It's October so it's time to get back in the saddle! My customary Fall chest infection passed fairly quickly this year (last year I lost the whole Fall) and I'm more or less back to normal, just a bit of residual chest tightness and of course my signature cough.
Kevin the super domestique isn't doing as well, sadly - he went down hard a few weeks back and fractured his hip! He's made a good recovery and should be rolling again next week.
Too bad he missed yesterday's ride, the Kiwanis Sealy Fall Classic, he would have enjoyed it. Great weather, some new roads, lots of Mules out and pie at every rest stop. I rolled up at Sealy about 15 minutes before the start but had no problem parking, one of the many advantages of these smaller rides (I think they had about 200 participants). A brief chat with the gang (and an opportunity to meet several new Mules), a semi-serious attempt by Adam to recruit me for his company's MS150 team (apparently I raised more in 2013 than the entire team) and we were off.
Lee's plan was for the group to stay together at 16-17mph until the second rest stop at 22 miles and then split into pace groups. Sounded great but of course we're pretty soon cruising along above 20 mph, in part thanks to a tail wind. Familiar roads for me but not for most of the others, and they enjoyed the smooth surface and pleasant country scenery.
I was able to hing with the group as far as Bernardo, where we turned south into terra incognita for me, but with a head wind I struggled to stay in touch. Lee was good enough to drop back and keep me company and we had a good chat too.
I was ready for that rest stop when it arrived! Very nice setting, in a country churchyard on a beautiful morning. Another benefit of a small group - four portapotties, no waiting - that never happens. Refreshments included several varieties of pie, and for the volunteers a discrete bar in the back of a pick-up, where bloody marys were on offer - my kind of charitable organization for sure.
We were joined by some friends from the Team In Training group and set out once more en masse. After a few miles we were back on the route that Kevin and I follow. I was flagging again but this time one of the Team In Training guys dropped back. The others were rapidly disappearing in the distance so it was good to have company, particularly when two dogs appeared from the same area that we've seen them in the past. They looked harmless and friendly enough but turned out to be evil and gave us a good chase. I nearly hit both of them but managed to stay upright.
We got to the turn for Cat Spring but on this route we go straight ahead, avoiding the Alpe de Sealy section of song and story. I was very happy to see the final rest stop! Surprisingly the Mules had stopped too, which was very good of them. They set out first while I was still watering, then my riding buddy decided to chase them, leaving me to bring up the rear on my own (which was fine, I know the route home).
The last ten miles were tough. There was a head wind that didn't help but really I was just about exhausted. I felt drained with about 5 miles to run but remembered I had another gel in my pocket, so for the first time ever I ate it while riding (and I didn't mess with Texas!). Not sure that it helped, but I found a bit more energy when I got on to the road into Sealy.
Back at the start and a big gang of Mules drinking beer. There was food on offer so I got a plate (excellent home-made food - sausage, brisket, meatballs!) and a dixie cup of Weedwhacker and sat down with the gang for the debrief. Considering how little I've been riding, I did OK but still felt pretty bad. Oh well, it can only get better.