The National MS Society's 24th annual Bike to the Bay was yesterday. I rode in this bike tour last year and had an incredible time, so I was very excited for this year's ride. The ride started bright and early at 8:00am from Smyrna High School, in Smyrna, DE. I get a certain excitement when I make repairs or improvements to my bike, and I'm not sure why. I just added new handlebars to my bike because last year my wrists were hurting me pretty badly during the ride. I figured if I could avoid that discomfort I'd be able to ride farther. The new handlebars are an extension of my regular handlebars, and they allow me to crouch own on my elbows (think Tour de France), it also helps stretch my back when it gets tired, helps me be a bit more aerodynamic and again, takes all pressure off of the wrists.
My dear pal and life coach Rob (Quaf) is an incredible cyclist. This guy averages 25MPH when he rides, and he's what I would call die-hard. I told him about about my new handlebars and he said, "Oh, you got the back spasm bars?" And I said, "Why do you call them back spasm bars? Because they prevent or cure back spasms or because they cause them?" He said, "Well for me, they cause them." Grrrrrrreat. Rob is also 6'7", so I figure we're built just a weeeeeeee bit differently, so I wasn't gonna get too worried about it. :-)
Anyhoo, Chris picked me up bright and early Saturday morning and we got down to Smyrna High School around 8:00am. We met up with Matt and his wife Carol and our pal Nick (Matt and Chris weren't riding; Carol and Nick were) and a few of their friends, and we made plans to call each other on our cell phones to report when we thought we'd reach the finish line; this way Matt and Chris would know when to pick us up. When we got up to the starting line, it was 46 degrees, cloudy and very windy. I had on long bike pants, but only had on my short-sleeved bike shirt. Last year I was very warm in my long pants and short-sleeved shirt, and I heard it was supposed to warm up, so I figured I'd be OK.
Unfortunately, I wasn't. Between the cold damp air, my no-longer-very-insulated body and the 16MPH headwind which gusted to 29 according to the National Weather Service, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. Last year, I was riding with my boss and his wife. I remember thinking that my boss' wife's pace was way too slow for me-- she was going about 9 MPH, and I was averaging between 11-13MPH. But this year, I was pedaling with every ounce of might my soul had to offer, and I was going 7 or 8 MPH fighting the wind. It was grueling to say the least. to give you a comparison, when I walk on a treadmill at a good clip, I go about 3.9 MPH... so 7MPH on a bike is just silly.
Anyhoozle, to make a long story short, I didn't finish - I completed just over 30 miles which isn't tremendously shabby. I might have been able to survive a few more rest stops but then it started raining. Without rain gear or any other kind of protective clothing, I was beyond cold despite my hard pedaling. At one point I was screaming because I was just so miserable (and I wasn't the only one screaming, trust me). Finally I convinced myself that continuing to ride was silly. The MS Society got their funds raised, so I chose to pack it in. I did feel pretty guilty and lame at first because I know most folks with MS can't even get on a bike, so I should just ride since I actually can ride... but at the same time, it doesn't make sense to be in the cold wind and rain without proper protection. I have a CD to record in Arizona in a few days, and I couldn't kill myself and be sick for it. So I hailed the loser-van and rode the remaning 40+ miles in toasty, dry comfort. I justify to myself that I did the whole ride last year, so instead of me 'failing to finish,' I just 'chose to stop riding.' :-D :-D ("Justify it however you want, Quitter!")
Matt and Chris bought little prizes for our peepz who rode, and they joked about getting me a T-shirt that said, "Yeah? Well, it's 30 miles farther than you went." :-)
Anyway, I still have mixed feelings about it, but knowing I didn't train like I should have, I think biking 30 miles under those conditions is something to be proud of.
And there is next year... :-)
From: Robert Bryan
Sent: Monday, October 06, 2003 7:36 AM
To: Knapp, Jill A.
Subject: How'd you do?
Some wind, huh?
Saturday was amazing.
I saw a guy on a Trek 5500 actually get blown off the road and into the ditch. My heart rate monitor download confirms that I busted my ass. Although my 5:47:12 time (including 45 minutes spread between 4 rest stops) doesn't sound like much for 78 miles, the fact that my AVERAGE heart rate was 161 bpm for just shy of six hours is something that I could not have done without an ER visit a year ago, and I guess that's really all I was looking for: some evidence that I'd done something by training. The decision not to ride on Sunday was an easy one. My waking heart rate Sunday morning was 78. (Normal is 47 and anything over 60 means a mandatory day off.) I was actually thinking about trying it anyway until I saw that the wind had shifted 180 degrees and was blowing out of the North at 15 mph. I feel pretty good today. All of the skin is peeling off myforehead and ears: windburn. How about you? How are you feeling? -Rob
From: Jill A. Knapp,
Sent: Monday, October 06, 2003 1:19 PM
To: Robert Bryan
Subject: RE: How'd you do?
I am SO happy you kicked the crap out of the ride. I knew you would. I was looking for you at the finish line but didn't see you around, but I figured you got down there in like 20 minutes. :-)
You must feel AMAZING! I am so proud of you-- you've come such a long way in a year, and you've gotta feel like you've accomplished something quite immense. Mazel Tov!! You ROCK!
I crapped out after the 3rd rest stop. I had no rain gear, I had on short sleeves, and despite my hugest efforts I couldn't get over 9 MPH (usually stayed around 7/8) with the wind. Once it started to rain, I just didn't have anything left. Part of me hated myself for wussing out, but the other (much larger, possibly escapist) part of me knew that I did it last year, and it wasn't a wise choice for me to push myself so hard especially having not trained. No matter how you slice it, being cold and wet for a period of time without proper gear is dopey. So I hopped the loser bus and got down to Dewey after lunchtime.
A bunch of my theatah friends were riding or accompanying, so we all stayed at my friend Matt's condo in Rehoboth... We slept over on Saturday night and had a nice dinner and breakfast the next day, and then drove back up on Sunday. It was a good time, and I'm proud that I did 30 miles without training, I guess that counts for something... though I'm not sure what. All was not lost, I guess.
Anyhoozle, the cafeteria closes in 10 minutes, so I had best get some grubbity grub grub. How did you get back to Smyrna??
From: Robert Bryan
Sent: Monday, October 06, 2003 2:37 PM
To: Knapp, Jill A.
Subject: RE: How'd you do?
Strangely, there were times when I was at 11-12 mph even though I was going all-out. I mean, that wind was just amazing. Tree limbs were falling and stuff. It was like a hurricane for a while. The wind is such a difficult factor. Fortunately for me, in the course of getting ready, I bought a full windbreaker/rain pants outfit (in stylish red and black), which saved the day. Doing that without the right gear woulda been terrible. (more terrible) I'm glad you weren't injured. I didn't see you, but then again, if I had seen you, I probably wouldnta recognized you because crazily, in my mind, I'm still looking for the other you. My Dad and Dela were there. They helped me off my bike because I couldn't stand on my own at the end. We went for a FANTASTIC dinner in Rehoboth. Then we went to Coast Day in Lewes on Sunday. Tonight I get back on the trainer.
So, was the support bus filled with people? I saw some fairly frail and novice-looking people at the beginning. At some point, I started wondering if there would be enough busses to carry them all. Did they have the drill sergeant from "Officer and a Gentleman" at the front of the bus screaming insults at you the whole time? The whole MS-ride organization seemed great. I would think that someone would have seen to this detail.
I'm curious to know your thoughts on not finishing. What, if anything, does it mean for you? I was planning to ride on Sunday, but when I was unable to do so, I had a little trouble dealing with that, and wonder if it's similar for you.