Are you joking? That’s what kept running through my mind as I easily climbed Hill Road yesterday in the Philly Livestrong Challenge. Mission to become such a fit athlete that even a challenging 70-mile hilly cycling event could feel like nothing: ACCOMPLISHED.
Things started off a bit shaky before the ride. That waiter who assured me the day before that I was drinking decaf coffee rather than the real deal was clearly mistaken. Eve of the biggest ride of my life: I got one hour of sleep. (For those who don’t know, I can’t drink coffee because it gives me bad heart palpitations, so one accidental cup to me is like taking a hit of Speed.)
Then after I “woke up” to get ready for the ride, my Livestrong wristband snapped in two. Bad omen?
But nothing was standing in our way of accomplishing our year’s goal. We got to the start a bit early so that Tom could buy me a new wristband in the village, and despite the lack of sleep, we both felt energized. I proudly wore my Freshbikes kit (favorite bike shop) and smiled brightly when a guy rode by and shouted “Freshbikes!” — he also was representing with the kit.
So, the ride. Piece of cake! Remember when I said I wanted to be that girl who rode by me up a hill two years ago while I walked? I was her! For the first half of the ride, everyone stayed up on their bikes, but as the ride progressed and the hills got longer and steeper, many people walked their bikes up. Not me! And, of course, not Tommie! We rode every inch.
And the finish line. Since the minute we signed up we were looking forward to riding into the finish line: yellow banners everywhere, yellow chalked “Congratulations!” on the pavement, cheering supporters, me riding through the survivor lane to grab my rose, and the announcer calling our names as our pictures would be taken under the finish line. Not so much.
At around mile 65 the rain started, and moments later Tom’s bike chain fell off (for no reason, I might add). Sadly it got lodged between the bike frame and the chain ring, so we had to flip the bike over and perform a bit of maintenance to get it working again — in the rain. After that we hopped back on our now soaking saddles and continued on. Then we heard the thunder. And then as the thunder grew louder and louder, we saw the clear lightening bolts a bit too well.
The storm wouldn’t let up. Around mile 68 we accepted the fact that the finish line would probably be empty. No one would cheer us in, let alone announce our victory.
But, we caught up to a group of riders about a block from campus, and we all laughed about our new reality. We rode through the deserted finish line and were directed by a lone man in a raincoat to get to the gym ASAP — lightening strikes and tornado warning!
So, we didn’t get the ending we were looking for, but this one will never be forgotten. We made a lot of (soggy) friends in the gym, and our hotel was happy to provide us with a clean shower (for a small fee) so that we could de-thaw before our trek back to Ol’ Virginney.
70 miles. 5,400 feet of elevation. On one hour of sleep. In an electrical storm. And I was worried about cancer?
Eff you, Cancer!
(P.S. I happened upon this blog post that I thought you might enjoy. I like reading about her fitness and health journey, and more importantly, I love her story of her Lance Armstrong encounter yesterday.)