We made it, but it wasn't easy. But neither is fighting cancer.
Robert, who often wakes early with me and rides alongside, and I decided some time ago to participate in the Ride for Jim event following a route from Richmond to Yorktown, Virginia -- it was largely because of my convincing him how flat this event was, I must admit.
This cycling event honors Jim Popp, a physician who fell victim to cancer, and supports the work of medical students participating in oncology research at MCV -- an obvious worthwhile pursuit in which to participate.
Last year when Joel and I decided to take on the trip, we found it to be a mix of smooth, flat roads until the very end.
I should have remembered the end which we'll come back to soon.
What I did remember how uncomfortable it felt last year waiting for hours to change out of sweaty, salty bike gear. So this year my wife graciously offered to pick up Robert and I upon completion in Yorktown foregoing the necessity for us to wait for the limo bus and truck to haul us all back to Richmond hours later.
This year my wife was coming to rescue us from chamois irritation... and stuck-in-traffic-with-other-irritated-chamois-wearing-riders frustration... thank you Kris!
So the night before I didn't sleep well. Anxious about the miles ahead woke me throughout the night -- hourly it seemed... it started at 3:20 am. Departure time from our homes was 6 am. We had decided why not ride from our front doors to the starting point located in downtown Richmond. A mere 17 miles we thought, downhill for the most part, no problem we figured.
So I found myself at Robert's house, in the dark, listening to the early morning sounds of birds and wet leaves dropping off early morning moisture. I thought against ringing the doorbell at 6 am on a Sunday - I knew his wife wouldn't approve.
C'mon Robert I thought twitching, I don't want to be late to kick this thing off.
After finally appearing from his home and giving him grief about not being punctual like my German forefathers have taught me to be, we were off and pedaling toward Richmond. It was a largely downhill, uneventful trip and we arrived unscathed.
Here we are at the beginning within the MCV complex. I admit we were early and perhaps I'm in shock as we have so many more miles to go - hence the look. Robert looks like he needs more coffee don't you think?
About forty minutes later after some picture taking, conversation about cancer and the work at Massey Cancer Center at MCV... we were off to Yorktown. And moving way too fast.
Pause for life lesson: This is when I am reminded that pride is not only wrong but also painful.
Now while being an unwritten rule it is understood among those that find themselves biking in groups that if you sit on someone's wheel and draft, you're obligated to get to the front and pull everyone else for a bit -- it's only fair.
By this point our route had taken us to my childhood stomping grounds and so I knew the hill was coming. We were rolling along at 20 mph (much faster than my 18 or so) and as in the beginning of every group ride, the adrenaline was coursing. So naturally I felt it time to pull for some time.
Half an hour later I realized my mistake -- I was surrounded by twenty-somethings going twenty-something. They were way too young going way too fast or maybe I was way too old going way too slow. Either way I allowed pride to push me to the front of this pack and pull them up a long steady hill. This is also when Robert claimed I tried to drop him -- so untrue by the way.
The Charles City rest stop came just in time, actually didn't come soon enough, and I kept trying to convince myself that I just needed to eat a little, drink a little, and stretch a little -- hence my concerned look (and Robert looks like he woke up).
At this point Peter, he who rode a mountain bike and kept pace with us, had already joined us and motivated us to keep up the insane pace I swore I would not continue... but then did. Pride again.
Our trip continued toward Williamsburg under a canopy of trees that thankfully provided shade and cooler temperatures.
It was then that I pointed out to Robert the bridge we were about to cross. It looked like quite a hill to overcome about which I heard Robert complaining behind me.
Will (my colleague and friend) decided to seek us out just after crossing the Chickohominy River and there he was as we sped down the other side. It was great seeing he and his wife with a cooler in hand prepared to offer coolness -- how awesome is that! We left after a few minutes of chatting and I realized right away that each time I stopped the legs spinning, they fought my efforts of wanting to go a little further down the road.
And then we encountered hills which I failed to remember accurately so when we arrived at our final stop... I didn't care about taking pictures but instead searched for something that was less sweet than Gatorade and Honey Stinger Waffles (and I do quite love them).
Remember the end part I eluded to? It is called Colonial Parkway and it is rough. Rough like pebble strewn onto concrete rough that made the last 13 miles seem like 20+ and people on the side of the road hunched over with leg cramps.
It was at one point that Robert commented that we certainly don't look as good as they do (a certain fit looking twenty-something cycler) but then we weren't cramping either. Perhaps there's something to this older but wiser adage. We were tired, but we weren't on the side of the road eating grass while grunting to God to please make the muscles stop seizing and shaking uncontrollable -- sounds bad huh?
We finally arrived and were happy to do so. 85.0 miles completed and glad to be done. The family (including JB my father-in-law) were there to greet us with cameras and smiles. A very nice welcome indeed.
Lessons learned? 1) Cancer is a lot scarier than 85 miles. 2) Friends once again stepped up and contributed to a great cause and I am motivated to see what the next Ride for ____ might be. 3) Seeing twenty-something blow by me on older bikes helps remind me of the turtoise and the hare -- I am so not the hare 4) pride can hurt physically and 5) don't let my wife take side-profile shots while I wear lycra -- I am now motivated to eat less Honey Waffles... darn it!