Monday, March 26, 2007

In a Big Country

This weekend was supposed to be my last hard weekend before IMAZ and I decided to spend it in Alpine, TX staying with fellow Outlaws Stuart and Helen and getting in my workout there.

We pulled in Friday night and ended up staying up until midnight visiting and drinking a little wine. The next morning I was up at 6 am prepping for a ride from Alpine to Panther Junction in Big Bend National Park. There were a couple locals that were going to ride with me but two ended up having to work so I was left with “Mark from the Park”, a local guy who works as a mechanic at Big Bend and used to race in the same Tris as Lance Armstrong back in 80s. He had a few stories about Lance crushing everyone back when he was a 16 year old triathlon godling.

Mark from the Park was one tough hombre. Mark from the park pushed me to the single hardest ride I have ever completed. We left out of Alpine at about 8:45 am and immediately started hammering. It was a perfectly windless day, cool temps and a pretty smooth road with almost no traffic and huge open vistas of the West Texas desert. We rode past volcanic necks like the Cathedral and Santiago, past mountains called Elephant and Nine Points across 0-2 flats all the way into the Chisos range.

There were no stops and nowhere to stop until the little town of Terlingua 70 miles into the ride. Now here is the sickening thing…by the time we reached Terlingua I looked at my bike computer and our AVERAGE pace had been 23.5 mph…over 70 miles…I have witnesses. Now I thought, wow, that must be all the down hill riding we did but on the drive back, which I’ll explain later, I got a good look at the terrain and while the general trend of the ride was down the down sections tended to happen in short chunks. There were some long shallow grades of around 2% or so, there was 0-2 flats, which lasted about 20 miles and was…well…flat and then there were some monster climbs of 8 to 12% ranging in length from ½ to one mile. It was a brutal ride…I got a little sick just looking at it and I had just done it.

I pulled about 65 of the 70 miles but Mark from the Park was right on my wheel the entire way. Each time I would back off a little he would pull up along side and start talking to me and telling me about the area and then I would just dive back into it…hammering for all I was worth to see if I could drop him off my wheel. Every time we headed up a steep grade he would attack and man he could climb…he was no Clydesdale. I would just grip my handlebars grit my teeth and push ahead with quads on fire and eyes bulging. It was relentless, it was brutal, it was sublime.

By the time we hit Terlingua we had beaten our SAG crew by about 15 minutes. Mark from the Park decided to bag the rest of the ride and go have some beers. The report from Stuart was “You broke him” I though, “and not a second too soon.” I then rolled out of Terlingua and headed into Big Bend National Park for the 20 mile climb up into Panther Junction. As soon as I entered the park there was another 8% grade that was exquisitely painful. The next 12 miles was a mixture of grades from 2% to 5% and all up hill. I finally reached the climb that Stuart said “looks like Satan” It was another 8% grade but it was one mile long and it was the heat of the day. I was barely rolling up the hill at 4 mph with sweat pouring down my face, the sun beating down on me and black flies swarming around my head. This climb was so hard by the time I reached it at mile 85 that I thought I would puke but I made it to the top and was rewarded with a nice downhill stretch for about two miles and then a couple flats separated by a slight up grade and then I came across my SAG where I cheerfully leapt off my bike and allowed them to pack it up while I stumbled into the car and started eating and drinking everything in sight. We then went to some natural hot springs about 20 yards off the Rio Grande and had a good soak.

And then the next day…I ran a sprint triathlon that I will detail in my next post.


  1. of course, nice ride SB - I rode with a chap for the last 38 of my buck sunday who's going to IMAZ - can't remember his name though - your scenery is much better than the area around Plant City, FL - that's for sure!

  2. Well deserved soak!!!

  3. Good Lord! When I read about another of your monster rides I am once again absolutely in awe!

  4. Wow - you are an Animal on the bike!

    I'm not worthy...I'm not worthy...

  5. Now thats a ride! Ur a hammer!

    Good job, cant wait for the sprint recap!


  6. Nice pics of the Big Bend region.
    Be sure to check out and to find out what is
    going on in the
    West Texas Trans Pecos Big Bend Region.