Should I race 200 miles on my bike? Now two people say I can do it – and they want Lance Armstrong to go 400 miles

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Coach Brant Speed at Pedal Hard Training Center says he’ll help Pam LeBlanc prepare for a 200-mile bike race. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

 

See this man? That’s Brant Speed, coach and general manager at Pedal Hard Training Center, located downstairs at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop.

Speed (talk about a perfect name), along with Andrew Willis, who runs The Driveway Crit Series and also enjoys racing his bicycle halfway across the country (literally), think I can tackle a 200-mile bike race at the end of March.

I’m not so sure about that, but I crave adventure, and this smells like a big one to me.

Andrew Willis, right, is trying to talk Pam LeBlanc, left, into a 200-mile bike race in March. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman
Andrew Willis, right, is trying to talk Pam LeBlanc, left, into a 200-mile bike race in March. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

Frankly, though, I’m scared. The farthest I’ve ever ridden a bike in one sitting is about 110 miles. But I do love to ride. I pedal to work almost every day, and last summer I rode all the way across Iowa. Those 420 miles, though, were spread over seven days, and interspersed with stops for pork chops, slip ‘n slides and beer during the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

Willis wants me to ride 200 miles all at once, kind of like the way he raced from California to Colorado last summer. He says I could do it tomorrow if I wanted, although it would hurt really badly. But if I trained, he says, and mentally prepared for the challenge, he thinks I could finish.

Finishing is the only goal I’d have if I agree to do the Texas RAAM Challenge on March 25.

Cyclists who compete in the race, which starts and finishes in Marble Falls and winds its way all over the Hill Country, choose from 200 or 400 mile distances. (Willis is doing the 400-miler, and is also trying to talk Lance Armstrong into joining him. More on that later.)

Willis sent me to Pedal Hard to visit with Speed, who apparently knows how to whip cyclists into shape. Luckily, I’ve got a good cardio base. I swim five or six days a week and bike to work four or five.

But 200 miles on a bike at once?

No problem, Speed says. I just have to set priorities and get lots of seat time. I’d have to cut down on swim practice, report to a training session at Pedal Hard once a week, and follow his directives on getting two more good rides in each week.

(“You don’t want to burn that engine hot all the time,” he told me after I whined about missing so much swimming. “And it would behoove you to get into a state of uncomfortableness.”

The biggest obstacle for me is my schedule. I travel for work nearly non-stop, and February and March are packed with trips. When would I train?

The good news, according to both Willis and Speed, is that to do a race that might take me 16 or 17 hours doesn’t mean I have to build all the way up to that time or distance. Speed says if I get in a few back-to-back four- or five-hour rides between now and then, along with lots of regular cycling, I can do it. I need to work on nutrition and mental fortitude, too.

So what does Armstrong have to do with all this?

I recently spoke with the former Tour de France cyclist, whose seven wins were stripped after he admitted to doping, for a story I’m writing about another Texan who rode in the tour this year, Lawson Craddock.

Armstrong had taken a hiatus from cycling for about two years, and is just now getting back on the bike. He’s ridden with Craddock a few times, and Willis is pushing him to do the 400-mile version of the 200-mile race I’m thinking of doing.

“Are you going to do it?” I asked Armstrong.

“My first impression is you’re f-ing crazy,” Armstrong told me. “But I just wonder what that’s like. I could ride 200 miles no problem, but after that you’re in no-man’s land.”

Armstrong says he never believed “that tortoise and the hare bullshit they taught us growing up, but it applies there. At 100 miles he’s an hour behind, but he just kind of plods along.”

In other words, Armstrong would have to rein himself in early in the 400-mile ride, in order to finish how he’d like to finish.

“For me the answer is not really, but I’m sort of not totally dismissing it,” Armstrong says of the race. It’ll depend on where he is and what his Spring Break plans with his kids.

In the meantime, Armstrong is enjoying the biking again, and says it’s fun to ride with the younger elite cyclists.

“I’m still strong enough where if we race up a hill they’d kill me, but on a 3- or 4-hour ride I’m right there,” Armstrong says. “What else did you expect from the biggest fraud in the history of the sport?”

Olympians to compete at Pro Swim Series in Austin this weekend

Matt Grevers, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics, will compete at the
Matt Grevers, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics, will compete at USA Swimming’s arena Pro Swim Series this weekend in Austin. Photo by Melissa Lundie-Photography

 

Swim fans, prepare to geek out.

USA Swimming’s arena Pro Swim Series heads to Austin this weekend, and that means a chance to glimpse some top Olympic swimmers in the water.

The three-day, six-session meet runs Friday through Sunday at the Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center at the University of Texas. Daily preliminaries begin at 9 a.m. with finals at 6 p.m.

USA Swimming's arena Pro Series comes to Austin this weekend. The Melissa Lundie Photography
USA Swimming’s arena Pro Swim Series comes to Austin this weekend. The Melissa Lundie Photography

The lineup includes Ryan Held, who won a gold in the 4×100 freestyle relay team at the Rio Olympics, Josh Prenot, who won a silver medal in the breaststroke in Rio, and Amanda Weir, Hali Flickinger and Jacob Pebley, who all competed in the Rio Games.

Also scheduled to race are Matt Grevers, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics, and Austin standout and junior world champion Sean Grieshop. Lisa Bratton, Bethany Galat and Sarah Gibson, all Texas A&M University students and members of the National Team, will race, too.

The meet is the first of five stops of the 2017 arena Pro Swim Series.

For ticket information go here.

Use the code AUSTIN at checkout and get a free ticket for every two tickets you purchase.

Rachel Cooke Memorial Run set for Saturday in Georgetown

Rachel Cooke disappeared while running in Georgetown on Jan. 20, 2002. Family photo
Rachel Cooke disappeared while running in Georgetown on Jan. 20, 2002. Family photo

Organizers of the Rachel Cooke Memorial Run on Saturday will donate profits to the Central Texas Chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The run, set for 8 a.m. Saturday at San Gabriel and Rivery Parks in Georgetown, marks the 15th anniversary of the disappearance of Cooke, who vanished while running in Georgetown on Jan. 10, 2002.

The race was organized by the Georgetown Running Club at the request of Cooke’s mother, Janet. It also serves as a reminder to the running community to be aware of your surroundings while running, organizers said.

Entry fee is $25. For more information go here.

Packet pickup is from 6-8 p.m. today at Rentsch Brewery, 2500 NE Inner Loop in Georgetown, and from 7-7:45 a.m. race day.

A portion of sales at Rentsch Brewery after the event will also be donated to the Central Texas Chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Urban Health Expo set for Saturday at Huston-Tillotson University

Austin Public Health will host an Urban Health Expo Saturday at Huston-Tillotson University. Photo courtesy Public Health
Austin Public Health will host an Urban Health Expo Saturday at Huston-Tillotson University. Photo courtesy Public Health

Austin Public Health will host an Urban Health Expo from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday at Huston-Tillotson University.

Sanya Richards-Ross, shown here at the 2012 Olympic Games, will participate in the Urban Health Expo. Photo by Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman
Sanya Richards-Ross, shown here at the 2012 Olympic Games, will participate in the Urban Health Expo. Photo by Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman

The expo, which will feature fitness demonstrations, cooking classes, panel discussions and yoga, dance and more with celebrity athletes, doctors and trainers, is designed to address systemic helath challenges facing African Americans in Central Texas.

The event is free and open to the public. Huston-Tillotson University is located at 900 Chicon Street.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross, former University of Texas football strength and conditioning coach Jeff “Mad Dog” Madden, and Dr. William Lawson, director of community health at Dell Medical School, will make appearances.

“The Urban Health Expo is an opportunity to begin and showcase our community that there’s an issue and we’re working together to close the gap on health disparities. Whether we’re talking about fitness, wellness or cooking, we as a community need to support each other. It gives me hope and aspiration that we can do that,” Shannon Jones, director of Austin Public Health, said in a pres release.

More than 500 people have registered to attend.

To RSVP, go here.

Check our event listing here.

Cap10K entry fees increase at midnight

Runners head toward Cesar Chavez during the 39th Austin American-Statesman CAP10K race held in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, April 10, 2016.  LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Runners head toward Cesar Chavez during the 39th Austin American-Statesman CAP10K race held in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, April 10, 2016. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Thinking of running the Statesman Capitol 10,000 this year? Sign up now.

Entry fee for the race increases from $35 to $40 at midnight tonight.

The race is set for April 23. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the event, long a spring rite in Central Texas. Runners – some dressed in costume – wind their way up Congress Avenue and through downtown Austin. The race finishes in front of the Long Center, with music and activities.

The Cap10K is the largest 10K run in Texas and the seventh largest in the country.

To register, go here.

Jacob Burzynski heads for mile 5 as Spider Man during the 39th Austin American-Statesman CAP10K race held in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, April 10, 2016.  LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jacob Burzynski heads for mile 5 as Spider Man during the 39th Austin American-Statesman CAP10K race held in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, April 10, 2016. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

I’ve set my New Year’s resolutions, how about you?

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Here’s an early draft of my 2017 New Year’s resolutions. The list changed a little, as you can see below.

 

Welcome to 2017. Did you set your New Year’s resolutions yet?

I’m running behind this year. Maybe time management should top my list.

Last year I hit some of my biggest goals ever. I swam a 200-yard butterfly, without fins. I backpacked 200 miles on the John Muir Trail. I rode a bicycle more than 400 miles across Iowa.

I missed others. I didn’t reduce stress in my life; I increased it. I didn’t do any foot races, because plantar fasciitis kept me sidetracked.

That’s OK. I’ll try again in 2018 with a new set of goals.

I try to cover all areas of my life when I set my yearly goals. I try to keep them attainable and at least some of them measurable. I like variety, too, so I usually include stuff that keeps me healthy and fit, personal goals and something wacky or unusual. (One year I decided I wanted to learn how to make fire using the bow method. Nailed it!)

Here’s this year’s list:

1. SHOOT: I’ve long relied on the auto setting on my camera to get my shots. No more. I’m going to master camera settings and improve my photography skills. And I’m going to get some great night sky shots, too.

2. WRITE A BOOK: I’ve got the subject, and a publisher. Now all I’ve got to do is write my book about J. David Bamberger, a vacuum cleaner salesman turned fried chicken mogul who became one of the state’s foremost ranchland conservationists.

3. BIKE: Plantar fasciitis has kept me from running, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bike. I’ll continue cycling to work, and hopefully compete in an ultra bike race. I’m eyeballing a 200-miler in Marble Falls at the end of March. But I’m scared.

4. EAT RIGHT: More grains, less meat, more vegetables, less junk, more water.

5. CHILL: This one’s always on the list, but this time I mean it. I’m going to reduce stress. My plan calls for more time with my girlfriends and less time worrying about things I can’t control. I’m going to say no to stuff I don’t want to do. Maybe I’ll finally figure out how to sit still. (OK, that’s reaching.)

6. SWIM HARD: We’re going to bring back that 200 fly.

7. THRILL: More adventure, please. (I know, I know.) That means travel, and I’m going to scuba dive, hike, wander, explore and discover new places.

8. LIVE THE LIFE I WANT: This year I resolve to follow my heart, without regrets.

9. EMOTE: My best stories are the ones where I reveal more than just the facts. I vow to write with more emotion in 2017.

10. ENJOY. This one goes without saying, but I’m going to treasure every moment with family and friends. You never know when they’ll be gone.