Maggie Rusch

Professional Triathlete

128 Miles.

I expected yesterday to be a lot harder than it was. Turns out, I would much rather ride around on two wheels for nearly eight hours than spend the same amount of time sitting in a car or cubicle. Yep, 128-miles, seven-and-a-half hours and a few wrong turns later, we finished the "Loop Around Lake Travis", put on by Austin's local awareness/education group "Be Kind to Cyclists"—and I absolutely loved every second of it. IMG_3316 - Version 2

The only hitch was that due to a local triathlon, we ended up taking a route that had nothing to do with Lake Travis. Instead, it was 124-miles of farmland, empty fields and lots and lots of cattle grates. But it was awesome. Despite the fact that my wheels came off around mile 120 and I totally crashed (figuratively—not literally), the entire day can only be summed up in one word: EPIC.

We started off bright and early at Texas Cyclesport, down south of Austin. As a recent 'car-crash survivor', I had come across "Be Kind to Cyclists" during my recovery and this ride was one of the rides I signed up for as motivation for training since my early race season has been completely thrown out of whack. Starting off the day, I rode with some of the 60-miler group, hung out with a pack from the local "Doughboys" group for a few miles after the 60-milers turned right, managed to lose my flat kit and favorite bike tool across a hilly water crossing and then caught up with some triathletes training for IMTX to close out the day. And absolutely loved every minute of it.

It's funny looking back because so many people talk about wanting to "throw their bike into the bushes" or just wanting start the run when hitting mile X of a long ride but there was never a single point of the day yesterday when I hated being on my bike. Sure, I got a little loopy at times and, at my lowest, it was like a lame SNL skit gone bad out there in the Texas farmland, but I was always excited to be tackling such a new challenge and new distance threshold. And tackling hills... lots and lots of hills:

IMG_3321 - Version 2[hint: if you're at mile 105 of a 125-mile day after hoofing up a terrible incline and the terrain is not downhill from there, never tell riders 'it's all downhill from here']

In one quote, "it's like the climbing never stopped."

Some folks I work with asked for a "race report" but the day just seemed to blend into one long adventure: from starting out D.F.L. of the entire crew with a rubbing brake to riding with some of the local ladies groups from Austin early on. Then the early morning rain and mist gave way to the sun peeking through the clouds and my expensive Neutrogena "100 SPF water- and sweat-proof" sunscreen smearing off with the elements, treating me to a killer sunburn and raccoon eyes. My lower back and legs were unusually achy around mile 40 but then at some point halfway through I got a second wind that seemed to last until mile 120. At mile 75, I took a wrong turn and started down the 85-mile loop, before realizing that had in fact taken a wrong turn and so I made the gutsy decision to turn-around and continue trucking down the longer path. Like I mentioned on twitter, it was less "getting lost" than "bonus miles" for a more even 128 miles on the day.

On the back half of one of the loops, the roads were completely bordered with wildflowers. I wish I had thought to stop and take a photo but the roads were flanked with nothing but the brightest yellows and blues and purples of Texas wildflowers in April—it was really beautiful to ride through and nothing like I had experienced before.

At some point when riding alone, I passed a cast of vultures and wondered whether it was another rider who didn't make it (JK - it was a poor little deer):

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Earlier in the day, I accidentally dropped my cue sheet and then my iPhone maps app had no clue where I was thanks to the country roads that we were riding. The route even went through about two bumpy miles of gravel and dirt road, which was absolutely excruciating on my still-recovering collarbone. Thankfully I was riding solo at that point because there were lots of "OWs" and curses streaming from my mouth. Around mile 115, I thought I was lost again but then a SAG wagon rolled by out of nowhere and asked if I was okay. They pointed me in the right direction so I continued on.

The volunteers were amazing and it was cool to ride with SAG behind us on some of the more congested roads... though in reality about 90% of the ride was done of lonesome country roads where you were hopping over cattle grates every 5-miles and riding alongside cows and wildflowers. I really have no clue where we were for most of the day.

And then we finished! Long but amazing day of riding:

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I think Texas Cyclesport and Be Kind to Cyclists are going to put on another similar ride this fall—if you're in the area, I would highly recommend. Alvaro, the starter of "Be Kind to Cyclists" is awesome and I enjoyed talking with him after the ride... plus, it's an all-around fantastic cause. I liked them on facebook and you can too. :)

The amazing thing is that I didn't feel that terrible the next day! I went for a little swim at the quarry this morning, treated myself to a massage (first ever since starting triathlon, so over 2+ years... long time coming) and almost wish I had gotten back out on my bike again today. What a great weekend for triathlon. 551461_4754085409456_1500234132_n

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