I'm For Bikes!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

LIVESTRONG 2010 - Post Ride Thoughts And Good News!

Post Ride:

Crossing the finish line was an awesome feeling. I managed to fight through all the negativity, pain, and tiredness and get to the end in one piece. It was very emotional for me, zipping across the line after almost 5 hours of wondering if I would actually get there.

One of the things I loved most about this ride was the quality of the people riding. Of course, I didn't meet everyone, but almost everyone who passed me (which probably WAS everyone, now that I think about it) had a word of encouragement for me. I must have looked like death toward the end, because when I stopped for a breather a couple of times, several people who passed me asked if I was okay or if I needed food or water. Rather than be embarrassed by this, I chose to express my gratitude for their caring and answered with humor and a big, tired grin, "I don't need food, but a new pair of legs would be just the thing right now."

Don't worry, I shared the love. I stopped to help a couple of people who had popped their chains and made sure to see if people who were stopped along the road were okay, just like others did for me. After all, if we don't take care of each other, who will?

Once I got to the finish line and met up with Sig again, I changed back into my comfy Sauconys and talked a bit about the ride. AM and her husband had crossed the line long before I did and had already left (AM wasn't feeling well), so I pulled out my phone from where it was clipped under my arm and tried to send her a text to let her know I had finished.

This is where dumbass thing #2 came back to bite me - my phone was dead. Not dead as in dead battery, but dead as in black screen of death. I figured it just got overheated after being under my arm for so long (who wouldn't?), so I took the battery out and put it back in. Ahhh, success: the screen lit up. If you now have or have ever had a Crackberry, I'm sure you'll know what I mean when I say I watched the hourglass spin for a good long time while the phone rebooted. I figured seeing the hourglass was actually a good thing this time, but no. The screen went dark again and I couldn't get it back on. The phone was beeping and buzzing, letting me know I had messages, but I couldn't access them. I figured things would be okay once it got cooled off (much like me!), so I put it in the backpack and forgot about it for a while.

Sig and I wandered around the venue for a while, checking everything out. Nissan and RadioShack had a pretty decent presence there, and I got Sig to take some photos of me standing next to one of the Team RadioShack cars as well as Lance's Unity bike, which was on display there. We were going to eat with our free meal tickets but the line at the food tent was about a mile long, so we decided to eat on the way back to the hotel. On the way out we stopped at the LIVESTRONG shop on site and checked out the gear. I already have plenty of LIVESTRONG shirts but Sig doesn't have any, so I had her pick one out and got it for her. She totally deserved it after hanging around taking pictures for 5-6 hours.

TRS team car. Cool!

That's right baby. LIVESTRONG!

Lance's Unity bike and some weird ghosty person with no head. I'm the one on the left.


I also bought three Team Livestrong commemorative medals from the shop so me, Elianna, and Joyce could each have one. I gave Elianna hers at school on Tuesday and she was so excited she put it on and wore it all day. I gave Joyce hers when I saw her on Saturday (yesterday) and she was moved to tears. It was very cool to be able to give them these medals and let them know how much their strength and courage inspired me.

We stopped and grabbed a burger on the way back to the hotel, then headed on back so I could shower and change. Man, I was T.I.R.E.D. It's been a long time since I was bone tired like that. All I wanted to do was get out of my bibs and shoes and hop in the shower. It was VERY tempting to lay on the bed and fall asleep, but I forced myself to stay awake to avoid getting too stiff.

While Sig was getting cleaned up, I messed with my phone again and tried to get it to work but no luck. I plugged it in to the charger thinking maybe the battery really had run down and the home screen came on, but I couldn't access anything with the trackball. Nothing I did worked, so I figured the phone was toast. This is pretty much the sight I was treated to when I tried to get it to work:

Well, not really, but it's close enough. I guess it didn't care too much for being sweat on. Who knew?

We were both wiped out from the long day, so we decided to head over to Applebee's for dinner. We had intended to go to 6th Street in downtown Austin, but we were both so tired we decided to call it a night.

The next morning we headed to 6th Street, which is a historic district. It's also one of the coolest places in Austin, lined with all kinds of clubs and cool shops. Sig and I are both photographers and we absolutely love wandering around places and seeing what kinds of cool shots we can get. We spent almost two hours wandering around before going to get breakfast. It was just the thing I needed after a stressful Sunday!

Here are some 6th Street shots:

Could that be the Midnight Cowboy? Coincidence? I think not!

Death Metal Pizza? Hmmm....

After we ate, we headed over to Lance's bike shop, Mellow Johnny's. I've always wanted to go there, and I was not disappointed. This is probably one of the coolest shops I've ever been to. We wandered around a bit and ended up buying a couple of things (a TRS team photo and an MJ's pub glass), but it was fun just looking around at all the stuff. I stepped out and took some shots of the MJ's sign (which I think is so cool), then we decided we'd had enough fun and headed home.

I'm very glad I did the ride this year. I wish I had been able to reach my fundraising goal...but even though I didn't, I appreciate so much those who donated to the cause and enabled me to participate in this great event. If you ever have the chance to participate in a LIVESTRONG Challenge, do it. It will be an experience you never forget.

That brings me to my GOOD NEWS. I had pretty much decided I wouldn't do the Livestrong ride again next year so I could focus more on local events, but when I mentioned this to Sig, she was disappointed because she wants to do the ride next year. SO - I have decided to enter to ride again next year after all. I think AM is going to do it again too, and we're going to try and add to our team so we can get more people involved.

I have more GOOD NEWS, but I'm going to keep it to myself for the time being. It's kind of personal and I'm not sure how to go about revealing it just yet. I will say, though, that I have been seriously inspired by one of my fellow bloggers and I'm going to take a page out of his/her book and...well....just stay tuned. All will be revealed in time.

Thanks for all the wonderful words of encouragement over the course of this year's journey. I'm excited about beginning a new journey, and I hope you'll stick with me as the face of the blog changes a bit. Hell, bring a friend! The more the merrier!

Until next time...

LIVESTRONG 2010: Ride Report

Map of the route. Yikes.

(Disclaimer: I have a lot to say about this day so this may be a long post. You've been warned.)

RIDE DAY (Sunday):

As I mentioned in my previous post, I woke up in a panic at 4:00am convinced I had overslept and was going to miss the ride. I tried to get back to sleep but gave up after about 10 minutes and decided to get up and start getting ready.

Getting dressed for a bike ride is always interesting for me. I decided to wear my Livestrong bibs, a mistake I will not be making again. Don't get me wrong, the bibs are comfy and all...but the design makes me look like I'm wearing a big yellow diaper. It is NOT flattering at all, and I need all the flattertude I can get (yes, I just made that word up. Deal with it.).

Bike gear ready to go

I had to wait until I had sufficiently un-steamed from the shower before I could attempt to get into the bibs. If you have ever tried to pull on a pair of bike shorts over squeaky clean but sticky skin, you know what I mean. There was also the small matter of remembering to apply Monkey Butt powder. I knew if I didn't use it I would pay dearly, so I sprinkled a generous amount in there and saddled up. I also decided to take a small amount of it with me in a ziploc bag so I could reapply at rest stops if necessary...but I had to rethink that because I realized the powder in the baggie looked very suspicious. I figured it might be better if other riders didn't see me heading for the porta-potty with what looked like a large amount of cocaine in a ziploc baggie....and then coming out of the porta-potty with a maniacal smile on my face. Probably not too good for the image.

It's Monkey Butt powder! Really!

After double checking that everything was packed and in order, we headed out for the event site at about 6:15am. It was still dark and a bit chilly - my kind of weather! The drive to Dripping Springs was pretty cool in that most of the other vehicles going our way were also carrying bikes. I can remember being incredibly intimidated when I did this ride in 2008, seeing cars and SUVs with multiple bikes and all kinds of team insignia attached. This year it was fun to see, not intimidating.

It took a while to get to the parking area for the ride because there were so many vehicles in line waiting to get in. I began to get a little jittery and my stomach started growling. I hadn't eaten anything for breakfast and the thought of downing the chocolate protein bar I'd bought at Academy made me want to hurl, so I ignored the growling as best I could.

We parked and unloaded, then headed toward the shuttle area. I thought I saw AM's Jeep pull in, so when we got to the shuttle area I sent her a text to see where she was. As it turned out, she was waiting in the very long porta-potty line while her husband parked the Jeep. I was tempted to go join her (in LINE, not in the porta-potty. Ew.) but I really wanted to get over to the starting area and get settled in.

Last time I did the ride, I had no idea there was a shuttle so Sig and I walked the couple of miles from the parking area to the event site. This time, we were on the lookout for a shuttle (buses graciously provided by the Dripping Springs ISD), but didn't see any school buses around. We had just decided to walk on over to the site when a bus pulled around the corner. We headed back to the shuttle site, where I was told bikes are not allowed in the shuttles. No problem, I told Sig to get on and I would ride over. No biggie, just a nice little warm-up, right?

Here's where I did dumbass thing #1 - I didn't get my bike shoes from Sig before I took off so I was riding in my Saucony running shoes. Ouch. I really don't know how people can ride in anything but bike shoes. I'm so used to clipping in and out that not having to felt really bizarre. Not fun.

A bunch of other people were walking/riding to the starting area so I just followed along, trying not to get hit or to run anyone over. I got to the tennis court area and waited for Sig, AM, and her hubby to arrive. It was still a bit chilly and I started eyeing the porta-pottys again, wondering if maybe a pit stop would be a good idea. I decided against it and eventually our little team got together and I got my bib number from AM and made some last-minute adjustments.

Adjusting my bike seat

Let me just say a little bit about the atmosphere of this event. It's just flat out exciting. There are so many people there (over 3,000 riders + 800 or so volunteers, plus friends and family of the riders) that it can be a little overwhelming, but in a good way. I started to forget a little bit about being nervous and focused on the reason I was there - to honor Elianna and Joyce and their strength and courage in fighting and beating cancer. I can remember very clearly thinking, in 2008, that I was out riding my bike while Elianna was fighting for her life in a hospital bed. It helped put things into perspective and calm me down.

So many people!

I stretched and made sure everything was looking good on my bike, then proceeded to do dumbass thing #2: I had nowhere to put my phone, so I clipped it to my bib shorts under my left arm. It seemed logical and was comfortable, so I didn't give it another thought. More on this dumbassery in the next post...

We got over to the staging area and Sig was busy taking pictures of everything. Lance and Levi and some other members of Team RadioShack, along with PATRICK DEMPSEY (yes, McDreamy himself!) were there making some announcements, so Sig ran over to the main stage to get some shots of them. They were riding the 90 mile route so I knew I wouldn't get to see them, which made me very happy Sig was there to take the photos.

Lance addressing the crowd

Lance and Patrick Dempsey (not sure who the other guy is)

This is who we ride for

The water bottle Elianna signed for me

After standing around waiting for the 90 and 65 mile folks to head out, it was finally our turn. I was feeling pretty good at this point. The weather was cloudy and a bit chilly, but it felt good. We walked our bikes down through the starting lane (it was way too crowded to try and ride) and I was once again overwhelmed by the number of people out cheering, rattling their cowbells, and making all kinds of noise. Dripping Springs HS (I think) even had their drill team and cheerleaders out there again. It was a great beginning, very festive and exciting.

Heading out

As we left the starting area and turned onto 290 to get to the ride turnoff, things started getting disjointed. I knew AM and her husband would drop me pretty quickly, but I tried my best to keep them in sight as long as I could. It was just too crowded though, and I'm not experienced enough in a big group to maneuver safely through all those people, so I just settled back and rode as safely as I could.

Things got better once people spread out and there was more room on the road. Everything was fine for me until the first small hill, and I immediately started regretting my lack of training in the month before the ride. Yeah, I know. Boo hoo. Serves me right.

About 5 or so miles in, I discovered dumbass thing #3 - my bike computer was still in transport mode and hadn't even turned on. CRAP!

I don't remember every detail of the ride, but one thing I remember very clearly was the low water crossing that brought everyone to a halt. Apparently there had already been two bad accidents there by the time I arrived, so the course marshals were making everyone stop and walk through it. There was water flowing across the small bridge, and everyone was crossing in single file. As I was in the middle of the bridge, the guy in front of me slipped and startled me, causing me to slip. My right ankle turned and I nearly went over the side, but someone behind me managed to grab the back of my shirt and keep me from falling.

The good news is, I didn't go over. The bad news is, I twisted my ankle pretty good. To make matters worse, there was a pretty steep uphill climb coming up out of that low crossing so I had no momentum and ended up walking up the hill (along with many others, I might add). My ankle was pretty much screaming at me by the time I got to the top of the hill so I took a moment to rest and try to stretch it out.

It was at this moment I discovered dumbass thing #4: I had completely forgotten to start my HRM. I didn't even bother with it at that point. Quite honestly, I didn't really want to know what my heart rate was. I figured as long as I was still alive and breathing it was all good.

I have to say, although this ride was as tough as I remembered it being, having my new bike sure did help. I still had to walk up some hills, but not nearly as many as last time. Even better, I was able to ride at least halfway up the hills I ended up walking. I'm SO glad I got a triple - I used those granny gears like nobody's business.

Riders coming up a hill I had just climbed

I did have some really bad moments, though. I sent Sig a text at the 15 mile pit stop and let her know about my ankle, not sure how much more I could ride with it hurting like it did. I was standing in line waiting to get into a porta-potty (sans suspicious powder in a baggie) when I got her return text, a little sympathy mixed with encouragement. I figured I could at least get another five miles in, so I refilled my water bottles and set out again.

Porta-potty line @ 15 mile pit stop

Livestrong volunteers are AWESOME!

LOVE this sign!

Somewhere along here, as I was pedaling slowly up a hill, I heard a big noise coming from in front of me. I had my head down trying to get up the hill but looked up just as a large group of cyclists blew past me, headed the other way. They were followed by a support vehicle and two motorcycle cops with full lights on, and it dawned on me too late that it was Lance and his group. Someone behind me said, "HEY! That was Lance!" and I kicked myself for not getting my camera out in time to get a shot. It probably wouldn't have done much good anyway - they were going too dang fast!

At about 20 or so miles in, I was done. I wanted to quit. Even looking at the water bottle Elianna had signed for me didn't help. I couldn't think of one thing to inspire me. My ankle was throbbing, my feet were killing me, my body ached, and I was so tired I could hardly turn my legs over. In fact, I heard one of the SAG vehicles coming from behind me and actually stopped to flag it down, but the driver seemed in a hurry and didn't see me. A rider going past me said, "He'll come get you on the way back." I just nodded tiredly and got back on the bike, figuring I could at least keep going until another SAG dude came along. It must have been a sign, telling me not to quit.

It was around this time I got my second wind. There was a series of downhills that were a ton of fun and I found myself zipping along at 20 mph, feeling pretty good. Then something weird happened. It's amazing how one's mind can completely bifurcate in moments of great stress. Part of me was saying "Yes! I can do this!", but once I had to start going uphill again my mind insisted "No, no I can't!" I spent a good 15 miles or so battling back and forth with my mind, trying to convince myself I could finish even if I had to walk for miles.

Ride elevation profile. No wonder I was tired.

I met a lot of very cool people along the way. I kept playing tag with this lady:

She was really cool and we would exchange pleasantries every time we passed or caught up to each other. At one point, as I was coming up behind her to pass her again, I got a good look at the sign on her back and was jolted to see she was an 11-year survivor. WOW. I was humbled so much by the thought of what she must have gone through that I could hardly bring myself to speak to her. I finally swallowed the lump in my throat and congratulated her on her victory, and she very modestly accepted my kudos then proceeded to leave me in the dust as we started up a hill. Talk about strength!

By mile 37 I was so tired I couldn't think straight. Those last 6 miles or so are some pretty tough climbs, but the last couple of miles are downhill and FUN heading into the finish line. I was in tears as I finally got to the home stretch and there were people lined up all along the way, cheering and clapping...then as I headed into the finishing chute I heard the announcer call my name and saw Sig sitting on the ground along the side of the chute, her camera lens aimed right at me. I tried to smile as I went by, but all I could think about was getting off my bike and drinking some cold water.
Crossing the finish line!

I need water!

Overall, the ride was more difficult than I remembered, but I feel like I did a much better job of fighting through it this time. Having a better bike definitely helped, and the training I did in the summer helped as well. I do regret letting my training go as I got more busy with school, but I'm going to take that as a lesson learned and NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. I know I would've done better had I not been so foolish. I'm just going to have to plan better next time.

More on my post-ride thoughts in the next post....

LIVESTRONG 2010: Pre-Ride Report

It's been a week since I rode the 45 mile 2010 LIVESTRONG Cycling Challenge and this is literally the first real opportunity I've had to sit down and write about it. I have a lot to say and a lot of photos to share, so I decided to make this a three part "series" - pre-ride, ride, and post-ride. Lots of stuff to share!


I was so tired on Friday night after I got home from work that I didn't do anything but laundry. I wanted to make sure I had enough clothes but I also wanted to make sure I had clothes for work on Tuesday. Exciting, huh? That's me, just a ball of fire.

Packing the bike bag

Saturday morning was spent running errands, getting my Xterra an oil change, packing, etc. I had my lists of stuff for the bike bag and the clothes bag, then had to make a decision about whether or not to put my Lexa on the bike rack or let her ride in the car with us.

Bike bag, clothes bag, camera bags

Ultimately I decided she'd be more comfortable on the bike rack, so I loaded her up and got ready to go.

Lexa in her bike cradle

I had planned to leave at around noon and that was pretty much the schedule I kept. Sig came along again as well, as my personal photographer and cheerleader (if you don't have one of these for your rides/runs/races, GET ONE!!), and it was awesome to have the company. I'm not sure I could do a ride like this without someone as awesome as she is.

On the road again!

The 6 hr. ride to Austin was uneventful....that is, until my niece, who was taking care of my critters, called and told me she didn't have a key to the house. Oops. She was right - I hadn't bothered to give her one because I knew her mom had one. Apparently they gathered up every key in their house and tried them, but none worked. Oops again. Things got sorted out just fine, but it was a bit stressful for a while there.

Regarding the hotel, let me backtrack a little here. I searched and searched for a hotel fairly close to the event venue, but most of them either got horrible reviews or were way too expensive. Doing this ride is not cheap. There's a $250 minimum fundraising level per cyclist, plus all the expenses incurred as far as travel, lodging, meals, etc. In light of this, I was looking for a fairly cheap non-roach motel within a decent driving distance.

From hotel to event site, +/- 20 miles. Not bad.

I lucked upon Extended Stay America on Hwy 290 (which led us right to the event site). I read many mixed reviews about this hotel, but let me tell you, the stay was very pleasant. Apparently this is a hotel people go to when they are in town for an extended time (hence the name, duh!) or can't be in their house/apartment for a while, so there are actually people living there temporarily. It can make for interesting neighbors, I suppose. I liked it because it was fairly cheap (I even sweet-talked the clerk into giving me a pretty good discount), the room was clean, it was very quiet, and it was only 20 miles from the event site. My bike fit in the elevator (a big plus) and the shower had really decent water pressure (an even bigger plus). I could have dealt with having to lug my bike up three flights of stairs, but wimpy water pressure is NOT acceptable. Aside from stepping in someone's spilled beer in the elevator, the hotel was a good place to be.

Extended Stay America on 290. Nice.

After we checked in, we went in search of something to eat. We were about to settle for Wendy's when I realized I didn't have any small bills, so we hunted for a place where I could buy something small with a big bill. We lucked upon an Academy Sporting Goods store and stopped in there to see what fun things could be found. I ended up with a new pair of Thorlo socks and got Sig a cool Aussie hat to shade her from the sun while she was taking photos during the event. We then happened upon a totally awesome restaurant called "Texadelphia", which served me and amazing avocado burger and Sig a cheesesteak that was apparently to die for. Yum!

Texadelphia. Way cool place to eat.

I spent the rest of the evening getting my stuff ready for Sunday. I couldn't decide for sure which shorts and shirt I wanted to wear, so I brought a couple of different choices. There was also the matter of just how much stuff Sig was willing to carry in the backpack. I really wanted a change of shorts and shoes available after I finished, but that meant she would have to either carry all of that around or take a shuttle back to the car to get stuff before I returned. In the end, we got everything packed to our liking and it was sleepytime. I tried not to think about what was ahead of me, to just relax and get some rest, but it was hard. I think I finally drifted off at around 11:30pm.

All set for the big ride

RIDE DAY (part 1):

I woke up with a jolt at 4:00, deathly afraid I had overslept and was going to be late or not make it at all. I checked the time on my phone and saw I still had an hour to sleep, but of course I couldn't get back to sleep. I tossed and turned a bit more before deciding to just get up and start getting ready. I figured it wouldn't hurt things if we got to the site earlier than planned. Good thing we left earlier, because it took a lot longer for us to get there than I thought.

To be continued...