Cyclists stick together

It’s a sunny Sunday in Texas and early enough in the morning before the blistering heat. About 1030AM I air up the tires to 120 and set off for the lake.  There is hardly any wind. At the lake, there are some people fishing, dogs at the dog park and the usual walkers, joggers and a couple of cyclists.  My goal is 20 miles.  This route includes a 2 mile loop around the lake.  I was on lap 4 when an explosion occurred behind me.  A burst of wind blew on my feet.  My back tire immediately went flat.  I was startled!  Fortunately there was shade from a recently planted oak tree.  I took out my spare tube and CO2 cartridges and began replacing my tube.  There were two fisherman in front of me.   Upon examination of the flat tube, a split at the seem was visible.  I got to the point where I needed to fill up the new tube with CO2 just enough so that it wasn’t completely flat.  That’s when the CO2 pump failed.  As soon as I put on the CO2 cartridge it discharged at the threading and you can’t touch it to stop it because it instantly freezes.  I had a full cartridge and two partials…all no good now.  I thought I would at least get the tube and tire on to walk it home.  A man who was walking came by and asked if I needed help.  He didn’t have his tools, but offered me water.  I was grateful and told him I’d be ok.  I kept working on my tire, it’s so hard to get the last stretch of tire over the rim, but I kept trying.  I went on with this for at least 30 minutes all the while fighting an attack by Texas ants.  It’s so weird, you can sit or stand on a spot that appears clear, then they come up through the ground and start attacking.  There really isn’t a place on the ground in Texas that is safe from ants.

A cyclist stopped by and asked me if I needed help.  He said he had an air pump in his truck.  Again grateful, I told him that would help!  He returned with the pump and at the same time the walker had made another round and stopped to offer assistance. Unfortunately the air pump was for a mountain bike and not the presta valves for the road bike. Still both men helped me get the remaining 4 inches of tire over my rim which helped me get the bike into rolling condition.  I was offered a ride and more water, even a phone in case I needed to call someone.

This is amazing to me.  There were a few people that passed and of course the fishermen in front of me, it’s the cyclists that stop to help and even offer water.  I really didn’t think anyone would offer to help.  This was a pleasant surprise to my older eyes.  At this point in life, taking care of my business on my own is what a strive for.   Having the tools, and a spare tube on my bike along with replacement practice is preparation just for this problem.  With the hotter temperatures, it wasn’t wise to fill the tubes to 120.  They needed to be filled between 100-110.

Another lesson learned.  You need to be prepared if you go out and ride. The cyclist that helped me mentioned he runs a lap around the lake and rides 4.  It’s great exercise.  I am amazed at how many people don’t pay attention to what is going on directly in front of them.  They are looking back, sideways or even down and just don’t see a cyclist coming towards them.  There is plenty of room to stay on the right side, however people walk directly in the middle of the path.  Many oblivious!  LOL!

I walked the 1.5 miles home in the heat with my clip in shoes on which is awkward.  I could have asked the family for help, not today.   What’s the rush?  Getting home will just take longer.  Instead, I looked more at my surroundings.  Maybe there was something I was suppose to see or that the walk was an opportunity to think about something I was suppose to think about (Like next time figure a way to check the CO2 cartridges or get an air pump to include on the bike).  Who knows!  It was hot and I feel as though my shoulders were sunburned through my shirt!  Once home, I filled the tire up with air and will complete the remaining 10 miles soon.  A new tube and additional CO2 cartridges have been ordered!

flat

Cyclists stick together

Exploring the Buffalo Bayou

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” — John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”

Once a month Bike Houston a non profit organization holds a bike ride to explore the Bayous.  They meet at Market Square in downtown Houston on the first Sunday of the month at 8am.  This ride only maxes out at 40 people usually and they go about 25 miles. The website suggested that wider tires were necessary because the path would be about 60% paved.  I had to get mountain bike tires and discovered a hybrid tire.  It’s wide, smooth in the middle and nobby on the outside.  The cost is about $20/per tire and $6 for new tubes.

A storm was coming and looking at the radar I saw red and even heard thunder.  The group decided to head out and deal with getting wet.  If it got really bad the plan was to sit under a bridge until the storm passed.  As we headed out the rain started.  I thought, I’m doing this for fun and to me it’s not fun or safe in the rain.  I made the decision to turn back because I really thought the storm was coming and conditions would be worse.  After getting the bike in the car, the sky became clear.  I’m so mad I didn’t stick with it.  I was really looking forward to this ride.  You can ride the bayou anytime, no need to go with a group. However, because I am unfamiliar with the trails, I really wanted to go with a “guide”.

It looks like there is a north and south side of the Buffalo Bayou trail.  And they don’t look like the connect.  Further to the west is White Oak Bayou that is to connect eventually as a part of the  Bayou Greenways 2020 project.  If you live between the city loops on the north side, you can potentially ride your bike all of the way to downtown along the bayou.

So, on my own, I may decide to explore the White Oak Bayou trail and the Heights bike trail.  It’s not easy to get this info on the internet.  However for the Heights trail, I think you can park at 2799 Moy St, Houston, TX 77007.  Which seems to be in the middle of the trail.  I really can’t tell how long it is.  (Between 4 and 10 miles).  I’m not sure how safe it is either.  This is why it’s a good idea to ride with a group!

buffalo bayou ride

 

Exploring the Buffalo Bayou

FINISHER – Day One

What a weekend!  What an experience!   At sunrise my team began the MS150 start at the Wood Group.  The biggest concern was the weather later in the day.  We had a ride marshall on our team who said we would have a tail wind the entire first day.   The sky was overcast and the temperature comfortable in the 70s.

ms150 start

I cycled with one of the ladies for most of the approximate 9 miles it takes to get to less traffic congestion.  As we started to get out of town, which was really suburbia and near my house, the scenery around the two lane road is pretty.  It’s lush and green and there are still many beautiful wild flowers out.  The cycle traffic merged in from Rhodes stadium.  We were on the Tully stadium route, and must have been slightly in front of most of that group. Along the side of the road and into the small towns like Fayetteville, people were on the side of the road cheering, ringing cow bells and playing music.  The first rest stop was about 20 miles in and then stops were spaced 8 to 12 miles apart. Lunch was in Bellville at 47 miles, by the time you reach Bellville, it’s more like brunch time.  The wind wasn’t really a tail wind, it was more like a cross wind.  Houston is pretty flat, however as soon as you get outside, there are some rolling hills.  I clinched and held on tightly going down the hills because the cross wind was powerful and it would blow in short swift bursts.  It was nice meeting up with the team and chatting at the lunch stop and with them at rest stops as well as meeting other people.  That coconut water from Goya is the best.  It’s the one in a small can with bits of coconut in it.

After lunch the wind really picked up and the sun came out, temperature and humidity rose and the hills were a little more steep.  The last two rest stops were tough getting out of, my toes were numb.  I’m pretty sure because of the tightening to hold on for the wicked cross wind.  As I rolled into La Grange I couldn’t feel my toes.  As soon as I got off it was better.  I looked at the mileage…94 miles for day one!

I found our tent and they had my bedding setup.  I went to the shower trucks.  The women’s line was much shorter than the men’s.  After a short wait, I went into a steaming hot truck where there are lines of individual showers with curtains.  There is a hook on the outside where I hooked my plastic bag and towel.

tent

After the shower, I went back to be with the team, eat, drink and rest.  The Wood Group had the best bathrooms ever!  They were portable, flushed, had a sink and were even air conditioned.  We had a band right in front of us that was playing great music.  I would have loved to dance, however I had no more energy.   The storm rolled in around 9-10PM.  We had an emergency plan, but didn’t need it.  The wind really blew in and cooled the temperatures 30 degrees.  The sleeping bag was perfect!  I turned down ear plugs only to regret it later.  I had “the motor” behind me snoring all night!

No neighbors behind us!

lagrange

 

 

FINISHER – Day One

MS150 RIDE DAY!!!!!!!!

I am so excited!  Tomorrow is the highly anticipated 2-day ride 150 miles bike ride from Houston to Austin with 10,500 people!  Part of the excitement is the weather.  This whole week everyone is watching the weather.  And it looks like we are going to have strong storms come through Saturday night.  Not a big deal unless you are in a TENT!  Some of my team are like well, we might call it a no go for camping over night and you’ll have to figure out what you are going to do. And one guy is like, no problem, it’s gonna rain and we’ll handle it.  After all of this training and fund raising, I’m like, we better freaking do this.  I put the family on standby, in case I have to be picked up.  The MS society says that they have some shelter in a nearby school, I’m guessing we’ll figure it out, so this is it.  I have not a clue how this is going to work out.

Forget about the concern about packing.  A note on that, I am allowed 2 bags.  My cot is one.  The other bag which is like a duffel bag has in it my sleeping bag and a full size pillow.  Squeezed in the pockets are shower shoes (one change of clothes), a towel, shower gel, tooth brush, tooth paste and a brush.  That is it!  I plan to carry on me my water, a rash guard in case it gets cold, sunscreen and lip balm.

Today I had a tennis match, I thought it best to sit myself out, but instead played for someone who couldn’t make it.  I’m thinking, no problem no one is going to get injured, and then my opponent had to retire because of some kind of calf muscle pull/sprain.  She had to be wheel chaired off the court.  I am so lucky this didn’t happen to me.

I’m ready, I don’t know anyone on my team.  I’ve tried three times, still no real connection.  It’s ok, I would have done this by myself.  Instead, there are a bunch of strangers to me in the same suit.  I will eat with them and sleep with them and endure whatever night adventure comes my way.

When I was twenty I talked about doing my own adventures.  Now twice that age, I’m doing it.  I’m pretty sure I was capable back then, and am thrilled that at an older age not only am I physically able, the mental part is 100% there.   The mental component is the one part that I was missing in my youth that is so strong now.   It’s funny because, mentally we might be there and then are body gives out!  Hopefully not this time.

I’m going to bed.  I will be up at 5AM and start my bike journey at 6:55AM.  Whoo Hoo!!!!luggage2.jpg

MS150 RIDE DAY!!!!!!!!

Tour de Houston

Tour de Houston is part of the MS150 ready to roll series.  It’s a cycle ride that begins at City Hall and loops to the south east of Houston and ends in south Missouri city,  then the ride goes back the same way to City Hall. You could choose 20, 40 or 60 mile distances.  There were three rest stops at about 10 miles apart (so the turn around at each one gave you the 20, 40 or 60 mile distance depending on the one you go back from).  Your $40 entry goes towards restoring parks sponsored by Apache Corp.   The ride began at 7:30a.m. and they had police controlling the intersections.  On this ride I took the road bike with the clip in shoes.  This would be a good test to see if I can handle the stops and the crowd.

tourdehouston

I would say there were at least a thousand people there (the news reported thousands).  After the multiple warnings about road hazards (expansion joints in the road) and to remain in the right lane we began.  The first thing I noticed was that the road changes quite a bit from smooth to pretty rough.  Immediately I saw people with flats (that was quick), I was able to maintain a speed between 16 – 20 mph.  The scary thing is that there were multiple wrecks, I saw at least 5.  Two or three so bad the ambulance had to be summoned.  We rode through the spectrum of economic communities in Houston from the uber rich to poorer communities.  All while hearing the calls, “Slowing”, “Rolling”, “Crack”, “Car back”, “Stopping”, etc. (cycle lingo)

Starting early in the morning I knew I would need sunglasses and noticed I really didn’t have a place to put them.  And it’s important to put on sunscreen which I forgot.  If you are ever training for a long cycle ride, I found it useful to have trained outside (rather than spinning indoors).  One person commented that the headwind was kicking butt.  This is a challenge I face every time I ride around the 2 mile lake.  The wind can almost blow me off the road or slow me down to 8 or 9 miles an hour.  I didn’t even notice it during this ride.

There were ride marshalls riding along and checking the path to make sure people were safe.  They would call SAG (support vehicles) in case a rider needed assistance.  I didn’t need to stop at the first two rest stations.  After passing the second one at 20 miles, I had met a milestone. I have never cycled in one sitting past 20 miles.  I was really happy to keep going.  The scary part for me was after that 2nd stop, the crowd thinned out and at a few points I didn’t see any other cyclists ahead of me.  Then came the stretch of road that was two lanes.  So you are riding with other cars (to me that is too close for comfort).  Added to that I could hear gunfire from some massive gun range and started to worry about a stray bullet heading my way.  This was for a good couple of miles.  At the end was the neighborhood and the last rest stop (and turn around).  Surprisingly the port a potties were clean!  And you could wash your hands with a portable hand washing station .  That and grab a “Kind” bar and you are on your way.  I was worried about leaving my bike unlocked at the bike stand.  I did bring a chain and noticed no one locked theirs.  I thought it would be so easy to select a “new” bike and head out.  You only wear your number on your body, your bike isn’t numbered like it will be in the MS150.  Luckily, my bike was where I left it and I completed the last 30 miles.

Afterwards I was surprised that I wasn’t sore.  I do think I was dehydrated and it effected me weird!  I felt like I had no sleep.  But then again, I did get up early and didn’t sleep soundly the night before.  Only this lasted into the next day.  This was a good test to indicate, I can do this!  It’s only 20 more miles to equal the 80 miles in the 1st day of the MS150.  It took me 4 hours to do 60 and would probably take me another 1.5 hours to do 20 more.

tourdehouston2

Tour de Houston

Long Ride Prep

Almost 60 days until the 150 mile ride from Houston to Austin!  Team Wood Group requires everyone take the Group Riding Skills class.  It took a little over 3 hours for the class.  (They did feed you). It was about 2 hours in a classroom setting at the Wood Group campus and 1 hour in the parking garage on your bike.

About 20 people showed up and there are currently 47 on the team.  It’s weird to me that the 3 women there including me at the class are the only on the team.  Whenever you do an event like a triathlon or something like this, the more information the better!   For instance on the triathlon you could not draft which is to be within 3 bike lengths from the person ahead of you, on this ride it’s ok.  However, they advised not to align your front wheel side by side with the back wheel of the person in front.  This is kind of the blind spot effect in that any sudden change with the person in front of you will cause you to crash. Most of the two hours were tips like this.  So now I know the lingo and the etiquette.

The one thing that stood out on the garage portion of the class is how to use your front brakes in an emergency stop so that you don’t flip over the handle bars.  I actually saw a guy flip over his handle bars in a group ride doing exactly that, going down a hill and using his front brakes only (@ Critical Mass Houston).   I thought there is no way with clip in shoes will I be able to hang my butt off my seat and jump off the back after braking like the instructor suggested.  If you do plan to use your front breaks only, you can at least transfer your weight back so that you don’t flip  (probably more useful on a mountain bike without clip in shoes).

The instructor went over all of the things you need on your bike for a long ride.  I have pretty much everything and just ordered a Camelbak Rogue hydration pack.  I knew about these from spectating motorcycle enduros back in the day.  These packs are fancy now! You can carry the rest of the stuff you need that doesn’t fit (like sunscreen) with you plus 2 liters of water.

I didn’t get the detailed information on what to pack for overnight camp I wanted but the puzzle is starting to come together.  Hopefully the last purchase will be a pack-able cot.  Mine is so old and bulky.  I want sleek, easy to carry and setup. I have had bad experiences on air mattresses and besides you will be relying on generators which I am not bringing and don’t plan to use. There were no real details on leaving from the Wood Group instead of Rhodes stadium either.  The instructor asked some people about how fast they ride.  Thank goodness most ride 14-18 miles an hour.  So I can keep up with them for the 9 miles it will take to join the rest of the 13,000 people !

kestrel

Long Ride Prep

Gearing up for MS150

The MS 150 is a one hundred and fifty mile bike ride from Houston to Austin over 2 days. The event beginning in Houston is held once a year at the end of April and raises $16 million dollars on average ($13,000 riders) for multiple sclerosis.  MS effects 2.3 million world wide. You have to raise $400 in order to participate as a rider.   This  has been a dream of mine for a long time, and this year that dream is coming to reality.   With the purchase of a road bike last year, I am ready for the challenge.  I went to the new rider orientation this week and learned that after the almost 40 years they have been doing this event they have come up with 19 medications to help with symptoms and just 10 years ago there were 3.  They raise a tremendous amount of money for support of this disease ($232.7 million/year) and it makes me sad that no cure has been found.  I hope that the money that is contributed to this disease also benefits advances in repair to nerve damage.

How do you achieve that fund raising amount?  I have to admit, everything about this is a challenge.  Sure I have participated in giving and asking for funds, but never to benefit me directly.  I mean, it is for MS, but in order for me to ride in the event, I need to raise $400. That’s the way I look at it anyway. I posted on Facebook and told family and friends and business associates.  To my amazement and surprise I achieved the minimum. Apparently for ever dollar contributed 84 cents go directly to research and services.  About that, as I learned, events like this are responsible for about 63 percent of the overall fundraising for the year.  It is absolutely amazing how many volunteers it takes and the overwhelming logistics involved in running the event.  I guess you have to spend money to make money and that works better on a larger scale.  They make it easy to receive donations by setting up your own page

http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?px=15548823&pg=personal&fr_id=28263&s_src=BF_emailbadge

A friend of mine encouraged me to join a team and went so far as to forward me an email from the team leader with an entire Power Point on the team.  Joining a team is a great idea because you get some additional support in that they provide a team tent for camping at the 1/2 way point in LaGrange.  (They will have generators and their own food/water, showers and toilets)  They also transport your gear to LaGrange as well as Austin.  If you don’t join a team, you can camp on your own in the general camp area and food is still provided (your luggage will be transported to LaGrange for free).  So now I am a part of Team Wood Group!  It does cost me $100 because I don’t work for the company.  So my investment so far is $200 (team+registration fee).  I am going to get the team jersey, don’t know how much that will be but expect it to be between $50 and $75. And since the team doesn’t transport back, I will need to take the event provided bus back from Austin for $35.

I learned that there are rest points every 10-12 miles, support vehicles to assist riders, lunch provided 1/2 way on day one and the day two ride as well as overnight camping, dinner, showers and rest rooms.

I now plan to leave from the Wood Group which is about 9 miles away from Rhodes Stadium (which is one of the three starting points).  The team captain will pickup the team member’s ride packet and have a night before food fest or carb load.  We leave at 7AM.

Now onto training.  At this point I need to do 20 miles a week, I have been doing 15 and I need to ramp up to 40 miles (will have to be over two days because I don’t have that kind of time in one sitting).  Also, they have plenty of rides in preparation with a group.  I am taking a group riding skills class offered for free and required by the Wood Group in February.  There are rides to register for almost every weekend around the state that can be used for training for distance and have the support vehicles in case you need assistance. Might try one of those.  And lastly, some additional gear.  Need a light, case with tube and CO cartridges as well as a tool to change a tire to carry on the bike.  Also need to be sure to have sun screen for face and lips, and sunglasses.  Will also find out during the group skills training what to pack for the Wood Group team tent for sleeping.  SO EXCITING!!!

The route:

scan0002

 

 

Gearing up for MS150