I was surprised at the number of riders who showed up. We set out in groups by average speed - the 23+ mph head-bangers first, then the 18-20 mph people, and the rest behind. I joined the middle group, even though 18-20 mph is a pretty hot pace for me. Doug pointed out that it was easier to drop back and join a slower group than it was to try to catch a faster one, and that made sense.
It was already warm when we started. The first few miles were along a busy road with traffic lights, and the groups began to merge at the red lights. I settled in to a sensible pace that kept me just behind Doug's group and was felling pretty good. I rode by a gentleman wearing a shirt with the Pink Floyd "Atom Heart Mother" image on the back (see previous posts!) and we began chatting after I complimented him on it.
Pretty soon we were in familiar territory for me - FM 1093 heading west towards Fulshear. The group stopped en masse at a Shell station in town and I chatted with Doug and Bryan another BHP hand and a pretty serious rider too. I kept an eye on my fellow Pink Floyd fan and a young woman who had been keeping pace with us and we set out together on the next leg.
High temperatures and humidity and a lack of recent saddle time started to take their toll a bit but I pushed ahead anyway, pulling the other two for long stretches. We began to feel the wind, too, which didn't help. Back into Fulshear and on 1093 for the run home - but then the riders ahead forked off on Bois D'Arc (one of my training routes) and I foolishly followed, knowing that this would add 10 miles to a 47 mile loop.
By now we had dropped the Pick Floyd fan but picked up another rider and the three of us pushed ahead. I was starting to feel the miles now. A quick break at a busy junction, then on to the pull north back to 1093. The girl obviously enjoyed the break, as she took off at a pretty hot pace. I pulled her in and took the lead along this very familiar section. Back at 1093 and I was really in trouble - tired, dehydrated and starting to bonk. I had picked up an energy bar at the Shell station so I told the others to go ahead without me while I fuelled up. This was probably a big mistake, as I had no-one to push me and didn't know the route.
On my own now, and not feeling the energy bar at all, I struggled north. With no riders in sight I had to rely on memory for the route - and I got it wrong, blowing right by a turn. Hurting everywhere, I pushed ahead at a pathetically slow pace and ran into Pin Oak, a north/south road that runs up to the freeway. I had no idea which way to turn, but opted to head for the freeway, thinking that I might ride down the access road. I was very happy to run into Highland Knolls, which runs due east back to Bike Barn. Just a few miles to go but the tank was absolutely empty. I wanted to stop every 100 yards, but pushed myself hard and was rewarded with the sight of Grand Parkway and a CVS store. I pulled over and went in to cool off and pick up supplies. My wonderful new high-tech bike was left outside, at the mercy of any casual thief - but I didn't care, I needed a break and having the bike stolen would give me a great excuse to call Susan and ask for a ride.
12 oz of orange Gatorade later, I remounted and headed out. Pretty quickly I crossed the road that I should have been on, and a couple of riders from the group passed me. I slotted in behind them for the last mile. Back at the car, I hardly had the strength to take off my shoes and load up the bike.
Home and bed for a couple of hours. On top of fatigue, dehydration and bonking, I probably had a little heat stroke too - I've had better days.