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Since many people seem to agree with Dan's article on Medium (https://medium.com/@beagleracing/break-fest-you-just-bought-yourself-another-saturday-and-another-82499c0c7be2), I feel ... morecompelled to be the odd one out. I'm going against the grain here a bit. I want to offer several counterpoints to Dan's assertions on the age of BC riders, the safety of the said ride, and Zwift. Full disclosure: I'm not associated in any way with the Breakfast Club management, other than participating in their rides. However, I've been attending most of their A-group rides since the very beginning when they would only attract a dozen or so people to their Saturday rides. And since nobody from the Breakfast crew is going to respond to this article, I'll take this opportunity to practice my English.

Let's start with the easiest subject: age. Dan asserts that he hasn't seen many rider profiles his age on Breakfast Club posts. Dan is in his 50s. He goes on to say that he wasn't sure if he would be welcomed because of it. Several jokes later and a whole section dedicated to the subject makes it feel or imply that BC possibly excludes people based on age. That it's only for "fit bodies in their 20s and 30s" he says. This one is easy to disprove. Just one look at their Instagram and you'll see plenty of gray hair in the pictures. They also list some ride leaders who look past their 40s, although I must admit I don't know everyone's exact age. On a personal note, I'm in my 40s. I feel just as welcome and comfortable on BC A-rides as everyone else and I don't feel like I'm out of place. Or maybe it's my thick Russian accent that masks my age, making everyone think I'm 20. Who knows? One might assert that yes, there are some older people, but the club doesn't correctly represent the proper demographics of all cyclists. I think the opposite is true; because of the size and reach of BC, it has an accurate representation of age in the A group based on ability. Younger people are generally faster and more of them exercise compared to the older population. Moreover, the organizer is a young fella named Grant, you can hardly blame him for inviting his peers. I can expand more on the subject, but let's move on to the meat here.

Safety or lack of it on the A-group ride. Dan asserts that the A group was not a ride but more of a race. That the group was going too fast at 24 mph and that the speed should be capped at 20 mph. That people crossed the double yellow line. He does give credit to the rolling police escort but says the police should have stopped the ride and yelled at everyone for crossing the double yellow lines. Sounds bad when you first read this, right? And it sounds like the speed of those reckless cyclists was THE major factor here, contributing to all this mess. Those darn kids were just going too darn fast to be safe!

However, when you look closely at the data and some of the facts, a different picture emerges.

Did anyone crash on the A group this ride? No.

Did I see anyone crash on the A group when I was there this year? No.

Did people cross the yellow line when the group was going fast or when the group was going slow and fanning across the road? When going slow. When the group was going fast, everyone was either 2x2 or single file, and there was no need to move across the yellow line. Would people be crossing the yellow line if the speeds were slower? When you have that many people? You bet they would.

Were there more crashes on the fast, reckless A BC ride this year or on the slow, 20 mph capped, highly praised according to the author, Violet Crown bagel ride per person attending? According to my sources more crashes on the bagel ride, one person even broke his collarbone recently. Not trying to put down the bagel ride here in particular. Great ride! Crashes can happen on any ride but since Dan made VC the gold standard here, I'm obliged to use them to make my argument.

Does the bagel ride have a police escort? No. Does any other ride in town have a police escort? No. It would be too cost-prohibitive for smaller rides.

What about the other fast group rides that were in town like the Mellow Johnny's 100K a couple of years ago? Or maybe the Austin Tri-Cyclist Worlds that was hammering it on Southwest Parkway 10 years ago? Were they reckless too? No mention of those rides here.

When I look at any group ride over the years, I've come across three factors that contribute to safety: Experience, Attention, and Speed. There's no question in anyone's mind that speed increases the probability of crashes and their severity. But what about the relationship between all three?

Attention is a huge factor in crashes. I've been on enough group rides to know that when people get bored and start chatting with each other, stupid crashes happen. It's in our nature to look at the person we're talking to. But what happens if I'm looking at the person and the wheel in front of me slows down? Almost a guaranteed crash. That's exactly how most of the crashes happen on the so-called 20 mph capped rides. People start feeling too comfortable and stop paying attention to the wheel in front of them. That's precisely why there were several crashes on the bagel ride this year, and people broke their collarbones. The same thing happens on other rides. Bagel is not unique in that regard.

Speed increases attention. When you are going 24 mph+, there's zero percent chance you'll be chatting with your buddy about your latest crypto coin and how it's up 1000% since last night.

What about the rider's experience? In general, the more experienced the cyclist is, the less they are going to crash. Is there a relationship between experience and speed? Yes, there is. The more time a person spends on their bike, the faster they usually get and the more experienced they become. But how does speed increase experience in the group? It's quite simple. Slow, inexperienced riders get dropped, and if the pace is high enough for a few miles at the beginning of the ride, what you get at the end is a good selection of experienced riders that you can trust will not crash you out.

And now we come to Zwift! Probably one of the biggest contributors to group crashes. Indoor trainers are great, and Zwift is great! I use an indoor trainer myself during the week all the time. But riding exclusively on an indoor trainer for months and then deciding to show up to a race or a fast group ride is a recipe for a bad time or a crash. High FTP is not the only thing you need to ride a bicycle in a fast group. You also need the reflexes and bike handling skills that come only when you ride in a fast group. Use it or lose it, just like every other skill. Right after the pandemic was over, we had our first race in Crockett, TX. Everyone was fit as hell from riding indoors and solo. But that race was pure carnage. I've never seen so many crashes in my life. I think probably 15-30% of the field crashed in every category. In my P123 category, several people broke their bones. So when I read that Dan rides mostly indoors on Zwift and did the A-ride where you need quick reflexes that you lose in a few months if you don't ride in a fast group, I knew that he was in for a bad time. He said he bunny-hopped a pothole and missed it. To his defense, the road surface of this ride was indeed pretty bad. But people did call out the potholes. At least I did. Navigating bad road surfaces is a skill that you can only acquire while riding fast on bad road surfaces. One should try entering a gravel race where people specifically attack in the worst sections possible.

Finally, I want to talk about why we need a fast group ride in town. Dan wrote that this weekend we had another race/crit that, if you wanted to race, you could attend instead of doing the BC A ride. He wrote that if you want to "race" or average faster than 20 mph, you should go and do a proper road race on a closed course. I take issue with those statements and must disagree here. First, road races are not free. You need to pay good money. Second, there just aren't that many road races in Texas. Road races are slowly dying and getting replaced by gravel, which is cheaper to organize. Third, you need to travel for most of the races, which are out of town, and get a hotel that costs (again) more money. And most of all, you need to spend time away from your family. I race on most of the weekends, but after a few months of doing this, I just get exhausted from all the travel and just want to go do a group ride, where I can ride out of my door and leave the car keys at home.

Another reason you need a fast group ride in town is to attract future racers. The racing ecosystem is broken without a fast group ride. You can't just jump from a bagel ride to a road race. It just doesn't happen. Most people need to practice fast group riding skills somewhere before they get thrown into the Cat 4 race and cause all kinds of carnage there. Fast group rides are fast, but they are still a level below the risk people take in a proper Cat 4 race, and they provide a free environment where future racers can hone their group riding skills. Moreover, teams like my team are always looking to recruit future talent from those fast group rides. Without fast group rides, it's impossible to recruit and move racers up the ladder, and the ecosystem suffers as a result. For example, I've met many of our riders on the MJ 100K. Take Kuya for example. Without the MJ 100K, maybe we wouldn't have Kuya's talent flash on all kinds of podiums, and that makes me sad. Without the BC A ride, maybe we won't have the next Kuya.

I think the correct response is to improve the BC A group ride and let people know about the yellow line rule. Set some safety boundaries, give a safety speech before the ride, but capping the ride at 20 mph is not the solution. Telling people not to show up to BC rides is also not a good solution. People will just move to another ride where they don't have a speed cap. People vote with their presence, and at the moment, the BC A-ride is winning. I hope we can all support each other in this community instead of tearing each other apart. I think there's a place for a fast group ride in ATX, whether it's going to be at BC or somewhere else is their decision to make.
Report Date:
Thursday, 27 Apr, 2023
Our bikepacking Superbowl in Texas is the East Texas Showdown, a 400-mile non-stop gravel bikepacking race. The race starts in Bullet Grill @ Point Blank Texas and goes north across ... morea scenic bridge that spans Lake Livingston into the beautiful Davy Crockett National Forest. I won the 2023 edition and this is my story on how it went. I want to break it down into 3 sections: the Race, the Bike, and Nutrition. 

Let’s start with the race breakdown. The weather forecast for race day was pretty bad. Rain and temps in the low 40s. The forecast did not disappoint. We started on time. At 8 am Patrick shouted his trademark slogan: “Go ride your damn bike” and off we went. The first couple of miles were neutral. All of us followed Patrick's car as he shepherded us across the long lake bridge before the real race started on the other side. Once he gave the command we took off. 5 minutes in and there were only about 10 of us at the front. Kuya was leading the charge. Since we can’t draft on this race I had to match watt to watt what Kuya was doing and then some. I was looking down at my power meter and it says 300 watts. I turn to Kuya and suggest that this is crazy. He turns back to me and says 120 watts. I look again at my power, I look up at the nice flat road we are on, make some quick calculations, and tell him: “No way bro, your power meter is broken!”. As Kuya keeps hammering and being all happy that he’s flying and dropping everyone at 120 watts, I try my last ditch effort at convincing him: “What’s your heart rate?” He looks down and says 150 BPM. A sense of relief! Thank god! Finally, we both agreed that he was not doing 120 watts at 150 BPM and the pace settled down a bit.

That settling of the pace wasn’t meant to last. Shortly after a couple of miles of road, we turned onto the first and probably one of the worst sections of gravel, mud, and sand. The pace picked up again. Mud was flinging onto the wheels, frame, all the components, and myself. Disk brakes were making rubbing noises from hell as they were choking down on more grit and sand than they could handle as we plunked down and up navigating all the mud puddles that the cold front had created overnight. Out of nowhere the pace picked up even faster as some unknown rider dressed all in black passed us and continued to create a huge gap at the front at a crazy pace. After another 30 minutes of this, we were left with just 3 riders in the group. Kuya, a 17-year-old kid named PJ, was fresh off his big win on another long bikepacking race in Georgia and me. I looked at Kuya and we both wondered who was this, all in black, dude that has just dropped us all and disappeared. I said, maybe it’s this guy that flew in from Iceland. We had no idea. In any case, there was a 100% certainty that we could not keep his pace for 370 more miles.

Now that we firmly had a group of 3 and nobody in sight in front or behind us, we started chasing. For the first 3 hours of the chase, I averaged 251 watts. That’s average, not normalized power, average! Just for comparison, I’ve averaged less on some @drivewayseries criteriums that lasted 1 hour or less. If I did the same wattage on a similar elevation course on a road surface with my road bike I would be going 21+ mph or maybe even faster. Here on soft muddy gravel roads with a loaded bike, we were averaging only 15mph. So slow! Huge difference in speed! 

As we kept navigating the mud inevitably my wheels plunked down a big puddle filled with premium soft sticky light brown clay. The clay got all over my front derailleur. Five minutes later when the road allowed faster speeds I tried to shift into the big ring. Nothing! Doesn’t shift! F$@k! This can’t be happening. The mud coated the shifter cable and the front mech didn’t want to move. Pushing the lever harder meant that I was risking tearing the cable apart. What to do? I can’t be riding another 300+ miles in the small ring. My next option was to risk my carb water that I needed, spray it on the front mech, and hope it clears some of the mud off. That worked! But it cost me half a liter of water, a small gap opening, and manual nudging with the hand while the pace was on! But now I was in the big ring again. Phew, crisis averted. The next upgrade would probably have to be a Di2 GRX 12 speed groupset when it comes out.

It was still the 3 of us and around mile 80 we all agreed to stop at a spigot of water to refill. That saved me because I was running low on water from wasting it on the front mech. We each took turns refilling our bottles and hydration packs. I was carrying 5 liters. Kuya had 4 liters. It took me a bit longer to mix my water with my hydration mix, more on that later, and I was left 60 seconds behind chasing again. I caught up, but it was another match that I had to burn.

Right before Jacksonville TX, we hit what looked like a rollercoaster of red gravel hills. I looked at PJ’s cadence and it was pretty low and he was rocking on the bike. I mentioned this earlier to Kuya and he decided to test us both knowing PJ might be in trouble and that I am 55 pounds heavier. Perfect place to put some hurt on me. Very good move! I knew what Kuya was doing but I also knew that I shouldn’t match his speed up the inclines when I can make up some distance on the downhills. It’s a risky strategy because I increase my risk of getting a flat or crashing on some of the off-camber downhill turns. Luckily for me, it worked, but we dropped PJ and never saw him again. 

As we passed our favorite course photographer, Maxwell, we saw some dogs that were chasing something. Can’t be! We were gaining on our lone front leader, Travis. Travis had some experience in bikepacking. He even did some portion of the tour divide with his Dad. Kuya was all smiles when we caught the front guy. We were curious about who he was. So many questions? Why? As we rolled up we were shocked. Travis was on a single speed. We got dropped by a guy on a single speed! Unreal! However, the crazy effort that he put in, meant that he was bonking and bonking hard! He tried to stay with us for a bit but the single speed was biting on the hills. You either had to go fast up every hill or do crazy low RPM. Neither option is good. At this point, I noticed that both Kuya and I were climbing a pretty steep gradient at the same speed. I thought to myself something is wrong here and decided to pay back a favor for earlier by adding a bit of pace once the road flattened. I got a gap quickly on both Kuya and Travis right as we were arriving in Jacksonville at mile 137 and settled on a comfortable pace.

My gap wasn’t meant to last. Kuya got a second wind and caught up to me and now with his bounce, he was putting the pressure back on me. We navigated through the maze of Jacksonville pretty quickly and now with the sunset roads in the lead both were in a very good mood. I decided for the first time to get the phone out and record a video update for the team. We never saw Travis again. He would end up finishing more than 24 hours behind us. We both kept wondering what would have happened if he had gears on his bike? 

The night was falling and we wondered where our 2nd stop would be. We wanted to shoot for the gas station at mile 215 but were surprised when we saw fellow 280 riders stopped at a small restaurant at mile 186 called 4j’s. Having a solid lead at the time we decided not to kill ourselves and stop. It was a super small place. The hosts looked surprised and probably wondered what the hell are y’all doing here. The selection was super small. We had their gumbo, a bit of leftover potato salad, and a small styrofoam bowl of pickles with 2 cokes each. That was 1000% better than what I was eating earlier which was basically drinking pure honey and chasing it down with more sweet sugar water. More on that later. 

As we left the restaurant both of our legs got a second wind and we were flying again. Kuya was pressing the charge as we passed more 280-mile riders like they were standing still. I just barely had time to say hi without opening too big of a gap to Kuya. As the night hours passed we both settled down a bit but kept a good pace. This was the first time when Kuya asked me how I was feeling. I was ok but my knees were starting to show a sign of fatigue from the cold and the miles and slowly started to lock up. Kuya said his shoulder, leg muscles, and left knee were hurting. Kuya is not one to complain so if he says something is hurting he’s not f%@ing around. Our next stop was Bullet Grill, before going again on the final death loop stretch. Right before we got there, before sunrise, Kuya was not having a good time. He’s a morning person. I’m a night person. Kuya has an insanely large amount of energy in the morning. It takes me hours to get to some sort of resemblance to a human being in the morning. So naturally, mentally I was just fine cruising at 5 am. Kuya on the other hand was falling asleep on the bike. Every 10 to 20 seconds he would yell something to wake himself up. Do pushups on the handlebars. Howl “Okiro” in Japanese, which means wake up. Luckily we were on a small road without much traffic but soon it changed. We turned onto a highway and I kept asking if he was awake. I think the adrenaline shot we both got when an 18-wheeler passed us woke both of us up. From this time on he was awake. Phew! It could have been bad. 

We got to the Bullet Grille and met Patrick who greeted us both. The first thing that he asked me was “So who is going to win this?” I replied: “We’ll see”. However, I got the feeling that what he truly was saying and I’m paraphrasing his look with my own words here: “Yo, this is not a group ride, it’s cute and all that y’all are riding together and I know y’all are tired but go out there and scrape that barrel one more time and show me what you got.” I wasn’t about to disappoint Patrick. There are however several advantages to riding in a group even though you can't draft. Here are some of them: safety in numbers, navigation, each turn gets checked twice, and moral & mental support for sanity when everything hurts.

We left the Bullet and went on to the death loop and the last 65 miles. The death loop is probably the most scenic part of the route. There is a section of red gravel road with large canopy trees that hug the road around you with the sun rays shining through the foliage. Worth the ride. Super scenic. As we left the last gravel part and got onto the road I was thinking about the sprint we are about to have at the end and how much it was going to hurt. If I was pedaling down the hills at the beginning of the race, now I was strictly super tucking every downhill no matter how small it was. I was basically just laying my whole upper body on the handlebars to give myself some rest. It’s a great way to recover your upper body a bit. On one of the downhills, I opened a small gap between myself and Kuya. Just like Kuya’s weight gives him an advantage on the uphills. My weight gives me the advantage on the downhills. That’s what makes us so equal. In any case, right after the downhill, there was an uphill climb coming up. I wanted to see how much ground Kuya would make up if any. If we don’t have to sprint even better. I climbed the hill, looked back and the gap was still the same. On one hand, I felt really bad leaving Kuya after going through hell with him for 27 hours. On the other hand, it’s a race and if the coin were to be flipped, and Kuya was in the front, I would be content with the outcome. I was sure Kuya was fine with it. I cruised through more of those downhills with some uphills and saw that I extended the gap to about 1 minute. As I was coming to the finish I saw a bunch of people standing there on the road and cheering for me! Thank god! Finally, the race was over, and with it, the 29 hours of pain. It seemed like it was all worth it. 

Let’s move on to the Bike. Riding 400 miles on gravel roads is not easy. You can’t just take any bike and ride it. You need a special gravel bike with fat enough tires and ideally some sort of suspension. Gravel bikes sit somewhere between road bikes and MTBs, and gravel bikepack racing bikes are slowly moving towards the MTB side as more and more people realize the benefits of suspension for comfort. To ride 400 miles you have to be comfortable. Every person has a limit on hours and distance they can ride before falling asleep, even while riding the bike. As a true night owl, I can go at least one night on no sleep without any problems. Considering all this, my choice was a fast but comfortable bike with just the required storage for nutrition and hydration without any sleeping gear. 

I rode the Cervelo Aspero with a Redshift pro stem and seat post for comfort, with ENVE aero bars for speed. My tire choice was s-works pathfinders 42mm, sitting on ZIPP 303 firecrest wheels. I ran Shimano 2x setup for downhill speed and gear range. And for the bags, I had @southcitystitchworks make 2 custom bags that I specifically designed for ETS. One custom bag sits between the aero bars for easy access and one wedge bag sits right behind the head tube. Plus, a rear seat bag for tools. 

Now, let's finally talk about nutrition and hydration. I burned about 22,000 calories in 29 hours. That is 5.5kg or 12 pounds of pure sugar or carbs burned and converted into CO2 and water. Our muscles require glucose which is converted to glycogen and oxygen to function. Your body cannot convert fats directly into muscle-ready glycogen. However, through a series of metabolic processes that result from conditions of depleted carbohydrates, it is possible for stored fats to be broken down into glucose, which can then be converted into glycogen. Meaning - yes, you can run your body on fat but it’s not the most direct way or the most efficient. Furthermore, fat oxidation reduces substantially the higher the power requirement is, as you climb up the zones. All that meant was that I needed to supply my body with glucose. Now, there’s a limit on how much glucose your body can absorb per hour, usually around 60 grams per hour. Moreover, pure glucose or dextrose, which is corn-based glucose, is very sweet, not ideal. 5500 grams / 29 = 189 grams per hour. So 60 grams/hr is not going to cut it. Luckily there’s another fructose channel in your body through which you can absorb more carbs. So, if you mix fructose with glucose now you can absorb more. Now, you can take it a step further. You can chain glucose into maltodextrin which keeps the same glycemic index but reduces the sweetness substantially. 

The end result of all this research was that I created my own carb drink mix formula with 0.8:1 fructose and maltodextrin and loaded it 10 to 1 with water or 10% carb-to-water mix. That’s right below the 12% which is considered the max you can absorb without stomach issues. 

However, this is still not enough to cover my 189 grams/hr caloric needs. We stopped 3 times to refill the 5 liters I was carrying plus the original mix minus leftovers. All in all, I consumed around 18 liters of water/carb mix or around 1,800 grams of carbs from hydration or around 60 grams per hour. 

From my research, I read that some athletes can consume around 100-120 grams of carbs per hour. That meant that I could add another 40 g/hr via gels or….. Honey! Honey is the perfect mix of fructose to glucose. I had a regular plastic bottle of honey directly in the front aero bar south city bag. I would open the bag and squeeze a gulp of honey every now and then. In total, I consumed 700 grams of honey. I also had 7 Roctaine gels, each containing 21 grams of carbs for a total of 847 grams of carbs. That adds up to about 30 grams per hour. Which brings me to 90 grams per hour. In addition, I also had 8 rice cakes, each about 120-130 grams, which contain about 30-40 grams of carbs per cake. In total, I was consuming about 100 grams of carbs per hour. The remaining 89 grams of carbs/hr was coming from my fat reserve oxidation.

Some final numbers. I averaged 200 normalized watts, 985 TSS, 22K calories, 27:52 moving, and 29:04 elapsed time for the whole race. 

Are you still here and reading all this? Congrats! You have the willpower to suffer. Maybe you should consider entering ETS next year.
Report Date:
Friday, 24 Mar, 2023
Do you ever get certain cravings? Ice cream, watermelon, mama’s cooking. Or wanderlust? Misadventures, exploring, new places. The pursuit of endorphins. And then toss in the ... moreemotions of nervousness and excitement. You’ve done this before but it doesn’t really make it any less daunting. The night before my first Dallas embarkment, I was just so unsure of the route, conditions, of what could happen. It was a little scary, but that adds to the fun. Fast forward to this past Tuesday; my body was craving a double century. To be out under the sun all day with wind in the hair, just me, my bike and the road. There’s just no other feeling like it. Legs spinning, heart thumping, the mind absorbing all stimuli. The pursuit of dopamine. Crushing miles at 30 mph, I lose track of time and right then and there, I’m in the zone. And you can’t shake it; sometimes you’re just in there for hours on end. So come Tuesday, I figure my legs were feeling great from the previous week of riding and decided Thursday would be the day to ride to Dallas. Great winds, no rain, mostly cloud cover. My tenth double in the bag, fifth time to Dallas. Again, huge shout out to my friend Jason for being able to take the day off and drive my car up so that we could head back home the same day. Alternate plan was to stay at my brother’s place and endure the 8 hour Amtrak ride on Friday. There’s an important message in here somewhere. I’m not naturally gifted with this. It only came around through consistent hard work and dedication. At least in cycling, outside of the pro level, work ethic will trump natural born talent. The message is this: encourage, support and push yourself because it doesn’t matter what others think of you. Your greatest competitor is not the other guy over there; it is your past and future efforts. In due time, greatness will come and the work will have been worth it. You got this.

A few highlights
6:15 AM start, in the dark until 7:30
Sun finally peeps out at 8:30
4.5 hour centuries
Legs woke up at mile 113
The biggest rush of dopamine at mile 193
Tacos with family and friends at finish
Report Date:
Thursday, 23 Mar, 2023
5 hours of sleep. Wake at 430, breakfast at 530, wheels down at 6. It’s cold. Ungodly cold for Texans. We aren’t familiar with the cold but we love riding bikes more than ... morethe cold can keep us off it. Spirit is questionable, but high enough. Dan is especially pumped because I had a spare eTap derailleur to swap onto his bike; his had bricked towards the end of day 1. He was in luck, we had already gotten our shirts from Paul, so there was only one thing to do: finish the second day. The only silver lining for this ride was that there would be no rain, however, temps would be quite low. This was a matter of riding as efficiently as possible and keeping the body warm. Eastward we go. Within a mile, we had two minor mechanicals. Luckily that rate didn’t persist onwards. Getting out of Kerrville and into Comfort, my engine was having trouble kicking into a comfortable pace. It finally turned on somewhere 40 ish miles in. This time around, we’re headed in every single direction, including west at one point. Everything is smooth sailing until mile 116, where one rider wisely called quits. Mile 140 rolls by, and I think, “Hey there’s only 100k left, yay”. 150 comes, the shoulders begin to ache. Also around 150, Greg’s derailleurs brick so he single speeds it to 160 where he swaps bikes. 160, the wrists are getting sore. At every single water break we get, I have to apply Lantiseptic. It’s honestly the only thing that got me through the second half of day two, otherwise I definitely would have developed ride ending saddle sores. It’s cold around mile 170. I’m counting it down every 5 miles at this point. 180 crosses, and I think, “10% left….that’s it, what’s 10%”. Paul designed the ride so that we would still have an evil amount of climbing towards the end. I remember at 20 miles left, we still had to climb a little over 1k feet. But you know what they say, what doesn’t kill you…makes you gain quads. 190 is here and so it the tailwind. Dan has been at the front for such a long time and he is a machine. We fly with the wind on our backs; this is the end game. 8 miles left, 4 miles left, 3...2…1…and then somehow, someway, we roll into the finish line with relief splashed across our bodies.

It was quite the journey, and definitely the most difficult thing I’ve had to do thus far. I commend Paul and April Dodd, for organizing and supporting. Todd for cooking Friday night meal. All the other riders for coming through and keeping morale high. This may have been possible solo, but at a very, very costly price. It’s better to suffer together, and as Paul says, “You now have many reference points of what it means to keep going when things are hard. To keep going when it's cold, when it's wet, when it's dark. Pushing thru those I-feel-like shit moments and finding that over the next hill you feel great again. You now know what it is like when the only way out is thru. Just keep pedaling and you will get over the hill, thru the darkness, and to the finish.”
Thanks for reading any of this if you made it this far. Until the next crazy adventure. 500k in one go…?
Report Date:
Saturday, 12 Nov, 2022
I’ll do my best to recap and brief these two absolutely insane days of riding. This note is intended for my future self in case I ever need a source of inspiration, but it may ... morebe just as important for you to hear these words. The days are set and the mission is clear: Ride 400 miles and 24k feet of elevation gain in two days. The bikes, gear, nutrition and housing have all been prepped and staged, all you have to do is show up and ride. But that’s much easier said than done. It’s not very feasible for a cyclist to just daydream about back to back double centuries and expect to accomplish it. The body needs preparation. It begins with 4:30 AM wake ups for at least a week so that on the morning of Day 1, the body isn’t rushed. Sleep routine is 1/3 of the puzzle, the next third is nutrition/diet. It looks different for everyone and my body LOVES ice cream, but I tend to eat a quart in one sitting. So that’s sacrificed in replacement for noodles, rice, veggies and meats. Two days prior, I doubled the amount of water/electrolyte intake. The last and most important third of the puzzle is body and mental prep. I’d say the act of listening to your body is the most under developed skill that serious riders attune to. The body needs to feel proper and the mind needs to be in the right place, above all else. There’s a fine line between encouraging yourself to keep going deep into a double century, with actually holding the ability to do so, and convincing yourself to ride on when in fact the body is trashing itself and failing. I’ve had a couple days to reflect upon this accomplishment, and I think there are two big points to take away:

1. Always push yourself and those around you to new limits.
2. But be responsible in doing so.

Regrading the first point, if you never push your boundary, you’ll never get better. To not reach new limits is totally fine, depending on what goals are, but for me personally, exploring new limits is thrilling and quite necessary. Once accomplishing something you initially thought almost impossible, you not only get a boost in physical performance, but mentally, certain obstacles in life begin to diminish in size. But on the same coin, you have to take these challenges with proper steps, and not train too hard too fast. Prior to Day 1, I rode 100k and 109 miles in Z2 effort; to get into the feeling of holding that position and power for 28 hours over two days. Inadvertently, that week of riding also culminated in 604 miles, my current PR. Another aspect of the two points is that while we were riding and battling the rain and wind, we encouraged each other. But halfway into the second day, one of the riders ultimately decided to bail, and he did so without any of us heckling or name calling, etc. It was still a very valiant effort and again, listening to your body is above all else, the most important. That being said, these guys are hands down the classiest, strongest and toughest riders I know. Now, on to days 1&2 ride conditions. Day 1, Friday, 11/11/2022
Wake at 4 AM, out the door at 5 AM, wheels down at 6 AM. Six of us in the dark, flashing smiles as bright as our blinking lights. We don’t know what’s about to happen; we’ve never done anything like this. Paul, the organizer, created this crazy idea and he invited those who are able bodied and curious. Five others showed up, interested in seeing this to the end. We take off westward, snaking our way through Texas Hill Country. For those who think Texas is all flat, it is not at all in Hill Country. Yeah, we don’t have mountains, but the land undulates often and elevation gain adds up quickly. We go south, northwest, northeast, west, in every direction except east. We hit a stretch of gravel, suffering one flat and then continue on. Luckily, the rain hadn’t hit us yet, as we would have been in big trouble if the gravel section was rained on. What’s crazy is that we all knew of the oncoming rainstorm that will eventually hit us mid route. We had every right to bail, but none of us said anything on Thursday night. Around 11 AM, cold front and rain sweeps in. We don our rain gear, moving as quickly as possible to get back on the bike to maintain body temperature. April with SAG is the real MVP here; able to tag along and keep us as comfortable as possible. The rain pelts down, wind hitting us from the side, while temperature drops to 40 F. This is a brand new experience for me. How is it that within these horrible weather conditions, shoes and gloves soaked with water, toes and fingers beginning to numb, that we still forged on? Some of us say it was the promise of a hearty dinner at the end. Perhaps the glory of prevailing through the conditions. For me, it was the fact that five other guys were there embracing the suck, going through the exact same hardship and deciding to go on. It was a mind-shaping experience. We hit the halfway marker, and we all know there’s still a very, very long day ahead of us. The rain stops around 230 PM, and we change into dry socks and shoes. The body has to keep moving to keep warm. Hours pass, miles pile on. Mile 120 comes and go. Each ten mile marker eventually passes, but once the sun sets, they come even slower. It’s dark and cold now. The climbing isn’t done just yet. It’s a hell of a ride thus far, and we finally roll into Kerrville. The taste of victory for completing day 1 is on our lips. And miraculously, we reach our destination; body depleted and shivering. Todd is there with dinner prepped, just knowing that gave us much needed push to finish. We eat and rest, mentally preparing for what is to come tomorrow.
Report Date:
Friday, 11 Nov, 2022
You do what you've always done a thousand times before; alarm off, kit on, coffee downed. All the necessary prep has been completed, you just have to make the right moves. Shift up, ... morepedals turn, inhale, exhale. Every single previous ride up to this point has in some shape or form contributed to this one big effort. Miles crushed, smiles abound, endorphins flood. You're laser focused on the goal, and all you know is you've gotta give it your all. And I can say with confidence that I did. The 500k is yet still elusive, but this time it was within sight and grasp; I could taste blood. So close yet so far, ending the ride was both a moment of relief but also a tinge of sadness, knowing there will have to be a next time.

Most of y'all reading this are aware of my previous efforts and this current one. Thank you so much to those who cheered me on, as it gave me extra reasons to push through. Two special shout outs to Yan and Jason. Yan for meeting me at 6 am roll out and hanging with me for the first 31 miles, or the projected first 10%. Jason for providing support and gear which honestly is its own huge effort. If my ride does not inspire, then at least let these two people's actions inspire you.

The biggest differences between my previous 500k attempt (https://strava.app.link/orAXCeyJheb) and this one, that allowed me to go further, can be summed up to four things. Temperature, daylight, nutrition, and not crashing. On the last ride, I had to start and end with arm/leg warmers and booties. Not having to worry about that and the extra weight was a plus. It got dark last time around 5-5:30 and this time was around 8 pm. I was also properly prepared with active recovery pills and salt pills, which kept the legs well lubed. And last of all, I didn't crash this time, so no lost time.

Now some ride details. I had wanted to give myself six hours ride time per century, which I was well beyond pace wise. I wanted to complete the full 500k in 22 hours, elapsed time. Actual ride stats boil down to 287.40 miles at 19.8 mph avg; 14:30:21 ride time and roughly 21 hours elapsed time. All things considered, from being self supported until mile 192 and riding solo, I do count this as a huge win. It's my current PR, and by a long shot too. I originally intended for 500k (315 miles), was gonna be content with a triple century (300 miles), but will take riding from Austin to Oklahoma as my title.

For those wondering about my bike set up, I used my trusty Giant Propel; equipped with Ultegra Di2 6870, long cage derailleur to accommodate an 11-30 Dura Ace cassette, and a Dura Ace 9000 165 mm crank paired with Absolute Black oval 50/34 rings. Wheels are 40 mm deep with ti skewers and bar is 38 wide/100 long. Saddle is a Specialized Power Comp 143 mm. Look blade pedals, Kogel bb/pulley wheels and Conti 4k 25 mm tires. Topeak feedbag and a bar burrito bag held all my calories and backup items like master links, tire levers, contacts, battery pack, etc. Sadly, I think I'm close to retiring the Propel, so this effort may be its last big hoorah. It's been fun, my friend.

There are a plethora of reasons why I do these kinds of rides and why I ride, which can be read on my 200 miler report: (https://strava.app.link/36YxEQvJheb) and my 220 miler report: (https://strava.app.link/orAXCeyJheb). But if you've been enjoying what this is all about, I'd like to turn your attention to yourself and your own passions and hobbies. Cycling is mine, and you've got yours. Get into something that gives you life and joy. If you don't currently have something like that, go and start exploring. It might take awhile. But it's out there.

Update: I stopped the ride because of sleepiness, my brain didn't want to keep going. Also I didn't specify the root reason for this challenge; in December there's a thing on strava called Festive 500 and my first attempt was the 220 miler. This ride was an attempt to complete that goal.

Lastly, my plugs.
Strava: strava.com/athletes/12532133
I'm also on insta @andysbikes and do consignment and repair: http://instagram.com/andysbikes
Report Date:
Monday, 5 Apr, 2021
Erik sent me a link for this ride last week. Decision was made within two seconds I'd say. Super impressed with the route. Made great pace with Erik. Oh yeah. Barton creek hills at ... moremile 191??? Not hard at all.....exactly what my legs needed. Special thanks to Michael Nguyen for letting me borrow his bike bags.

If any of y'all are interested in these types of rides, feel free to reach out to me and we can go do one!
Report Date:
Saturday, 8 Feb, 2020
Was feeling great unfortunately 2 guys crashed in front of me, their front wheels got stuck in the mud. I took a bad line around and smashed my front tire into a concrete ledge. Was ... morestill with the front group but the pressure in the tire kept dropping. Eventually stopped and fixed the flat. Connor was passing by and we made a good effort to chase back but then he crashed behind me while cooking the corner too hard. He was there, laying not moving. I for sure though he broke some bones. 5 minutes later we were at it, smashing it again. What a stud. He got a flat another 10 min later. Continues, I caught up with my vite buddy and we started working for the next 60 miles. He wasn't felling it so after 10 miles or so I told him to sit on my wheel. Superhero flex move. We caught couple more guys and finished top 10 but never managed to catch the front group. Fun day on the bike. I'll be back for sure.
Report Date:
Tuesday, 2 Jul, 2019
SA Rad criterium 3/4 2nd 4/5 3rd: Breakaway attempts on both races.
Report Date:
Saturday, 22 Jun, 2019
Report Date:
Saturday, 2 Feb, 2019