First of all, doctor's orders - do the 23-miler at most. She felt that 47 miles would be too long to be on the bike. Sigh.
The night before Tour de Pink, I made sure I had everything ready - gloves, gatorade, race number, spare tube, patch kit, etc. A ton of questions were racing through my head. What do I do with the bike if I have to pee? Does the number go on the front or back? What do I do with this sticker with my number on it? Do they have mile markers? Does someone call out splits? Blah, blah, blah.
I left way too early! I was out of the house a little after 5 am, because I couldn't remember how long it takes to drive to Prairie View A&M. I figured since this was my 1st organized ride, that I should get there early. Yeah, ummm, it only takes 45 minutes from my house. I was there waaaayyyyy too early. There were quite a few people already there and I admit that I felt a little intimidated by the crowd. All the folks with their spiffy cycling outfits and expensive bikes! That's what I love about running....you just need a good pair of shoes, some wicking-type clothes, some glide and you're set. :-) I unloaded my bike and then wished that I had found the port-a-cans first, because I already had to pee. But, I hung out until my friend arrived and made small talk with the couple in the car next to me in the meantime. They weren't sure about the bib either, so we asked a guy who looked like he knew what he was doing. Okay, bib on the back and sticker on the front of the helmet. Got it! Once my friend arrived and checked out her bike, we were off. She still needed to get her packet, so we headed over to packet pick up and then hit the port-a-cans. We found her friend and our other co-worker who were both riding the 63-miler. Before we knew it, the Star Spangled Banner was being sung and the first groups were off.
The ride started with the 100-milers and then the 81-milers first. My friends & co-workers were doing the 63-miler and they convinced me to start with them. Bad, I know! As we were waiting, the President of our company appeared to wish us luck! It was a nice gesture, but I couldn't help but think that my boss was seeing me in spandex and no make-up. Lovely. :-)
We finally began the ride! We started a little fast. Fast for me at least, but it felt like a great pace. The 1st rest stop was between 5 & 6 miles and at that point we had maintained an average pace of 17 mph. Other than the humidity and little bit of a headwind, I was loving the flat course and the pretty countryside (you know, cows, horses, etc.). A few minutes later, we reached the point where the 12 & 23 milers had to turn. I was afraid of being the 1st one to turn off, but was happy to see a few other early starter ahead of me. I ended up passing those few people pretty quickly and for a long, long stretch, I was all alone. For awhile I didn't see any signs and wondered if I was going the right way. Then, a few minutes later, I saw another sign and gave a sigh of relief. I was going the right way and there was a rest stop a mile ahead. Let me just say, the route was by no means hilly. However, there were several gentle, rolling slopes that were really starting to get old by this point. When I made it to the rest stop, I heard a round of applause and lots of cheering. Apparently, I was the 1st one to arrive at the stop and the volunteers were really excited! (I had to laugh, because I didn't arrive early because I was fast!)I grabbed an ice cold bandanna, a piece of banana and used the port-a-can (again) before heading off. Right before I left, a pack of about 8 people (including a kid who looked like he was 10..in full cycling gear, clipped in and all!) made it to the rest stop.
I headed off. I turned onto 1488, so I knew I was headed back to the campus. During this stretch on 1488, I realized that there was a short cut from the rest stop to 1488. Darn! Then, I was passed by super-cycler. Before I knew it, super-cycler was out of sight. The next thing I see is a lady who pulled into the rest stop with the pack...she took the short cut! Next, I saw a sign that says 5 miles. Woohoo, I was almost done and feeling pretty good. Then I see another one of those damn, non-hills. Did I mention there was a head wind? Not long after that, there's another sign - 3 miles! At that point, I passed the short-cut lady and made it back to the campus. About the time I am entering the campus, the pack of cyclists who were at the rest-stop zoom past (including the 10-year old!). Yep, I was left in the dust by a 10-year old!
I finished the 23 and felt great. According to my watch, I managed a time of 1:38, which amounts to a 14 mph pace. After I finished, I realized that everyone was still going. It took me a minute to realize they were heading to the parking lots to put up their bikes. LOL! So, I loaded up my bike and then headed to the post-ride party. It was too early for the lunch, so I just grabbed a couple of orange slices, a bottle of water and some cotton candy. I watched some of the entertainment for a minute and then headed home.
Overall, I had a great time. I hated that I couldn't ride further, so hopefully next year I can train for the 63 or the 81-miler. I have to admit that riding 20 leisurely miles on our regular trail seems much easier to me than riding 23 out on the open road, so next time I train for a ride I will be sure to find some local organized rides for training purposes. How is it different from running? I kind of feel like this ride was the equivalent of a 10K. Not far enough to be really difficult with some training, but far enough to wear you out if you give it some effort. The support along the way was great. The rest stops were amazing with all the food - trail mix, cookies, cold bandanna, snow cones, fruit, etc. However, I'll admit that I miss the spectators and crowds of races. I am looking forward to the next ride....maybe the Tour de Donut in November? Now, that's my kind of ride!