Livestrong Challenge 2016

AUSTIN, TEXAS

It was humid if not warm when I lined up in the 100-Mile riders’ coral. Our pre-ride instruction included a doctor who told us that number one we should have fun and number two “be safe.” Interesting. I think safety should always trump fun. But maybe that’s me.

At the start - 7:30 a.m.
At the start – 7:30 a.m.

The first 10 miles to Aid Station #1 is one big mass rollout. Police patrol the many intersections leaving the city and most lights we could roll through. The crowd started to thin out approaching the aid station but it’s mostly one big group ride. At the Aid Station I pulled in and found a mechanic, who happened to be from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop which is where I rented my bike. Since I had no pump with me and had the bike since Friday, I knew I would need a little air. He pumped up the tire, I refilled a water bottle and was out of there in 3.5 minutes. I wanted to keep my rest stops short.

My favorite gas station
My favorite gas station

I rolled into the second stop for water. Time was 1.5 minutes. I went by the third stop which used to be the cookie stop. I guess it still was. Damn. There was a sign warning riders the next stop was the cutoff for the 100 mile route at 10:30 a.m. I rolled into Aid Station #4 at 9:50 a.m.

Crossing the Blanco River
Crossing the Blanco River

Then it was off to the Wall. Or as it’s called, Devil’s Climb. I was on a rental bike. My guess is when I rode this route four years ago my Trek Pilot was fitted with a 30:28 gear ratio. It was difficult but I don’t remember struggling (like everyone else seemed to be). This bike was setup with a 34:28. I’m older. The ratio is worse. It’s not getting easier.

Texas 4000 Aid Station at top of Devils Climb
Texas 4000 Aid Station at top of Devils Climb

The climb was hard. Damn hard. There were more people walking than riding. My Garmin was setup with a maximum heart rate of 180 and Garmin was going nuts because I was over that (186). I was displaying heart rate and knew that. My legs ached and my body wanted to quit. But I would keep going.

Blackberry the chicken
Blackberry the chicken

I pulled into the aid station near the top of the climb (essentially it was at the top) and talked to the kids from the Texas 4000. This was their aid station and they were quite helpful. I spent 24 minutes here which represents half the time I spent in all stops.

Pulled into this campground to check in for tomorrow's flight
Pulled into this campground to check in for tomorrow’s flight

The roads from here back were very “heavy.” Chip and tar, heavy on the chips. Not a smooth surface at all. It’s hard to pedal on this surface but must keep moving.

Buda, Texas
Buda, Texas

I stopped at each aid station after this. It was hot (90 degrees) and I needed to keep my fluids topped off. Around Mile 70 we saw the chickens. I think it was an FFA group and the girl proudly displayed “Blackberry.”

2016-10

The roll in to the finish went well. Ninety nine miles went OK but that last mile forced me to think why am I here? Why am I here when Jake and Alex are not? Or Joe Petrucelli? Or Nancy Natoli?

2016-09

I rode by myself all day. I never hooked up with anyone all day long. It was just a 100 mile solo effort. So I entered the finishing chute and made sure I was alone. I stayed right, for survivors and videoed as I got my yellow rose for they hand out for survivors.

I rode for many today. I did not wear a survivor’s bib. I have transformed so that this ride is not about me – it’s about others. I’m thinking this was my last time. It was if it is only for me. But if I ride for others I may be back.

2016-11

And if I ride it again, I have to remember, NO RENTAL BIKE. I want my bike which is geared a little more favorably to the Devil’s Climb.

Dave Wright, Kelly Wright, Barry Sherry
Dave Wright, Kelly Wright, Barry Sherry Team CCC

Sea Gull Century

SALISBURY, MARYLAND

Last year flooded roadways and more rain from Hurricane Joaquin forced Salisbury University to cancel the Sea Gull Century. It was the first time in 27 years the event was canceled.

Riding out of town
Riding out of town

Just days before this event it looked like this one might be canceled as well. Hurricane Matthew was coming up the east coast. The forecast today did not look good with the hourly forecast showing a 50-60% chance of rain. But I would ride come hell or high water. Well, maybe only hell.

Waiting at aid station #1
Waiting at aid station #1

The event was “show and go” so I drove up, parked, at pushed off at 7:19 a.m. Garmin time. It was 70 degrees and very grey. We will not see the sun all day.

Aurora (L), Leslie (R)
Aurora (L), Leslie (R)

Just about two miles in a saw three riders from the Blair (Co.) Bicycle Club. I recognized Leslie from a ride I did with BBC out of East Freedom, Pa., on July 16. She was riding with Pat and Aurora. We started talking and soon we were a group of four. For the day.

Assateague Visitor Center
Assateague Visitor Center

A group from Virginia Beach went by and we jump on their train. With others. We followed them to the first aid station. We stopped, very briefly, not to use the facilities but to rest and stretch. (Well, not me.) Pat said their strategy was to catch a ride behind some tandems. And we did for a while.

Assateague Visitor Center
Assateague Visitor Center

At Mile 40 we came to railroad tracks which were at an angle. No fewer than five volunteers were warning riders that other cyclists had been crashing here when, just then, a cyclist went down hard on the tracks. Ouch! Message received. (We all navigated the tracks safely.)

Headed up the bike/pedestrian bridge
Headed up the bike/pedestrian bridge

Just after the tracks at Newark was the second aid station. Slight fail on the organization’s part here. No food. The line for water and Gatorade snaked out to the road but many people, me included, were in line for food. This should have been marked as a water stop. I wasn’t disappointed there was no food, only that it wasn’t advertised that way. I could have skipped standing in line to top of my water bottle. Oh well, they got everything else right.

Headed UP the bike/pedestrian bridge
Headed UP the bike/pedestrian bridge

After that stop we rolled ahead to Assateague. Just before crossing the bridge to the island the ladies went to the visitors center looking for cleaner rest room than the porta johns ahead. I suspect they were successful.

Assateague Rest Stop
Assateague Rest Stop

The bridge to the island was a humpback bridge with a bike/pedestrian bridge beside it. Bikes had the bike bridge going in to the park while coming out traffic was alternated into one lane allowing cyclists to have a dedicated traffic lane.

Assateague Rest Stop
Assateague Rest Stop

The aid station at Assateague Island was well stocked with food. And water. And Gatorade. We had grey skies and occasional “spitting” of rain but no rain to speak of. The roads were a bit damp but it wasn’t raining. I checked my phone for weather and saw there was rain everywhere around us. It looked like we would get soaked going back.

Food and a surprised volunteer
Food and a surprised volunteer

The one picture I wanted on the day was a horse. A wild horse. My phone wasn’t cooperating too much (battery) but I managed one. Or two. But missed the one I really wanted.

Sand dunes at Assateague
Sand dunes at Assateague

We left the island and motored on home. The tail wind we were hoping for never materialized. Aurora had a flat tire (squishy really which was dragging her down), so we did an 8-10 minute stop to get her back on the road.

Pat, Aurora, Leslie
Pat, Aurora, Leslie

Approaching the finish, it appeared we would be two miles short of a century. We unanimously agreed that this would not be acceptable (I like these people). We turned on Division Street and rode one mile out of town before returning to the route.

Wild horses on Assateague
Wild horses on Assategague

The finish line was pretty cool. There is a pedestrian underpass under US 13. We were directed through the tunnel to the other side of the street at the finish line.

Wild horses on Assategague
Wild horses on Assategague

In the end, it really was a good day on the bike. The weather cooperated (the rain started only when I reached my car) and I had good riding partners. I went into this ride thinking one-and-done but now think I would do it again. It was good fun.