This is the event I’ve been training for since April. The goal was to complete the Waco Wild West Century–100 mile bike ride–in less than six hours. I spent about a month and a half re-familiarizing myself with the bike, and in June I began a training program geared specifically to getting me ready for this event. In the process I rode about 2,200 miles, spending about 160 hours on the bike.
The good news is that the training paid off. I completed the ride yesterday. According to my bike computer, I rode 98.6 miles in 5 hours and 42 minutes. That’s an average overall speed (including stops) of 17.3 MPH. Moving time was 5 hours 26 minutes. The other 16 minutes consisted of four stops to refill water bottles.
Along the way I burned about 3,500 calories. I drank 9 quarts of water and consumed about 2,000 calories in energy bars (that I had carried with me) and treats at the water stops. Those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were good! My average heart rate was 155 beats per minute, or 75% of my maximum heart rate.
Unlike the last time I did the Waco ride, I did everything right this time. I kept my heart rate under control and didn’t let the excitement of the ride push me into over-extending myself. I carried three water bottles and plenty of food, and made a point to eat and drink regularly. I stayed with a group of riders for the first 25 miles, drafting most of the time and taking my turn pulling up front when necessary. I’d push a little harder on the hills, letting my heart rate get to 80%, but no higher. And I’d slack off a little (to about 72%) on the way down. Most importantly, I resisted the urge to catch the person in front of me if it meant exceeding my energy budget.
The ride itself is well organized. The route was well marked and the four rest stops I visited were well stocked, and the people were very friendly and helpful. The water at the 50 mile stop (in Oglesby, TX), though, tasted terrible. I think they used the local tap water. Gah! That stuff was bad!
The course is described as “mostly flat but with some challenging climbs.” There certainly are some challenging climbs, but nothing too terrible. I’ll dispute the “mostly flat,” though. I’d describe the route as typical central Texas rolling hills. You can see my course track and other information that my bike computer recorded.
I got in with a pretty large group (20 or more riders) early on, and we worked together for the first 15 miles or so, when the 67-mile route and the 100-mile route split. The group re-formed without the 67 milers, but we dropped quite a few riders between there and the rest stop at 25 miles. Riding with a group makes a huge difference. I finished the first 25 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes, averaging right at 20 MPH.
There were some memorable characters in that initial group. I didn’t get any of their real names, but I did supply my own names for some.
There was Wobbles, whose body moved from side to side as he pedaled. As he pushed down on a pedal, his torso would move to the side, but his head would stay centered. As he reached the bottom of the pedal stroke, his head would move to align with his torso again, briefly, but then his torso would be moving to the other side as he started the next pedal stroke. Riding behind him made me seasick. He was a strong rider, though. He’d be much stronger if he’d eliminate that unnecessary side-to-side motion.
Weebles wobbled, too, but not as much.
Honey was a slim young woman who was in front of me in the paceline for five miles or so. She had honey blonde hair and very nice legs. When I saw her face at the 25 mile rest stop, I discovered that she also has a beautiful smile.
Red is a thin red-haired woman about my age. She was local, and knew the route very well. She and I left the 25 mile rest stop at the same time, and worked together for a while, until we got to the first climb. Then she rocketed away from me. I probably could have kept up for a while, but when my heart rate got to 80%, I decided to let her go. I didn’t want to expend too much energy early in the ride and burn out. I saw Red several times after that, finally passing her for good at the 80 mile rest stop.
I got stuck behind Big Gear when I first joined up with the group. He was pushing a very big gear, probably running 50 or 60 RPM. Most riders try to run 85 to 95 RPM in a smaller gear because it’s easier on the legs–especially the knees. Pushing the smaller gear also allows you to accelerate more quickly. If the peloton accelerated in front of Big Gear, he couldn’t react as quickly. When he did finally react and catch up, he’d have to brake to keep from overshooting. Riding behind him was nerve wracking.
Jingles was right next to me when I first joined the peloton. His CO2 cartridges (used for quickly inflating a tire after fixing a flat) constantly rattled against the saddle rail. Irritating. I lost track of Jingles for a while (he pulled ahead at some point), and then passed him at about 30 miles.
Smiley was a thin younger guy who came blowing by me on a hill at about 40 miles with a big ol’ smile on his face. I caught up when he slowed at the top, and we worked together for a few miles. But he dropped off the back and I never saw him again after the 46 mile stop.
Blue was a younger woman who was with the peloton early on, but then I lost track of her. She was tiny, but a really strong rider. I was surprised to see her coming up behind me at about 65 miles. We shared the road for a while, until I pulled off at the 69 mile rest stop.
Gray was an older man who I caught up with just after the 50 mile stop, as we were heading down the hill into Mother Neff State Park. There was a small group of us (including Wobbles and Weebles), who passed Gray, but then he passed us again. He wanted to stay in front. So we tucked in behind him through the park. When the road turned up at about 56 miles, Gray, Weebles, and Wobbles went off the front, and I was left alone. The other members of the group couldn’t handle the hill very well. I saw Gray again at the 80 mile stop (he was leaving as I was arriving), and then passed him about five miles from the finish. He was stopped under a tree, trying to cool off.
I caught up with Weebles and Wobbles at 60 miles. They both had got flats by going over a rough railroad crossing too fast. Wobbles didn’t just get a puncture; his tube exploded. He didn’t have a spare tube, so I gave him mine. Surprisingly, Wobbles caught up with me somewhere after the 80 mile stop, but he didn’t last very long. I think he expended too much energy trying to make up the time he’d lost with the flat. The last time I saw him was somewhere before the 90 mile mark.
It had been 10 years since the last time I rode the Waco route. The route had changed quite a bit, but there were still parts that I remembered. Especially the road through the park, and the long lonely road from 60 to 70 miles.
After the ride, I went back to my hotel room and had a cold homebrew beer that I’d brought up just for that occasion.
All in all, it was a great time. I’m very happy with my performance.