Monday, December 8, 2008

Kids in Distress Inlet Challenge (century -- 100 miles) bike ride - Sunday, 12/7/08)

While Bill (the other "Wild and Crazy Guy") was off running the Vegas marathon and honing his running skills, I was busy breaking some new ground venturing into what was for me, the uncharted waters of my first "century" bike ride --- 25 miles further than the longest one-day distance I had gone on a bike up to this point.

The day started at 6am when I met up with Tony and Carrie at Chris' house where we would park our cars for the day. Chris lives less than a mile from the start of the ride. With temperatures at about 60 degrees, winds out of the NNW at about 8mph and a magnificent sunrise on the way, we rode over to the start and picked up our bib numbers and pinned them on to our jerseys. Amidst a crowd of about 1,000 other riders, we mingled a bit, caught up with some friends, got pumped up with lots of upbeat music, ate some last minute energy snacks, hydrated once more and then made that last and all important bathroom stop before starting the ride at 7am sharp.

Although we would eventually be riding north from a beach parking lot close to Port Everglades Inlet in Fort Lauderdale up to the Palm Beach Inlet, in order to log a full 100 miles, the course would first take us a few miles south along AlA up and over the 17th St. Causeway drawbridge. With the first wave of riders (those riding the full century -- there was another wave starting at 7:30 -- the 62 milers and the 31 milers -- the metric century and the 1/2 metric century riders) approaching the bridge, a small problem arose -- the bridge was having difficulty closing from it's last opening and the gates were still down stopping a rather large group of pumped up cylcists from crossing and continuing on their journey. This very frustrated group, only about a mile and a half into the ride, after waiting about 5 minutes for the bridge to open, finally vetoed the request of an official "ride support guy" to wait for the bridge gates to go up, and instead reversed course to head back to the start and continue north from that point. There was no stopping this angry mob of cyclists on a mission.

In making my way back down the bridge against the standing traffic and over a grass divider, I managed to lose my riding buddies Tony and Carrie. I waited for a few minutes in the hope that they were behind me. Eventually, with no one else left, it was pretty clear that they were up ahead so I finally started out on what was now looking to be a very long day that wasn't getting off to the best start. So much for "no child left behind"!

By the time I got back to the start area, it was about 7:30 and the second wave was starting to go out. What a mess this was with both the 7 and the 7:30am waves getting merged into one big group -- exactly what the planners had tried to avoid. From my perspective it was actually great. I was quickly able to hook up with other riders that I knew and actually contemplated turning around with these riders at the 62 mile mark if I couldn't reunite with Tony and Carrie. Among the riders I ran into, it was nice to see Sheena from Downtown Bicycles, Jared Knapp, Gina/Nora/Kelly (from the JFR running group), Brandy and a bunch of other people that I know from riding and running circles but whose names I don't yet know. And of course, like with all of these events, I met many new people as well.

Earlier, before the race had started, I had met up with buddy Keith Seago. Keith was going to be riding the "metric 100" or 62 miler so he would be going out with the 7:30 start, hoping (and with his skills, "likely") to catch up with me, Tony and Carrie. Keith never did catch up with us. Not because we were ahead of him but because he was way ahead of us the entire time. I'll bet he was working really hard to catch us and unfortunately for him, we weren't even in front of him -- sorry Keith!

Riding north along AlA in a pretty large pace line (group) at a speed of about 20 - 22 mph was pretty comfortable with the constant opportunity to draft (for the non-riders reading this -- that's when you ride behind others and in essence, get pulled along in their "draft").

Making our way into Boca Raton, at about the 20 mile mark, as luck would have it I caught up with Tony and Carrie. As it turned out, I didn't really "catch" them. We were riding together all along in this rather large group -- they were closer to the front of the group and I was somewhere in the middle. So finally, we were riding together.

Eventually we made it to the first rest stop somewhere near Boynton Beach at the 35 mile mark. Quick bathroom breaks, refilling water bottles, eating some bananas/oranges/peanut butter and jelly sandwiches/cookies ---- all in about 10 minutes and we were back on our way.

Just another 15 miles into Palm Beach and we were quickly to the 50 mile turnaround point for our return south to Fort Lauderdale.

And now the real fun starts! Or should I say that this is when I got a little stupid and ahead of myself by trying to hang with a group of much better trained riders that with the wind now at their backs, were really ready to step the pace up. So for about 5 miles, I hung. But I knew I would pay for riding at a pace that I'm just not yet trained for. Eventually, I dropped back. Carrie also dropped back along with a few others. You're never really alone in these large group rides. Our small group of 4 or 5 took turns "pulling" and rolled into the next rest stop (appox. mile marker 65) about 10 minutes behind Tony and the lead group that he stayed with. Tony, by the way, is an incredible cyclist -- real strong, consistent, able to sprint and hang with the big boys on most days. He's also most generous when it comes to pulling us lesser talented riders along and I know he often holds back just to help us train.

Reloaded with water and snacks, we moved out again. And once more, I made the same mistake of trying to hang with the lead pack -- a rather large pack as well and I was right in the middle of it. Now for those who are familar with my riding style, you know I'm a "wobbler". Tony has actually given me the nickname, "Crazy Legs". I do try hard to stay steady and keep my line, but I do tend to shake a bit which makes other riders very nervous -- and understandly so. The last thing I want to do is fall and take other riders down with me. Cruising along now at about 23 to 24mph, I hear another rider saying "316, get it together, you're making me nervous", or something to that effect. This guy had a real friendly tone. Not knowing what my rider number was, I didn't realize that he was talking to me. After he made these comments a third time, I carefully looked over and he said "yeah, you" -- again, in a real friendly tone which I was very greatful for. Some riders can get really nasty -- and again, understandably so. I really had no business being in the middle of this pack.

Well, now knowing my race number, and wondering if getting this number could have been some sort of a sign ---- I responded "it's John, 3:16". To which he responded: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" -- accurately quoting this well known bible verse.

This guy was unbelievable. He spoke Spanish so I shouted out "como se yama". Someone shouted back for him "Bianco". He was truly concerned about me going down and the wreck that I might wind up causing. Unlike many other cyclists, his approach got me thinking real quickly about dropping back and getting out of this potentially dangerous situation. Bianco then shouted out Tony's number, 714 and said: "Romans 7:14" and then proceeded to quote that bible passage. Our new "friend" sure knew his scripture.

So I took this "sign" and was cheered on with a "nice job" by Bianco as I safely moved over to the right side and began to let the pace line fly by me. Carrie and a number of others eventually dropped back as well and together we made our way back to Fort Lauderdale through the remaining approximate 30 miles. Yes, these last 30 miles were a bit of a challenge. I wouldn't say that I was "toasted" or that I "blew up" at all. I actually felt pretty good. But to say that I wasn't feeling a little "toasty" in the legs would be a big lie.

Carrie, a new friend Vicki (a new and first time grandmother who about a year ago decided to make a major life change and started excercising and lost something like 60 pounds) and I, cruised into the finish line back in Fort Lauderdale at about 12:15 for a total time of about 5:15 which was very respectable. Tony was there to high-five us and give us his congratulations on our ride. He made it back with the lead group and even "pulled" for a good portion of the way finishing in under 5 hours.

With the ride now over, we sat down for a nice "Bubba Gump" sponsored lunch and did our best to begin replacing all of the calories that were burned over the past 5 plus hours.

I must say that a 100 mile bike ride is a long ride. And yes, all that I kept thinking about after we finished was how the heck am I going to swim for 2.4 miles before riding 112 miles and then put my running shoes on and run 26.2 miles right afterwards! Ironman Arizona --- what were we thinking Bill??? Hmmmmm -- very interesting. I guess we'll just need to train really hard and work our way up to it. Just like we did leading up to our first marathons, our first sprint triathlons and our first 1/2 Ironman. After all, we're just Two Wild and Crazy Guys!

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