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SRAAM Cycling Challenge, Marble Falls, TX

March 8, 2014

I signed up for the 120 mile ride (actually 130.2 miles) to challenge myself. They call it a challenge due to the length of the ride and rolling hills (7300+ ft climbing). And the hills were tough, but the real challenge of this ride was staying safe. The weather was awful - rain in the morning - blinding thunderstorms beginning in the early afternoon. But the organizers don't control the weather so I can't fault them for that. Many of the things that they were in control of left much to be desired. First - Signage. The route was not clearly marked. They put up poster signs marking the turns and several of them went missing causing several riders to go off course. I ended up riding 8 miles on a 70 mph highway with no shoulder and hills and turns that limited motor vehicle visibility. I peddled and prayed, and thankfully a Good Samaritan came along and helped me get safely back on course. They gave us cue sheets at the start but those are virtually useless while riding. We depend on the route being properly marked. This route should have been marked on the pavement as with signs. Second - Traffic Control. There was none. This was an expensive ride, probably the most expensive 1 day ride of the season and I still can't figure out where the money went. Besides the police car that led us out, we were on our own for the remainder of the day and left to cross some very dangerous highways, which was made even more difficult given the blinding rain and cars driving at 70-80 miles per hour without headlights. I waited sometimes more than 5 minutes to cross. Very scary! Third - The Route. The route was downright scary at times. It went through a construction zone in Fredricksburg requiring us to ride over several unpaved. streets. But that was downright pleasant compared to the 3.1 mile unpaved hilly stretch in the middle of nowhere. Think of the worst construction zone you've ever seen where the street was completely torn up and multiply that by 3. It was really that bad. My fingers went numb and are still numb from riding over that. I have no idea how I didn't get a flat. And I'm certain had something happened I wouldn't have had any cell phone reception. I prayed A LOT while on that stretch. In addition, the route finished up by taking us on a major highway for several miles. Again no shoulder, high speed traffic, and blinding rain. Not a good combination. Fourth - Rest Stops. I skipped the first and stopped at the rest. The volunteers at 2-4 were very helpful and there were plenty of snacks and drinks. They did, however, need more bananas. It was a small ride so I'm not sure how they didn't have enough (did I mention how expensive the ride was?). By the time I got to the last rest stop (hours before course closure) the volunteer had already left. But at least he/she left the supplies out.
Now for the positive. Packet pick up was easy. They gave out a basic t-shirt, a car decal, water bottle, and finisher medal to participants. The organizers were easily reached by phone and great about quickly picking up riders that called it quits for various reasons, but mostly the weather.
It was a long day and the scariest ride of my life - not one I'll repeat any time soon nor would I recommend it unless some major changes are made.