Team Big Cat was not much of anything a week prior to the race, and it was a strange email from Mike that introduced the race to me and asked that I help find some strong riders to help complete the team. Scramble time! I immediately went to my teammates on Team BSR, as well as my old training partner, and to one of my athletes. My requests fell on deaf ears or were refused based on conflicts, so I went back to Mike with a note that did not express confidence in fielding a team. After some further haranguing (and some great work on Mike’s part), I managed to convince Big Sexy himself to join us, even though he was planning to race the 3M Half Marathon the following day (pushing a double-wide stroller no less!). Mike pulled in Kat and Patrick and so Team Big (Sexy) Cat was born with 72 hours to the race.

The Race Around Austin is a first year race inspired by prior years’ Ultra Provocatorios (read the 2011, 2012, 2013 ATC race reports), though RAA is more along the lines of a scavenger hunt. We were given three secret locations (which were revealed the night before the race) that we had to check into as a team and then make our way back to the start/finish point at Austin Tri-Cyclist Barton Springs. We had the option to check into locations in any order that we decided, which made the race quite a strategy event as well as one of physical endurance. The total distance to get to the three points was estimated to be 85-90 or so miles, so it was not going to be an easy race. The ATC Racing women’s team organized it all, and they did an amazing job with the logistics, the checkpoints, food, and other support. Thanks y’all!

The night before the race, our team met at ATC to get the location details and work out our strategy. As Big Sexy and I bantered and let the others do the planning and thinking, a plan emerged that had us go to the point in Cedar Park first, then southeast to the point near the Driveway, and then finally southwest to the third point in Buda. We all left to get our last meal and sleep, and it hit me that with the wind and the way the city was designed, that it made more sense to go east to the Driveway, northeast to Cedar Park, and then south to the Buda-ish point. My reasoning was to take advantage of the good cross route across the city (and my knowledge of the midtown routes), as well as ride with a cross-headwind from the Driveway to Cedar Park. From Cedar Park to the southerly point, we had a strong tailwind that would help us on the longest segment. From there, it was mainly downhill to the finish on Barton Springs Road.

The final plan agreed, we set a time to meet in the morning and all chat ceased. The next morning found lovely, if brisk, weather and loads of teams at ATC. For some reason, I failed to estimate with any accuracy how many people would be keen to do this race and so it looked like our Triathlete/Cyclist/Old Guy team structure might not have been the best compared to the proper cycling teams. Our team was the fifth or sixth team to start (each team started with a three-minute interval). Since our team had distinct neighborhood knowledge by each person we naturally let the most knowledgeable lead, so Kat and Patrick got us moving east to the first point. One of the first things I noticed was how hard we accelerated after every stop (which were many as we crossed the city on two segments), and it gave me pause to wonder just how the hell my non-sprinting legs would feel later in the day.

Our route was pretty straightforward, and we only had one misdirection catch us out after leaving the first checkpoint. We also had two punctures over the course of the day, which was surprising considering we were riding on roads that had seen lots of rain in the prior days and weeks. Getting to the second checkpoint was my area of knowledge, so I took the team on a cross-city meander that had them all wondering if I had lost my mind. Once onto Anderson Mill, we got into a bit of a paceline and quickly made our way to point 2. From there it was a long journey south and for me a point where the legs were definitely feeling the work and the accelerations. Patrick, too, was beginning to show his limits and so the group became a bit less fluid as we worked our way over the hills of 360 and further south into areas I had never seen. Kat and Chris kept us on the right path with no further stoppage and the final point was found a bit quicker than I anticipated. From there it was a short downhill run back into the city to the finish, and loads of Saturday afternoon traffic to greet us.

Rolling into ATC at the end was a great feeling, and I remember being struck by how much fun the overall day was, despite the challenges of the punctures or directional moments. I definitely plan to do this race again in the future. The idea is a really great one—it fosters exploration of the city, and it was very well supported by sponsors.

 

 

 

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