(Pictured Above: Natalie, Chris, Mike, Gerald, Ed, me, Wyatt & Steve)
As Gerald’s summary of the day states simply, yet quite eloquently… WE DID IT!
A quick recap of the day…
Sunday started at 4:45am after a restless sleep. I probably woke up about 15 times during the middle of the night both out of anticipation & excitement for the coming day as well as paranoia that I didn’t set my alarm correctly. Nevertheless, the alarm went off on time and I was up immediately into my standard Saturday morning training routine. I crashed at my friend Drew’s place in Schwenksville located about 20 minutes from the start line. This gave me the chance to have my standard breakfast of bacon and eggs and prep almost as if I was home on just another training ride. (Very important for me from a mental perspective.) I quickly packed up my things, loaded my bike back onto my car, and made my way to Montgomery County Community College to meet the rest of Team Wannabe Riders Against Cancer by about 6:15am.
As the MCCC campus continued to wake up with the sunrise, our team took advantage of the free refreshments, snapped a few pre-race photos and then made our way to the staging area for the 70 mile riders. Initially I was quite surprised to see the area so empty but as word came that the start time would be delayed 30 minutes until 8am, I turned around to see the throngs of people still making their way from the parking lot into the staging area. I was anxious to get on the course so the delay was frustrating but after a brief opening ceremony, we made our way into the starting chute and finally the ride was underway.
The course was a bit more challenging than we expected. Our initial read of the course information led us to believe that over the 70 miles, we would tackle about 2600 feet of elevation climb. That’s what most of the team trained for, and that’s what Mike and I tackled on our final training ride. Following that ride I was feeling pretty good about things. However the actual elevation climb for the course when all was said and done turned out to be 5200 feet! More than double the anticipated amount.
Course Map Comprehension FAIL
As the day wore on we found ourselves tackling hill after seemingly endless hill. Some were long & gradual, some were short & steep and we even had one or two thrown in that were long & pretty steep. I never spent so much time in those bike gears all the way on the left but I was able to summit every hill without having to get off and walk. The downhills were fun but seemingly few and far between. Weather on the day was pretty hot with highs hitting the mid-80s and fairly oppressive humidity. It certainly could have been worse, but when we stopped to take breaks, you could feel the heat.
Despite the challenging course & conditions, the team took it all in stride and really stuck together to make it through. Throughout the course were five “power stops” filled with water, Gatorade, goo, Powerbars, PB&J sandwiches, bananas, grapes, etc… just about any source of energy you could think of. While some members of the team would break away between stops, we made sure to leave each one as a team.
The best part of the day was certainly the finish. We left the final power stop with the goal of riding the final 10 miles as a team so that we could cross the finish line together. That stretch was a gradual uphill climb back to the MCCC campus but once the college was in sight, everyone seemed to forget about how hard the day had been. We made our way into the last quarter mile where the path was split into two chutes with cancer survivors on the right and “regular” riders on the left. Cheering and clapping supporters surrounded us as we hit the final 100 meters, and as each one of us crossed the finish line, our names were read aloud to all in attendance. The team came through to the end and celebrated with handshakes and hugs. Despite the near exhaustion, the photo above taken almost immediately after we finished shows the smiles and just how great we still felt. (Okay, maybe we look a little tired.)
Unfortunately along the way we did lose one team member, Mike, around mile 50 to some left knee problems that made it impossible for him to pedal. I was really impressed with how well he handled the situation. Despite the disappointment, Mike was one of our loudest supporters when we eventually made it to the finish line.
All-in-all an amazing experience. 6500 total participants, about 2500 of which were bikers. Nearly $15,000 raised by our team, almost $8000 of that by Gerald alone. $3.2 million dollars raised by all LIVESTRONG Philadelphia participants. 70 miles biked and nearly 5200 feet of elevation gain!
Gerald continues to talk up the 100 mile ride next year. While I’m hesitant and intimidated by an even longer ride on such a challenging course, I don’t see how I can say “no” to him if he asks.
If you get a chance, take the time to read Gerald’s account of the day. As a cancer survivor, this day had special meaning to him. It’s definitely worth your time.