Well, the year went by, and quite frankly, I forgot about the ride and my offer to be on his team. Two weeks ago, Rob sent out the information about the ride which quickly jogged my memory: "Oh no, I have two weeks to raise money and get ready for a full century." I quickly signed up for the event, sent emails to family and friends and began pedaling like a mad man. Fortunately, I was already signed up for the Covered Bridge Metric Century, so at least I would have a good tune-up ride under my belt.
My fund raising goal was $250.00, enough to cover the minimum required to participate in the full century. I was totally amazed that in two days, I not only met my goal, but exceeded it by almost $100.00. In fact, as I write this, I'm still receiving donations from people.
The ride was scheduled to begin at 7:30, so I left my house at 4:40 to make sure I would be down there early enough to get settled in and warmed-up. Rob picked up my registration packet the previous day, so I didn't have to contend with that, but as a former Marine, I have a hurry-up-and- wait mentality, and don't like to rush. Besides, most races begin early, so I was used to it.
I arrived at Montgomery County Community College, the staging area for the event, at around 6:15. I called Rob, and he was right in front of me in the line of traffic awaiting to get into the parking lot. We got into the lots around 6:30, and got our bikes and other gear ready then rode to the starting line to meet up with the other members of our team including Rob's brother and cousin. After everyone was assembled, we formed up with the other 100 mile riders in the corral.
The staging area was well laid out and there was plenty of room for all riders doing the 100 mile event. Lance came on stage around 7:45 and gave a few words of encouragement and thanks, and then we were off. Well, sort of, a couple of thousand riders on bikes just don't' get up and move. To be honest, this was the scariest part of the event because of having to clip into the pedals in a mass of humanity. Unlike the Covered Bridge Ride, I didn't fall and we got off to a good start.
The first 30 miles of the event were a breeze. We stopped at all "Power Stops," fueled up, and drank plenty of water and Gatorade. The weather was cool and we were making good time. Now, for some reason, I thought the ride was going to be closer to Philly (It helps to check the map) and thus we'd be riding on relatively flat terrain. Well, we rode to the northwest and were in Berks County around mile 30 or so. Berks County northwest of Montgomery County consists of hill after hill and they came at us fast and furious. By mile 50, I knew there was a reason they called it the Livestrong "Challenge". I really shouldn't have been surprised, after all, the event supports the foundation of 7 time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
The mother of all hills came at mile 57. It was a 1 mile climb, and it this point, numerous riders were off their bikes and walking. I was determined that I wasn't going to walk at any point in the event, so I shifted down and sucked it up and made my way to the top of the hill. On the other side of the hill was a rest stop in a little Village called Landis Store. Just like the Boston Marathon when I heard the Pink Floyd song "mother," which got me through some hard times, I was again reminded of my mother, because her maiden name was Landis. so, in a small way, my mother was with me again.
After the rest stop, we were elated that we were over the biggest climb of the course and were expecting it to be "all downhill" the rest of the way home. In fact, it was "all downhill," that is until the next hill. It got to the point where I was tired of riding downhills, because I knew what awaited once I was at the bottom. Mile 60-90 was definitely some of the hardest riding I have ever done, because of the distance and the terrain: a perfect storm of hurt. Actually, my legs didn't feel too bad, and I was able to climb well, but the climbs did hurt. Now, what hurt the most, however, was my a**. I now have a new appreciation for riders on major tours who ride 100 milers on consecutive days. I know my grandpa will be telling me that I need to get a bigger seat.
After mile 90 it was a pretty smooth stretch to the finish, and we were able to push it home as a team. Some of our team split off earlier and rode the 70 mile event, but Rob, Mike and I rode under the banner with the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that comes with completing a full century, the bikers equivalent of a marathon. After we passed under the banner, Rob split to the right and rode through the survivors chute and received his yellow rose. I was proud of his accomplishment and proud to have rode with him and for the memory of my mother.
After the ride, I made my way to the Livestrong Village and had my complimentary meal, which hit the spot: pizza, subs, salad, couscous and cookies along with beverages supplied by Michelob.
I sat down by myself, because the team all went different ways. As I was eating, a young couple came up to me and asked if they could sit with me. I said, by all means. We struck up a conversation, and I pulled out two buttons that we were throwing to the supporters along the way and gave them to them. They asked about the meaning of "Team Fish," and I explained to them that one of Rob's favorite quotes is "there comes a time in everyone's life when they have to either fish or cut bait." I also told them that "Fish Or Cut Bait" is the name of his blog.
After I told the story, a woman who was seated behind me asked, " did I hear you mention something about team fish?" She then showed me her button that she received from Rob last year. As it turns out, her name is Dianne, and last year on the ride she was between chemo treatments, in fact she scheduled her treatments so she could do the ride. At some point, Rob noticed that she was having a tough go of it and rode with her for awhile. That's when he gave her the button. She did the ride again this year and had the button on her jersey. She is 8 months clear as of yesterday. After hearing the story, I gave her a 2008 "Team Fish" button. I hope that it brings her the luck that the last one did.
On a final note, I'd like to say thank you to all the volunteers who made the ride a success. It was a great experience, and I am planning on doing it again next year. I feel blessed that after 23 years I have the ability to participate in an event that raises money and awareness for cancer research, and that I can honor my mother by raising donations.
Thanks to all who made this possible:
Anita and Brian B.
Brook and Cherry L.
Gene and Kim E.
Ed and Jan S.
Bob and Jan E.
(Elevation Profile, note: lost GPS power short of Finish)