<<< WARNING: This post is really long, which parallels the ride I’m writing about. >>>
As many of you know, I had been (moderately) training for a 100 Mile Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe called “The World’s Most Beautiful Ride”. I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training to prepare for the event, and I raised nearly $4,000 for the cause. I had always wanted to do a century ride and my father’s passing from complications due to leukemia last year made it that much more meaningful to do it this year. In a nutshell, the story is that I did it! I actually bicycled 100 miles. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but thanks to the Michigan and Minnesota teams’ training, support of cheering crowds, family, and great organization to take care of us during the event, I was successful.Free Shipping on all orders with purchase of Nashbar tires or tubes!
The night before, I started prepping for the ride in my hotel room, putting things together like spare tire tubes, my clothes, my race number 712, my food and drink, my sign, stickers, motivational picture of my dad for my handlebar stem, and helmet decoration. By the time I was done and went to sleep, it was 11 and I had to wake up at 4:30 the next day because we had to start riding at 6. Well, thanks to all the hydration I had to do, I woke up at 3 to go to bathroom and couldn’t go back to sleep but for 15 minutes. So I was tired, but I got ready, met with Team Michigan at the lobby. I put hand warmers in my pockets and foot warmers in my shoes. I needed my coffee, so I had half a cup, ate a part of a muffin and an energy bar and lined up with the team to ride to the start. Then we lined up to start during the cloudy 40 degree morning and soon after, we were off…
The beginning was very familiar because we had done a “22 mile practice ride” the day before. I was still sore from that. Not a good sign. Anyway, after we passed the familiar bend, then began the crazy uphill switchbacks which made us climb 500 feet in 2 miles of horizontal distance up to Inspiration Point. One person fell and broke a wrist, some people had to walk, one was hyperventilating. Luckily, my mountain biking experience came in handy helping me get to the rest stop in decent shape. Then after eating, and hitting the restroom, we had another uphill. This was followed by a huge downhill which had me traveling at speeds up to 34 mph. I was worried about my safety as there was lots of bicycle traffic with some going slow and others going fast. There was also some car traffic going the other way. We finally got to a flat area, and I saw an ambulance going the other way. That couldn’t be good. It was relatively flat for the next 12 miles, and then there was a side trail and road combo with mostly gentle downhill. For some reason, I was somewhat tired and cycling slowly at this point. Going slower than normal was part of my strategy so that I’d be sure I’d have legs at the end, but I didn’t feel like I could go faster even if I wanted to. And lots of people were passing me.
Then my first minor mishap occurred. With all the fast downhills and wind, my left contact lens started drying up and moving out of position. So I pulled to the side to put it back in. Well, I took the lens out and it was so dry, it blew away! Luckily, my parents taught me to be cautious. So I had a spare set of contacts. I wish somebody had told me that bicycling sunglasses were necessary to keep the wind out of my eyes. I had normal ones as I didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money buying bicycling clothes and equipment. Anyway, with my new left contact in my eye, I set back for the road. Then we stopped at Truckee which was basically the halfway point. At that stop, I took off of my sweatshirt and sweatpants to leave with some of the coordinators. I also saw lots of people from Team Minnesota who had caught up with me, and I decided to wait for other friends while I ate significant quantities of food. I ate everything from energy bars to boiled potatoes to bananas to granola bars to cookies to oranges to cantaloupe pieces. And I would need every last calorie. It was after eating that I realized that my knees, wrists, and butt were all hurting in different ways and in varying amounts. Later, I set back on the road with a couple of friends who rode more at my pace and we took turns drafting each other to save energy. Some girls from New Jersey followed for a long time when I led, but they never took the lead.
I was doing fine again for a while, and then around mile 60 or so, I started losing energy and I slowed down. Every slight grade seemed like a major hill. Then, just when I started getting my energy back with some more energy bar and Gatorade consumption, I heard some rattling near my water bottle. I thought a screw fastening the water bottle cage to the bike was loose. It sounded like a slightly annoying bell. I kept riding and then in another half hour, my water bottle and most of the cage fell off my bike. The cage just fractured and fell apart! So I had to stop to get my bottle, put it in the back pocket of my cycling jersey, and then I had to throw away the broken cage. I motored on with a butt that really hurt, a left thumb that went numb and knees that were about the same as before. Shaking my wrists out one at a time didn't make them hurt much less, but it was bearable. At the next stop they had lunch which was a nice team mini reunion and I ate more than before. I had a veg. sandwich, chips, cookies, more fruit, and potatoes. I learned in training that I had to force myself to eat more than I felt that I should.
Soon we were back on the road, mentally prepared for a moderate uphill and then the last major uphill. I was doing poorly on the uphills, but my friend did much better. I was just crazier on the downhills where I made an effort to gather as much momentum as possible before subsequent uphills. We made it up the next moderate uphill, stopped again to take pictures of the beautiful scenery and then we ascended again in a slow and steady fashion. I was mostly in 2nd gear out of 27 but I was mentally prepared. So much so, that when I reached the top of the hill, I thought it was just the midway point to the top of the hill. But I had in fact crested the last major hill and I knew then that there was a good chance I would make the full 100 miles. I had forgotten about my wrist and knee pain at this point but stretching at stops helped with my knees and my left achilles hell tendinitis which started acting up during training about a month earlier.
The next five miles were a blast but they were also downright scary at times. It was all downhill and I hit a speed of 39.2 mph. My eyes were tearing up from all the wind so I had to slow down a bit to see more clearly. Also, I wasn’t familiar with the road or where the potholes were. I did see sewer grates and potholes that I successfully avoided, but, as a courtesy, I also had to hand signal to people behind me to avoid those obstacles. That left me slightly off balance many times. Also, since it is tradition for Team In Training teams to wear a helmet head dress that represents their state, I had a ¼ inch thick foam core Detroit Red Wings logo mounted to my helmet. With crosswinds and 40 mph cycling it actually caused me to veer to one direction like a tailfin would an airplane. Turning my head only helped a little and it changed my perspective on the all-important road in front of me.
Eventually, the major downhill ended and the course transitioned to smaller rolling hills. At this point we were done with 94 miles and I was feeling pretty good because I knew with certainty that I would finish this 100 mile bike ride. I looked down to the picture of my dad with happiness. Pain was not an issue at this point. The remaining up-hills were no fun, but at the very end, I felt comfortable riding 18 mph and I was motivated to finish. I was going so fast in fact that I almost didn’t make the final turn to the finish area, had to really widen my turn. As I approached the finish area, I was riding alone. Then as I got closer, I saw the crowd. There were easily 100 people cheering me on to the finish. It felt great, but it felt like I didn’t deserve so much cheering when all I did was finish about 1,000th out of 1,800 riders for Team In Training. What I did is nothing compared to what people go through when they suffer from leukemia and have to go through treatment, but I’m glad I was able to support the cause by helping to fund research for a cure.
I feel proud of what I have done and I thank all my friends and family who motivated me and donated money to help me reach my goal. I also thank Team Michigan and Team Minnesota and their coaches and staff who prepared me well enough to stay motivated and to finish. Now, I feel like cycling more centuries, or at least 60+ mile rides. Just last year, I rode 123 miles all summer. This year, I rode that much in 2 days. What a motivator a worthy cause can be.