Friday, June 12, 2009

America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride 2009

Once again, the ride lived up to it's name, but barely (thanks to the weather).

Sorry it has taken me so long to get an update done, but I stayed an extra day in Tahoe, arriving back home Tuesday evening in time to go straight from the airport to Madison's volleyball game. Wednesday I spent unpacking and getting into bed early. And last night I was going to update, but a huge storm blew through our area with tons of lighting and a couple of tornadoes. There was no way I was getting on the computer during that. So here I am tonight.

Friday, June 5th, I woke up and instead of getting ready for work I got ready to head to the airport. My parents picked me up and drove me to the airport so I wouldn't have to pay for parking while I was gone. I got there early, but shortly after I arrived other teammates started arriving as well. There were about 35 of us on the flight out and once we were in the air, the flight attendant made an announcement about what we were heading out to Tahoe for. We got lots of applause on the plane. We flew from Austin to San Diego where we had a short (and I do mean short) layover. We got off the plane at one gate, walked to the next gate, and walked right back onto another plane. I'm just glad we made it.

Once we landed in Reno, we gathered our luggage and got on the shuttle bus that would take us to Tahoe. With the time difference, most of us were hungry and several HAD to stop at In-and-Out Burger. Since I'm a vegetarian, I had french fries. Some of my teammates more than made up for what I didn't eat. I guess they figured they were getting ready to burn a bunch of calories, so who cared.

Once we made it to the hotel I checked in and took my things to my room and then we all had to meet in the lobby to go get our bikes off the truck. I got my bike and when I got back to the room I unwrapped it, got the pedals on and aired up the tires so that it would be ready for Saturday morning's ride. Then it was off to the grocery store to stock up on things I would need for the weekend.

Friday night our whole crew went to eat at the Lake Tahoe Pizza Company. Last year when we ate there we had two tables full. This year, we had the whole room full of people. Lots of our teammates had brought family members with them this year. It was amazing to see the team go to work in helping the servers make sure everyone had what they needed.

After dinner it was back the room and to bed so that I could be rested for Saturday morning's ride which was scheduled for 7:00 am.

Saturday morning I woke up early so that I could eat my oatmeal and get ready to ride. When I looked out the window, the ground looked wet. This did not make me happy. Then a teammate came to my room and let me know that the ride had been postponed due to the wet streets. The coach wanted to see if the sun would come out and dry things up. I wanted to crawl back in bed for a little longer, but knew if I did I would never get back up. When it got close to 8:00, we headed downstairs and met our teammates. And boy was it cold. And it was still overcast.

We headed out for a 20 mile ride. The wet streets made me nervous, but I tried to stay with the front group for as long as I could for two reasons. 1) I didn't know where I was going and I knew they did; and 2) I was freezing and needed to warm up. I stayed with them for a good while, but then I dropped my chain and had to stop to fix it. Got it fixed and just took off trying to catch them. I never did, but I came close and I stayed warm. Toward the end of the ride the rain started coming. It wasn't real hard, but it was steady. At that point I didn't care if it rained all day Saturday as long as it didn't rain on Sunday during the ride. As soon as I was done I headed to the room for a hot shower.

The next stop was the packet pick-up. We got our ride numbers, sticker for the helmet and wristband that we needed to have on us during the ride. We also got shirts and water bottles and I have to say I like this year's shirt much better than last year. Some of our teammates were selling merchandise so we hung around for a little bit and then all went to eat at a place called Freshies. I really liked it because they served a lot of vegetarian food. I had a wonderful veggie burger and fries. Yummmm!

After lunch we went back to the room and really just hung out and relaxed for the rest of the day until it was time to get ready for the inspiration dinner. Our team had all tie-dyed t-shirts to wear to the dinner so I put that on and we headed to the party. At this point, it was still raining. It had been raining all day.

The dinner was the typical dinner, but the best part for our team is that one of our teammates gave the speech. Mike is a survivor of AML. He was diagnosed when he was young and ended up having two bone marrow transplants. The cool thing is that his bone marrow donor was with him and would be doing the ride with him Sunday. How cool is that? And who knew how funny Mike could be. He had us all laughing and crying. I think public speaking is what he should be doing! Overall this year, TNT raised $6.8 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Go Team!

After the dinner we all headed back to one of our teammate's room for the team meeting. Coach went over the course and where our very own Central Texas sag stops would be so we would know where to watch for them. We put our Texas flags on our helmets and then said good night. We had a long day ahead of us.

Sunday morning I woke up EARLY. Our ride out time was 6:05 am and the coach wanted us downstairs at 5:30. The question of the day was how to dress. It was cold and was still overcast early (but no rain at this point thank goodness). I finally figured out what I wanted to wear and headed downstairs to meet the rest of the team. We got in our riding groups and headed over to the start. And at 6:05, we were off.

I was riding in a group of about 7 riders at first, but we knew we would lose a couple. Patrick, Shelly, Mike, Steve (the bone marrow donor) and I were the group that we knew would stay together throughout the ride. We knew the switchbacks at mile 12 may break us up a bit due to the climbing, but we knew we would regroup after that. For me, the switchbacks didn't seem as hard as they did last year and when I got to the top, I got on the inside, looked right at the photographer and smiled. I wanted a good picture. Then we enjoyed the downhills a little bit. We also stopped for a group picture before continuing on to our first sag stop.

Once we were at the first stop we had to wait a bit. One of our riders was having some issues with his bike, so Patrick had stopped to help. We waited until Patrick got caught up to us and then took off again. By this point the sun was starting to come out and it was a welcome sight. I can't tell you how much I enjoy riding with the group of riders I have ridden with all season. It made the ride go by so much faster and easier than last year. The next thing I knew, it was time to get on the bike path out to Truckee. It wasn't crowded when we got on it, but it did get congested at times. Once we got off the bike path and back on the roads we took off. We had a bit of a tailwind and were doing 22-24 mph easily. We stopped at our second sag stop to refill drinks and grab some food and then headed back in. At this point we had lost Mike and Steve, but we knew they would catch up to us or we would wait for them at King's Beach when we stopped for lunch.

King's Beach was a welcome sight. I was ready for a short break by then and I was hungry for more than gummy bears and Lara Bars. I grabbed a veggie sandwich and some chips and sat down for a few minutes to eat. I also put rewetting drops in my eyes because at this point my contacts were so dried out from the wind I could barely see. The same thing happened last year so I was prepared this time. Mike and Steve did catch up to us at this point and after all had eaten, we headed out again for the last 30 miles and the long, tough climb up to Spooner Junction.

When we got to the bottom of the Spooner climb, I settled in to my nice, slow pace and just pedaled away. I knew there would be no fast speeds on the climb, but I did pass several people. At one point I told myself, "just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling". Toward the top of Spooner I got passed by some of our faster teammates who had stopped for another teammate to fix a flat. But every time one of them passed me, it gave me the inspiration to keep on going. I knew I would soon be at the top. And then next thing I knew, we WERE at the top and we were at the rest stop.

The special thing about our team is that we use the rest stop at the top of Spooner to stop and wait for all of our teammates to get there before we head to the finish line. And when I say all of our teammates, I mean ALL of out teammates, regardless of how long it takes. And this year it took a while. Several of my teammates had a beer (or two) and we all stretched and relaxed. At one point someone thought I was asleep on the ground.

When our last teammate arrived it was time to head out again and enjoy the next few miles of downhill! We had made a plan to meet up one last time a couple of miles from the finish line so we could all ride in together. At this point we put all the survivors and Steve up front and then all of our "triple crowners" next. A person who gets their "triple crown" is someone who has fundraised for and completed a marathon, triathlon and century ride with TNT. We had five teammates who achieved this status after completing this ride.

I can't explain to you the feeling of riding in across the finish line with a team of 35 people who have become close friends throughout the season. And to see our survivors leading us in - wow!!!

Once we were done, we checked in at the TNT tent, bought our pictures and then noticed the black cloud in the sky. Time to head back to the room and get ready for the victory party.

The victory party was fun. Although there is no "formal" speaker, Mike got up on stage again and gave a recap of the ride before "getting the party started". And once he got the party started, the dance floor was packed. He even requested the cotton-eyed-joe for us Texans. I stayed for a little while and helped my birthday buddy Jenny celebrate her birthday and then headed back to the room. We had gotten lucky with the weather and had a great ride on a great day.

Monday morning came earlier than I wanted, but the good news for me is that all I needed to take care of was getting my bike back on the truck. I had wrapped it up Sunday night after getting back from the victory party so it was ready to go. We took it down to the truck and saw our teammates off. Then those of us who were staying extra days headed to a local restaurant for breakfast. After that it was time to try to take a nap. I say try, because in the time I was trying to nap my phone rang three times. There goes that idea. Then I was going to go do some shopping when I got the call that it was time to go swimming - in Lake Tahoe.

There are several of us on the team who have done triathlons and have wetsuits. Since Patrick had driven to Tahoe, we had all sent our wetsuits with him so that we could swim. And that's just what we did. There were four of us with wetsuits and one who braved the cold water without. I didn't think I would make it because I HATE cold water, even with a wetsuit. After I did the Nike Women's Marathon I had put my feet in the ocean and they went numb, so I thought I'd have a problem here. But, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and I actually stayed in the water for 15-20 minutes. I can definitely tell that I need to get back to swimming, though. Yikes! My swim fitness is not where it needs to be considering I have a triathlon coming up soon.

After swimming, I finally got in a little shopping so I would have something to bring home for the kids. Then while I was packing, it started raining and hailing. I told you, we got lucky with the weather. And then one of my awesome teammates fixed dinner for those of us who were still there and wanted to come have fun together. We ate, drank, and enjoyed each other's company until late, late, late! Then it was time for bed and my time in Tahoe was almost up.

I got up early Tuesday morning and headed back to the airport for my flight home. Once I was home, my parents picked me up again and took me to Madison's volleyball game. I was exhausted from another great trip and another wonderful America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Getting Ready for Tahoe!!!

One year ago today I was riding my bike around Lake Tahoe for the first time. Now, I'm getting ready to do it again.

This past weekend we had our last group ride here before shipping our bikes to Tahoe. We met at a teammate's house and did the ride from there, getting in just under 30 miles. After the ride we had lunch together, tie-dyed shirts for the pasta party, and then got our last minute instructions for event weekend. We had a really good turnout and a really good time.

Sunday was a busy day for us, but Sunday evening was spent getting the bike ready for shipping because this morning, the bikes went on the truck. It's kind of exciting to see the bikes go. It really hits home that the event is almost here. Some of our first timers had that look in their eyes like "I can't believe it's here". Well, it is.

I will work through Wednesday. I took Thursday off as it's the last day of school for the kids and Dalton will have 5th grade graduation Thursday morning. There's no way I can miss that. Thursday afternoon he will be "kidnapped" by our youth sponsor and some youth from the church and will be officially welcomed into youth group.

Friday morning it's off to the airport to catch my plane to Tahoe. I'm on the same flight as most of the team so it should be a fun flight. I just need to figure out what to pack between now and then. The forecasted temps are about where I thought they would be (lows in the 40s, highs in the 60s), but there is also a chance of rain on ride day. I'm not looking forward to that possibility, so I'm praying for the best.

A couple of my teammates will have laptops in Tahoe, so if I can I'll get on a do a quick update to let you know what's going on. Otherwise, you can expect a long report when I get home.