A Century in the Making

March 1.  Here I am sitting in the office waiting for another print job.  It seems to happen more often then I would like.  It smells awful.  If you have ever been in a print shop where there is not proper ventilation you know what I’m talking about.  I’m sure I have lost important brain cells while I sit here.  It’s a rancid smell, everyone says you get use to it after a while, but it still makes my head spin.

While I waited for yet another job Nate was chatting with me from his office while I was out in the waiting room.  I couldn’t hear him too well. “smelly and loud,” I thought to myself.  So I pulled myself out of the pleather sofa and moved to his doorway to listen.  He was talking about this crazy bike ride he and some friends of our, Dana and Brian rode in last year.

“I was telling Jon about it.”  Nate explained.  “You guys should ride this year too.”  I’m not so convinced.  100 miles sounds really long.  Now these are not athletic guys, so I felt a little bit better about it.

You know what won me over in the end?  The story about Dana riding.  Dana owns a real estate company.  I think of him fondly as Shrek, tall, big head and big gut.  “Well he comes to the starting line all decked out.  He’s got the shorts, and the shirt, and the shoes, of course he is on a mountain bike.”  Nate said.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Dana in biker shorts, that is just wrong.  I mean how would you like to see Shrek in biker shorts.  I laughed again.  When I found out he would attempt to ride again (He only made it 15 miles on his mountain bike last year) I knew it was something I had to enjoy seeing myself.

March 5.  The Tour de Cure is an event that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) puts on each year to raise money to help find a cure for diabetes.  After deciding to ride I was surprised to find out how many people I know who’s lives are touched by diabetes.  I didn’t realize that I had so many family members and friends who have diabetes.

March 17.  I floundered for weeks.  Could I really ride 100 miles?  It seems impossibly long.  In fact it is.  Think about it this way the drive from Orem to Brigham City, where the race is being held, is 97 miles.  So I could just bike from Orem to Brigham City for the race and be done.  I don’t know about you but that seems really far.  Of course I was stupid enough to look this information up.  It made me even more nervous to agree to the ride.

I keep getting on the site, then switching to something else.  “You know I was going to look at the news,” back to the Tour de Cure, “hmm… what should I do for dinner tonight, epicouris here I come.” back to the Tour de Cure, “When is groundhogs day again?  Enough already.  Just click the damn button.”  Still I wait.  The team I am planning to join is EO.  They are a group of business owners, they want to raise $50,000.  There are only about 20 of us.  What if I don’t raise enough and I’m a disgrace to the team?

It’s cool in the office, the new blue on the walls, makes it feel cooler.  My head is spinning, each thought chasing the other inside my own head, as well as the fact that I have been spinning around in this chair for far to long.  Throwing out my arms I catch the desktop.  How did I love this as a kid?  Finally I click the button: Find a team.  EO right there.  They have raised only a few thousand dollars so far.  Maybe I can help.  I mean I know a lot of people, and I can ask everyone in my organization, that’s over 700 people.

Okay.  A little more collectively I click on the team.  Registration only $15, required donation to ride $150.  I can do that.  Of course they suggest you set your sights higher.  $50,000, yeah I better go for $250.  I’m confident I can raise that much.  Registration is quick and easy, before I realize it I am signed up to ride 100 miles with people I don’t know on a road bike that I don’t have.  Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into.

I put the computer to sleep.  After a few minutes of staring at the blank screen I start to get excited.  I’m proud of myself.  I’ve never done something so insane and now I can’t wait.

My awesome Tour de Cure Team, EO.

My awesome Tour de Cure Team, EO.

April 9.  Now that I had decided to ride I still had a couple of kinks to work out.  Mainly, I don’t own a road bike.  And I knew well enough from other stories (like Dana’s) that I would never make it on a mountain bike.  So the search for a road bike began.

Timp Cycle was having a big sale and Jon was Jonesing for a new bike.  I figured it was the perfect time to find out about rentals.  Brian sold Jon on a mountain bike without to much trouble.  It was blue, bright blue, full suspension, and who knows what else.  I bike, but I don’t understand all of that Shimano FC-TX79 sc stuff.  I’m not hard to sell.  It looks cool, and Jon is happy, why would I possibly not say yes?  While Jon was enjoying another test ride I grabbed Brian and asked him to explain road bikes to me.  Walking down the row bikes towered over us stacked two high, Brian paused at one.

“This one is the best.  It is all carbon fiber,” said Brain, I don’t think my head nodding fooled him, “so it is very light.”  He went down the line each getting slightly heavier with slightly less quality parts and slightly less money.  But even when I found the perfect one the specialized dulce, there was no way I could afford to buy one.  Besides I had never ridden, what if I blew all that money and then decided I hated it?

“What about rentals Brian?”  I asked.  He’s my buddy of course he said “yes.”

Jon walked back in then pushing his soon to be bike beside him, he was like a kid at Christmas.  So we bought Jon’s bike and headed home with comments from the guys, “Don’t forget your helmet, you sure you don’t need new shoes?”

Jon and I talked about the road bikes on our way home.  I will have to rent the bike for the weekend, and I am a little bit nervous because that means I can’t practice with it before.  Here I was going to get on the bike the day of and just pray that I could figure out how to ride it.  I didn’t like it.

I got lucky though.  I was chatting with a girl friend of mine about the ride.  I’m sure I drove everyone crazy with my gabber.  Any way I was talking to Alison and she told me to just borrow her bike.  I was more then happy too, she always purchased good quality stuff so I knew that it would be a nice enough bike.  I also knew she was hard core when it came to outdoor activities.  It should be great.  She just asked that because it was brand new to take it in for a tune up.  It was so sweet of her, 100 miles is a lot to put on a bike.  We agreed that I would pick it up from her the week before.  Wonderful this gives me time to learn how to ride.

April 16.  When I made the decision to ride I knew I would have to do a lot of training.  One way I decided is to ride to work.  It is only 5 miles each way but on the mountain bike it should still be a pretty good work out.  The first day I rode in no one in my office knew I would be on my bike.  Here I come tromping into our clean office were we always dress professionally in biking clothes with helmet still on my head and bike on my shoulder (I didn’t want to get the carpet dirty).

“Hillary did you ride here?”  I just laughed I felt like saying well obviously, but then she wasn’t asking a rhetorical questions she was shocked that I would do it.  Everyone was very supportive and it sky rocketed my donation efforts.  Everyone asked about me riding a bike to work so I tell them about my goal to ride the century and then ask them to donate, most said yes.

April 21.  My personal favorite trail here in Utah Valley is Lambert Park.  It is by the rodeo grounds in Alpine and it is such a blast.  It isn’t too technical so you can go really fast.  There is one trail called rodeo down.  This one is so fun.  It has these great switch backs where you carve up and down the side of the trail.  As you push yourself faster and faster you slice up each slope a little further until you are basically horizontal at the peak.

April 27.  Time to look for donors.  I know a lot of business owners and donations are tax deductible, so it doesn’t sound like that should be so hard.  Oh yeah, except for the asking part.  The day I asked my parents to help us make a down payment so we could get a house just about killed me.  Now I’m going around asking everyone to give me money, of course it is going to someone else, but still awkward.

It was a really hot day, about 100 people are gathers around what looked like a burial ground.  It is groundbreaking day for our new office building.  A great opportunity to start asking for donations.  I have on my yellow construction hat, from the dollar store, that says Hillary across the top.  I don’t know if it is the best look for me, but it is a great way to start a conversation.

In the end Robert Nelson was my very first donor, $30 in cash.  He made me promise it would go to the ADA not to me.  I did, and it did.

April 28.  I bought my clipless shoes and peddles today.  I was excited to try them out.  So we came home and Jon was kind enough to change them out for me on my mountain bike.  He showed me how to tighten and loosen them and we tried to guess which direction was correct to loosen them.  I jumped on and pushed off, I felt confident enough, after all I know how to handle my bike.  But I didn’t make it more then five feet.  I was going forward when all of a sudden I was falling over.  I tried to throw my foot out to catch me, but unfortunately we had guessed wrong, tighter.  I toppled right over.  It was ridiculous.  Jon was worried, but couldn’t help but be amused.  Why had I fallen over?  My leg hurt like crazy and I still couldn’t break my foot loose from the bike.

“I can’t believe people use these on the mountain.  What if you were by a cliff and started to tip but couldn’t get their foot out?” I asked still angry about my fall.  Of course once we got the peddles loosened I could start to understand.  It made peddling so much easier.  It was quick and efficient.

April 30.  I don’t think riding to work will be enough.  So I have decided to start attending spin classes.  I have never done one before but everyone says they kick your butt.  As I walked into the room.  The lights were off except for some soft color spot lights, the music was blaring and the room was already hot.  Each bike is lined up in a row through out the room, I picked one near the back next to a fan.  It was a good choice.  I didn’t have to feel foolish for being so out of shape and having that air flowing on my back made the heat tolerable.  45 minutes flew by, it was exhilarating.  Everyone was right of course, it is the hardest gym class I have ever done.  It would work perfectly into my routine.

May 2.  And so I have decided upon my routine.  I think this will be enough to prepare me for 100 miles.  I bike to work every day 10 miles all together.  MWF I am going to spin class for 45 minutes, plus the hour before, because I am coming straight from work.  Then on Saturday I am going and spinning on my own for two or three hours.  Not to mention going mountain biking with Jon at least once a week.

May 25.  Biking clothes had been one of the determining factors when I chose to ride and yet here I was standing in REI looking helplessly at rack after rack of biking clothes.  Shorts, ah, the real reason we were here.  A real biker wears spandex.  I don’t know if I am that real of a biker.  I keep looking at my options.

What really makes biker shorts different is the padding in the butt.  If you have ever sat on a bike seat for more then 30 minutes you will understand how uncomfortable it can get.  I was going to be sitting on it for eight hours.  I needed some protection.

Still I walked away from yet another rack of spandex.  “Aren’t there shorts for the self conscience not sure she is really a biker type?” I thought.  Bingo.  I had finally found the right rack.  It had the spandex shorts with a second slightly looser layer overtop.  Pay dirt.  I grabbed a bunch of pairs and headed for the dressing room.  The first pair was cheap, but so uncomfortable.  The next was expensive and very comfortable.  Still I couldn’t justify spending that much money on something I might only use once.  So I tried on the next they were in the middle price range, the comfort was pretty good, but it wasn’t just that, I felt like a biker in these short.  These shorts made me look like someone who could bike 100 miles.

“Did you find everything okay?” the guy asked at the register.  “Perfect,” I responded.

May 30.  My donors are great.  They ask every time they come into the office how the training is going.  I think this will keep me going.  After all how could I back out knowing that I would have to face each of them.  I had donations from $10 to $250.  Each time that I would reach my goal I would up it a little more.  Did I say $250 I really meant $500, $500 well of course $700.  It worked well.  In the end I reached my goal every time.

June 1.  Our team goal is $50,000, here it is the week before and we still sitting around $30,000.  $20,000 in one week seems a little crazy.  But team never ceases to amaze.  The week before go day we hold a fundraiser.  My teammate Dan is the owner of Mountain Land Design, he had appliances to auction off.  I wasn’t able to attend, but I heard stories about it later.  That night Dan raised $11,000 from his companies donations alone.  Needless to say we reached our goal.  We topped out at $56,191 with only 20 team members.  Business owners you rock.

June 2.  I hadn’t seen Ali in a long time.  Not since the summer before when we would all go up the canyon and climb.  We reached her apartment.  But she wasn’t there, she had to run to an appointment and we had beat her home.  It was a beautiful day summer day so Jon and I sat on the grass by her little red honda and waited.  I sat and looked at her building, it was brown and rather old.  No place that I would imagine someone like Alison to live.  She’s an interior designer and she has always had nice things.  But she and I were very a like.  When she left her house she also left the use of her parents money behind.  I guessed which apartment was her.  The one with the white pots and well kept plants was my thought.  It seemed to fit her well.  That or the place with the cool looking patio furniture.  In the end she was the potted plants.

She pulled in then and came over to greet us.  We all gave hugs and chatted about life and work while we walked into her place.  She was well, could finally ride again (she had been in a biking accident while riding with us four years before, this year was her first back on a bike) and was happy that she could help me out by letting me borrow the bike.  She got up then and walked over to her storage shed.

I looked around the room while she was gone.  It was exactly what I think of when imagining a condo.  White walls, small living/dining area with a through hole into the kitchen.  She and her roommates and pulled together some fun pieces like mismatch dinning chairs and in the end is still felt like Ali.  During this train of thought Ali came in with the bike.  It looked great.  We talked about it for a bit, it’s kinks, anything else I might need to know.  I thanked her again and picked it up and took it to the car.  It was light, which was great.  This should really help the 100 miles go smoother.

June 2 later.  We pulled into the driveway having just gotten home from Ali’s.  The bike was in the back of the Element, I had noticed how light it was while I was putting it in.  It was nothing compared to my mountain bike.  So I pulled it out, I was excited to test the new bike.  I ran inside and got my clipless shoes while Jon made sure they were adjusted loose enough, I had learned that lesson.  I grabbed my shoes and ran outside, trying to not stop while I put them on.  I walked over to Jon, now a little nervous and took the bike.  It was black with bright yellow strips running down the thin body.  The frame seemed so small, after a mountain bike it feels almost fragile.  I teetered onto it and clipped one foot in.  Augh, I was going to make a fool of myself again.

The handle bars are all different from my bike.  Each side has a U shape that curves down to the ground.  You can put your hands on the bottom of the U to make yourself more aerodynamic.  “Impossible” I thought, “it puts you so low you feel like you will slip right off the front.”  Then the brakes and gear shift.  They are in front of the bars pointing down towards the ground.  When you want to shift you push it in towards your other hand.  “But it’s so awkward,” I whined.  It felt uncomfortable.  It was annoying how a bike can be so different from another bike. I pushed off, it was surprisingly fast, smooth and agile.  So agile in fact that I almost fell over, just the slightest twitch of the hand and it started to turn.  But turning felt like I was falling, and I didn’t like that.  “Just go slow and go straight,” I thought.  Oh yeah and braking isn’t fast.  Those flat ball tires they have on road bikes are great for speed because they slip over the ground, unlike a mountain bike which grips to the rocks.  road tires are fast but hard to brake, they have nothing to grip onto.

Now I pulled one foot out of the clipless, I had gotten to the end of the block I had no choice but to turn.  I put my foot out to brace my impending fall and twisted the handle bars.  It was jerky and I wobbled but I stayed on, in fact it was pretty easy.  I took a couple of more turns and then raced back to Jon.  I was so pleased with myself.  I hadn’t fallen and I really quite enjoyed myself.

June 4.  Our neighbor John use to race mountain bikes so he has all the tools to tune up a bike.  So I took the road bike over to him, asked him to tighten it all up and whatever other kind of stuff you do to prep a bike for 100 miles.  He told Jon and I about how good or, in some cases, no good the component were.  I just sat on his driveway and played with the gravel next to me imaging what the next few days would bring while Jon and he talked.

June 8.  There is one of my office mates that I am very close to.  She has been the most supportive and is alway so excited to hear about my progress.  The Friday before I went up for the ride April came in with a gift for me.  She is so sweet.  It was a purple kids helmet with little animal marching around.  There was a gatorade inside of it, a banana nut cliff bar (she knew they were my favorite), mini first aid kit, biker socks, and a poem that she wrote for me.  It was so thoughtful.  She wished me luck on my way out the door, I hugged her and thanked her again for the gift.

June 8 later.  We are driving up the night before because we have to be there at 6:30.  It also gives Jon and I a chance to meet our team for the first time.  We all went to Maddox for dinner.  The food is good, if you love meat, which I don’t.  The ambiance is pleasant.  It was the same place that Jon and I had come for our senior prom five years earlier.  That was a little odd, at least this time I wasn’t in a huge puffy gown.  We wandered up to the second floor.  It was rather dark and the waiters didn’t seem to know which party was ours.  So we walked around until we found someone that looked familiar.  You could hear our party before you could see them.  They were sitting in one long row of tables pushed together.  We sat down at the end and introduced ourselves to those closest to us.

I was riding 100 miles the next day, I really wanted something vegetarian.  “Do you have anything without meat?” I asked.  “Um… Not really,” our waiter responded.  Pointing to the guy sitting next to me, that is our smallest amount of meat.  “Fine, I’ll take it.”  I pushed it around and eat the vegetables.  We laughed and enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories, mainly they were about business, some about biking.  We were invited to the bar for drinks, I don’t think right now is the best time to get plastered.  I know Budweiser tries to push it, but I still don’t think athletics and alcohol really mix.  So we headed the rest of the way to Logan where we would be staying the night at my parents.  Now with the race less the 12 hours away I am getting anxious.

June 9.  We got up 5:00 a.m.  It was a a beautiful crisp morning.  I threw on my awesome biker shorts, my EO jersey and a sweater over top to keep me warm.  Jon and I climbed still sleepy into the car.  The drowsiness wore off quickly turning into anxiousness which resulted in me being fidgety.

We pulled into a parking spot around 6:30.  I sat there for a minute.  “I don’t know if I can do this,” I piped up.  I was so frightened, I didn’t know if I could get myself to that starting line. Jon was very comforting, he helped ease my nervousness while we pulled our bikes out and got ready for the ride.

“You won’t need your jacket Hilly,” he said.

“But I’m cold,” I responded back.

“Trust me you won’t need it.”

I knew he was right so I took it off throwing it into the car wrapping my arms around myself as I sat on my bike.  Eventually we were all ready.  We went to check in.  Thankfully we had already done most of it so we got the VIP check in.  There was no one else in line, we just needed a number and to sign some final paperwork. I am number 239.

We went over to get some breakfast from one of the inflatable tents.  It looked like one of those bouncy castles, only without the floor.  A bit of a disappointment, but at least there was food to get us ready for the long day.  We munched on our breakfast and waited until the rest of our team showed up.  I was finally starting to feel excited.  I could do this.

We lined up quickly for a picture.  We were suppose to be starting but we wanted the picture more.  So there were all were in our jerseys, bikes and helmets.  Looking at the picture you can hardly tell us apart.  We were just one big excited team.

And then we were off.  With hundreds of people around us and Jon next to me I felt good, I couldn’t wait to reach my goal.  The great thing about a bike ride like this is that it is not a competition.  Everyone is there for the fun.  People were so nice and would chat with you while biking.  I was surprised to find out that most of my team were incredible bikers, I didn’t see them again after the first 12 miles.

The hardest part of the ride I had been warned for.  It was a grueling 11 miles of straight up hill to Golden Spike Park.  We had made a buddy along the way, his name was Brad.  Brad was in very good shape.  While going up promitory point, of the four of us I was the second one up, once you find a pace you have to stick with it or you just won’t make it.  Now Brad he was still making about 11 miles an hour up the hill, I was probably making 3.  So he would bike up a ways and then come down and bike up a bit with me, then he would go down to Brian and bike up a bit with him, then move back into the lead, and start the process all over again.  I thought he was crazy I’m sure he added an extra 3 miles to his ride up.  I was seeing Elvis as it was, but it made all the difference for me because I had someone else cheering me on.

For me it was the last 12 miles that were the hardest.  Of course I was tired before, but those last 12 miles were all mental.  I no longer noticed the scenery.  Jon had to tell me which way to go because I simply couldn’t keep up any more.  All I was thinking was up down up down, left right left right.  I was on the verge of tears I was so tired.  Jon was refreshed because he had been waiting at the last rest stop for me for almost an hour.  He was great to have there.

“You can make it Hilly, just a little bit further.  Remember this part from before?  We are almost there.”  As we came around to the finish line my brother and sister-in-law were there cheering us on.  I was so excited, I didn’t think anyone would come.  But as we pulled into the end and the four of us did our best Lance Armstrong poses, I whispered to Jon, “I’m not sure if I can get off the bike.  I think I might collapse if I stop.”  He nodded, at least now I had someone to catch me if I fell.  Thankfully I didn’t.  Climbing off of that bike was incredible.  I had to sit down within the first 50 feet, but I had made it.  I had ridden over 100 miles.  I found out at rest stop number 8 that we were in fact going 106 miles.  I laid on the grass, Ali’s bike by my head, flowers laying on my chest so I could smell them that Ben and Pam had given me, and Jon by my side eating lunch.  It was perfect.

2008.  I knew right then that I wanted to ride again.  Nothing could beat that feeling.  I road my second century June 14 another Tour de Cure.

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