Saturday, December 31, 2011

America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride 2011

Here it is, the end of 2011 and I realize I have been putting off writing about my ride around Lake Tahoe for about 6 months.  Part of it was that I wanted to complete the quilt I raffled off prior to posting my experience - and that still is not 100% complete though it's about 95% there.  I wanted to add a personalized note on the back of the quilt, which required me to purchase some fabric markers, I finally picked some up about 2 weeks ago.  I now have them so there is nothing in my way!!  I'll post an updated picture of the completed quilt prior to sending it off to the winners: Jennifer and Brendan Meyer!

My ba-donka-donk full of everything I might need
on the ride
Okay - so the ride.   We had to load up with several layers of clothing because of the cold and wet weather.  We also all had fuzzy peaches affixed to our helmets (TNT tradition - each chapter has their own item attached to their helmet - i saw SPAM, a tornado made out of pipe cleaners complete with flying cows, tomatoes, and many others). The ride started pretty early, it was still dark out (though the fact that there were thunderstorms and rain greatly increased the darkness).  It was in the 30s or low 40s but with the wet rain and lack of sun it felt FREEZING.   I had purchased some shoe covers earlier in the week - hoping they would help keep my feet warm - but they did not do much to help at all - my feet were freezing and eventually they just went numb.
I'm the third one back in the blue jacket - brrrrr!

No one had told me they were going to close the course when we rode on it, and in retrospect that was kind of a dumb thing to think considering the length of the course, but for some reason I thought that the road would be have less cars.  We approached Emerald Bay, the steep switchbacks I had rode up the day before and I was so glad to have ridden up them already.  This was the one part of the course where they closed the road, but only in the direction we were riding.  As we were going up the switchback, cars were still coming down in the opposite direction - still scary.  I may not have gone very fast, but I made my way up Emerald Bay, this time, without stopping until I got to the top.  Once at the top I found myself breathing extremely heavy and needed to pull over to catch my breath but it felt great to even get that small amount of improvement over the day before.

As planned, we rode past the first SAG stop - it was a beautiful view, and we had stopped the day before to take pictures because as we were warned, it was a mad house!  We regrouped just past the SAG stop and started into unventured territory.  I remember this was a big deal the day of the ride.  Up until that point, I had ridden everything the day before, but the next 85 miles were all new and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  We rode along, it was still cold but the rain wasn't as hard so it was starting to feel a little better.  I remember riding along and someone pointed out the first glimpse of sky between the clouds.  It was very small, but I was hoping the clouds would just part and oh, what a story it would be that the first 15 miles of the ride were in the freezing rain.
Starting to clear

The next stop we had was a SAG stop for our GA Chapter only.  One of our teammates, Lauren, had her family out supporting us, it was great!  The clouds were starting to show some blue peeping through.

The rest of the events are not necessarily in order as it all kinda mushed together since I didn't get this down 6 months ago.  But these are the memories I take from the ride:

Below is a picture from one of the SAG stops and as you could tell even though the sun was out a little, it was still cold and wet.  Approximately 10 min after this picture was taken Debbie ended up getting her tire caught in a rut in the road that was full of water and very difficult to see.  Thank goodness for a good helmet and her thumb is almost healed!

We made friends with some "Sacramento Tomatoes" who showed us a secret bathroom before the big bathroom stop so we didn't have to wait in line for 20 minutes.

I was suprised at the number of cars on the road - not only cars, but rude cars.  At some point during the ride I remember a car speeding along very close and very fast next to bike riders and then basically riding the back tire of the next group of riders beeping and just being a jerk.  When the riders would slide over to let him by, he picked up speed and raced to the next group where he did basically the same thing.  I was really surprised.  I thought the area would be aware and know of the bike ride going on....and support it.  It brought a lot of new people to Lake Tahoe and we were all supporting a good cause.

The distance around the lake is only 72 miles, so there is a 28 mile out and back to Truckee to make it the full 100 miles.  The ride into Truckee was fine, the ride out of Truckee was a hellish downpour.  And that was another 25ish miles of rain.

After all the rain, there really were some beautiful views.
Super clear water

Biking Crew
I remember exclaiming "I feel great!" and  "This feels terrific!" Several times until we hit around mile 82/83ish.  At that point we were on Spooner, the 7 mile slow incline, and I was done.  My body was tired.  I could feel the sunburn on my face.  My legs were barely moving.  My stomach was not feeling 100%.  I was not able to keep up with my best riding buddies.  I wanted nothing more than to get off the bike and just walk up the hill, but I refused.  I pulled over a few times to regain some more breath and strength - I'm not sure if that helped or hurt me but I was moving so slow that I didn't really lose that much momentum.  My friend Dan (a recent survivor - his Lymphoma is in remission) looked like he was feeling much the same way I was.  He would pass me, and then I would pass him, and that continued for most of the 7miles of Spooner.  We'd mutter a little "hey" but speaking was just too much at that point.

When Spooner was over, there were some really great descents, and I probably took them a little too fast because I was sooooo ready to be off the bike.  I don't remember how far, but at some point I coming down a hill I saw Charlotte and Libby hanging out in a parking lot on the right....I was near tears at seeing them because I was so happy to hopefully ride with them again!

About 2 miles out from the finish line, one of the mentors thought it would be a good idea to wait and then have us all ride in together. While this is a good idea in theory, my mood, my legs, my stomach, none of me was having it.  We were waiting for some others to come in and we were told that they were about 20-30 min back.  I felt terrible but I knew I could not wait that long.  I could see the finish line - and all I wanted to do was get off my bike and go sit on a real toilet.  I said I could not wait that long and Dan said neither could he.  So Dan, Libby and I went off to finish the course.
From the left:  Libby, me, Dan's friend, and Dan approaching the finish line.
Coming up to the finish line I was overwhelmed with emotion.  It flashed through my head what had just happened - I raised $3900 for LLS, I trained for close to 6 months, I met some amazing people, I just biked 100 freakin' miles (bucket list item), and I'm crossing the line with new friends that I would not have met had I not joined TNT - one of whom, is in recovery...and teammates who had finished earlier than we had were all waiting and cheering us on.  I burst into tears.  Several of my teammates was asked if I was okay, I think they thought I was hurt.  Nope - just happy and proud to be done.

At that point - I felt like I was done with Tahoe.  While I completed the course, I felt that between the weather, losing all energy at 82ish miles, Spooner, stomach issues - that was it for me.  I might do another century but it certainly wouldn't be Tahoe.

Turns out I was wrong.