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Charity Bike Ride: Results!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I realized that I never got a chance to relay how my Charity Bike ride went! So let me remedy that today, along with a few "Lessons Learned".

So the day of the ride rolled around, much sooner than I anticipated (though part of that could be that I flew in late the previous night). I was up early - even earlier than I planned, because I was nervous. I dressed in my Nike getup (thanks to my sister who works there!), pulled back my hair, and got my essentials - phone, wallet, keys, water, helmet, etc. In that moment, I felt like a bike rider, even if I wasn't exactly one (riding twice in a month over a period of four years doesn't count LOL!).

I had just finished my breakfast (an oatmeal bar), when I realized that I still hadn't fixed my bike. You see, the last time I rode, the wheel didn't line up to the handlebars. I could fix it myself (no need to head to a bike shop or a bike mechanic), but I needed someone to hold the wheel. So, I woke up my sister (what are roommates for?!) and asked her to hold it. She wasn't too pleased at being awakened just to fix my problem, but she was kind and held the bike while I fixed it. It didn't take too long (fortunately), and she headed back to her room.

"Hey, aren't you going to wish me luck?"

She paused at the door and looked at me. "You are going to die. Good luck."

Ah, sisters!!

By this time, I was running a bit later than I wanted (registration started at 9:30am, and I wanted to be there in plenty of time). So I gathered up my bag and headed outside, locking the door behind me. Now to get the bike down the stairs without killing myself!

The last time I took out my bike, the bike threatened to roll down the stairs, dragging me behind it. This time, I got a firm grip on the handlebars and the seat and walked it down, one step at a time. The bike struggled to get free, but I remained firm. I was the one in charge - this bike would NOT get away from me!

It was now time for the next hard part: getting the bike into the car! I own a Subaru Legacy with no bike rack, so it's always fun to manhandle the bike into the car. The logistics of the parking spot don't help - there is a post that, unless I park PERFECT, keeps the driver's passenger door closed. (This makes grocery shopping FUN.) Last night happened to be one of those miraculous nights where I came home and parked PERFECTLY, so I could open both passenger doors.

I don't know how long I spent pushing and straining to get the bike in the car, nor how many new swearwords I invented. Once I was able to shut the door on the bike, I really didn't care. It reminded me of being a kid with a messy room. Crack open the door, stuff that item in and SLAM it back hard before the entire closet erupted on you!

Now happily situated behind the wheel, I headed out of the parking spot and into the roadway. Not many people were out and about at 9:00am in the morning on a Saturday - smart people! It was a cloudy day, a little chilly, and as I drove to the stadium, I was wondering (not for the last time) if I should have brought a jacket to wear.

It probably took 5 minutes to get to the stadium. I don't live all that far away from where the ride started, but wow, that was the quickest drive ever! I drove through the parking lot until I found a spot with no other cars around me - plenty of room to yank out that bike!

As I expected, pulling out the bike was only moderately easier than putting it in. I'm surprised I didn't do serious damage to the seats or the doors of the car! Once it was out, I was half tempted to toss the bike on the ground, half tempted to do a celebration dance. Instead, I gathered my things and wheeled the bike towards the football stadium. I had a goal in mind: get through this day and survive! And by my estimation, I was doing pretty good at both.

Once I made it to the field, shivering in the cloudy coldness, I stood and stared out at the field. I had no clue where to go - all these tents, people and bikes milling about. There was a tent I thought was for registration, but a second glance showed it was just a couple of guys chilling. I thought maybe I could find some of my coworkers and figure out from them what to do. I was just about to throw up my hands in frustration when a gentleman pointed me to a table where I filled out my registration.

As I'm filling out my form, I come upon "Health Insurance". My mind was a blank - what was my health insurance? Was it Cigna? United? Or that one group I can't remember? Why did they need this anyway? (Don't worry, I figured out why - makes total sense!) Feeling embarrassed, I dug out my wallet and fished around for my medical card. Blue Cross Blue Shield. Duh...

Form happily completed, I turned to the Registration tent and handed the lady my form. She began riffling through some sheets looking for my name. I stood there, wondering if I should give her a hand - she seemed to be having a tough time finding my name. Another lady, in the mean time, found my number and handed it to me. By that time, the first lady found my name in the list and marked me off the list.

But now I had a new quandry - I had a number, how did I get it on my back?! I was wearing a cute hot pink Nike DriFit shirt - I didn't want to damage it with clothes pins! I mean, priorities!

Then I was hit with a rare genius moment - pin it to my bag! I'll be wearing it as I ride anyway - perfect!

Now, I had to find the other members of my team. I had absolutely no clue where they would be - did they get a tent this year? Or were there a group of them in some corner? And would I even recognize them (our company in Oregon is split between two sites and I don't know a lot of people that don't work in my building)?

I wandered down the aisle, looking at the left and right for my company. Idling, I was wondering if perhaps we were just supposed to park our bikes in the bike racks set up. I couldn't find any of my coworkers, my company colors or name, nothing. Did they all forget me? Was I going to be the only schlep to ride in the 5 mile "Family Ride"?

I was starting to feel down and miserable when I saw the sign. It was a simple cardboard sign (kinda funny, given the tech industry my company is in) and there was absolutely no one around, but it was my company. My tent. I pulled my bike in and rested it against one of the posts.

Some of the other tables and tents were decked out. Goodies and water bottles, with people around them chatting. My company's table had only a couple of maps representing the longer rides on them. And there was no one around.

So I sat down and waited. I got out my phone and fiddle around - thank God for smartphones! Finally, at about a quarter to 10, my boss walks up with his bike. At that moment, I was relieved. I wouldn't be the only one in this ride! YES!

As we waited for the 10:30am start, we chatted. Three other coworkers joined us. I picked up my T-shirt - and struggled to choose the size (did I go for a medium, which may fit, a large, which would probably be too loose if it was a man's cut but perfect if a woman's, or a small, which might fit in a few months???). I even did some stair climbing when visiting the restroom.

Finally, it was time to head to the starting line. The announcer called the riders to the starting line. And then she hollered for us to get to the starting line. And she said, "Riders to the starting line! RIDERS!! STARTING LINE!! Come on, get away from the food tent! RIDERS TO THE STARTING LINE!"

My boss started to make quips. "Mom, just 15 more minutes! OK, Mom, I'm up! MOM!!!"

As we hit the pavement, my coworkers mounted their bikes and rode towards the starting line. I, being ever-prepared, wasn't wearing my helmet and not wanting to crack my head before even pedaling a foot, did not. So instead I decided to run next to my bike. I had been training to run after all. Should be no sweat.

But there are things called pedals on the side of the bike - so yeah. Running with a bike - not as easy as it sounds. I finally caught up and put on my melon protector.

And then the wait began. The female announcer came on to introduce the event and then she passed it off to a guy. He talked about rest stops along the way and catered food.

"Rest stops?!" I thought. "This is only 5 miles - we must be wimps!"

The next guy stepped up and he began the exact same spiel he gave for the 26 mile riders (who had taken off at 9:30). "I will try to condense 10 minutes of safety into 30 seconds." Har har.

He went over the rules and then clarified, "Actually, the only rest stop for the Family Ride is the Food Tent at the Finish Line."

Why couldn't they tell the other guy that so he didn't look like a moron? I wondered, getting myself poised on my bike, ready at any moment for the ride to begin. I was leaning against some bleachers, which really helped me keep my balance.

Once the 30 second safety speech was over, the microphone was passed to one of the young riders who counted down the race.


And then we were off! The stands, filled with maybe a dozen individuals (family? support staff? Not sure) cheered and rang cowbells and hooted as the riders sped past.

I wasn't at the front, so I had to wait while the others sped off before I could begin pedaling. Once I did, I started off OK, but I was wavery on the bike - the handlebars must still not have been aligned with the wheel. Oh, well, can't do much about that now. It was only a 5 mile ride - I'd be back before I knew it! I just had to get over the feeling that I would hit someone or fall off the bike or ram one of my coworkers in order to get there.

Quickly, we rode out of the stadium and onto the road, where groups quickly formed - the faster riders zoomed ahead while the slower ones held back. I was a little ashamed that some of these groups of fast riders were kids no more than 12.

"How can you do this?!" I thought to myself as a young rider blew past me as if I were standing still. "Energy is wasted on the young!"

Going past my first intersection was a bit rough. Rough in that I was sure I would hyperventilate and go into a panic attack at the sight of cars. But I pedaled through the intersection and got to the other side. No cars were chasing me, barreling down on me as if they were bulls and I were holding a red flag.

For a while, I was able to stay with my team, but quickly, it became apparent that running and speed walking do NOT do a good job of training for a bike ride. I tried not to let that bother me and focused on not falling into traffic or getting hit by a car. Or running into fellow riders. Or skidding my bike and splatting into the cement. Basically, I just focused on remaining upright and pedaling - all the while fiddling with the gears and hoping to find a pedaling rhythm that would miraculously make me speed up and catch up to my coworkers.

I didn't find the combination, but I did find my coworkers. They were kind enough to stop at a driveway, worried that I had fallen within the first mile (thanks guys for the confidence in me!!). I rode past them; given how they were riding, I knew that I didn't need to stop for them and that within a few moments, they would be sailing by me.

And like I thought, soon enough two of my three coworkers zoomed ahead while I focused on moving one pedal after the other and staying vertical. However, one was nice and stayed by my side, even though I know he was much better at riding than I was. Obviously, he pitied the pathetic biking girl.

As we rode through another intersection (where cars were kind enough NOT to cut us off and send me flying into the gravel), we chatted about random things - electric assist bikes and one of the other hard-core biker's and his wife. Well, *I* chatted until we reached the first "hill". That hill might as well have been Mount Hood - I thought I was going to die, my legs were burning and I was barely making any forward progress. In my mind, I was sure my coworker was frustrated at my progress, wishing he could leave me behind and get on with this ride. I was also sure I was going to have to stop and walk the bike.

But I kept pushing. I slowed to a baby crawl and finally, FINALLY I was over the worst part. I saw traffic and merged onto the bike path to the side of the road, my coworker still at my side.

The ride continued. We sped past the library and then into the park, the road fairly level and relatively easy. The park had more riders and families on picnics, so that meant a bit of weaving and braking and trying very hard not to ram people in the rear with my bike. Oh, and more "hills"! Each one was an effort to get over. I was cursing the fact that I spent so much time on the treadmill and not on the stationary bike.

After the third hill, in which I struggled to move forward, my coworker, the one who hung back to keep me company, started giving me tips on how to ride - how to pay attention to my speed, my gears, shifting, etc. Being as much of a novice to riding as you can be, I listened carefully and tried to adapt what he said to how I rode.

"Keep an even pace."

"You may need to adjust your seat height."

"Shift gears so you can keep your legs working at the same rate."

The words were flying through my mind as we continued along towards the last stretch, maybe a mile out from the stadium. We came to the final left turn across an insanely busy street. At the beginning of the ride, the bike ride announcer told us to use the crossswalk for this dangerous turn. I didn't realize that THIS intersection was where we were supposed to do that, so I was about to go straight, when the coordinator waved crazily. He hopped off his bike and smashed the crosswalk button.

"You guys are hard to keep up with."

I snorted to myself. I had seen all the people sailing in front of us and I had absolutely no delusions about my own skills. I sucked at bike riding and I was no Lance Armstrong (with or without blood doping or whatever he was doing to win). But it was nice that he was attempting to feed my ego. I just congratulated myself for making it this far without dying of exhaustion.

The "Walk" sign blinked bright. I made a sloppy turn and after a slow, painful start (in the wrong gear, yet again!) rode across the Crosswalk.

"You can go on the sidewalk or the bike path," my coworker called out from behind me - what a champ, riding behind the slowest rider ever!

At the last moment, my bike wheel sailed up the side of the sidewalk, making a choice for itself. I landed on the sidewalk with a whoosh - well, I hadn't been planning THAT. Thank God for the Mountain Bike, else I think I'd have a bent rim!

I spent about half a minute riding peaceably on the sidewalk when I noticed that there was a 10 year old boy riding fast behind me. Being the Slowest Rider, I knew there was no way I could speed up, so I moved off the sidewalk onto the bark dust. My speed was halved, but the boy raced by me, thus averting another potential accident.

The woman I assume was his aunt was right behind him. "Sorry about him - he doesn't want to listen to his aunt!"

Eh, it was no problem. Kids are kids, and there's nothing quite as fun as riding as fast as you can. Even if it is totally unfair that a 10 year old can outride a woman almost 3X his age.

The kid and his aunt past me, I got back onto the sidewalk, but it was doomed from the onset. I wavered and quavered and then my wheel got caught between bark dust and sidewalk. I tried to pull out of the bark dust, but the wheel decided it had enough punishment.

Down, down, down, I came!

God, was I embarrassed! My first bike ride, and I fell. I got passed by little kids...I barely made it over hills...but I had gotten to within 1 mile of the finish line with no incident. And now I fell.

I hurriedly stood up and yanked the bike off the sidewalk.

"Are you OK?" my coworker called to me.

"Oh, yeah, fine! Great!" I was fumbling with the handlebars, trying to get the bike in motion, to pretend that nothing had happened.

I pushed off, and my coworker fell behind me, looking me over.

"Looks like your elbow is red."

"It is?" I tried to look without falling. "Oh, that might be my psoriasis. I'm more worried about my Nike pants."

We rode a bit in silence and then spotted two of our other coworkers. They had been circling just outside the finish line, waiting for us, so we could ride over the finish line together.

My boss rode up beside us first. "We had been right behind us the whole time!"

I'll admit, I felt sheepish, knowing I was the slowest one of my team, that I had held back one coworker and kept the others circling around the finish line. I think I made a comment how my coworker was kind enough to slow down and keep me company. But regardless of my slowness, we all rode together across the finish line - and it felt GREAT to get off that bike and walk it back to the tent.

After stowing my bike at our tent, the first thing I did was go to the medical tent to have my scratched knee attended. Again, I was sheepish as I approached the guy. "I just have a scratch - fell down on the homestretch."

The guy then dug out a Jumbo Band-Aid and then searched around for some sort of anti-septic (he had to ask another attendant for its location). Quickly, I got patched up and left, and as I did, I heard the guy relay my story to the other attendant. Secretly, I hope that they thought I did one of the long races and not the 5 mile one - somehow, riding a 26 or 52 mile ride and konking out on the last mile sounded WAY better than taking a spill on the last mile of a 5 mile ride.

And then it was time to redeem my meal ticket. When I heard Helvetia Tavern was hosting, I was pumped. Normally, I wouldn't do burgers, but Helvetia Tavern burgers are famously good.

I waltzed up to the tent and dropped my ticket into a basket held by a bored teenager. Another teenager asked, "Regular or garden burger?" She held one corner of a huge ice chest. Inside, were dozens of aluminum foil wrapped burgers.

Quickly, this Helvetia Tavern meal ticket was looking less and less appealing. "Er, regular," I said, holding a plate a male teen passed to me. The girl reached in, grabbed on of the lop-sided aluminum wrapped burgers and plopped it onto my plate.

I opened up the foil and frowned. The bun was smashed. The burger looked like it had been cooked hours ago. This amazing Helvetia Tavern burger was getting more disappointing by the moment.

I walked up to the condiments stand and whipped past the mayo, ketchup, pickles...and then reached the end. I looked back. This was IT? Some mayo and ketchup, onions and tomatoes and then a bag of Lays potato chips? Where were the veggies? Where were the sides? I couldn't believe the only things they had were a sloppy burger and fattening chips.

I went back to the beginning and slopped a bit of special sauce, some pickles and some tomatoes on my burger and picked up half a banana. Sure, it was against plan - but I did ride my bike, and I wouldn't be super indulging.

Back at the tent, the rest of my coworkers were finishing off their meals. Theirs looked as depressing and woeful as mine. I ate it and while it was "good", it was NOT the famed Helvetia Tavern hamburger that gets raves in my town. In fact, based on that burger alone, I would probably have no desire to ever go there.

It wasn't much longer that we wrapped up and left. I got to go through the wonderful trial of putting the bike BACK into the car, taking the bike OUT of the car, and hauling it up the stairs. And once I was back home, I quickly cleaned up and headed out to get a manicure and pedicure - I needed SOMETHING relaxing after my hectic week!

This bike ride taught me a lot. It taught me that while losing weight is great, I also need to be building muscle. It taught me that training to run probably won't help you training to ride. I did like riding for charity - but I'm not sure I'm a bike riding girl. Maybe it wasn't a good day for me to ride, and I'll definitely give riding another chance, but I had a lot of anxiety about the cars around me and falling down.

At the end of the day, I was surprised at how NOT sore I was. Sure, my legs ached when I was riding up the hills, but back at the tent, I was fine. No aches whatsoever. The scratches and bruises I got from falling hurt more than my legs from riding.

It was a good ride, overall, even with the fall and the anxiety and the meh meal. I would definitely not mind doing this again!
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