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.

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