I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since we did this bike ride.
First, of course, I want to thank everyone who donated money to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey on our behalf. As a team (to date), we raised over $3600 thanks to your generosity. (By the way, there is still time to donate if you didn't, you can visit my page, Chris's page or Marty's page and give; it all goes to the same place).
Second, I want to thank all of you who were there with us in spirit. Your good wishes and thoughts definitely carried me through.
Third, I want to thank the organizers and volunteers for the ride. Everything was top notch from the tools provided to raise funds, to the check-in breakfast, the rest areas and the ending barbecue, not to mention those along the way who cheered us on (especially up that first big hill).
Last, I have to thank Chris and Marty. If it wasn't for their support before the ride, with training runs, and especially during the ride, I'd be a heap on the side of the road barely fit for the vultures. I also want to thank Marty, because his mere presence probably saved our marriage ;D. Oh, and a big thank you to Marci, for driving us all to (and from) dinner that night, without whose support, that celebratory martini and extremely large porterhouse, would not have been possible!
Now to tell you a bit about the ride...
We started in Warren NJ which for those of you who aren't familiar with New Jersey, sits in the center of our state, in the Watchung Hills (yes, and they did play a role in that day's adventure). Chris and I rose at 5:00am after actually organizing our gear the night before (for once) and Marty arrived right on time at 5:30am. After a quick transfer of Marty's bike and gear from his car to ours we were on our way.
With only one wrong turn on that cool, dark, morning, we arrived to an almost packed Camp Riverbend at about 6:15 with plenty of time to check-in, eat breakfast, use the restrooms, fill our tires and water bottles and be ready for the 7:00am start. It took one look around at all the svelt, young riders, for me to feel quite inadequate, but Marty mocked my nervousness and we headed out.
Now let me mention that first steep hill - yes I love a ride when within a half-mile of the start you're climbing - not. I should have taken that as a warning for the rest of the day. I did however take heart that there was already a younger, thinner rider, off her bike, walking it up while I climbed in my saddle. And I did take note of the volunteers near the top who cheered us on.
The first 20+ miles really are a blur to me. We headed north, through the Great Swamp and saw some really pretty countryside. We looped around, southward and stopped in/near Bernards in Pleasant Valley Park for our first rest area. I felt pretty darn good. We'd covered almost 21 miles in about 80 minutes, a not too shabby pace of 15.75 mph.
Our First Rest Stop
After our ten minute break, we continued southwesterly, through Bedminster (past my cousin's jewelry store, Simms), skirting Round Valley, through Whitehouse and Reading, to arrive at our next rest area in Three Bridges (which by the way holds some fond childhood memories for me of fishing and swimming in the river there). I liked that rest area, they played reggae music, had friendly staff and a big balloon arch for us to ride through. Other than having to walk upstairs to use the bathroom at the rest area, oh and crossing one major highway, the ride so far still felt pretty darn good. I was wondering where the flat areas were though? Seemed like all we were doing was going up or down...
We'd been riding about three hours at this point and covered 44 miles. Our average speed had dropped to about 14.6mph - uh oh.
Here things go bad for me. They go real bad for me.
There are no flat areas. The next 20+ miles have us looping out from the rest area, down towards my old friend, Sourland Mountain, into rolling, rolling hills. We were either going up or we were going down but the down never made up for the up and the up always seemed to end in these steep-grade tops that you could never use your momentum to get over.
I felt like I was in the ocean with wave after wave breaking over my head and I couldn't get to the shore.
Chris said each time we saw another hill, my head would shake.
I know at some point I started to scream at them.
I started to write this blog entry in my head too. The title? Century for the Cure 1, Kim 0. My excuses for not finishing and why that was okay, and why that wasn't a bad example for my kids flew through my brain (I am the queen of rationalizations).
I stumbled (well, as much as you can stumble on a bike) into the third rest area (which had also been the second rest area), after riding 67 miles, defeated.
I got off my bike and slumped into a chair. Marty and Chris walked away, to let me be. I didn't know they were talking about how to convince me to get into the van to go back to the finish.
We'd ridden 67.86 miles in about 4 hours and 40 minutes (not including rest stops). Our overall speed dropped to just about 14mph. It was all my fault.
Sixty eight miles wasn't even the longest ride I'd done this season. The next rest area was at 81 miles, only 15 miles away, even at our current pace, just over another hour on the bike. I told me, I could get there and then I could get in the van. At least I would have gone further than any other ride that season. I got up, got half a sandwich and twenty minutes after pulling into the rest area, we got back on the bikes.
Somewhere on South Branch Road about 30 minutes later, I regretted that decision. I wanted them to go on without me. I wanted them to leave me there while I waited for the van. I wanted to stop holding them back. But they wouldn't go. I made Chris give me his car keys though, so if (or when) the van did bring me back to the finish, I could get into his car to change.
Something happened though when he gave me those keys. Don't ask me what - I can't explain it. My back stopped hurting, my head stopped hurting, I had an out. And even though we were still going up and down and up and down, over some really crappy roads (Marty says no one appreciates a freshly paved road like a bicyclist and he's absolutely right), I made it to the fourth rest area, 82.83 miles in total, six hours and thirty seven minutes after we started to ride.
It had been slow going, averaging about 12mph (well, that included that stop for the keys and I'm not sure how long that took) but I'd made it. Our overall speed had dropped to about 13.8mph.
Now here's the thing - remember how the ride started in the Watchung Hills? It was ending there too. While in that first 30 miles we had some really good down-hills to get out of the hills, I knew at the end of the ride until we got to mile 94 or so, we were going to have to climb back up into those hills.
So it was time to seriously consider a van ride to the finish.
The only thing, the people in the fourth rest area were so nice! They offered to drive me to the top of the hill, so I could ride from there. They encouraged me to ride it, explaining that it wasn't a steep climb but a long, gradual one (those don't scare me as much) - and this was confirmed by another rider to whom Marty had spoken. They got me ice water.
And you know what I thought? Fuck it! I'm at 82.83 miles, I really only had to get another 12 miles to have most of the climbing behind me. I've come this far. Fuck, fuck, fuck it. Fourteen minutes later, we climbed back on our bikes for the last time that day, and rode.
We climbed up through Bridgewater, into Warren and tackled those two remaining hills (nee mountains), again, through some beautiful scenery and amongst a heard of deer, until we coasted into Camp Riverbend, eight hours and 20 minutes after we started, covering a distance of 102.36 miles, climbing almost 5200 feet during the course of the ride.
Here's the irony for me though.
My second century ride was two years ago. At that time, it was three weeks before I discovered the lump in my breast. I did that ride, having cancer and not knowing it. I finished that ride easily at a personal best of 16.1mph over the course of 101 miles.
This ride was my third century. I'm cancer free (knock on wood). Cancer free, and yet I didn't ride this century fast. Cancer free, and yet I didn't ride it strong. But never have I had that incredible sense of accomplishment that I had when we coasted into that camp. It took one hot dog and one beer later for me to already start thinking about doing this ride again next year.
Oh, and if that didn't convince you that I'm meschuga, next week, on October 3rd I'm doing another century with Chris, Marty and Bobbi. This one though is just for "fun."
Marty, Chris, Me and my beer