Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!

Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!
click on the pic to donate to Andy


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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bad Domestique!

not sure she'd be much use as a domestique
"Bad, Bad, Do-mes-tique, BadBad Domestique" (to the tune of "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga).
How bad was he?  Hmm, good-bad, not evil.  But read on.

The Mules have decided to offer pace groups and route options so we headed out to Zube on a seasonally-warm (ie, hotter and more humid than Satan's sauna) morning.  Kevin wanted to make an early start but I wasn't as quick off the mark and when we got there, most of the Mules had already left.

Up and at 'em, with the cream of the Northwest Cycling Club blowing past us at regular intervals.  I tried withering sarcasm on one particulalry egregious offender - "Thanks for letting me know you were passing, sir" - but it had no discernible effect.  Kevin prefers the direct approach but managed not to spit on anyone this week.  One of these days I'm going to mime a snot-rocket just as they draw level and see what that does.

On the advice of Christy our family trainer I had pre-loaded my system with a healthy shot of super-starch.  Apparently if I take this stuff I won't need to eat any gels on the ride, which is good because they're just sugar and preservatives anyway (says Christy).  I was also swigging on a bottle provided by Kevin that was laced with electrolytes, so I was pretty well hopped-up.  Despite the pharmaceuticals coursing through my system I was flagging after 15 miles (possibly due to a slight head wind) and once again called for the shortcut to the Exxon.

The place was mobbed with riders when we arrived and I was pleased to see a large number of Mules jerseys.  There was a fast group that included several of the real speedsters but also a second group with Paddy and Ian who were riding at what Paddy described as a fat-burning pace.  Yvonne and Gene were also there and it was great to catch up with them for a bit.

Back on the pedals and Kevin and I agreed to go with the Paddy group, who were planning on taking our usual route back anyway.  We soon found ourselves in a double pace-line at a very respectable clip.  I can't imagine riding without Kevin but I'd forgotten how much fun it is to be in a large group, riding in close formation.

Paddy called for a turn onto Mathis, which we've been avoiding for the last few rides because it adds miles and is of course where the Hound of the Baskervilles (Texas edition) lurks in waiting for Kevin's grapefruit-sized calves.  We went for it, in part because we had a tail wind and were feeling strong, but also because  with that many riders our odds of being selected by the mutts were significantly improved.  In fact they didn't materialise, which we didn't mind at all.

The last few miles rolled by easily enough.  Within sight of the barn (practically anyway) Paddy and Ian decided to air it out and took off.  Kevin was apparently feeling a bit trapped with so many riders around him because he also broke clear and hit the gas (he hit 31mph!).  I gave chase but didn't have the legs.  Bad Domestique - you're supposed to protect the team leader, not go careering off on your own.  He stopped under the freeway to wait for me and didn't look in the least abashed when I chastised him.  That's going to be a few pounds out of your wage packet, my lad.

Back at Zube, we walked over to the new Mules trailer for a little post-ride socializing but no-one was hanging around.  Not surprising, given that it was 90+ in the shade, as Kevin pointed out.  Time for chocolate milk.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Recovery ride

Although the plan had been to ride twice over the long weekend, after my epic flame-out on Thursday I wasn't at all sure that I'd be ready for more punishment on Saturday. But chocolate milk and sleep worked their magic and I actually felt pretty good and certainly ready for more saddle time when Kevin rolled up.

Off to Zube, then, for a date with the Mules. Paddy had already set up the new trailer when we arrived, and Gene, Crawford and Yvonne were there too. I wanted to start with them, expecting to get dropped, but when we got back to the trailer after the obligatory visit to the toilet block for fluid level adjustment they had already left.

Kevin had come loaded for bear after our last outing. He traded me a bottle of water for one with Cytomax, a more scientifically designed version of Gatorade, and had a stick of chews too. Good job there's no drug testing for weekend warriors - if I'd had to pee into a plastic cup it would probably have melted after that lot.

Saturday mornings are always very busy at Zube, and as expected we were passed by several fast groups within the first few miles. Cycling etiquette calls for announcing your presence when passing with a cry of "on your left" but some of the groups are too proud to acknowledge the existence of lesser riders and just zip past, barely a water-bottle's width from your shoulder. It's more annoying than anything else but I often send rude riders on their way with a well-chosen expletive or two. Today I was too mellow to bother but Kevin chose a great moment to expectorate on his left.

We had a tail wind on the way out so our slow start had us above 17mph. Quite a difference when we turned north and it became a cross wind. But I was feeling pretty good, certainly better than Thursday.

We reached the Harris county line and decided to take the short cut to the Exxon, an audible from Kevin that I knew not to ignore at my peril. The route has a short climb, then a nice long descent all in pretty countryside, before you pick up a busier road into Hempstead. With a wide shoulder, smooth surface and tail wind we were soon cruising at better than 20mph. I was glued to Kevin's rear wheel and felt like a pro in the Tour de France peloton.

At the Exxon we were about 5 miles short of our normal distance but both felt strong enough to take on the more hilly route home via Prairie View A and M. My climbing was pretty solid but I had to call Kevin back towards the end of the section.

The last 12 miles were dead into the wind but we managed to keep a respectable pace. Somewhere along here we were passed by another group but this time the lead rider actually called out as they drew level. Kevin noted that the group had a woman in the front, perhaps that's the difference.

Back at Zube and the Mules had gone. They must have been much faster, or taken an even shorter route. Too bad, I wanted to catch up with everyone. Anyway, first things first - I broke out the chocolate milk (organic of course, nothing's too good for my domestique) and we began the recovery process. All things considered I did pretty well, which we'll put down to a combination of Cytomax and sensible route selection.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sad, Ancient Geezer

All organised rides have Sag wagons, vehicles that patrol the course offering assistance to those that need it, and rides in for those who are too tired to finish. No-one really knows why they're called Sag wagons - some say it stands for "Support And Gear" - but we've all experienced a sagging sensation during a ride. There's no shame at all in sagging but it's been a point of pride for me that I've never sagged on the MS150, despite really wanting to a few times. However, I've had to get a ride in due to exhaustion on several occasions now, the most recent being yesterday.

It was the first day of a four-day weekend for Kevin and me and we had previously agreed to ride twice, Thursday and Saturday. We're both getting pretty bored with our standard trundle around Hempstead, so we opted for the Sealy ride instead. Taking on the toughest ride we do in the fall and spring run-up to the MS on July 3rd in Central Texas was perhaps a little ambitious, at least with hindsight anyway, but what's life without a little challenge?

On the way out of Sealy a small dog decided to stretch his legs a little and kept pace with us while staying safely on his own territory. Kevin yelled "Go home!" at him a few times but I was impressed by his form and was more encouraging. When the mutt got to the end of his yard he peeled off with a few token yaps and went back to his morning nap. As it turned out, this was a good omen for a ride that is often enlivened by canine assaults. The usual suspects didn't materialize, perhaps as Kevin suggested because we were two days early and they weren't expecting us.

We got to the turn onto the road that runs into San Bernardo, both feeling surprisingly tired after only 15 miles. This section starts with a longish downhill run which is where we often see the more exotic birds that have featured in previous blog posts, such as the caracara and the scissor-tailed flycatcher. Nothing on display today however, presumably because they had all migrated north like sensible creatures.

I was glad to make the usual stop for water at the feed store in San Bernardo, where for once we weren't made to feel like lycra-clad yuppies from the big city (another benefit of a Thursday ride, the grumpy old git wasn't working and we got his nice wife instead).

Once more onto the pedals and the most scenic section of the ride, with some much-enjoyed shady portions. The real hell-hounds, who favour the silent approach, lurk along here and we were ready for them, but they didn't emerge from their lair. We got back on to the main San Bernardo - Cat Spring road and Kevin called an audible, suggesting that as we were both struggling, we could modify the route to avoid the hilly section. This would cut down the mileage and make for a more tedious route, so I foolishly suggested that we continue as planned, a call I would come to regret.

The run north into Cat Spring was very tough for me, with a few punchy climbs on a very rough road. We reached the standard second stop at an odd little convenience store/diner/gas station on the north side of town, where we are usually also made to feel like pariahs. Sure enough the first words out of the proprietor lady's mouth were "We've only got one Gatorade". The state motto of Texas is "Friendship" but this lady had apparently forgotten it. But we jollied her along with self-deprecating humour and that broke the ice.

And so onto the hills! I managed reasonably well on the first few but then we ran into construction and some slow-moving vehicles that we couldn't really pass. As a result we had to climb the toughest section practically from a standing start. I shifted down into my tallest gear and had to grunt it out, with no cadence or spinning, just forcing the pedals down on each stroke. My computer showed 7mph when I crested the second rise and I wasn't surprised. For once Kevin was behind me and actually not in sight, most unusual for him. I pulled over to wait, frankly glad of the break, and then started back in case he'd had a mechanical or something worse. I really hoped he would appear before I started on the down hill as I did not want to climb that section again and thankfully he did. Caught flat-footed like me, he didn't have the momentum to spin up the hill as is his normal style and had stopped to regain his composure.

That was the last time I had to wait for him! The climb had pretty much depleted my reserves and I was suffering pretty badly. We finished out the hill section and made the turn onto Route 36, where I requested a quick break to lie down for a minute or two, a clear sign that I was done for the day. After a minute or two I got up (with the help of Kevin's strong right arm) and got back on the bike.

Route 36 is a major road with a wide shoulder and an excellent surface, and we expected a partial tail wind to blow us the last seven miles home, but I was blown and asked Kevin to sag me in. We found a shady spot on a side road and I hit the dirt. Kevin put a water bottle within reach and gave me his last energy bar, then headed out for the rescue. Sadly his warning about fire ant mounds fell on deaf ears and I soon became aware that something was nibbling on my neck and shoulders. I was too tired to move but I shuffled around a bit and they stopped, presumably bored with chewing on me.

Although I felt absolutely awful it was quite pleasant to lie in the shade with the sun coming through the leaves of a tree and the occasional cool-ish breeze. After a little while I realised my phone was ringing but by the time I found it and picked up it had gone through to voice mail. It was Kevin of course and he sounded quite relieved when I called him back. He was back at the car and on his way.

The cavalry arrived and we loaded up (not much help from me, I have to say). Back in Sealy, Kevin stopped at a gas station for emergency supplies - chocolate milk (the thinking rider's recovery drink) and cheese-flavoured popcorn (for the salt). These worked surprisingly well and by the time we hit Katy I was sitting up and paying attention.

What did I learn from this misadventure? That I'm not Lance Armstrong and should not take on tough rides when it's 90+ degrees, that it's good to ride with friends who are prepared to take care of you, and that when one of those friends suggests making the ride easier I should listen. Oh, and that super-domestiques like Kevin are worth their weight in gold.


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