This weekend on May 3rd I hit a cycling milestone- my first century ride! I rode the Shiner GASP (The Great Austin to Shiner Pedal) and had a wonderful time! I used my new TomTom MultiSport to track my pace, distance, and time, and hit right at the mark I was aiming for- 6 hours for 100 miles. My average was about 15-18mph depending on how hot I was and the headwind, which was crazy strong over the last 20 miles.
I chose this ride because of many reasons, but mainly because it served as a benchmark for me to check my cycling stamina and see where I can improve when it comes to training for the full Ironman. I wanted a similar course in similar weather, and this event delivered both! The course was not extremely hilly, but had some good rollers, and forced us to face strong headwinds, cross winds, and the hot Texas sun throughout the entire 100 miles. All of these features are ones I have read are very common for the Ironman Texas course that happens next year two weeks from this event, so I was pleased to get to try my first ride of this distance out in great practice conditions!
Normally when I do a race review, I do the pros and cons, but honestly, I really didn't have any complaints about this whole event- it was excellent! The ride was well organized, supported, had great volunteers, a clearly marked course, plenty of food and bathrooms, had an awesome after-party, and was jut all around a great time. It is absolutely an event I would love to add to my calendar every year, and was a great experience for my first ride of over 70 miles.
The weather was excellent! Not a cloud in the sky, and a bit chilly in the morning, enough that I was glad I had my home-made shrug with me. I took a $5 clearance shirt from Academy, chopped off the bottom to reduce bulk, and make a half shirt that I could easily carry in my jersey pocket, and it worked great!
|All ready to go!|
The ride offered bus passes to get back to Austin for $25, which is a great price for those who don't want to caravan down there with their team. I, however, was riding alone, and my awesome supportive boyfriend wanted to see me cross the finish line, so he dropped me off and headed to Shiner. Since he was going to have about 6 hours to kill, I arranged for him to be a volunteer earlier in the week. That way, he has stuff to do, helped out a great event, and could also earn a partner pass to celebrate with me when I was done! He helped check wristbands for food, checked people in at the information tent, loaded bikes on to racks, and even got to hand me my finisher medal when I crossed, which he was pretty excited about.
|See you in Shiner, love!|
We arrived at the starting line about 20 minutes before start, which was a big rookie mistake, but worth it because I needed the small amount of extra sleep. I went to the bathroom twice before we left the house, but of course, I had to pee again before we got started. However, the line was just too long, so I said forget about it and went to the first aid station instead, where the lines were a lot shorter. Plus, when it comes to supported rides like this, why carry all my own fuel when there is yummy free fuel at the stops?? I know that doesn't perfectly mimic a race experience, but I am plenty far out enough from race day that I can be approximate rather than precise. The aid stations were well stocked- yummy OatMega bars, Nuun in my favorite flavor, the Tri-Berry, crackers, pretzels, trail mix, anything you might need. The volunteers, of course, were wonderful and kept the drinks cold and smiles all around.
|Blessed sight- porta potties!|
The ride itself was interesting for me because it was a mix of every type of cyclist out there. There were other triathletes like myself, but also people who are used to groups rides, racing in packs, etc. After the mass start to the ride, we all set out down the road in one big group. I noticed right away who all of the other triathletes were- they were the ones riding on the very edges, passing the massive pack without worrying about drafting or lines. Everyone else was settling in to their paces, forming lines and packs, and chatting away with their riding groups. I have been interested in checking out Criterium racing, so although I had my aero bars on, I stayed off of them and rode in a pack for a little while.
It was definitely not my favorite thing- I like the clearer order of tri riding- if you are faster, you move to the left, pass, then move back over to the right once you're clear. Plain and simple- just like driving. Riding in a pack seemed a lot less clear, and only got complicated even more by the lines of men whose leader was faster than me, but the rest of his line was just mad that a girl was ahead of them. (Really, I am just talking about one group I had to deal with that was very rude.) They literally try to crowd me right off the road. They heard what I had to say about that, and then I got into my aero position, passed them going up a hill, and dropped them. From there, I had no other issues, and many of the other groups I interacted with were incredibly nice and friendly, no matter what kind of cycling they liked. I'm trying my first crit race next week for the new experience because it looks like a blast, but I have a feeling I'm going to like tri racing more in the end. That's ok- different strokes (pedal strokes, get it?? Hah!).
|Right at mile 50- fun to get to stop and read!|
Most of the ride was rolling central Texas countryside- very few traffic lights, or even intersections. The roads were open to traffic, but much of the course was either on roads that had a wide shoulder, in incredibly low traffic areas, or one two-lane roads that allowed traffic to pass easily. There were aid stations every 17 miles or so full of goodies, including great pizza at the Half GASP starting point in McMahan, TX behind Wizzerville Hall.
|Yummy pizza, and this place looked like a great spot for relaxing on a summer evening, too!|
The great news for myself was that I felt great physically throughout the entire ride. I never got fatigued, experienced and numbness, or had any hot spots on my feet. I did get some soreness in my lower back, but I am almost resigned to admitting to myself that is not my bike's fault, but rather still an old horse-related injury. I am going to get my fit double-checked next time I go in to the shop, and if it's all correct, then I'll know that's just the case.
|My bike taking a rest under a tree at the rest stop around mile 75.|
The thing that started to falter was my mental focus. We hit Flatonia around mile 80 (which is NOT flat, despite its name!) and the last 25 miles or so were hilly, hot, incredibly windy, and not a speck of shade in sight. My average speed dropped from close to 18mph down to 14mph. My legs felt fine, and my body was in good shape, but I made the mistake of allowing myself to mentally check-out right after I had to stop and fix my chain when it popped off. I think what did it was that when I got back on my bike after fixing my chain, I pushed my TomTom's button the wrong way and accidentally reset my watch. I had been gleefully watching the miles tick away closer to 100 and watching my time and pace, and when it reset, I lost track of how far I'd gone and how far I had to go, and just sort of let go mentally. When it comes to race day, I don't think this will be as much of an issue since I will be taking it much more seriously and also will have an additional year of training under my belt. However, it was good to find out just how easily the sun can make my brain turn to mush, so that I can prepare myself better!
|A blessed sight- the city limits!|
Once I passed the signs in to Shiner, I snapped back to. I've been to the town several times before, and knew exactly where the brewery was. My speed picked up right away and I zipped through town and to the finish line. The best part was I had been updating my boyfriend about how far I had left, so he was waiting for my at the finish line to hand me my medal.
|All done! Ready to party!|
|Most bike rides don't give a medal, so it was really cool of them to offer these!|
The one thing I did forget on my ride was sunscreen- like a fool! I should know better after being a lifeguard for so long, but I just blanked and forgot. Thankfully, I do not burn easily at all, so I avoided sunburn, but I will definitely be more diligent about taking care of my skin from now on, because that's important! The rest stops had sunscreen at them, but I missed it.
|My Handana tanline!|
My one small complaint was the showers. I was so excited to take a shower! There was no line for the women's, and I hopped right in, only to find myself in a sauna. All of the water in the shower was hot- and not just warm, but scalding!- the women in there with me all did the same as I did- sprayed ourselves off quickly to get rid of the salt, and then got dressed wet and headed outside so we could breath again. I'm not sure why this was the case, since it would be cheaper for the shower truck company to have cooler water- maybe it was a malfunction, but man, a colder shower would have been nice. (I know, what an ironic complaint!) Once I got dressed and aired out of the steam, I felt a million times better, and was ready for beer and brats!
|What should have been paradise! But at least I wasn't a human salt lick anymore.|
Any time you do an event at the Shiner brewery, it's going to be a good time. The after party is so much fun- they have a great band, delicious food, and plenty of beer. Each rider and partner got 2 brats and 4 full beers in really adorable plastic reusable cups. Shade was a hot commodity, but once we found a place to settle down, we really enjoyed the rest of our afternoon, and met several incredibly nice, interesting fellow riders.
|Giant beer bottle, can't go wrong.|
|Look at those cups- so adorable!|
After dancing to some fun music by the band The Emotions we headed home. It was exhausting, but rewarding, and a wonderful way to start off my favorite month of the year! I finished strong, felt like I could run afterwards, which is a good sign, and most importantly, had a great time enjoying a hobby I have really come to love. I have now separately done all three Ironman distances- it's just a matter of putting them together from now on. Bring on the bricks! Thanks to Shiner, the Boot Campaign, and all of the race organizers for an awesome time! See you next year!
Don't forget- coming up on June 3 is the showing of Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls, and Power of Professional Women's Cycling. Reserve your ticket today!
Don't forget about my Reason 2 Race! Help out pets in need!
This blog is following my training as I get ready for the Athleta eSprit de She event season. Three events happen in Texas, the Duathlon in Dallas, the Katy 5k & 10k, and the Cycle Tour in Austin. I'll be doing Austin and Dallas, come join the fun! Enter Comp Code EDS57 for the chance to win some cool prizes!