Anne and I met Alan and Maria at the Northwest corner of the TI parking lot on Spring Creek. We biked over to the start which was at the north side of the John Clark stadium (where its always been held) between Spring Creek Parkway and Legacy Drive. We met up with Don and D'ann Hunt there. Alan and Maria headed off to get in the starting group for the 28 mile ride (they had a wedding to go to in the afternoon and didn't have the time to do any longer ride). Anne, D'ann, Don, and I got in line at the back of the 65 mile group (front of the 40 mile group). Anne and I hadn't decided yet whether to do the 65 mile or the 40 mile. It would be the first time doing 65 miles since we did 72 miles in North Carolina last year. The 40 mile and 65 mile went the same route north for about the first 17 miles then the 40 milers split off heading east then south back to the finish line, while the 65 milers continued north (later to turn east then south where it ran straight south back to the finish line).
The weather was _absolutely_beautiful_ with light northwesterly winds, temperatures in the 60s early, climbing to the 70s later, and big puffy clouds giving nice shade off-and-on during the ride. I don't think it got out of the 70s the whole trip. The temp and wind direction/speed were very, very unusual for this part of Texas at this time of year! Usually we get temps in the upper 80s/lower 90s and strong south winds. A strong south wind would have forced us into the 40 mile course so we wouldn't have to head straight south into the wind for the last 25 miles (that just kills me!). A northwest wind forced us to deal with it early on while we were fresh with the prospects of a smooth sail south with the wind to our backs.
There were about 3000 people at the ride this year, a very respectable number. The organizers (Volunteer Center of Collin County) did a fantastic job of coordinating the rest stops and providing sag support on the ride. They had a motorcycle club that rode continuously over the route. We saw them all over the place helping people, phoning in for support, etc. It was very nice.
We started at about 8:00am after the tandem riders (they always go first). We rode with D'ann and Don and the first 17 miles were fairly easy since the wind was still light. Don and D'ann peeled off at Rock Hill Road heading east. D'ann helped to coordinate the 20 mile Rest Stop that the 40 milers would run into on the 40 mile route from there and just _had_ to bike over and say hello to all the volunteers. Anne and I decided to continue north on the 65 mile route.
The wind started picking up slowly and by the time we got to the turn east it was probably 15-20 mph from the northwest. We were very glad to turn right and get away from that headwind! To this point the ride was very flat. On turning east the map showed "Hills" and sure enough there were some rolling hills that started here. But they weren't so bad. We headed over to highway 75 then turned south, wind to our back. It was great! We got to visit the "Big Brothers" on the southbound route. These are two large hills (steep, but not very long), on the access road to 75. Then at the 50 mile point the "Three Sisters" which are 3 steep hills that we were already familiar with. Funny thing though, by then we had biked 50 miles and our sense of time had stretched out. The Big Brothers were steep but went quickly behind us, and ditto for the Three Sisters. I remember them being much worse, but after biking such a long way, they just didn't seem so bad.
When we arrived at the finish line (at about 1:30pm) we found most people had gone, most of the food booths were closed up, and the festivities were almost completely wound down. Bummer. We biked back to the car and headed home (for a nice long nap! Boy did that feel good!).
This was my best ride so far. The weather probably contributed more to this feeling than anything else, although it is very nice doing an organized ride over roads that I already knew.
Here are my lasting impressions: