This will easily be my longest post, so I’ll try to get all the vitals out of the way early in case you want to bail before the novella begins.
I’m sitting in my jammies, sipping hot coffee, waiting to take the kids to school and it’s kind of hard to imagine that yesterday actually happened at all…well, right up until I move my legs and then my knees remind me that it was in fact a reality. Today is the day after the Portland Livestrong Challenge for 2007, and this year I can say that I not only participated, but also rode the longest official route available…more on that later. For those who want the down and dirty specs, (Motionbased Info – click here) here they are:
Total time on route: 5:07 hrs
Total moving/riding time: 4:30 hrs
Total distance: 69.5 miles
Avg speed: 15.4 mph
Max speed: 30.3 mph
Elevation gain: 1000-2000 feet (still sorting out GPS discrepancy)
Avg Heart Rate: 148 bpm (zone 4)
Avg Temperature: 49 degrees (max 50)
Avg Wind Speed: 10 mph, max 14
Calories Burned: 5100 (yeah, baby!)
Before The Ride
I woke up at 4:30 yesterday, got dressed, did a final check of the gear, had some oatmeal, loaded up and was out the door by 5:30 to head towards the Nike World Headquarters, where we would begin our ride. It was raining from the moment I woke up until the moment I put my bike in the truck after the ride. All the way up I kept thinking ‘why am I doing this again?’ – but knew it was not only for a great cause, but also an amazing personal goal I really wanted to reach.
After being redirected with everyone else to a parking lot on the backside of the campus, I unloaded my bike, grabbed my stuff and started heading down towards the starting lanes. I dropped off my bike in Lane 3, the lane for 70 milers, and went to find our ‘team’ for a group photo. While there I met a couple of nice guys – one who was a triathalon guy who had tons of great rainy day group ride advice, and another who decided to ride when someone asked him for a donation. I don’t know that I saw those guys again after we took off, but I enjoyed chatting with them. After our team photo, we all went to our lanes to get ready to ride. There were 4 lanes total, one for each of the 10, 40, 70, and 100 mile options. Due to weather, the 100 mile ride was cancelled, and they would be joining us on the 70 mile ride.
The 70 mile ride was not scheduled to start until 7:40, a full hour after I unloaded my bike at Nike. So even before riding, we spent a good hour, just soaking up the rain. I was in shorts, jersey, undershirt, arm and leg warmers, full fingered gloves, and a light water resistant (ha!) jacket. I flipped back and forth between a heavier rain jacket, and something lighter. The two schools of thought are if you stay super dry, you’re probably going to soak yourself with sweat anyway, vs just keeping the cooler air off of you and getting a little wet from the rain. I don’t think it really mattered yesterday either way.
Gettin’ to The Ride
So after sitting out in the rain, we were officially about to begin and they brought out a couple of important people including the president of the LAF and Lance himself, who pointed out that it takes a certain level of committment to come out to a long ride in the weather we had. It was great to get the encouragement, but at that point I was honestly thinking ‘lets get moving, I’m freezing out here!’
After Lance and a special group of friends took off, they let the original 100 milers go, and we were to follow 5 minutes later. 10-15 minutes later, we finally were able to take off. I saw Kiejiro, and gave him a hollar and a wish for a good ride as he headed out with the Lane 4 group. I was nervous as we started pedaling. Nervous that I’d stay warm enough. Nervous that I’d keep my bike up on wet, slick pavement. Nervous that I’d have enough stamina to make it all the way. Nervous that I wouldn’t bonk out because I hadn’t properly hydrated. Nervous I’d look like an idiot compared to the more experienced riders…and a bunch of other stuff. Because of the rain, and the fact that we were like a trail of ants all bunch together for a few miles, I took off slow and easy, staying in the 12-13 mile speed for longer than I normally do. I got stuck on the inside lane behind a recumbant bike and wondered if I’d be there until nightfall, and the two of us would be bringing up the rear!
At mile 8, we had our first support stop. I had neaded to ‘ease myself’ since we were sitting in line waiting to go, so I was most looking forward to the outhouses, and based on the lines, so was everyone else. I grabbed a half a PB&J and an orange slice, and got back on the road. Before I knew it, I was getting up to the speeds of my normal rides, and feeling comfortable enough to pass people and stay in whatever groove I needed to be in. One gal asked how far we had ridden and I looked down and was surprised to see we had crossed 16 miles already. I also saw a dad and son, who couldn’t have been more than 8 or 10 somewhere about this point. As we climbed a short hill, the dad started cranking away, put one arm out and helped push his son as he climbed…it was a an amazing site, and I couldn’t believe they braved the weather to take on the ride.
We had one more stop at mile 20 before heading up to Hagg Lake. Another rest room stop, a quick sip of Powerade and I was ready to head out again. We started picking up some stronger winds, and the road got bumpy at the same time. I had 10 miles to go until we hit Hagg, and another 5 before we got to the first cheering station, but the thought that my family would be waiting there to cheer me on gave me a boost of motivation. I had heard and read about cheering stations in previous Livestrong challenges – lots of balloons, people cheering, music pumping, and looked forward to seeing my favorite faces in the crowd of others as I hit the halfway point. I called from the Hagg ‘power stop’ location to make sure they had made it, and told them I’d be up around the corner in just a few minutes.
As I climbed the hill towards the official Cheering Stop, I did indeed see my favorite faces waiting for me, wedged in right between the other two vehicles that were there. Ha! Apparently the weather drove away the music, balloons and massive crowds, but it didn’t matter, I only cared about seeing my family. I pulled over and got a chance to get hugs and kisses from everyone, and give a quick run down of how it was going. I also showed the kids a neat trick – when I made a fist and squeezed, I could get about 3/4 of a cup of water out of each glove! We took a few pictures, I ate half a powerbar, and hit the road again – spirits lifted and motivated for the second half of Hagg Lake, and the remainder of the ride.
Along the next few hills I made a point of thinking about all our friends and family who had fought, or were fighting cancer in their lives. Even though it was cold and wet, and I was miserable, I knew it was barely a blip on the radar compared to everything they had endured, and I thought about them and prayed for them as I rode along.
Heading out of Hagg Lake, I rode by one of my favorite spots, the lumber mill, which has smelled so great both times I’ve ridden up there. It’s amazing how the little things can be invigorating. I also lost a bottle of Propel along that stretch when a gust of wind blew at me while I was taking a drink – literally blew it loose from my hand, where it hit the ground, and flew right off the road, through a guardrail, and down the hillside. I’m sorry Oregon, I polluted your grand beauty, but I stopped and didn’t see a way to get to it, so I kept going.
The Second Half of the Ride
At mile 45, I hit another rest room stop and was feeling a little hungry, so I grabbed a cup of tomato soup, which turned out to be burnt…ugh. I had that craptacular taste in my mouth for a good 5-10 miles. I refilled my one remaining water bottle, ate another half a PB&J to try to get the burnt tomato taste out, cleaned out mud from my cleats and got back on the road. I overheard a lady on her cell phone telling someone ‘honestly, this is the most demoralizing experience of my life.’ And I laughed outloud…and rung more water out of my gloves.
50 miles in I realized that everything from that point in was more than I’d ever done before. I’ve only ridden 50 miles once, so each mile was indeed a new milestone for me. With this knowledge in mind, and a flat stretch ahead, I was feeling fairly strong. A little voice inside my head said ‘keep it easy, don’t go nutso, you’ve still got 20 miles to go.’ But another voice was saying ‘Dude, you’ve only got 20 miles to go…you do this all the time, lets drop the hammer a bit!’ – And of course, I listened to the second voice. I kicked it up to a pace between 18-23 mph and started passing some people, even overtaking some people on the hills and was feeling great…I could see the end in site. Then a couple things happened.
About 12 miles out, the wind kicked up. About 10 miles out, the rain kicked up. And at about 10 miles in, someone decided that the route back home would be more fun if we threw in a few more hills right at the end. These three things combined made the last 10 miles the hardest for me, and all of sudden I thought back to that moment I decided to push harder and realized I may not have made the smartest decision.
At the top of one hill about 10 miles in I wasn’t feeling great. I had pushed hard up the hill and was feeling a little lightheaded, and I couldn’t get my legs to push very hard. I think I was doing about 8 mph on the flat spot at the top of the hill, and that was the most I could do. I was worried that I might be about to ‘bonk’ (fatigue, hitting the wall) and didn’t want to crash out somewhere, so I pulled over. I slammed a quick powergel (not as bad as I’d been expecting) drank a few gulps of water, took a deep breath and got back in the saddle. Although I felt a little lightheaded a few more times, I never really got dizzy, and was able to get back up to cruising speed for the rest of the ride in.
Somewhere in the last 6 miles or so, I ended up in a pack of riders that I stuck with until the finish line. At one point I said to the guy next to me ‘this better be the last hill because I really don’t have anything else left to give.’ And he said ‘man, I think it is.’ Well, I think he had taken classes in How To Encourage the Chubby Rider Next To You Who Looks Like He’s Not Going To Make It because we had at least 5 more hills in the last 5 miles. Granted, they weren’t huge hills, but in the condition I was in, every hill was a huge effort. Soaked to the bone, cold, tired, miserable…every stroke was really an effort. I kept turning my thoughts back to people I knew who had fought the fight, or were doing battle with cancer right now and would make myself realize this was only a momentary struggle – nothing compared to their experiences, and that I needed to keep at it.
A road support member stopped us at a light and made a joke about ‘smelling the beer from here,’ which made me think we were within a mile or so, but the next gal up the road said ‘only three more miles!’ (BTW, the support team was awesome…everywhere we needed them, and encouraging everytime we rode by.) I pushed on, and within a few moments we were pulling into the backside of the Nike campus again. I got stopped at one last light before pulling into the drive where I could see the yellow balloons (finally!), the course photographer, a bell ringer, and then the courtyard which would be our final stopping place. I actually could feel myself welling up a bit as I came around the corner and saw the finish line. A lady handed me an energy drink, a guy handed me a couple of dry towels, and I couldn’t believe it was over.
The official route was 69.5 miles according to my GPS, but I easily rode another 3/4 mile around the campus trying to find our parking lot from the morning when everything was dark. Aside from a free mini latte at the Starbucks booth, I decided to skip the festivities at the campus afterwards. I was soaked, and all I wanted to do was get into dry clothes and out of the rain. I also knew that my family was still over in the Hagg Lake area, stopping in at some shops, and waiting to hear if I wanted to have a late lunch with them…so I got over to Gaston as quick as I could for a burger at a little hole in the wall with them.
I realized I hadn’t pulled the camera out once during the ride…it was just too wet. So I only have a post ride-pic here. I was tired on the drive home. My hands finally returned to normal from their previous raisin state, and my knees were aching (they still are today…probably from the ‘hammer’ section.) After a hot bath, I laid in bed, caught part of the Hereo’s premiere and then crashed for a while. The ride was easily the hardest physical challenge I’d ever endured, and like some have said, I *am* proud to have accomplished the goal. I woke up this morning to achy knees, a TP’d yard (actually was TP’d when I left yesterday, but I didn’t see it) and the realization that I totally forgot about both my fantasy football leagues in the preparation for my ride.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU once again to everyone who contributed, prayed for me, and encouraged me along the way. I really means a lot to me…I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
I’m kind of glad it’s raining…I think I’m gonna give the bike a rest for a couple days.