RowSTRONG

With a good push from some friends and the money raised at the 100 miles of nowhere ride, I raised more money for the Livestrong Foundsation than I have in the past. It was nowhere near what some folks are able to pull down, but impressive never the less.

In the lead up to the week before the ride, cooler temperatures and some liquid love from the sky were all part of the forecast. I am fine with rain, but this course in the rain should be interesting. The road undulations under wet pavement were probably going to lead to some crashes and some difficult climbs. This course is already quite a challenge, but with wet roads, it would be a bit more interesting.

photo by maggi

I packed my rain gear the night before and decided to carry my own water and previsions. I would do anything to avoid the cramps of last year, so a constant source of water, and some packed away fuel became part of the game plan. Along with the normal stuff I carry for a ride, this made my backpack quite the load.

I met up with some of the other members of team Fatty at their hotel under some ominous skies. The drops started to come down almost as soon as I got my bike down and greeted some friends.

There was no turning back at this point and I have ridden in weather way worse than this.

The group ride aka fatty prologue lined up and headed off to the start line. There was not a starting spot for teams at this years ride, so we had to kind of find our own place in the chute of the distance you had intended to ride. I lined up with the century folks. Even though we were not lined up as a team, there were members of Team Fatcyclist all over the start area. It is great to be part of such a large team. Because there seems to be support all over the course and at the starting line, it seems that everyone is congratulating the team for their fundraising chops.

The National Anthem was sung while many discourteous and obviously unpatriotic folks decided to move up while some folks were observing this patriotic solemn moment. I am not Mr. RaRa USA, but do your duty and don’t use the time to poach a spot in line. It’s just a cheap move. Don’t do it.

Lance Armstrong addressed the crowd and discussed the importance of what we were doing and challenged his hometown of Austin to step up and raise the $3 million that Philadelphia did. He said that they still have a long way to go.

With couple of more speakers, and some general warnings that gave Mr. Armstrong and his crew time to shoot off the line, we were off as well.

There is generally some confusion that happens when folks click in and want to go, but not more than most massive rides I have been on in the past. I was off from the shoot and rolling along at my pace that I set for myself. As much as I like riding with other folks, I stayed disciplined enough to hold back and stay in my low gears to avoid going out too quick like last year. Along the way I did run into some folks I knew. We were able to exchange some pleasantries and talk for a bit. It was good to see them, but holding back was the name of the game…or maybe it was just survival. Either way, I had to be disciplined about my approach to getting this ride done.

Around mile 9 or so, a good friend, fellow teacher, and local single sped MTB maniac Tim Woods rode up along next to me on a single speed Specialized Langster. Tim was down with me on the relaxed pace, go when we want to type of ride that I was looking for. He and I passed the first rest stop and entered into the realm of love from above. Liquid love…everywhere. It was freaking poring the stuff on us.

Both of us are experienced city riders and have spent plenty of time on the road in the rain, so he made for the perfect riding partner. We would motivate each other to keep going through the absolute deluge we were experiencing. This stuff was the big soaking drops that kind of hurt, especially at 16mph or so.

Of course Tim would crush the hills on his single speed and I would cath him in my granny somewhere along the way. We did this exchange until the next rest stop where we met up again and waited around for some folks who did not make it to us in the time we allotted. We were back off catching up, geeking out, and pushing some decent cadence along the rollers of Northwestern Montgomery county.

Near the crest of one particularly difficult hill (for me). I found Tim standing and waiting for me in a total downpour. He was keeping a broken chain victim company knowing that I would have the tools to fix this calamity.

With chain tool in hand, and passed off to the rider, it became apparent that although his bike was of the S-Works variety, his mechanical skills were of the non-existant variety, so I would be left fixing this. Once we were part way though the repair, he said…arnt you from Pittston (my hometown). I said of course I am. He let me know that we have been on group rides together back in NEPA. Pretty cool eh? I guess I am remembered for something along the way.

With the repair done, and some more riding along with Timmy, we were enjoying the rain at this point and though that it was mostly funny that folks were having such a hard time with it. When life gives you lemons…right. We were imparting our love of the rain and positive mental attitude to everyone we passed along the way.

Aaron and Lindsay Photo by Kevkavpix.com

There was a predetermined time where tim was going to peel off and just destroy the return route, so I was left to my own for determination, cammeradary, and cadence. No problem because there are so many Team Fatty members out there and other great folks, that it was not hard to buck up and get after it. I kept flip flopping places with a Team Fatty couple from Toronto Canada, so instead of working around each other, we joined forces to push through this together. It turns out that they are both teachers as well. We all know that teachers could talk, but these guys could ride as well. Thanks to Aaron and Lindsay for making it through the rest of the ride with me. They made the miles just sort of tick by.

Smile Photo by Maggie

Coming through the final few miles are some of the toughest, because my mind is already off and there are a series of climbs that never seem to end before the finishing line. The finish of the LiveStrong challenge is always very special because not only are there tons of folks to cheer for you, there is also the survivors chute, where they all are presented with a yellow rose as they finish. It is powerful to stand at the back of the finishing chutes and see how many cancer survivors make it through to the finish.

I will be back next year and I hope that the foundation does will in the next year.  Regardless of what your feelings are on Lance or anything he has done, the foundation that he founded does amazing things for cancer research, support, and awareness. You could never take that from them. I sincerely hope that their mission survives whatever the future will bring to Armstrong. As for him, I could care less. In my opinion he doped, I don’t have an issue with that. What my issue is that he lied and that’s just dirty. Just like poaching spots during the national anthem.

Thanks to Kelly Kavanagh and Maggie Buckler for the pictures. I kept my camera buried in my huge bag. Big thanks to Philly Jen, who does such great work every year even if she can not find her helmet.

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