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.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Easy like Saturday morning

I managed to burn the crap out of my left hand on Thursday (picked up a skillet that had been in the oven, don't worry, 2nd degree burns only) and it's nicely blistered up. One-handed riding didn't appeal, neither did Lee's suggestion that I get a unicycle, so I got a free Saturday morning in the middle of training season! Woo-hoo! After a long lie-in and a leisurely breakfast, we scrubbed some lemons for one of my donors and headed for the Heights. Lunch in Les Ghivrals (superb banh mi) then off to Buchanan's to get some geraniums and ivy for our window boxes. Unfortunately my donor was not at home to receive her reward fruit but there you go.

Meanwhile Lee and Kevin headed off to Pecan Grove for a 50 mile thrash with Larry. Sadly but not unexpectedly Kevin popped a spoke and rode the last 15 with his wheel rubbing on his brakes. I think I got the better deal to be honest, although to be fair the burns did hurt quite a bit for a while.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Locomotive Breath

I accidentally helped myself to an extra 40 minutes sleep before yesterday's ride and it may have paid dividends, as I got around a tough parcours fairly comfortably. Fortunately our new tradition is a pre-ride stop at Starbucks, so I was able to get a breakfast of a sausage/egg/cheese biscuit as well as my usual coffee. Like a good team leader I picked up the tab for my domestiques, hopefully that won't invalidate their amateur status.

We had planned a tougher ride this time, either Sealy or Bellville, but the wind was out of the south east so ideally we needed a loop that finished with a north leg. I suggested some options but in the end we decided that the wind wasn't going to be strong enough to be a factor anyway and headed off to Sealy.

As we passed the BP complex (aka the Black Lubyanka) Lee noted that the vultures circling the towers seemed more numerous than usual. Perhaps they too had heard that lay-offs were in the pipeline?

The park in Sealy where we start our rides was completely dead (except for the city employee unlocking the toilets, thank you very much sir). I don't know why Sealy isn't a more popular venue for weekend road warriors, there are great routes through pretty country on safe roads. It may be that it's just a bit too far from Houston but it's really not too bad a drive, especially when you have a domestique behind the wheel.

Everyone's equipment is back to standard. Kevin had his broken spoke replaced and was on the Roubaix, Lee had his crank re-attached (complete with a custom end-cap) and I'd got new tyres front and rear. As we geared up, Lee laid down a solid marker in the contest for "Most Favoured Domestique" by pumping up my tyres. That sort of brown nosing will stand you in very good stead my friend, come on Kevin, pick up the pace please. We're still riding in full (or nearly full) winter gear but with the forecast showing 60 degrees by noon I anticipated a strip tease.

So off we rolled, the Three Amigos, taking on probably our toughest route, the first time since my epic flame-out and subsequent rescue by Kevin last year. It was certainly pretty nippy during the early going but Kevin set a strong pace to warm us up. He was looking very comfortable on the climbs, even by his standards, and was definitely happy to be on the carbon bike rather than the steel. We put this down to his daily work-outs on the stairmaster, so I suggested to Lee that we adjust the intensity setting on the machine to "El Capitan Dawn Wall" or "Everest". We'd pay in the long run but it might slow him down for a bit.

On to Caracara Alley, the section on the run in to Bernardo where we have a lot of bird sightings. Too early for the scissor-tailed flycatcher but we saw herons and several large hawks. This took us into Bernardo proper where we usually stop at the feed store to regroup a bit. Kevin went in to buy water and exchange pleasantries with the proprietor (apparently they had a wet fall so they're not behind on rain this year) while Lee and I ate some snacks ( and I wrung the sweat out of my headbad, harbinger of hot times ahead in the months to come).

The next stage features very nice scenery, some impressive estates and the dreaded hell hounds. I was riding with my helmet-mounted video camera and told the team that I would be recording the sprint past the mastiffs' lair. Predictably enough I was poised and ready to capture the excitement - and the dogs stayed in bed. Lazy buggers.

We made the turn on to FM 949 and the short run into Cat Spring. The wind (which wasn't going to be a factor, remember?) was firmly on our backs and we cruised into town in fine style, hardly noticing the climbs. The Cat Spring Kountry Klub (I kid you not) marks the gateway to the Alpe de Sealy section, and we always stop for water and a chance to be glared at by the grumpy lady who runs this fine establishment before taking on the lumpy bits. Surprisingly enough she was almost pleasant today, probably because her daughter and grand-daughter were visiting. Kevin, in his role of Mr. Congeniality breaking down the barriers between town and country, made sparkling conversation while I "strained the spuds" and pulled off my arm warmers.

Time to get going again! I turned on my video, announced that it would be every man for himself and we set off, up hill and down dale for about 8 miles. In the end I made it through pretty well, perhaps because I was anticipating a lot of pain - I had to grind pretty hard in the usual places but when we got to the end I felt better than I normally do. This could be because I've trained harder this year, but I think the wind out of the south meant that I started the climbs feeling less worn down than if I'd been fighting it all the way. The video shows that the run lasted 28 minutes, but MC edited it down to a more manageable length, focussing on the section that usually kicks my butt. Take a look here: Somewhere along this section, way in front of me, Lee caught Kevin on a climb when he missed a gear and lost his cadence. The recovery apparently had him blowing like a freight train (whence "Locomotive Breath", perhaps not what Ian Anderson had in mind but very apt for Kevin the Tull fan). Lee was feeling aerobic enough to offer a few words of encouragement, which probaby didn't help. Come on chaps, focus please.

Back on route 36 and a 7 mile run in on smooth surfaces but with a decent head/cross wind. Kevin set the pace as ever and I was able to hang on without too much effort. But I was glad to pass the Sealy city limit sign.

Home in time for lunch, a short nap and then a fun evening with Lee and BJ watching "Selma", followed by an excellent dinner at Ibiza. Outstanding food and company and excellent wine selection by Lee.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"It's the wrong bike, Kevin, the wrong bike!"

Last week's bike ride was punctuated with stops every 10 miles or so for Lee to re-attach his port side crank (long story that I won't bore you with and forgot to blog about anyway), but he was expecting it to be repaired in time for this weekend's fun. So it was a little suspicious that the bike had apparently got lost in the mail and wouldn't be available for an outing on the coldest morning of the year so far. Wonder how many times his dog ate his homework when he was a kid? But Lee is both a gentleman and a scholar, and indeed there had been a SNAFU by the bike shop that meant his Canadian steed was actually stuck in a warehouse somewhere. I humorously suggested that he could borrow my fixie or Kevin's renowned Mexican Truck - and in a New York (or at least Long Island) minute, Kevin had decided that he would lend Lee his Roubaix and take the truck out himself, just for old time's sake.


So there we were at Zube on a 30's morning, with the truck proudly positioned on Kevin's bike rack, just like so many rides before. She was in full commuter mode, with flashing disco lights on her frame, flat pedals instead of cleats and a trunk rack. Lee and Kevin are about the same height, so he could ride the Roubaix as is without messing with the saddle. He took an exploratory spin around the car park (Kevin has SRAM shifters, quite different to the Shimanos that Lee and I are used to) and came back with two Mules, Gene and Andy, who were OK with dumbing down the pace to ride with us peons.


It was cold enough for me to deploy my base layer, a long-sleeved top that goes under my jersey (and usually results in over-heating in about 5 miles). As you know I'm all about that base, no treble. We rolled out and straight away dropped Andy and Gene, despite the fact that between them they were pushing in excess of $20,000 of bike hardware. They caught up quickly enough though, and as Kevin pointed out, that was going to be the last time we left them behind.


Andy took the lead and I slotted in on his rear wheel. He's a dream to draft off - he rides like a metronome, dead constant pace, no weaving, and he's a big enough man to block some wind. Unfortunately his pace didn't vary on the climbs either and I was working hard to stay in touch on every grade. The group shared the work pretty well, which ws good as there was a decent head wind on the way out. Kevin looked as comfortable and strong as ever on the truck, and I asked him if he regretted getting the Roubaix - to which the answer was an emphatic no. He had got used to the more relaxed riding position on the new bike and was feeling more than a little uncomfortable in the more agressive crouch that the Truck imposed. Similarly Lee was enjoying his ride on the Roubaix and looking strong.


On the run in to the gas station Andy asked me how far we had to go. I assumed he needed to pee (like me) and was wondering if he could hold out. But no, he had plenty of space in his bladder and lots of juice in his legs and fancied a sprint. As we had about 2-3 miles to run he decided to take off, accompanied by Gene, and dropped us pretty quickly. To be fair, the Awesome Threesome had a strong run in too - the last section is on a very smooth, mostly flat road and we had a tail wind - and we were cruising in the low 20's.


Until - with a few hundred yards to run, Lee heard a suspicious click and then his rear wheel began rubbing on his brakes. Yes, he had broken a spoke just like Kevin, but this time the wheel was already significantly out of true and probably wouldn't stay round long enough for us to get home. Nothing to do but leave him there and head back for the vehicles, so after a good break (where I stripped off the base layer!) we took off.


Gene and Andy pushed the pace on the run home, and Kevin and I struggled to stay in touch with them. They ultimately dropped us about 5 miles out but that was OK. Back at Zube, we loaded the bikes and got back on the road for the rescue. We drove back on the highway but it still seemed like a long distance, a reminder that a 40+ mile bike ride is not trivial. We got to the Exxon just as it started to rain. Lee had occupied himself with some work stuff, watching the Premier League on his phone and chatting with a group of maniacs who were holding a rally of open-topped sports cars, apparently their annual Polar Bear run. Good to know we're not the only people stupid enough to ride around exposed to the elements on a nasty day like that.

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