Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tour Das Hugel 09

I finished!! I don't think I need to ever worry about going on a harder ride than this in the Central Texas area. Really. I mean it. Really.

The Tour Das Hugel was held on November 14th. This time of year the weather is rather unpredictable, but it was one of the good days, high 50s in the morning and topping out about 80 late in the afternoon. I wore several layers, but was down to just the jersey by the end. It was quite a nice sunrise to start the day.

I wore my Alaska jersey (that's me facing away from the camera at rest stop #3, another one) which usually gets a comment or two from fellow riders. One of the folks I rode with for a while (the guy on the right) did the Texas 4000, a ride from Texas to Alaska to raise money to fight cancer.

The Hugel ride strings a large number of the worst hills in Austin into a long 110 mile route. Your reward for finishing? A Hugel T-shirt. It is a prized possession as this is a very difficult route. Depending on who you believe, the elevation gain is somewhere between 11,000 and 14,000 feet. Yea, that's alot, either way. I do most of my riding east of Austin, where there are rolling hills, none of them approaching the severity of hills in Hugel. That was a bit of a concern for me.

The ride is divided into two loops, loop 1 which stays south of Lake Austin, and loop 2 that goes north. The south loop is shorter and is considered easier, it's about 1/3 of the total distance. For me, the worst hill on the first loop was the High Road, I had to stop and walk a tiny bit of it at the end (*more on this later*). Just before that is Toro Canyon which is not as steep, but I had left myself in the big chain ring, that made it alot harder than it needed to be -- lesson learned. Rest stop #1 was served out of the back of some SUVs, a good number of people stopped. The remainder of loop 1 was not overly difficult, the climb back up Lost Creek was quite long though. Rest stop #2 was at a Catholic school, and almost everyone stopped. It was near the intersection of Barton Creek and Lost Creek. I was happy we got to ride down Barton Creek and not up.

After returning to the Start/Finish, I intended to change from my commuting sandals into my regular road shoes but somehow just forgot. That probably made it harder on myself, but more of a challenge.

After starting loop 2, I came upon a group of riders wearing Trek U-23 and Mellow Johnny kits, it was Lance Armstrong with his buddies. I passed them..... ok, ok, they were going the opposite direction :-) Lance made a 'how you doing?' comment as we passed.

In loop 2, the 1st unmanageable hill for me was Smokey Valley, I nearly reached the top without stopping but lost my balance and had to stop. I was close to the top and walked up the rest. Ladera Norte is just after that, rather evil to place the hills so close, but I managed to crest LN without incident.

My next challenge came at Beauford, just a horrible road as it's textured for traction, quite awful for bike riding. I stopped maybe 1/2 way for a rest, and proceeded up the remainder of the hill. The only good thing about climbing Beauford is you get to descend Jester, where you go scary fast. I thought I had triggered my camera to record the descent but I must not have pressed the button.

After returning to Loop 360, the next hill was Courtyard, which has several tiers, each steeper than the prior. I had to dismount on the last one and walk the rest of the way up. With very little relief after that you end up on City Park Road starting immediately on a steep climb. I rested once on the way up once, but rode the whole distance. The trio of Beauford / Courtyard / City Park makes for the difficult section of the course.

The route proceeds out to River Place, which is a relatively long climb, and reaches rest stop #4 adjacent to a small park. This is also rest stop #5 as you return to it once you take 620 down to Mansfield Dam. It's not so steep returning from the Dam but it's the longest sustained climb of the ride. The route out to the lake takes a loop past the Oasis restaurant, which has a stunning view of Lake Travis. The loop returns via Bullick Hollow Road, which visually, given the approach to it, looks incredibly steep. It's one of the shorter climbs as it turns out, but on a fairly busy road, so no weaving left & right to get up the hill.

Here's some video from around River place, the song title is somewhat appropriate....

After rest stop #5, there's a long descent down Big View, what I did not realize until I reached the bottom is you pull a U-turn and immediately start back up the hill - that's a real thrill (ouch!).

Once back up Big View, you retrace the route back towards Austin, eventually taking City Park Road back to 2222, and then to Jester. At the bottom of Jester, the ride distance is 94 miles. I suppose they place Jester last just to test your mettle - it works.... But given you've gone this far, who would really not continue? I stopped twice on the way up but rode the whole distance. The final rest stop, #6, is at the top. I took a well deserved rest.

I hung with a group wearing TdH jerseys pretty much to the end, all that was left was taking Loop 360 south back to finish. There's no real severe hills after Jester but you are pretty depleted at this point. What little wind there was, was a headwind for that final set of miles.

I finished with a ride time of 7:48, and a distance of 110.4 miles. The folks at the finish wanted to know if I planned on doing the ride again next year. It was perhaps was not the best time to ask that particular question! ;-)

I mentioned the hills I stopped on, but there were some I conquered!
  • Toro Canyon
  • Terrace Mountain
  • River Hills
  • Barton Creek
  • Lost Creek
  • Mt. Bonnell
  • Mesa
  • Ladera Norte
  • Bluegrass
  • River Place
  • Bullick Hollow
  • 620 return
  • Big View
Some reasons I needed to stop on the climbs?
  • I left my rack on the bike. I should remove my rack I use for commuting, do I need to pull another pound of metal up all those hills?
  • I should not wear my commuting sandals. You cannot really pull on the pedals in the sandals vs normal shoes. However, I find the sandals to be quite comfortable, which is important for long rides.
  • Maybe the most important - make sure I can shift into the low gears. The chain would not stay in the biggest cog on the back, a 26T (I thought it was a 25T, that's the spec for the bike), it would shift back to the 23T cog when power was applied, I need to check the high limit screw. I could tell during some climbs the cadence of folks near me was quicker. With everyone going the same speed, they were definitely in a lower gear. I know the lower gearing would help getting up those hills.
  • The are really, really, really steep hills! ;-)
I found this staple in my back tire the next morning, I wonder how long it was stuck there?!? I'm not sure I want to know, given how fast some of the descents were. Yikes! I also saw that the back brake quick release lever was open, but I do not know if I did that Sunday morning just prior to changing the tube or whether I rode with it open. I normally always check it prior to riding but cannot be sure.

I'll reserve judgement on whether I'll do this ride again. I have lots of time to decide. Maybe I'll forget the pain ;-)

The remainder of the pictures are here. A nice article about the Hugel ride can be found here. Another writeup is here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

LiveStrong Challenge 09 - Day 3 (the 25th), the Ride

I left for Dripping Springs at about 5:45am. There was less construction this year on 290, about 1 mile's worth, but I did not want to rush. Hopefully, next year, they can finish up, finally. It's actually more trouble when leaving, the backups are worse heading back towards Austin. I parked at the same place as last year, the Dripping Springs ISD Administration building, away from the crush of the 'official' parking.

To the DOLT who almost ran me over as I left the parking lot, pay the least bit of attention, we'd all appreciate it. The 'vertical white lines' (in the center of the image) are concrete barriers, he managed to miss where he should have turned (he was heading west, to the left of the map) an pulled into the oncoming traffic lane where I was, +1 on the stupid meter. Now back to the important stuff.

Once I arrived at the high school, I got in line with the other 3800 or so cyclists, at least most of them were behind me as they stage the longer distance riders to the front. The start was on time, with the sun breaking through the clouds just as the ride began. It was a very nice day, eventually topping 80 degrees.

A big Thank You to my supporters and friends, it's your generosity that inspires me and makes my participation possible.

Just about 10 minutes after starting, I rode past a large group that had stopped and were off their bikes around someone who had presumably fallen, he was on his back by the side of the road. An medic on a motorcycle passed us heading in the opposite direction, I'm supposing to aid the fellow. All it takes is a slight distraction with so many people so close to have a problem.

Speaking of that, a bit later, I hooked onto one of the pacelines of riders that would come up and pass you, this one I hung on to. After about 5 minutes, the rider 3 up from me had a blowout. The riders behind him bailed to the sides, fortunately, no one went down, including the rider who had the blowout. The remainder of the ride was uneventful - a good thing.

There were plenty of hills, not too bad. The wind kicked up some from the south, which made the ride a bit more difficult than last year. The south wind made the end part of the ride downwind, I appreciated that.

After finishing, I left my bike at the 'corral' and got some grub, and also some beer over at the beer tent, although, there was not really a tent like the had the year before. It was warm and sunny enough that some shade would have been nice.

I headed back home at about 4pm, a bit tired, but looking forward to the Challenge next year.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

LiveStrong Challenge 09 - Day 2 (the 24th), the Walk

The walk was held in downtown Austin. They advise you to get there early which made parking rather easy. After walking past the Capital Building, I stopped by the 'breakfast' area and got a banana nut muffin, it was good.

I walked up to the front by the stage, and had a great vantage point for the remarks made just before the start, this year by Doug Ulman and Eric Shanteau (UT swimmer and current world champion).

They had the runners line up to the left and the walkers to the right at the start line, so I did not need to run at all, which suited me. In prior years, you needed to run a bit, just to get out of the way of the throng. There were alot of pedicabs again, weaving amongst us, I imagine they start once all the foot traffic has mostly cleared the start line.

Here's what a speedy 4 MPH looks like...

There was no UT football game in Austin this year, thus none of the tail-gating and parking concerns of the prior year.

I headed home at about 9:30, and got a short ride in to tone up the legs for the ride tomorrow.

LiveStrong Challenge 09 - Day 2 (the 24th), Appreciation Dinner

The dinner was held at the Austin Music Hall, at 2nd & Nueces. Not sure, but since Mellow Johnny's is just up the street, they may have it here from now on. A 'private' party of a sort for VIPs was at MJs just prior to the dinner. I wandered around MJs for a bit, nice place.

Once back at the Music Hall, I mingled, got a few beers and waited for dinner to be served, and waited, and waited. The dinner started about 45 minutes to an hour late, I suspect the VIP party ran a little long. I saw Henrike, my friend from Germany. We talked for a little bit. It was nice to see her again.

Since the dinner started late, the speeches started early. I was still working on my salad when they first began. The speeches from the various award winners were all quite good, Elden Nelson, aka Fat Cyclist, gave a very good one. His team raised the most money.

Fatty's Speech at 2009 Austin LiveStrong Challenge from Fat Cyclist on Vimeo.

Lance took some questions from the audience, one being "How fast have you ever gone on a bike?". 75 mph -- that's about 35 mph faster than I would ever care to go. Just plain scary.

The event ended on time, a good thing, since it was going to be an early morning for anyone who needed to get out to the ride.

Friday, October 23, 2009

LiveStrong Challenge 09 - Day 1 (the 23rd), Registration

Registration was held at the Austin Convention Center, in the same area as the past two years. The layout inside was moved around some, but not radically different. One addition this year was a number of custom bike builders showing their wares. I'd read about some of them, perhaps something I could look at doing in the future.

Chris Carmichael (Lance's coach) was there again, at the Nissan booth signing autographs and posing for pictures. I thought he might be signing his new book, but alas, just a card. He said he'd be riding the 65 mile route since he had to fly out Sunday afternoon.

The Tribute wall this year was centrally located, and, unfortunately, had many, many cards. I made up some cards and posted them for my family members and my friend from work.

I then went to registration to get my bibs, and the other assorted items. I looked around some more, and thought about getting a Cycles Gladiator jersey, they have a most interesting logo. I decided not to, I have enough jerseys for now.

I then headed back home, fighting though the downtown traffic.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Outlaw Trail 09

The Outlaw Trail 100 was held on October 17th this year. Once again, I rode my bike to and back from the event, normally about a 15 mile round trip. The prior evening I enjoyed the pasta dinner, and saw several people I knew, one that I had not seen in perhaps 7 years.

Even though the LiveStrong Challenge was the next weekend, I intended to do the full 100 miles.... However, I missed a turn just after Granger Lake, the result was I cut off about 16 miles from the route. And instead of getting lost, the road I was on rejoined the course, lucky for me. I thought I had seen the markers for the turn, but the person directly in front of me, and a person about 100 yards up the road both went straight. Only a bit later did I discover the person up the road was not part of the ride, he turned off the course just after the next rest stop we hit. I need to pay more attention the next time.

Since I missed the turn during the ride, I added a few more miles on the ride back so I could make 100 for the day. Seemed appropriate.

Pictures are here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sweatin' Burnt Orange Bike Tour 09

The SBOBT was held October 11th this year, several weeks sooner than 08. A cool front a few days beforehand promised nice weather.... However, the weatherman were severely mistaken. While driving to Blanco, it was cloudy and occasionally drizzly, but nothing too bad. However, just north of Blanco, I drove through a few short showers. But they passed and when reaching the high school, the roads were dry. After getting my packet, and layering up (it was ~55 degrees out), we lined up and started.

About 10 minutes after starting, a light rain started, and got progressively heavier. Not really a downpour, but a good steady rain. The sponsors decided it was a bit too slick to continue on the long routes so they redirected all riders onto the 25 mile loop. A good choice on their part. Everyone was completely soaked, with many riders abandoning and getting car rides back to the start. That was not an option for me, so I slogged back. My hands were getting somewhat cold by the time I finished.

At least now I know what riding in the rain is like (I've only been caught out a few times, and not for an extended time like this). Not all that bad, but I'd rather have the sun.

I only took a few pictures, since having the camera on the bike was not an option. Yea, it's quite wet.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rip Roaring Ride 09

The Rip Roaring Ride was held on September 26th this year. Perfect weather. I decided to use my Keen sandals which I've been using for
From Rip Roaring Ride 09
commuting. The sandals aren't as snug as normal biking shoes (by far), so I wondered how well they'd work for an extended ride, and a relatively hilly one at that. I wore socks for the 1st half of the ride, and after it warmed some, removed them. They verdict? The sandals work quite well, and I did not get the same pain in my feet that I've had before on the extended rides.

One minor inconvenience was that they did not have a packet for me, even though I pre-registered. Not sure why, perhaps it was misplaced in one of the boxes, but no matter, I filled out another registration form and was ready to go.

And I finally got a picture the the big Oatmeal can (for Oatmeal, Tx). I'd ridden by this thing for 3 years and failed to take a picture.

Some more pictures of the ride can be found here. A video of the steep hill climb is here.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Start of August

Wow, didn't realize it had been so long since the last post. With Twitter and Facebook, I suppose something will fall by the wayside. Sigh. I added a Facebook feed in the left margin for my special LIVESTRONG fundraising page. Go take a look, and become a fan!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

End of May

I'm back from my vacation to Stowe, VT at the Trapp Family Lodge. I still need to upload some photos, I will update the post when that happens.

Here's the visit to Ben & Jerry's Factory. The flavor of the day was a cinnamon / oatmeal concoction, quite tasty.

I picked the start of June for when I'll begin fundraising for the LAF. Since the Challenge for Austin occurs later in the year, I wait a while before starting. I guess I don't really have to, but it makes sense to me.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bike commuting

I added a Topeak Explorer rack on the bike, in preparation for a trunk bag and/or panniers. Installation was pretty easy as my bike has the mounting holes for all the attachment points. I used some snips of an old inner tube where the rack connects to the seat stays, to stop the metal from marring the paint.

Armadillo Hill Country Classic 09

The Armadillo Hill Country Classic was held May 9th, starting at Liberty Hill High School (btw, they were 2006 & 2007 State Champs in football, 3A). This is the longest of the sponsored rides I participate in, topping out at over 100 miles.

The weather was good today, although it was warm, it stayed overcast till well after noon, making the ride much more comfortable. Last year was similar, with the sun breaking through somewhat earlier.

I was surprised to have some pain in my left foot, I typically have this occur to my right foot on these longer rides. Some massaging though kept the pain at bay to a great extent for the remainder of the ride (~40 miles).

I was able to hang with a couple groups of fast riders for a bit, they eventually pulled away, maybe one day I'll get faster... You have to resist the urge to stay with them, especially when you're less than 1/2 way into the ride. There's a long, long way to go and you need to not burn all your energy too soon.

The pictures from the ride are here.

Red Poppy Ride 09

The Red Poppy Ride was held on April 25th, starting in Georgetown, TX. The route was the same as last year. This weather this year was a little worse, rain on and off, not much, but enough to keep the road wet for the 1st hour or so. There were not many tight corners so bike handling was not hampered too much. It was relatively windy, obviously humid and warm. Only two sections of the route were directly into the wind, alot of the time, it was cross wind. That's sometimes just as bad, you have to pay attention.

The full set of pictures from the ride is here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Commuting to work by bike

I've started commuting to work by bike a couple days each week. I tried a couple different routes over a couple weekends and came up with one that, while a bit farther, keeps me off of what I would consider 'bad' roads - in particular, a pretty busy intersection at 1825 and I-35. And since I would hit that at rush hour, I'd rather not deal with the cellphone using, food consuming, iPod wearing drivers ;-).

The distance is 11.3 miles, it takes me anywhere between 40-50 minutes of ride time, depending on the wind. There are some lights I always seem to hit, so the elapsed time is a bit longer. For now, I'm using my LiveStrong messenger bag to transport my laptop and work clothes. Once it warms up more, I'm pretty sure I'd want to use panniers instead.

I added a few trinkets on the bike to make it a bit more of a commuter.

For lights, I had a lower power front (Cateye EL130) and back light (Cateye TL-LD130) my kids had gotten me a couple years ago. I've kept them on the bike but have added 2 Planetbike Superflash Stealths on the rear and a Fenix L2D Q5 LED flashlight on the front. These are both painfully bright. However, since DST has begun, my commute both ways is done in the daylight, but it's good to have the backup in case I am delayed. I added some reflective tape onto the frame, it's red, closely matching the color of the bike, and thus, is close to invisible in the daylight.

I also added some fenders, SKS Race Blades. These are 'quick release'. They do a reasonable job even though they are not full fenders. My commute yesterday was into an unexpected thunderstorm, the fenders worked pretty well. My goal is to not use them again, of course ;-)

Even though I carry a CO2 inflator, I felt more comforable adding a pump, I got the Topeak Turbo Morph. It's a little on the heavy side, but for commuting, that's not a concern. I like the flexible hose, makes it easier to pump and not worry about the stem on the tube.

I've only had one driver yell at me so far, from what I could tell, I slowed him down by about 1 second. Pretty stupid driver. Funny thing was he yelled twice, since I passed him due to traffic congestion after the 1st session, and the 2nd time, I was in a bike lane impeding no one, so really, what was the point other than to prove you are a nitwit?

Rosedale Ride 09

I participated in the Rosedale Ride again this year. This one always sneaks up on me being early in the year, so I registered at the event this morning. I considered whether riding would be a good idea, a vigorous cold front came threw yesterday, lowering the temps to the high 30s this morning, and making it very windy. Very, very windy. Did I say it was windy? ;-)

There was a very good turnout, the announcer said about 1500 folks had signed up. Waiting for the start was tough, not moving gave me the chills, but I knew once we started, I'd get warm quick enough. They only made a few adjustments to the route from the year before. I was worried about some of the roads, they have been working on them recently, and were in pretty bad shape, but it seems a lot of paving has occurred since I last traveled the roads, only one bad section remained.

Negotiating the wind was an adventure, I'm guessing my speed varied from 5 to 30 mph depending on the direction I was going. I tend to not have my bike computer set to speedometer, I don't want it to depress me ;-) I suppose having the route go into the wind for the first part was a blessing, you have more energy then.

There were more than the usual number of folks picked up by the SAG vehicles. I don't think it was mechanical issues, I think it was due to the wind. It was brutal at times. I hope that does not discourage these folks from participating again.

It was fun and challenging, and the ride is for a good cause. Hopefully I can do the ride next year.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back in the saddle

I'm back to riding some, last Friday and Saturday, and again today - a longer ride (53 miles). I could definitely tell the layoff has hurt my fitness some. My legs were on the sore side at the end of the ride, we'll see how they feel tomorrow. I'll definitely go out, but not for as long a ride. My shoulder feels alot better, still some soreness and stiffness, but reading online, full recovery is on the order of 12 weeks or so, that would be mid March. I stopped at the site of the crash, trying to see if I could find where I left the road, couldn't see anything. I noticed lots of bottles on the roadside, I'm glad I didn't land on one of the those, it would have been nasty.