It’s the middle of the long Thanksgiving weekend, a time when most of us will eat more than we should and then waddle over occasionally from the table to the couch to watch other people exercise on TV. It’s all well and fine to take a break from your fitness regime and to spend some time with friends and family. But, just as a gentle reminder of the work in the gym and on the road that hopefully awaits you when the holiday season is over, here’s a quick survey of some past and present wacko fitness challenges for the energized weekend warrior that lurks in all of us (unfortunately, buried at the moment under way too much turkey and gravy).

Why Don’t We Do it in a…Cave?

The Natural Bridge Caverns Dualthlon is the only event I know of that starts and finishes in a cave. This event actually occurred on November 20th, and was apparently quite a hoot. I had some co-workers do the 2 mile run + 15 mile bike ride + 2 mile run, and they had a great time. Here’s a report from Angelina:

This was the 2nd annual race and my 2nd participation as well. Total participation went from 220 to 360 so the word is getting out about this unique event which is the ONLY event in the world to start in a cave. There are 4 races, with different run and bike distances, and all start 600 ft in the belly of Natural Bridge Caverns. The start was a time trial start with an athlete starting every 5-8 seconds. There were a few no pass zones and switchbacks uphill in the cave where only walking was allowed. Running them meant automatic DQ!
I chose the Cave bear again since it’s shorter than the others but still tough! The cave part was tough since the out part was very steep. It felt like someone was sucking the wind out of you! Both runs were on a caliche road so you had to watch your footing or you’d sporting scrapes and blood for the rest of the race. The first run wasn’t too bad since you still had some spring in your step. Although the bike course was advertised as 15.5 miles, my odometer read 15.75 miles. It was tough with all the hills out on the course with the one coming back to the park on FM 3009 the toughest. Once off the bike for the final run the legs were wobbly and they made us run down stairs – talk about cruel! Traversing through the caliche road REALLY became a challenge. It felt like my legs were made of lead. I almost tripped twice but managed to avoid it. Whew! I was able to defend my title from last year and placed 2nd female overall and 1st in the masters division (those over 40 yrs old) with a total time of 1:28:05 and 13th overall.

Wow – I get pumped just reading this description. Definitely put this one on the calendar for next year! And register early – I’m sure the word is getting out about this unique challenge.

Santa Claus is Running to Town

Next Saturday, December 3rd, is the first ever Santa 5K in San Antonio, an event that lets you get into the Christmas spirit by running a 5K through McAllister Park dressed as Santa (all registered runners get a suit). This event raises money for cancer research at the incredible MD Anderson center in Houston, and is being organized by some great folks who I’ve been cruiser biking with for years. NOTE: I won’t be running this event this year because I was asked by event organizers to play some funky Christmas tunes at the start and finish via my alter ego, DJ Vanilla Thunder.

Discover your inner Kris Kringle on December 3rd!

The Thrilla as a Gorilla

The Austin Gorilla Run will be held on January 21, 2012. It is a fundraiser for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, but more importantly, it’s also a great opportunity for you to run a 5K in the middle of winter dressed as a gorilla. I signed up for it last year because I planned on being in Austin any way that day. It was amazing to see all the runners dressed as gorillas (many with highly accessorized costumes) and then to wander downtown Austin in the same garb afterwards to take advantage of all the drink specials offered to runners.

Runners channeling Flavor Flav approaching the finish line

Wheely at the start of the 2011 Gorilla Run

Let’s Get Lifted!

The 27th Annual San Antonio Tower Climb and Run will be held on February, 25th, 2012. This unique event allows you to run a quick mile through Hemisfair Park, and then scale the 952 steps and 58 stories of San Antonio’s iconic Tower of the Americas. It’s a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis, and gives you a great fitness goal to start the new year out with. I’ve done the event 4 times now, and I still get goosebumps when I think about entering the stairwell with my heart pounding and my adrenalin gushing, knowing the effort it will take to get to the top.

Valero volunteers and climbers at the 2011 Tower Climb

You know you want to climb this puppy!

Playing in the Dirt

Finally, the Muddy Mayhem is coming to San Antonio on April 12, 2012. This is one of many different events popping up on the calendar let you get your cardio on and play in the dirt. This year they are planning more mud and more obstacles then ever. It’s a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a truly great cause. I have not done this one, but I think I’ll get shamed into doing it this year.

Posted by: wheelywonka | November 10, 2011

Wheelless Wonka is a Fitness Fraud

…Here it is, the Thursday before the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, and I’ve finally made my peace with the fact that, at least in 2011, I’m a fitness fraud. Yes, like the Emperor and clothes, Milli Vanilli and singing, and Governor Perry and short term memory, I am an imposter. As much as I tried to psych myself up for training and then participating in the half marathon, in the end I just couldn’t do it. In years past, I eagerly looked forward to each training run, and challenged myself to increase the distance each time, adding two to three miles each week. I ran light and joyfully, grooving on the incredible beats of an artfully selected playlist designed to motivate me to run faster and faster. And, when the day arrived, I truly savored the marathon course that snaked through downtown San Antonio and the surrounding neighborhoods like Monte Vista and King Williams, appreciating the rich cultural tapestry that is our city, and the ageless beauty of some of our buildings and public squares. (In fact, it was the marathon and the way it showcases the city that helped convince Debbie and I to move downtown…)

Well, here in my 49th year, a year of huge transitions – both personally and professionally – it was not meant to be. Instead of running the half marathon, I’ll be going to the beach and spending a quiet weekend with family. I’ll be reading books from the Amazon lending library on the Kindle, and remaining at a low cardio ebb the whole time. As I’ve documented in this blog, I’ve had ample opportunities to train in the last month, and have avoided each and every one of them. I could get up early Sunday, lace up the sneakers, and try to make it happen, but in the end, I’d probably injure myself and be miserable during the holidays. Part of getting older is a deeper understanding of who you are, and at the moment, I’m not a guy who is going to run a marathon.

I tip my hat to those of you who have made the commitment to train for this incredible event. You will not be disappointed. I really wish I would be with you Sunday morning, running the streets and neighborhoods of the city that I love and call home.

But, there’s always next year.

Posted by: wheelywonka | November 2, 2011

The Worst Place in the World to Train for a Half Marathon

Well, with less than two weeks remaining until the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, I’ve just returned from a week in North Carolina, including 4 days in Asheville, which I have come to conclude is the absolute worst place in the world to prepare for a running a half marathon, particularly if you are a fan of craft beer like I am.  The reason why?  Well, Asheville is to beer what Napa is to wine – i.e., a veritable Mecca for aficionados of the frothy liquid.   In fact, Asheville was picked the top beer city in all of America for the third year in a row according to Beer City USA, beating out such illustrious grain beverage towns (and personal favorites) as Ft. Collins and Portland.   I went on this trip fully intending to run daily in the crisp mountain air, enjoying the fall foilage while enhancing my aerobic capacity at the higher altitude.  Well, this did not happen.  There was something compelling in the endless sunsets and brilliant fall colors in Asheville that lured me like a siren song to places such as the Thirsty Monk, the Pisgah Brewing Company, the Wedge Brewing Company, and finally the Green Man Brewery – each a cornocopia of dazzling craft brews and funky DIY ambience, and each compelling me to sit and drink for a while.  And, when I wasn’t on the town visiting these amazing places, I was enjoying ales from the Highland Brewing Company on the porch of the Grove Park Inn, enjoying the endless sunsets and misty mountain vistas.

…Well, after a couple days of this, it was time to return home and face the stark reality that I’m either ready for the R&R or I’m not.   I’ll go out running a few times over the next few days, and after that I need to make the command decision – am I ready to do this thang, or do I do the sensible thing and back out and avoid the risk of serious injury.  Hmmm, a question indeed worth pondering as I think back whistfully on my time in beertopia…

Here are a few photos for your enjoyment!

Enjoying the Highland Gaelic Ale at the Grove Park Inn Great Bar

In the Pisgah tasting room

Enjoying an IPA at the Green Man

The Thirsty Monk, now officially my second favorite Belgium beer bar

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 24, 2011

Three Events in Downtown San Antonio that Make Me Love This City

D and I recently completed a move we’ve planned for many years.  This involved selling our large home in suburbia and moving to a downtown condo as soon as the last of our children headed off to college.  We’ve always loved the urban lifestyle, going back to the days when she went to graduate school in New Jersey and I worked at a bank on Wall Street.   I know not everyone shares this opinion, but I’m convinced man is a social being, and we reach our apogee as a species participating in the vibrant, flash mob events only found in our greatest cities.  In other words, we were not engineered to sit alone on a couch with 3D glasses on watching Shrek 15…  Well, San Antonio’s downtown has a long way to go to catch up with New York and London, but there’s a groundswell of energy and effort to make it more than just a collection of chain hotels and tacky tourist traps surrounding the Alamo.   We’ve been downtown full time for approximately three months now, and to celebrate, I’ll describe three events that occurred downtown this weekend that make me love this city more each passing day.  Each event occurred in and around HemisFair Park, which has some much potential to be the heart of the city, if they just added a little more green space to it (more on this in a later W2 blog).

A Run Along the Riverwalk

The first event was a 8 mile training ride I did on Saturday morning.  I still harbor ambitions of running the half in the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon coming up in November, although there are many distractions along the way (such as D renting a condo at the beach during race weekend…).  I left our building, ran past the fountains at the base of the Tower of the Americas and through the park, and then on to that gorgeous, peaceful section of the Riverwalk south of downtown that winds through King Williams to Blue Star.  At Blue Star, I got on the new Mission Reach, and ran past the old Lone Star Brewery into the heart of the South Side.  The recent rains have restored a green to the Riverbanks such that it almost feels like a second Spring.     At the 4 mile mark, I turned around and retraced my steps, watching the skyline of downtown become larger and larger the closer I got.  It was an incredible run, although I admit I did fade at the end and my legs felt like rubber for the rest of the day.

Route from my morning run along the Riverwalk captured by my Garmin

Light the Night

On Saturday night, I volunteered to be the event photographer for the volunteers from my company who were participating in the Light the Night event.  This event attacts 10,000 people to raise money and awareness for cancer research.  The illuminations along the route really emphasized the theme.

Walkers under the arch at the Light the Night event

Illuminated shapes at the base of the Tower

Dog dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow

Zombies at the Alamo

Finally, on Sunday night D and I were walking our dog when we stumbled across thousands of folks dressed as zombies marching from the HemisFair arch to Alamo plaza.  After D and the dog returned home, I hopped on my bike and pedaled through a sea of zombies for about an hour.  Lots of cheap fun, my friends!

Zombies at the Alamo!

Perfect slogan for our times

Great weekend to be downtown.  3 weeks until the Marathon!

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 16, 2011

Lessons Learned from Two Days on the Open Road

I just finished riding 130 miles over two days during the 2011 Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River.   I’m a little sore and tired from the experience, but I’ll try to summarize the lessons I learned from this experience before I pass out for the evening.  As a result, this will be an uncharacterisically short blog.

  1. A few weeks ago I wrote about flipping the switch ala the Kobe-Shaq Lakers.  The premise was that I was so experienced at these bike rides that I could just show up with little or no training, and then ride fast and hard with the hammerheads and not feel any ill effects afterwards.  Well, this did not go according to plan.  There were moments over the last two days where I felt some real pain, and questioned whether I could pedal any further.  It was sheer will and determination, plus some oversized ego, that kept me going.
  2. The Wounded Warriors team started both days, and what they do puts my tiny efforts into perspective.  These war veterans with a variety of injuries ride the same course as the rest of us do, but it requires so much more effort and perseverance for them to particicpate and finish.  Their focus, camaraderie, and patriotism is truly inspiring.
  3. My father-in-law Stan rode 103 miles over two days.  This was his 5th year to ride the event, which I know now is something he truly enjoys.  At age 73, the fact that he is still healthy enough and energetic enough to do this is nothing short of amazing.  (The fact that he trains largely on a diet of beer and venison jerky is even more amazing.)
  4. I had some mechanical difficulties at mile 10 of Day 2, which forced me to drop out of a blistering pace line that was blasting across that sweet, smooth pavement on 46 between New braunfels and Seguine.  It took me 20 minutes to find and install a replacement tire, and by then I was trapped at Rest Stop 1 for 30 minutes while the event coordinators were waiting for a dangerous fog to lift along the route.  This forced me into the absolute end of the pack, where the slowest riders were and closer to the turtle than I’ve ever been.  (NOTE:  The turtle is the last SAG wagon that trails the last rider in an event.)   After years of riding closer to the front of the pack, it was refreshing to be around folks who struggled mightily to complete the event.  They did so for a number of reasons – poor equipment, lack of experience, not part of a team, just getting serious about fitness, etc.  Despite this, they all had a fierce determination to pedal every mile in the event that was truly inspiring to see.  I tip my hat to everyone who accepts the challenge of one of these rides, regardless of how long it takes them to finish.  I know I’m paraphrasing – I’m too tired to look up the actual quote – but it’s important for a person’s reach to exceed his or her grasp, because that’s what a heaven is for.  This applies to all things big and small.
  5. More than anything, it is the comraderie on the road that attracts me to cycling.  Saturday night after the team dinner I enjoyed some contraband <insert name of island>  cigars with JT (aka, the Punisher) and JH (aka, Brown Sugar), teammates and friends I’ve been on countless rides with.   As the smoke and the banter swirled between us, it made me realize (again) how much I enjoyed being on one of these rides.
  6. Finally, all along the route there were folks who had multiple sclerosis.  Some of them were in wheel chairs at the rest stops and the start/finish lines, some of them were actually riding in the event.  All of them were so genuinely appreciative of the money that the event was raising, money that one day will find a cure for this disease.  It is the hope of this that has insipred me to ride in this event for 11 years now, and despite how bad my muscles ache tonight, it is the hope that is inspiring me to take advantage of that $10 early bird special to sign up for the 2012 ride…

Wounded Warriors at the start of the Ride to the River

With 73-year-old Stan, who pedaled a very respectable 100 miles over two days, and a had the time of his life doing so

Well, that’s it.  Need to rest a day or so, then begin training in earnest for the Rock and Roll Marathon on 11/13 – just a month away.   I think I’m going to have to train harder for this then I did this weekend’s bike ride – there is no such thing as flipping a switch when it comes to serious fitness, my friends.

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 9, 2011

A Voice From God Inspiring Me On the Open Road

…On Saturday morning I joined the Velo Valero cycling team for 50 miles of rolling farmland on the eastside of town.  This ride was important because it was the final tune-up before the Ride to the River next week.  I woke up at 5:30 am, went on the balcony and immediately saw that it was raining. The slacker voice in me whispered, “Good.  You don’t have to do the ride today…”   To which the uptight white guy in me quickly responded, “WRONG ANSWER PILGRIM!  YOU NEED TO GET OUT THERE AND RIDE REGARDLESS OF THE WEATHER.  I EXPECT TO SEE YOUR BUTT ON YOUR BIKE REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THERE IS A MONSOON, TSUNAMI, OR HURRICANE!”  (Just to ensure I offend everyone with this blog, I like to think of Mr. Slacker as the Irish side of me, and Mr. Uptight as the German side, since I am one of those mutts who gets his lineage right down the middle from both of those fine drinking cultures…)

Then there was a third voice.  This was the voice of my wife D, who just wanted me to get out of bed and out of the house so she could sleep in peace a little longer.  She was in no mood for compromise so I geared up and hit the road for Judson High School.  I drove beneath dark clouds and through intermittent rain for 15 minutes, and Mr. Slacker once again began whispering, “Turn around.  Or, even better, stop and get a cream filled donut…”  I resisted this siren song, and made it to Judson.  There was a small but dedicated group there, led by (of course) the legendary John Tenison, aka “The Punisher”.  JT has led more Velo Valero training rides than anyone, and is a dedicated cyclist who fears no hill, no chip seal, and no stinkin’ intermittent rain.  Since this was one of the few team training rides I’ve participated in this season, there was the usual round of “Who are you?” and “What are you doing here?” and “Who’s the new guy?” and “You look just like a guy who used to ride with us named Peter…” and on and on in an endless wave of good-natured barbs.   Well, the ride starts and we separate into two groups.  The Punisher is leading a fast pod on a 70 miler, which I know I’m not ready for.  There is a second group that will be doing a slower 50, and I’m sure I can handle that, although my longest ride of the year so far has been liesurely 35 with frequent stops.    The first part of the ride is quite enjoyable, heading east by myself on Lower Seguin with the wind at my right, savoring the gently rolling farmland, and not encountering any dogs (yet).  I regroup with the 50 milers at one point, and we ride south to New Berlin together, where some of the riders partake in the legendary breakfast tacos at Brietzke Cafe.  While we are there, the staff puts a few of their even more legendary pies on the counter to let them cool, and I have to sit downwind from them, trying not to think about their confectionary goodness so I can focus on the rest of the ride.

Sinfully sweet and sumptuous pies at Brietzke Cafe

Yes, the ride.  We take off as a group south on 775 towards La Vernia into a fierce and unrelenting headwind.  I participate in a two person paceline with DK for a bit until at one point I look back and there’s no one there.  I’m on my own, 30 miles from the start, with the winds of Thor blasting into my grill, and on my longest ride of the year.  The odds are not good, my friends.   Well, fortunately, there was one more voice crooning to me over the earbuds encouraging me to continue, and more importantly, encouraging me to live large and be in the moment.  This was the voice of the English singer Adele, who has been at the center of my workout playlists all year.  I know saying that the girl can sing is to demonstrate a firm grasp of the obvious, but it’s more than that.  When I hear that deep and monumental voice of hers on songs like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”, I experience something timeless and eternal, something so real and visceral and so completely human, that I cannot help but feel wide awake and truly alive.   With Adele wailing away on the buds, I make it to La Vernia, and then turn west and north for the remaining part of the ride.  The wind is at my back, and the Cannondale and I are just tearing up the incredibly smooth pavement and wide shoulders of  1346 and 1604.  I average 18 mph all the way back to  Judson and get into the car right before the rain starts in earnest.   Felt real strong at the end, and truly enjoyed being back in the saddle with the team.

The Ride to the River is next weekend.   Will spend the week working out lightly (if at all), hydrating, and carb loading (the right kind of carbs, of course).  See you on the road!!

Owner of a voice that moves mountains

P.S. Thanks Adele, for inspiring me once again.  I hope your throat heals soon and you continue to make such raw and uncompromising music.  When you resume your tour, I’ll be in the audience somewhere, waving the flashlight app on my iPhone and drowning in your sweet voice.

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 2, 2011

Tales from the Fitness War Zone

One of the biggest challenges of staying in shape is trying to do so while traveling extensively. This has been such a year for me. Between work and kids at out-of-town/state colleges, I have been on the road a lot. The key is that you have to carve out time In your schedule and make fitness a priority. With both the Ride to the River and the Rock and Roll Marathon looming in the next few months, I have no option.

In the last few years my exercise of choice while on the road has been running. All you need is your shoes, your shorts, and a good sense of direction, and you should be able to get in some well-needed miles. In the last two years, I’ve had some amazing runs in the mountains of Colorado and North Carolina, along with downtown Chicago on election morning 2008, using this approach. The risks are of course that you may get lost. The other risk is that you may run into a part of town where a middle-aged jogger listening to the Clash on his iPod is not appreciated. This happened to me in London this summer, when I decided to head east on a run from Westferry Circus, versus my usual westerly run towards central London. It was dusk, and soon I couldn’t make out any street signs from all the graffiti. And, before I knew it, I was being chased by a large group of heavily-inked ne’er-do-wells. I raced back to the hotel as quickly as I could, more than likely setting a PB in the process.

Another challenge is the cheap hotel fitness center. If you stay in five star hotels all the time, you can count on a well equipped and clean fitness center. But if you are married to someone who likes to play Hotels.com roulette, you never know what you might get. Like, for example, this morning, The fact that the toilet in the room stopped working and the front desk said they currently don’t have a maintenance person on staff should have been a clue. I head downstairs, and am directed to a room in the back with no sign out front indicating it is indeed a fitness center. I enter, and have to pass through a sea of damaged desk chairs and cracked television screens. When I get to the fitness center, the light doesn’t work. Using the flashlight app on my iPhone, I see three pieces of workout gear which haven’t seen the cleansing touch of a disinfectant wipe in more than likely never. Well, you gotta do what you gotta do. I get on the treadmill, and feel like I’m riding a mechanical bull, because it speeds up and slows down, and the incline shifts wildly, even though I have it set to manual mode. I don’t even want to talk about the stationary bike. In the end, I got my 45 minutes of morning cardio, which was all I could ask for. Afterwards, I quickly ran upstairs and took a very long and very hot shower.

See you on the road!!! The Ride to the River is only two weeks away….

20111002-070828.jpg
Good thing you can’t smell this through the Internet…

Well, after an amazing 8+ months of 2011, which included so many major life milestones, I find myself one month away from the 2011 Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River and two months away from the 2011 San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, and I’m asking myself – can I do like Kobe and the Lakers and just flip the switch? Other than a few events at the beginning of the year, I haven’t done any organized runs or rides, plus I have done little or no training. There was always something else to do – a choir concert, a graduation, an Eagle Court of Honor, moving to our new place, a trip to the West Coast to see V, traveling overseas for work, etc. – that was something other than getting up early to drive an hour to a ride start, or to lace up the sneakers at the crack of dawn to get a run in. And, I always had the excuse this summer (along with everyone else in San Antonio) that is was just too damn hot to do anything. Well, after more than a decade of making these events a high priority in my life, I feel like such a slacker now. So, the question is – can I get it together in the next 4 and 8 weeks, get my game on, and flip the switch. It’s debatable whether Kobe can do it anymore, and to be quite honest, I’m not Kobe. And, if the Black Mamba can’t do it anymore, can I?

Well, my goals are much more modest than winning the NBA Championship. As always, I want to challenge myself by participating in these events, and I need to force myself to endure the discipline and sacrifice of training to be successful. I also want to enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow amateur athletes, and the wonder that is the great outdoors of Texas. Finally, I want to reap the benefits of lower body fat and the higher energy levels and mental alertness that come from whipping this middle-aged body back into shape.

This, friends, is something I can do. I rode the bike 35 miles on Saturday, and then ran 4 miles on Sunday. This was after hitting the gym at the office every day last week. And it felt good – I can’t wait until tomorrow when I can get back into the gym. I’m way behind where I’m normally at this time, but hey, there’s nothing I can do about that now – it’s time to flip my admittedly humble switch.

See you on the road – again!

The Black Mamba

The Mamba prepares to flip the switch in the fourth quarter of yet another game where the opponent doesn't even see it coming

According to the GeoBytes City Distance Tool, the cities of San Francisco, California, and London, England, are approximately 5363 miles apart.  They are quite literally on opposite sides of this little blue ball we call earth.  Well, I was fortunate to spend time in both of these cities this summer, one week in Frisco on vacation, and two weeks plus in London for work.  I was fortunate for two reasons.   The first is that both of these cities are wonderfully cool during this time of the year – nights in the 50s, and days in the high 70s or (at most) the low 80s.  (It was Mark Twain who famously said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.)   After enduring the record-setting Texas inferno this summer, this was quite refreshing.  (In fact, I’ve had a hard time adjusting since I’ve gotten back.  Went running for a couple of miles during lunch the other day, and felt like someone was stabbing my lungs with a red-hot poker.)

The other reason I was fortunate to visit these cities is more in alignment with the whole theme of this blog – i.e., Wheely Wonka and his avid love of cycling.    In the city by the bay, I rented a bike from the Blazing Saddles bike rental company,  and pedaled across the Golden Gate Bridge.  This was an amazing experience – high above the water, shrouded in fog, actually quite cold until the sun appeared on the “rainbow side” of the bridge near Marin County.   I then pedaled through Sausalito and into the hills north of the John Muir Forest, where I laid down in the ferns and stared up at the oldest living things on the planet, those amazing, regal redwood trees.   I then turned around, rode around the bay into Tiburon, and then onto a ferry for a ride back to the city.  The sun was setting, bathing that awesome bridge in stunning shades of orange, as I drank an Anchor Steam (or two?) and rested peacefully after one of the most amazing bike rides I have ever been on.

Ready to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

A few weeks later I was on the other side of the world in London.  I worked all week the first week I was there, which was not a bad thing, because we had rain each day.  By the weekend I was anxious to see some of the city.  The weather gods cooperated by providing a clear, warm day on Sunday.  I rented a bike from the Barclays Bike Share program, and proceeded to spend three hours riding through all the parks in Central London – St. James, Hyde, Regis, etc.    The Barclay system is so massive – 6000 bikes, 400 docking stations, open 24 hours a day – that it boggles the mind and makes the San Antonio B-Share system (as wonderful as it is) feel like training wheels.   Also, the city of London has wonderful bike lanes, plentiful and well-marked – in fact, painted a different color than the roads for cars to make them easier to spot.   They even have a series of bike “superhighways” to allow you to safely travel from one end of town to another without having to interact too much with the cars, buses,and taxis.   I enjoyed this thoroughly, but did get caught in one roundabout near Hyde Park where I had to go around and around, fearing for my life, convinced a double-decker bus would flatten me like the midwest, but somehow I found a gap and darted through it to safety.  All in all, a great cycling experience, and one I would not hesitate to do again.

Posing near Big Bend in Central London

Tomorrow if the spirit moves me, I’ll get up early and join Velo Valero for a training ride.  There’s only 70 days until the Ride to the River, and I need to get back on the road!
Posted by: wheelywonka | February 24, 2011

Going Vertical – The Return of Wheely Wonka!

…Well, my last post was 11/14, which also happened to be when I completed the half in the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon.   W2 has done a lot of traveling during this time, including:  the Blue Ridge Parkway during the fall colors, New Years on Beal Street in Memphis, and a recent trip to visit colleges in Ohio which ended in a brutal encounter with an ice/snow storm that I’d rather forget for now…  But, the reason there have been no Wonka posts is that my physical activity was kept pretty much to a minimum.  Just enough stretching, yoga, cycling, and running to stay in 5K shape, but nothing beyond that.   (There was that Austin Gorilla Run in January, but I’ll save that for a future post…)

Well, it’s time to end my hibernation, and get back into the mix.  This Saturday is the 26th Annual San Antonio Tower Climb, an event I’ll be participating in for the fourth time.    This fitness challenge requires you to run a mile, then climb the 952 steps and 58 stories to the top of San Antonio’s iconic downtown landmark, the Tower of the Americas.  I started doing this event a few years ago because, quite  frankly, I had a fear of heights I wanted to confront, and I also wanted to support an event that occurred in San Antonio’s historic downtown.   (It’s also a fundrasier for a great cause, finding a cure for cystic fibrosis…)  Now, I treat the climb as the official start of my fitness season, which includes major cycling events like the San Antonio Tour de Cure and the Ride to the River, and ends with the downtown marathon in November.  I’ll keep this short for now – I’ll have plenty of photos and stories from the climb this weekend.

See you on the road (and in the stairwell!).

Beautiful view of the Tower of the Americas shrouded in fog

Photo from last year's climb, right as I reached the top of the climb

Runners Dressed Like Jedi Knights during the 2009 Climb

Feeling spry at the top during the 2010 climb

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