16
Oct
11

2011 Kiwanis Crazy Kicker

Did I mention last week how much fun these Fall bike rallies are? Here we are, in the middle of October, just coming off one of the hottest summers on record, and I am on fire. The stamina is there for a 4:40 100-miler, the strength is there for some of Palo Pinto County’s hills, and the speed is coming from that combination of cooler, calmer air, good comrades out on the course, and of course, my beloved bike, wheels, and kit. I’m serious – I think this is shaping up to be an incredible end to 2011’s year, but also will portend a great pre-season for 2012. So, with hope in my heart, confidence in my gut, and experience in my head, my newly-returned-to-cycling-from-injury wife and I drove out from Dallas on Friday evening, spent a quiet evening in Mineral Wells, and drove the 2 miles to the American Legion Post and City Park for the 8:00am start.

Last Tuesday, in what can only be described as pretense & confirmation of some solid training in September, I blew my highest wattage FTP for any October since I’ve been keeping records. Saturday’s Crazy Kicker offers the option for a 65-miler as well as a 100-miler, and knowing how important the hills, the tempo, and the volume can be when applied appropriately, I opted for the 100-miler with a handful of folks, including Michael Brown, my buddy with Mirage, the Pirates of the Peloton, and TBD. The ride began with just over 300 riders, and within a mile, the entire team of studs from Colavita, including newly-crowned Cat 2 State Champ Bryan Reid, rolled to the front and set a solid pace to try and shell any early stragglers.

The absolute beauty of this course comes from the relentlessness of its’ rolling, 2-3 minute hills at 2-6%. Whereas the week before in Gainesville, we had a return trip of 40K in to a headwind with 1-minute rollers at 2-3%, the hills here are longer, rounder, and the roads are more varied in their condition. One, no, two, no, THREE of my favorite race courses are out here, and over the course of the next 5 hours, we hit elements of all three. The road to Graford was the first challenge, with three fantastic 2-3 minute hills at ~4% incline. It was weird, though. ColaVita sent one rider out hard, early, on each of the three hills. Yet he would either fade or Reid and one or two others would end up reeling him in well before the crest of each hill. Reid’s another one of those just Epic Texas Cycling Studs, and the way he trained for his Championship run was enough to make any other man want to crawl in to a ditch and quiver. The man trained for Paris-Brest-Paris, held just weeks before the State Championships, and THEN he came home to win that race! It’s pretty freaking incredible! And this morning? Well, Bryan showed up on a FOLDING, PORTABLE CX bike with heavy wheels and treads! The man OOZES of HOMBRE, and he really is two different people on and off a bike, much like the captain of a 180-ton aircraft, which he is. Anyway, I stayed up front with him, two or three of his teammates, my buddy from two weeks ago with the Deamon Deacons jersey, and a fair-faced rider with a long, wispy pony tail who was a member of PACC and PBA. By the time we reached Graford, we were down to <30 riders total, but the pace had been pretty hard, and several people were just hanging on.

It’s usually an unwritten rule in rallies (remember, there really are no rules, per se), that the hot dogs will partake of the longer distances, unless it’s known ahead of time that the course for that longer stuff is either too challenging, or the road conditions too poor, to make for a good ride. Now, I didn’t do that in Glen Rose, because the Ride Director warned us ahead of time that the extra miles were freshly chip-sealed, and this was confirmed by Scott Simmons, the guy I rode with on that rally, who was a local. The beauty of riding the 100-mile option out at Mineral Wells is that there are bailout options between rest stops where you can cut the course to 75 and 85 miles, along Highway 16. So I was surprised when, just about 14 miles in, a TON of riders at the front, including the entire ColaVita squad, opted to head left and do the 65 miler. This left me with 6 or 7 riders, including Michael, a Bikes Plus rider, the PACC rider, and a few others. One was on a TT bike, one had aero bars on a road bike, but looking around, I saw that this could be a decent group of people with which we could attempt a quick, solid sub-5 100-miler.

We quickly made friends, and headed out, rolling along at a steady pace, not really pacelining, not really rotating or pulling through, definitely getting a little separated on the hills, but regrouping on the crests somewhat. We started to see damage from the two incredibly damaging and scary fires that started out there this summer, and commented on how lucky we were to still be able to even get out on these roads, since they can actually melt in the intense heat. At mile 28, however, two or four riders went on ahead, while the rest of us pulled in to a famous traditional rest stop – the Home Made Cookie Stop above the Dam at Possum Kingdom Lake. The on-site resident Manager of the lake, well, their whole family, make HUNDREDS of awesome cookies for the cyclists coming through, and they are YUMMY! I figured I really should stop and eat, because, well, we WERE going to ride 100 miles and, well, as good as Clif Bars are, well, they’re NOTHING like fresh homemade cookies! So we stopped, enjoyed the view, got each others’ names, filled our water bottles, and after about 10 minutes, headed back out.

Having forfeited our place with the four leaders, the goal now, at least for me, was to attempt to catch them before the end. And that would make for an incredible challenge.

The hills over by “The Cliffs” resort were charred black from the fires, and the road was Grade 1 (worst) Chip Seal. By the end of the stretch, about 7 miles, we were picking up and passing a number of others who had not stopped at the Dam, but we could NOT find the leaders. The PACC rider, also named Richard, Michael and I were the only ones left, and at about 43 miles, Michael also dropped off, leaving me with Richard. Richard was originally an enigma – a mathematics professor at UTD, younger than me, I’m sure, with a relatively slow cadence, a baby face you couldn’t shave more than once a month, but the hairiest legs I’d seen in a long while. he rode a 20-year old Cannondale with maybe 8 speeds, and had old Shimano commuter-style shoes, but MAN, THAT GUY HAD SOME POWER!!!! He literally pulled over a solid chunk of the hills from mile 30 to 50, and we DID catch one of the original four riders as we entered another section of road with which I was more familiar.

The turn on to that section put us back on some rough roads, and in to the wind, but we did make good time as we did what I’ll call the “Lake Palo Pinto” loop. We began to overlap the 65 mile course, catching and passing slower cyclists, but it wasn’t until we got past the bar/trading post/post office of “Lone Post”, just before the infamous “Cherry Pie Hill”, that we learned from the hanger-on that there were only two riders in front of us, and that there was no way we couldn’t catch them. This renewed my drive, and when he said good-by at the foot of Cherry Pie Hill, Rich and I both pumped a little harder, to see if we could catch that pair of ghost riders who were always just out of sight. However, that goal pretty much ended with our second stop, this one at Palo Pinto Courthouse, where the growing temperature and wind forced us to make a pit stop for more cookies and hydration.

The segment of road from Palo Pinto to Graford is one that I have a love-hate relationship with. It’s short, only about 8 or 9 miles long, and it crosses back over the Brazos River, which is really gorgeous, but the road is pretty rumbly, and it comes with the dread of knowing that your LAST 12 MILES are going to be IN to the wind, going OVER the same damned hills you climbed heading OUT, when it was at least 15 degrees cooler! But those ghost riders were still out there, and every once in a while, like a desperate cowboy out on the prairie trying to decide whether what he’s seeing is a mirage or a lost calf or something else entirely, we DID see one ghost rider out there, roughly a mile or two away, at times. Rich was starting to fade, however, and if you’ve been around me enough, you know that one of my mantra’s is, “you don’t leave  your wingman”. I didn’t want to leave him, knowing that we would BOTH end up going slower in the long run, but by the second-to-last hill on the return trip, when I DEFINITELY saw reflections on the horizon, he told me to go. But the mantra held true, and I gained too little, too late, and was just able to see that one rider make his left turn back on to highway 16 for the 2-mile ride back to the City Park. I pedaled as steadily as I could, finishing in a ride time of 4:37, maybe 2 minutes behind the sole rider I could see ahead. I never found him in the park, but I think it was the TT rider, as he was always visible on the climbs, but outpaced me on the descents and straightaways at the end.

I think one of the most beautiful things in the world is seeing my wife find her mojo again. She was under the shade of a tree, stretching on a yoga mat, when I rolled in, and she proclaimed excitedly that she’d just finished her longest ride in about a year and half, doing 55 miles solo and enjoying every minute of it. Michael, my friend , neighbor, client and club mate, had opted for an 85, and was supremely satisfied with his own early season performance. My ride partner, Richard, met us at the Kiwanis Grill, and we all enjoyed a burger and recollections of the day. The guy was a huge part of my success on Saturday, and I gave him credit for his strong pulls, even pedal stroke, and good company. The guy we pulled to the base of Cherry Pie Hill also came up to thank us, and Amy and I departed with some strong feelings of accomplishment, love for cycling, the outdoors, the friends made out on the course, and a sense of appreciation for the work required to put these events on. We celebrated with a stop at the Mineral Wells Dairy Queen, and drove back to Dallas, where we both promptly sacked out, exhausted (but in that oh-so-great way), for a two-hour nap of which I have ZERO memory!

Get out to Mineral Wells and support this rally. There were just 300 people, but it is on par with Muenster and Glen Rose for its’ beauty, its’ challenges, and the course variety. Oh, and don’t forget – you get serenaded by Elvis at the Depart, and upon your return! Can it GET any better than that?

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5 Responses to “2011 Kiwanis Crazy Kicker”


  1. 2011/10/16 at 8:20 am

    One thing I forgot to post…

    Despite the scars of the summer fires that plagued the area, not once, but twice, especially when I was riding North, we would crest these hills and see, way off in the distance – white poles with three-bladed props attached. I saw these in April, at the Muenster Rally, then again last weekend in Gainesville (same area), but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a Turbine Farm out north of Graford. It stretched from one part of the horizon to the other, and it reminded me that, even with all that scrappy land, and burned cedar scrub, there are resources and wealth. Sure, we saw plenty of gas wells being drilled, and jacks pumping steadily, but the wind won’t stop blowing, the seasons won’t stop changing, and the people of this land won’t stop being resourceful and determined. It was an odd, patriotic, spiritual combo moment when I saw those wind farms in the distance, and the wells in the nearby acreage. I think it’s really, really, cool, and I hope we find that balance we so perpetually seek.

  2. 2 Peter Laing
    2011/10/17 at 8:08 am

    I was one of the 4 phanton riders you were chasing. The two of you (and the guy you pulled to the base of Cherry Pie hill) passed us while we were refueling at the rest stop at the base of Cherry Pie Hill. We were about 150-200 yards behind you as you departed the rest stop at Palo Pinto and then we slowed to let our buddy (the guy you pulled to CP Hil) catch up with us and never saw the two of you again. One of the guys who was in the original group of 5 that went off alone at PK Lake was riding a TT bike and I suspect he was the guy you were chasing into Mineral Wells. Excellent ride on your part, sir!

    Peter Laing

    • 2011/10/17 at 8:39 am

      Peter, that was a beautiful ride, on a beautiful day! I think everyone had a great time, and I enjoyed the time we spent together – and apart – since the chase made it even more fun!

  3. 4 some guy in east TX
    2011/10/19 at 6:04 pm

    Richard your rally reports make me want to go ride rallies since I get no pack skillz out here in Lufkin and am very much thinking of racing MTB next year because of that. That and I’m too lazy to push myself doing road work by myself.

    • 2011/10/19 at 7:42 pm

      That’s the beauty of Rallies – you can ride solo, like my wife, or in packs, or in pace lines – just whatever you want. You can stop and smell the roses, take photos, or put your head down and challenge yourself & others to set a tough pace or break a record, whatever. It’s fun. I also like the fact that my wife can do the same courses as me.


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