Sunday, October 11, 2009
The day finally arrived for the Mamma Jamma Ride against breast cancer and it was time to make good on my commitment of 65 miles. Except it wasn't going to be 65 miles. A few extra miles were added to the final approved route making it closer to 70.
It was still dark when Skippy (yes, my bike is named Skippy- after the great grey racehorse Skip Away) and I arrived at Reunion Ranch- a good half hour drive from my house. I was surprised by how cold it was and was thankful I'd brought along a warm jacket and hat. But the sun was supposed to come out later. It would be okay. Famous last words...
I met with the other riders for Team Survivor for our team picture and then cheered on the century (100 mile) riders. They left an hour before the rest of us "slackers".
The "now 70 mile" riders and the rest of the riders rolled out at 8:30. I teamed up with two other Team Survivor riders who would be my companions for the whole ride. Jenny, Joanna and I were all about at the same pace until we hit the bigger hills and Jenny became a little red blip motoring off into the horizon.
The ride took us though some lovely rural areas and some longhorn pastures. I'm still awed when I see longhorn cattle. Not only are their horns magnificent, but their coloring is so unlike any other breed of cattle. Like the mustangs of the cow world, they epitomize the Wild West.
We cycled past a huge yard with a giant Great Dane loping along the fence like a pony and another field that had two fluffy Anatolian shepherds barking at us - warning us to keep away from the sheep in their care. I don't mind dogs barking at me when they are doing their job. And they stay on their side of the street. And they don't really bark too much. Or at all.
My only concern that day was that I wasn't prepared for the weather. It was probably in the 50's and my only source of warmth were my arm warmers and the 16 pink bracelets I wore to honor the 23 women who have fought breast cancer. Each time I felt like grumbling, I'd look at my arms and be reminded as to why I was riding in the first place.
There were signs all along the ride. Some counting us down to the next pit stop, others giving encouragement and still others simply stating the names of those with breast cancer. I was surprised by how some of the messages really moved me- just words on a sign. "You have no idea how strong you are."
Our first stop was the (joy!) Milk & Honey Day Spa pit stop at the 21 mile mark. We loaded up on Nutter Butter cookies and PB&J sandwiches, took a few pictures and stretched. My muscles were already stiffening from the cold.
We stopped at the Mellow Johnny's stop next. While we were grabbing some more water and snacks, a bunch of the SAG (Support and Gear) vehicles drove up. Valkyries! Lifeguards! Air Mamma Jamma! They were all decked out like parade floats- with the SAG members dressed in costume! Seriously- blond braids and viking helmets! Brilliant!
Our third stop was lunch. I'm not sure where along the route it was, I'm guessing we were close to mile 50 at that point. Galaxy Cafe provided some yummy sandwiches and cookies. They also had some carnival games like a ring toss and bean bag tossing- but we were still just too cold to be able to hang out for too long.
It was becoming a bit of a predicament- the faster we pedaled, the more the wind just blew through us, but we wanted to get through the ride! My thigh muscles were starting to wear out, in part, because I couldn't get them properly warmed up. But one glance down at my bracelets and I pedaled on.
Overall, the ride was a perfect blend of hills and flats for my first big ride. I had to drop into the granny gear on 2-3 hills but for the most part I stayed in the middle chain. On the flats we probably averaged 18-20 MPH or so.
We finally began to see signs counting down our distance to the finish "5 more miles!" Then, up one final hill, around one final left turn and down into the finish line crowded with volunteers, riders and supporters! David Smith, the Race Director hugged each of us and gave us our finisher's medal. It was a very emotional moment. I was tired and cold and I could have ridden another 50 miles, easily.
This ride was exceptionally well organized. There was never a doubt as to if we were on course or not. The volunteers, who were as cold as we were, were unfailingly enthusiastic and helpful.
Thanks to all who supported me for the ride- financially, emotionally and gastronomically (Nutter Butters are my new favorite cycling treat!). It was unforgettable and I am truly pleased with my accomplishment. I can't wait to do it again next year!
Here's a pic of my final mileage and my bracelets: