Thursday, July 30, 2009

ACS Ride 2009

Ready for another photo-fest? I just can't help myself.

Right after I started working at the software company, I got recruited to ride in the American Cancer Society's annual Bike-A-Thon. It's a 60-something mile bike ride; starting at the Ben Franklin Bridge, and ending at the Buena Vista Campground, in Buena, NJ. Our CEO is really into supporting organizations such as this; we hold blood drives every 56 days, regularly ship boxes of stuff to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and a bunch of employees and their friends/spouses ride in the Cancer Ride each year. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I lived in California, I picked up mountain biking. How could I not, the firetrails that the original repack crew invented it on were at the end of my street. However, mountain biking and road riding are two completely different animals.

That first ACS ride was the first time that I rode more than 30 miles in one day, that day, I rode over 60. On a mountain bike. In a crowd of mostly road-riders.

Since I didn't die that first time out, I decided to do it again and see if I could beat my time of approximately 8 hours. Yes, 8. The same time most of us spend working each day, Monday through Friday. Except I wasn't getting paid. I was paying to ride, and raising money to support the American Cancer Society and their research.

Being that I've got about a 100% chance of developing skin cancer (it comes with the fair skin and the hair and the poor SPF choices we had when I was a kid), I figure that it's definitely a cause I can get behind.

So, glutton for punishment that I am, I signed up for a second Tour de Agony.

On the appointed day, at the appointed time, The Rocket Scientist and I made our way down to the starting point.

The trusty Focus, with my tank strapped to the back.
The Rocket Scientist, artfully applying sunscreen. Yes, he's wearing only spandex. Wipe the drool off your keyboard, ladies. :)
Part of our crew, out front of the Mint, awaiting the start.
We're helmeted and ready to go. Hard to believe that it's 6 AM.
There are a LOT of people riding for the ACS.
Heading up the bridge, look who's there to cheer us on our way:
There's The Rocket Scientist.
Incidentally, this ride (last year) was where we met. I wound up riding by myself, after one of my girlfriends from work backed out. Shortly after clearing the bridge, this guy rode up next to me and started talking to me. I had no idea who he was, but since he was wearing the same jersey as me (company provided), I figured that he had to be OK. He didn't leave my side the entire ride. I kept telling him to go ahead, but he wouldn't. He'd ride ahead of me and then turn around and come back to where I was. I figure that he rode another 20 miles or so, on top of what we were already doing. I found out his name at the end. He is now my work-husband, and the rest is history.

Off we go, up the Ben Franklin Bridge. This will be the biggest hill we face today. Thank God it comes at the beginning.
My crotch-shot:
Coming off the bridge, it always jams up while everyone sorts themselves out and sets their pace. Luckily, there weren't any crashes.
This year, we had an added element. A local motorcycle club, The Centurions, were riding along with us, running interference. There were a lot of times that I wished I was on one of THOSE bikes, instead of mine.
A bit of a back up at a traffic light:
We made it to the first rest stop - about 12 miles in, feeling pretty good.
The Centurions were there to make sure that we were protected while riding. They also stopped whenever a cyclist had trouble, to block them from traffic, as most of the roads we ride on are not closed.
Ah, mile 20, now we're getting somewhere.
This ride is so well supported, it's unbelievable. There are roving, mobile bike shops all over the course, to assist any rider who has a mechanical problem. The bike shops in the area sponsor it, and I am grateful for them. I have yet to have a malfunction, but in the event I ever do, I know it won't be long until I get some help. They also set up tents at each rest stop, if you have an issue that isn't serious enough to cause you to stop on the course, they'll take care of you when you roll in.
A typical rest stop - they're loaded with food and fresh water.
There he is again, resplendent in his spandex:
We even had our very own roadblocks:
The ACS posts signs all along the route. This was one of my favorites:
21 miles in. 40-something to go. Seems like a LONG way. I guess it is.
Our guardian angels:
Mile 36, somewhere in the neighborhood of halfway there.
We passed a lot of really pretty sights - all those little white spots you see on the pond are water lilies. They were beautiful.
Mile 40. I know those '5 Miles to Rest Stop' signs should be encouraging, but really, the 5 miles always feels more like 10.
Someone was nice enough to offer up their front yard as a rest stop.
Mile 53. At this point, I'm ready to die. They say that the last 10 miles or so are the worst. They. Don't. Lie.
But, I'm still smiling!
Aw, pretty lake. What I would give to be sitting on it's edge, with a beer in my hand, and not on these two wheels of death on this godforsaken road.
Ah, it's nice to be in the shade. My feet still hurt, though. So do my knees. And my ass.

By the way, where is The Rocket Scientist?
There he is! He's still smiling too. Christ, are we DONE yet?
What does that mile marker say? 63 miles? Excellent, we're almost there. I seem to remember this ride being about 64 miles. Getting off of this bike is going to feel SO GOOD....
Wait, WAIT. What? OMFG, we still have 2 miles to go? Kill myself now. I just want to die. Really, it would hurt less. I'm sure of it.
Towards the end, along the last 2 miles of searing pain, there are signs memorializing those who have succumbed to the horrible disease we are riding against. Gary Papa was a well-loved local news anchor who passed away after battling cancer a few weeks before the Bike-A-Thon. It was heartwarming to see his sign.
Oh my God - is that a finish line? Please say it is.
Yay! We're done! When you come though the arch, there are all sorts of people there cheering for you, clapping and generally making you feel fantastic about riding all that way. Like I said, it's a fabulously supported event.
Our tent, we weren't the last of our group to finish, unlike last year. In fact, we beat last year's time by an hour. Go us!
The end-of-the-ride area. We grabbed some lunch, put our bikes on a truck, and boarded a bus back to the bridge where we started. It only took an hour or so to get back to Philly, a much more pleasant ride (aside from the grouch I had to sit next to), with comfy seats and air conditioning.
Two very tired, very sweaty, very satsfied riders:
And we're still smiling. How about that?

1 comment:

  1. Debbie, You're crazy. I can't even imagine how sore your crotch must have been after that ride. And how long did it take you to unfold your legs and stand up straight afterwards? Ouch. Way to go though. I don't know if I could have done that. Maybe with a gun to my head. :)