Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Race/event # 9, Tahoe Century Ride Sunday June 7 - inspiring doesn't begin to cover it

The weekend was
Awe inspiring

Additionally, it was moving, spectacular, awesome (like totally dude - bringing back the eighties - just without my mullet). I have struggled to put everything that transpired into a brief summation, but can't seem to whittle it down - so I am going with my usual rambling free form.

The recap:
I saw some of the most incredible scenery which paled in comparison to the nearly 1,700 TnT riders who set out on this journey from 6AM - 7 AM on Sunday. Some riders were still coming in 12+ hours later. They were all truly inspiring, amazing and wonderful. TnT raised over $6.8 million through THIS EVENT ALONE! I made some new friends and acquaintences during the weekends events and through the help, support, belief, generosity and hospitality of a friend and colleague from Bank of America we raised nearly $2,000!!! All in all the ride took 6:10:02. Avg speed 16 mph. I burned 6288 calories. I'd do it again right now if I could. During the time I was out there, riding, resting and refueling (a total of approximately 7 hours) nearly 100 people were diagnosed with a blood cancer.

Here are the details.

Friday June 5 - TAHOE MINUS 2: This was travel west day. Go WEST young-ish man, with Sheila along side me, we headed out. It is so reassuring having Sheila with me when I travel (or any time) as she negotiates travel like a skilled surgeon performs a delicate operation. 8 AM flight, out of Charlotte, connect, with a brief jog through San Diego airport as we had a 20 minute window to catch our next flight. Make the flight and get to San Fran. Go from the airport to my friend Iris's house. Where she has graciously, generously, amazingly organized a fundraising party for me, inviting numerous friends. It is such an honor to have that level of support. Under normal circumstances, it was amazing, given her hectic work related travel schedule - well above and beyond. I get to meet several of Iris and Patrick's good friends. Some were former TnT members, some running partners with Iris and Patrick - who ran the Honolulu marathon several years in a row with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation...all great folks. All wishing me well on Sunday and for the next year. I was asked to say a few words, which was a bit terrifying. Sure get up in front of 50 folks you don't know and tell them about the 40 in 40. For those that don't know it - I am not a fan of "the spotlight". However, I did get up and speak. I will admit, as I spoke, and discussed the reasons behind the 40 in 40, the support of my loving and patient wife, I got a little choked up. Sometimes doing things, you lose a little sight or perspective about the reasons. However, talking about it, recalling honor patients I've had the priviledge to meet, friends and family members who have been touched by Leukemia, it brings it back home and drives me. A classmate from Emory (MBA) was able to attend, even with a bit of a late/last minute invite. Thanks Mike for making the trip out. The party was a success as we raised nearly $2,000 !!!! A gracious and humble thank you goes out to all those that attended and were so incredibly supportive and fun. You all have made my life and this experience that much richer.

Aristotle said "One recognizes the quality of one’s own character and one’s own life by seeing it reflected, as in a mirror, in one’s friends". Iris and Patrick have clearly some of the most wonderful, generous, funny, supportive friends! Appropriately so!

Saturday June 6, TAHOE MINUS ONE: Travel to Tahoe. Sheila and I hop in the car and get on the road around 7:30 AM. As we make our way northward, the clouds begin to build. All reports have been of cold drizzly rain in and around Tahoe....what happened to 30 percent chance of rain? This seems like 100 percent....hmmm. As we cross Donner Pass, I think, hmmm will I have to eat someone on my bike ride...let's hope not.

1:30 PM. Get to the hotel and check in. Get settled a bit and go get my bike from Sandra. Thanks Sandra for picking it up for me. Get it to the room and put the pedals back on, and attack fixing the brakes. Yeah, this is easy and oh so tidy a job. 5 minutes in and I am covered in a mix of worn brake pad, road grit and grease. (See the "I am not a bike mechanic" post below). But I prevail and get the pads on and installed. Now to test them and the rest of my handiwork out.

The rest of the team rode in the AM led by coach Mark, and they got about 20 miles in. Me, hoping for a little less rain and a few more degrees (I.e. Warmer), got more rain and about the same mid-60's. Lovely. The adage "That which does not kill you makes you stronger" is flitting about my brain... So I call Mark and he's up for ANOTHER ride. Okey doke...whacko. :-) - but I am eternally grateful for the ride along and support. He already did this and thawed out once...

Note to self - and others: When you are soaking wet after 3 miles of riding....it is officially raining. Despite the rain, we had a good, fast ride, about 18 miles though because I wimped out and didn't feel like climbing up Ski Run Rd...soaking wet, chilled to the bone, and moderately grumpy...

Took me 30 - 45 minutes to be able to actually feel my toes again. And then to try and get my stuff dry in approximately 12 hours....hmmm

Inspiration dinner:

The kick off dinner for the ride was absolutely PACKED! And - they broke us into 3 groups. Everyone was in good spirits, looking forward to and hoping for nice weather tomorrow. Our Honored speaker is a young gentleman Matt from the Central Texas team. This young man battled Leukemia numerous times over his life and was riding on Sunday. He was honest, humble, funny (hilarious actually), and truly brought the event and our emotions to the forefront. He inspired us all. To perservere, to do more, to live life. This is where we found out about the fact that there were nearly 1700 of us TnT'ers riding and we raised $6.8 MILLION. A great endeavor, a wonderful event - but it also helped me realize, there is so much more to do for LLS.

After the dinner, we head back to sack out, do one or two, or more bike and gear checks and try to sleep. Even though we're on the west coast, 5:00 AM will come quickly. We get some words of advice, and caution from our coaches - all of it heeded - of course it was...

Sunday June 7, TAHOE RIDE DAY BABY: No rain - clouds, someone said it was in the upper 30's but it felt much warmer, at least mid 40's. We head out a bit ahead of our allotted time, but it is a great way to start. The Western North Carolina Team is in the front of our time wave, and we ride together for the first few miles. We start getting stretched out a bit, some going faster, others getting their "bike legs". We pass the Renassaince Festival grounds, where we were warned not to yell anything obnoxious - but unfortunately, I could not resist with a little Monty Python as we rode through..." We are no longer the Knights who say NI, we are now the Knights who say Icky Icky Icky Za Ping, Za Poing..." Cheryl thought it was humorous..so did I. We pass the checkpoint where they screen for bandits, or illegal riders, and begin our climb up to Emerald Bay. As we near thr top, there they are switchbacks galore, OK 2, as we climbed to the top of big hill #1 Emerald bay. As we get to the top and look to our right, the sun is peeking out, the clouds are beginning to burn off and it is absolutely stunning. Then on the back side of that hill - I hit 43 mph. Woo freakin hoo! Thank god I got my new rear brakes installed. And properly.

Side note of sorts - One of the norms for rides like these, each team has a doo-dad attached to their helmet to help their support teams ID them out of the sea of purple and green. Here is a brief recap of some of the more memorable and funny:

Western North Carolina (us) green star with WNC.
Nation's Capital "spire" from the Capitol building for the DC team
Peach for Georgia
Can of SPAM for Minnesota (?)
Plastic wine glass for the Napa, CA team
Plastic crab for Maryland
Styrofoam bowl with chowder written on it for MA, ME, NH
Coors light can for the CO Rockies (not the baseball) team
Black pipe cleaner twisted into a spring-like shape with plastic cows, farmers, barns, cars, trucks, etc attached to it for Oklahoma
A fuzzy monkey with its butt poised over a beer can for Kansas (cans ass)
Rubber cow for california (happy cows)
Penguins for Pittsburgh
Red flag with Red Wings emblem on it for Michigan - they and Pittsburgh remained civil :-)
Texas flag for all Texas teams, whose team member as mentioned above was our honored and truly inspirational speaker, recovering from several bouts with Leukemia. As mentioned - he rode Sunday and kicked some serious butt...saw him at mile 70. He shook my hand, I almost cried.

A great big shout out to my fellow WNC TnT'ers who rode in Tahoe with me, Cat Reid, Cheryl Ryan and Toby Gordon from Greensboro. Also riding this weekend was the "Fletcher Flyer" team riding in Asheville. They kicked some butt as well.

So - out to Truckee - that name cracks me up for some reason...Truckee, is there a Caree and Vanee and Motorcycle-ee? I could have used a motorcycle. Truckee was about the halfway point. One item that was a must have at this stop was the boiled new potatoes...sprinkle a little salt and mm mm mm nom, nom, nom...good eatin clark. I hop back on the bike after catching up with Toby, Mike, Jay (Cat's husband) and Sheila - get a see you in 30 miles, good luck kiss or two from her - and awaaaaay we go. Took it realitvely easy over the bike path back to Tahoe City - it's narrow, and bumpy - and an opportunity to spin a bit versus hammering in the big ring.

King's Beach - lunch break and last break before the climb up to Spooner Lake - our highest elevation and longest climb yet - even higher - much higer than training - but it's hard to replicate elevation like that unless you have it in your backyard. This is where I saw Matt. Between seeing Matt and the awesome support and love from Sheila - I took on Spooner like I owned it...well kind of.

Off I went, in search of Spooner. Made it to the bottom of Spooner faster than I thought, even with the "single file or the cops will give you a $50 ticket if they catch you" warning through Incline Village. So - up and up, and up we go. My bike, an Orbea, has what is called a compact crank, slightly fewer teeth on the sprockets on the front rings, which I have convinced myself, is one of the reasons I do hills well. It seems to be much more efficient - for me anyways - and really helped me kick some Spooner ass.

As I crest the next to last hill, I jokingly ask some spectators, "does this thing have a top?" One woman responds..."you're almost there".

Now - note to spectators - do NOT say that unless it is true...as one guy passed me he said - "no we're not, we've got 4 more miles to go"...I almost turned around to find the woman who said that - but I did not.

Spooner was about 7 miles of climbing, culminating at the highest elevation of 7,076 feet (according to my garmin - thank you garmin). If I was halfway or less - god help her. Not really...However, I did notice, hmm, it is getting a bit warm - well of course it is - it's 1 PM +/-, so I begin with the interesting process of unzipping my jacket and jersey, loosening gloves, and drinking a lot of water as I am trying to climb. I pass several folks along the way up - which is reassuring for me...go compact crank go...

As I see the "Spooner Lake" sign on the right, I realize, I am in fact there, not almost, I am there! Holy cow. There is a rest stop at the top, with ironically enough, the first BIG "First Aid" sign posted out front that I've seen all day. Most other stops have the First Aid in the stop - this was a welcome sight - and thankfully, besides some advil for a weirded out left leg, not much of a need for me. Now some downhills, and some moderate climbs - to the finish...15 miles to go!

We get on US 50 headed back to the finish. US 50 is a great road, well maintained - but the engineers who designed the stormwater grates on the road need some assistance in their planning. Some of the grates run perpendicular to the traffic, others, only a few thankfully run parallel - and are slightly wider than the average road bike tire - which if hit going 30+ miles downhill would bring one to an immediate and dangerous stop. With the help of fellow riders - we point out road hazards, such as roadkill, bumps, holes, storm grates etc with hand signals and verbal commands, and most of us make it unscathed. Apparently two folks had run ins with the grates - no one was seriously injured from what I know - but still - it makes you think...and slow down a bit.

All this time, as you pass a cyclist - it is common road etiquette to say "on your left" - or if being passed - thanking them for letting you know. With thousands of riders - this took place all day long... I was a bit hoarse at this point - but still managed to let out a Woo Hoo as we passed through a tunnel as we shot down US 50...it was not the loudest woo hoo I've ever let out - but still - fun - and it echoed.

As we caught our first glimpse of the resort and ultimate finish line, I realized that while I was a bit tired, I was energized. The amazing riders, the support, the volunteers, the coaches, family and friends that were out there on this day - all working towards a common goal...to wipe out blood cancers. We made a dent..but there is so much more to be done. So over the course of my ride, my Team in Training ride, nearly 100 people, man, woman or child were diagnosed with a blood cancer. The money raised goes a long ways, but truly we need more help.

As I turned towards the finish area, I unzipped my jacket again, and began riding hands off the hooks, or handlebars, getting spectators to make some NOISE!!! GO TEAM! I rode across the finish line with Toby. It was truly spectacular. Hundreds of folks waiting there, cheering us in. It didn't matter if it took you 5 hours, or 50...

With all of our teammates in, and seeing the multitudes of riders, family, friends, coaches and support staff, we relished the accomplishment. 100 miles! Of course we couldn't have done it without our coaches, Mike and Mark, who coaxed us along and lied to us periodically to get us up and over hills and out on the courses. We never could have done this without you.

Also, but no less importantly, a big thank you to Sandra Clancy who was our TnT point person all weekend. She helped us gather our bikes, our contact info, kept us on time and on track.

A heartfelt and loving thank you to all the teammates, those who rode with us, those who rode at Fletcher, my wife Sheila for supporting me in this endeavor, and to all of you for your generous support, kind words and belief.

I hope you enjoyed this recap. as I recall other items to note, I will be sure to post them here - I thank you for your support, friendship, teamwork and belief in what we are doing. While the 40 in 40 is primarily about me raising awareness of the LLS Mission and Team in Training, raising $40,000 and doing a few races - it is a team, a family that makes it truly realizable and amazing.

Thank you all.


9 down, 31 to go


Cheryl Ryan said...

Well said, my friend...well said. Thanks for sharing the journey! I'd ride it again in a minute.
To quote our TEAM Texas friends, "Ride like it means something, because it does." Amen, Brotha.

bloggerreader said...

Sean, you are amazing. Congratulations on another great accomplishment - it's a pleasure to know you!

bloggerreader said...

OK - didn't know my name wouldn't show up. I'm Bloggerreader!


SCM40in40 said...

Iris - the honor and pleasure is all mine - believe me. Thank you so very, very much.

Abby said...

Sean, you kicked some butt. Congrats on conquering the hills! I'll be cheering you on this weekend for Tri Latta!!!

Sandra Clancy said...

Sean- It was my pleasure to support you. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to raising awareness and money. Like Cheryl said, the quote from Matt, the honored hero speaker, says it all. Ride like it means something, because it does. Your journey means everything to all those battling blood cancer and Tahoe was an important step in that journey. Congrats!

Caroline Lindenbeck said...

Congrats on a job well done Sean! It was wonderful riding with you and getting to know you! I wish you all the best completing your 40 in 40 year!!!!