The 2016 Burning Can Beer Relay

This past Saturday (4/23/16) I participated in the Burning Can Beer Relay.

Wait, what? Yes, it was a 4 hour relay (from 10:00am-2:00pm) with 2 or 4 member teams running a 5k (3.1 mile) loop trail, after drinking a beer.

burning can map

The Course

The rules were: take a sobriety test, drink a beer (or take a 2 minute penalty), run the course, then pass the baton to your next team member who does the same, repeat as many times as possible. Whichever team completes the most loops before 2:00pm wins.

OK, that sobriety test. You’d think this would be easy, but no. No, it was not.   Some folks (like my team-mate Emily, for one) couldn’t get through it sober. The obstacle was a frame with four balance beams and you had to run across the beam, but there were half circle bumps on each board, and you had to jump from round slippery bump to bump to get across the board.

balance board

So something like this, with the dots being raised half spheres about 4-5 inches high and rounded

Emily and I got to the race site about 45 minutes before race time. We had brought a shade tent, two folding chairs, a cooler, and each had a backpack full of sundry stuff. I had the tent and the chairs and Emily has the cooler. Arriving at the site, we saw a good spot at the bottom of a slight incline to set up our home base near where several other teams were set up. As I stepped onto the grass the ground was slightly uneven, I twisted my foot and went flying onto my face… with the tent and the chairs and my backpack landing on top of me. Emily rushed over to see if I was alright and somehow dropped the cooler on my head. No kidding. So, we were off to a good start (luckily only everybody saw it happen).

I figured it would take about 30 minutes for each of us to do each loop with the beer or beer penalty. Since we had four hours that would be 8 loops, or 4 each and just over 12 miles; so less than a half marathon. Since we are both marathoners this seemed totally reasonable. But apparently there weren’t a lot of folks who would agree. The great majority of the teams were four person teams where the runners were not likely to have to run more than two laps before the time would run out. Also, all of these people thought we were nuts.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a gentle zephyr and temperatures in the 70’s at the start of the relay and in the 80’s by the last lap. Emily went first. Once she was out on the course I decided to start practicing the “sobriety test”. At this point I had not had any beer, but it took me 7 times and some friendly spectator coaching (stay on the balls of your feet, you can jump to the side if you start to lose your balance) to get through it, but finally I made one clean attempt. Having “mastered” the sobriety test, I chatted with the other teams, drank some water, and before long I could see Emily coming towards the finish line.

I took the baton (a 12” long piece of PVC), ambled over the sobriety test (got it on the second try), then into the beer tent where I attempted to “slam” a beer. My strategy was that a dark beer is going to go down smoother than a Pils even if it does have more alcohol. I have no idea if that is true. I have not slammed a beer in some… 25 years (?), so while some of these kids were gulping in 30 seconds I am fairly certain I would have done better to just take the two-minute penalty.  I finally finished the beer and set off on the trail.


What I was drinking

I took off down the trail burping for the first half mile, but I felt good, felt fast. I was passing folks left and right. While the trail is not particularly technical it was not like the hike and bike trail either. There had been a lot of rain the week before so there was a lot of squishy black mud, uneven ground, sticks and rocks.

But I killed it. The last section of the route was almost a mile uphill to the finish line. I know this hill because I have run a similar route during some area races in the past. The hill does suck and feels a lot steeper than it is because it is just so freaking long, but I did not stop and I did not walk!

First lap done! I averaged 9:00 miles while running (but I took some time to drink that beer).  I handed the baton to Emily and went to cool down, get some water and relax.

Soon Emily was coming towards that finish line. I grabbed the baton, ran through the sobriety test (took 2x to get it, again) and took the two-minute penalty figuring it would take more than 2 minutes to drink and beer and I would probably run faster without it.

Now, on my first lap I was on fresh legs. During my second lap I was running against a bunch of folks who had not run yet since they have 4 person teams – so their fourth person was on their first lap. I didn’t pass anyone and I was passed like I was standing still by a few of the guys. Without the beer I did not have the burps, but I also didn’t get the hydration. (Yes, beer is a diuretic, but 12 oz of liquid would have been in my system hydrating me and cooling me down for those 3 miles as opposed to, well, nothing). It was so hot… 9:55 minute miles. Wow, I slowed quite a bit. I lumbered up the final hill and handed the baton to Emily.

While waiting for Emily to finish her third lap, I determined that a half hour is a LOT longer when you are running it then when you are sitting in a tent drinking a bottle of water and eating peanut butter filled pretzels (note: peanut butter filled pretzels are the best thing ever!)  Since we are “only” running 5k’s I had forgotten to eat since I do not need to eat on a 5k. But now it is lunch time and I am going to be going on 9+ miles, so I start snacking.

peanut pretzel

So yummy!

I determined that I would go back to drinking a beer for my third lap since it did not appear to hurt my performance on the first lap. And, well, here comes Emily…

I grabbed the baton, tell Emily to remember to eat something, and just made it through the sobriety test (I fell off the last half circle, but I was right at the end, so that counts!), grabbed a beer and chug, chug, chug, gasp, gasp, gasp, chug, [heavy breathing] chug, chug, gasp, chug, gasp … OK, I’m good. This is good. burp

So my 3rd lap is the 6th lap overall, and once again I am running against folks where most of them are only on their second lap and have had a two hour break, versus my 3rd lap on measly 30 minute breaks. But now I know what to expect. I know where the holes are. I know how to hit that mud puddle at about 1.5 miles in (but I swear that puddle got deeper every time I hit it).


I brought a water bottle with me and dumped most of the water on my head as it was now after 12:30pm and so, so hot for running. I did manage to pass a few folks and I felt like I was moving pretty good. I was able to get up the mile long hill without stopping or walking by picturing Coach Gilbert Tuhabonye yelling me up the hill. Just as I got to the finish line some young blond gal whips past me and beats me in. [shakes angry fist].

Finished in 9:50 minute miles which is better than lap 2 so maybe there is something to this beer drinking. Later, the blond gal admits that she was pacing off me the whole last mile then kicked it in at the end, which still sucks, but is sort of a compliment.

So, I look at my watch and it is 1:02pm. If Emily can get back in 30 minutes, I will have 28 minutes to complete my 4th, our 8th lap. Thing is, I don’t know if Emily is getting any faster as the day goes on, and I have not run a 28 minute lap since my first lap. I try to drink some more water since I know I am dehydrated, and I eat a few more peanut butter pretzels…

Emily finished her lap at 1:35pm. There is no freaking way I am running a 25 minute 5k, but I head out anyway. I figure (1) I need the miles and (2) Emily will kill me if I bail, and (3) who knows what may happen? I bound through the sobriety test in one try (woot!). I forgo the beer because I’m not sure how they add the penalty, but the rules say I have to finish before 2:00pm, so if I finish the lap before 2:00pm it should count even if my time is longer than the next team… I think… actually I have no idea how that would work, but if I spend 3 minutes drinking the beer I will never, ever finish in time.

As I run down the big hill at mile ½ I am passed like I am standing still but a guy who clearly has a shot at finishing his lap before 2:00. Then another guy passes me. Then…nothing.


Yeah, I am pretty sure I am the last fool, err, I mean, person on the course. I do my best and don’t slack off just because I know I am not going to finish in time. I set my mind to the ice-cold beer I will be able to savor once I am finished. I slosh through the now really deep muddy puddle one last time, I head down the long grassy hill, then up the long miserable hill for the last time, and for the fourth time I do not stop or walk.

As I get closer to the finish line I pick up my pace, but they have already started pulling down the barrier that guides you to the finish line, and as I cross the finish line I notice that…THE BEER TENT IT GONE!!! WTF?! I seriously don’t get a beer? Well, poop.


9:58 minute miles, so yeah, I did not finish on time if it was not otherwise absolutely clear.

That said, apparently there was only one team of “2 female” runners, so Emily and I won our division and won a pair of Keens! Score!

While I didn’t get my final beer, I DID have a blast, and made a bunch of new friends. And the last lap did not suck nearly as much as I thought it would, and I did not hate myself for getting back out there when I knew I couldn’t finish it in time.

I highly recommend this race, especially for casual runners with beer drinking runner friends. A team of 4 makes this race doable for just about anyone who can run a 5k, and a team of 2 makes you an idiot like me!


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Texas Independence Realy 2016

Texas Independence Relay is a 200 mile running race from Gonzales, Texas to the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte, Texas, just east of Houston. This year the race was 4/2/16 – 4/3/16. Most folks run in teams of 10, 11 or 12 people (although there are a few crazies who run in teams of one or two, and they usually start a day earlier than the rest of us). We split our team into 6 and 6, and rent two 15 passenger vans.

So, pretty much it’s 6 sweaty runners in a vans for two days without sleep, running non-stop, and living on peanut butter pretzels, mini bagels, and beer (for hydration!).  Hmm, when I put it that way it doesn’t sound like much fun at all.  But it is SO MUCH FUN! Really.

This year was my fifth year doing this race (I think) with team Blood, Sweat & BEERS!

Where running a relay for two days sounds like a lot, I only had 3 legs this year (as opposed to the 4 I usually have since I was coming off an injury) .  Each runner has significant rest periods between each leg, so how hard could that be?

At 9:35* am on 4/2/16, my team started together on a short 1.1 mile warm-up Prologue before we sent our first runner out to start the race.  I got to hang out until 1:19pm before my first leg, Leg #6.

*Teams were seeded by projected pace, so some teams started at 6am, while other would not start until after noon.

That is not to say that I had nothing to do during that time.  The team vans offer support to the team member who is running; offering water, ice and encouragement, and one van has to make sure that the next runner is at the exchange point hydrated and ready to run (and post-tinkled).


The team supporting Kalynn

But also, the team members have to make sure that all of the other teams know we were there by “tagging” the other vans at the exchange points.  Our team has the coveted “Blood, Sweat and BEERS! Beer, Run, Repeat” bumper stickers but also window markers with which we would tag the other vans.


Our decorated vans

So, we would sneak up on the other teams’ vans and tag the hell out of them.


You’re it!

So, as you can see, we were very busy.

At 1:19pm, I took the hand off from Angela and started Leg #6.  I was to run 4.8 miles from Old Moulton to somewhere between Old Moulton and Flatonia (protip: Flatonia, not so flat):

Since I was coming off an injury, I had not been running much and certainly had not been running for past the last several months.  My best estimated pace time was a 9:30 minute/mile.  However, I learned that even though Team Blood, Sweat & BEERS was totally chill and only expected each of us to do our best, not wanting to disappoint the team is an immense  pressure.

Even though my Leg #6 seemed to only go uphill, was in the middle of a sunny afternoon and half of it was on a caliche dirt road, I banged out an 8:34 min/mile pace but passed no one.  Seriously, where is everyone? There was no one in front of me for me to catch and no one behind me.  So, no “kills” for me on this leg.

big finish

Notice that there is no one behind me anywhere.

Then I got to support my team mates and cause general mayhem until midnight before my next leg. Did I mention we have a beer sponsor?  All good marketers use the products they are marketing, right?


Tony and Justin of Blood, Sweat & BEERS! giving shout out to Independence Brewery!

So, I spent the rest of the day eating peanut butter preztles, tagging vans, supporting team mates and “marketing”.

*  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I love running in the dark. We generally offer a bit more support to our team mates since, well, it’s dark.  But identifying your runner in the dark is also a bit of a challenge. We were using a green headlamp.


What runners may look like in the dark.


What our teammates looked like in the dark (artist’s depiction)

By the time my next leg rolled around it was full dark . The race had now been going on for over 18 hours.

I donned the moist sweaty yellow reflective vest that at least one other person had run in before me (ew, ew, ew!), a red ankle light, an amber back light (that immediately stopped working when I put attached it to the vest) and my green headlight.  We left our last runner with one mile to go, so I figured I had 5 minutes to use the port-o-john and get to the hand-off.

Do know what is worse than using a port-o-john in the middle of the night after 18 hours of race use?  Nothing!  Ew, ew, ew!

I took the hand-off at 12:07am, and headed 4.2 miles out into the night towards Wallis.


A nice straight flat run (there was only 15 feet of elevation change on this leg).  I was a little stiff getting started, but was able to shake it off an find a good pace.

There were a bunch of racers on the road at this point in the race and I passed at least 7 people (I have difficulty counting when I am hypoxic so it may have been 8).  I did have one guy pass me like I was standing still (but just one).

Pace for Leg #21? 8:30 min/mile. Can I get a Woot! Woot!?

In Wallis, our van would hand the race over to the other van for 6 straight legs in order that we 6 team members have an opportunity to take a shower at a local high school, and get some sleep either in the van or in sleeping bags.

You know what’s better than taking a shower after running 10 miles, and spending 14 hours in a van with 5 other sweaty runners?  Nothing (I do love me a middle of the night shower).

After showering, we drove the 30-something miles to the hand-off location for Leg 28, then all snuggled down in our sleeping bags/van bench seat for some restful sleep.

Not! I have no idea when the temperature dropped, but it was 45 degrees out.  My sleeping bag was thermal, but I was too hot when I burrito’ed myself inside, but too cold when I poked my head out.  Then at 3:00-something in the morning all that Gatorade (maybe some beer) I had drank started calling my name, but Alas!  they “forgot” to deliver the port-o-johns to that hand-off location (Whaaat?).  Nothing quite like stumbling around in the dark buggy woods looking for a safe place to tinkle.  When I got back to my sleeping bag, I couldn’t fall back to sleep because I was afraid we would miss the hand-off (the other van would call us and let us know we had about 30 minutes to be ready, but cell phone service was sketchy on the course).  At least I was showered, but I don’t think I got an hour’s sleep.


You know it!

  • * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My final leg was Leg #32, 5.1 miles at 8:45am. I started in Memorial Park on the running trail. I would run along the hike and bike trail then into downtown Houston.

It was early enough that it wasn’t too hot, but after sleeping on the ground in a parking lot that stiffness I felt at the beginning of my second leg was settling into a real tightness by morning. I was pretty stoked to get started so when Mohamed handed the baton off to me I turned to run and both of the glutes went:


Holy cow, my butt was sore.  OK, we’ll start it off nice and slow and hope that whatever this is works itself out.  But every step was ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…

I felt like I was running pretty slow and this gal who looked really strong passed me.  We ran a 1/2 mile through the park, then just as we were heading out of the park I saw her run right passed the turn arrow (the arrows were on orange traffic cones).  “LEFT!  You need to turn LEFT!” I yelled.  She took the turn really wide and got back on course, but I was back in front of her.  As she passed me again I told her, “We are on this road for a couple of miles.”

About a block later she turned left.  WTF?  There was no cone, no sign, no random arrow painted on the street from some old construction, nothing. “STRAIGHT!  Go STRAIGHT!” I called, as I passed her again and she turned around to get back on course.  After that I never saw her again.  She may be in Louisiana at this point.

I did pass at least one more racer, but it was hard to tell who was racing and who was just taking a nice Sunday run on the trail.  And I felt impossibly slow and my butt really hurt (but in a good “using the right muscles” soreness way). One of the things that age had brought me is really poor eyesight (but still waiting for the wisdom that is supposed to be bestowed with age [shrugs]), so I could not read my Garmin watch to know what my pace was, but what did it matter?  This was as fast as I could go.

Once I got into downtown Houston, there were cops directing at each intersection (thank God, or I would have been totally lost), and stopping traffic, so I ran the final 1/4 mile into downtown and handed off the baton.  Done! And I really need a massage!

While I felt really slow, I was still able to run an 8:40 min/mile pace.

So, I was done and there was still a cooler of beer in the van.  Good times!  But there are 40 legs in this race, so I still had some supporting to do.  Luckily, I can multitask!

finish line

At the San Jacinto Monument

We had a really good group this year and everyone looked really strong.  No one got lost and no one got hurt. I would call it a resounding success!

Our team finished 53rd Overall and 32nd in our Open Division @ 28:06:38 with an average of 8:27.


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Tour Das Hugel 2015

While I have been plagued with hamstring issues while running this year, I figured I would give the running a break to let the hamstring heal, but concentrate on the bike.   Any running irritates the hamstring, yet it is completely unaffected by the bike (although, it has not actually healed and every time it starts feeling better I trip over something to aggravate it, I am certain this has nothing to do with the bike..dammit).

After successfully riding the Death Ride Tour in June, then the 200+mile ride to and from College Station, and the Double Shiner GASP (100 miles Friday, 100 miles Saturday), I determined that I would do the Tour Das Hugel as my “A-Race” this year.  Keeping in mind, of course, that the Hugel is not a race at all, but one of the most challenging ride in Austin.  It is a vaguely organized, slightly supported ride for which no one will take credit.  But they do have a Facebook page, so it must be legit (amirite?).

What is the Tour Das Hugel?  As they explain in the FAQs on their website:

     What the hell is Tour Das Hugel?

     A ride to Hell and back.  Does anyone have a roadmap to hell or a Garmin file? Das Hugel is at least 110 miles of Austin’s most brutal hills. (Some swear it’s up to 113 miles and climbing varies from 10k-13k, but who is counting?)

     While the ride features some notable (and memorable) individual hills with steep gradients, there are also hills and more hills leading to those hills.


     Should I ride Das Hugel?




So now that we are all on the same page….

A group of about, what, 200 of us(?) met at the pedestrian bridge under MoPac for the  7:00am start down Stratford Drive. I planned on going slow and steady, as a ride like this it would be really easy to blow one’s self up in the first 1/3, suffer through the second 1/3, then have to SAG the last 1/3 back to the truck… and there were no SAG vehicles on this ride.  I saw my friend George who I quickly got away from as he is the person most likely to encourage me to do something stupid (Exhibit A – the 100 mile Livestrong Challenge at 20.6 mph), and met my friend Herb who was only going to do the first 40ish loop.  I was to meet Rhonda for the second 60ish loop so I wouldn’t be alone out there. I did take the time to print out the turn-by-turn cue sheet, although my plan was to keep other riders within my sight so I would know where to turn because (a) I always get lost whether I have a map or a cue sheet, and (b) I did not have my reading glasses so I could not read the cue sheet anyhow.

We started out on the gentle rollers of Rollingwood Drive out to 360.  I was trying to stay with the “big group” and not get separated by the traffic lights (because despite what you have heard, cyclists do stop at stop lights).  These folks did not seem the type to wait for the rest of the group at a traffic light. Later, I determined the “big group” was actually the “lead group”- a group I certainly did not plan on staying with over the course of the day.  We turned onto Westlake Drive, then Toro Canyon to a road named “The High Road.”  No kidding.  The High Road is about 1.5 miles long with an average grade of 12% (translation: long and steep).  Good times!

Grades – There is a mathematical formula for determining the grade of a hill, but let’s be honest, most of my friends are not the type to pull out an abacus and figure this stuff out and those that are so incline have already figured this stuff out at some point in their lives.  This article nicely describes the various degrees of grade of a hill in a friendly way we can all understand – A Handy Guide to Climbing Grades.  As a point of reference, what I have found is that anything with more than about an 10% grade will cause me to pull my front wheel off the ground – which is pretty scary since all your steering is in your front wheel and you are moving really slowly climbing a grade that steep, so you really don’t want to be pulling a wheelie. I tried to err on the side of conservatism but if any of my friends want to correct the grade percentages I have indicated for any hill, please do!

Here is a visual.  I have no idea if that is even helpful.  A 10% looks a lot worse on a bike:


I was concerned about what would happen when we hit the first steep hill being in such a pack of cyclists.  If the guy in front of you is going significantly slower it is not easy to pass when we are packed 4 wide.  I certainly did not want to ride up on someone’s wheel and crash, or slow too quickly and fall over, so I had to pace myself to the folks around me, giving a loud audible warning (also known as a “grunt” or “breathing really heavily”) when I was going to pass someone so they would not accidentally veer into me.   While two bikes “crashing” at 4 miles an hour doesn’t sound like a dangerous collision, no matter how fast or slow one is moving forward gravity will pull you down and the pavement is just as hard, then you would roll back down the hill and no one wants that. I was pleased to find that it was surprisingly easy to navigate around the other riders and once we got into the hills as the group spread out pretty quickly.  At this point I determined that (mostly because I am a horrible friend) I had lost my friend Herb never to see him again, (Not, like FOREVER, just on the Tour Das Hugel.  I mean, we are riding together this weekend, so we’re still friends…I think)

Having warmed up our legs, our next hill was Terrace Mountain, at 1.2 mile and a 3-6% grade.  Good steady climbing.  This is the climbing I like best.  At this point I hooked up with a riding buddy of mine, John and his companions Don, Tong, and David.  I determined that this was a good group to stick with because (a) David actually knew the route and (b) they were in it for the long haul, slow, but steady.

I’m not going to list every hill because, well look at that elevation map.  We’d be here all day. I will say that the entire ride was pretty much varying degrees of rollers punctuated with painfully steep hills.

Things I learned: Roads with names that include “Canyon,” “Mount,” or “Mountain” or whose crossroads all end in “Rim” or “Ridge” generally contain some sort of hill.

The next reputed hill we tackled was Cuernavaca/River Hills Rd.  This is a loop with a long descent into a long ascent, but  the road with the uphill depends on which direction you are heading.  After years of hearing about “Cuernavaca” like it was some sort of boogeyman, I was very glad to find that it’s actually a pretty fun loop.  We coasted down Cuernavaca and then rode up River Hills, most of the hills were in the 3-5% range, although there is a portion of 8 or 9% grades that will wake you up.

We headed  over to Barton Creek Blvd, always a good hilly time, then the final “big hill” on the first loop of the ride, which was Lost Creek Blvd.  Inexplicably, Lost Creek is delineated on the cue sheet with one small up arrow indicating that it is not a “bad” hill.  Yeah, well, while Lost Creek may only have an average grade of 5%, that is because it is 3.7 miles of three steep hills with a dip between each one.  The dip (which is a negative percent grade) gets added into the average.  The first and second “bumps” are only about 1/4 mile each with grades of 12%, and the third bump is over a mile long.  The the bottom of the hill starts with an average 12% grade then there is a brief flattening and the top averages 8-9%.  So I’ll just say, “Five percent my ass!”  But once we got to the top of Lost Creek were were done with the big hills on the first loop.

From Lost Creek we had a fairly flat ride back to the MoPac Bridge to refuel and for me to pick up Rhonda who had arranged to meet me at 10:00am.  However, strangely Rhonda was not answering my calls or returning my texts…

After using the restroom and getting whatever we needed from our cars, we set out for loop #2…without Rhonda.  Again turned on to Stratford, but this time in the other direction where Stratford is a bunch of steep by tiny hills. /\/\/\/\. Now that our legs were all warmed up we headed out to Mount Bonnell (8%) then Cat Mountain (a series of 4-14% hills).  Feeling good.  I could do this all day!  At this point I have been riding for just under 4 hours and I’m not even half way done! Weee!

At about mile 50 we got to what I consider the worst hills on the ride.  There are disagreements about which is the worst hill in town.  Is it Courtyard or Beauford? Is it Smokey Valley? Is it Ladera Norte after riding Smokey Valley?  Meh, doesn’t matter in, the next 15 miles we are going to do ALL of them!

IMO Smokey Valley is the worst. The average grade is a 15%+.  Average!  So there are actually portions that are 20%+ grades!  And the great thing about Smokey Valley is immediately when you get to the top you get to ride up the top of Ladera Norte with it’s 15% average grade. Good [pant, pant, pant!] times!

Kicking butt on Smokey valley

That’s me in the front. You see how I am leaning way over the handlebars?  That’s to keep my front wheel on the ground (and while I look like I am going pretty fast I was actually averaging 3.5 mph – that’s like walking, not power walking, just walking)…

From Smokey Valley we rolled up Bluegrass (12%), then Rain Creek (10%)   We stopped at the top of Rain Creek with my buddy Richard,who I was sort of kinda riding with for a little while.  He was generally ahead of me with his group but within sight.  Rich is faster than me and I was really trying to not go too fast on this ride, so I was not technically riding with him.  His wife Linda is the best freaking SAG support a person would ask for (she had driven SAG support for us during the 200+ mile ride out to College Station and back earlier this year). She had water and sport drink, then fig newtons (best cycling food ever!), bananas… you name it, and was willing to help out our little group.

David mentioned that he was not as on top of his nutrition as he should be, but we all seemed to be doing fairly well. I took out a chocolate covered honey peanut butter bar that I found in the bottom of my nutrition bag and packed for the ride. Ugh!  It was awful! It tasted like chalk covered in…chalk.  I commented to Tong that, while the bar was awful, I would save it for later just in case I really needed something to eat.  I carefully re-wrapped the bar and noticed the “sell by” date.  May 2011. (Spoiler Alert: I lived!).  I took Linda up on those Fig Newtons.

As I reviewed my cue sheet to see where we were heading and what the next hill would be, Linda asked where I got it. I printed it off the website, but hadn’t needed to look at it.  I gave it to her as she was ghosting Rich on the course and really needed to know where he would be, and besides, I was with people who knew where we were going ( there’s a little foreshadowing…).

We next headed over to Loop 360, where we would turn onto Lakewood in our quest for Beauford Dr.  Beauford is a thing of beauty. Standing at the bottom and looking up is pretty intimidating.  The road is harshly textured for vehicle traction (and by “vehicle” I am fairly certain they were not thinking bikes, because the road texture sucks!).  I have never tried to drive up Beauford because I do not think my 4 cylinder 1995 Nissan truck would make it (no, I am not kidding).  How bad is it?  Well, looking down from the top….

That's the texture I am talking about. Pix from Tour das Hugel website

Yeah, it’s that bad.  While the average grade is allegedly 11% bottom to top (note: I don’t believe that), I have heard stories about parts of it being 24%+.  I really have no idea. Beauford is only about 1/2 mile long, so while it is a challenge, I don’t think it is the hardest hill in town, but a lot of people would disagree with me.

After cresting Beauford we rode down Jester Blvd (Weeee!) then over to West Courtyard via 360.  Courtyard used to be the hardest hill for me, but that was before I found Smokey Valley which gets points just for sheer steepness.  Courtyard is long with three steep sections that get progressively steeper. But Courtyard is also the type of hill that sucks the life out of you, because there are curves in the road that give you the impression that you are just about done with the hill, until you turn the corner and see more steeper hill, but alas you are out of lower gears so you just have to grind it out! Courtyard still get a 10 for being the soul-sucking-est hill in town.

Ooo, look!. The Austin skyline! Hey, where did that road disappear to?

This is the view from the top of Courtyard.  I always remind people to turn around and look, because you should get some type of reward for making it to the top – the Austin Skyline! Hey wait, where did the road go?

There was a construction port-o-john at the top of Courtyard (I actually felt sorry for what the construction guys were going to be walking into on Monday ).  So we used the restroom as we waited for David.  And waited… and waited.  John then received a text from David: “Bonked.  I’m done.”

Wait, David knew the route.  He can’t leave us! OK, now no one in the group really knows were we are going.  Don has a GPS computer with a map, but he is afflicted by the same condition I have, Can-see-shit-up-close-itis.  He said that he could tell which way we needed to go so long as we were moving because the map would change, but if we stopped he was as clueless as I. Luckily, John still have a cue sheet, so we checked to see where we were heading next.  City Park Road (13%).  Unfortunately there was no way to check the cue sheet without also seeing that at mile 60 we still had over 40 miles left to ride.  Good times!

City Park lead us on a one mile climb with a few turns to a road named Big View.  I had never been on Big View before.  Never even knew where it was, but apparently we were at the top of it.  We turned right and coasted down, down, down, down.  At some point we were supposed to turn right onto River Place, but no one really knew where we were going so we headed all the way down to the bottom of Big View about a mile and a half where we hit a dead end, then we got to climb back out.  Big View is my favorite type of hill, a long steady climb.  The average grade is between 3-4% with some grades as steep as 9% , but you are going up the whole way, so find a good gear and grind it out.  At some point we realized we were supposed to have turned onto River Place, so we turned there now and, well lookit that, continued to climb…for another three miles at a 3% average grade (although there were a few down hill breaks on this portion). When we got to 2222 at the top of River Place we realized that at some point we had lost Tong never to see him again (and I may never see him again, really).  At this point we had to pull out our maps again, but luckily a group of cyclists pulled up while we were waiting for the light and they knew where they were going (Yay!).

We made our way over to a gas station on 620 to replenish our nutrition (Doritos and Nutter Butters!) and hydration (Gatorade, though I could use a beer), then headed down 620 to the Mansfield Dam which is about 4 miles of downhill.

I have ridden “the Dam loop” many times.  Its a very popular route in town, but there is what could best be described as “used to be a paved trail but now looks like the road to The Hills Have Eyes” that goes under the Dam Bridge and will bring you out on the other side of 620 if you are not killed in a bike accident or by lurking psychos.  I tried to find a picture of this trail to no avail.  So then I did a Google search for “dangerous overgrown trail” and still couldn’t find anything in as bad a shape.  So lets just say it was worse then this, but also with a steep downhill grade and giant clumps of grass growing out the middle and we were on our bicycles with the skinny wheels.

considerably worse than this

Someone had thoughtfully written “SLOW” in red spray pain, then about 50 yards later “SLOWER” just before where the trail was washed out and we would have gone careening to our deaths, and we were able to get off our bikes and climb down.  So mad props to whoever the spray paint guys is!

From here we got back on 620 and climbed back up the 4 miles to where we came from.  At the top of 620 it was back to just John, Don and I as we had dropped all of our new friends.  We headed down River Place and back to Big View, but since we had already climbed it once, we felt like were good for Big View and just turned left and made our way back to the top and through the neighborhoods back to City Park Road.  We only had one more big hill: Jester, a 1/2 mile 12% hill, then we were “done”.

While riding down City Park it started to rain.  It had been threatening all day with overcast skies and temperatures in the 50’s (up to this point we had good cycling weather, but rain is not good cycling weather).  We wanted to climb up Jester and get down Lakewood (the last 10% down hill grade) before the roads got slippery and dangerous.

Jester is by no means the toughest hill in town.  However, Jester at mile 93 of a 100+mile ride just might be the toughest hill in town.  Normally, I climb seated until I start to gank my front wheel off the ground, then I stand.  It is generally easier to climb steep grades while standing because you can use your body weight, but it also uses more energy so it is not particularly efficient.  In this case, however, it didn’t matter.  This was the “last hill.”  It was the last graded hill and the last hill most folks in Austin consider a crazy hill.  Mentally and physically, I was beat.  The only way I could get up Jester was on a 16/16 count in and out of the saddle.  16 pedal strokes sitting, 16 standing, 16 down, 16 up…  Another positive note was that counting to 16 over and over gave me something to concentrate on while I climbed the hill.

Luckily the rain never really got harder and the road up was not dangerous.   And can I get a “Woot-woot!”  I made it.  I completed the Tour das Hugel!!  Now all I had to do was get back to my truck at Austin High.  By the time we were riding down Lakewood (it has a pretty steep section, but we had to get back down from our big climb up Jester), the rain had all but stopped.  Somehow we had manage to avoid the rain over the course of the day. Pretty amazing if you ask me, since I have been told that it rained in Austin throughout the day.

And, yeah.  The thing about thinking you are done when you crest the last “big” hill is that it does not necessarily mean you are done climbing hills when you still have over 10 miles to get back to your car.

The Last 20 miles of the TdH

There actually were a few other hills between the “last hill” and my truck. I will just say that riding on 360 from the Pennybacker Bridge up to Westlake Dr (the long hill at mile 97ish in the diagram above) sucked a lot more than it should have.  And the hill from Wild Basin to Bee Caves (that last good bump at mile 101) sucked just like it always does, but perhaps a bit more so on this day.  Then we’re gonna call those last 10 miles a cool down: nice and easy back to the car mostly down hill.

So, yeah, I did the Tour Das Hugel!  I got my T-shirt and a beer and some potato chips.  It was brutal, but it was great!  Probably the toughest day of riding I have done.  I highly recommend it if you relate at all to this guy: (click link) I am a Cyclist!

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The Death Ride Tour (Ride for Life) Day Three – Colorado June 6-8, 2015

I dragged my butt out of bed on the third day of the ride.  This was the day with the 20 miles of continuous uphill climbing and some of the longest steepest grades.  Many times over the weekend I had pushed the thoughts (and doubts) about the ride from Durango to Silverton out of my mind.  I’d worry about it when I got there.  But holy cow, I was tired.  I decided to go with mind over matter.  So long as I keep a positive attitude, it’s gonna be great! Besides I can sleep when I get home.


Day 3 – Eek!

The third day of the ride is the same ride as the Iron Horse Classic.  The Iron Horse Classic is a ride that started in 1972 wherein a group of cyclists would race the Steam Locomotive from Durango to Silverton.  I really didn’t think there was any chance that I would beat the train especially after the two days of riding I had just experienced, but it was nice to think that I might without any real pressure or expectation.

Well, that doesn't look too bad

Well, that doesn’t look too bad and there is that flat portion in the middle

The morning was beautiful.  Lows in the the high 40’s which would quickly be on their way to the 50’s.  Since most of the day would be climbing and any descents would not be until well into the afternoon, I opted for a Texas cycling wardrobe: jersey, shorts, fingerless gloves.  It might be a bit chilly in the morning, but I would not be hauling a pack of unworn clothes up the mountain. I mean I just spent $500 on wheels to save 9 ounces, why would I want to carry unnecessary clothes (Note: when you try to Google things that weigh 9 oz the results are generally given in the age of a fetus – I didn’t think that would be helpful here, so no picture).

We started off in town, in front of the hotel with the train.

As you can see, the train got a head start (photo by Daily Photography)

As you can see, the train got a head start (photo by Daily Photography)

The first bit of the ride was a nice warm up through the neighborhood.  Then we would continue on a flat course for the first 16 miles or so before beginning the long incline. The group rolled rather slowly through the neighborhood which had plenty of stop signs and stop lights.  But once we got on Highway 251 I settled in and gained some speed.

I wasn’t paying attention to much else but the road before me, but after a little while I fella came up next to me and said,  “You look like you could use a break.”  Huh?  When I glanced back I saw for the first time that I was pulling a pace line (who knew?).  He got in front of me and I was more than happy to draft. Apparently, the way they do a pace line in Colorado is each time a new person takes the lead they gain a bit of speed, at least that is what it felt like.  Several times I questioned the wisdom of staying in the pace line where we were averaging 21 miles an hour prior to starting a 20 mile incline, but you know how I hate to leave that draft.

By the time we got to “the bridge” at mile 16, the area where the flat ends and the incline begins and kind of an unofficial stop where pretty much everyone grabs some nutrition, I has breathing heavy and a bit nauseated.  Yeah, maybe I was going a bit fast.

I asked,  “Are we ahead of the train?” Because surely we were beating the train at this point and someone answered, “No.”


Well, I guess I wouldn’t be beating the train today. (Spoiler Alert:  Yeah, not even close)

As soon as we crossed the bridge there was a switch-back to the long climb.  I got in a comfortable gear and started grinding it out.  I recognized a bike up ahead.  There was a gal who had been pulling the pace line really strongly for a good long time and although it looked like she had taken her jacket off, I was certain I recognized that bike.  I slowly picked up my pace until I was gaining on her (and by slowly, I mean it took me two miles to get close enough to her to talk to her).  “Hey, were you the gal pulling that pace line?” “Yeah.” She replied. “Nice job!  You were killing it!” I told her.  She said,”I was just trying to catch up to my boyfriend.  I didn’t even know you were all back there.”  Classic!  Then apparently she had to go catch her boyfriend again, because she left me in her dust.

Just about this time, something weird and inexplicable happened.  I cannot explain how, but from out of nowhere I rick rolled myself.  Somehow, this song that I have not heard in months got stuck in my head — as I was climbing the first 13 miles of the big hill.  I didn’t have the energy to fight it, so I hoped it would just play itself out… hopefully in minutes and not hours.

I do have to say that this climb was not nearly as bad as I had imagined.  Periodically I would switch into a harder or easier gear just to keep my legs fresh, but I could totally do this! (Never gonna give, never gonna give never gonna give you up…).

I passed a few folks; a few folks passed me (different folks), but this was doable.  About half way up that hill there was an unofficial rest stop. The advice I had gotten from more than one person was to stop at every rest stop and refill my water bottles.  You never know when you are going to run out and you really don’t want to run out in the middle of a 7 mile hill.  So I stopped, filled my water bottles and had a snack.  Feeling bold and poking karma in the eye with a sharp stick, I said to the other rider at the stop, “Ya know, this really isn’t too bad.”   Then I headed back out onto the climb.

Whenever I would encounter another rider on the route I’d ask, “Where’s the train?” The train was long gone and we were not gaining on it. At the rate I was riding, I have no idea how anyone could possibly beat this train although word on the street is that it does happen.

I rode on and started noticing a rhythmic tweet with each pedal stroke.  If I sped up my pedal stroke — tweet..tweet..tweet.  If I slowed — tweet….  tweet….  tweet.  Yeah, after riding for days in less than optimum conditions my blackened caked chain and gear cassette needed some oil (actually a really good cleaning and oil).  The longer I rode the more frequently the tweet came until I was certain I was an extra in an Alfred Hitchcock movie being chased my a flock of seagulls.

WRONG Flock of Seagulls

WRONG Flock of Seagulls

That's more like it

That’s more like it

Once I got to the top of that incline and started on the flat (kinda felt like a downhill actually) portion, and there was an official rest stop.  I stopped for water and nutrition and noticed that Zach and Thompson, the bike guys from Velosoul had set up a mechanic station there.  I asked if there was any point in adding lube to such a filthy chain.  Thompson offered to do a quick degrease and re-lube for me. Excellent, because the squeaking was driving me crazy.

I snacked on some melon and fig bars and refilled my bottles while he cleaned up my bike.  I walked over to see how it was going and saw Zach trying to help a guy who had broken his rear derailleur lever clean off his bike…and of course in the highest gear* on his cassette.  Suddenly a squeaky chain seemed like a pretty good problem to have (and, I didn’t even have that problem any more).

* For those of you who may not be aware, a high gear moves you a long way for each push of the pedals so you can go faster on flats and downhills, but it makes it more difficult to climb hills.  That’s where he broke his shifter… on this ride!



I left the rest stop with my cleaner, non-squeaking chain and got to enjoy a respite on some nice gentle downhillish and flat roads into  a town that was called Purgatory, then changed to Durango Mountain Resort, but now allegedly is called Purgatory again.  Anyway,  I could not find a sign welcoming me to Purgatory which is why there is not picture of me under the Purgatory sign.  Sorry.

Upon leaving Purgatory I did see this sign:

steep grades

What could possibly go wrong?

This was the beginning of the 6 mile 6-7% climb of the Coal Bank Pass.  It became immediately clear to me that that 2-5% graded hill was just a warm up.  This climb was unrelenting and twisting, so you could only see a short distance in front of you, until you turned the corner to see…more hill.

I bet the hill ends after this next turn!  Nope.

I bet the hill ends after this next turn! Nope.

I don’t know if it was good that I had no idea how long this hill went on for before I had started climbing.  I at least had hope that it would flatten out around the bend.  Ahh, blissful ignorance.

At this point I started singing “Slow Ride” in my head.  Slow ride….  Take it easy…. which was pretty much my strategy (unfortunately, I only know the 5 words of the lyrics).

Also, as twisting as the road was, you could hear RVs and trucks pulling trailer coming up behind you, as you hugged the cliff side of the mountain and pass you with about 2 feet clearance, as you mentally pictured the 108 year old driver looking through the steering wheel.  Good times!

Yeah, that's her!

Yeah, that’s her!

At about 5 miles up the hill, Kelly was parked on the side of the road yelling encouragement.  “You’re almost there!!! Only about a mile left.”  Thing is, when you are riding at really really slowly, a mile can be a really long way.  I had no idea how long it would take to reach the summit.  After several turns, I made yet another turn and the heavens opened up and the angels sang.  It was the summit!

Made it!!!

Made it!!!

I had purchased a new bike saddle right before heading to Colorado.  As much as you NEVER want to get something like a new saddle right before a big ride, my old saddle had completely broken down and was no longer a possibility for this long ride.  The new saddle was much better and had comfortably gotten me through the first 2 & 1/2 days of the ride, but I don’t think a saddle exists that would have saved my booty on that climb.  My ass was killing me!

I looked at my watch and saw that it was 11:50am.  I turned to a volunteer and confirmed that the train had arrived in Silverton 20 minutes ago.  Yep.  And I still had to get over the Molas Divide.  I guess I won’t be beating the train this year.  Oh, well.

I took a good long break at the Coal Bank Pass and tried to massage some of the numbness out of my butt on a large rock (hey, you do what you gotta do).

Kelly told me that there was only on 4 mile climb left, then a swift sweet downhill into Silverton.  After the brutal 6 mile climb, 4 miles sounded totally doable.

I rode the terrifying downhill switchbacks to the base of the next climb.  While I was white-knuckled and literally wore out my brakes (yes, I really need new brake pads), the locals were flying down the hills.  In my defense, I generally have no fear of hills when I can see the bottom or know what is around the next curve.  I assume the locals know these roads, whereas I would come flying around a curve at 40 miles an hour only to find a sharp turn and steep drop off.



I do have to say that the next climb up to Molas Divide was not bad because I knew I only had 4 more hard miles.  Because Molas Divide was so close to Coal Bank Pass a lot of folks did not stop at the summit, but far be it from me to miss a good photo op:

First successful Selfie I have ever taken!

First successful selfie I have ever taken!

I got back on my bike and coasted pretty much all the way to Silverton. There weren’t so many switchbacks and blind curves on this section so it was not as harrowing as the previous downhill.

When I got into town, some nice law enforcement agency had put one of those big electronic speed limit signs with “Your Speed” appearing as you go passed it.  Surely, I am not the only one that had some fun trying to exceed the speed limit on the way into town. 🙂

Judy came in a little while after I did and we had a great lunch (I was starving), then spent a good while cleaning our bikes up enough to take them apart and ship them home (via  By the time we were done everything in the downtown area was pretty much closed, and we were hungry again.  He had dinner with a group of Death Riders, then got to bed at about 10:30pm, where….

Holy crap!  I could not sleep again!  How is this possible?  I could hear Judy gently snoring in the next room and I wanted to get up and stab her to death (not because she was loud, she wasn’t, she just sounded so peaceful).

Day 4: Heading home (because this, too, was a harrowing adventure)

After a very fitful night I woke up at, surprise! 4:45 the next morning and laid in bed until 5:30am.  Judy had to make a quick stop in another state on her way back to Austin so she was flying out of Durango, but I would be making the drive back to Denver with the wild bunch.

We left Silverton at 8:00am.  We stopped for breakfast along the way, then headed to Denver.  I slept periodically in the car and otherwise enjoyed the scenery along the way.  As we were getting close to Denver, due to road construction we got stuck in traffic for two hours.  Like, not moving traffic.  So, after awhile we all had to use the restroom, but we were on a big highway without any shrubery in sight.  To take our minds off of our full bladders Dan took over DJ duties and we all sang along to the dance music on on Deb’s play list.

My flight was scheduled for 9:00pm and it was about 6:30 while we were sitting in the traffic jam that my phone started ringing. When I answered it it was a Southwest Airlines’ recording telling me my flight was delayed until 11:35pm.  What!?! [insert choice cuss words here]!!  Well, with the traffic delay this would just give me enough time to get to the airport.

Once we started moving again, I decided to torture everyone with some of the songs on my play list (Shambala – Three Dog Night; Afternoon Delight – Starlite Vocal Band – oh yes, I have all the classics!).

We got into Denver a bit before 9:00pm and figured we would get some dinner then drop me off at the airport.  Apparently, I was a lot hungrier than I thought.  Once I started eating I could not stop!  But it also put me in a pretty good mood (which would definitely come in handy later).

They dropped me off at the airport at 10:00pm, where it became readily apparent that a LOT of flights had been cancelled (lots of unhappy people).  There were two folks in front of me in line. Both of their flights ended up being cancelled.  Eek!

I approached the counter attendant and asked “Austin 11:35?”  “So far, not cancelled!” she said. Woot!  I got my boarding pass and checked my big bag.  I was going to throw my backpack on the checked luggage belt, but the one brain cell that was still operating said “Don’t.  Your prescriptions.”  So I kept my back pack.

There was a delayed flight at my gate.  Apparently, the plane was ready to go and they were looking for a crew.  One guy was really angry, actually comically angry, about it.  I mean, throwing a fit is going to get you what, exactly?  There are 100 other folks there dealing with the same exact delay but acting like adults.  Yelling at the gal behind the counter (who has been being yelled at by various folks for the past 2 or 3 hours) isn’t going to make the crew get there faster.  But go on and be your bad self.  At least it was entertaining to watch for the rest of us.

My flight didn’t leave Denver until after midnight (that’s 1:00am Austin time).  I should have turned into a pumpkin long before then, as my bedtime is normally 9:00pm Austin time.

We landed at ABIA at 3:00am (did I mention I had been up since about 5:00am the day before), so I was fairly close to delirious at this point and I am fairly certain I was looking like Bill the Cat.



I disembarked the plane and followed the rest of the zombies to the luggage carousel.  Round and round it went.  Folks picked up their bags, bags came down the shoot.  Then bags stopped coming down the shoot.  Then all the other folks had left with their bags…

Pretty much me

How I felt, only more tired

After all the luggage had be collected and everyone had left, I was standing there still waiting for my bag.  I went to the little Southwest Airlines room behind the carousels and asked “Where’s my bag?”  The guy said, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” as he filled out a form.  I really have no idea what he said, as I was too busy worrying that I had taken too much time being the last person in the airport that the shuttle buses might have stopped running.  My car was in Lot G.  While you may not know exactly where Lot G is, be assured Lots A through F are between the airport and my truck.  I was thinking I might have to call a cab to get to my car if the shuttle buses had stopped running…or sleep in the airport until the next bus shift came on.

I was relieved to find that the buses were still running.  Of course I could not remember what row of Lot G my truck was in.  Just get me to Lot G. I’ll find it.

I didn’t get home until after 4:00am.  I left the truck in the driveway as I did not have the energy to walk across the yard from the garage,. When I got into the house, I dropped my backpack on the floor, fed the animals breakfast, then went to bed where I slept like a rock for 6 hours. Yay!

(Southwest did get my bag, unscathed, to me by 7:00pm that evening).

The best conversation came the following Saturday while I was on a group ride in town:

Fellow Rider:  So.  You didn’t die.

Me: Nope!

Fellow Rider:  What a gyp.

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The Death Ride Tour (Ride for Life) Day Two – Colorado June 6-8, 2015

When I last left you I was tossing and turning in bed after the epic and exhausting first day of the The Death Ride Tour.

Day Two would be much easier starting in Telluride and ending in Durango.  Yeah, it is 111 miles but look at all that easy-peasey downhill and those tiny little hills at the end:

Piece of cake!

Piece of cake!

We woke up on Sunday morning to beautiful blue skies.  It was a bit chilly, so I put on the same outfit I had worn and washed the day before with the exception of the mittens since they were still really wet.

Judy and I went to get breakfast at the B&B we were staying at, but alas, breakfast would not be served before we had to leave.  We set out to find the one cafe that was serving breakfast and met up with about 20 other cyclists who had had the same idea.

I opted to a bagel with egg and cheese as I could not bring myself to pay $7 for a chorizo/egg/cheese breakfast taco (apparently this is exotic food in Colorado).  We then headed over to drop of our luggage and start the second day of the ride.  I was pretty tired and so glad that this would be an easy day with the least amount of climbing.  We would head out of Telluride to Lizard Head Pass, then coast 40 miles into Delores.  The map indicated a little hill before Lizard Head Pass which would be a nice warm up.

Umm, about that....

Umm, about that….

Judy and I rolled out with another new friend Trey.  For the first few miles he told us entertaining stories about rides past.  He told us he was from Kansas, which I seem to recall is a flat state.  But as soon as we hit that hill, he was a speck disappearing over the horizon.  While it had been chilly that morning by the time we got to the top of the hill I was sweating profusely and Judy was half naked (well, she had removed half her clothes).

Yeah, that was quite a hill

Yeah, that was quite a hill

After a short rest at the top for Judy to put her clothes and gloves back on (because we had learned something about the descent that day before), we were flying down a pretty nice sweeping hill.  And while it was not cold out, it did cool us down quite a bit.

After that little respite we were back to climbing Lizards Head.

Oh FFS! I thought this was the easy day!

Oh FFS! I thought this was the easy day!

Apparently, this is quite a scenic ride, but I was too busy looking down and trying to keep my breathing under control to truly appreciate it.  Once we crested the summit, though, the view was amazing!

by Daily Photography

by Daily Photography

We stopped for a bathroom break and to replenish our nutrition and hydration in preparation for the glorious 40 mile downhill cruise.  We hooked up briefly with Jeff and Sean again, but they both could descend much faster than Judy or I (fun fact: Judy is fearless on the descents, while Red imagines all the horrible things that could happen).

Judy flew down the hill, and I knew I would catch up with her a bit later.  I also raced downhill:

I am so ready!

I am so ready!

…when it started raining.  Actually, it didn’t start raining.  It started hailing some of the most painful pointiest hail ever.  Instead of enjoying my free micro-derm abrasion, I pulled my buff up to cover my face and aimed for the sunlight farther down the hill.

The first 12 miles were pretty glorious despite the brief hail, but after Judy and I hooked up in Rico the hill kinda sucked.

How could a 40 mile downhill suck? I know, right?  Well, add a 25 mile an hour headwind.  Judy and I took turns pulling. Each time we switched positions we would comment on how riding downhill shouldn’t be so much work.

At one point we stopped to eat and take off some layers as we were working up a pretty good sweat. How would we ever make the people at home understand that this downhill sucked?  See, you’re not even believing me right now.  I can tell.

A fella rode past just as we were getting back on our bikes and asked “How much farther?” (case in point, no one who is coasting down a hill asks how much farther).  Judy said, “About 5 miles.”  A half a mile later we saw a sign:


Oops.  But how could it be another 15 miles?  We felt like we had been out there all day.  And that was just 15 miles to Dolores.  There was still 30 more miles of climbing before the end of the day once we got there.  See, and you’re still not believe that a descent could be this disappointing…

We finally arrived in Dolores, where a rest stop and lunch awaited!  We refueled and Judy got a bit of work done on her bike, then we were back on the road.

We quickly turned out of the headwind and back into the hills.  The rest of the ride would be rollers and worse (but it was still better than the descent). We rolled into Mancos where we stopped for water and some food (we were both down to our last gel, so we wanted some insurance should the next rest stop be farther away than anticipated).  When we got back out on the road we hooked up with Jeff and Sean again.  They were riding about our speed so we just stuck with them.

As we hit the next good hill Jeff went off the front and I took off after him.  He smoked me, but I held my own and came in far before Sean (as did Judy).  The next big hill came along and once again I tried to stay with Jeff and failed but did alright.  We each waited for everyone to come up the hill before starting the descent.  I also believe there may have been some smack talk going on.

We got to the final big hill and once again Jeff took off, I went to go after him but all of a sudden Sean is not letting me pass him.  Every time I pull ahead, well there he is.  WTF? (sandbagger!)

When we got over the last big hill we were met with a big smooth blacktop shoulder of sweeping turns and a killer descent of 10 miles into Durango.  THAT was pretty damn fun!

But holy cow that was a long day.  I was a bit worried about day three and it’s 30 miles of 6700 feet in elevation gain, but I pushed it to the back of my mind.  We went to check into our hotel and it ended up that we were in the wrong Best Western. We were booked into the one clear across town…without a car… and with luggage and bikes.  That was not going to work, and we were too tired to fight, so we just booked a room in another hotel closer to where everyone else was staying and got cleaned up for dinner.

At dinner Barry introduced us to Bicycle Bob, who is this crazy cat who has ridden the Death Ride 18 times all in one day with a record time of 12 hours and 50 minutes.  Very cool, very easy to talk to guy.

We were also introduced to Mike, who was a Cat 3 racer diagnosed with ALS just a short time ago.  Knowing his past talents and seeing the devastating effects of this disease on his body in such a short time is startling and really does drive the point home of the seriousness of this disease.

After dinner we hung our stinky clothes out air out as there were no laundry facilities, but at this point I was too tired to care.  Since I hadn’t slept well my first two nights in Colorado I was sure I would be out like a light after this tough day.

I was wrong…


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The Death Ride Tour (Ride for Life) Day One – Colorado June 6-8, 2015

How did it all start?  How DID it all start? I must have been messing around on the internet looking at bike ride schedules, when I happened upon this ride: The Death Ride Tour.  A three-day bike ride through the Southwest Colorado Mountains. As most of you know, I do love to ride my bike.  I really like to ride hills.  I also like Colorado.  However, this ride does have the word “Death” in the name, which would go into the negative column.

I studied the elevation map:

death riode tot elev

Seemed reasonable.  Now who could I sucker int— I mean convince to join me?

But first a short word about the real purpose of the ride: The ride supports finding a cure for ALS (or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  But you are probably more familiar with it as the reason all your friends were dousing themselves with water in Facebook in the Ice Bucket Challenge last year.

In the 80 years since Lou Gehrig had this disease, there has been practically no progress in the medical field. While about 5,600 people are diagnosed each year (similar to MS diagnoses), only 33,000 Americans have the disease because they lose their lives in such a quick & devastating fashion (2-5 years).  Folks with MS can live 20 years or more after diagnosis. With no known cure for ALS, a physician’s role is centered around making the patients as comfortable as possible. Yet, ALS doesn’t get the attention cancer does. (The DEATH RIDE Tour…Ride To Defeat ALS is a registered 501c3 Non-Profit and all the proceeds are donated to the ALS Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter and the War on ALS, Blazeman Foundation. Just saying… ).

So it was a tough course for a good cause.  I put a shout out on Facebook to see if anyone else was interested (everything  seems much more reasonable when one of your crazy friends joins you).  I just so happen to have such an insane friend, and soon Judy Roessner and I were signed up and making travel plans.  We shipped our bikes to the condo we were staying in via, which eliminated the need to drag our bikes all over the airport and find a car that could hold two giant bike boxes, but did cause many sleepless nights as I imagined what my bike might be going through:

What I imagined I would find in Colorado

What I imagined I would find in Colorado

I contacted the ride director, Barry Sopinsky, to see if there was a ride group flying into Durango, CO to drive out to the ride start in Silverton, CO together, because I could not see renting a car for a week only to have it sit in Silverton for 5 of the 7 days.  Barry was quick to reply, “Just fly into Denver [which is much cheaper] and we’ll drive you out to Durango with us!”

So this man who I did not know just offered to be in a car with Judy and I for a 7 hour ride.  See, you all know what he was getting himself into, but he didn’t.  What if we weren’t as funny and charming as we are?  Luckily, Barry, his wife Debra, and friends Kelly, Dan, and Skip are all as crazy as Judy and I and we laughed all the way to Durango telling inappropriate jokes, peeing on the side of the road, and relating ridiculous stories.  Good times!

When we got to Silverton we met the young bearded bike mechanics, Zach and Thompson from VeloSoul Cyclery in Denver, who graciously offered to put our bikes back together.  After digging through 56 tons of bubble wrap and foam tubing, they were able to locate my bike in the box and put it together again.

Like this, but with more foam

Like this, but with more foam

We headed to dinner, where I expressed my reservations about being a sea-level gal who likes to climb short steep hills, out in altitude on 4-6 mile climbs.  While Barry encouraged me, Thompson, who was sitting next to me, was heard to say under his breath, “You’re gonna die.”   …

I also met a fella named Matt from BH Bikes and WarmFront.  He offered Judy and I thermal bibs that keep your chest warm and have a velcroed collar so they are very easy to remove and stow when you get too warm, then replace if the weather should change.  We said “No.”  but he insisted that we try them and give him a review.  He would find us again the next night.  So we relented.


I woke up with the sun at 5:30 on Saturday June 6, 2015, the first day of the ride.  It was raining…hard.  Today we would be riding over Red Mountain Pass, then the Dallas Divide and finally into Telluride.

Well, that doesn't look to hard...

Well, that doesn’t look to hard…

I grabbed a bit of breakfast, got dressed , when I looked out the window at 7:00am.  Beautiful sun!  While standing on the front porch of the condo, I hollered to Judy “Hey, It looks pretty nice out here!”  A couple of cyclists walking by replied, “Barry says it’s a go if you want to.”  (As if there was any doubt).

We readied our water bottles and other nutrition, debated over what to wear – the rain/windbreaker or my “real” riding jacket?  Arm warmers? Base layer and bib or just bib?  Long pants?

As we discussed our clothing options it started to hail.  Judy went out to get pelted and try to get a picture.  I stayed inside and put on every item of cycling clothing I owned.  By the time the ride started at 8:00am, there was a steady rain that did not let up for pretty much the entire day… Well, there was a point when it was not raining.  We’ll get to that later.

As the group set out, Judy immediately had a mechanical issue and we had to stop and fix it.  It was an easy fix, but put us a bit behind the large group, but that was ok, it truly was a ride, not a race.  We headed out of Silverton and almost immediately started climbing.

First climb of the Death Ride

First climb of the Death Ride

It was a slow grind and totally manageable.  Judy and I stayed together and got some pictures as we went because this was a ride and not a race:

Just don't look right...

Just don’t look right…

Yeah, I climbed that...

Yeah, I climbed that…

Since we have been training in the rain all month, riding in the rain was no big deal.  The climbing was not so steep as to worry about traction (even though Judy was very concerned that I might slip, roll 5 feet and fall off the cliff in the photo above).  Then the rain got fluffy and white!  Too cool!  Dressed warmly and riding up hill in the snow was actually a lot of fun!

Judy and I happy in the snow

Judy and I happy in the snow

So fun, so novel!

Les certain about the fun snow

Less certain about the fun snow

After another hour of riding in the wet snow, it was becoming less fun and novel.  But after ten miles of climbing we made it to the summit!



We stopped for several minutes to take pictures at which time I determined that it was kind of cold.  Judy said she heard it was in the 20’s at the summit.  I do know that it was at least in the mid-30’s.  Either way, we were already wet from having been rained on, and the snow was not letting up at all.  I questioned the wisdom of attempting a descent down winding mountain roads in the freezing snow…but Judy was having none of it (even though there were a ton of warm SAG vehicles that could have taken us down). the freezing snow...on 23mm bike tires...

This…in the freezing snow…on 23mm bike tires…

What could possibly go wrong?

What the HELL is THIS!!!?

What the hell IS THIS!!!?

We started the descent and it was immediately much, much colder than the climb.  Other riders were turning back, but the Texas girls?  Hell, no!

Another mile down and I could no longer feel my hands on the brake levers, but the brakes weren’t working all that great anyway.  My entire body was shaking.  Did I ever mention how I hate the cold (why do you think I moved from NY to TX)?  Judy, seeing my deteriorating state, called it then and we flagged down two SAG vehicles to take us to the bottom. OMG, I was so cold! I do have to say, I was never so happy to have accepted that fleece Warmfront Bib, because as cold as my extremities were, and damn they were cold, my core was not in near as bad a shape and my chest never got cold.  Then and there Judy and I agreed that we would be buying our bibs and needed to find Matt after the ride.

The driver of my SAG vehicle (a Toyota Camry) was Irina, a Russian lady and apparently a stunt car driver.  After I got into the car and was sure I was not going to freeze  to death, I was suddenly certain that I was going to die in a fiery explosion as the Camry careened off the side of the mountain.  I tried to assure myself that she probably drove in these conditions a lot in Russia but by the same token, I kept my face buried in my hands and gauged how she was driving by the screams of the other passengers. She did get us safely off the mountain.

I hooked up with Judy a few minutes later where we holed up in a coffee shop, whose owner allowed us to use his space heater to warm up and try to dry out some of our soaked clothes.  We hooked up for the first time with Sean and Jeff from Primal-Audi Men’s racing team. They were just really nice guys.  We talked about home and Colorado and we were there for a good long time trying to figure out how to dry our clothes and best continue in the cold rain.  I rode to a local sporting goods store and purchased some “water-proof”  (that part was a bit optimistic) fleece lined mittens because I was not going to be able to get my hands back into my soggy frozen gloves.  But let me tell you, mittens are the way to go! (Also, I later found out that the driver of the van Judy was in feared she may have hypothermia, so while she wanted to continue on down the mountain, my pathetic state probably saved her life).

The guys headed out and Judy and I headed out a few minutes later.  While it was still raining it was not snowing, and the temperatures were warmer off the mountain.  I have no shame for taking that SAG the ten miles down the mountain (or 8 1/2 of those miles)!  We learned later that a lot of the folks who rode down the mountain were done for the day thereafter, but we still had some fun hills to climb!

One of the folks who rode the whole way down Red Mountain

One of the folks who rode the whole way down Red Mountain

The ride into Ridgway was not so bad: flat to down hill, but not nearly as cold and my hands were warm in my mittens.

Once in Ridgway we started Dallas Divide Climb, it had finally stopped raining.

Oh, that doesn't look so bad.  What IS all that red and pink?

Oh, that doesn’t look so bad. What IS all that red and pink?

Wait, what!?!

Wait, what!?!

I don’t know if this was in fact the longest most miserable climb or if it just felt that way, but dang, it did suck!

After what seemed like forever, I was at the top.  I knew that Judy was right behind me, so I ate some fig newtons and spoke with the local riders as I waited.  These crazy people were going to take a SAG to the bottom of the Dallas Divide?!  After all that hard climbing?!  What kind of idiot would give up that sweet, sweet downhill?

Judy arrived, refilled her water and nutrition and I told her about these strange folks who were taking a car to the bottom of the hill.  She scoffed at the  ridiculousness of such a decision and within minutes we were flying down the 2-3% grade.  What became readily apparent was that (a) we were still wet and (b) holy shit is was cold on the descent!  This descent was long and sweeping so there was no real fear of careening off the mountain, but within minutes my whole body was shaking once again. Oh, and to add insult to injury, the rain that had let up a bit started again.  This descent is some 13 miles long!  Apparently THESE little nuggets of information was what the locals knew and what Judy and Red did not.  Even the Primal-Audi guys sagged down that hill (Woo-hoo we’re tougher (or more stupid) than race guys!)

At the bottom of the hill was a little convenience store where we holed up, once again, trying to get warm. We drank a cup of coffee, then another trying to stop the violent shivering. Judy’s hands were freezing in her wet gloves.  While my mittens were wet, they were still keeping my hands warm so I just wrung them out, but my legs were shaking.  Once again we discussed our incredible luck of sitting down for dinner at the table with Matt (the bib guy) the night before.  Several other brave hill descending cyclist joined us and we discussed the very real possibility of sagging it in. We still had 13 miles and one more climb before we would be done for the day.

A fella with shorts on (God bless him) asked us if we knew the SAG situation just as one of the ride vehicles pulled up.  They did not have room for any riders/bikes but assured us a SAG was on the way.  Judy and I decided to solider on, but told the guy in shorts that when the SAG passed us to make sure we were ok.

Judy stuck her gloves in the microwave for a minute to warm they up, put them on and off we went.  Once again being off the descent made all the difference in the world and after a few minutes we realized we would be alright.

We started the last ascent of the day up to the Telluride.  The best thing I can say about this hill is that it wasn’t the Dallas Divide.  I was huffing and puffing up the incline, which seemed to go on forever.  I was really thirsty, but having a hard time grabbing my bottle while I was climbing, so finally I just stopped so I could take a big swig and a few breaths.  I got back on my bike only to realize was less than 100 yards from the summit.

Last summit of the day!

Last summit of the day!

YAY!  I made it.  Once again, Judy was right behind me and we rode into Telluride together. We got lost trying to find the hotel (well, really, it was bound to happen at some point), finally found it and were able to get cleaned up and into warm dry clothes.  We headed over to the ride dinner where we sat with Sean and Jeff.  I was literally too tired to chew.  I felt like I should eat some more and was jealous watching Jeff eat and chew with ease.  I was determined not to fall asleep into the plate, but I just didn’t have the energy to eat any more.

fall asleep

Barry took a moment to explain why he put this ride together, then we went  around the room introducing ourselves and explaining why we were there.  There were many heartbreaking stories of folks who were there for friends and familiy who had been diagnosed with ALS.

I was exhausted and after dinner headed back to the hotel where all I wanted to do was sleep, but realized I really needed to do some laundry so I would have clean dry clothes to wear the next day.

Judy and I finally got to bed at about 10:30 after washing our clothes but too tired to wait for a dryer (so we hung them up all over the room). Then, as exhausted as I was, I slept like poo, but woke up at the first day light for day two: The ride to Durango.

But, my family understands:

tiff conversation

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Back in the saddle (and the water and the grass)- The Rookie Triathlon

So I competed in The Rookie Triathlon on May 3, 2015.  The Rookie is a super sprint (300m/11.2mile/2mile) which used to be an entry level triathlon for folks who wanted to try a tri, but then it somehow morphed into a race where you are likely to see all the usual competition. Folks were showing up in their team kit that matches their tri bike with the race wheel and aero-helmet…for a race that takes less time than a morning workout!

Who's taking themselves too seriously?

Who’s taking themselves too seriously?

Pretty intimidating if you are really new to the sport.  It got so bad that they broke the race into two races one for “Rookies” and one for “Veteran Rookies”.  I would fall into the latter category.

I have been plagued with injuries this season, or rather plagued with a heel injury that will not go away (and I am fairly certain I have an un-sport-related broken finger), so I did not sign up for any races…so I thought.  A week before The Rookie, I got a call from a friend who was working with the race director.

Her: “Red, you put the wrong birth date on your registration.  I don’t know when you were born, but I know it was not in 2008. What’s your birthday?”

Me: “I registered for that race!?!”

This is a very short race, one I can do without training for it… thank God.  I have been in the pool three times since the beginning of November and one of those times was last week after I was told I registered for the race; I have not run at all since March; I have been riding my bike, but there is only so much you can make up on the bike.  I was definitely not expecting a PR, I was not expecting a good race at all, but it had been awhile since I saw all my tri peeps, so I figured I could just go and have fun.

The day before the race I took over two hours to pack.  Seriously, this is not that hard, but I hadn’t done it in so long I kept forgetting stuff.  After I had loaded up the car and plopped onto the couch to watch some TV, I remembered that I bought a rear disc race wheel.  I should probably put that on the bike for the race since it was expensive and I only use it when I race.  It had been sitting since the end of October, so I aired it up and put it on the bike which was already in my truck. Ok, now I have everything I need!

The next morning I got up at about 4:45am, put on the race kit I had laid out, fed the pets, scooped the kitty litter, put the dog out, made a cup of tea and a 1/2 PB&J for breakfast (don’t be jealous of my glamorous life), grabbed my water bottles and headed out to the truck to drive to the race site at Decker Lake.  I stopped to put my water bottles on my bike when I realized that my rear wheel was flat.  I ain’t got time for that. (Ain’t nobody got time for that).  I ran into the house and grabbed a spare rear wheel that I know has a good tire, put it in the truck and headed out (I have a surprisingly ridiculous number of spare bike wheels.  In fact, if you are looking for a set of bike wheels just let me know, I can make you a deal). If I didn’t have time to change the flat I could just change the wheel.

Luckily I got to the race site at a time when the bike mechanics weren’t busy.  I really didn’t feel like changing that flat, but these guys can change a flat in 3 minutes.  I decided to let them further hone their craft and change my tire.  By the time he had finished there was a line of about 5 people waiting for some sort of bike assistance, as I’m gonna say I timed that well.

I found a good rack place for my bike and set up my transition area, while continually running into friends.  I had plenty of time before the race so nothing was rushed.  I even had time to go back to my truck in the parking area and grab a few folding chairs I had in the bed.  I also had time to watch the Rookies set up.  I did offer my friend Steph a bit of advice on taping a Gel to her bike.  I hate it when folks give me unrequested advice,so I hope I wasn’t annoying her (and it really was just a little bitty piece of advice).

I do have to say that some of these “Rookies” had nicer bike set ups than I did.  Rookie?  Really?  Reeeeeallllly?

There had been a great Facebook debate over whether one should wear a wetsuit for a 300m swim (equal to 6 laps in a pool) in 74 degree water. I will admit that under such circumstances a wetsuit is totally not necessary to keep you warm. But since I had not swam (swum?) in 6 months, I figured a buoyant wetsuit would free up a lifeguard who might otherwise have to save me from drowning.  It took me longer to put the wetsuit on than it took to do the entire swim, but it was well worth it.  Also, they had wetsuit strippers (folks who will get you out of your wetsuit in about 3 seconds, so I wouldn’t be flailing about in transition trying to get out of the tight rubber suit).

I lined up with my age group and we stood around, nervously, talking and watching the guys and younger gals head out in to the lake. Most of the area triathlons now use a time-trial swim start (something they started doing last year), meaning instead of a wild mass of thrashing, kicking, punching folks trying to get to a good position in the pack, folks run into the water one at a time every 2 seconds. Gals aged 40-49 were the second to last to start in the Veteran Rookie race.  All of a sudden, boom, I was running into the lake.  Since the swim is so short, I just went out hard and fast (well, fast for me on a swim).

While I have not been swimming at all, I have been doing a Bodypump class at the gym twice a week. This is a one hour weight training class that includes a lot of upper body weight lifting that I would never do otherwise.  And after this swim, I have to say, the hell with improving my swim form, power through it!  Yes, the wetsuit definitely helped but I could not believe how many people I passed in the water by just powering through and hoping for the best.

In a very short time I was back at the shore and out of the water.  An extremely helpful volunteer actually met me at the waters edge and started helping me out of my wetsuit.  Usually I would be required to get the thing unzipped, my arms out, and pull the top down to my waist before I’d reach the strippers, but this fella had me half naked in no time with very little effort by me. I sat down in front of the wetsuit stripper who grabbed my wetsuit and yanked it off my legs.

Swim 6:55 or 2:18/100 (but I am pretty sure the swim was longer than 300 meters because my swim was in the top 5 of my age group and a 6:55 for 300m is not very good).  Also the 6:55 includes some of the run up this long grassy hill to the transition area, so I have no idea how much of my swim time included the hill.

I ran jogged into transition (because I wasn’t sure how my heel was going to hold up on the run and didn’t want to have a blowout before I got to my bike) and quickly located my bike. Sock, shoe, sock, shoe, tighten shoes (dang it, this is where I will use my broken finger for an excuse because it took entirely too much time), racebelt, sunglasses, helmet… I have not worn this helmet since October but you would think I’da put the dang thing on before packing it for the race to make sure all of the straps were adjusted correctly.  You’d think.  Sometime during the past six months the little piece of felt that goes between the helmet and your forehead got all bunched up.  I didn’t know what the problem was until I checked it after the race, but it was really uncomfortable.  I just hoped I would not fall off my bike and hit my head as I ran out of transition because the helmet did not feel right at all.

T1- 3:19 (eww, that’s kinda embarrassing)

But now the best part.  On to the bike!

Since I have not been running (and I don’t love swimming) I’ve been spending a lot of time on the bike.  I love biking, but I also love biking hills.  Since I will be doing a really hilly three day ride in Colorado in June, I have been spending a lot of time training on hills .  And this race has a very hilly course. Good times!

One of the other benefits of having a ridiculously over-equipped bike for an 11.2 mile Rookie race is that you don’t want to be “that guy” who looks like he thinks he’s Lance Armstrong, but ends up getting passed by overweight, middle aged folks on a $89 Huffy from Walmart.


I quit trying to adjust the helmet and just went out and had fun.  I am very familiar with the roads on this course and equally familiar with the fact that they tend to get these crazy skinny-bike-wheel-eating cracks.  Since I am so used to riding with a group it is second nature to point to crack, potholes and debris in the road when I ride passed it to warn the folks behind me, but not many folks do in a race (after the race, I had a gal thank me for pointing to the road hazards after I passed her, of course right after I passed her there were some of the worse road hazards on the course).

I had fun climbing the hills (and more fun riding down) and I felt pretty strong.  I can say that no one passed me on the bike.  One of my friends asked ‘No one?  Not even the guys.”  Well, of course not!  Besides the guys and all of the gals under the age of 45 started the race in front of me, so yeah, none of them passed me either! 😛

I was off the bike and into transition 2…

Bike 34:18 at 19.6mph

Got rid of the bike, helmet, shoes; put on a visor and running shoes and was off on the run.

T2- 1:30 (better…)

I got out on the run.  My goal was to try to keep my pace below 9:00min/miles.  Since I had not been running and every time I tried was sorta a disaster, I was just hoping to not be hobbled and have to walk it in.  I had replaced the insoles in my running shoes with new fluffier ones to cushion my heel, and the run was almost entirely on grass or soft dirt, so there was that. Wish me luck!

I was mindful not to look at my Garmin.  Whether I was going too slow or too fast, knowing and adjusting for what I thought I should be doing would probably not behoove me. So I plugged on.  My foot felt alright mostly.  I had been having a nagging pain all week and did not expect it to get better, but I did figure it would get a lot worse.  Luckily it never did.

I ran down the grassy hill, then up the grassy hill and was passed by several people.  But that was ok.  I was not going to win this thing, but I would do my best.  I shouted out to some of the cyclists as I ran next to the bike course, and some of the cyclists shouted out to me (I even recognized my friend, Elle!).  I was passing a gal as my Garmin beeped indicating one mile.  “Only one mile left.” I said for both of our benefits.

Because I usually am running a three mile course at this venue, I wasn’t entirely familiar with where the 2 mile course went, but once we turned in to the woods, I knew there wasn’t much longer to go.  I could see a guy up ahead that looked like my buddy, Roy.  As I got closer I realized it was Roy… just as he started a walking break.  “Don’t walk!”  I said, “One of your friends might see you.”  I was certain that he would just take this break, then smoke me in the finish shoot since I knew we were pretty close.

Once you leave the wooded area, you can see the finish line, but it is on a long gradual hill.  I tried to pick up the pace a bit for a strong finish (I have no idea if I was successful but two guys passed me just as I entered the finish shoot).  And like that, I was done.

I do have to say that the Run – 16.10 8:05 min/mile freaking amazed me and I am still not certain it is accurate, because it didn’t feel near that fast.

Overall for the race I had 1:02:15 my friend Julian was all about how he beat me by three seconds, but that was only in transition.  Apparently I need to learn how to put my shoes on a heck of a lot faster.

Somehow I was able to pull 3rd place in my age group, which was equally amazing considering my lack of training, but I will take it!

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