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.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

So when exactly does the taper start?

We're three weeks out from the big ride, and I hear that serious athletes start to taper off the intensity and duration of their training regime before a big event so that they're fresh for it.  Apparently Kevin hasn't heard of the taper, judging from yesterday's race around Waller County anyway.

Lee was out being a good parent, but Eric from work wanted to ride with us and duly showed up at Zube.  He's a tall chap like Lee and Kevin but there the resemblance ends, he's too skinny to block any wind.  He also wasn't aware of his domestique duties but never mind, he can be taught.

Another beautiful morning for bike riding, a little cool (Kevin and Eric were rocking arm warmers, I was bare armed and goose-fleshed) but tons of sunshine and blue skies.  There was a breeze from the south-east, a good MS150 wind, but not strong enough to be a big issue.

Up and at 'em, and Eric proved to be a pretty strong rider, keeping pace with Kevin most of the way round.  We reached the gas station in good shape and opted to go for the longer route home, giving us 51 miles for the morning.  An uneventful ride, really.  But it turns out that Eric is lactose-intolerant and didn't want his chocolate milk.  I suppose that means I'll have to find chocolate soy milk somewhere if he's going to come out with us again.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fetchez la vache!

This week's dose of Python is from one of the pivotal scenes in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".  After many arduous and occasionally silly adventures, Arthur and the remnant of his Knights arrive at the Castle Aaargh, site of the Grail, only to discover that it's held by French soldiers who taunt them most foully.   When this doesn't drive the Brits off,  the commander of the French forces orders his men to "Fetchez la vache",  schoolboy franglais for "go get the cow", which they then catapult over the wall.  This only came up when I attempted to text to the gang "rendezvous chez moi", only to have my phone auto-correct "chez moi" to "chez moo".  No surprise that things went down hill from there.

Saturday was a washout, just as well as Kevin got back from Faraday, Louisiana pretty late on Friday, and Susan and I had been at a Stevie Wonder concert until 10pm.  Sunday was the Bluebonnet Express, a popular organized ride that we had all done in the past, so we decided to join the Madding Crowds and see if we could manage a longer distance.  The ride starts at Waller ISD stadium, a magnificent temple to American football in the middle of freakin' nowhere, actually on one of the Zube routes, so we know the area pretty well.  We still managed to get stuck in traffic for the parking area, even though Kevin, in a moment of highly non-Unitarian conduct, attempted to cut the line.

The ride uses a rolling start, basically you take off when you're ready, which eliminates a lot of the waiting around that is usually the biggest issue with these rides, so that was a plus.  The weather was also very favourable, a cool and pretty morning with a decent wind out of the north that pushed us along nicely for the first ten miles.  Lee and I had agreed that if Kevin was pushing the pace too much, we would call out "fetchez la vache", meaning slow the f&$@ down.  Surprise surprise, he took off like an F15 with the afterburners lit, and I had to invoke the franglais after about five miles, sadly with no obvious effect.

The rest stops were further apart than usual, so we were actually 32 miles in when we took our first break.  I was ready for it but didn't feel too bad.  Last time we visited this fine city, we were forty-plus miles into the run and I pretty much cratered two miles further on.  This time we had some wind on our backs, less miles in our legs and butts and I was able to hold a decent pace, although the other two were clearly cruising pretty comfortably.  But I needed a quick break at the last rest stop.

While we were standing around eating trail mix, a young woman came up and shook Kevin's hand.  He was wearing a top fundraisers jersey and she wanted to thank him for his efforts, as she actually has the disease.  We talked about her progress and treatment and wished her well before heading out.

The last ten miles were easy enough, mostly flat and mostly downwind, and we finished strongly, 55 miles at an average pace of 17 mph.  Not many weekends left now!

Monday, March 16, 2015

And we're going to the Chappell (Hill) of Pain

Lee had a sick note so it was the Old Firm (Me and Kevin) that hit the road last Saturday on a cool, foggy morning, heading for adventure!  Or at least, Chappell Hill, a small town just a bit further out than our usual stamping ground, that is the starting point for a number of popular cycling routes, all of them scenic and all very hilly.

We had both done Chappell Hill rides before but not together and it was a while ago so we didn't remember the route.  Not to worry, my friend Juan (a fierce MS fundraiser) rides out here regularly and had provided a map and GPS coordinates, so what could go wrong?

Juan's map had three routes, long, medium and short.  Sadly the long was too long (58 miles!) and the medium too short, so we took the Goldilocks  option, a bit of both that was just right.  In theory.

In practise we missed a turn less than a mile from the start and it wasn't the only one we blew.  We stormed down a pretty, rolling road in bright sunshine, only to discover that we were about to merge onto the freeway.  Whoops!  This could perhaps be put down to a misfortune, induced in part by an unusual level of pre-ride hilarity.  Somehow the topic of embarrassment cropped up while we were getting ready, and I remembered the Monty Python sketch featuring Dr. Karl Gruber of the Institute of Going-a-bit-red in Helsinki.  The catchphrase "wankel rotary engine" had Kevin practically paralytic with laughter and he was still chuckling throughout the ride.

Anyway, back on course and we were immediately into a succession of rollers, some significantly steeper than others.  I doubt we found more than a mile of flat road on the entire ride, and my granny ring got a thorough workout in the process.  It's just beautiful country out there and it was a wonderful spring morning so it should have been a beatific Texas experience, were it not for the damn hills.

About fourteen miles in, we realised that we were probably off-piste again and stopped to consult the map, my GPS and two cell phones equipped with Google maps.  As Kevin says, we knew our position to within a foot and were still lost.  Eventually we worked out that we had missed a turn but could modify the route a little and get back on course.  Kevin also casually announced that he hadn't been able to shift out of his big ring for the last several miles and had been grinding up the climbs on it.  I'd been through just about every gear on my bike over the same course and had been looking for more!

Back at it on a busy road where the grades are lower but the  climbs correspondingly longer.  He left me on the longest but waited at the top, where he had enough time to take a drink, chat with some other riders, stretch and scratch and then get his phone out to take this shot just as I crested the rise.  

Shortly after this point we turned north onto a quieter but no less lumpy road.  Somewhere along here Kevin spotted a stranded turtle and turned round mid-climb to render assistance.  What a role model!

We were now a few miles from the town of Independence where we planned to take our official mid-ride break.  Sadly there was still work to be done, with a long, slow climb up to a large communications tower that put me in mind of the climb up Mont Ventoux.  That's probably as close as I'll get to the real thing but it was tough going.  Once past that point it was a short run to the village store for a much-needed rest.

A few minutes banter with the locals and we were back at it.  The plan was to follow the long route in reverse and it started out well enough, mostly downwind which didn't hurt.  Kevin spotted an unusual bird along the way and that was all the excuse I needed to stop.  This little chap had a distinctive yellow breast and was singing his heart out on a farm gate.  We subsequently decided he was a meadowlark, the first I've ever seen.

A few miles on and the GPS was showing a turn but we didn't believe it and stayed on the same road.  We should have had faith!  We ended up on the outskirts of Brenham, well off course and throroughly confused.  It was now 12:30, we were at least 15 miles out from the start and 60 miles from home.  Time for the apologetic call home to the very understanding spouse.

Much head scratching later, we agreed to trust the GPS and set out on an interception course.  Miraculously enough it worked, we were back on track with only a few miles to run, just as well as I was played out.  Kevin was feeling great of course and enjoying the admittedly ravishingly country scenery.

Back at the start and I proposed lunch before we headed back, mainly because my blood sugar was in negative territory.  One sausage sandwich later and life began to take on a more rosy hue.  We've certainly got our hills in this year.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What does the Fox say, Kevin?

We started yesterday's ride with a rant from Kevin about Fox News.  He' s been working out on the stairmaster at his gym and the giant TV on the wall in front of the machine is always tuned to Fox, so he's sweating away while staring at a glamorous blonde looking quizzically at an ugly white middle-aged male bloviator.  Not too dissimilar to my own gym experience, except that I watch Family Feud with the sound turned down and try to guess what the question was based on the answers, almost like Jeopardy.

This got me thinking aloud about a possible "Ask an angry Liberal" section on Fox and Friends, in which Kevin explains it all and the blonde replies something to the effect of " that's a very shallow analysis Kevin, are you sure you've thought it through?"  This unlikely scenario had us all laughing pretty hard as we walked into Starbucks.  I always wonder what the baristas think about the group of men in Lycra who show up for coffee every Saturday morning, all laughing like maniacs.

Anyway I must have been feeling my granola (home-made with pecans and maple syrup, since you ask) because I proposed a trip to Sealy.  This was speedily agreed and off we went to take on our toughest ride for probably the third time this season.

I'd hoped that we could put the cold weather gear away until the fall, but we certainly needed it for this ride, I doubt we got out of the 40's all the way round.  Lee the human lizard had been as low as four layers recently but was back to the full six this morning.  

We're getting into migration time, and we often see some impressive birds on this route, particularly on the run down to San Bernardo, which Kevin has christened "Caracara Alley" because we've seen several there.  Today we actually saw one in flight, an awe-inspiring sight.  With a good wind out of the east on our backs we made it to the first break point (the feed store in San Bernardo) in record time, realizing of course that we would have to pay for the fun with a head wind through the Alpe de Sealy section.  But that was 20 miles away.

The next section has a Tara-like estate, complete with a lake and a crunchy gravel drive.  I don't normally get much of a look at it because it's half way up a long, fairly gentle climb, but the tail wind let me lift my head for once.  Another feature of this bit are the hell hounds that have chased us with evil intent on several occasions.  The last time we did this route I was wearing my helmet-cam, and I turned it on at this point in the hopes of catching the fun on film, but the mutts didn't materialize.  Lee pointed out that since I wasn't wearing it today we would probably get charged, and if we did it would be my fault.  In the end there was a truck passing us right on the dog corner so we couldn't make a wide turn.  If the dogs had come out to play they would have had us bang to rights!  Fortunately they were a no-show.

On to Cat Spring, where we take another break before the scary hills.  As we rolled through the town, Kevin commented to me that the miles were just flowing by today.  If I hadn't been so tired I would have squirted him with my water bottle.  I felt ok but my legs knew they'd been working.

The Cat Spring Country Club was jumping that morning, with two actual customers to keep the grumpy proprietress busy.  I actually managed to get a smile out of her when I paid for our waters.  She couldn't remember what bill I paid with so I told her it was a five - no wait, it was a fifty.  Another five or ten more years and she might actually say hello and goodbye to us.

And so to the hills.  The order of the day was a kind of anti-Three Musketeers - every man for himself!  Kevin and Lee screamed ahead on the first climb and I didn't really see much of them until the top of the last, where they were good enough to wait for me.  Overall I did pretty well, using my gears intelligently for once.  I was slow but didn't have to kill myself, and as a result felt reasonably good on the final run down route 36 back to Sealy.  But I think that's enough Sealy time this year, boys.

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