You’ll Get Stronger

Trying hard now
It’s so hard now
Trying hard now

Getting strong now
Won’t be long now
Getting strong now

Gonna fly now
Flying high now
Gonna fly, fly, fly…   (Bill Conti, Theme from Rocky)

We knew that BRAT6, our Hurricane Harvey Relief Ride, was going to be different from our previous adventures.  It took place in cold weather, went south, and had a steady decline in elevation over the whole journey.  It was different.  It was just as challenging as previous rides, but a different kind of challenging.

On of the biggest differences had to do with training.  Where our other rides took place in the early summer with long hours of daylight, this one took place within two weeks of the shortest day of the year.  For the previous rides, we had the Spring semester to ride and train together.  And every day or week that we rode, the days grew longer.  We could ride further and stay out later with each successive ride.

With the winter ride, the opposite was true.  Our primary training took place in the Fall semester.  Each successive ride took place in less daylight.  And when the time changed from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time, we really lost a lot of opportunities to ride together.  Group rides usually happened only on Sunday afternoons and as the semester progressed the days were not only shorter, but colder.  It was difficult to get in the group training hours that we were used to with previous rides.

We did have a couple of weeks after the end of the Fall semester to train before the ride, but the weather and temperatures in Texas were crazy.  We had some pleasant days with high temperatures in the 60s, but we also had some near-freezing days with strong winds.  That weather was not exactly making me eager to get out and ride.

As BRAT6 began, I felt like I had invested the least amount of recent riding and training of any ride since BRAT1.  I was a little apprehensive about that as we began, but I also knew something from previous rides–you get stronger each day that you’re out on bikes.  The trick, however, is not to overdo it in the early days.  On BRAT3, I tried for a century on the first day.  I cramped out at 93 miles in the Gulf Coast heat and humidity and ended up pulling a tendon in my leg pretty badly.  That caused me to take it easy for a couple of days before feeling better–and averaging 85 miles per day for the final four days.

I started BRAT6 with a 40-mile day rolling with the team between Texico, New Mexico and Lockney, Texas.  The next day, I had 50 miles on the way to Jayton–in a hard headwind for most of the day in temperatures that didn’t make it above freezing.  On our short day to Abilene from Jayton, I rode 45 miles.  On the two days past Abilene, to Comanche and then to Briggs, I rode 40 miles each day.  After five days of building up strength in my legs, I felt ready to roll.

On the day from Briggs to LaGrange, two of us rode 107 miles and one other completed his first century with 100 miles.  The next day, which was the last full day of riding, I rode another 100 miles to make a double century.  And while I was happy to be off the bike at the end of the day, I still felt strong and like I could have gone further if needed.  There was no cramping, no unusual pains in my legs or body the following day, or anything else that would have sidelined me from another day on the bike–if we had one.

double century garmin

Coming into the ride with a good base level of fitness is necessary.  Steadily building strength and endurance as the overall ride progresses helps set you up for “long and strong” in the back stretch of the ride.  We’ve established a new BRAT Century Club for our riders who’ve completed 100 miles or more in a single day on one or more of our BRAT adventures.  There are currently 16 names on the brand new BRAT Century Club plaque–six of them have multiple centuries on our rides.  The other ten names are those of BRAT rookies.  They are students who responded to the invitation to join a BRAT adventure and put in the time and energy into training and learning to ride.  Nearly all of them completed their century rides in the final days of their long-distance rides.

It is rewarding to see students master riding road bikes, working as a team to provide safety and support each other on the rides, and develop the strength and stamina to do things that most other people can’t do.  One of those things is sitting on a bike and spinning your legs for 100 miles in a day.  That is cool.

century club plaque


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