Heroes Ride is by far the best ride I have done in Texas. The combination of the purpose of the ride combined with the scenery, the perfect roads, the weather and the company and this is a ride that will be on the calendar for the foreseeable future. I decided to do the Heroes Ride when I realized that Karen would be out-of-town and I could get in two long rides this weekend. I went to Bicycle Rides Of Texas and found two rides for this past weekend. There was one in Mineral Wells that would only take me 1 hour to get to after work on Friday. The other was the Heroes Ride which is a 3+ hour drive south, but Jeff lives in the area and as I was not able to persuade others to join me in Mineral Wells I packed my bags so that I could head to Jeff and Annie’s house on Friday after work.
When I got to Jeff’s house it was late. Well late for this soon to be 40-year-old. We watched as the Cardinals kicked the Dodgers teeth in and made plans to get up around 5-5:15am, eat a quick breakfast and slurp down coffee before heading out on the 40 minute drive to Conroe. I know Conroe rather well at this point as I have done the Great Planes ride twice as well as the fact that the Ironman Texas bike course goes through the area.
When we got to the ride area it was a quick setup and realization that the weather was not what we had expected. Standing around for a bit we could feel the wind gusting through and jumped into my Xterra to wait the 30-40 minutes before heading to the front of the ride. After we got our bikes and made our way to the front the director of the ride began the ceremonies. Looking around I realized that there was not a lot of people there and I had hoped that it wasn’t the weather that pushed the riders away. The idea behind the Heroes Ride is to recognize those who lost their lives protecting us. Fire, Police and Soldiers were being honored. The Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner made the start to the ride an experience but they were second to the fact that some of the families of those lost and recognized that morning were leading us out. It was an incredible feeling to be a part of this.
When the director got us going Jeff and I slow-pedaled as we allowed the families victims to have their moment. After about 5 minutes he asked me if it was ok to go around them and I said I cannot see why not. We proceeded to pass them on the left but as we passed each one we said good morning and a thank you. Now we were into the ride and within seconds of making the second right hand turn we realized what the entire day was going to be like. Pushing our heart rate and watts but going nowhere. That is because this ride is full of ups and ups and ups. Seriously I am not kidding. In addition to that we were headed into the wind and the 5-6 mph winds we were expecting had to be gusts of up to 15-20 mph. It made the ride tough to start out. Jeff kept rattling off his :30 Watt numbers and every one of them was above 200 while our paces were below 18 mph. Not a good combination.
When we got to the first rest stop Jeff asked if I wanted to pull in and I said sure why not. What I did not expect was that this was going to become a common occurrence. When you are used to riding in 100* heat indexes you consume liquids and lots of them. Fearing dehydration or lack of calories we drank as if we were in 100* heat but our bodies were not just converting that liquid and energy to sweat to cool off. Instead, our bodies were saying ok enough liquids I need to get rid of these and we are going to do that through peeing. Peeing on the bike was not an option as the wind was blowing, the temperatures were cold and so the idea of peeing on the bike was out as that would only serve to make us colder.
As we left that first aid station we got out on the road and it was glorious in terms of the pavement. The chip seal was worn down enough that it was smooth. The asphalt that was out was perfect and the sun started coming out. The pedaling and the wind continued and this is when Jeff and I noticed that all we were doing was heading north. By north I am not talking about the direction but instead straight up. The climbs were constant, but manageable. When we got to the top of one climb Jeff decided to stop because his rear tire was making some odd noise. As he inspected we were passed by a group of 4 riders. Once Jeff was ready he asked if I wanted to bridge the gap. Sure, why not. I started pulling and went as hard as I could and then tapped out after a few minutes. I tried to get on Jeff’s wheel but it was impossible. He caught up to the group of four and I worked my a$$ off to catch up. After what seemed like an eternity Jeff and I hooked back up and he told me that the lead rider was riding recklessly with the surges and slow-downs. I looked at my watch and in the course of about 10 miles we went from averaging 17.3 mph to 18.3 mph. That tells you how fast we were moving at this point of the game.
From there we chose to protect Jeff’s hamstring as well as not light matches. We pedaled and just enjoyed all that we were riding in. I cannot stress enough how gorgeous this ride was. Every mile was prettier than the last. The rest stops were well stocked and had some of the friendliest volunteers. We would know we stopped at 5 of the 6 rest stops along the route. We used the porto-potties at each and I stocked my jersey with Clif Bars for the ride home. I realized that when I got into my aero bars I was not quite aerodynamic because of the bulge coming out of my jersey from all the snacks.
Around mile 68 you come to a bridge and it just rattles your teeth. I yelled because it hurt and I heard Jeff laugh. That would be the last I heard of Jeff. I kept on riding and after about a mile I turned around and realized he was no longer with me. Now I have a decision to make. Stop and wait or pee on myself. I decided to ride because he couldn’t be that far behind and I needed a bathroom. As life would have it I reached Mile 71 but this wasn’t the end. The ride kept on going and not for one or two miles but for another 5 miles. When I got to the finish I went right through the gates and straight to the bathroom. When I got back to my car Jeff told me that the bridge caused his tire to move and the lock on the wheel to pop open so he had to stop.
After scoping out the buffet and realizing there was nothing there for a plant-eater Jeff and I said our good-byes and I headed toward home. On I-35 I proceeded to pee another 3 times and ran into the house when I got there to pee again. Instead of turning 40 soon I do believe I am turning 80 as that could be the only explanation at this point.
In my opinion the Heroes Ride was the best of the rides I did this year and those included Great Planes Ride, 70.3 Puerto Rico, Ironman Texas, Hotter N’ Hell, and Pineywoods Purgatory. The climbing is non-stop and while MapMyRide.com says it was 1178 feet of climbing I had 1325 in the first 41.1 miles. I found a map that has the elevation at a gain of 2,680 feet which sounds right. This is a ride that I will be putting on the IMTN training plan as it was that much fun and added the needed climbing.