— Hub, Robert Duvall‘s character in Secondhand Lions. And thus on New Year’s Eve, 2010, a tale begins, not in a galaxy far, far away, but on a mountain top near you. Well, actually on a bunch of mountain tops. My cycling buddy (and high school classmate from eons ago), Don Bynum, and I had talked of several possible “geezer rides of epic proportion” — let that idea soak in and make of it as you will.
For perspective, in March of 2010 I could not run a mile non-stop. Growing out of a bet (upon which several participants cheated, but that’s a different story) about weight loss I started running using the Couch to 5k regimen. Along the way, my former high school classmate and I got together and I began bicycling on his Peugeot Triathlon — a “classic” machine of early 80’s vintage. We began piling on some miles, me on the Peugeot and he on his 3-wheeled non-bicycle with barco-lounger seat — a Catrike 3-wheeled recumbent.
We made the Llano to Castell trek several times with varying groups of cyclists. We did the Mormon Mill road run in several of its variants, often including a dozen or more riders departing the Anchor of Hope Church lot in Marble Falls — one time 21 riders made the departure, later breaking off into various routes, some over 80 miles that day. On that day we did the 35 mile loop that includes CR330, CR335 and back into CR240, the Mormon Mill Road.
On a couple of occasions Don talked about doing 100 miles — a so-called “Century Ride” — before the end of the year. I was still on the 12-speed, heavy Peugeot and thought perhaps he had been hit in the head too many times by a boom while attempting a downwind jibe. Then I bought the Scattante R-570 bike whereupon I lost about 1/3 of the weight compared to the Peugeot, went from 12 speeds to 30, and got Brifters — gear shifters on the brake levers — and clip-in pedals, the latter two of which seamlessly make the rider one with the bike. I started racking up some miles on “Old Blue,” first 20 or so at a time, then 27, then 33, then …
… suddenly the prospect of a 100 miler did not seem so daunting. The plan began to come together. The end of the year was now perilously close and weather was changing daily. Don had chosen a route and, independently, we poured over maps and laid plans. The equipment was ready and, so were we. Now back to the beginning for a moment, recall March when a mile was a tough effort. I’ve since run a total of 269 miles plus a 5k race, and cycled 610 miles up to this point. I’ve lost 18 pounds and lost a couple of pant sizes.
We did a short “warmup” ride the day before out CR330 and back as a last-minute equipment and body check, and to keep the neurons firing those muscles. Everything was working and eagerness set in. Tomorrow was the day!
There I was, 7:15a.m. on December 31, 2010 at Don’s house on the West side of Lake Buchanan. The sun was trying to peek above the hills from across the lake and I was wondering if I had on enough clothing for the 50’ish degrees on a high-humidity morning. After a banana (on top of the oatmeal and whole wheat toast from Atwoods earlier) and a trip to the necessary room, we were ready. Don’s wife, Peggy, took the obligatory here’s-what-they-looked-like-when-last-seen photo and off we pedaled.
Pedaling easy in order to warm up, we pulled out on RR261 that approximately traces the Western shoreline of Lake Buchanan, and headed North and then Westward. We were not even a mile out when I realized I had not strapped on the heart monitor. Oh, well. With the Garmin Forerunner (FR-305) and Garmin Oregon 400t devices strapped to the handlebar in front of me I already had data overload.
We wanted also to overload other possibly interested parties with data so I had my InstaMapper application running on the DROID X smartphone which would update our position every 5 minutes for Jennifer, Peggy and Don’s son, Russell, to track us (sorry, if I gave you that link I’d have to kill you). For the general (possibly admiring) public a Google Map had been created that would be updated periodically with track and stats from the My Tracks application which was also running on the Droid. The results are on that Google Map and also on the Garmin Connect site.
Our first geographic point of interest would be the Llano County Courthouse — a mere 17.5 miles distant — but by now you are wondering why we are doing this? There is no one answer but they’re all pretty simple. First, because it’s there and we’re guys. It’s a guy thing. Some would say such a thing at age 66 (and remember my only recently getting conditioned) is fool-hardy especially when you’re just getting started good. But then “What do ya want me to do? Die of old age?” But perhaps the converse of that quote is the real reason. As Don and I often lament as we are sweating and cranking up a hill, quadriceps burning and lungs screaming out loud, most of our classmates seem to not be so active and may not make it so old age as a result — and far too many have already failed to do so. We both plan to be cranking up hills when we’re 86 and if a heart attack or a dually pulling a cattle trailer intervene, then please come back and read about our adventures with the same fondness with which we’re creating and enjoying them!
The Llano courthouse came and went and we soon turned onto FM2323, a bit with trepidation on my part because not only would this be the main outbound leg of the 100 miles, but Don had mentioned that the elevation gain was over 1,000 feet with many climbs — some of “significant” grade — so I knew our total ascents (cumulative feet climbed, taking into account going downhill and back up again, repeatedly) would be far greater. The stats would later bear this out.
The sun was now full up and we were getting some radiant heating. The temperature was still in the low 50’s with some wind. All my warm riding gear that Jen had equipped me with for Christmas was working. Over the first 12 miles we averaged 13.1 mph and on into Llano we continued that average. We knew we had to average, overall, 12 mph to make the round tip by dark. Keeping at or above 12 mph while moving is one thing. Maintaining that average overall — there are resting, eating, and other necessities enroute — would be difficult. I was thinking (which Don later brought up) that if we were doing this in Harris County instead of Llano and Gillespie counties the goals would be easier.
The traffic was light and the vehicles we encountered were considerate. I think as drivers see more cyclists, and provided the cyclists ride single file and give way as much as possible, the acceptance level of the idea of sharing the road is improving. That’s good because not only is it fair, it’s safer. We are both lit up pretty good. Don’s trike has a flashing rear light and strobing headlight plus his giant flag. I have a Planet Bike Superflash flashing rear light on the bike and one on my Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack (which was loaded with energy bars and gels, nuts, clothing and three liters of water with elete electrolyte drops), plus a monster Cat Eye Opticube strobe on the front.
The soft morning light bathed the pastures as we cruised by. Even in the starkness of winter this country is pretty. You see things you don’t normally spot due to the light and often non-existent leaf canopies on the trees. We saw two red-tailed hawks soaring above us at one point, relieved that they were not buzzards homing in on the hapless geezers chugging along below. The rolling hills dropped behind us one by one as I tried to maintain a steady 80 rpm cadence on the pedals. Another goodie Jen had gifted me is the Garmin cadence counter which wirelessly transmits to both the FR-305 and the Oregon. We could often ride side by side when there was no traffic and as is usually the case our conversations covered the entire landscape of topics, often of politics or various technical matters such as why my heart rate typically runs 15 beats higher than his.
At 36.5 miles we crested Prairie Mountain and stopped at the Prairie Mountain School historical site for some fruit and a Honey Stinger (energy gel). I would down a couple more of those before the day ended. Peggy, faithful SAG support was there to greet and check up on us. She had also brought my heart rate monitor so I could now tell if I had a pulse! Up to this point we had ridden many gradual climbs, longish but not steep. However, Don advised that this was about to be replaced by steeper climbs — many of them.
And he was right. In the remaining 15 miles we would climb 541 feet in absolute elevation change. The total ascents would, of course, be many times that. (click the thumbnail for larger image). There was one stretch we really hated. For all of the enjoyment of “proving” yourself, we did not have fun on this stretch. In 1-1/2 miles we gained 222 feet — half of the total gain of the final 15 miles. The power calculations from the Fr-305 as analyzed by the Sporttracks program show a peak output of almost 600 watts, whereas my average for the entire trek was 110. I doubt that peak calculation is correct (that’s an estimate done in software) but for some short burst that may be close to right. That’s where the heart rate peaked at 165. Luckily, I had taken on some additional carbs well prior to this ascent in the form of a Clif’s bar.
We had many good downhill runs as well. On the elevation chart you can see a short one at 17 miles — that was coming down into Llano whereupon Don’s Garmin Etrex popped off of the Catrike and we had to stop for him to retrieve it. The good one was at about 38 miles and it was a nice sweeper on the downhill. Those are fun. That’s where I hit the 32.3 mph peak.The descents are fun because you can lift your head a bit more and enjoy the scenery. They also usually took us into bottoms where the foliage is still a bit greener in spite of the wintery drought that continues to grip the Hill Country of Texas.
But contrary to what Sir Isaac Newton thought, what goes down must go up again, at least in the world of velocipedes! That last series of climbs took their toll. We both had ridden the day before, and Don had done a short but hard ride on Wednesday. We were about 2 miles from our turnaround point and looking forward to a rest when Don blurted out “I think when we get to the end you can stick a fork in me … I’m done.” My first thought was “balderdash” — we can’t quit now! Then my brain began to overtake the testosterone and I readily agreed. After we got the bikes and our bodies loaded into Peggy’s waiting SUV and sank back into the soft seats, we knew we had made a correct decision.
Two results: (1) we had each set a personal best for difficulty (and me for distance), and (2) the goal for 2011 was now crystal clear — do a 100 miler, and do THIS one. I’m thinking maybe we need to start with a little flatter one. Don has an end-of-the-year posting that also discusses the ride, among other of his life events.
The charts produced by SportTracks:
On the left is the summary, route map, and splits. I had the FR-305 set to do automatic splits each mile, and then changed it to every 5 miles since 100 splits would be meaningless. On the right, splits are continued plus heart rate and speed graphs are presented. The last graph (below) has the elevations charted.