Its finally done. This past Sunday, I completed the 125 mile Harbor to the Bay Charity Ride! It seems hard to believe that just two months ago I was watching the Tour de France and in the impulsive way I do things, went out, bought a road bike and signed up for this ride.
Since that time I took on several rides, including the grueling 63 mile Gran Fondo and the tamer 100 mile Schuykill Century. I upgraded my bike, revamped my training, and logged hundreds of miles.
All of my cross training– from running 5k’s to paddling with my dragon boat team was designed to prepare me for these 125 miles- the furthest and hardest physical activity i anticipated participating in. Unfortunately, about 2 weeks out from ride day, disaster struck- my body began protesting all of the physical abuse. It started with a tweaked knee following a brisk 5 mile run, showed up as back and shoulder pain the next day during a work out session, continued as quad and hamstring tightness, and culminated as general fatigue and soreness- all as I was trying to prep for this big ride.
Prior to ride day, desperate to recover, I had a few sports massages, and majorly curtailed my training. Unfortunately, by ride day, my IT band hadn’t fully recovered, and it started paining me about 15 miles into the ride. Here are my thoughts on the ride:
–Preparation: Mentally, I felt ready for the ride. I had logged my first century (100+ mile ride) 2 weeks prior, on a relatively hilly course, and I finished in a decent time and relatively little pain. I figured the Harbor to the Bay would be on pretty flat terrain, so tacking on another 25 miles would have been no problem. Physically, I wasn’t where I would have liked to have been. Tweaking my knee the week before definitely was not in my game plan. Also, driving 7 hours the night before from Philly to Boston and getting to bed at 1:00am when I had to get up at 4:00 wasn’t the greatest- especially since I discovered one of my tires had gone flat overnight!
–During the ride: I felt for the most part the ride went well. The other riders didn’t take a ridiculous pace from the start which allowed me to advance through the pack without expending too much energy, and in fact the pace felt a little slow for me, so for much of the first 15 miles I was passing people. Around mile 10 I started running into problems however. My chain would jump between gears, especially on hills, and it made it difficult to cycle. By mile 15 my IT band started irritating me, which was my fear for this ride. I stopped at the first rest stop and took care of both issues. The bike tech tightened up my derailleur, and I put on a knee band designed to put pressure on the IT band to prevent it from sliding around too much. Both fixes worked- the derailleur for the rest of the ride, but the knee strap for only about 5 miles.
About 30 miles into the ride I linked up with another rider, John (who turned out to be a VP @ AIDS Action!), which was a great experience. Not only did we have a great conversation, but he helped out when I got a flat tire (twice!), and we pushed each other over the next 80 miles or so. Riding with someone else was definitely helpful, I wouldn’t have kept the pace I did otherwise. Partner or not though, by around mile 90, my left IT band was completely shot. As tired as I was, I hated stopping because getting off the bike and trying to get my foot back into the toe strap was just too painful. For intervals I was cycle with only my right leg- the left one was just along for the ride.
It was quite the welcome site then, around mile 110, when I crested the final big climb, and saw the ocean for the first time since the ride had started. Coming downhill into the town provided a welcome rest, but I was sadly suprised when I discoved we had another 10 miles or so to pedal through Provincetown! Those were the longest 10 miles I’ve ever biked. What a welcome site at the colorful “1 mile remaining” marker, and then the cheering volunteers when I crossed the finish line.
If there was one thing about this ride that stood out, it was the spirit of the volunteers who kept us well fed & motivated. Their constant support and encouragement along the route meant a lot more than they probably realized. Also, when I finished the ride, Brisa was there to congratulate me and help me walk (I needed it), and that was a really nice finish for the evening.
We had some dinner, and went to the closing ceremonies, which included a 2 mile bike through provincetown, with all of the locals clapping and cheering us on. Hearing the people talk about the effects of AIDS on our communities and their friends was very moving, and I felt good about raising part of the $340,000 collected in this year’s ride. For that, I have to thank you, all of my sponsors for the ride. From the $5 to $50 contributions, all of them helped me reach my goal, and will truly make a difference in the life of someone who receives lifesaving medication, or needed support.
I’m sure I’ll be back in the saddle or running a race sometime soon, but for now, its rest, rest & rest!