Sometime a few months ago when I laid out my training plan and found out my friend Beth was helping put on the Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event in St. Pete, I realized that the two matched up perfectly. I waited around to register, not 100% sure that I was going to do it, because, to be honest, the map scared the life out of me.
Though I’ve ridden a few roads here and there, most of them were roads I know to be low traffic with few intersections and not a lot of turns. When I saw this, I continued hesitating.
Finally, I decided to man up and sign up. If it meant that much to Beth to help put the ride on, I could sign up and do the ride. Thankfully, I was able to convince Tori to do it as well. I raised $145 for the event (thank you so much Rick, Genna, Beth, mom, and Tim for donating), and even though it wasn’t a lot, it was my first time fundraising for a race. It made me realize how difficult it is and how much respect I have for people who have raised thousands for Team in Training, Team Challenge, or others.
As race day approached I got more and more nervous because of the route. It didn’t help that I found the directions from mapquest online. There were more turns than I even realized (x10 possibly), and I continued to gather nerves. I ran with Tori the day before, and we just didn’t even talk about the bike ride the next day. I think there’s a distinct possibility that we were both in a state of denial. Neither one of us are out gallivanting on our bikes in traffic on a regular basis.
But, not much will stop me once I set my mind to something. I set my alarm, got up, loaded up, and was off and headed down to Ft. De Soto to get ready for the 7:30 am departure. In these type of biking events, there’s no timing system, but there is a starting line and everyone starts together. In all honesty it’s one of the more nervewracking parts. Everyone is bunched up, and I always fear (well, for the two times I’ve done group rides) that someone is going to ram into me or me into them. But, I was clear again, and we were off and looping the island before heading out onto the roads of St. Pete.
And those turns? They weren’t messing around.
|It says 63 miler, but they had to make a couple of adjustments, and we hit 64.59 miles.|
I saw that piece of paper upon check in and thought to myself, “how is it possible I can follow these instructions when I can’t even grab food on the bike right now?” I didn’t know where I’d keep the paper, and I’d left my bento box (that holds my food, phone, keys, etc on my bike) at home. They assured us that it was very well marked with many cans of paint, and I just had to hope they were right.
And after literally getting to tears at my car (though I did one of those bite my lip so the tear wouldn’t drip out of my eyes), telling Tori I’d never been more nervous, and seeing Beth and Nick and explaining how scared I was, it was time to line up and go. And just after 7:30 am, we were off! (Did I make it clear I was scared beyond explanation?)
Once the people started separating it got better. We ended up riding in a group for a period of time about 8-12 miles into it, but soon one of their groupies got a flat tire. We waited for a few minutes, snapped a picture, but then decided to press on since they seemed to have a handle on the situation and didn’t need anymore bystanders.
This was the only time we were on a bike path, and immediately after this picture we crossed that major intersection behind us. Thankfully my nerves had settled somewhat before then.
Not more than 15 minutes later Tori said, “do I have a flat?” And sure enough, I looked at her back wheel, and she did. We pulled over and started trying to handle the situation. Though I’ve watched countless YouTube videos and Tori has practiced several times on a front wheel, getting a flat on the back tire was new. How the heck were we supposed to get the tire off of the chain? We called the support vehicle, their air pump didn’t work, Tori’s compressed air didn’t work, and the list went on. A nice man stopped to help us and got a lot of it done in a fair amount of time, but he didn’t know how to get the tire back on. That’s probably the part that took the longest. Finally after some trial and error, a YouTube video search on a phone, and some luck we got the tire back on and were ready to head off again. It was a 45 minute detour.
We skipped the aid station 2 miles down the road because we had just stopped for such a long period of time. The next aid station wasn’t for another 14 miles, but we had plenty of food and fuel.
As we rode and turned and rode and turned we continued to note how well marked the route was. They had really gone out of their way with signs, arrows, and paint on the road to make sure we were never surprised when there was a left turn approaching or a right turn to make. There was literally not one time during the entire 65 miles that we even questioned a direction.
We maintained a solid speed so that we kept moving forward but wouldn’t burn out, and we only slowed and stopped for lights and turns. The turns helped build my confidence for race day, because there are a few turns on the Rev3 course. And by the time we reached the aid station at the halfway point, we were more than ready.
Don’t be jealous of my fanny pack. It was my substitution for the bento box I had left at home.
And since I’ve realized in the last few months that nutrition on the bike is really really important, it’s worth noting that I had taken three shot blocks when we stopped for the flat tire.. I had Gatorade (I think) in my aero bottle so I was getting in some calories, but I was definitely hungry by this point and shouldn’t have waited this long to take more.
At the 28 mile marker I drank some water, ate one of those 200 calorie packs of fig newtons, and had a half a dill pickle with some pickle juice. It’s amazing how much more you can stomach on the bike than the run.
And after a few minutes (I’d guess 3-5) we were back and riding the return route. We stopped two more times at aid stations at 44.5 and 49.9. I don’t know why they were so close together, but because people were so nice to volunteer and man these stations I wanted to pull over. At the second aid station we stopped at I ate another 200 calorie pack of fig newtons, and then at the last aid station I finished off the shot blocks. Usually I’ll have a huma gel or a clif bar in there somewhere, but the fig newtons were my weapon of choice for this ride. They did the trick!
I think I also drank two bottles of gatorade and at least 2-3 bottles of water? I wish I kept better track of this. I know there were at least two times I was really surprised to reach down and find my aero bottle empty already.
As we were finishing, I knew we had to loop around Ft. De Soto, but there was so much in me that was hoping that last arrow would point back in the direction of the finish line instead of to the loop, but as I knew, it didn’t. The last six miles were the longest, but when we got back to the finish line it felt great.
Our 45 minute flat plus waiting a little on the other person earlier had pushed us back later in the day than we had hoped, but the flat happened on the perfect ride and gave us invaluable experience that we both hope will pay off in future incidents.
Tori and I both agreed that our confidence had grown an enormous amount. We had crossed some serious intersections including freeway onramps and downtown crossroads. We stayed aware at all times, but we let ourselves relax and enjoy the ride as well. It was important to let ourselves have fun or we wouldn’t have made it through this ride mentally. 64.59 miles is the furthest I’ve ever ridden (and I think Tori too), and I was so glad to have Tori there for company. It took us a little under four hours of riding time, and that’s not the kind of riding you can do alone. I need someone to talk to and commiserate with and celebrate with during the highs and lows. I’m thankful to have great training buddies (that I could do an entire other post on) that keep me going and motivate me.
When we got back to the finish area, we were DONE! There was nothing in my body that would have let me run for even 1/4 mile. It was a long, but important, day.
Beth and some of the CF crew dressed in tuxedo shirts since they helped put on the ride. They were at our service!
I don’t think I need to summarize this day, but I’ll just suffice it to say it was the day in this training cycle that I’ve probably experienced the most personal growth.
Have you done a group ride on big roads before?
When is a time you were really afraid to do something but went for it and learned for it?