Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Holy Cow, I Did It!

Without question this has to have been one of the greatest adventures I’ve done in a long time. As you might suspect, Sunday I finished America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride (heretofore to be know as “the ride”). You may also have noticed that I haven’t blogged or written recently. That’s because as of my last ride, I wasn’t exactly sure if I was going to be able to do the 100 miles around Tahoe. My last training ride was a disaster. I got lost, my legs feel apart and it was an all around bad experience. Fortunately I went out last Friday and gave the ride a try. The training from my coaches and mentors paid off, and after 7 hours 26 minutes in the saddle and ten and a half hours after rolling across the starting line I crossed the finish line. Quite simply it was an amazing experience!

The ride started out a little inauspiciously. Four miles into the ride I found a pothole (**note to riders reading -- POINT OUT ROAD HAZARDS -- all it takes is a finger pointed at the ground to save a fellow rider a big hassle). Long story short, front wheel goes through pot hole back tire falls in --- HISSSSSSS. Anyway, Bob and Tim (who would later encourage a couple teammates to shave my chest hair post ride. Fortunately teammates declined…we’ll see if Tim is so lucky come Seagull) pulled over and quickly helped me get my new tube in. As an aside, the new wheel I bought two weeks ago had worn in and was loose. I ran it to the bike shop down the street for a quick repair Saturday night at 8 pm. The mechanic at the shop promptly repaired it. Since he was so kind and charged me next to nothing to fix the wheel, I figured I should pick up a tube. That tube is now in my back tire!

Anyway after getting on the road again, we did the first climb. If you look at the elevation chart it really doesn’t give you a good idea of how daunting these switchbacks were. Needless to say, I wish I had a granny gear. The climb was brutal and I had to stop once, but I slogged it up to the top and topped off my air and headed into the next rest stop. I successfully bombed down the hill at about 25 mph, unfortunately about an hour into the ride, the ambulance was already at work. Someone from the Nevada team took a spill on the way down Emerald Bay . There were a fair number of spills during the ride, not surprising considering we had 35 mph gusts which can very easily move a bike around the road. Fortunately no one from the Maryland team was hurt during their ride.

After Emerald Bay we had a moderate climb, some flats and then the spur out to Truckee. Apparently my gauging of elevation isn’t too terribly hot because I thought the ride out to Truckee was uphill. On the way back I learned it wasn’t. The 14 miles back out from Truckee sapped a bit of energy. At one point I felt my head getting a bit woozy and my legs feeling a bit odd. Fearing I was bonking, I downed one of the 12 “goo’s” I put back that day. Taste like poo but falling off your bike in Tahoe is no fun so I was happy they kept my energy level up.

Lets see…after the Truckee spur we were back on the Lake. Looking over your right shoulder was just amazing. Tahoe truly is G-d’s country. The scenery was just stunning. I will hopefully have pictures soon.

Somewhere around mile 76 or so I realized that I was going to finish this thing. I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to do the whole 100 miles under my own power. Simply, it felt good.

The next big event was the eight mile eight hundred foot climb up to Spooner’s junction. This kicked the snot out of me. I really needed that third chain-ring. I had to stop here and there, but finally I got on someone’s wheel, drafted a bit and slugged it up to the top.

Climbing the hills themselves aren’t so much scary as they are exhausting. Bombing down a 12% grade at 30 + MPH with a 30+ knot side wind, is well hairy. I enjoy riding fast, but on the way down I had to ride the breaks on the way down. The downhill from Spooner Junction was about 12 miles. A few hills here and there, but nothing I couldn’t handle. And between the GU, caffeine, and adrenaline, I was pretty stoked.

Before we left Spooner we all agreed that we would meet at the corner before the finish line. I was the second one out of Spooner, but I arrived at the corner first. For about ten minutes I couldn’t figure out where Tim was. Turns out, Tim stopped at the local package store and replaced his Gatorade with a Guinness. Apparently when you’ve finished three marathons, two tri’s and a century you can get away with a frosty beverage while biking. Anyway we all pulled into the finish area and there were probably about 500 TNT riders screaming for us. It was really amazing and truly heartwarming.

I can’t think of a bad thing about the ride. All in all it was a phenomenal experience. A couple things that need to be noted. There are some amazing riders on the course. I followed one guy who did the ride on a unicycle and a girl who is an above the knee amputee who completes the century every year. All of the folks out there were amazing. Every single rider from the first to the last. The support on the side of the road was great. TNT supporters were along the road everywhere. You can’t help but keep the pedals spinning when there are kids on the side of the road ringing cowbells yelling “GO TEAM” or “You’re doing great Maryland.” (* note : everyone knew where we were from because all the Maryland riders tied crabs to their helmets.) If there is ever a TNT event in your area, please go and cheer. It truly helps, and riders, runners, and tri-athletes really appreciate it.

I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support. I knew folks were out there cheering for me and wanting me to finish.

Most importantly though, we raised a shitload of money for the LLS! Combined the 1900 TNT riders at the ride raised over US$ 7,000,000 in this ride alone. 70K a mile. Through this event and other like it across the country, TNT has raised US$600,000,000 for research, support, and education for families and patients fighting blood cancers.

And before I finish I want to say a special thank you to Reagan Feld for being my honor patient. Knowing that I was helping such a tough little girl made the ride that much easier. When some of the hills got tough, I gave Sebastian the Bear’s head a rub and kept on pedaling. I think the two shirts I saw at the ride summed it up pretty well. “Cancer Sucks.” and “If you think riding a century is hard, try chemotherapy.”

Thank you all for your support, I hope to have some pictures posted soon.

With Warmest Regards,
I am,

Tom, a TNT Alumni