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Shiner G.A.S.P. 2014 Recap

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2014 at 6:46 AM

don't avoid the hills, another lesson in running, as in life.

No recipe today.


Instead, I will share my experiences riding the Shiner G.A.S.P: The Great Austin the Shiner Pedal.

(double gasp!)

I imagine this may not interest those here for the recipes, but I felt it was important to sprinkle my thoughts about the ride.

I have spoken a lot about training for this ride. It is a 100-mile (officially 101.19 miles but it was longer than that) bike ride from Austin to Shiner, Texas. The half-GASP is 50-miles and begins at the half-way point to Shiner. I can’t remember whether I already mentioned how we found out about it. While standing in line at IKEA, during our first days in Houston (we needed some furniture!), we chatted with some strangers behind us in line, and they told us about other cycling rides in the area, including the Shiner GASP. The draw was the (free!) beer at the end from the Spoetzl Brewery. We decided to ride this during the winter, when the price was still very low. In fact, the high fundraising costs of the MS 150 turned us off, and we gravitated to a more low-key event. For each of us, it was $35 for the ride and $25 for the bus ride back. A bone fide bargain for such a well-supported ride.

Because we were only told that this was a hilly and windy course, we didn’t really know what to expect with our flat terrain training in Houston. I read previous recaps, with participants stating:

This course was going to be challenging because of the sheer number of inclines and hills (Esmeralda said she stopped counting at 23 last year), and the wind that it was famous for.  source

The next 25 miles were brutal. I don’t even think I can fully describe how mentally and physically broken I was in this last quarter of the ride. source

At about mile 83, we passed over I-10, and a sign read “Shiner 19.” I was happy to be in the home stretch, but also thinking, “crap, I have 19 more miles!” Of course these were the hilliest and hardest miles of them all. I lost close to a mile per hour of speed, and I think I was talking out loud to myself, possibly even cursing. Hey, whatever it takes. source

Winds were out of the SSE about 15-20 ALL DAY, with some gusts closer to 25-30. And the last 10 miles, you turn from Moulton onto 95 straight south into Shiner – and directly into head winds. source

People even complained about the road conditions:

The roads were of wildly varying quality. The roads around Austin, Shiner, and some of the bigger towns along the way were nice and smooth, but a lot of the ones in between were chip-seal. source

I watched the weather forecast. I knew it would be a hot and windy day (33C/92F), with winds from the south-east up to 20 mph, opposing us most of the way. I honestly thought we wouldn’t be able to make it. The previous reviews were making this seem like terror on a stick.

Although I told myself: I am a stronger cyclist this year. I have done a couple imperial centuries before (and many metric centuries). I can do this. If nothing else, these reviews show that there could also be people suffering as much as me. It will be ok.

hills: do them

I will get to the punchline for those not interested in the details: This was a great ride. My anxieties were exaggerated. It was a wonderfully well-supported and fun ride. I am so glad I did it. We would not hesitate to do it again if we still lived here.

I don’t know how many cyclists did it this year but they were capped at 2000 riders. I’d venture maybe 1600-1800 people took to the roads.

It was a fun and crowded start at 7 am but the rest stops were well placed and well stocked. The rest rooms were busy at the beginning but it tapered as the crowds thinned out. I had my fill of fruits (bananas moreso than oranges), protein bars, water, electrolyte juice, peanuts, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, pretzels, cookies, etc. They even had sunscreen and bandaids. There were 7 rest stops in total, with three in the first half and spaced closer together towards the end. There was a well-deserved (but short) stop with only 10 miles left. Usually one would just breeze right through, but I knew the hardest part would be at the end.

The terrain was not as difficult as advertised. The hills were rolling, and quite continuous, but nothing too steep. The wind made it more challenging but sometimes we caught a tailwind. Flying effortlessly at 46 km/h on a flat is such a fun experience, even moreso than flying downhill for me. Rob thinks we had more crosswinds than headwinds, but I think he just forgot about the headwinds.

Rob and I stuck together the whole time and most riders seemed to be solo or small disorganized groups. The organized groups were perhaps faster than us! People were riding all kinds of bikes, some hybrids, some without clippy shoes, some even without baskets if no clippy shoes. I make no judgment because that was me. My first double (imperial) century ride was on my hybrid bicycle and no fancy shoes or baskets. You have to start somewhere. This ride actually reminded me of that ride to Cornwall, although I think Cornwall was more flat. I kept telling myself that this would be easier than Rideau Lakes since that is 172 km each day.

In fact,the worse part was that this was advertised as a 100-mile/160-km ride and it was over 165 km on my odometer by the time we finished. Those last 5-10 km were the hardest as it was mostly a long and windy (ie, with wind) uphill without any fun downhills to recover. There were people manning nearly every intersection and when the police woman told us the end was just around the corner, we were almost there, it made me so happy.

We rolled in at 3:45 pm, with around 6 hours and 45 minutes of biking time. (We obviously took a lot of breaks!). We were greeted by cheers and a participatory medal. Then we joined the party. There were showers if we wanted to get cleaned up but the only thing I wanted to change were my shoes. Next, we found some drinks (sadly the Kombucha booth had packed up already, boo) and chowed down on veggie burgers with sauerkraut and mustard. We found a picnic table under the shade and chatted with some other riders. A few hours later, we loaded our bikes and took the bus back to Austin. As we left, a bit after 5 pm, riders were still cycling in. They were greeted by everyone giving them a round of applause. Hurrah for them!

They had threatened to pick up riders if they had not cycled 90 miles by 3pm (depending on the wind), but I am not sure whether they did that. I knew there were too many riders behind me to threaten to pick me up due to being too slow!! 🙂

In short, I had a blast. For the beginner-intermediate cyclist, I think this is a great route. Highly recommended.

The cycling doesn’t end, though. In a month, I will cycling Rideau Lakes again with my Dad.

I promise some new treats later this week. 🙂

Note: Hills photos via here. If you know the original source, please let me credit the artist.

PS. You can find another 2014 Shiner recap here.

Introducing Vegansprout

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2013 at 7:24 AM

I don’t know about you, but one reason I started my blog was to chronicle the good and bad in my kitchen. What worked and what didn’t work. What I liked and what could use some work.

When I started my blog almost 4 years ago, I was a flexitarian, consuming occasional fish and rarely meat. Gradually, I ate more vegetarian meals and eventually switched to an entirely vegan diet and later it morphed to be plant-based vegan. During that transition, I branched out to different sources to figure out what vegan meals were all about and it was then that I looked at vegan cookbooks and scoured reviews for suggested recipes. If I wanted this to work, I wanted to make sure I was eating flavourful foods. I didn’t want to waste expensive ingredients or risk having no food to eat, either. Which recipes should I try first?

This was how I met Allison, who enjoys reviewing her way through recipes as much as me. Over the past year, she and her husband have been working on a very neat website: Vegansprout. I urge you to check it out and contribute. In short, it is a website which compiles reviews of all things vegan. There are the cookbooks (129 right now) AND recipes (yes, Allison typed up the individual recipes from all the cookbooks) as expected, but also other vegan products like pantry items, drinks, chocolate, beauty products like lip balm, etc.

What should you make first from Appetite for Reduction? Want to know what is good to buy from Trader Joe’s? What is your favourite flavour of Mary’s Gone Crackers? Your favourite Yogi tea?

When I first went vegan, I was worried about milk substitutes. The soy milk Rob typically bought was terrible and I was concerned nothing would taste good. Someone told to try them all out until I found something that I enjoyed. At the beginning, because there were so many choices, it felt overwhelming. However, it worked out in the long-run because now I know what I like. Having a website like Vegansprout facilitates the review process: it is organized and you can find what others recommend, as well.

So why am I highlighting the website? There is power in numbers. Add in your thoughts. Let others know what you think. Save others from buying Natura soy milk and suggest your favourite, in turn.

Enough from me, though. I thought I would ask Allison some questions about her (totally free) website. Read the rest of this entry »