted to get closer to the front of the pack. I rode a fairly constant speed since there's little point jumping out fast on what will be a multi-hour ride. One strange occurrence during the first 5 miles was a rider coming to a complete halt at the bottom of a hill within a fairly large group of riders. I can only imagine they had some sort of mechanical issue, I don't believe anyone crashed because of this, but it was unexpected.

Once the group stretched out some, I spent a little while with a group of 4 to 5 riders, one of them a gal, from what I could hear, she was a racer, not sure for who. That group was fairly quick, and we stayed together until they stopped to take a look at her front wheel, there was some play in the wheel (I think) they wanted to examine. One of the other riders was wearing a Bicycle Sport Shop jersey, and could have been a worker there.

From what I could tell, many riders on the 80 mile route took the wrong turn at the spot where the 45/80 course diverged. Apparently, some riders wanted to do this to provide themselves with a longer course (80 miles was fine with me! I took the right turn).

My first stop was at rest stop #4 in Sisterdale.

Some other riders came by about 5 minutes later, and proceeded without stopping, one of them being a buddy from work (who is a strong rider). I chased them down after a few miles (there was a bit of a climb immediately after the rest stop) and stayed with the group more or less until rest stop #6 in Luchenbach. This was the lead group for the 80 mile route, the support truck leading the way was immediately in front of our group.

In between these two stops was rest stop #5 at the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area. The stop was at the end of a long, difficult climb, one I felt was the 2nd hardest of the ride. During the climb, I was behind another rider that slowed more than I estimated, and I had to veer some to the right to make sure I would not collide (although we were both going quite slow). I lost some more speed and rode off the pavement a few feet and stopped. I got the bike back on the road and resumed climbing, by myself now. Once reaching the top, the view was quite nice, with a several observation platforms.

The stop in Luchenbach was welcome, the route had turned back to the southeast. Most of the rest of the group was already there. While resting, another group of riders came by, and did not stop. Most of 'my' group hopped on their bikes and joined up. I decided not to and rested a while longer. I discovered while refilling my bottles that I had lost one of my water bottles, I suspect I had not completely seated it, and it bounced out when I traversed one of the low water crossings (the road was rather rough over many of these). I left the rest stop with another rider who had been in the lead group for a while, although we quickly got separated on the 1st uphill (he fell behind).

The remainder of the ride was on route 1888, with some seriously steep climbs alternating with fairly level roads. The hardest climb of the ride occurred in this section. I heard later the lead group splintered on this climb, it was a quite difficult and long climb. I noticed on several climbs that I could catch and pass riders, however, they would catch and pass me on the downhills or flats.

Near the end of the ride, the road paralleled the Blanco River, it was very pretty and calming view.

I believe the bike computer worked ok on this ride, the time and distance looks reasonable, although the distance was less than advertised (but that may be the case). The average speed was 17.9mph, good for me, and fairly high given the hills.

After the ride, there was BBQ at the square in the center of Blanco. They had the standard fare of sausage, brisket, beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and bread. The local brewing company, Real Ale Brewing Company provided free beer.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Outlaw Trial 100

I decided to ride in the Outlaw Trail 100, it's only been a week since the Challenge, but I felt good enough to ride. I signed up the day before, they have late registration at the same place where packet pickup occurs. After getting my goodie bag, I picked a few freebies (some older water bottles and coozies) they had available. It was not time for the pasta dinner, so I went up to the start/finish line.

The route is marked with 'six shooter' icons to indicate the direction. There are usually two sets of markers before a turn and one after. The ride starts/ends at Old Settler's Park in Round Rock, Tx.

After the dinner, I headed home to get my bike and everything else ready for ride.

The day of the ride was mild, about 70 when the ride began. It would later get up to about 90. When leaving to drive to the park, I could see the wind had already picked up, I suspected that would mean a long day for me and everyone else. Unfortunately, I was correct. The wind was rather relentless, blowing all day from the SE/S/SW, and rather strong at times.

The ride began at 8am, with the usual jumble of folks at the start line. Just after the start, I thought I saw one of my buddies from work zoom past me on the left. I was able to confirm this later.

The first part of the ride is generally north, so the effects of the wind were less obvious. Much of the ride is through farmland, and mostly flat. Too me, it seemed all the uphills were into the wind ;-). I did not spend too much time in any pacelines, I was in a few during the first part of the ride, but they did not last any length of time.

Once the ride turned south (past Barlett), the majority of the ride was back into the wind, sometimes straight into it, and often a healthy crosswind. The country roads used for the ride tend to go straight for many miles, thus, if you are heading into the wind, you know you will be fighting it for a while. This can be a bit discouraging.

I skipped the first two rest stops, and stopped at the rest of them.

When finishing, I noticed the time and distance were less than what I expected (from the numbers I recorded last year). I don't believe the bike computer is incorrect, and I believe the route was the same. The end part of the ride may have been different, but I cannot be sure, that could account for the difference. After talking to my friend at work, we believe the computer probably stopped recording for around one hour. The computer is only six months old, thus, I doubt the battery is failing.

At the end, they had some pizza available, I rested a while and had a few slices. I was not the last to finish ;-)

It was quite a challenge compared to last year, the wind made a huge difference.

Friday, October 19, 2007

LiveStrong Challenge - Day 3 (Sunday the 14th) - Ride

Challenge Ride Day! Would all my training let me complete the Challenge?

(Update: Pictures taken by the professional photographers at Kreutz Photography are online).

Due to the limited parking and access to Dripping Springs, the LAF suggested arriving early, and to expect delays. Thus, the day started very early for me, at 4am (I don't like to rush). The drive from Pflugerville to Dripping Springs is a little less than an hour, I decided I wanted to leave between 5:30 and 6:00. I had laid pretty much everything out the night before (clothes, food, etc), so I just had to eat breakfast, get dressed, and load the car. I left about 5:35, needless to say, there was not much traffic to fight. I arrived in Dripping Springs a bit before 6:30, and parked in the Dripping Springs ISD Administration building parking lot. This is where I had parked last month. There were several other participants already there, using the same lot. It's a bit hidden, thus I was pretty confident I'd have little trouble parking.

I rode up to the high school (it was about a mile), the police had closed off the rightmost, westbound lane of 290. It was still dark out, and since parking was not allowed at the high school, some parts of the road past the 'official' parking were quite dark, fortunately, this did not cause any problems. Once I found the bag dropoff, I checked in my bag for the post-ride event. I rode around a bit to warmup and got into line a ways back from the starting line.

While waiting, an unexpected occurrence was turning around and seeing Davis Phinney standing right next to me, he was finding his way up to the front of the pack, it sounded like they were delivering his bike to him. I had seen a recent interview he had done with You can read more about his foundation here.

It was getting near sunrise and I wanted to start taking pictures (with my cell phone camera). When I checked my jersey pocket, the phone was not there. I knew I had it in the car, so the only two possibilities were that I left it in the car, or it had fallen out since. I did not think I had enough time to make the round trip to the car to investigate, so I just hoped it was there (it was, phew). However, since I did not have the camera, I could not take any pictures during ride, I was somewhat disappointed about this, and felt rather dumb :-)

The ride started a few minutes late, with the 'Ride for the Roses' riders leaving first, followed by the 90 milers (then 60, 40, and 10). The path out of the parking lot narrowed, thus they limited groups to ~100 riders each leaving the lot, to preclude having an accident. I believe I was in the 5th group to leave.

The section of the course from Dripping Springs to Wimberley was into the wind for the bulk of the ride, although the wind was not terribly strong at the time. They had warned us at the start about a low water crossing about 8 miles in, the water was only about 1 inch deep, but the bridge had algae growing, making it extremely slippery. The volunteers made us dismount and walk our bikes across. Even doing that, one person just in front of me fell, and another next to me slipped, but maintained their balance (road bike shoes have no traction). This was the only low water crossing with water present, thankfully. There was a surplus of cattle guards on the route, which as long as you cross perpendicular to the pipes, are not a problem (just a bit bumpy).

The ride from Wimberley to Blanco was gradually uphill for the route, but was more or less with the wind. There were some spectacular views of the Hill Country along the way. I believe it was on this section that we took a fairly sharp left turn, with lots of gravel on the road. The volunteer warned us to slow down, but one rider close to me took the corner too fast, his back tire lost traction, and he went down hard. We slowed and asked him if he was ok, he said he was. It certainly looked painful.

The route from Blanco back toward Dripping Springs/Wimberley was the most difficult part. It was mostly into the wind and also contained the most demanding hills. I normally ride on the big chainring, but for some of these hills, I had to shift to the smaller chainring (I have a double). There were 4 to 5 pretty severe climbs. I did not have to walk the bike up any of the hills, although I was tempted a few times.

I noticed I was a bit faster than most folks during hill climbs, but some of them would pass me on the downhills/flats. I remember on one hill, I must have passed a group of 25-30 folks, they were just going too dang slow to suit me ;-)

We rejoined the shorter route riders, taking a hard left and heading north back to Dripping Springs. While not the most difficult in terms of grade, I had pain in my left foot at this point. From some research I've done, this is likely caused by my use of mountain bike shoes/cleats instead of road bike/cleats. MB cleats are smaller and apply pressure over a smaller area to a nerve in the foot. The pain was often worse while gliding as opposed to pedalling.

I worked through this and was able to complete the ride in just over 5 riding hours 5:03:10, riding 87.61 miles, averaging 17.3 mph. Given the difficulty of the course, and the wind, which had progressively increased during the ride, I was pleased with the accomplishment.

After finishing (a goodly number of people cheer you through the Start/Finish, which is really nice), I took a short rest, and rode back to the car to get my phone. As mentioned earlier, it was in the car. I returned, got some food and beer, watched the band (Wideawake) some, and unwound from the ride. It turned out that Amanda (her pics) had texted me during the ride, but I never noticed even after retrieving my phone (I noticed after I had returned home).

It was a compelling experience, one I will repeat next year.

LiveStrong Challenge - Day 2 (Saturday the 13th) - Dinner

The Appreciation dinner was held Saturday night at the ACC. Challenge participants with more than $5,000 worth of donations were invited. Of course, it's a testament to the generosity of my donors that I was able to attend. I thank each of you again for supporting the LAF.

After signing in and getting name tags, several different types of hors d'oeuvres were served prior to dinner.

Once the dining room opened, at each table, each seat had a small gift, a Nissan keychain (Nissan is a corporate sponsor for the LAF). There were numerous buffet lines to the back of the room (with the same food), thus, getting dinner was very quick. The dinner consisted of a salad, a make-it-yourself Caeser salad, with lettuce & cheese, sliced tomatoes, a tray of cold chicken breasts with grilled red peppers, a tray of mushrooms (which I skipped). The main "course" was bread, honey wheat penne pasta, with marinara or alfredo sauce, and Parmesan chicken breasts. There was also a rice dish of some sort (which I skipped).

There were several different types of desserts, including tiramasu, and white cake. Coffee and tea were available, I got a little decaf knowing I had an early morning.

Once dinner was finished, Doug Ulman gave a short speech thanking the donors. He invited up Chris Carmichael, who was Lance's coach (and is an author now of several books). After a short talk from Chris, Lance got up to talk. He presented a short slide show which detailed the history of the LAF, from it's inception at Z Tejas, through the first Challenge event, up through and past Lance's 7 Tour wins. He mentioned how Nike started the yellow bracelet craze in 2004, and how they thought what a failure it would be. They initially created 500,000 bands, and the LAF was wondering what they would do with the other 498,000 bands that they wouldn't be able to sell. As we know, the reality was markedly different. So far, 70,000,000 bracelets have been sold. Lance also discussed the fairly recent Sports Illustrated cover story, with him and several other cancer survivors (all children). One had had a recurrence of cancer and had died (and the cost it imposed on his family had made them homeless. While not going into details, Lance mentioned that he and the LAF were providing for the family). One of the other kids was at the dinner. It was a very compelling story.

Lance mentioned his Mom would be in the ride tomorrow, and that no one should run into her ;-)

After Lance finished, Doug took over again. He went through a series of slides, reading every donor name in the $5,000-$10,000, $10,000-$20,000, and +$20,000 ranges. They asked us to stand as your name was read. For some donors, where he had a personal connection with them, he would relay some extra information or a story. Many people, whose websites/blogs I had visited and read, were there.

They then invited 3 special donors to the stage, the top individual donor (Zang Toi), the person with the most donors (Matt Pomeroy, with 571 donors, and the Team Captain (Steve Ruess) of the team with the most members (Team Dell with 200 members). Each gave a short speech, and had a picture taken with Lance holding a special LIVESTRONG jersey encased in a frame.

Lance gave some further remarks concerning Proposition 15, and how he would be traveling around the state before the election advocating passage. Doug also presented the video concerning the LAF Presidential Forum they held back in August.

The event was quite inspiring, making you realize you could do more, and that you should do more.

LiveStrong Challenge - Day 2 (Saturday the 13th) - Walk

The LIVESTRONG Challenge Walk/Run took place at the Texas State Capital, with the start/finish line just south of the capital building on 11th street. The weather was beautiful, and the temperature was very mild.

(Update: Pictures taken by the professional photographers at Kreutz Photography are online).

I parked in the Capital Visitor's Garage. When I arrived, it was fairly empty and still pretty dark out (sunrise is about 7:30). From there, it was just a 5 minute walk over to the Capital grounds. The stage was setup on the southwest corner of 11th and Congress, with the start/finish to the left, and the jumbotron to the right. I arrived maybe 45 minutes before the start time and stayed near the front of the crowd, at one of the gates to the Capital grounds (they wanted the crowd off of 11th Street). The announcer indicated the runners should be ahead of the walkers, but I liked where I was standing!

About 20 minutes before the start, the special bus (being used for Lance's trip around the state advocating Propostition 15) pulled up, and Lance and Andy Roddick (the tennis pro, he lives in Austin) got off. At this point they they motioned for the crowd to move up to the stage. Doug Ulman (the President of the LAF) gave a short welcome, followed by Andy, followed by Lance. Lance also announced the winner of the T-shirt contest. Mia Hamm and Bev Kearney (Track & Field coach from UT Austin) were also there, along with some the local politicians supporting Proposition 15.

Once the short speeches were done, the pace car, followed by Lance, Andy, and Doug lined up and the run started. Even though I don't run, I did today, to not be crushed by the large group of runners behind me. I probably went a 1/4 mile before stopping. (This was not a good idea, since I do not run, the tibialis anterior muscle became sore, and was still sore the next day for the ride. Fortunately, this did not affect me). I walked the remainder of the way. I did not get an official chip timer, I believe my times were 13:20 for mile 1, 29:29, for mile 2, and 48:00 for mile 3. As I crossed the bridge going north on Colorado, I could still see the folks heading south crossing the newly renamed Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.

When coming to the finish, the announcer was calling out people's names, and I was by myself so I was all set to be 'announced'. At that moment he says "I see the first Pedicab is now finishing". It came up and passed me just before the finish line. Needless to say, they skipped me, oh well. There were numerous Pedicabs, carrying kids from the Dell Children's Hospital. After I finished, I got a banana or two, and a bagel, and watched other folks finish for a little while.

Monday, October 15, 2007

LiveStrong Challenge - Day 1 (Friday the 12th)

Today was checkin day at the Austin Convention Center (ACC). I took a 1/2 day of vacation so I could drive down in the afternoon. I left about 3:45 and discovered why I don't normally drive this time of day, lots and lots and lots of traffic! It was stop and go traffic from 51st street (near the old airport) all the way downtown. I was not in any particular rush, so the heavy traffic was more annoying than inconvenient.

I used the parking voucher provided by the LAF to park in the ACC parking garage, I almost had to go to the roof to find an empty spot. Once parked, I proceeded across the street to the ACC. The LIVESTRONG Village was on the far side of the center. There was also a "Thomas the Train Engine" event occurring :-). There was a real train just outside the ACC, with rides every so often.

Once I made it over to the Village, I wandered around the various booths, eventually getting myself in line to pickup the registration packet. It was a fairly long line, but it moved along quite quickly, there were probably 25 workers processing the participants. I give the LAF great credit for setting up this up so well, you didn't ever feel they were taking longer than necessary. For each person who had a greater than $1,000 total donation amount, they rang a cowbell.

Once I had my packet, I went over to the "Remembrance/Survivor" wall where I added cards for brother and Mom. On the day of the ride, they had taken the wall out to Dripping Springs, many new cards had been added,

Near the wall, I ran into Henrike (her ride pictures) who I had recognized from her blog. I walked over and asked her if she was riding with Amanda. She looked a little confused, how would this random person she never met know that? I explained that Amanda and I had been trading email and had done a little ride out in Dripping Springs last month.

After that, I looked around a little more, and decided to head home, it was getting close to dinner time.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First cool front of the fall

The first cool front arrived last night, not hugely cooler than before, but a definite wind shift. There's another front arriving sometime this weekend, it would be better to be sooner, to let the wind die down some before the ride. Thus far, it seems this 2nd front will be dry, so no rain, we will soon find out.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Countdown to the Challenge, less than a week

Just 5 more days until the walk, and 6 more till the ride. It's been raining on and off since yesterday. Today and tomorrow are supposed to the rainy days, with nice weather through the upcoming weekend. Hopefully that forecast holds, it would be about 85 both days. Not too warm for myself, but it may be a little warm for folks coming from out of town -- but better than the 90s we've been having.

Tune-up complete

I got the bike back the next day (10/2), I just didn't write about it. The bike shop called about 7:30pm Monday night, but I was already home (and Prison Break was on!)

They did their 'Member tune', which covers the basic lubing, chain cleaning, and adjustments to brakes and shifters/dérailleurs.

The did replace the cover for the brake/shifter lever, it's amazing what a little piece of plastic costs ;-)

They fixed the headset, per their text:

Upper sealed bearing seal was popped out of bearing. Shot some new grease, reinserted seal and adjusted preload. Top-cap was bottoming out on steerer, had to add one 2.5mm spacer.

Also, from the crash I had back in April:

RR der hanger aligned, nasty gouging damage on RR der, is shifting nicely now.

I agree, the shifting is quick and responsive. There was also this comment:

The tape I had to indicate saddle height slipped during tune, please have Stephen re-check that the height is acceptable, sorry.

I think the saddle is slightly higher than I had it before, but it feels a bit better also. I'll ride it this way for a while, see if it stays comfortable (it is so far). This last weekend's rides were the first time after the tune-up, the bike worked great.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The bike is at the shop

I took the bike in this morning to the Bicycle Sport Shop. Of course, I succeeded in driving away from home WITHOUT the bike, doh! Fortunately, I only went about 1/2 a mile before realizing that. I did not have any trouble getting the bike into the car, with the hurt back, it could have been an issue, but all went well. Same when I got to the shop, no trouble maneuvering the bike.

There's some play in the headset, they will remedy that (they said prolonged use with the steerer tube loose can cause damage, but it's only been that way for a short time). I'm also going to get a replacement cover for the right brake handle, it's a small plastic cover that busted off when I crashed back in April. It's not really needed, but it provides a smoother feel to the top the brake handle, where your hand rests when you have them on the brake hoods.