When people have asked what I'm training for this year, Easter Hill Country Tour has been the only answer I had. Not so much "training for" as "trying to make sure I don't die out there".
I didn't even really know what distances I wanted to do, but I figured I'd aim for the longest distances each day, and SAG if I needed to.
The amount of pressure on me varied: Karen planned to join us out there, and is training for an Ironman in May. That means she would want to do the longest distances Friday and Saturday for sure. Then she had an injury and wasn't sure she'd be out there at all, so I thought, "Hey, I can just go ride the shortest distances if I'm not feeling great, and just have fun!" And THEN she was fine, and back on board for full distances. But THEN then Meredith decided to come out, too, and she needs lots of distance, so even though Karen wanted to ride with me, I knew if I wasn't feeling great, Karen would still have Meredith. Whew. Whirlwind of emotions.
We got there Thursday night and hooked up with Betsy,David,Pam,Jeff (Pam and Jeff had done their own EHCT that previous week, and were heading home the next day) for dinner at our old standby, Rails. While there, I exchanged text messages with Karen and Meredith, and it turns out Meredith wanted to start at 7 or 7:15 on Friday. Which was funny, since we'd just been discussing how the shorter distances Friday meant we could start later. Sometimes Ironman+ training doesn't really match up, philosophically, with just kinda half-ass training for nothing in particular.Friday
We compromised and met up at 6:30 for breakfast, intending a 7:30ish leaving time. It was me, Matt, Karen, Meredith and Karen's friend Colleen, and we set out to do the 67ish mile route. Well, Matt and I did. The weather for Saturday and Sunday had a lot of potential rain, and Karen and Meredith didn't want to ride in the rain, and so they decided to do their 100 miler Friday and shorter distance Saturday. This is where I had to decide what I wanted out of the weekend. I wanted company, but I also wanted fun and no stress. And I didn't even know if I'd be able to ride a century at all on the training I'd done, much less one that I hadn't intended to do that day. So I decided as we rolled out that I was doing the 60whatever, even if they continued on to do 100.
It was a great ride. The weather was fabulous.. cool and overcast, no real wind. The course was wonderful, exactly the reason I do this ride. Lots of cattleguards (30, we counted), but that meant lots of back roads and loose livestock and neat animals and beautiful views. We all rode together most of the time, though Colleen eventually left us behind. We just chatted and enjoyed each others' company.
When we got back near the hotel, we stopped at a convenience store to plan, and Karen and Meredith decided to do the 30 mile route to finish up their 100. I stuck to my guns and Matt and I headed back to the hotel. We showered, grabbed some sandwiches, then drove out on the route to make sure K&M were doing okay. They were doing a part of the course we'd started with that morning, so this time we stopped and snapped a few photos of the animals we hadn't stopped to photograph earlier. Found the ladies, made sure they were doing okay, and then went back to the hotel to wait for them to be done.
We gathered back up that night, me, Matt, Karen, Meredith, Betsy and David, and ate at Grape Juice.Saturday
Since they'd already done their 100, Karen and Meredith were okay with a slightly later start on Saturday (very slightly, like 7:45 or something). Matt continued to want to ride with us, so the three of us headed out and picked up David at the convenience store on the highway on our way out.
Up, up, up the hills in the neighborhood, then onto the highway and lots of discussion about how Karen was freaking out about Eagle's Nest again this year, even though it's never been an issue for her. She freaks out every time. So Meredith had built this up in her mind, then we went up it, and it was a complete non-issue, and we all laughed.
This year the Saturday route was mostly highways, which was a bit of a bummer. I prefer the longest ride be the one with the cattleguards and the loose livestock. Or both days! But this one was mainly highways. And chipseal. And eventually wind.
Karen and Meredith were aiming for around 60 miles, but instead of doing the 60 mile route, which would have had us parting ways really early (and them not getting to enjoy Eagle's Nest), they rode the longer route with us, then peeled off shortly before Comfort and took the highway straight back. David, Matt and I continued on, doing the longer route. We decided, given the weather and our undertrainedness, not to kill ourselves trying to do the century, and were happy doing the 75. Then Matt decided he didn't like some of the loops around Comfort, so we shaved some of that off, and ended up doing 72 miles total.
It was fun, but definitely pretty slow by the end, and I appreciated Matt and David staying with me.
That evening we headed over to the RV park and had dinner with Betsy, David, Julie and her husband, and Nancy at Julie's campsite. Tacos and s'more cones. Yum.Sunday
Sunday was the big unknown, with the highest chances of rain. Karen and Meredith had gone home after their ride on Saturday, and Betsy and David were planning to sleep in a bit and then make a gametime decision about whether they were riding at all. Matt and I decided to ride, assuming that it wasn't horrible weather.
We didn't set an alarm, just got up when we got up. The weather was overcast and windy when we went out to the breakfast buffet, but not bad. When we came back out to get ready to ride, it was drizzling. But not too bad, so we decided to go ride.
This was my least favorite route of the weekend. The whole first section was highways, which meant singlefile riding, which meant I was riding right behind Matt, who was throwing up mud and water and gravel (through no fault of his own, of course). I ended up very gritty, and couldn't even wear my sunglasses after a while.
It never really rainrained on us, just drizzled and stopped and drizzled and stopped. We got on some roads that were a little smaller and less trafficked, and could ride two abreast. Some of it was pretty, but mostly it was highways. We did ride on River Road, which I didn't even realize until we were done with it and came to the rest stop, because I don't know that I've ever ridden it that direction!
The last bit of the ride was definitely a part we've never done, which was Riverhills the other way. Same way we started out on Saturday, but the other direction. Up the hill we normally fly down to the highway/stop sign, then superfast down the other side with the traffic circles, keeping our speed in check because it was so wet.
As we approached the stop sign on that side, at the highway, there was a couple standing at a car yelling that the grate was super slick and to go slowly, and not ride over it. Matt heard the former, but not the latter, and turned very slowly across the grate onto the highway. And the grate was slick as ice, and his back tire went out from under him. I managed to stop just before the grate and ride through the very narrow, nearly non-existent gap between the grate and the curb, and made sure he was okay. He was bruised and scraped and annoyed, but seemed okay, and his bike rideable. A car drove by and asked if he was okay, and said that was the 5th person they'd seen go down there already. They really need to take that out of the course in the future, or cover it with something, or give a lot better/more warning.
So that put a bit of a damper on our Sunday ride, but we only had about 5 miles left, and we managed to make it back without further incident.
Even with that ending, it was a good weekend overall. Matt did all the rides with me, which I'm sure was painful for him, riding so much slower than his normal, but he never complained. It was nice to have that time with him.
And, of course, if it fits our schedule, we'll be back next year. It's so nice to just get away from the real world for a weekend, where our only obligations are riding bikes and eating food.
Final distance totals for the weekend: 68 + 73 + 40 = 181 miles.