Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!

Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!
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Although this blog was originally created by Andy Brickell and continues to be updated by him, the design and layout of the page is credited to his daughter, Mary-Claire Brickell. She's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sunday Mule

Blondie made some great records
 "I know a girl from a lonely street, cold as ice cream but still as sweet, dry your eyes Sunday Girl"

Blondie's 1978 UK hit "Sunday Girl" would have been a good earworm on my last ride, although there's zero chance it would have shown up on Kevin's iPhone I suspect.  They were a refreshing change on the UK music scene, coming on the tail of the Punks.

I couldn't ride Saturday (airport run to drop James off) and Kevin had church duties on Sunday.  Larry was entertaining grand-babies but Lee was planning to ride with the Mules, so I set out for Zube on a cool, clear Sunday morning, heading for an 8am start.

There were a fair number of vehicles heading in the same direction, some with bikes, others with female lacrosse players, as I found out when we got to the park.  The main parking areas were pretty full, which never happens, and I ended up in the overflow lot at the back.  As I pulled up, Lee parked next to me.  There was a very large girl's lacrosse tournament getting organized, with tents, banners and lacrosse sticks as far as the eye could see.

I got geared up, hit the rest room and then rode over to the main gate to wait for Lee.  Several other Mules appeared, including some new faces for me.  Pretty soon a good group developed and we began to discuss routes and paces.  I'd already talked with Lee about a longer route at a slower pace, say 50miles or so at 17-18mph, and he was up for that rather than the usual mad dash to the gas station. With 14 or so riders we had the luxury of multiple distances and speed groups, but Sean (ride director) wanted to keep the group together at least for the first 20 or so. Off we went with Lee and I in front. It rapidly became clear that the woutherly wind was going to be a big factor today, another good reason to keep the pace sensible. After a few miles we peeled off and let someone else do the work and sure enough a gap developed. I resolutely held my pace and Lee did the same.

We reached the split in fairly good order, with Lee and I not far behind the field. There then ensued a classic confused discussion about routes, distances and options. I waited for a while and then told Lee I was heading out, which I duly did leaving the group behind, still arguing about 28 miles vs 32 vs 35. Lee dropped in behind me and off we went, expecting to get picked off by the fast group at any moment. We got to the turn and immediately felt the wind, so we formed a paceline, switching out the lead every half-mile. We still made good time and held off the speedsters for quite a lot longer.

Our discipline held all the way to the gas station, pretty impressive for amateurs. The racers were still there when we arrived. after a break we had the same discussion, but this time Adam elected to join Lee and I on the longer, slower route. I told him he might get bored and fall asleep! Back at it and the three of us adopted the same scheme as before, switching out every half-mile. This worked well on the downwind legs, and we kept it up when we turned east for home. At this point we were on a beautifully smooth country road on a glorious morning and life was pretty good. Lee was starting to flag on the little climbs so Adam and I took the lion's share of the pulling. With a cross wind we try to ride en echelon, with the second rider beside the lead but about half a bike back, and the third in a similar position on the second. You don't get as much of a draft but you don't need it as much.

As we rolled east we spotted a large white dog, apparently sunning himself by a letter by a letter box. When we were level with him he leaped up and gave chase. Adam hit the afterburner and sped away, which was just what the mutt wanted - he dropped Lee and me and took off. Very entertaining to watch! The dog was of course harmless, just wanting a run but Adam didn't see it that way. The rest of the ride was uneventful, although we hadn't finished with work - Lee took us due south on Mathis into a now concrete head wind, before we turned east-northeast on Betka. Back at Zube and the lacrosse was in full swing. Wonder if they feel the wind?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow day in Houston!

A little ice on the roads and the country's fourth largest city grinds to a halt, with wrecks on every overpass.  I've been told to work from home today but that's a little challenging without my "laptop" (which is huge and has a brick that weighs more than my other devices combined, so I didn't bring it home on my bike yesterday), so time to update my blog.

Once again last weekend we planned to do the Pattison-Bellville out and back and once again we failed.  Kevin bailed on Friday night due to work commitments and Larry, while game for a ride, didn't want to stray far from home as he's remodelling and has a lot to do at weekends.  So he and I agreed to do the 48 mile route out and back from his house.

Another beautiful morning with less wind for once.  Fairly foggy on the way out to Pecan Grove but it had cleared by the time I arrived (an 8 o'clock start didn't hurt, c'mon Larry get out of bed dude).  We geared up and headed out through his neighbourhood.

Without Kevin forcing the pace we were happy to tool along at around 17mph.  I was working but Larry was riding well within himself.  15 miles in and Larry pulled up to check his tires - sure enough the front was soft, so we pulled over to fix it.   This didn't go very well - Larry's spare tube had a hole in it somewhere but it took two gas bottles before he worked it out.  I gave him my tube and bottle and persuaded him that my poor boy crack pipe gas bottle adapter worked better than his much fancier but rather old one, and we were finally back in business.

This had cost us 30 minutes and after a late start I couldn't really justify the full ride (poor Susan would be starving by the time I got home), so we agreed to add a few more miles and then turn around north of Fulshear.

Although there really wasn't much wind, it was enough to make the run home more enjoyable and we made pretty good time,  Back at Larry's place and I got him to put some of his recovery drink powder in y bottle (yuck).  As a reward I also took a few sausage pinwheels freshly baked by Sheri  much more palatable.

Will we ever get to do the Pattison route?  I hope so because we'll go past what Rick at work calls his "car farm", a property where he stores his collection of more than 40 1971 Dodge Chargers.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bling/not Bling

Followers of this blog will have a pretty good idea of where I stand on the thorny issue of bike bling - I'm all for it, and vehemently opposed to any accessory, however practical, that is not used by the pros or violates The Rules (yes Kevin, I include your camelback).  However, I'm also drawn to some of the views expressed by Grant Peterson in his little book "Just Ride", which are pretty much anti-bling.  Something of an internal conflict for me that became external recently when I was planning a ride.

I took a few days off work this week because Annette, a very old friend from London, was visiting.  She is an ultra-runner and puts my athletic endeavours to shame.  She had brought some running gear and went out both mornings that she was here, spurring me on to get up and go for a ride on Wednesday morning.  So on Tuesday I was planning the ride, thinking about the bike, shoes, GPS etc etc when it occurred to me that I could have just as much fun riding my commuter and not bothering with the bling.  I had a short-ish, flat route in mind and was going solo so why not scale the bling back a bit?

So come Wednesday morning I got up (not too early), put on my oldest, most retro jersey and a pair of tennis shoes and headed out, expecting to cut my ride prep time in half.  Unfortunately I'd forgotten that the commuter doesn't have a bottle rack (I use a fanny pack for bits and pieces when I commute and it has a bottle pocket), so I wasted about 20 minutes rigging one up - couldn't find the right Allen key, had to peel off some camo duct tape, yadda yadda yadda.

I finally got going on a beautiful, crisp morning and started to enjoy the ride.  The commuter is pretty heavy (steel tubes) and the one gear it has is quite aggressive, but once you get it going it rolls pretty well.  I rode Terry Hershey to George Bush and back, about a 36 mile run.  Not too many other riders, lots of birds in George Bush (mostly boring but one grey heron in flight, a majestic sight) and a small deer.  I passed a jolly group of three older Asian men on bikes and when I came back they had set up to fish in the creek.

Back in Terry Hershey and a crew had begun resurfacing the path, which is great but put me onto a muddy dirt track.  The commuter has wider tires than the road bike but it's no off-roader and mud was flying in all directions as I slithered and slipped along.

I got home to find Annette had been out and was back, all showered up and drinking coffee with Susan.  When we first met Annette and her family none of us were remotely athletic, now I'm a top fund-raiser and she can run 100 miles in 27 hours.  I wonder how else we've changed?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


So the plan for last weekend was the 50 mile Pattison-Bellville out and back with Kevin and Larry.  But Kevin called on Frday evening to bail out due to work commitments (what's up with that?), so I opted for the Frostbike 50 organized ride on Sunday because Jorge was going to ride.  But then on Saturday Jorge had to bail too, being on Mother-in-Law minding duty, so Sunday morning found me heading out to Lone Star college on my own - and I had to drive, too!

Once there I quickly found the Mules trailer and a big group.  Paddy is in Perth (where he seems to be spending a lot of time on his bike...) so Crawford had towed the trailer behind his shiny new pick-up truck, features of which he proudly demonstrated to me.  Crawford is a big, burly Scotsman with an accent you could cut with a skean-dhu, but he's also a diehard Aggie fan and a regular tail-gater at Kyle Field.  His truck (Aggie maroon, natch) is kitted out with large, built-in coolers along the truck bed, and he can rig up a sofa on the actual tail gate.  As a true Brit though his tailgating fare generally includes proper bacon, sausage and eggs (because he gets there at the crack of dawn, as you must to get a good spot).

We talked about pace groups and distances for the ride.  I was planning to ride the longest route, 55 miles, but at a reasonably subdued pace (I joked that I was looking for 16mph but they took me seriously).  Adam had brought a friend, Dexter, a fairly green rider who wanted to do the 45 mile route and my pace sounded good to him.  So we duly set out, 16 Mules in all.

The first half of the road is all south of 290 and mostly new roads to me.  The second half is on more familiar territory around Zube park.  With a freshening wind off the gulf it looked like we would be fighting on the way home, unfortunately.

Dexter and I settled into a 16.5mph pace pretty comfortably and chatted a bit.  He rode the MS150 for the first time last year and enjoyed it despite having a wreck when he went for his water bottle fairly early on.  As a result he's still uncomfortable riding one-handed and in fact didn't actually take a drink until we stopped at the breaks.

The first break was in Paul Rushing park, which I've seen before - it has several cricket pitches and while we were there a group of players arrived, presumably for some practise.  The ride organizers had only provided two port-a-potties and so a big line developed.  This was bad planning, the first rest stop is always busy.  I stood in line for 20 minutes or more.

Back at it and we passed Warren Lake which is part of the Katy Prairie Conservancy and has a beautiful two-level wildlife viewing platform - well worth a visit, Susan and I went there a few weeks back.  Pretty soon after that the 45/55 mile routes split and Dexter and I parted company.

I picked up the pace a bit for the next few miles.  It was just a gorgeous morning and with a generally favourable wind I was cooking along in fine style.  Then came the turn and my speed dropped dramatically but I was still feeling good.

There was a decent sized group of riders in very distinctive yellow jerseys who passed me several times in this stretch, presumably because they were stopping more frequently.  Their leader was rocking a gold helmet and a reddish beard that would not have looked out of place on Duck Dynasty! But they were courteous riders and called out when they passed, more than I can say for another group with whom I exchanged words.  They were moving fast in a tight paceline and the leader called out, but then one of their riders buzzed me - passing so close I could read his bike computer.  This caught me by surprise and I wobbled quite a bit.  More angry than frightened, I yelled a choice phrase or two at their backs, something to the effect that they should please give me more room as we weren't in the Tour de France.  I added an adjective for emphasis, and one of the female riders responded with a time-honoured gesture involving one finger.  Either that or she was showing me her manicure.  A charming little interlude, all too common I'm afraid.

By now I was 40 miles in and tiring.  It only got worse when we crossed under 290 and the road headed due south into the wind through a tree-less plain.  With no shelter at all my speed dropped to about 12mph - and I was passing people at that.  This torture continued for a few miles until we got into one of the soul-less subdivisions that dot the prairie.  Houses and trees provided some respite from the wind, and then we finally made the turn north and back to the start.  My computer showed 57 miles at an average speed of 14.5mph, nothing to brag about but not bad under the conditions.

Next week we'll try Plan A again, hopefully Kevin and Larry won't beat me up too badly.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

They call me "The Kid"

Or at least they should anyway, when I'm riding with Kevin (two years older than me) and Larry (older than dirt) as I was yesterday.  Kevin was looking for a 45-50 mile route and Larry obliged, with a Tennessee Waltz of a ride around Pecan Grove, Fulshear and Simonton.

We started from Larry's place, at the bottom of a cul-de-sac bordering a golf course.  He took us on a very circuitous route out to route 359, trying to keep off busy roads.  It was actually a pretty run through pecan groves along quiet roads.

Once onto 359 we were in familiar territory, and with a good tail wind we were cooking along very comfortably all the way past Fulshear and onto Pool Hill road.  Larry threw in a wrinkle to get the mileage up and that found us making some south legs, where I needed to drop a whole chain ring just to keep up.

The run back to Fulshear was due south into the wind but we formed a pace line and I was able to hang on.  But I was glad to take a break at the gas station, where we met a friend of Larry's who teaches a spin class at the Houstonian and raises more money for the MS150 than I do - and she doesn't get a match!  We also chatted with a very friendly lady who looked very familiar.  It was only when we were about a mile down the route that I realised it was Jennifer from work, who I know is a very keen rider.

Action shot by Kevin - do try to keep up Larry!
Once we were on Bois D'Arc, a relatively quiet section, Kevin pulled out his iPhone and tried to take
a few actions shots of me for the blog.  I question your approach to safety, my friend, but some of them look good.

Kevin really bailed us out over the next 10 miles.  We were mostly running against the wind and he took the lead all the way, driving us along at 20mph for one section.

There were plenty of cyclists out and sadly some of them ignored etiquette.  Several times we saw groups approaching us riding two and three abreast with cars waiting patiently behind them.  We called out "car back!", and I waved my arms at them, but they kept their formation.  We always make room for cars, at least in part for self-preservation.  Riders that block traffic just make drivers angry and ultimately we see truck vs bike conflicts that always end badly for the guys in lycra.

At last we turned off 359 and into the subdivisions Larry showed us on the way out.  With more trees along narrower streets we were protected from the wind somewhat and we cruised in pretty comfortably.  Back at the start, Larry offered us a choice of beverages - water, soda, beer or recovery drink.  We opted for the latter and it tasted truly awful, but supposedly my muscles were less sore today because of the drink, so that's good I guess.

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Daily commute to work

Daily commute to work
This isn't quite right but it's close. 9.5 miles, about 40 minutes.

Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park
10 miles of safe, paved cycling bliss - except for all the foot traffic

The Sealy ride

The Sealy ride
45 miles through very pretty Texas countryside. Looks benign but there's a very hilly section at mile 35.

The Katy ride

The Katy ride
It's on the Katy prairie - flat, flat, flat