I got out of bed this morning at 5am to get ready and drive an hour and 20 minutes north of Houston, to Huntsville, for their annual ‘Raven’s Revenge‘ bike ride. It’s a fairly popular ride that attracts a lot of people from Houston and the surrounding areas. Plus, it’s a recommended ride for those gearing up for the MS150, like we are! This was my first big organized group ride, and I loved it. I’m definitely going to be doing this more often – especially when it’s only $35 to register for most of these large rides.
I’d estimate roughly 400 people were there which is a pretty fabulous turnout. Could have been more, could have been less, it’s hard to judge just by looking at the number of cars parked in a mall parking lot on a Saturday morning. I started almost at the front of the pack, so I couldn’t make an estimate just looking at the people lined up at the start. There was a little pomp and circumstance to begin the ride, as there always is; the pledge, national anthem, some pep talks and thanks from ride organizers, and then they shot of a cannon to signal GO!
It’s unfortunate the weather didn’t cooperate as well as it could have. The skies were suicide grey all day, and while I only got drizzled on for about 10 minutes and the roads were mostly dry, there was still the threat of rain at any moment. The temp was in the upper 50s by mid morning, but a chilly breeze was blowing on and off. It’s too bad too because the scenery would have been magnificent had there been sun and blue skies. As it was, the scenery was pretty great despite the gloom. The routes took riders through Sam Houston National Forest, Huntsville State Park, and across Lake Conroe. Riding through the woods was wonderful.
There were five different routes riders could take: 10, 20, 33, 41, and 61 miles. I went for the 41 miles – a distance I’ve been doing on my own recreational/training rides in George Bush Park near home. I completed the course in a little less than three hours, rest stops included. It wasn’t a race, so time didn’t matter, but I like to keep track.
Houston is flat. Huntsville is not. There were hills. Lots of hills. In fact I don’t think I rode on level ground for more than 20% of the entire ride. And I’m OK with that. It’s just that I haven’t done hills since moving from Knoxville. So I just set a pace and went. The best part about going up hills is coming down them, and there was plenty of that. I’ll admit though, I could definitely use some hills for training better around here because while they didn’t beat me up terribly, I definitely could have felt better.
All in all, I had a great time. It was a great feeling crossing the finish line, even if it wasn’t a marathon or some ridiculously long and arduous journey. For me, it was satisfying to finish my first ride in a normal amount of time and not be the last one out on the course. Met some great people, too. I’d like to thank all the awesome volunteers that helped organize and put on the ride. Including the Sheriffs and other locals who helped stop traffic at intersections when cyclists were approaching. And especially the super nice folks who ran the rest stops. You’re the best. Thanks for all your help! Bike folk are the best folk. Looking forward to the next big ride.
The Tour de Houston is this coming weekend. Bring it on!