Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekend Away

This past weekend my wife (Darcy) and I finally scheduled a getaway weekend to celebrate our anniversary--which is in April!--but at least we did get away for a bit. I did squeeze in a weekend bike ride of just over 30 miles (when did that start to seem like a short ride to me???) while she finished off a few items of her own, and then we were off for the weekend.

We were staying at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston and this was a nice, though not overly fancy hotel. (It was definitely worth much more than the $60/night we paid on Priceline!) Here's a picture from our 21st floor room.
It even turned out that the University of Houston football team was at the Hyatt before their late game Saturday night. We did a little minor sight-seeing and shopping in the downtown area and then headed to Minute Maid Park to see the Astros game. Unfortunately, the Astros have not been doing very well this year and this game was no different as they lost 10-4. However, we still had a good time. We sat in the front row of the outfield upper deck and felt close to the game. Unfortunately, my camera battery died after just one photo of the Home Run Gas Pump in the outfield so I didn't get any photos of some of the interesting aspects of the game or stadium.

One of the good things was that the game started early and ended early enough to have time to do more.

We hop on the return shuttle to the Hyatt and catch the early part of the University of Houston-Texas Tech football game for a bit. We then decided we were hungry and did a bit of downtown exploration in the area, finding a few nice restaurants and clubs open. Not feeling quite in a club mood tonight, we get some Mexican food and sit near the bar and watch the middle part of the UH-Tech football game, which is a very good game; even though Tech was leading when we left the UH Cougars had just scored and were just 1 point behind. We walked back to our hotel while exploring a small outdoor mall in that local area and then back to the hotel again. We continue to watch the football game until just after midnight, when my UH Cougars pull off their second straight big victory by beating Texas Tech 29-28!

Then Sunday, we sleep in and spend a restful day in Houston doing a whole lot of nothing, I go out to grab a light breakfast to bring back to the room. We leave Houston and head to Old Town Spring on the way home. We grab lunch at the Wunsche Brothers Cafe, a rebuilt cafe from the old railroad days of the area.

For lunch I order the German sausage sandwich, which was covered in a mountain of sauerkraut, and Darcy orders the cheeseburger, and we share a basket of onion rings.

Following lunch we walk around a Lone Star Rod Run event in the Old Town Spring area and look at a number of interesting vehicles in various stages of restoration.

Afterwards, we head home after spending a nice weekend together, something we really don't do quite often enough.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009 Tour de Cure - Houston

Tour de Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in 43 states nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association. The Tour is a ride, not a race, with routes designed for everyone from the occasional rider to the experienced cyclist. Whether participants ride 10 miles or 100 miles*, they will travel a route supported from start to finish with rest stops, food to fuel the journey and fans to cheer them on!
Last year, more than 40,000 cyclists in 80 Tour events raised nearly $17 million to support the mission of the ADA: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

This weekend I participated in the Houston Tour de Cure Event in the Katy area, well west of Houston. We started out at 8AM and I finished just before noon. Unfortunately the 64 mile course was shortened by a few miles due to a late detour because of a bridge out of service for repair, so the course was shortened to somewhere between 59 and 60 miles, but I won't complain too much about that.
The weather was great--it was overcast with a slight breeze (and occasionally a decent headwind!) and then temps probably never got over the low 80 range during the ride period. Ride support was great and fortunately I never needed assistance, but I saw the trucks frequently all over the course. I stopped at 3 of the 5 aid stations so that added about 15 - 20 minutes to my total time, but I was more in training mode than racing mode. Along the way I struck up several conversations with fellow riders, including with one woman who lives in my immediate area (which is about an 80 minute drive from the event). The route started way west of Houston and we spent more time in farmland areas than in "civilization", there were areas with more cows than traffic and more feed stores than fast food restaurants. All in all it was successful event and I was also happy to exceed my fundraising goal and raised $300 for the event by race day. The only downside for me was that I forgot to bring my camera and my cellphone photos really didn't quite come out right in the lower light of the overcast day.

This was also likely going to be my longest tune-up ride for next month's Longhorn Half Ironman 70.3 event because of scheduling issues, although I will get several more rides in the 35 - 45 mile range in. All in all I found this ride to a successful training ride and while I would have ridden a bit faster and made less stops in a race or even a hard training ride, I still rode at a pace that met my minimum race goal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just Keep Moving...

Lately it seems everyone is doing something more productive than me. I've got friends going to Disneyland, I've got friends at Disneyworld, I've got friends in the Austin Triathlon...and I am just training. I suppose I should be glad I just have a goal.

I have continued to ramp up my training for the October 25th Longhorn Half-Ironman in Austin. I have swam the 1.2 mile distance twice now. So far my longest bike ride still falls a few miles short of equalling the 56 mile half-iron bike distance, but I plan to fix that this weekend by riding the 60 mile option in the Tour de Cure bike ride for the American Diabetes Association. The 13.1 mile run distance has never seemed an issue to me as I have many times done that distance or greater. My main issue is putting them together on the same day, which is obviously the big challenge of the triathlon. While I am not completely sure that I am ready right now for the half-iron distance, I am quite sure that come October 25 I will be!

Today has also been a bit of a somber day for me. Today would have been the 21st birthday of my daughter Amanda's friend (and a long-time family friend) Allison , about whom I wrote previously. I did manage to go spend a bit of time to talk with Allison's mother today and tried to remember Allison in other ways as well. In some ways I am still shaken by this event (and it seems tears are not too far away when I dwell upon it), and while there is nothing I can do about it I know my daughter still hurts terribly over this, and probably always will in some way. If you have children at home, hug them one more time today just because you can (and you may not always be able to!).

(Final Note: As I was proofing this post, a Taylor Swift song came on the radio. The ever present reminder that Allison and Amanda were on the way to a Taylor swift concert at the time the were hit by the other vehicle, and the same song that was playing when I first knew that Allison was not going to survive.)