I think that I’ve now had enough pain which, according to some is necessary in order to write a funny book.1 The plan was hatched months ago when ace cycling-buddy and former high school classmate Don Bynum started laying out routes for a Century Ride.2 I didn’t pay much attention to the notion at first. I should have.
(Update: Enjoy Don Bynum’s photo-rich account of this epic ride. Have added some photos from Don’s blog.)
Eventually the route from the West side of Lake Buchanan to Junction, Texas was determined and within a matter of days the plan was laid. Thursday saw copious quantities of water quaffed, chasing a spaghetti dinner. Friday saw electrolyte pills, more water and lasagna disappear down the hatch. Several large salads laced with green leafy vegetables mysteriously disappeared. My weight went from 188.2 to 190 by Saturday morning. All the while thinking one of us was nuts — and probably we both were — preparations were made. Clothing selected, bike checked, weather forecasts examined (noting promises of wind), and the ever-present energy gels and other snacks were assembled. Accomplishing a Century Ride is one thing. Doing it in the hills is quite another matter. Then there is the wind factor. I had done a Century before in the BP MS-150 this last April. The first day of that charity ride is 100 miles, Houston to LaGrange. But the amount of climb is negligible and the wind was a bit of tailwind that day. This one promised to be different.
NOTE: all images are clickable for larger versions.
Thus at 7:30a.m. on Oct 22, 2011 I met Don at his house where he and our faithful SAG driver, Peggy, were ready to go. We soon were underway, gently spinning the pedals in the cool, fresh air of the morning so that the aging body parts could come up to operating temperature. We have no dashboard with gauges but we know when the power setting can be brought up. Actually we do have a gauge — the heart rate monitor3 and even the easy warmup starts the rate climbing. The mid-60’s temperature was perfect as we helped Ole’ Man Sun ease above the Eastern hills of Lake Buchanan. The impetuous among you readers can click ahead to the movie version if desired.
A few miles into the ride the heart rate settles in, the initial burn in the legs recedes, and the mind has things under control. Before the ride would be over this day the mind would be the only thing in control.
Buchanan to Llano
We took the familiar Llano-Bluffton/Tow road to Llano with the gradual warming of the sun on our backs. Reaching Llano, we were pleased to see a nice flow of water over the dam just upstream of the bridge into downtown Llano. With the terrible toll taken on Llano4 by the drought, I know the townfolk are really thrilled.
Llano to Castell — easy street
The mood was light as we pedaled casually out of Llano toward Castell. We knew we had a long way to go and were cautiously metering out the finite amount of energy that would be available for the day. Don was keeping his heart rate really low and I was glad to loaf behind him and do the same. We have ridden between Llano and Castell many times on the ride Don created and coined the “Tour de Longneques.”
That segment of our trek seemed easier than ever on this cloudly morning — I suppose because we knew what a small part of the ride this was. It was nice to be able to chat as we rode alongside, pulling into single file when traffic was overtaking.
I was feeling that this ride was going to be relatively easy.
As we rolled into Castell for a food break I was feeling no fatigue in the legs and had good overall energy. Our measured pace was paying off. While Don scarfed up a banana I quickly crunched my way through a juicy apple. Under the tree off to the side of the world-famous Castell General Store was a group of geezers sitting around a picnic table (as opposed to the two cycling-geezers), waiting for the BBQ to be done and filling the time and the air with, no doubt, an endless stream of lies. I spoke to Rod (one of my bailiffs in Llano) who was startled until he recognized me, and even more so when we told the guys what we were doing.
Castell to Mason — it begins
The 10 miles down RR152 is beginning to demonstrate the wind now. It is mostly across us but now is stronger even than before our Castell break. I like this road. It’s smooth with rolling hills and I’m down on the aerobars some now to better cut the wind. Don is commenting on the wind now. We are discussing the generally uphill run to Mason once we reach US 87. I’m glad to know that we will have a tailwind but I also know that after Mason we turn to a Southerly course. The wind appears to be straight out of the South and Don is reminding me that our course will be Southwesterly, yielding a quartering headwind. I’m not convinced that the difference will be measurable.
Riding on US 87 is not my favorite thing to do, but the shoulder is wide. Thankfully there is not too much trash on the shoulder but we still try to “take the lane” and stay on the driving surface. My eyes (actually just my left eye) is on my helmet-mounted mirror checking the passing traffic more than the road ahead. I think it’s getting warmer. We have gentle downhills following by longer uphills as we gain about 225 feet from Castell to Mason. The clouds are still thick so why is it warming up so fast. Oh, we’re running about the same speed as the tailwind and have no relative wind over our bodies for cooling.
There is a photo I should take. The large oak has a broken limb, a large one arching to the right to a taper seemingly pointing to the chestnut mare under the tree’s canopy — the mare’s neckline completing the arch. The picture is framed in my mind but we’re rolling too well and I sense that we need to keep on, but know I will regret it later. As did every horse and cow we saw, the mare is staring at us, even as we’re a 100 yards away.
Approaching the mare and her guardian tree now, she steps around it to gain a closer look. I know she’s looking at Don and his odd contraption that we’ve decided must appear to animals as some sort of prehistoric beast, perhaps a scorpion that has lost its tail. Just passing the tree and the mare now, she breaks into a dead run for a shed toward the back of the pasture. What? And there he is, with the mare now positioned between him and the wheeled-beasts, is the colt she ran to protect.
(At another time during the day we would be treated to a spectacular view of a red-tailed hawk taking flight directly away from us at about eye level, her horizontal stabilizer splayed out to flash an intense red tail assembly controlling the rapid gain in altitude as we rolled by on our humming tires.)
Mason is in view, and now we’re rolling into town. I’m glad Peggy went ahead to order for us so that we don’t waste time with lunch. She is such a trooper to SAG for us and tend to our every need. Mason looks just like it did all the years that it was part of the 33rd Judicial District. There’s the courthouse square: one of the prettiest in Texas.
There’s an open parking spot in front of the Willow Creek Cafe for access to the sidewalk. Hoisting the bike up to the elevated sidewalk, suddenly Peggy is there peering straight out of the window at me, taking pictures.
Looking at her looking at me, now I’m looking elsewhere in the cafe and it is obvious that we’ve made a hit at this small-town eatery. I recall it to be a good place to eat. From my reflected image I think an alien is about to pounce Peggy from behind. Don and I are dismantling the riding gear from our bodies to the rapt attention of the customers. All eating has come to a halt as they try to figure out who and what we are. I know the main question is “where are they from?”
That’s a funny sign on the wall, one of many: “There’s not much to see in a small town, but what you hear sure makes up for it.” I’m certain the town will be hearing about the strangers riding in from the South who inhaled a couple of BLTs and then faded away to the South again.
Mason to Yates Crossing — let’s be manly now
Now we begin the fading on our new Southerly course. As suspected, the fact that it was more Southwesterly in the face of a South wind did little to ameliorate the effect on the ride. Dang that wind is strong. Barely to the edge of town now and already it is clear that the wind will be a factor. The ride through town to reach our road going South was nice with tree-lined streets dotted by stately old houses. It’s nice to see many of the houses well-kept and standing proudly. Wind, hills, more wind, incessant hills. Don is telling me again how there is a lot of downhill on this last 41 miles of the trip. We are over half-way but the quest may yet be in doubt. On a bit of a flat run I can’t get in the top gear — only running about 14mph with noticeable effort, whereas normally I would be in a much higher gear running a steady 20-22mph with ease.
The first test
A few miles out of Mason we’ve climbed another 300 feet.
I know the Llano River crossing — the first of two on this segment — is coming up soon and the picnic-table-geezers at Castell had a lot to say about the climb out of the river valley.
Soon it’s there and it’s a gorgeous crossing with good water flow. Phooey, I did not get the video camera turned on. In the top gear, cranking rapidly, and flying down the hill and across the one-lane bridge I get a little slingshot effect up the other side. Click the right shifter and the rear cog goes up to one bigger — down-shifting as it were. Left click to the middle ring up front. Double click down more on the rear. Click left shifter simultaneously with the right shifter — small ring on the front now and a still larger cog on the rear. Less than 10 seconds of shifting and I’m down to the granny-gear for the grind up the 12% grade.
Our plan to break every 10 miles had not been faithfully adhered to but 70 miles is coming up and I’m darn sure going to enforce it. I’m feeling a lot of tension in my back which sometimes happens after hard climbs. I feel as if I’m beginning to struggle and the objective may be in doubt. My Garmin is set to give me 5-mile split times and they’ve been getting slower. After a good break we start off again but in no time I’m looking not for the next 10-mile break opportunity, but for the 5-mile split.
Just a few more miles and it’ll be 75. That comes and goes, now push for 80. Back is really tight. Another brief “stretch-stop” for back relief. Wish I had brought my Flexeril5 but then I would be asleep in the saddle — not good. Don is saying Yates Crossing is near — Peggy says it’s 3-4 miles. Push on, enjoy the overall downhill. Out of nowhere (maybe I’m not paying attention) comes Yates Crossing.
Yates Crossing on the Llano to Junction
It is a beautiful river crossing. A beautiful setting, but especially so to see the good water flow after all of the ravages of the great drought of 2011. That water sure looks inviting. I wish we had time for a dip. It looks a lot more inviting than that hill climbing out of the low point. Pictures taken, now to grind up the short but steep hill and suck down a Honey Stinger while Don finishes off his. We’re at 80 miles now. Just 10 more and it’ll be 90. I am struggling now but there is no way I’m going to let the Century slip from my grasp now. Don cranks up the hill on his non-bicycle with the barcalounger seat and as we accelerate he mentions that another opportunity to excel and demonstrate our tenacious manliness is just around the corner.
The second test
The hill has crested and we’re headed down into another valley. Accelerate, clicking steadily on the shifters the pedal RPMs are soon up to over 100 accelerating hard to gain the best slingshot up the onrushing hill which is now plainly in sight with Don about 1/3 of the way up it. He is already down in his granny-gear as I glide past — speed rapidly coming off.
The mileage is now over 80 and it must be close to 85 … sneak a peek at the Garmin … damn, only 82. Even on fairly level terrain anything over 12mph is with effort … increasing effort.
I’m drafting on Don after pulling that last hill but he pulls away and I can’t hold onto his rear wheel6. I really want to stop. I still have legs. Well, sort of. They still have power but they’re talking to me. Another stop to relieve the back. Finally 90 miles down. Another stretch-stop for the back. Around 93 miles now and another little bit of climbing, finally 95 miles.
I can’t believe that I’m going to have to struggle just to make the last five miles but it appears so. Suddenly it’s there: Junction City Limits! Gliding under IH-10, I know we’ve made it. Past the Valero truck stop. Past the BBQ place for supper later. Another couple of miles, now there is the park next to the river. Don has already made the call at 100 miles but I started my Garmin a little late on departure. Better roll out a bit more. In the park now and Don pulls over as I roll past to finish out the 100.
There it is: 100.1 miles. Done. That’s the story.
The struggle is over and man has triumphed over machine, terrain and Mother Nature. Don reached for the celebratory beers while I first chugged my EAS Myoplex recovery drink. I made pretty quick business of that and we all enjoyed a beer together, even as the park was circled by the police patrol car, causing us to tuck the brews away on the guess that drinking in the park might not be permitted. We felt like very justified scofflaws.
We loaded the bikes and headed for the Valero truck stop where Peggy had verified that we could get showers for a measly $5 each. Don had considered sending her into the Y’all-Come-Back-Motel to inquire if they rented rooms by the hour, but to his credit he thought better of that approach. 🙂 Good for him — he is smarter than the average bear after all. The shower was followed by BBQ which I topped off with a piece of banana cream pie. Delicious.
Congratulations to Don on his first Century Ride — well done, sir!
I may be qualified to write that really funny book now.
The stats worked out to be
101.31 miles 3803 feet of climb 5385 calories burned Heart rate avg/max 132/153 Speed avg/max 12.4/32.4 Total time 10.5 hours for an overall average of 9.61 including all stops and lunch.Ending weight 186.6
I mentioned the wind. Here is an interesting chart of the environmental factors (from the very fine logging and analysis program, SportTracks (click on it):
Century Ride: The movie
- Cycling – Tour de Longneques Saturday June 25th (donbynum.wordpress.com)
- Cycling – 101.5 miles! … No! … 101.5 Hilly Miles! (donbynum.wordpress.com)
Recent Possibly Related External Links
- “A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.” – Hemingway. Letter (6 December 1924); published in Ernest Hemingway : Selected Letters 1917-1961 (1981) edited by Carlos Baker ↩
- 100 mile bicycle ride ↩
- Part of the Garmin FR-305 sport watch function ↩
- The town water supply is the river which had stopped flowing ↩
- A muscle relaxer ↩
- a term used to describe staying close to the rider in front so as to draft in his slipstream ↩