This was meant to be short, but ended up being long as heck – my apologies…
It was hard for me to not set high expectations for myself after finishing first in last year’s EB. I had been putting in PLENTY of miles, so barring any major mental/physical/mechanical issues it wasn’t really a matter of finishing, it was how good will I feel and how hard can I go all day. I wasn’t feeling much pressure but definitely wanted to finish strong and with/near the guys in the front. I must admit the one of a kind kit for the first place finisher was quite the incentive. That is some of the coolest swag ever, much less at a free grassroots event. NANDO RULES! Thanks man, that was super cool of you!
As everyone agrees, the start was a blast. Rolling along in a pack like that as the sun comes up and Austin starts coming to life is awesome, especially knowing many of us will still be spinning the cranks when the sun disappears over the other horizon. I really hate to be cold so I donned the arm/knee warmers and a vest. I was still cold. I remember my hands having trouble shifting in the early parts of the greenbelt, but it warmed up pretty quickly. I was more than content to roll the GB at a easy pace in anticipation of what lay ahead, but it is pretty hard to contain your energy and excitement and sure enough folks were setting a pretty good pace early on. First Bill… then Greg Houston on the main trail. Once we hit S16 Cody started setting the pace and we were getting strung out a bit. I was starting to have some shifting issues that would only get worse; I dropped my chain into the spokes a couple times. Luckily it came right out without damage or getting wedged. The creek crossings actually weren’t bad, I swear the water temp was higher than the air temp. The second loop on the GB was a bear. To really race and finish high in the EB, you have to be able to ride your ride and pace yourself, but stay very near the front group. It is not like an endurance race at Warda or Rocky Hill where intelligence is easy to get, once someone is out of sight, you may never see them again – they may be an hour ahead of you or taking a cab back to their car. Heading up mulch, Travis put the wood down. I was thinking, “doesn’t SS-boy realize he has some gears now and doesn’t have to hammer a huge gear?” As well as Travis has done on an SS, I thought he had a real shot this year with gears. You have to resist the urge to try to stay with everyone on every section, you have to pick your battles. By this time the group had pretty much been pared down to the ’Heads of State’ as Paul and Phil would say: Cody, Esper, Sergio, Travis, Druber, Keith and myself – all strong/experienced riders.
When we hit the Courtyard and City Park walls, Sergio gapped us all, with Esper next. I don’t think I could have kept up on the climbs even if I was willing to burn half my book of matches, which I wasn’t. As expected, at CP we strung out a bit with Sergio and Dave off the front then me, with Travis, Cody and Keith just behind. Druber caught up to me and we rode probably the 2nd half together. Things started falling apart. I got my first cramp (a pretty good one) walking up the last part of the climb by the area that has been cabled off for the last 12 years or so (supposed to reopen in Feb 2009 or something). Cramps would come and go in both legs for the remainder of the day. I guess my middle ring decided it’s service life was going to go ahead and be over as well. I could not use any real force in the middle ring at all or it would pop off onto the little ring, after doing this about a half dozen times and trying to analyze/fix it while continuing to do my lap, I finally resigned myself to using the little and big rings for anything that required any sort of torque. During all this, Druber had passed me and started to pull away a bit but I was finally able to catch back up and we rode out of CP together. He was getting low on water and needed to stop at the Fire Station. I still had probably ¾ of a gallon of liquid so I was fine for awhile (the go loaded strategy has it’s advantages).
When I got to Jester I could see Esper and Sergio (Sergio had stopped at the Jester Mart). Once again Sergio dropped the hammer. I don’t remember where Dave and I finally rejoined but by the time we turned left off of Lakewood onto 360, Sergio was out of sight. DAMN! I have a nickname for him ‘The Surge’.
Dave and I then rode together at St Eds and Thumper. I was not excited to see that extra little climb thrown in at St Eds; I ride it all the time when I am there but expected to just drop through the drainage and then hit the ridge trail. I went to one of the houses for sale on Yaupon that we have been getting water from and the water was shut off!! FARK! Another setback. Dave went to the other house and the water was on. Sweet. This 2 minutes would be our only stop of the day other than traffic lights or to take a whiz. Both Dave and I never even took off our knee warmers and still had our arm warmers around our wrists.
You just survive Thumper at this point in the ride. Since I had no middle ring, I pretty much grannied the whole thing, which was fine. I made a lot more that I expect by not killing myself pushing a big gear like I usually do but just walked the really tough climbs. With fatigue settling in and cramps still coming and going, conserving energy and avoiding huge efforts was mandatory. Dave started to drop back a bit but I think started walking more stuff as well and caught back up – it was simply more efficient on the tougher climbs since you would end up spinning out or running out of gas anyway and have to dismount. Tim had just got there and we already passed him by the time he mentioned the candy bars. I wish I would have grabbed a snickers. That is a big ride fav of mine. We could hear and see Druber most of the lap, we just kept moving – we knew he was right behind us – 4 or 5 minutes we find out later. Funny, I had a brief forearm cramp in almost the same spot on the trail I did last year.
I had taped a small piece of paper to my top tube with the directions out to Oak Knoll so we took the direct route and didn‘t miss a turn. My rear tire stated getting pretty soft and I was getting worried. Flats suck. Fixing a flat would probably cost me any chance of repeating. I was hoping it was just a slow leak. Dave gave me a shot of CO2 at a light which held for the rest of the way thankfully.
Once we got to WC it was of course a beautiful day and it was pretty crowded. Dave was setting the pace and we were having a really enjoyable ride and we were shooting the chit. I suddenly snapped out of it and realized that if anyone was hooking it behind us we could get caught. Like Cody and Keith who called a truce, I was beginning to think about how this was going to play out. I was going to tell him not to hold back if he has it, take it. First we had to hold anyone else off, so I moved to the front and picked it up a bit but he was starting to fade. Sure enough, Druber ended up catching Dave. But then as he described he had an epic bonk and Dave passed him back. Druber was cooked when he crossed the line. He put in a heck of an effort.
I would have liked to finish before Sergio, but he killed it. I wish he had done the full route/official event – I would have given it my all to try to hang with him, but knowing he was unofficial let me focus on my real goal – the official repeat. By the time you know you are going to simply finish you are on such an endorphin high… but to be out front, those last few miles and turns are magical – life is very, very good. The only bad part is, there really isn’t anyone hanging out. Last year, there was absolutely no one for a while until Bomber pulled in.
I ended up eating only about 25% of the food I was carrying. I should have drank more too. Going that hard and not keeping up on nutrition left me quite sore. I did an easy hour spin Sunday (my legs were spent – I even had a weird soreness in the back/outside of my knees that I had never had before). Today (Tuesday) my legs are much better but still a bit tired.
When I pulled my bike out to spin on Sunday, the rear was totally flat and would not hold any air. I think I had a few bad tubes that are separating at the seam. I lucked out.
Thanks to everyone involved: Cody, and Travis for organizing, Matt’s wife Jen for killing it at the grill for hours, the folks taking pictures, marking the course, all the other riders who amaze me in different ways (SS/fixie/folks who haven’t really put any long rides and still come out and finish/69 year olds/17 year olds/crazy asses without a chamois (Todd you are a nut), etc).
Special thanks to Esper for the pulls and the rides over the last few months and the whole front group for pushing me to my limits and sharing the love of going long and fast.
Long live long rides!