I just completed my 2nd Houston-Austin MS 150 this weekend, and, despite some mild inconveniences, I felt pretty good about my pace and performance. I still need to work on my climbing, though. Weather: bone DRY (unusual for Houston). Cold at night and morning, upper 40s both days. Warm in afternoons, lower 80s.
Here's the breakdown:
- 83 miles
I was late to the Rhodes Stadium in Katy! But I left home at 5 am planning to be there at 5:45 am, but one road was closed due to construction and I had to take a detour, along with thousands other riders. Can you say bottleneck? Took me 1 hour 15 minutes to drive a distance that would ordinarily take only 5 minutes. Lots of angst and frustration. By the time I got to my team's area in the parking lot, most of my team was about to take off. Here I was, frazzled, getting my gear ready, pumping my tires, throwing on my jersey, stuffing a donut down my throat, all in a span of 5 minutes. All but a few members of my team left without me, but a few waited for me and I was able to take off.
I couldn't relax during the ride because of the stress of that morning, but I was going at a 16-19 mph clip and thought I was doing okay until 55-60 miles. Then I bonked.
I don't know why I bonked. I did all the right things - carbo loaded the night before with pasta, stuck to the foods I'm familiar with, slept good, kept drinking water and gatorade - and I still bonked. Whatever, there's always Day 2, I figured. I slogged it the last 23 miles against the wind (although the last few miles towards the La Grange campgrounds had a nice tailwind that made things a little less miserable).
I figured it was probably because of an insufficient breakfast. I was expecting to eat breakfast with my team as they were going to bring food, but I was late and by the time I was there most of it was gone. Note to self: next time, even if they say they'll bring food, bring my own food anyway. Or eat at home before heading out.
Showered up, got a nice massage that hurt so nice and good, took a very long nap that rendered me nothing more than a groggy mess, and wolfed down a good dinner... with ketchup, bbq, and chicken meat all over my lips and chin. Bedtime at 8:30 pm.
- 74 miles
Was feeling a little apprehensive as I didn't want to bonk again, so I ate a nice and good breakfast provided by the MS 150 tent. 3 pancakes, a clif bar, coffee, an apple, and some grapes. Plus lots of water and gatorade. Then as soon as I get in line to the Start Line with my team, I needed to go to the bathroom. Great! I internally debate whether I could hold it till the first rest stop for a few minutes, while I get antsier. Finally, I break down and I tell my team that I need to go... I break off to the nearest porta-potty, sat in there for a good 10 minutes, and then I come back to the line at the start from La Grange. I don't find anyone on my team, but at that point I didn't care - I just moved along with the crowd.
Once I started off - it was about 7:30 am or a bit past that - to my own surprise, I exploded right out of the gate. Blazing along at 18-20 mph for about 25 miles. Was feeling so invincible that I decided to skip the first rest stop and head straight to the Bastrop park (yes, I took the challenge route for those of you who are familiar with it).
Took a 15 minute breather at the bastrop park rest stop, and slowly labored my way through the hills towards the lunch stop. Although I can hold my own in a paceline all day, or even pull along the flats and not get passed much, I need to get better at climbing. Soon as a hill comes up, I slow way down and almost everyone passes me (or I get dropped from the paceline I'm on). Some/most of the time, I could kinda get around this by accelerating down a hill by spinning a high gear to gain momentum that would carry me up the next hill. But if it's flat for a long time, and a steep or long hill comes up, I'm kinda screwed. But no matter - this weekend, I just chugged along the best I could.
After lunch at Bastrop, picked up a nice tailwind for about 20 miles. Hammered it along at 20-25 mph. Two members of my team joined up with me and formed a paceline where I pulled the whole time... the 3 of us were passing EVERYBODY. I was constantly yelling "on your left! on your left!" I am no elite cyclist by a long shot, but it was a really sweet few moments for me. Two months ago, I wrote a question on this forum asking how was it that pacelines could blow by me at 23 mph. Well, I was pulling one of those pacelines today for a part of this ride. It was my absolute FAVORITE part of the weekend. Yes, we had a 10+ mph tailwind, but I don't know where I got that strength and power to go that fast, legs pumping like pistons under their own volition, considering I'd already done over 120 miles by that time.
That didn't last very long, though. The road turned west/southwest towards Austin and encountered head/cross winds. Someone fell right on front of me - almost took me down, but I swerved out of the way just in time. My friends behind me went down, though. Luckily for everyone, no one was hurt, but their bikes got a bit dinged and we had to flag a bike marshall to help fix the bikes. Once we set off again, we slowed down and struggled along at 14-17 mph the rest of the way to finish, encountering some monster hills (not steep, but LONG). After the finish and basking in the cheering crowds, I went straight for a beer.
Overall, I'm happy with what I've done. I know the average speed is meaningless, but last year my bike computer read 14.1 mph on day 1, and 12.9 mph on day 2. This year, it was 15.4 on day 1, and 15.7 on day 2. That includes all the slowing, stopping, walking my bike through the rest stops, rolling slowly in high traffic or bottleneck areas. Plus all these uphill climbs where my speed drops to single digits. So, I would think that my actual average speed would be 2 mph higher than the numbers shown on my bike computer. So, last year, I was rolling along at about 15 mph avg... and now this year, I did it at 17-18 mph avg. Plus I crossed the finish line in Austin at 1 pm today. Last year, I crossed the finish line at 3:30 pm. That's a gain of 2.5 hours!