Saddled Up in Texas

The morning of the race started like many of the races in the past. I woke up with plenty of time to choke down some breakfast and take a shower before heading to the start line, but I dragged my feet as if I had all day to get on the bike. The usual routine for me is to get dressed as late as possible without being tardy to the start line. That has always been apart of my "pregame" ritual dating back to my youth. Like a switch, things become "real" once I'm dressed. If I'm dressed too early, the internal mind-games are almost impossible to stop. With the hotel literally right across the street from the starting line, I was afforded a few extra minutes of drag time and decided to get dress there.

As things would work out, the timing of the morning events worked out perfectly. We arrived at the starting line just 15 minutes prior to the start. This was plenty of time to thank my family for coming out to see us off and to put on the last few articles of clothing. As I mounted my bike, I looked at my crew, told them it was time to go for a bike ride and then headed over to the start corral.

The race was about to start but not without a few exchanges of well wishes between myself, Wayne Dowd (Team 4Mil) and Ron Swift. I met Ron and his wife at the safety inspection the day before. Wayne and I raced against each other in Ohio last year. Both are fierce competitors on the bike and two of the nicest guys off of it.

The race started and the two of them exploded off the front. This was fine with me as they were in the 200 division and I expected a high pace from them. What wasn't fine was that a rider in the 400 mile race went with them. Not wanting the front of the race to get away, I followed suit and tried to remain comfortable. All the while wondering how long this pace was going to last.

Not long after, the pace settled and that is where I lost the ability to receive compassion from others due to the higher pace. It was then, roughly 20 something miles into the race, I threw the predetermined strategy out the window. I found myself riding with the 3rd, 4th and 5th place 200 mile racers. I wasn't feeling taxed so I made the decision on the road to continue on at the higher pace. The two courses soon split and I was out on the road all alone.

Just before the first time check we suffered the first of two of what I will call "scares."  The first more so than the second, but thankfully the crew kept calm and neither became a big issue. There was a section of road after the two courses split that would have all the racers on the same stretch of road but heading in opposite directions. The crew was adamant when I asked nervously if we had missed a turn. Then I got nervous when a race official stopped us thinking we were off course. It was quickly determined that all was well and down the road we continued to the first time check where I would arrive about 15 minutes ahead of the second placed rider on the road.

Timechecks 2 and 3 would come and go without much excitement with the exception that the morning rain showers had finally passed and the sun was starting to peek through the clouds. Shortly after time check 3 the second "scare" would happen without me really knowing it. After handing off a gel packet and a bottle, the crew noticed that they had a rear tire going down. They quickly highlighted the next 50 miles worth of turns on a cue sheet and stuffed it in a ziplock bag, grabbed a handful of Powergels and rolled up the road just ahead of me where they could safely change the tire. By the time I reached them, Becky was flagging me down ready to stuff my pockets and give me a second water bottle, while Dad started to change the tire. I was thankful they remained calm because I didn't get nervous at all.

I must have gotten further down the road than any of us thought because about an hour later they came rolling by cheering out the window. Truth be told, I was pushing to get to the next timecheck before they caught me. This did not happen, but the second place rider never passed them while making the repair so we knew the time advantage had grown.

Just after the flat, we hit the part of the Hill Country where the bigger climbs would reside. This would both please and upset me. Like a cat stuck in a tree, I love to go up but get extremely nervous on the way down. I was afraid I would give up some of the time I had gained so I pressed the climbs harder than I normally would in a race of this distance. What seemed like an eternity but was actually just a few hours, I escaped the biggest climbs back into the rolling countryside.

Soon we would see a gorgeous red sunset which would disprove the saying "Red sky at night, sailor's delight.  Red sky in morning sailor's warning." We watched two lightening-rich storms pass just north of the course before the third would make contact. What started off as just heavy rain with lightening in the distance, soon gave way to conditions best described as trying to ride through a waterfall. The lightening was now over my head. With the only thing around me being 8-foot tall game fences, the crew pulled me off the bike until the lightening passed. The second place rider would report after the race that he was forced off the bike due to a hailstorm.

The remainder of the night would include conversations with the crew, friends back at home, countless number of deer and skunk and even a couple of folks standing on the side of the road. Oddly enough, no one saw the folks on the side of the road but me. Thankful for the help to keep me awake and alert, the sun rose and a huge feeling of new energy came over me. About an hour later, I would cross the finish line in 24hrs 45min.

I want to thank my crew (Mom, Dad and Becky); my always encouraging wife Jenn; the staff at Endorphin Fitness; Powerbar; Michael, Dane and Parker for pushing me so hard in training; C-Bear Bearings; Tina at Lighten Up; my aunt, grandma and cousins who made Austin a home away from home and everyone back at home for their support.