I did it!

24 08 2008
Shawn and I at the end of Bike Against the Odds.

Shawn and I at the end of Bike Against the Odds.

Apparently I have to get used to this whole blogging thing. I meant to write Friday night before the ride.. and then I meant to write yesterday when I got home, but meaning to and doing are 2 different things.

So yesterday was the big day. My first real long distance ride, well.. long distance for me. I did the 31 mile route of the Bike Against the Odds.

I was nervous for the few days before the ride. I was nervous about the over 2600 feet of climbing on the ride in the Oakland Hills. I was afraid of not being able to make it and I was even more nervous because I was going to be doing the ride by myself.

Friday, the day before, I made a list of all the things I needed to do and pack for the next day. I had just gotten my bike out of the shop from having a tune up and new tires put on. So, I took it for a quick 10 mile ride Friday night. I hadn’t been on the bike in almost a week and I wanted to feel my legs and check the bike and make sure everything was good. It was.

I packed my food and clothes for the next day. I loaded my bike in the car and set aside what I was going to wear in the morning. I didn’t sleep so much that night.

Heather and I got up at 5:30 to get ready to leave. We left a little after 6:30 (we were late) and stopped at the bank and the store to get stuff to drink on the trip to Oakland. I had already had breakfast before we left, but I brought some fruit with me for the ride. I was so nervous that I didn’t touch the food on the way there.

We stopped and picked up our friend Bentrish at her house near where the ride started and went to the park. I got ready at the car and then nervously walked over to the registration area. I had no idea how I was going to be able to do this thing by myself, but I was determined to go through with it.

Thankfully, as I was registering, Bentrish ran into some friends of a friend of hers, Kath (not sure if it’s with a K or C) and Shawn. They told her that they were going to be taking it easy that day and that I was welcome to ride with them. She introduced me to them and they introduced me to the rest of the group that was riding with them. I was immediately relieved that I had someone to ride with, now I just hoped I could keep up with them.

We walked our bikes over to the starting area and got ready to take off. I’m not sure who started to lead us, but we started out, with Heather and Bentrish clapping, yelling and screaming for me, when someone yelled out, “You’re going the wrong way!”. We all laughed, made a u-turn and started off.. again to yelling and screaming by Heather and Bentrish.

We started off slow from Lake Merritt through Oakland towards the hills. I don’t know Oakland and I was just following them, so I have no idea what streets we took, but we started off easy and I thought this would be a peice of cake if this is the pace they ride.

The road through the city was at a slight incline, but not enough to really notice, it became noticeable just before we hit the freeway that runs below the hills. It was a long pretty steep climb and my legs started to burn. I started to wonder if I just hadn’t warmed up yet, or if I was going to already have issues doing the climb. I knew there was more to come, but wasn’t sure if it would be steep and short or slight and long.

We regrouped after the first climb and it was established who the faster riders were and that the slower riders should take off. We left only to hit another short hill before we passed over the freeway. It didn’t take long for the other riders to overtake me. As I passed over the freeway, I could see another of the slower riders of the group ahead about 150yds. I was a little nervous about losing them, but just couldn’t find the strength to push to go faster. I was really worried.

As I started to make the turn on to Tunnel Rd. I see Shawn coming towards me, going the wrong way.. lol.. I thought something was wrong, but soon realized she had come back for me. I was so grateful, but felt like I was holding her up. She said that it was no problem and that was how they rode. No one gets left behind.

Tunnel road.. ugh.. about 6 miles of a low slow climb. Not steep enough to kill you immediately, but the kind of hill that saps you slowly and just goes on forever. After about 10 minutes, I felt like I was in a groove. Using my 2 lowest gears, just chugging away.

Shawn rode with me for a while and we chatted a bit as we rode. All of a sudden things started to get a bit harder. My quads were burning, but worse than that.. I had to pee and every time my legs came up during a peddal rotation it pushed on my bladder more. We were on the side of a hill though with no place to even squat.

Then Margaret took a turn. swinging back with me about half way up the road. Come to find out during her time riding with me that this unassuming, 40 something woman was a triathelete. As I was doing my best to breathe rythmically and not gasp for air, she tells me about how she started doing triathalons and that she’s been doing them for over 10 years.

At some point not to long after that, Shawn came back for another turn. We rode together to the first rest stop. At this point we had been riding for about 2 hours. I would tell you the mileage, but my speedometer stopped working before we even started, so I have no idea.

At the rest stop there were at least 8 women working the table and cheering as each person came in. They had water and luna electrolyte mix to refill our bottles or packs. There were bagels, pastries, see’s candies, strawberries, luna bars and all kinds of goodies to load up with, but the best, what we all couldn’t get enough of, were the homemade chocolate chip cookies. Oh my God they were the best cookies I think I’ve had since I was a little kid.

After about 10 minutes we all got back on our bikes and the slow group took off again. Right as we pulled out of the rest stop, I saw a rest stop around the corner. Shawn told me that that one is for when you come up the other side of Pinehurst. She said you’ll be thankfull it’s there later.

I think this is the part of the ride that I don’t remember so much. I know there was another up hill section, and I know I had to stop a few times just to catch my breath. My heart rate through the first 2 to 3 hours of the ride hovered around 155 to 170.

All of a sudden, the road dropped away and we were cruising downhill through redwood trees under a canopy of shade. I have never gone so fast. The decent was so long that I actually got to practice countersteering, leaning and feathering my brakes. One time I hit my brakes a little hard before a turn and felt my body fly forward. After that I sat back almost off my seat so that I put more weight in the back of the bike.

It was still foggy outside and under the trees it was very cool. My hands got so cold at one point that I couldn’t feel my fingers and got nervous that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze the brakes if I needed to.

All of a sudden the road flattened out and bamm we were in sunshine. I’m not sure how far after the decent we hit the crossroad where the 52 mile route and the 31 mile route split, but all of a sudden we were there. We had been decending so long that I think all of us felt good and strong. The group that was going on to the 52 mile route tried talking everyone in to continuing on. There was one point where I actually considered it, but then remembered how I felt climbing Tunnel Rd.

Turned out that 2 of the 4 of us that were doing the 31 mile ride decided to go with the other group. Shawn elected to stay with me, but I told her that I could follow the rest of the course by myself if she wanted to join her partner. She said no.. that she didn’t want to. I’m not sure if it was out of a sense of duty towards me or if she just really didn’t feel like it, but whatever it was that made her decide to come with me.. I was glad. At that point I thought I could do it myself, but looking back now, knowing what was to come, I’m not sure I could have.

So after a few minutes and a gel packet later, we took off, just Shawn and I. We chatted about what she does for a living, the bike shops we like and our bikes. She was ever patient with me when, after a while of false flat, we hit pinehurst.

Now, I know that a lot of cyclists that have been doing this a lot longer than I have think that this hill is tough. I’m also sure that there are many harder hills to climb, but as far as what I have experienced. This was a killer. I needed to stop to get my breath at one point. My legs were on fire and almost to the point that they wouldn’t move.

I told Shawn to keep going, that I would catch up. She went ahead, I’m sure it was harder for her to keep waiting for me than to just hit it, so I’m glad she did. This was something I needed to do on my own. She told me before she took off up the hill, “There’s no shame in walking Pinehurst”. I had almost resigned myself to walking, but I just couldn’t picture telling everyone “yeah, I busted my ass the whole time.. oh but I walked up Pinehurst”.

So a few minutes after Shawn rode away, I set off. At first my legs almost seemed new and the hill didn’t seem so steep. I thought, I CAN do this.. yeah.. I thought too soon. I probably rode about 100 yards and had to stop again. My heart rate was up at 173 and I just couldn’t push the peddals. First one rider passed, then another. I shook my legs out. I didn’t get off my bike.. just stood there for a minute.

I had to do this..

I took off again and 50 feet up around a corner, I saw a sign that said 100 yards to water stop. Oh the relief.. it was almost over! Right as I passed the sign, I looked up and saw Shawn coming down towards me. She had to have been up the hill for at least 10 minutes. I’m sure she was wondering if I was going to make it at all. She saw me and said.. “you’re almost there”. I could hear the cheers of the women at the rest stop when the last person that passed me made it up.

My legs got the last burst of strength they needed to make it to the top.

I pulled over right in front of the rest stop while all the women cheered. I wanted to say, “I don’t deserve it, I didn’t do it as well as everyone else”, but I didn’t because another part of me knew that I made it, where a lot of people wouldn’t have.. so I did deserve it.

We chatted with the women and I had a grahm cracker with peanut butter and jelley (YUM!). Shawn told me the rest of the way is all down hill. I had made it. The hard part was over.. the last 8 miles of the ride are all down hill, the fun part.

We took off and ripped down the hill.. going so fast my ears popped and I couldn’t hear anything but the wind rushing by me. As we rode into the city, I was trying to remember the race, trying to think back at the last 4 hours and remember every peice of the ride, but it just wasn’t there. I couldn’t think.. so I quit trying and just enjoyed the last of the ride.

I could feel excitement building in me as we pulled around the lake and up to the finish. I wondered if Heather and Bentrish would be there yet or still off talking somewhere. Then we crossed the finish line and I saw all kinds of people clapping and cheering for us. As they came into focus, at the beginning of the line I saw Heather.

It was the best feeling ever to know that I accomplished everything I set out to do, no matter how hard it was. I did it and there was my love waiting for me with love and pride in her eyes.

I am so thankful to the women that “babysat” me during the ride. I said that to Shawn and she said, “we didn’t babysit you, we rode together”. I told her that I didn’t mean it in a bad way, they took care of me and looked after me knowing this was my first big ride. Not everyone would do that. I’m proud of myself for making it through and I know that it took everything I had to do it, but I don’t think I would have been able to without them.

Next year.. I will at least do the 52 mile route.

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