Thursday, April 9, 2009

First-timer's report

I was thinking recently about the first time I did this ride. I was nervous and excited but having a hard time comprehending the length. A hundred miles! It's just so...looong.

Then I remembered a blog post that my Team Atomic teammate Jules wrote after her first time doing the ride, in 2006, in which she recapped her experiences mile-by-mile. I thought that new riders especially might like to read it. It really captures the physical and emotional ups and downs of spending 7 hours on a bike.

So, with Jules' permission, I've copied her blog post below. (FYI, the babies Jules refers to, Jack and Zoe, are the twins Jules gave birth to just 8 weeks before doing the ride. Also the volunteer she refers to, Lisa, will be riding for the second time this year!) Enjoy!

Chair, RFTF 2009
Arrived in Rehoboth. Am luckiest girl ever, since I have husband and babies by my side. Or more accurately, baby Jack strapped to my body, baby Zoe in front of me in a stroller, and husband Leslie trailing behind me with all my crap. Like I said, luckiest girl ever!

Enjoyed the pre-ride luau, although I must be honest with my friends at Moveable Feast: pasta salad and roast beef are not traditional luau foods. But who am I to be a purist? As long as I have carbs, I'm happy. And when some of those carbs come in the form of Guinness, I'm really happy!

After the luau, Leslie and the babies go across the street to the "Sea Esta" Motel (sea puns = one of man's most exalted humor forms. Don't believe me? I'll sea you in hell!). I stay behind at the Quality Inn, where I am supposed to get my first full night of sleep in two months.

Woke up 5:30, slept almost not at all. Oh well. Breakfast = tiny bagels and cheerios. Bike is ready, body is ready, mind is FREAKING OUT. But we take off, and somehow it all becomes okay. Some memories:

Mile 7 - Joey spots sign that says "boathole." We giggle for three miles.

Mile 12
- Discuss my Jan Ullrich obsession with ride marshall Kornell, who coincidentally works with Leslie in our tiny
tiny world. 2006 will be Jan's big year! Mark my words...

Mile 20
- First pitstop, where we see Lisa's glowing face peeking out from under a cow
boy hat adorned with flames. Lisa = angel of hope, patron saint of tired cyclists, who appears as a vision at pitstops the world over, always wearing a different novelty hat! Of course, I don't fully appreciate her yet, since I'm not tired. In fact, I'm actually worrying that the whole thing is going to be anticlimactic because it's TOO EASY! Hah!!!

Mile 22
- Watch Becky fade into the distance. When did she get so fast? When did she grow those legs?? I remember having to slow down for her back in the early days, and now I can't keep up. I beam with pride as she vanishes into her trail of smoke.

Mile 35
- Ride with Chris, talk about...what else? Bears! Chris doesn't like wildlife ("except dogs and cats"). So I seize the moment to tell him my Yellowstone bear story (which I won't recount here - just assume it ends with me heroically fighting off the bear).
He tells me about the Library's new "Sneaks the Cat" mascot suit. It has a fan in the head. I love Chris!

Mile 50
- Arrive in Seaford at the lunch stop, where I meet Leslie and the babies!!! I feed Zoe, snuggle with Jack, kiss Leslie, and almost entirely forget to eat. Oops - I'll be regretting that soon enough. But seeing my family there on t
he road gives me more strength than all the Powerbars on earth. I ride out in the full knowledge that I am the happiest and luckiest rider in the group. The winds of love fill my sails.

Mile 51
- Yeah, about those winds...the winds of love are no match for the winds of ass-kicking, which are
blowing straight into my face at 22mph. I've never even imagined wind like this. It's like riding up a long, painful, 50 mile hill. Yikes!

Mile 52
- I've decided to "pace myself," a choice which has once again left me in B
ecky's dust. This time Chris has gone with her. I turn to talk to Joey and he's nowhere to be seen. No wait - that tiny speck a mile back - that's him! I circle back and we ride together. The wind hurts, so we tell stories to try to forget our pain. I talk about the farm my mom grew up on and the manic hippie I met on my way home from Russia. He talks about crazy stuff that happened at the Ottobar last week. This is the good part, and it's the only thing keeping me moving. The bad part is that we are grinding down to a slower and slower pace, and may not reach Chesapeake college until next Tuesday. Two other guys have gotten sagged, and the sweep van is circling us like a vulture.

Mile 70
- We're the last to reach the mini-pitstop, and everyone else has gone on. Same pain, different strategies: Joey decides to rest a bit, I refill water and ride on. I'm like a shark: if I stop swimming, I'll die.

Mile 72
- I'm alone now, on a long straight road through a huge expanse of wheat
field. This is the only scenery I'll see for the next hour. I freakin' HATE wheat. I've picked up my pace quite a bit, but the wind is blowing so hard that if I stop pedaling even long enough to take a drink of water, I grind to a halt.

Mile 75
- I'm still alone, pla
ying little games with my odometer: "If I can just get to mile 76, I'll be all right. Okay, 75.1, that's 10% of the way there...75.12, that's 20% of the way to 75.2...that will be 20% of the way to 76...." You can see that my mind is gradually coming unraveled.

Mile 80
- I haven't seen a living soul since I left Joey at the mini-pitstop. Where the hell
is everyone? Where are the cars? Has the world ended? That's it! I'm trapped alone in this post-apocalyptic wheatfield, the last person on earth. Riding my bike through this infernal devil-wind in utter solitude, never to see another living being again. Oh well. If I can just get to mile 81, I'll be okay. 80.1, that's 10% of the way there...

Mile 82
- The last pitstop, and it turns out the world hasn't ended!!! I've NEVER been happier to see other people in my life. Becky and Chris are there with smiles and cheers and Powerbars
, and Saint Lisa's halo is positively glowing! And it bears a strange resemblance to a pirate hat. I consume many snacks - who knew Fritos were so good?? Joey arrives - needs a break, will meet us at the last mini-pit. Then we take off into the wind. I beg my team never to leave me again.

Mile 85
- Turns out I didn't need to beg - I hadn't been as far behind everyone else as I'd thought. Everyone was slowed down by the wind, and there is a large group riding more or less together. Ah, I've never felt such love for my fellow man!!

Mile 92
- We reach the last mini-pit, and Joey rejoins us - Team Atomic rides
again!! I see pain in Becky's face, and in my delirious state I say inane things to try to cheer her up. She makes quizzical faces and moans. I think she likes me! But soon I run out of fun, and I'm back to the odometer game - the difference now is that I KNOW I'll make it.

Mile 101
- The endpoint is in sight, and all the remaining riders have congregated at the last stoplight so we can ride in, triumphant, together. But where's Joey? He's fallen behind and I was too tired to notice. Everyone outside of the team wants to go ahead and get it over with, but we want Joey! The group is about to give up and take off when he rides like a bat out of hell around the corner. Joey heroic!! Woohoo!!!

Mile 102.6
- We ride into Chesapeake College to deafening cheers. Tears, cheers, pictures, a
nd a bad cellphone connection to Leslie and the babies. I hug Becky - my friend, my confidante, my training partner, the woman who almost stopped being my friend the first time I tricked her into riding a mile uphill, who just now rode 102 miles through the winds of hell. I hug Joey - my inspiration, the veteran rider who made me believe that this entire crazy endeavor was possible in the first place, not just for elite athletes, but for normal people with jobs and lives. And I warn Chris - my new friend and beloved teammate - that I'm going to hug him just like a bear, then I do!

That evening we eat outside, and everything tastes like the best thing ever. We laugh, we talk about Fritos - the best snack food ever. We take the best showers ever. Our team is part of the wild crowd - we hang out with some other riders and supporters, we each drink one beer and stay up until 10:20. As our compatriot Derek put it, "tonight we're gonna party like it's 1959." Then we go to sleep on the floor of the gym - you guessed it - the best gym floor ever.

We sleep in until 6:30, eat massive amounts of bacon for breakfast, board buses to get ourselves safely over the Bay Bridge to Sandy Point State Park. I'm in denial about getting back on my bike today. Kornell tells us that the best part of this morning is watching everyone's faces as they put their butts back on their saddles for the first time. Hoodaddy!

Mile 0
- Actually, it's not as bad as I'd feared. We ride out as a group, feeling strong.

Mile 1
- Holy crap, there are HILLS out here!

Mile 3
- I'm riding with Becky, Chris and Joey are a little way back. We're slogging up a hill, and I turn to talk to her. She's way behind me, so I slow down. Suddenly, my quads are on fire and my calves are locking up. I'm feeling way too much burn to do this - if I'm going to get through this, it's gotta be quick. Like a field amputation. So I blo
w a kiss to Becky, and I'm on my own again.

Mile 14
- I show up at the first pit stop in record time, greeted by smiling Saint Lisa, feeling pretty good. I hang around long enough to make sure that the rest of the team is okay: Joey and Chris are in an looking strong, Becky is taking a break. I'm off - keep swimming, shark...

Mile 29
- Many big scary hills later, I find myself in Carroll park, where I'm greeted by
Becky, Lisa, and...the Easter Bunny? It's not a hallucination, it's a plushie! We're more or less done, so we hang out, eat snacks, put on our official ride shirts and Mardi Gras beads. Joey and Chris ride in looking great - the team's all here!! We did it!!!

Mile 31
- The whole group rides back to Moveable Feast HQ together, all wearing our red shirts, all looking great. There is a crowd of maybe 100 people in front of the church
cheering for us, but it feels like we're rock stars walking into a stadium full of screaming fans.

I'm now crying too hard to see, trying not to kill anyone as I ride through the crowd to the double stroller I've spotted on the far side. Leslie hands me Zoe, who looks bewildered as I kiss her again and again. I trade her for Jack, who looks suspicious, but nonetheless tolerates being hugged without mercy. Leslie tells me how proud he is of me, and I fall sobbing into his arms. We have so many friends there - Lisa, Karen, Beth, Steve, Roberta, the Abernathys, probaby others I was too delirious to register. I believe I am the happiest person alive.

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