Pineywoods Purgatory wound up on my calendar like a lot of items these days. I was influenced by Jeff. Before I explain that I have to make it a point to avoid any and all Jeffs when it comes to endurance sports. Here is a list of the guys I have been yanked around all of Texas following these guys.
- Jeff Bennett – he has qualified for both Kona and Vegas and I somehow find a way to ride with him, or really chase him around all of North Texas. The dude is fast and while he will wait for me at points I always seem to end up in Z3 when it comes to riding with him.
- Jeff Folkes – he is getting ready to do his first Ironman at Arizona next month and is a blast to be around but his nickname is The Goat. Reason being that the guy flies up climbs and I end up chasing him and heaving by the time I get to the top and he is barely out of breath. In addition to that he was the leader of the 124 mile bike ride that occurred three weeks ago.
- Jeff Irvin – he is who I mentioned above and the guy is an endurance junkie that I just seem to end up in scenarios that nobody should end up in. He has this sort of trance over you when he talks about how much FUN these adventures will be. If you think I am kidding here is a Facebook conversation between Jeff, Kevin and I.
Anyway, let’s get back to the review of the Pineywoods Purgatory 102 mile bike ride. On Friday after work I drove for 3.5 hours to the hotel that Jeff and I had booked and when I tell you that East Texas can be scary I am not lying. There were moments where you could not tell where the road was going and could have been positive that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was there. In two separate conversations I had on the way I came to the conclusion that all horror movies are filmed in East Texas in the middle of the night and that if your car were going to breakdown it was going to do it in Rusk, Texas which happens to be the psychiatric center of East Texas or so I was told.
Jeff and I went to be pretty much as soon as we got there and planned a quick trip to Starbucks, that was diverted to IHOP, for 6am and then over to the convention center to pick up our packets and get ready to ride. The first thing we talked about was how cool it was, but that the humidity was through the roof, so that it was imperative for us to drink A LOT since we wouldn’t feel the temperature but would be sweating up a storm. Tires pumped and then time to get to the front of the line to ride.
Pineywoods Purgatory 102 Mile Bike Review
In a Texas classic the Mayor of Lufkin shot off a shotgun to get us going. We got out on the road and started pedaling and trying to pick the right time to get ourselves up to the front and ride. When we finally decided to make a move we realized that we were passing quite a few people and bridging gaps left and right. We were finally in a peloton that allowed us to push the pace without killing ourselves, until that group was going to slow for us. We joined another group and then a rather large group joined us. We rode in this large pack for a while until a flat and about half the riders pulled off. We were pushing the pace and I could see my HR was at the high end of Z3 and into Z4. Jeff even made mention that we needed to slow down or we would blow out. The roads in this section were clean and not a lot of issues going on. We got to the Mile 25 rest stop in 1:11 and again Jeff said we need to pull back otherwise we will blow up. Matches were being lit one after the other.
After downing some pickles, brownies and refilling bottles it was time to get going. As soon as we got out on the road we quickly realized that we would be going at this alone. There was one other rider that rode with us for a bit but we eventually dropped him. It was during this stretch of the race that we went through Pineywoods and you can see where the name Pineywoods Purgatory came into play. The landscape was gorgeous but it was constantly up and down. I cannot remember a flat stretch in this section. You were either in aero or standing. We reached the Mile 47 rest stop and were told there were only 12 riders doing the 102 in front of us. Our pace had slowed but we were still pushing hard. Jeff mentioned he was holding a steady 170 watts which is above where he wanted to be and my HR was a steady 150bpm the entire time which is clearly a Z3 for me.
Leaving that section we were still pushing hard and the concept of holding back went out the window. After a bit I turned around and Jeff was nowhere to be found. I made up my mind that I would stop every other aid station and wait for him. The section of the ride between 47 and 70 was a nice route but again the rollers were just always constant. If you ever started to feel comfortable that would be thwarted in a moment when the climbing would start. You weren’t dealing with a big wind which was a plus but the humidity lead to lots of sweating and dripping onto your sunglasses that you could hardly see. I pulled up to the mile 70 rest stop feeling fairly good and just wanting to get through. I waited for a bit but Jeff didn’t show up within 3-5 minutes so I pulled out and took off on my own.
The worst of the ride happens in this section. You make a right onto Route 7 and for close to 10 miles you are getting your teeth chattered the entire time because it is under construction. Having ridden as hard as I did for the first 70 miles facing this unpaved road with cars going by was mentally tough. I thought to myself that I just wanted this whole thing over with. The ratting of your face and arms and legs for 30-40 minutes is unbearable and probably broke a lot of people. Of course after that you cannot just enjoy some flat to regain your confidence you are quickly facing a climb that saps all your energy. Going on becomes a question but you are out in the middle of nowhere with no choices.
I pulled into the Mile 85 stop and grabbed a couple of oranges and a half banana and refilled again for what I thought was the final time. In 15 miles I would be done and literally I was done. I had ridden as hard as I could for a long time and just kept thinking I hope this is over soon. Sure enough the temperatures started to climb and I could see myself drinking more and more and knew I had to stop again to get more liquids. After I made the final quick stop to refill I went into attack mode and the roads were kind enough to play nice.
I got into aero and worked my way around those that were doing shorter routes that merged with the 102 mile bike route. I hated being that triathlete in the aero bars just passing everybody buy my goose was cooked. Every turn was accompanied by a climb, or at least what I thought was a climb, but by this point I was just starting to see things and some turned out to be flat while others were serious climbs. I was exhausted and wanted to finish and said to myself: If I see another roller I am getting off my bike and walking. Lucky enough I made a left turn into a sectioned off portion of a busy road that led to the convention center and the finish line. Once I saw the banner that said Finish I was thrilled. Rolled into the convention center to applause from other riders which was very cool.
The Pineywoods Purgatory is a good ride, and would have been even better if the construction on Route 7 wasn’t being done. In addition to that knowing that you were facing quite a bit of climbing would have led to a more conservative approach to just pushing the pace the entire time. I can say that while I finished with an average 150 bpm heart rate (Z3) that my legs felt like they could run off the bike if need be. The progress in bike fitness that I gained from riding 747 miles in September was evident. I finished the 102 mile ride in 5:15 for a 19.4 mph average.