Monday, May 14, 2007

The Armadillo Hill Country Classic: Club Love or Following Frank

The Start

There were six of us at the Armadillo Hill Country Classic start. Four of the six of us were showing our “club love” by adorning our club kit so proudly. For other reasons, Daniel and Dane chose to where differing accoutrements. The other four of us were full on Velocity kit including gold socks.

The stated goal by me and others was 105 miles at Zone 2, or “cruising for chicks” speed as Daniel put it. Naturally, at the start there were the requisite Violet Crown folks among other weekend warriors with the exception of Stephan Schwartz, local Ironman luminary.

Zone 2 Anyone?

We started off slow enough, and as we got to the hills out of town the pace quickened. I was in Zone 2 for about 15 minutes. In short order the Zone 2 became Zone 3 and 4 and a bit of Zone 5. Greg Hall from Violet Crown was pushing the pace as was Stephan Schwartz. “I thought this was supposed to be Zone 2?” Frank queried me several times, and then his voice echoed off into the distance as the lead group separated from the line of folks heading out of Liberty Hill.

At the top of a downhill section, I pulled up along side Mr. Schwartz. “Why don’t you get in front of him?” I heard Tom Hall call out. “Okay, I’ll work,” he said as he bombed down the decent to the creek bed. At around New Hope cemetery, I started getting a cramp in my left calf, and I started to back off. I didn’t want to kill myself like I did last year (See “A Deeper Shade of Fried”). I went to the back of the group and was dismayed to find only Tom there. I asked Tom where everybody went, and he told me we dropped them about 15 minutes ago. I let him know about the cramp, and he held back with me. We kept up a nice pace taking pulls until we got to Bertram. He wanted to wait for Dane, and I wanted to wait for Frank and Daniel, so we went to the rest stop.

Mistaken Identity

Tom and I were grazing at the rest stop and I hear “Hi there, John Howell!” I turn to see Preston Tyree addressing Tom Hall. Tom corrected him and acknowledged that the moustache and the outfit must have been the source of confusion. I was quick to get on the pickles because I figured it would be a crampy day. We saw some folks roll to the stop who we thought would be with Frank. David, a real strong rider and someone I’ve been leaning on to join Velocity, told me that Frank passed up the stop, and was “about a minute ahead on the road.” David had broken my heart recently because he told me all of this as he wore a Violet Crown jersey. He got away this time. Tom and I decided we would go out and try to find Frank.

Chasing Frank

Tom and I go back out on to the road and start taking pulls, blowing and going to try and catch Frank. It turns out David’s Violet Crown jersey was doing all the talking because we were averaging 20 mph, and there was no sign of Frank anywhere. Up in the distance we see a lone rider and figure it’s Frank. When we catch the lone rider it turns out to be “Thursday Night Hill Ride” Greg. He’s not wearing a Velocity kit, but we hope he will be soon. Tom, Greg, and I and this guy wearing winter apparel settle into a groove in the hopes of finding Frank. At the third rest stop, Tom turns off, and Greg and I soldier on in our quest for Frank. I was so toasted at the stop; I suggested we wait for Frank because usually when I ride Frank that is my condition. Not today. On we went toward Burnet. We found some other folk and got into a group and took pulls up to Burnet. Seeing Frank at the Burnet rest stop was our reward. We all greeted each other. I was sad to hear that Frank was noodling along the road the whole way, and here I was a puddle of sweat and pre-cramps.

Enter Jennifer

Jennifer is a really strong rider. I met her last year at the “Members Only” ACA century last year. She was riding a Madone 5.5, and has long blond hair. She was also wearing Spd Sandals. She also dropped us all like a rock. At the Armadillo she had the Madone and the blond hair, but new cycling shoes. She also had really bad allergies. When Frank and I saw Jennifer saddling up and getting ready to go, we forgot about everybody else at the stop, and decided to ride with her.

Running on…Running on Empty

It turned out Frank had met Jennifer on previous Armadillo rides, so we rolled on toward Lake Victor into the head wind. At this point as in last year, I was pretty much toast. I had learned last year that eating a bunch of cookies would not help my cause, so I stuck to the performance food, pickles, and water. As I mentioned before, Jennifer’s allergies were terrible. Her nose was running, and her eyes were watery. Snot hung from her nose repeatedly. As we pressed on, we shared stories, philosophies, and turns at the front. As the afternoon got hotter, I spent less time at the front, and more time following Frank. I was most worried about the hills on the return and was not relishing a total quad lock-up that seemed imminent.

Following Frank

Like most centuries I’ve done before there is a region of pain and suffering I endure between mile 70 and 80. I feel terrible, and I attribute it to the fact that I don’t tend to do many training rides over 70 miles as I don’t have races over 50 miles long, generally. Additionally, with the heat, the air dried out, and my lungs began to feel tight and inflamed. Great. I continued following Frank the whole way back. I was lucky that there was no serious crampage, but I was glad when the 106.5 mile ride was over.


I don’t know about other Velocity members, but I do know that when I go to events like the Armadillo and the Thursday Night Crits, I chat up Velocity as much as possible, and wish to make the club as accessible as possible. Frequently, I’ll run into former members who didn’t know we were still around. I find that there is a lot of interest in our developmental cycling club, and I feel that folks like Frank and Daniel are excellent ambassadors of our cycling club.

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