I did this year's LIVESTRONG Challenge Austin on Sunday. Rather than a century ride as in the past, this year's was shorted to 90 (actually about 88, by my bike computer) "due to the organization's standards for road safety" (I guess the roads were crappy enough in places that there wasn't a good way to make a 100 mile route in the area). Instead of taking place NE of Austin (it used to leave from the Travis County Expo Center) and going through terrain that is mostly rolling hills and largely cotton fields (albeit with some tough winds), this year's route was moved to be SW of town. It left out of Dripping Springs HS, and spent most of the time on rural roads in Dripping Springs and Wimberley. I knew this area would certainly be a lot hillier than the old route, but it turns out that the roads were also rougher, and the winds were definitely a bitch once again.
The organization posted the route map, as well as the elevation profile, and even a longer description of the route. The route was definitely pretty (large portions running parallel to rivers), and the out of towners were probably pretty excited to see plenty of real longhorns (I even saw a guy get off his bike and take pictures the first time we hit a pasture full of them). I rode solo in past years, but had Jane and Roman keeping me company for the first 40 miles -- that definitely makes the miles go by a bit more easily. Even still, this 90 mile ride was easily the hardest organized ride I've done. It was definitely more challenging than any of the past true centuries (including the old routes of the same ride).
It took 6 hours of rolling time (almost to the second), which is s-l-o-w: 14-15 mph average. Compare that to the 20.1 mph average for a past 100 mile Hotter N Hell Hundred ride, and that gives an idea of how much more difficult this one was (I'm sure I am saddled with a few extra pounds as well!).
The last HH 100 ride left me with partially numb fingers (also known as handlebar palsy or by its true name, ulnar neuropathy) for probably 2 weeks. I'm not sure if some of that was due to switching to new gloves. They felt a bit less padded than my old gloves, but that might mostly be in my head (as both are Pearl Izumi Gel-Lites). Nick pointed me at the Bontrager Bzzzkill harmonic dampers. They come in aluminum and brass (more effective, but heavier) versions. I ordered a pair of the aluminum ones for $10 online and gave them a try, starting with this ride. I also switched back to my old gloves. Despite this being roughly as long of a ride as the HH 100, but with poorer quality roads, I ended up with only very very minor numbness. So, maybe it was due to the dampers, maybe not...but at $10, it's hard to go too wrong.
Oh -- and my ride managed to raise $500 for cancer efforts! Thanks to all you donated. That was also conveniently the level needed to get a free hat, so I got some swag out of it.
Rob Reid, Bestselling Sci-Fi Author
6 hours ago