Houston's "Wellness Weekend" is looming on the horizon, and the timing is perfect for those lapsed New Year's resolutions, Netflix binge-watchers and anybody who's got cabin fever after our incredibly long rainy season.
Tour de Houston Presented by Apache Corporation (a bike ride) and Bayou City Classic (10k and 5k fun run) share a few things besides being scheduled on the same weekend: They're both presented by Apache, both promote physical fitness and alternate transportation and — best of all — they both benefit the City’s reforestation program, RE-Plant Houston, managed by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.
Which is awesome because we're still trying to rebuild Houston's canopy after the high temperatures and drought during the summer of 2011.
"When you’ve had such a devastating drought as we did, we lost so many trees, it will take years and years and years to rebuild that canopy," says Susan Christian, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, City of Houston, which produces Tour de Houston.
Christian says that Houston artist GONZO247 (Mario Enrique Figueroa Jr.) designed this year's commemorative T-shirt, which cleverly incorporates many of the stops on this year's ride. So even if you don't have room for your own GONZO-sized mural, you can still pick up a tee at the registration desk for just $10.
Look closely and you'll see that the Lone Star Flight Museum is on this year's path for those riding the 40- and 60-mile routes. "That's one of the most unique aspects of the Tour de Houston. Every year we do a different path," says Christian. "We always do three routes: 20, 40 and the last route will always be at least 60; it’s been as much as 70 [miles]."
Christian says the 60-miler is also a training ride for those preparing for the BP MS 150, so you might spot a few elite cyclists in the mix. The 20-miler is great for families and also for anybody who hasn't been riding regularly. The 40-miler is a nice jaunt down Old Galveston Road to the flight museum and back; and the 60-miler takes cyclists all the way to Clear Lake Park in Seabrook.
"We have amazing rest stops that are for basically everything you need to replenish your body," says Christian. "There’s porta cans, Gatorade hydration stations, water, snacks. We always put those rest stops in pleasant environments. It's really cool and fun."
It's not a closed route, but there are traffic officers and ride marshals along the way for safety and to assist. If it looks like your pace isn't fast enough, they'll let you know at the rest stop so that you can turn around and go back. And if you just can't finish the course or your bike breaks down and can't be fixed, just hitch a ride on the Sag Wagon so you can make it back in time for the after party.
"When you get back to City Hall, there's the after party sponsored by Michelob Ultra; we provide lunch for everyone," says Christian, who says they've got a DJ lined up this year.
"All in all it’s about physical fitness, alternative transportation, getting to know the city from the seat of the bike. All of us who grew up on bicycles, we get to be an adult, we don’t ride as much. It gives us the opportunity to get back on a bike and do something we loved as children," says Christian. "Bring the family and friends and really share something together that is fun and physically active. And of course that sense of community."
Christian says it's fun working for Mayor Sylvester Turner, who will be there on March 18 to kick off the 13th Tour de Houston. "It’s exciting to work for someone who understands the need for civic engagement and this mayor does. I couldn’t be happier and more proud to work for a leader who gets it."
Be sure to register for a chance to win one of two Fuji Sportif 1.9 Disc Road Bikes that are being given away; the Sportif makes full use of geometry to reduce arm fatigue and back strain. Entries must be received by March 16; certain restrictions apply.
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And while you're on the website, go ahead and register in advance for the race and let them know you're coming. They've promised free lunch, so it's the polite thing to do. Registration is open through March 17 but procrastinators can still register onsite for an extra $5.
"We want people to get ready to ride," says Christian.
The Bayou City Classic 10k Race and Bayou City Classic 5k Fun Run and Walk are March 17, beginning at 8 a.m., Hermann Square, 900 Smith, bayoucityclassic.org, $45 to $50.
The Tour de Houston Presented by Apache Corporation is March 18, beginning at 7 a.m., Hermann Square, 900 Smith, houstontx.gov/tourdehouston, $20 to $45.