Our very own Tim, just back from a successful completion of theTexas Stampede 1200K, sent this along for posting. Enjoy!
Wow, where to begin. This is by far the most epic thing I’ve ever done. I was on the last 5 mile stretch with Kevin and I looked over and said “I’ll never be more of a man than I was over the last 4 days”. He laughed and said he’d use the quote in his blog.
My wonderful wife Susan, her mom and I drive to Texas in Susan’s new car. They have family in Grandbury near the event. I visit and they spend the week there. They escort me to Waxahachie Tuesday afternoon for registration and inspections. I meet my buddy Geoff from Cary there and we tag along with others to some Italian cuisine for carbo loading. I sit beside Dave and Judith from England as we have a bloody good time discussing past events. This is like their 18th 1200K event but their first in the states.
(Waxahachie to Marble Falls) (Mile 0 to 225)
We gather Wednesday morning at 5am. 56 riders will start the event. 50 are doing the 1200K while 6 are riding a 1000K. The flags are already at full salute. We are traveling 225 miles to Marble Falls. Our heading is southwest. The first day forecast is for 20 mph SW winds gusting to 30+. They are also throwing in heavy rains, severe thunderstorms and large hail for the afternoon. The gun fires, the clock starts and I’m rolling along nervously second guessing my being here. A while later Geoff coaxes me to the front of the pack while he and I lead the herd for several miles as we’re proudly sporting our NC rando jerseys. I eventually get wise, go to the back and stay there for the rest of the day/night. They have intentions of keeping us all together to the first control at mile 73 but the headwinds are shredding us all apart. The peloton containing +/-30 riders is where I spend most of the day. Around mile 100 or so some riders start leaving the peloton as the big group takes an extended unscheduled rest stop. I stay conservative and stay with the herd. The big guys, including myself are struggling a bit more in the winds.
Clouds are getting angry now. People start peeling off the back of the peloton and finally it’s my turn to sit up and ride solo a bit. I roll in to the next control at mile 141 and everyone in front of me is there except for one dude who is just way out there. As I roll in they point behind me and I turn to see black clouds. The organizer is attempting to hold everyone there while this super cell blows past. Lots of heavy rain, wind, lightning for about 30 min. We leave out as the worst is over. Some minor flooding on the roads as one cyclist goes down crossing water. I’m cruising along with the peloton to the next control in Jonestown mile 194. Rainy and getting dark now as we have long climbs and a fast decent into town on a big 4 lane road. The local police are not happy with us on this road and when we stop they relay their concerns. They finally realize we have no choice and decide to just escort us out of town. They also relay to us that Marble Falls is currently getting severe lightning, large hail and 60 mph winds. We’re just idiots on a bike. Party on!
I have a mechanical leaving town and lose the group. A few more miles and boom! The lightning becomes frequent enough that I don’t need a headlight. Winds are gusting fairly hard now and the rain begins as I see a church ahead on the right. I see a fellow cyclist under a side porch and I also here him calling out. This is where I first spend time with my new friend Kevin from Southern California. We wait out the storm on picnic tables under the porch. One other rider joins us briefly. It also hails for about 5 minutes before things start to quiet down. After a few we mount the bikes and continue on. We reach Marble Falls at 12:40 am. Dinner is waiting, lasagna and spaghetti. They take our bikes and our drop bags to the room while we eat. The volunteers here are second to none! A quick shower and to bed at 2:00 am.
(Marble Falls to Sealy) (Mile 225 to 466)
Alarm goes off at 4:00 am. Oh good, 2 hours sleep! Breakfast in the lobby as I whip up a big’ol waffle! Our heading today is mostly East towards Houston after a tad bit more south. Weather board is giving us 10 to 20 mph East winds today, not to mention severe storms, torrential rains, large hail and damaging winds. There are some very long faces this morning as we are in for another long day of headwinds. I head out before 5:00 am, a few minutes before the peloton as I’m hoping for a few miles of soft pedaling. A nice 2 mile section of gravel road this morning, doesn’t ride much different than their asphalt. I ride with Spencer from Missouri a bit this morning. He is riding a fixed gear bike. There’s a show-off in every crowd. Spencer rode with some NC randos a few weeks ago so I chatted with him about the ride. He and Branson are my new heroes. These guys are bad a$$. We hit some 15% climbs this morning with switchbacks and he has to walk a couple of the elbow turns but still beats me to the top. By the next control mile 262, Dripping Springs, I’m hanging out with the peloton. There we are told another super cell weather system is bearing down on us. We are also given a two hour buffer on our control times today, BUT the 90 hour ride limit will NOT be extended. We continue on under darkening skies. Sometime late morning the crap hits the fan. The winds are swirling and there is a sudden 15 degree temperature drop. Lightning bolt on the right as I slide over a few feet left, then a bolt on the left as I slide back to the right, then bolts all around, raining sideways. I keep looking up watching for something worse. The storm is relentless; riders are confused about what to do. A few see a house with a back porch. I don’t see another refuge. It's raining harder as I can barely make out a half dozen riders still in front of me. Someone up front yells “stay on the bike”. I actually feel safer on the bike as to putting my foot down so I mosey on. Lightning is so close my skin crawls. Finally the worst passes on and we breathe a sigh of relief. I’m wondering if there is an extra fee for all this. After all that the remainder of the day seems a void. The temps stay in the 50s and I barely have enough clothes. At one control the C store owner is emptying trash cans and I steal one of his new trash bags and stuff it in my pocket for later on. At a control in Lockhart, mile 353, I have my first “Whataburger”. I’m late getting there so I eat hurriedly as the group is about to leave. I cruise some more with the group. There is a little café at mile 383 that is known by the local randos so one of the local riders’ phones in an order for us and it’s all waiting for us when we get there. It’s dark now and sleep deprivation sets in. The group is getting a little uneasy, cranky and a little short tempered with each other. Judith from England caps it all with “I’m getting bloody bored with this”. I chuckle, but keep to myself for the rest of the evening. I’m really struggling to stay awake as we tool into La Grange. I see a Hampton Inn a couple blocks away and seriously consider a couple hours of sleep on a bed, but too much money for a short nap. We stop at a C store. There are some very long faces as it’s now 11:00 pm and we still have 55 miles left to the overnight control. I tell the group that I plan to grab some sleep at the next convenient place I see. I stay with them another 20 miles but then peel off in a town named New Ulm. I stop and walk around a bit. It’s getting cold now and I start getting the shakes. I remember the trash bag and I make me a makeshift vest. I continue riding, 25 miles to the motel. Five miles later sleep has taken over. I lie down and set my alarm for 30 min. Twenty minutes later a car pulls up and a girl who is part of the sag support gets out thinking that there has been an accident but I explain that I just couldn’t ride any farther and had to sleep. They offer water and food but I’m good on supplies and just need to pedal another 20 miles. I ask about riders behind me but they say I’m at least an hour ahead of anyone behind me so I continue on by myself. I finally arrive in Sealy at 4:56 am, an hour behind the herd. Food, shower. To bed at 6:00 am. (Sealy to Crockett) (Mile 466 to 622)
Up at 8:00 am, another wonderful 2 hour sleep. Slow getting ready this morning. I finally get downstairs. We’re heading north today, weather board, let me guess, north winds 10 to 15 mph, 90 degrees. Third day in a row of continuous headwinds. The herd is still there and Dan calls out to me that they are rolling in 2 minutes. I skip breakfast in order to catch a ride pending another long day fighting the wind. To the first control is flat terrain. I’m feeling great not having to climb hills so I venture out front, drop down on the aero bars and proceed to pick the pace up a bit. After a few minutes I get the Texas version of STFD and I smile and ease up a bit. About 5 miles from the control I flat for the second time on the ride. A quick fix and I regroup at the control in Magnolia, mile 520. I’m hungry having skipped breakfast and there is a Mexican serving up some Mexican cuisine in one of those carnival food trucks beside the C store. I have him make me a breakfast burrito. This guy has talent. It starts getting hot and I have another flat just a few miles later. I’m now riding solo with a headwind, hot and I’m getting sleepy again. I find a church and check in with Susan. I can tell that today will be my getting over the hump day. For now I take a 30 minute nap. I ride another 30 miles, stop at another church and take another 30 min. nap. I’m running on fumes now. I need lots of food. In Huntsville, mile 570, I stop at a Subway for major fueling. I’m just about finished when 4 riders approach. It’s Kevin riding with 3 recumbent cyclists. I chat with Kevin a bit and he encourages me to ride with them as they are having an enjoyable day on the bikes. I head back inside while they eat. Peggy, Sara Kay and Daniel round out the group. They become my pals for the rest of the ride.
They are chipper and joking around a bit and this festiveness was something I hadn’t seen riding with the herd. Sara Kay rolls out a manly burp that quiets the restaurant and we bust out laughing. Party on! We head out for Crockett together. 52 miles to the motel. They are rolling a good pace and I enjoy their company. We reach the motel at 12:45 am. I’m starting to have some serious butt issues. The roads in Texas are much worse than North Carolina roads. My 700x23 tires and narrow seat combined with a very rough chip-n-seal surface have done me in. Maybe I can sleep this off. The girls vote for leaving at 4:00 am. Do what? OMG, I’ll be lucky to get 1 hour sleep. I room with Daniel. I shower as he starts on dinner that we kinda have to prepare ourselves. We have set our alarms for 3:00 am. It’s now 1:30 as Daniel gives up on the food and heads for the shower. I eat half of my food but trash the rest as I need sleep foremost.
(Crockett to Waxahachie) (622 miles to 770 miles)
Up at 3:00 am after just over an hour of sleep. Oh this is ridiculous. I can’t function all day after just an hour of sleep. We are all a little nervous about finishing on time. We’ve battled headwinds for 3 days and today we travel northwest with, you guessed it, northwest winds. Another long day is in store without much time in the bank. We’ll really have to watch our down time early on to make sure we can finish on time. I never thought I’d be anywhere close to 90 hours finishing but this is reality. No time for crying about it. Speaking of crying, my bottom really hurts today. We gather in the lobby around 3:45 but no Kevin.
Finally we send a volunteer to wake him up. Daniel naps, I lay my head down but no sleep. We finally roll around 4:30 am. Around 150 miles left to get this finished. We have some fun rollers this morning and I venture out ahead of the group for a while. They eventually run me down and we do our best at making time against the wind. We are in front of the herd (peloton) so that keeps us in a comfort zone. Though there is nothing comfortable with my saddle today. I’ve never felt this much pain on a bike ride. At one time I let my pals go as I’m struggling just to stay on the saddle. They are long gone now and I finally have to decide my fate. If I let this get to me I’ll never finish on time, so I get a little attitude, ignore the pain and hammer on until I reel them back in. I try to put on my happy face because this group likes happy! Mile 662, Palestine, we stop at McDonalds for breakfast. Breakfast burrito, pancakes, coffee, great comrades and my mood improves.
We continue on, still no peloton yet so we must be making decent time. Open fields now on busy sections of highway, but we have large shoulders of road. I wished they were a little smoother. I’d pay extra! Last control before the end, Corsicana, mile 725, We arrive with others and a few minutes later the peloton arrives as well as we take over the town. Only 44 miles to go with some time in the bank. Everyone here will have no problem finishing on time. There are still a few behind us though. The peloton leaves and we leave a few minutes later. A few miles later there is smoke up ahead, Then 6 Japanese zeros are in formation heading our way. They have just attacked a local airstrip and I’m looking for cover. Here come the stars and stripes to chase them away. A b-52 and a b-17 cruising around as well. How cool is this. At one point we stop on top of a bridge to watch the action. No I wasn’t dreaming in my sleep. It was just an air show at a local airport.
We mosey on. Kevin and I are battling sleep again. Kevin pulls off to regroup. I’m weaving and drop back a bit. About 30 miles from the end Kevin and I decide we need a nap. We watch the group ride away as we look for a nice shady spot to lie down. A little park beside a post office a couple blocks off course is our choice. We set our alarms for 30 min. I also make a call to Susan asking for a wake up call for backup. Local pup gets us up after a 25 min. nap. We roll, Kevin drops the hammer for the first 5 miles, and I’m barely hanging on. STFD! But I keep it to myself. We make a turn and we have some short rollers, my favorite hammer terrain. I throw down a bit for the next 5 miles. We take out a quick 10 miles in 30 min. 20 miles left and we call a truce and decide to relish the last 20. Seventeen miles left we stop at a little Mexican store for cold drinks and conversation. I call Susan giving her our estimated arrival time and begging for a cooler full of recovery drinks at the finish. We soft pedal the last 17 miles. It’s a beautiful sunset as we’re pedaling into the sun. The wind, after 4 days has subsided and things are very pleasant. We even have a smooth road. We roll in around 8:30 just a few minutes after sunset. Susan, Geof and others cheer us in. Our other pals are still there as well. We present our signed cards, and then we get medals, pose for pictures.
Then Kevin and I take a seat and start on those recovery drinks. We pose for more pictures with our pals. 770 miles in 87 hours, 30 min. Just for perspective it’s 780 miles from home (Wilson, N.C) to Portland Maine. 6 riders attempt the 1000K, and all finish. 50 riders start the 1200K, only 35 finish. With the 4 days of headwinds and severe weather this will go down as one of the most epic 1200K’s in the US. I had about 8 hours of sleep over a 4 day period. It took everything I had.