Tag Archives: experiences

Race Car Day

I had the opportunity to do something pretty special on Sunday morning using the Christmas IMG_1814present my wife got me this last year. I got to spend some time at Texas Motor Speedway that culminated with an 8 minute drive in an “Indy style” open wheel race car with the Mario Andretti Racing Experience. That’s right, a drive, not a ride or a watch, a drive in a 2,200 lb, 465 hp, 150+ mph race car.  It was an incredible experience, the kind of thing you dream of as a boy, certainly one of those bucket list thingy’s.

After a week of storms, it was a beautiful sunny blue sky morning here in north Texas. I got to the track nice and early for my 10 am session. At the check in they assign you a pager & give you a racing suit. Shortly after 10 am we drivers were escorted to our safety briefing, using the same room that the pro drivers have their briefings at the track (kind of cool). After some basic introductions we had to watch a video & then our host gave us some more instructions and answered any questions. Oddly enough, despite the instructions being very clear, there were still a lot of people asking questions, especially about passing. The rule was simple, pass only on the back straight & only when your race coordinator gave you the green light, break this rule & they send you home, immediately. Pretty simple, but there were a bunch of what ifs etc, oh well.

After the briefing we went back to the pit lane & were given a review of what we had just been told. It might seem like overkill to some, but I was grateful that they were emphasizing the rules. These are open wheel race cars, any mistakes and someone could really get hurt, nobody wants that to happen After that we were free to mill around, I had plans to drop a couple of items off at the car & look around, but almost immediately my pager went off notifying me that it was my time to drive. I had to hurry back up the hill & get in line, where I got my earbuds for the radio comms and my helmet, then it was time to wait for a car. With a helmet on and a race suit over my clothes it was pretty warm in the hot spring sun, nerves were kicking in & I could tell the adrenaline was ready to flow. It seemed like I waited a good while there, but I’m sure it was probably only a few minutes. Half the time was spent wondering which of the cars I would get to go in, every one of them had a different livery, red, blue, white, silver & black.

Before long I was called & was taken to a beautiful British Racing Green car, quite fitting if I do say so. Once in position and bucked in I checked to make sure the steering wheel was secure and made sure I was comfortable with the pedal locations. Then it was time to wait, again it seemed like an age, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t. I was grateful for the wait though as it helped to calm the nerves a little & gave me time to make sure I was as comfortable as possible with what was about to happen.

Soon it was time to go, I pushed the clutch all the way down & the guy on an atv got me rolling for my jump start. The guy on the radio did a great job of letting me know when to go & where to position myself. Once you exit the pit lane you have to take turns 1 & 2 on the apron (the flat parts at the bottom of the track) before joining the track on the back straight. Lap 1 is taken fairly slow, making sure you have the lines down & letting your car coach easily guide you if you need it, lap 2 is a little quicker & by the time I was half way through lap 3 I was given that glorious instruction of go as fast as you feel comfortable with.

The car felt great, they are fortunately single speed so there is no need to shift gears, the slick tires & aerodynamics are so efficient that there is genuinely no need to lift off the gas at any point on the track. There was a point after I was trying to get the speed up that I had to consciously remind myself to trust the car & the guy on the radio, after that I was good to go. When you hit the corners, with 24 degree banking at TMS, you can feel the car really sit into it and the air presses it into the track. I did my best to get the lines right, the biggest challenge was finding the sweet spot with the accelerator. With no visual cues & so much noise, it was tricky to get a read of when you were about to hit the rev limiter, I hit it several times, but also had a few laps where it felt like I got it just right, holding it as fast as I could get the car to go. After my checkered flag lap I brought the car back to the pit lane, entering the apron on the back straight & going slowly around turns 3 & 4.

IMG_18298 minutes does not sound like much time to drive, but honestly it was about perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I could have gladly gone for 30+, but I got a really good taste for it. By the time I was back, my hands were shaking from adrenaline & I don’t think I’ve ever been as thirsty in my life! At the end of the session, you are given a certificate with the top speed that you reached printed on it. I achieved 164.4 mph, a huge grin & some memories that will last a life time.

 

 

I worked up a pretty good sweat in just 8 minutes

IMG_1837

 

My certified time

If you want to watch, here is my session:

The slow down at around 4:30 was because I couldn’t hear the instructor, he was just telling me I was doing well lol

I only got to pass one other car, that was at around the 6:50 mark

 

The first car to go by is one of the 2 seat ride along cars, the 2nd is one of the 1 seta cars I got to drive

 

Someone else in the car I got to drive

 

Advertisements

Christmas Light Flight

So you never win anything huh? Yeah me too, until earlier this week that is. I got an email on Monday from one of my vendors letting me know that a colleague and I had won their Christmas promotion. After getting over the initial disbelief I started to get rather excited, you see I though that the prize was rather cool. The prize was a nighttime flight on an ex-military C-47 (DC-3 in civilian terms) over Fort Worth to see Christmas lights from the air.

We were booked on the last flight of the season which was on Thursday night, I wasn’t sure if any lights would still be there to see but I needn’t have worried. We had an 1830 departure from Fort Worth Meacham and those of you familiar with modern aviation will be extremely jealous of the approx. 10 second check in process.

The walk from the terminal to the plane was not too long, it was a little chilly though. We had a quick briefing in a second building (terminal?). Once we got through that is was out to the plane. I’m going to try and remember what we were told about the plane, not guarantees on accuracy, or even if they were telling the truth.

IMG_5304This particular plane was commissioned by TWA around 1940, they never took delivery of the plane as is was diverted to the military to be used as a transit plane in World War 2. Once the war was over the plane was acquired by Delta and operated as a domestic passenger carrier for many years. Once Delta were done with it, apparently it was sold to the Mexican government and was used by the President of Mexico as his “air force one”, he made some changes to the window configuration having some wide windows put in at the front and back to increase the viewable area. After its time in Mexico it served time with a sky dive company and some other owners before coming into its present ownership. The current owners painted it back to its WWII origins and changed the windows out so there are gun holes in them (I’m assuming El Presidente didn’t have hole sin his windows).

IMG_5316Once we had taken some photos outside it was time to board. The incline to get up the cabin was quite steep, the whole thing felt like we were getting involved in some Indiana Jones adventure. There is no heating on the plane and the window holes I was anticipating and chilly flight. Once the propellers were fired up I could feel the wind from them if I put my hand to the hole. The noise wasn’t too bad as we taxied towards take off. However once the engines were running at takeoff speed, they were deafening.  The ear protectors sat on all the seats made sense very quickly, my skull was vibrating it was so loud.

Take off was quick and incident free and then then we were in the air, free to move around the plane & photograph whatever we wanted. The vibrations made good shots tricky, but with a lot of shooting I managed a few. The view was spectacular, from downtown Fort Worth, to rush hour traffic , to the cities in general and of course the Christmas lights, it was simply magnificent.

 

All too quickly the trip was over, it was only around a 30 minute flight, but it was a 30 minute flight that will last long in the memory. It was an incredible experience, one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys flying.

 

 

Hotter n Hell 2013

Ok, so I wrote this about a month ago & then forgot to post it, so here is my account of a very long bike ride. Strange side note, I’ve not go on by bike since that day, I need to rectify that soon!

 

August 24 2013 I rode 102 miles on my bicycle in the name of , well, it seemed like a good idea at the time J

 

I had intended to write about this before, but apparently I keep forgetting.

 

The event is the Hotter n Hell 100, it is held annually in Wichita Falls, TX. It is the largest organized bike ride in the USA & if there is a bigger one anywhere else in the world, well, let me know because I want to go.

The day started early, my alarm went off at 03:30, I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before, partly because I hadn’t slept well the entire month of August & partly because I never sleep well when I know I have to get up early & go somewhere, it’s a really annoying trait that I have no control over.

The drive from my house to the ride was exactly 100 miles & completely uneventful. They had reworked the check in process from when I rode previously in 2010 & it was quick & smooth. I was back in my car at 0600 trying to eat cold spaghetti for breakfast, not easy but it was a good choice!

The official number of entrants in this year’s ride was 11,196. Over eleven thousand people on bikes, I told you it was big. Like the check in, they reworked the start & it was much more efficient than when I rode the 100 km ride in 2010. They had the riders divided by distance & for the 100 milers estimated ride time. They then held each wave a few minutes so that when it was time to go, you could actually ride instead of walking with the bike for 10 minutes like I had to in 2010.

After the pleasantly smooth start I got comfortable & tagged on the back of a line or riders working their way through the crowd.  This went well for about 7 miles until I saw the first wreck of the day. Some poor guy looked in a bad way on his side. Cops & paramedics were in attendance & everyone was very respectful 7 responsible getting around it. Unfortunately this decimated the line I was on & so I was making my own way for a while. Somewhere at around 20 miles I latch onto the back of a couple of guys & over the next 18 miles that turned into quite the line, we were averaging around 25 mph which made for some great progress.

Prior to the ride I was more than a little concern about my ability to complete the full 100 miles, my preparation had been ok, but not as good as I had intended. So when at 30 miles in I felt stronger than I ever have on one of these rides I was pretty happy.

The group I was riding with kept going strong, unfortunately at around mile 38 after we had made the turn back east, I couldn’t hold the pace anymore. We were headed very slightly uphill & had a wind coming at us out of the southeast, it wasn’t by much, maybe 1 mph but they started to slowly pull away from me. I could have stepped on the pedals & kept up for a while, but this was mile 38 of 102, this was not about keeping up, even if their draft made riding easier, this was about leg preservation for the task ahead.

I took my first rest stop at around 55 miles in, which is the longest I’ve gone without a break. I was out of liquids at this point & also needed to stretch my legs. The rest stop was great, well stocked with food & drinks, iced watermelon is especially good on a bike ride. The folks manning the rest stop were really friendly too, its little things like that that can really make a difference to your ride experience.

Soon it was time to get going again, the sun was coming up strong, but it wasn’t too hot (yet). The next 20 miles were fairly uneventful, I should have written this closer to the ride so I could have been more details. I do recall that my left knee was painfully stiff when I started pedaling again, fortunately that was only brief. By my next stop at 75 miles I really felt like I was on a long ride, I felt good, but the thought of another 27 miles, or more importantly, 2 hours more riding, was a little daunting.

I left the pleasant shade of the rest stop & headed out again, by mile 80 I was feeling pretty tired, the heat was getting up there and I could not get comfortable on my bike anymore.  Pushing on, but fidgeting on the bike so much that I kept losing momentum. I decided to stop at the next rest stop just to get my head right. I forced myself to drink some pickle juice too, I can’t stand the stuff but it is supposed to be the best thing for cramps which I felt starting to creep in. I hated it, but it did the job. I set out once more determined just to survive to the end.

By this time in the day the sun was high & hot, my speed was dropping & I was doing constant calculations in my mind as to how much more time I had to ride base don various average speed scenarios. You could say that I was ready to be done. One of the most difficult points was at 90 miles, you would think that would have been a good milestone, but realizing that I’d gone 90 miles & there were still 12 to go was rough. The ride is supposed to be 100 miles, but I had researched it in advance & from what I saw I actually thought it was going to be 103.

By mile 95 I was running on instinct alone, my legs were shredded & I was so hot, it felt like my neck was swelling. I knew I could finish the ride, but it was going to be hell doing it, there was no way I was about to quit though. I had gone straight through the last rest stop, not wanting to delay finishing any more. However at mile 96 was the final rest stop, I decided to stop just to try & cool off. They had some paper towels that were being stored in ice water, I grabbed a few, put them on my head & around my neck.  I only stopped for 5 minutes, but they were 5 of the smarted minutes of my life.

I set back out for the final 6 miles & I felt like a new man, my core temp must have gone through the roof because having cooled off I was flying again. I could barely get up to 15mph before I stopped, now I was up over 20 again. It was going great, I was flying towards the finish & then while we were going up a bridge on the highway to get into downtown, my chain dropped. I had to get off to free it up again, ordinarily I can do it on the move, but this was uphill & 100 miles into the ride, my brain was going slow. So that sucked, but it could have been worse. I quickly got going again & then finally crossed the finishing line, completely & utterly exhausted.

The finish line area is crazy. Once you cross the line you are given you medal, there are photographers there & a mass of people trying to sell you things. Food vendors beers stands all kinds of things, you can make a day of it if you want to. Personally all I wanted to do was get back to my car, I didn’t want to eat, I certainly didn’t want a beer & I didn’t want to be around people anymore. Once I got back to the care, I put the bike up, did some stretching & then sat in glorious air conditioning drinking my recovery drink. When I called my wife to let her know I was still alive, my speech was so slurred she could have been forgiven for thinking I’d been drinking the whole time, not bike riding. After 20+ minutes of cooling off, gathering myself & deciding if I was ready to eat or not (I wasn’t), I headed home, 100 more miles, this time in the car, but still, when are they going to invent teleportation?

All in all it was a great event, I met the challenge I set myself, crossed this off the bucket list & although it was monstrously difficult towards the end, I really enjoyed myself. Will I ride it again next year? That depends on how my cycling season goes. I will never ride this again in the condition I was this year, which is pretty good condition! I will only attempt 100 miles again if I have really prepared for it & if I am confident of finishing in 5.5 hours or less. It is not the distance that got to me so much as the amount of time it took to do it. I didn’t need anything to give me anymore respect for pro cyclists than I already have, but the notion that they would do that ride, literally twice as fast as I did, then be able to hit a sprint finish at speed that I can only get close to on a downhill with a tail wind, really just blows my mind. It’s probably a good thing I move freight for a living, not ride a bike.

 

 

Full stats from the Hotter N Hell 100. Without doubt the most difficult physical undertaking for a single day in my life.

Distance: 102.04 mi
Total Time: 6:26:00
Moving Time: 5:43:49
Avg Moving Speed: 17.8 mph
Max Speed: 32.0 mph
Avg Speed: 15.9 mph

Calories: 3,266 C
Avg HR: 153 bpm
Max HR: 172 bpm

Elevation Gain: 1,385 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,375 ft
Min Elevation: 881 ft
Max Elevation: 1,199 ft

Avg Temperature: 87.8 °F
Min Temperature: 68.0 °F
Max Temperature: 114.8 °F – pretty sure this is not accurate, it just felt like it, my Garmin must have felt the same way I did

 

HHH Start

 

HHH Elev HHH HR HHH temp HHH timing 2 HHH Timing

Brad Paisley

Saturday July 27th, I (we) finally got to see Brad Paisley in concert. I say finally because this is the 3rd time we have had tickets to see him, but the first time we have actually seen him. He usually plays at the Fair Park amphitheatre (it changes its sponsored name every 3 days it seems like) when he comes to Dallas, it’s an ok venue but could do with a serious refurbishment. The front half has covered seating & the back half is a grass hill. The first time we tried to see him, we had lawn tickets. It rained all day & all night & we just chose not to go & be miserable. Last year we had seats, but a storm rolled through & the roof failed, it was so wet on stage they cancelled the show for safety purposes.

Saturday there was no rain & pleasantly the temperature was only in the high 80s, unseasonably cool. Traffic was awful, but we still got to the venue at around 7:30, we missed the 2 opening acts, but arrived just in time for Chris Young. The parking lot was interesting, folks had obviously been there for a while & drinking heavily, I was a little worried about what my 7 year old was going to have to witness, but I shouldn’t have feared as everyone behaved themselves well enough.

Chris Young was very good, I was surprised at how many of his songs I know. I’m a part time country fan, by no means an aficionado, but I enjoy the genre in general.

Once they cleared the stage off & got it set up for Mr Paisley he came out to a rapturous greeting. The show was simply outstanding, his singing always on point, his amazingly fluid guitar playing effortless, his band sickeningly talented. The stage, lighting & video set up were excellent. One of the nice things we noticed from Brad & also Chris Young was that they thanked everyone for spending their money to come & see them, a nice touch of gratitude that is too rare in today’s entertainment industry.

A couple of unique features of the show, first after playing the introduction to This is Country Music, he unplugged the guitar, signed it & then gave it to a young boy in the crowd, I’m guess maybe a 6 year old (who’s life could now be forever changed). Then when someone asked him to autograph their phone, he grabbed it & made a video before giving it back, the crowd interaction was greatness. Midway through the show he left the stage & played 3 songs acoustically on a raised area by the sound booth, not far from where we were sitting, it was very cool to get that close in the “cheap seats”.  They had some incredibly convincing video to make it look like Carrie Underwood was actually there signing Remind Me with Brad. There was also a hilarious video to accompany the song Celebrity, which features Psy, the screaming goat & a large headed fake Brad Paisley doing crazy celebrity things.

All in all, the show was all I had hoped it would be & more. If you ever have the chance to see Brad Paisley live, take it, I promise you will not regret it.

 

PS: iphones make for crappy cameras 🙂

The set list was:

 

Bon Voyage

Southern Comfort Zone

Mud on the Tires

The Mona Lisa

American Saturday Night

Outstanding In Our Field (w/Chris Young and Lee Brice)

This Is Country Music

Celebrity

Then / She’s Everything

Time Warp

Hot for Teacher

(Van Halen cover)

Old Alabama (w/virtual Alabama)

If You’re Gonna Play in Texas

(Alabama cover) (Snippet, solo Acoustic at soundboard stage)

Waitin’ On a Woman

(solo Acoustic at soundboard stage)

Online

(Acoustic w/percussion, bass, … more)

I’m Still a Guy

(Acoustic w/percussion, bass, … more)

Beat This Summer

I’m Gonna Miss Her

Karate

(w/virtual Charlie Daniels and … more)

Remind Me

(W/ Virtual Carrie Underwood)

Welcome to the Future

Water

Encore:

Ticks

Alcohol

 

 

Tour de Goatneck – 2013

My cycling season has not quite gone as planned. I skipped the ride I was scheduled to do in May as it was the week after my vacation & frankly I was exhausted and didn’t want to go do it. The ride I had planned on doing in June clashed with my Mum visiting from England, so obviously I didn’t do that. Unfortunately when I don’t have the commitment of a big ride coming up, my recreational / training rides tend to become less frequent also. So a couple of weeks ago I went ahead & signed up for the 2 big north Texas rides to get me going. I’ll be doing the Hotter Than Hell 1200 on August 24th, but before that came the 2013 riding of the Goatneck in Cleburne, TX.

I had ridden the Goatneck in 2010 & 2011, doing the 40 mile route each time, I signed up for the 40 again this time but immediately regretted that & changed my mind to the more challenging 70 mile route. Irritatingly they sell it as a 100 Km route, which is stupid, because 100 Km is 62 miles, not 70. I decided to do the 70 for 2 reasons, 1 because if I’m going to ride 100 miles at the end of August then 70 is pretty good training, but more so, I can ride 40 miles with hardly any preparation, 70 on the other hand, that is a challenge.

Unfortunately I only had 2 weeks to prepare & being in Texas cycling after work in July is demanding, if you can even talk yourself into doing it. I think I only got about 45 training miles done, but I also did 4 10k efforts on my rowing machine plus a couple of days at the gym. I’d have liked to have cycled more but I felt pretty confident about my conditioning going into the ride.

The ride itself, is probably the best there is in north Texas. The routes are really well marked out, there are police at EVERY intersection holding traffic for the riders. The rest stops are very frequent & well stocked with the usual Gatorade, water, fruit & other snacks. Everyone helping out is super friendly which translates to the riders too. If you are a cyclist within range of DFW & you have not ridden the Goatneck, make plans for next July!

The route was nice, there were a lot of hills though, you might think of north Texas as being as flat as a pancake, believe me, it is not, especially on a bike. Apparently we had some downhills too, but I only remember 2 sections which just lead into more big climbs. Usually I enjoy the climbs, but for whatever reason, on that day my legs had no uphill power. I started the day riding with a friend, but after probably 10 minutes I just let him go & concentrated on taking care of my legs. It was extremely frustrating to be passing people on the flats only to have them fly by me uphill. To make things worse after 30 miles or so the side my left quad started to cramp if I stood up on the pedals. I fought through it for about the next 10 miles but then the pain was worrying, it felt like something was going to snap, so I stayed sat down at all times on the hills, even slower – ugh. On the bright side, the weather was amazing for riding, it stayed overcast until around 11:15 & the temp didn’t get past the mid 80s.

Still, I made it about 39 miles before my first rest stop, not by design, I missed the one 8 miles earlier. My bottles were completely empty by that point & I needed to stretch. I  stopped very briefly at the next stop also, because the line for the facilities was so bad at the previous stop. Then I made my 2nd and final refueling / stretch stop at 55 miles in. I like that rest stop, although it was smaller this year than in years past, I remember it well, knowing that you are on the home stretch from there (14 miles to go) is comforting. Unfortunately the next 7 of those miles is another painful uphill slog, about 60 miles in I was questioning the decision to go over 40 miles. I am very happy I did though, after all I wanted a challenge & that is what I got. I met the challenge well, even if my legs did not fully cooperate & the last 10 miles were mostly fueled by stubbornness. It felt great to finish. Now to get ready for the HHH 🙂

Goatneck Elevation

Speed

Distance: 69.52 mi
Time: 4:35:39
Moving Time: 4:14:50
Avg Moving Speed: 16.4 mph
Max Speed: 41.0 mph
Avg Speed: 15.1 mph

Calories: 2,420 C
Avg HR: 153 bpm
Max HR: 175 bpm

Elevation Gain: 3,663 ft
Elevation Loss: 3,663 ft
Min Elevation: 540 ft
Max Elevation: 954 ft

Avg Temperature: 73.8 °F
Min Temperature: 66.2 °F
Max Temperature: 84.2 °F

goat-1656 - 1100