Thursday, August 14, 2003

We Did It for the Kids

Last weekend was my ride through the mountains. This is something I'd been planning for since last summer: my company is the new title sponsor of this event, and we only had one rider participate last year. Acknowledged by all as pretty lame, I resolved to ride in the Courage Classic this year. I bought clip-in shoes and pedals in December and started sloowwwwly learning how to use them. I started going on 30 mile rides in the spring, ramping up to 60 mile rides in the summer. Last spring I couldn't make it up my street on the bike from the North (north side to Queen Anne Hill, for those who know Seattle geography), but last month I did it twice in one weekend. I joined the Cascade Bicycle Club and started going on some group rides. I went on a cycling vacation, where we rode 6 out of 8 days of that vacation. I watched le Tour de France for the first time ever (a good year to start watching). I listened to cyclists talk about their bikes, their gear, and all of the great rides they had participated in. I realized that not everyone in a colorful jersey on a skinny bike looks as lean or rides as fast as those riders on the Tour. I realized that cycling is something that people do into their 70's. Somehow this summer, I joined their ranks and became a cyclist, too.

I don't like to ask people for money, so I didn't solicit sponsors for this ride in which the whole purpose was raising money. Working for a sponsor organization meant that I didn't have to raise the $400 that all the other riders had to raise to participate. When we sat and listened to the history of the ride and the thanks to all who are contributing to the ride, I felt bad that I didn't raise anything for this great cause. The money raised by the ride goes to a Tacoma hospital's child abuse treatment and prevention clinic. If they raise a couple million dollars, this clinic will be self-sufficient, and there will always be free treatment for these local victims of child abuse. Be prepared: I'm starting my fund raising campaign now for next year.

The ride itself was fantastic. We went through 3 mountain passes in 3 days, so each day we gradually climbed for about 20 miles, had a rest stop complete with sports drinks, fruit, cookies, etc, then completed the steep part of the climb to lunch at the summit of the pass (spaghetti one day, chili the next, stuffed potatoes the third). On our descent we'd have another stop with more food. The standing joke for the ride was that people would gain weight while riding 3 tough days in a row. Rotary clubs manned the rest stops, and cheered us on, with cow bells, music, thanks and congratulations.

The ride was hard. I'd been training on hills, so I felt well prepared, but it's still tough to climb 3 days in a row, fighting a headwind on the last 1 1/2 days. Every time I got to the summit, I felt victorious. It was a lot like the feeling of completing a marathon, but it happened 3 days in a row. It was also terrific to do this with so many people that I knew. We had 15 riders from my company this year, and it was fantastic to cheer each other on, and so much fun to hang out together in the evenings. The other riders were terrific, too, friendly and funny, and encouraging of us newbies.

In the evenings we camped at local schools. My lesson learned after the first night is that rather than sleep in a tent in the field, I could sleep in the gym. Much better for non-campers like me. At the camp sites there was more food, sports therapist massueses (sp?), hot showers, music during the afternoon, and buses to the local towns. Trucks transported our luggage, so it was there waiting us when we rode into camp.

All in all, a very special weekend, and one that I'll be repeating next summer. Any potential sponsors out there? Any potential riders?


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