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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

THE BIG DAY!!!

We arrived at the hotel fairly late on Saturday evening. The woman in front of me at the desk was turned away because they didn't have any rooms. I got to the desk and they looked for my reservation but couldn't find it. In horror, I realised that I had booked myself for the tour but never got round to booking my hotel room. Ben and Bev, always wonderful people, offered for me to sleep in their room, but that wasn't fair. Thankfully, somehow, they found me a double room but just charged me a single rate. I was very lucky.

All day I had been wearing the left knee brace. Those who have been following this blog will know that my left knee has been causing serious problems. A couple of weeks ago, I realised that there must be a connecting reason why I've had left-knee pain for a number of years. There I was standing in services leading the Amidah when I realised that my left leg was longer than my right. It was like an epiphany! But I didn't have time to deal with it before the ride, so I just had to support it as best I could. I peeled the brace off after having worn it for 10 hours. The knee started throbbing again. I got my things ready for the morning, took a plastic bag, filled it with ice and then lay on the bed watching Anchorman for an hour. An hour later, I accidentally poured half the melted ice onto the bed but my knee pain had gone. I was ready.


I attached my number to my jersey. I was the fourth person to book my place on the tour - I just wasn't smart enough to book the hotel room, too! I filled the back pockets. The left-hand pocket had a pack of Trader Joe's Mango Slices. The middle pocket held my keys and a number of bars, as well as more pain medication than I could possibly take in a day. The right-hand pocket held my phone.

Recently, I had bought a container for the bike. Members of the community had lent me some saddlebags but they were too unwieldy so I needed something smaller. This held sandwiches and bars all under the main frame of the bicycle. It was the perfect purchase.

I had prepared three PB&J sandwiches, and had one along with a number of other snacks. I didn't want to have a heavy breakfast and I have found that, despite it not being very healthy, if I'm going on a long ride it's good to eat late the night before. But I was up later than I had planned and ended up only getting 5 hours of sleep.

Ben and I got on our bikes while the Moon was still the main light source. We went to the tent to get our ankle timing bracelets, although that was useless because we planned to leave early. Ben gave a special prayer asking for protection for our bicycles and for us. I went to the toilet a number of times while Ben patiently waited. I was clearly nervous.

At 06:45, we set off. We had travelled perhaps a third of a mile before we realised we had no idea where we were going. Thankfully, the organisers had marked the road, so we followed their markings. The first ten miles went by very quickly, and we stopped for a chat and refreshments at the first stop. Then there was an extraordinary whooshing noise as the peleton, which had left 15 minutes after us, caught up....


These were really serious riders. They were FAST. I told the people at the water station that they were show-offs and that we were deciding to let them go past us! I honestly couldn't imagine cycling that fast, but it was nice to know that we led for the first ten miles, even if we did leave much earlier than everyone else!

Twenty miles went by nicely with a good number of the nearly 400 cyclists passing us. This wasn't a race for us, this was a long-distance clergy and friend conversation while fundraising.


People had said that the Tour was a beautiful ride, and they weren't kidding. The scenery was stunning, especially bathed in the morning light. At some point in the first twenty miles (possibly just before the 10-mile stop), I remember chanting the first paragraph of Sh'ma as the sun came up. It was really moving for me that both of us had infused this ride with spirituality. Ben then talked about his morning spiritual routine and the perfect clergy conversation ensued.

But we both knew what was coming after twenty miles.... the hill...


You can see on this picture the road head up the grade 4 climb, go right and then all the way up left. That's a 1-mile grade 4 climb. And I loved it! I kept stopping to try to take photos of the view (none of which came out very well), which turned out to be really stupid because starting a bike with clips up a hill is extremely difficult. But getting to the top of that climb felt amazing, and we knew that the worst was now over. Now it was all about distance. And we started racking up the miles...



I won't go into the conversations themselves, but by the 50-mile marker, it's fair to say that it was clear that we were sharing a very special day. We would stop not just for refreshments - Ben insisted that the best way to do a century is to never refuse a refill and a chance to stretch the legs - but we would stop to marvel at the beautiful surroundings. One very special moment had us just standing together next to an enormous rocky outcrop, listening to the silence. Another moment had us cycling past a half-eaten coyote corpse and discussing what that meant to us. We even discussed deeper philosophical questions such as whether the world is getting better or worse, whether we need it to get better, and so on. Not your usual bicycle century conversation. But that was the plan all along - when I invited Ben to join me, I had invited him to a day of meaningful conversation with three caveats - that it was on September 18th, in Acoma and on bicycles.



The beautiful scenery continued throughout...

I had been warned about the quality of the road surface - you may remember that from one of the earliest posts. The warning was absolutely right - some of the road was horrible to cycle on. Had the view not been so stunning, it would have made for a very unhappy ride. The disturbing number of cattle grates made it even harder, especially the ones at the end once everything had started to ache.



As much as Ben wanted to stop for refreshments, I wanted to stop for photographs and then posting immediately on social media. Sometimes I gave distance updates, sometimes it was just photos of wonderful things we had seen. I don't even know what's going on in this rock, but it was so extraordinary that I needed to take a photo...



Six and a half hours in, we reached the 70-mile marker. Now we were starting to flag. Despite applying copious amounts of sun screen, my arms were beginning to peel. It was actually rather disturbing watching that unfold. My right-foot was starting to hurt and Ben's foot was starting to cramp. My butt was sore, but nowhere near as much as in previous rides. My left knee, extraordinarily, was pain free. We were doing okay.
After just over 8 hours, we passed an important point for me - 90 miles was the furthest that I had ever cycled. I couldn't believe how much energy I still had left in me. I could cycle another 50 miles (although that would probably have upset my sponsors somewhat!).

We had to brave some more cattle grates and bumpy roads before reaching the end, but reach it we did. The Tour had said that they would withdraw road support after many hours so we couldn't stop at the final water station because it had gone! I'm glad we left early. I had really been hoping that Ben and I would cross the finish line together but when we were funneled through some cones and there was a beep from my ankle bracelet, I turned back and said to him, "Wait! Was that the line?" It was. That was a shame. Nonetheless, it wasn't about the ending so much as the journey. For 8 hours and 53 minutes, Ben and I had gone on a wonderful journey together and we had raised over $20,000 for the important work of Temple Beth Shalom.


The end of this post is an important list of people I want to thank. Firstly, I want to thank Ben for accompanying me on this huge journey. Not only is Ben a clergy colleague, but I feel confident in saying he is a friend for life. I learned about myself on the ride and about him, about my own Judaism and about Lutheranism. I would never have done it without him.

I also want to thank Neil Lyon from Temple Beth Shalom. When I arrived in Santa Fe two years ago and Neil learned that I like to ride, he's been itching to get me to ride with him. At first, I was going to do the Santa Fe Century but couldn't. Then I was going to do last year's Tour de Acoma, but a triple hernia problem prevented me. Then another Santa Fe Century went by without me training. All the while, Neil patiently waited and encouraged me. He helped me plan this ride, he supported me throughout all my training, he lent me some amazing cycling shorts, he stroked my bottom when it was sore (!). Every time I went for a ride, I posted him my time and he encouraged me further. He gave me food advice, training advice, everything advice. This fundraiser would never have been possible without the patience and generosity of Neil.

I want to thank Rich Cook for the crucial 65-mile ride last week and also David and Brenda Jaffe for the essential encouragement and ride they accompanied me on a number of weeks ago. I know that there were some members who had hoped to train with me but couldn't because of my weird training times, but I thank them, too, for showing me support in other ways.

Thank you to Penny Zuchlag for lending me the bike. The difference between the cross bike and the road bike was simple enormous and Penny has opened my eyes to a new way of cycling. Thank you to the people at New Mexico Bike and Sport, particularly Ray, who have been so helpful in getting me the right gear, measuring me and ensuring that I did this without injury.

Thank you to Rebecca Baran-Rees in particular for helping organise the sponsorship, and to Amy and Dorothea for their admin support. And thank you, of course, to every single one of my sponsors. Without you, I would not have done this. Truly. There was one day during the training when I was going to give up but couldn't because of your belief in me. The money that you have helped raise will fund many world-changing activities at Temple Beth Shalom.

So.... what now? Well, I'm thinking that next year I should see what is the fastest time I can complete the century in, and I'm thinking we should run a sweepstake for a bit of fun.


Thank you again, everyone.








Saturday, 17 September 2016

THE FINAL PUSH

Here we are, then! Tomorrow is the big day. And I'm terrified, actually. Let me explain why...

Last Sunday was an amazing day of cycling. I was joined by Rich Cook and told him that I hoped to do at least 70 miles, possibly 80 if I could. We set off early and the riding was good. It truly does make a difference when there's someone else to cycle with. Rich had to finish riding after 65 miles, which we completed in an excellent time. The first 20 miles we cycled in 1h23, which is only 4 minutes behind my PB. I wasn't trying to rush, we were just going at a good pace. We finished the next 20 miles in 2h52 but it wasn't without incident. In New Mexico, we have things called Sharrows. A Sharrow is a sharing arrow (see pic above). It's used in narrow roads where there isn't enough room to overtake cyclists. But New Mexico drivers don't care about that and as I was going down a fast and narrow hill someone decided to overtake me. He didn't care that there was oncoming traffic so he overtook me very, very close. It was the closest I've had to being hit by a car in a very long time.


We completed 60 miles after 4h40 and Rich had to stop after 65. We had stopped only occasionally for the butt pain which was far better than in previous weeks. Maybe it just helps having company and not focussing on the butt. I pressed on - 70 miles in 5h34 and then I went as far as 80 miles in 6h31.

I had forgotten my sun cream/screen but thought that I was getting a nice tan. It turns out that was a serious mistake and I can still feel the burn (not 'feel the bern'!) a week later. At least I've remembered to bring it with me for tomorrow's ride. 

What was enormously helpful was the breaks. I was able to stock up on snacks and sandwiches and leave them by our mailbox. Then we could cycle twenty miles and I could stop and eat a PB&J sandwich, which is apparently the best thing for you. But there will be no sandwiches on the ride - they'll be dishing out water, orange juice and bananas and that's it. That might be a problem. I've made sandwiches and I'll stuff them in pockets along the bike but a day old they may be rather horrible. Still, water will be more important than food, because it's going to be 88 degrees!!!! My hottest training was in 75 degrees but this is going to be more than 10 degrees hotter. I always said that heat could be the biggest problem. 

And because of family illness, I've not been able to train since last Sunday. I know that a couple of days of rest is important before a ride but this is different - I've not cycled in a week. And perhaps because of that, my muscles have started straining and, most importantly, my left knee is back to hurting again. It hurts so badly that I've got it in a knee brace right now. I can't cycle in the brace because it's too tight for cycling, but I am in real amounts of pain.

This ride is going to take everything I've got. People at the Temple joke about the amount I've raised in pledges "....if you finish...!" It's a real question, actually. I really want to in order to raise around $20,000 for the Temple and the really important work that we do. But I'll just take it one mile at a time and see what happens.

Someone realised that what we should have done is raise pledges and then run a sweepstake on which mile I end up stopping on. Yes, I've now done 80 miles so the received wisdom is that I should be able to complete 100, but there are differences - less food, much higher temperature and no practice for a week. We will see how this goes...

There is still time to sponsor me. To do that, please please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/655G575.

Thank you.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Big Push

Revd Ben Larzelere, the person riding with me in Acoma, said that if you pass the magic 500 miles training then you'll be able to ride 100 miles in a day. I'm not convinced. Until last Sunday, the furthest I had gone was 40 miles. I needed to get beyond 50 miles, possibly 60. 

I set off early. The first twenty miles went well but after 2 hours and 20 minutes of cycling, at around 30 miles, I had to get off the bike. The butt pain was back. I decided to keep going but 15 minutes later I had to stop again. These twenty mile loops were very helpful. I head out from my house near Old Santa Fe Trail, head to Harry's Roadhouse, turn left and head towards Eldorado. Once I get to Spin Docs I turn around and head along the long road back towards Santa Fe, turn right and head up and then down the hill to Kaune's, turn around and head back up the very steep hill, before heading up the slow hill of Old Santa Fe Trail and back to my home. It's exactly 20 miles in a loop that covers 900 feet of altitude. So, three loops of 60 miles also means climbing (and descending) three sets of 900 feet, which is 2700 feet. That's the kind of preparation I need.

I decided not to rush. The first lap was finished in 1 hour 28, the second another 1 hour 36 later. But I was getting slower and was in pain. I didn't just stop at 2 hours 19 and 2 hours 44, but also 3 hours and 49, 4 hours, 4 hours 12 and 4 hours 34. That's a lot of stopping and a lot of pain. But after each 20 mile lap I would stop and take a snack that I had left in my mailbox. That worked well until Asher saw me snacking from them and, when I was on my second lap, he decided to raid the snacks. Thankfully, Jenny was home and was able to quickly rush down a PB&J sandwich (that's peanut butter and jelly/jam, for the non-Americans) to me.

I finished the 60 miles, including stops, in 4 hours and 55 minutes. At that rate, I'll finish the Tour de Acoma in just about 8 hours and 20 minutes at an average of 12mph. That's really not very quick, but at least it'll finish.

There's only one way to be sure that I could finish this - I need to do 70 or 80 miles, and I need to do it tomorrow. I've decided to remove the new saddle and to use the special super-comfy cross-bike saddle. At Bike and Sport they said that that might not be a good idea because it won't be good for my knees, but if I can't sit on the seat then what can I do? So I decided to take off the saddle and change it, except I came across a problem - I can't undo it. They've tightened it so much that I simply can't undo it. So, it looks like I'm going to be trying to ride 80 miles on a seat that I know isn't comfortable. That's not good. Thankfully, Rich Cook from the community has offered to join me. I'd like to see whether having company will take my mind off my tusch.

This is the last big ride before the ride itself. If I can do 70 or 80 miles then I'll be in good standing. But if I don't - if I struggle - then I'm going to be in real trouble.

I am now only $4000 from my target of $20,000 pledged. If you are able to sponsor me, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/655G575.