Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tour de Pink 2014

Teams are a big part of the Tour de Pink. This is the team my wife and I rode for, the University of Texas Medical School, Houston (UT). From left to right is the zombie himself (team member by marriage), his wife (faculty at UT), our team captain (faculty at UT), and two UT graduate students. Not shown due to late arrival is the sixth member of the team, another faculty member. All teams, including ours, vary in size year to year. This was one of our smaller years. And yet, we were just about in the middle of all the teams in the amount of money raised.

This is the fourth year my wife and I have ridden the Tour de Pink, a ride that, besides being a delight to ride, supports an excellent charity. I have written about the Tour de Pink twice before, in 2012 and 2013, and I won't repeat myself in this post, so refer to those earlier posts if you'd like additional information about this ride. At least over the four years we have been riding, the ride changes very little year to year, the routes for the various distances are exactly the same for example.

My son and daughter in law are visiting us. My son was ill and was unable to join the ride, but my daughter in law grabbed her bike, joined us, and completed the 63 miles with no training. What a champ!

I had been aware of the Tour de Pink for some time because Baylor College of Medicine, where I worked, was a major participant. I could have ridden it as early as 2008, and don't really know why it took me until 2011 to finally do so. For that first year, my wife and I didn't do any special training for the ride. Our weekly long ride was usually in the 35 to 40 mile range, so we figured 47 miles was well within our grasp as it proved to be. In 2012, we set our sights on the next distance up, 63 miles, and were well trained for that distance when life intervened at the last minute, limiting us to a 12 mile ride. In 2013, we were finally able to train for and complete a 63 mile ride. My wife was beat by the end, not due to lack of training, but due to the heat. She resolved that, in future years, she would not try any of the longer routes, but work on riding faster so she could finish earlier in the day, thus beating the heat. That turned out to be a non-issue this year; the weather was delightfully cool, staying between 60 and 70 degrees for most of the ride. Should we have tried for a longer ride? That would require longer training rides, and although we were lucky and had cool weather on ride day, most of our training rides were done under extremely hot and humid conditions, discouraging us from making them too long. Our longest training ride this year was 48 miles, and with that as a base, my wife was able to complete 63 miles at a personal best average speed of 14.5 miles per hour. However, by the end, she was ready to finish; I do not think it would have been wise for us to try for a longer ride this year, even with the perfect weather.

As the sun rises to the right of the next picture, we begin the ride in the same way as the past three years, with the Star Spangled Banner and the riders released longest riders first.

This is the start of the race with the start marked with the same display I have shown in prior years. My wife is Team GPCR (an esoteric scientific reference that delighted her teammates), I am in front and to the right of her, looking to the right, and the woman hidden in shadows with no bike is the "starter" for the 63 mile group.

Last year, I raved about the mini-sausages at Pit Stop #5, but had not gotten a picture of them. This is remedied this year, in the next picture, which also shows some of the other treats.

Whenever a lot of people gather in public places to do something, there is a natural tension between the worthiness of the activity and the enthusiasm of the participants and the tendency for such a large group to be a bit of a disruption. People living near the pit stops are not, in general, delighted to have bicycles dumped on their lawns. This year for the first time the organizers addressed this problem by providing bike racks of a novel design. The bike is supported by hanging either the handlebars or seat over the cross bar. This completely solved the problem, no more loose bikes on neighborhood lawns.

My daughter in law, exasperated at having her picture taken. I actually am including this picture not to exasperate her but to show the bike racks.

The next picture shows me and my wife at the finish. The tents in the background is where lunch was served. You can also see the tables provided for eating lunch.

Every year a goodie bag is provided. Constant each year is a water bottle and a T-shirt, with the rest of the ingredients varying from year to year. In my opinion, the contents this year were the best ever. Among them were not one but two blinkie-lights, shown below. Since everybody was given them, and since assembly began before dawn, the vast array of blinking lights was truly awesome!

Events can be fun because they are completely novel, or because they are friendly and familiar. Tour de Pink definitely falls into the latter category. By and large, the route is great, with wide shoulders, low traffic, and pleasant scenery. By now, I pretty much know where I am at any point along the route, and how far it is to the next pit stop. And best of all, I am starting to know enough of the regulars that I have a set of old friends to greet here and there along the way. Stay tuned for my report on the 2015 edition of Tour de Pink.

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