- Tour de Flat
Lesson #1 – Don’t trust Mapquest.
The nice thing about going to these organized bike rides is that once you start getting closer to the venue, there are always people around with bikes attached to their vehicles. At least some of them know where they’re going. I tried following the directions Mapquest gave me and it was a FAIL. However, a quick turnaround and was able to spot the bikes and follow.
I arrived in plenty of time to pick up my packet and swag (i.e. water bottle and t-shirt). I checked my tires, changed into my bike shoes, hit the bathroom, etc. Tri buddy, Jen, arrived and headed out on her 76-mile ride. One thing we noticed is that these events aren’t like running races.…afterall, they aren’t races. There are no timing chips and there’s not a lot of fanfare at the start. In fact, there weren’t any people lining up at the start at all. People were just casually starting whenever they felt like it.
Lesson #2 – Yes, you really need that spare tube and CO2 cartridge.
Never leave home without either.
Before the ride, I met up with Houston Fit peep, Kay and we headed out. We had a pretty good pace going when I noticed that something just didn’t feel right on my bike. I had a freaking flat tire. That’s right folks, 5.62 miles into a 55-mile ride and I had a flat. No worries, though. I’ve watched the Hubby change a flat tire and I knew what needed to be done….I also knew what would take an experienced tire changer 5 minutes would more than likely take me about an hour. True dat. I turned my bike upside down and had the rear wheel off in no time. A guy slowed down and asked if he could help. He looked like an experienced tire changer (I can tell these things by just looking at a person...impressive, huh?), so I took him up on the offer. He had the tube off in just a minute or two, checked to make sure the wheel was clear and put the new tube on...all in about 5 minutes. The SAG wagon stopped and aired up the tire, which was lucky because it turns out that I’d need my CO2 later.
We thanked our friendly helpers and were off again! About 5 miles later, I started noticing that the bike didn’t feel right again. Kay confirmed that my right tire looked low. We tried riding for another mile or so, and then had to stop. I used my CO2 cartridge to fill the tube and we kept going….the goal was to just make it to the next rest stop. We made it there (around 14 miles into the ride), but the tire was already low again. The line for the bike mechanic was pretty long, so we opted to air up the tire with the pumps that were available and try to make it to the next stop which was 17 miles away.
Lesson #3 – Bring more than one CO2 cartridge and money!
For some reason, the next 17 miles seemed to take forever! We stopped once to put air in the tire. At that point, Kay suggested that we take the tube out, make sure the wheel was clear of anything that could have punctured the tube, and check the tube. Together we managed to take off the tube. The wheel seemed to be all clear and we could not figure out where the leak was. So, Kay donated her CO2 to the cause and aired up the tire again and we kept going. Finally, we rounded a corner and one of the volunteers told us the next stop was 1 mile away. She lied…it was more like 2 miles, but whatever. We made it. It was there that I finally decided that we needed a new tube. This stopping and going was slowing us way down and it was getting freaking old fast. The problem? I only had $5 on me. Fortunately, Kay also brought cash, so I had to borrow some from her to buy the new tube and have the bike mechanic dude put it on. Yeah, we could have done it, but at this point we didn’t want to. Also, the bike mechanic dude noticed that the seam on my tube was leaking. What are the odds – a flat and a defective tube all in one ride?
Lesson #4 – There is really no good reason to ride 55 miles (or more) at one time
But yet we do it anyway.
Kay and I were on our way again. We tried to pretend that we were biking in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. In fact, right after Kay suggested this, we turned a corner and saw fields of grapes! Overall, this isn’t a bad ride…it’s flat, there were crosswinds and a few miles with headwinds, but overall not too bad. The problem is that riding for 55 miles, even with the best company, can get boring. Let’s face it, there’s not much to look at in Katy – cows, roadkill, and miles of prairie.
Lesson #5 – No matter how painful the last few miles are, it does feel good to know you kept going and got’er done!
We took our time at the last rest stop. They had PB&J, oranges watermelon and best of all, OREOS! Yes, I took one and enjoyed every last crumb. Once we got going again, I was definitely feeling the heat and my “get up and go” was all gone. Kay and I took turns leading, so that we could draft off of each other. Note to self – drafting only works if you can keep up with the lead person! Kay still had the "get up and go". I didn't.
The good news – even though it took us about 45 minutes longer than expected (thank you tires), we finished. This was the longest distance I've ever done and it felt good to do it, but I’m not sure I want to do it again anytime soon.
Lesson #6 - Take pictures..that way you can laugh at yourself later!
So, in 55 miles and 3 tire changes (sort of) , I don't have one picture to memorialize the event. Just one of those "doh!" moments, I guess. I blame it on the heat - it fried my brain and I never thought to take any pictures. Oh well, there are always the memories!