2014 Ride For Mike (Part 2)

The results are out for the Gran Fondo Hincapie. There was no surprise there for me. My time came in at just over 5 hours and 53 minutes. That is nearly 20 minutes more time that last year’s attempt. I know exactly why it happened.

It all started with the Skyuka climb.

My strategy going into the ride was that since I knew I was not in good shape, I would try to pace myself up the climbs and spend less time stopped at the rest zones. So, I rode on past the first SAG in Tryon. That allowed me to stay with several people who were riding a pace line to the start of the climb.

When we reached it as a group, I moved over to the white line, motioned the others around me, and went into my easiest gear. Right there I put my pride on the shoulder of the road and determined I wasn’t going to push this. I knew the 4 mile and then some climb averaging 9% was only the first step up to an even greater challenge to come.

There isn’t much to say other than I kept plodding along with riders coming around me one after the other. It wasn’t as though I could have kept up with them anyway. Even at this early point in the ride, I was starting to wane.

I was about two-thirds of the way up when Tejay van Garderen and a rider in a Hincapie Devo Team kit came flying past me. As they sped past, Tejay looked back and said something that based on the look on his face was meant to be encouraging. I didn’t catch it, but I did get out the words “Hey, throw me a rope!” as they moved closer to the turn ahead. Then they were out of sight.

I stopped at the top to take a picture. Last year my battery was dead in my phone by that point and I didn’t get one. That view is worth the climb. Yes, it is true, a photograph just can’t capture it.

I also stopped at the SAG just before the descent. I didn’t stay long, but as I was leaving I stopped once again to take another picture. There was no need to be in a hurry at this point. Besides, any delay allowed me to put off the pain of Howard Gap.

Before I could get to that climb, I would have to descend the other side of Skyuka. Here is where I really began to notice the difference between the Giant TCR and the Felt AR. The AR was my bike for the day due to the need for a last moment repair for the TCR. Going through the corners with the aero frame Felt with the longer wheel base was not normal for me.

I had to take it easy and even so, I over-cooked one corner and had to take a detour into a driveway. However, that was better than at least two riders I came upon. One had obviously laid the bike down. There were marks on the road and rider was standing in that stiff post-road rash stance.

I was happy to reach the rolling section that followed. Now my mind was turning to Howard Gap. I was already feeling tinges of muscle cramps. It had taken me 40 minutes to climb Skyuka. Howard Gap was less than half the distance, but with an 11% AVERAGE grade it was going to be tough.

Right away on the bottom of the climb I began to feel my legs cramp. It was as though they had gotten so use to spinning along that throwing them into the fray of climb like this had them protesting and threatening a strike. It wasn’t just my normal calve muscle cramp. It felt like every muscle from my hip down was seizing.

Experience told me to just relax and keep spinning. If I didn’t feed the cramps by tensing and just kept my legs moving, I would find relief. Sure enough the cramps backed off, but like wild animals just outside the ring of light from a camp fire they let me know they could return at any moment.

I didn’t look up. I just tried to find a rhythm. I wasn’t going fast, but I was moving. It was then my phone started “dinging” because my daughter and wife were carrying on a text conversation in a group of which I was a part. As I moved slowly around another rider who was even slower he said, “So, do you ring that bell every time you pass one of us?” I knew better than to make a comment. I figured he might be passing me back before the top.

Yes, I stopped. It was on the final straight section. I still had over half the ride to go. I simply could not cook my goose here. So, I dismounted and began to walk. My focus was on my left hamstring which was teasing me with a cramp. I took my mind off by watch the riders go around me in slow motion. Some were riding higher gears (a good idea!) and they were spinning along, but seeming not go anywhere fast.

I tried mounting one more time with about 50 meters to go, but had to get off and stretch out my leg. Then it was off again. Even though it took me 20 minutes to get up the less than 1.5 mile section, I was in good spirits because I had done it! Yes, Green River Cove was going to be tough, but I knew I could do it.

Time meant nothing to me at this point. All I wanted to do was find groups of riders that I could tag along with. The wind had picked up a little on this beautiful day and riding through it alone would only compound any issues I might be having.

And so it was that I made it to the SAG just before the gorgeous route through Green Rive Cove and to the base of the climb with 17 switchbacks. I spent some time talking with other riders there before climbing back on and getting underway. I was starting off alone.

It was along this stretch of the course that something really started to get to me. I think it had to do with the setup of my Felt. I have to stretch out more over the bike and it was causing me to tilt my head just a little more than normal. Since I broke my neck several years ago this has become the one remaining issue from the accident. I cannot hold my head in a position like that very long without the muscles in my neck and shoulder starting to fatigue.

By the time I reached the climb up Green River Cove I was almost audibly saying to myself, “If I could just stop and lay down my head.” Maybe you don’t realize just how heavy your head is. Hold a bowling ball and extend out your arm. Now, hold it there. Before long your arm will begin to tremble and your muscles will complain for you to drop the ball and give them some relief. That gives you an idea how I was feeling.

Even so, I only stopped once on the climb. Granted, it was my slowest ever time, but once again I rejoiced that I made it to the top. Now it was just time to head home!

It isn’t that the ride was easy. The entire way back to Hotel Domestique, I was fighting the urge to just lay my head down on the stem. The only portion where I felt somewhat normal was the descent down the water shed.

I was completely alone as I made the turn up the final climb to the finish. I felt like I had been out there forever and so the 5:50+ time I saw on the clock was not a shock — I was actually surprised I made it in under 6 hours. As I neared the line Chad Andrews called out in that announcer voice, “And here we have Jonathan Pait!” Frankly, I didn’t want any attention pointed my way and was slightly annoyed by his enthusiastic callout.

However, that annoyance quickly gave way to relief as I turned right after the finish to head back to my car. It was a challenge. Wasn’t that what I wanted?

Well, I got it!

2014 Ride For Mike (Part 1)

I was thankful for the new start time for the 2014 Hincapie Gran Fondo. This meant I was able to get up at my normal weekday waking schedule. Then it was just a matter of getting the stuff I had prepared the night before into the car. In the cool (but not cold!) air of an October morning, I drove the 30 or so minutes to Hotel Domestique for the start of my 2014 Ride For Mike.

The VIP package allowed me to drive right up to the hotel and park within a stones throw of the start. The only hitch I had was with the zipper of my vest. The base came unattached and I fought with it for awhile before finally deciding to ditch it and head over for the breakfast. I could sense my nervousness. However, it wasn’t the riding that made me nervous. It was wanting to make sure I was at the right place and the right time.

The breakfast was in the dining area of the hotel. You could look out of the large pane windows beyond the pool to the mountains in the distance. The sun was just beginning to kiss the tops of the ridges as I downed my muffin, egg biscuit, second cup of coffee, and more fluids.

Probably the biggest perk of the VIP area was not the chance to meet the pro riders who showed up, but the easy access to the hotel restroom. I did see a couple of the pros — though I didn’t speak with any of them. However, I did take advantage of that restroom multiple times before the start!

Then it was time to head out to the start. Another advantage of the VIP pass was the access to the front of the LARGE pack of riders who lined up for the start. It was a chance to connect with folks that I don’t normally see except at these types of events and position myself to avoid the majority of the “scrum” that comes from a mass start like this.

Then we were off. The nervousness was gone now. The weather was AWESOME and I could see the leaders pulling off no more that 50 riders in front of me. This was going to be a good day.

The nervousness returned as we got farther underway. I was riding along in the right lane of the road as the pack got settled into a rhythm. Then I noticed a good number of riders passing on in the left lane. The 50 or so riders ahead of me continued to swell.

I was riding under the understanding that there was a yellow-line rule. What I didn’t realize was that during the “neutral” start, the marshals were creating a “rolling closure.” So, any traffic coming towards us (which was very little) was stopped and moved to the side to allow the pack access to both lanes. I could see this taking place on some of the longer straight sections of the road.

At that point, I decided to work my way toward the front. Sometimes I did this by going in the left lane and other times along the right shoulder. At other times, I just settled in to the middle of the right lane and followed others up through the riders ahead.

I was in this position when it happened. The group was taking up both sides of the road. We were in a slight right curve going down a hill. This allowed me to look ahead to see an upcoming left turn. Because of the vantage point, I could see that on the other side of the left turn a truck had been stopped by the course marshals. Suddenly the nervousness returned — at about 25 mph.

The riders ahead of me in the left lane began to call out — “Single lane! Single lane! Right lane! Slowing!” The brakes of multiple bikes were also calling out the warning of a quickly slowing mass of flesh, carbon fiber, and metal. I began to slow and look for my escape path. The wall of riders before me was beginning to compress as the riders to the left began to move over as the riders approaching the vehicle slowed.

Like an accordion the group compressed. I balanced myself on the bike fully expecting to get hit from behind. I aimed the bike to a small gap while trying to keep my momentum going forward. Just as I thought I was going to hit a rider moving across my wheel from left to right, the accordion released in front of me.

However, it was too late for a rider I could hear very near me but behind me to the right. As I was rejoicing that a lane was opening before me, I was struck once again with adrenaline as I heard brakes squeal and then carbon fiber snap. It is a hard sound to describe, but if you have ever heard it you understand. I can’t help but think of bones breaking.

Once again I just knew I was going to get hit. However, the anticipated impact never came and I rolled away. Just a second or so later an even larger sound of entangling cycling equipment erupted behind me. The sound was slightly more muted by that point as I was moving beyond the carnage.

Later I heard from a rider who had stopped to check on the group that all the people involved were okay, but that at least two bicycle frames were broken in half. At the moment of the event it sounded so much worse. After making my way past the truck (that had stopped, but had done so without moving out of the road), I set my position to the right of the field and decided to not worry about how many people might be passing me!

I knew that the craziness of the start would end when we started climbing. However, there were still a couple of technical sections I would have to make it through. I saw one more near accident as a rider was sandwiched between two others. He did a great job of using his body to protect himself and hold his position while keeping his balance.

Finally the faster guys started to pull away from me while the slower folks were beginning to fade back. Before I reached the first SAG, there was a sizable gap ahead of me and looking back I could only see a few riders interspersed along the way. So, rolling through Tryon, I knew the ride was now in my hands. There wouldn’t be a lot of pacing at this point and the climbing was about to begin.

There would be no more worrying about the riders around me. Now, I just had to worry about myself. I would find that was enough to worry about!

To be continued…

Riding the Gran Fondo Hincapie for Mike

People have stopped to ask me how my ride in the Gran Fondo Hincapie went this past Saturday, October 26. It will help me to sort my thoughts by putting them here. That is if I can get my dehydrated brain to work well enough!

This year I decided to avoid the large start by signing up for a VIP pass. This pass gave me parking place near the start, a breakfast “with the pros” before the event, a massage following the ride and — most importantly for me — a start near the front. It was good not having the pressure of worrying about how to park and making sure I had the fuel to start.

I pulled up a little earlier than I needed to, but I wanted to make sure I was ready. The volunteers were all out working hard in the freezing temperature. I say freezing in the literal sense. The temperature was below freezing here in the foothills. The work they did earlier, at that moment and later is one of the things that made the event enjoyable. As best I could tell, there was only one hiccup in the whole day and that was the sound system went in and out during the start. Of course, that could have been the cold!

After breakfast where I saw Christian Vande Velder and Tommy Danielson (along with George Hincapie, of course), I started deciding what to wear. I knew it would be cold early, but I also realized that by the time we started climbing I would be getting warm. You don’t want to under dress, but you don’t want to over dress either.

I decided to go with knee warmers, my bib shorts, arm warmers along with a base layer under my short sleeve jersey with a long sleeve jersey over that, and topped off by a vest. Under my helmet I had a head cover that went over the tops of my ears. My hands were covered with knit gloves underneath my Specialized long-fingered gloves.

All geared up, it was nice to pull up to the front of the field — well at least lining up with the first hundred or so. Behind me stretched a longer field of at least 1000 riders. I remembered the year before where I had chased hard to catch the front group and was nearly taken out a couple of times. That was my first order of business. Avoid that kind of action!

Then we rolled off. I was really quite comfortable at this time. Though my computer read under 32 degrees, I did not feel that cold. The stillness of the morning played a role in that. By riding in the group I was able to avoid much of a draft getting through my layers.

The only issue that began to cause me trouble was that my head was getting cold. Shortly into the ride I found I could not breathe through my nose. I was doing all my breathing through my mouth. The times when I would take a swallow of water, I would find myself panting trying to make up for that second or so without oxygen. It came back to haunt me later.

I saw George once. He came back slowly through the field as he was making a phone call to the support vehicle to let them know a rider was having trouble. I sat on his wheel for a moment at that point before coming around to follow along with the group. It wasn’t long before he came around me and left me behind.

That was just before we entered Tryon, NC. It was also at this time I began to dangle off the back of the lead group. I needed to take a nature break and get some food. At this point I realized it was going to be a long day.

And so, less than 20 miles into the 80 mile ride, I was on my own. Only a couple of other riders stopped and they seemed to be in even less of a hurry than I was. After mounting up and getting on the road, I set my sights on Skyuka.

Skyuka Mountain Road is a 4 mile climb up around 1,800 feet along a 9% grade. Really, for me it was just something I had to get up in order to meet the real challenge — Howard Gap. To get up this first climb, I just set myself in a rhythm. Just as I started up, I was caught by a group of riders. We yo-yo’ed back and forth as they would surge ahead and then I would reel them back in. Finally, in the last kilometer, we all crossed the KOM line together.

It is funny because at that point, I was berating myself for how poorly I was riding. Mentally, I had already made succumbed to the realization that I was not going to finish the ride in under 5 hours like I wished. That thought was tainting my perception of how I was riding.

As it turns out, I climbed the mountain in almost the same time as I did the previous year — when I was in better shape. Actually, I finished 30 seconds faster than in 2012. I averaged 7 mph up the climb. Of course, Winston David, the fastest climber, averaged 10.5!

I stopped at the top to take a picture. I don’t know if it was the cold or what, but my phone crashed. It was the only picture I got to take from the ride. That is one of the reasons you don’t see and pictures here. Then I stopped at a SAG stop to eat some more before descending the other side of Skyuka.

People talk about the climbing on the Gran Fondo Hincapie, but don’t underestimate the descents on the route. There are some pretty hairy turns to negotiate on a steep descent that builds up a good amount of speed. However, once again, this is a place where the volunteers played a crucial role by warning us of the more dangerous lines.

From that point, the ride was simply a matter of aiming for Howard Gap. I can’t tell you much of what happened on the ride between the two climbs. My body was tensing from the cold. Oddly enough, it wasn’t as cold as when we started, but the wind had started to pick up and I was riding alone. The chill was definitely finding its way into my layers. My dread of Howard Gap continued to grow. I just wanted to get there and get it over with.

I dreaded Howard Gap because last year I didn’t make it up the climb. I had to get off and push my bike up a portion of it. No matter what happened today, I did not want that to happen. Still, the way I was feeling physically and mentally, I wasn’t very confident. To make matters worse, I was beginning to feel a tightness in my calf muscles. I knew I would be cramping before the day was done.

There it was. The start of the Howard Gap KOM. This climb was “only” 1.4 miles long. The problem is it averages 11.4%. This was going to hurt.

I set my wheel pointed straight up the road. Almost from the start, I saw riders begin to zig-zag their way up the incline. I just set my teeth and kept a straight line while trying to keep up my momentum.

It was at this point I drew strength from WHY I was doing this. I was riding in memory of my friend Mike in order to raise money for the I Do It Foundation. The foundation was helping Ellie, Jessica, Juanita, Andrew, Connie and the Slattery family. All these Inspirations have fought or were fighting battles with cancer and harsh situations in life. I took my mind off of the road. I put behind me the thoughts of stopping. I kept reminding myself that these folks couldn’t just “get off the bike” in their battles. They had to push through. I could push through.

I did. Slowly and steadily I made it toward the top while dodging the zig-zagging riders around me. Yes, I was tired, but once again I beat my time from the previous year by 4 minutes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was on pace to beat last year.

With that climb behind me. I really started to fight cramping. At one point along a rolling section of road, I stood to power over a rise. Cramps attacked my left quad and groin muscles. It threw me back in the seat. If this kept up, the Green River Cover climb was going to be rough!

The rest of the ride from there to the final climb was a story of me nursing myself along. I was trying to regulate my temperature by zipping and unzipping layers. At the same time I was trying to eat and consume liquids. Unfortunately, I realized that I had gotten behind on both of those needed resources. This was going to be about survival.

I took a good amount of time at the final SAG before the Green River Cover climb. However, I couldn’t put off the inevitable, so I mounted up and started out again. This was misery. The scenery was wonderful. However, a headwind was pushing through the gorge. Riding along it was tough. I found my cadence getting slower and slower. I was bonking.

Thankfully, a group of riders came around me and I jumped on hoping that I could maintain the pace. What a relief to find that I could hang on to the bottom of the final big climb of the day. At this point, I did not care at all how fast I got up it. I just wanted to get over and head to the finish.

Once again, I let the group leave me and I settled into a pace I felt I could handle up the 2.4 mile climb with 17 switchbacks. I know there were 17 because the ride organizers put signs by each one. It was a help to be able to tick them off. The more I did, the better I started to feel.

Before I reached the top, I had passed two of the riders. At the top, I caught a third one pushing his bike to the KOM line. Now I knew it was just a matter of getting the bike to keep rolling to the finish. However, I also knew that the distance to the finish could be deceptively long. If I pushed to hard just to “get it over with”, I could end up cramping just before the finish like I did in 2012.

I tried to pace myself and catch up with any groups to help me cut through the wind. As we came into Saluda I felt a sense of relief because from this point I had ridden these roads enough to know what was around each turn. Coming down the watershed, I opened it up a bit even picking up yet another PR on the descent.

That was it. By the time I reached the reflection of the water from the watershed, I was toast. A group I had left behind me coming down from Saluda caught me. I tried to jump on their wheels, but it didn’t happen. It didn’t matter, the finish wasn’t that much farther.

I did remember from the previous year that the finish kind of surprises you. It sort of appears when you don’t expect it. That thought gave me a great sense of relief. It was an anticipation that was rewarded as I began to see the signs along the road pointing me toward the finish.

The finish loomed ahead and I followed a group of Wounded Warriors up to the line. I slowed to let them get the attention they deserved and crossed the finish in around 5 hours and 32 minutes.  I do believe that was 3 minutes faster than 2012. The final finish list shows me 180th out of 434 riders.

No. I did not make my goal of a sub-5 hour finish. Yes. I did accomplish my goal of staying on the bike all the way up Howard Gap. Also, though I felt I was much slower, I actually did improve over my 2012 ride. Most of all, I raised over $2500 to help fund the I Do It For Foundation.

I’ll be back in 2014. Like a moth to the flame, I am drawn back to the suffering. Of course, I always tell myself, “Next year will be different!” I’m sure it will be, but probably not in the way I think.

Utah yin-yang

I really enjoyed the Tour of Utah. It was anything but formulaic. The Hincapie Devo team attack on the final stage was indicative of the willingness to challenge convention. It lead to a great event for a cycling fan to follow.

That move took Michael Matthews up to the break and into the sprinter’s jersey. It is exciting to see a cyclist measure his risk reward and then lay it all out on the table to make it happen. A move like that deserves respect (though it often earns derision when it fails).

On the penultimate stage we had the soap opera of Tom Danielson and Chris Horner. My personal guess is that Horner knew as he climbed Snowbird that he would lose the tour on Empire Pass. I’m thinking Danielson knew the same — and made it happen on the final climb.

Feel free to disagree. That is one of the things that make it fun. But it also got me thinking about something else from the Tour of Utah.

When you are following professional cycling, it is harder to stay attuned with the continental field. It is the European teams that receive the focus. We are trained to catch the names of certain professional cyclists and we grow comfortable following them as they compete.

So, there was an element of comfort when the showdown began between Chris Horner and Tom Danielson. Yes, these are American sons, but they are also recognized names in the larger international peloton. That fact brought a level of continuity to the race.

These guys have been around. We have a history of competition to draw from. While the young guns and lesser known riders who lit up the roads of Utah brought excitement, they are still finding a place in our narrative. Their stories are being told.

YinYangThis was the Utah yin-yang. With Danielson and Horner there was the comfort of seeing a familiar form at the front of the general classification. Former teammates and riders that commentators can share interesting stories. However, in the midst of this was the contrary force of another history.

I felt pangs of guilt enjoying the last two days of the the Danielson vs. Horner battle. The problem is that those two riders also represented another history of duplicity and tarnished glory. Giving them the benefit of the doubt that they currently race clean does not remove that history.

On the other hand, there were a good number of younger and lesser known riders showing their form in the race. Their exploits were none the less impressive as the final top two finishers. The racing was great. The contrary force in this case is the lack of a story.

Because of the suffering and the intimate exposure of the riders as they make themselves vulnerable, we want to have more than a tactical relationship with our racing. We want to not only know the technical details of the athlete — wattage, style and palmarès — we want to know how they interact with their fellow racers and their reputations in the peloton. It adds a more personal level to the experience.

We fans are in an interesting time. Over everything hangs the dark cloud of suspicion. We want desperately to see the sun shine.

Many of the riders we have followed have doped or been associated with those who have. These are the guys whose stories we know. When we see them battling it out on the final climb, we feel the pull of that old comfortable relationship against the pull of the bitterness of betrayal.

We see the young riders attack with an enthusiasm, but we don’t know their stories. We want to see them succeed and bring in a new guard with new stories. We don’t know if we want to trust again.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what the future holds. Will we find five years from now a new set of names battling it out on the Empire Pass? Will we get to enjoy the comfort of the back story of these athletes without feeling the bitterness of the past?

I do hope the day will come when these riders will close the book on their careers and step away from the peloton. Whether they are clean now or no, the stories have too many footnotes. I also hope that the new group of riders won’t merely rewrite the stories with more enhanced ways to dupe us. Here’s hoping for true, clean blank pages.

Then again, the only way not to be duped is not to trust. That is where doping has most damaged the sport. You want to trust. You want to be a fan. You don’t want to do so at the price of dignity.

I Do It For Foundation seeks partners

One of the questions I am asked about the I Do It For Foundation is, “How do you do that?” Specifically, they are asking how are we able to provide the service for free. Well, the answer to that question remains to be answered.

There are many systems out there for individuals to launch fund raising campaigns. There are fewer options that provide those tools at no charge. What makes I Do It For unique is that we go beyond simply providing tools for free. We also provide promotional items such as our I Do It For ___ tees at no cost.

Money Flow

This means that we are able to carry out our goals of raising money for people in need, but it also allows us to fulfill our mission of bringing awareness to the people who are the Inspirations fighting a battle against faceless enemies. This makes our investment in this mission more costly. At the same time it allows us as a foundation to have more skin in the game with every project we help support.

We need your help. You are the answer to the question,”How do you do that?” Yes, we are very thankful for those Donors supporting the efforts of our Doers on the part of their Inspirations. Those donations have immediate impact.

However, what makes those donations possible is the support of the foundation itself. The money that comes in to I Do It For helps to cover the operational expenses such as web site hosting, bank/credit card transaction fees and foundation promotion. It also covers the promotional items for each I Do It For project.

We welcome your individual gifts — and let me say “Thank you” to those who have already made that commitment. We would like to invite corporations to join with us as well. I’d like to offer you a unique partnership opportunity.

The I Do It For Foundation would like to be your company’s in-reach/out-reach charity. Would you consider helping to support I Do It For with a corporate donation? I Do It For would then work hand-in-hand with you to provide your company the infrastructure it needs to reach into your company to help those fighting a medical need.

It gives an organized way to allow your company family to help one another. It also allows you to expand that into the community. For instance, find a need in your community and then create an I Do It For project to go out and meet that need. Of course, these projects would be aligned under a special I Do It For web site presence for your company.

Many companies ask employees to give to organizations for which those employees may have no passion. Why not make it more personal? Why not get your company family involved with more than just their wallets?

Interested? Contact us [link] and we will be glad to answer any questions and start the process toward a meaningful partnership. The I Do It For Foundation needs you. There are also those within your company and community that need what I Do It For provides.

Of course, we also welcome individuals to give in support [link] of the foundation.

I Do It For Foundation – the Story

Yesterday I received an email from an avid supporter of the I Do It For Foundation [link]. She asked, “Do you have a copy of ‘the story’? You know of how the foundation came to be and what the vision is .. I mean from like a personal story standpoint?” Then again this morning I received a request wanting to know more about the foundation. It got me searching for that story. I realized that I have never told the story in full on the blog… just snatches here or there.

So, here you go. This is the story from beginning to end. Parts of this story have been told before, but this brings it all together.

In 2006, I set as a goal to ride my first metric century [link]. It was also the first year I took up riding the road bike. The idea of riding past 64 miles was daunting!

I chose to ride in the Stars and Stripes Challenge which was associated with the USA Cycling Professional Championships and would be raising money for cancer research. Admittedly, at the time, I wasn’t concerned with the charitable aspect of the event. I just wanted to have an organized event to help motivate me to my goal.

This did bring the concept of riding bicycles as a way to raise funds to my attention. This became more important to me when a friend of mine, Michael T. McCaskill, learned that he had a cancerous brain tumor. During that ride, I pinned a paper to my back that read, “In honor of Mike McCaskill.”

When 2007 rolled around I had been bitten by the cycling bug and was in it full bore. So, I began planning earlier for the Stars and Stripes Challenge [link]. This time I wanted to bring greater awareness to my “riding for Mike.” I had a logo designed to go on a jersey and converted LowCadence.com over to a special “Ride for Mike” site to help raise funds for the principle charity of the SSC.

My idea was to ride the event in the jersey and then present it to Mike when I was done. Unfortunately, Mike passed away in June. We went ahead and had the jersey finished and decided to ride the September event in Mike’s memory.

It was an emotional experience. The ride stayed with me even after it was completed. The encouragement it offered to Mike’s family really impacted me. While riding the roads around Greenville, my mind would day dream of ways to repeat the experience. It was during these sessions that the commitment to do Ride for Mike each year was born.

I determined at that time I would ride each year an “epic” style ride in memory of my friend. I would use it to raise money for charitable causes. It would start in 2008 when I joined a group of cyclists riding from Greenville to Austin to take part in the LiveStrong Challenge [link].

Once again I was blown away with the emotional impact these types of activities have on people who are struggling with cancer and other life challenges. It lead me to join the Palmetto Peloton Project for the 2009 ride as well. I will always have fond memories of that event [link] and will be bound as friends with my fellow riders for ever.

However, something kept coming to my mind. I felt that the story of Mike was getting lost in the larger story of the battle against the faceless enemy of cancer. I didn’t want to always ride to fight what killed him. My desire was to ride to celebrate what he lived for.

In 2010, I went out on my own. The Ride for Mike would celebrate what Mike lived for [link]. This time I would be raising money for a scholarship that bore Mike’s name. Also, it would be the first event planned specifically for the Ride for Mike and not be a part of another charitable event.

The 720 miles of the 2010 Ride for Mike gave me lots of time to think! I rode from Memphis (where Mike was born) to Greenville (where he went to college) and then to Raleigh (where was a youth pastor at the time of his death). It was THE most challenging thing I have ever done in my life.

On that ride I further dreamed what I would like to see happen with the Ride for Mike. I knew that at some point I would run out of “epic events” to ride. I also realized that Mike would want me to reach out to others just as he would.

That brings us to the 2011 Ride for Mike which was a single-day 220 mile ride from Greenville to Charleston [link]. This Ride for Mike would be for little Rebekah Grace Ellis. She has a congenital heart defect and she had traveled that route many times to visit the Medical University of South Carolina. We would raise money to help cover the incidental medical expenses the family faced.

It was from this Ride for Mike that the I Do It For Foundation was born. I knew that to keep the memory of Mike alive as I had promised to do back in 2007, I would need to make this bigger than myself. What if there were thousands of people doing a Ride for Mike… Ride for Jane… Ride for – you fill in the blank?

The purpose would be two-fold: 1) help these individuals with their financial needs, and 2) offer them emotional support by focusing on THEM instead of the ENEMY. I’ve come to realize that the second objective often means a lot more than the amount of money raised. All of this would be done at zero cost to the people seeking to raise the funds.

So, in 2012, I was joined by Michael T.’s dad, Mike McCaskill and several others supporters to raise money for the infant idea. It was Mike’s first full century ride. Once again, for a whole new reason, the opportunity filled me with a new emotion [link]. Now, Mike and I had a shared experience and a shared goal.

We were able to use the funds to get the foundation incorporated, apply for 501c3 status and start the process of getting materials together for the launch of the foundation for September 2013. Where will the foundation go from there? That will really depend on you.

We are committed to keep the foundation alive in memory of Mike. However, it is up to others to pick up the challenge to do their own I Do It For events [link]. Already, we have jumped the gun and cobbled together ways to help individuals seeking to make an individual difference through personal fund raising. Our September kick off event is still over a month away and already we have raised thousands of dollars to encourage individuals.

I don’t even know how to end this post. There are so many things that have not been said. There are so many opportunities that lie ahead. The story is really only beginning.

A crown for Ted

In Honor of Ted KingI am not even an acquaintance of Ted King. I’ve met him a couple of times. Only once did I have a conversation with him. However, it was long enough for me to realize that I like him.

It was back in the final race of the USA Cycling Professional Championships in Greenville, SC. A friend of mine, who was also a friend of Ted’s, asked me if I would be willing to help out with the “Greenville Militia.” This was a group of volunteers who would be the support crew for Ted, Timmy Duggan and a couple other riders without team support for the race.

Timmy ended up winning the race. Unfortunately, I was not able to help the militia. I participated in the Stars and Stripes Challenge ride that morning and didn’t make it to the support spot in time. However, it did allow me to make it to the finish line to see the young rider win.

From that point on I followed Ted on social media and kept up with his progress as a rider. I enjoyed his cycling, but he is one of those characters that you find interesting even if he isn’t on the bicycle. He also quite regularly posted his ride files to Strava. This allowed me to get some insight into the ability it takes to be a pro cyclist. I appreciated that.

So, I was happy for him and looking forward to following him as he took part in his first Tour De France. If you are reading this blog, then you probably were following right along with me. You know the story of how and injured Ted King was cut from the race after missing the time cut (?) by seven seconds.

On Tuesday, I was pretty bummed about the whole thing. I decided to go out and blow off some steam. Just as Ted had gone out to attempt to participate in the Team Time Trial with his injuries knowing that it would be a challenge and painful, I decided to go out and give it a hard go to accomplish one of my most challenging Strava segments — Pait’s Place to Paris.

This is a seven mile ride from my home to the top of Paris Mountain.  I set a goal in June to make it to the top in under 30 minutes. My best ever time was 30:32 — and that was back in 2012. This year, my best time was 30:48.

The one issue with the segment is that it includes an intersection. It is just a few meters from the start. When I neared it this time, I saw I would get a red light. Knowing that would destroy any chance I had, I returned to the start and began again.

This time I hit the light perfectly. I was feeling pretty good and was letting out some frustration from the day. I reached the base of Paris Mountain in around 12 minutes. Though I was feeling winded from the push to that point, I was feeling pretty confident that I would make it to the top and reach my goal at best and get a PR at worse.

I tried not to look at the time and just ride as hard as I could up the grade. A couple of times, I felt the desire to let up. “Nope,” I thought to myself, “This is for Ted.” I kept it going and finally pushed the final meters to the line.

After pushing the lap button, I glanced down. Though my vision was a little blurred from sweat and my high heart rate, I could see 30:01. Could it be? Give or take a second or so, I could have reached my goal! Surely I had a PR and therefore a KOM on Strava.

I got home and uploaded the data to Strava. The page refreshed and I expected to see a notice that I had gotten an achievement. There was none.

Looking at the segment record, I saw that I was given the time of 31:28. What!?! How could that be?

I went back and followed my progress on the segment. Ahhhhh, that was the problem. Strava had counted my first attempt with its return to the start in the overall time.

Knowing how Strava has great personal customer support, I sent them the following email…

The Ride: http://app.strava.com/activities/64338433

The Segment: http://app.strava.com/activities/64338433#1220444745

The Request: Okay, so in honor of Ted King and his ride today in the Tour De France, I went out and pushed it on a segment on which I have come up short many times. Shortly after I started from the beginning of the segment, I came up on a traffic light. Seeing that I would get a red light and wanting to be safe, I stopped, turned around and went back to the beginning of the segment to start again.

From that point I can see I completed the segment in 30:15 (I got the green light). That would be my best ever time on the segment and only 15 seconds above my goal of 30:00. So, you can see that I was very disappointed to return and find that the segment was listed at 31:28. I wrongly assumed that the segment would start over if I returned back to the beginning and started again.

My request is to see if I can have the segment start from my second attempt rather than from the false start. If you wouldn’t normally do it for me, then do it for Ted!

Thanks for the great support you guys provide.

Within 24 hours, I received the reply…

And, also in honor of Ted King, here is your corrected segment time:

http://app.strava.com/activities/64338433#1226178290

Best,
Elle
Strava Support Team

There it was… a crown. The “official” Strava time was 30:16. I wish the Tour De France officials were as willing to take a look at Ted’s situation as Strava customer support did for mine.

So, Ted, that crown was for you. Already looking forward to seeing you in next year’s Tour. Right now I’m just looking forward to you getting back on the bike and joining us again on Strava.

Comedy of errors

Wow, I woke up this morning sore. My right leg (which I has really improved over the last few months) was stiff as a board. I rolled out of bed and felt the muscles knot. What on earth caused that? It wasn’t that I rode any differently than in times past. Then I remembered.

If you are under 45-years old, you might not understand this. If you are that age and older, I think you will. It wasn’t really my ride on the bicycle that made me sore. It was my ride off of it.

I took the afternoon off again (for those of you counting, I have two full days left to use of vacation time before May 10) in order to ride with the Boyd crew. After a couple of really good solo rides, I was looking forward to getting with the group. I made sure I was well hydrated and got something to eat before heading over to the start.

On the way over I noticed the wind was really whipping. The weatherman was saying to expect 15 mph winds. I’m certain it was gusting beyond that. The skies added to the blustery aura with dark and heavy clouds. I started to wonder if we would get wet before we finished.

Still, I was averaging over 20 mph as I headed out from home. Then just as I was going over the railway overpass on Pete Hollis I noticed my rear tire go squishy. Oh no! I had a flat.

At first I tried to just keep riding by keeping my weight over the front wheel. My hope was this would keep the pressure off the now flat rear and allow me to limp to Boyd Cycling before the group left. Maybe they would be merciful and not leave me but let me change the wheel before heading out.

Then my rear wheel started making a racket. I knew I couldn’t keep riding it without damaging the rim. So, I got off the bicycle and put my “coffee shop covers” over my cleats and started jogging on the sidewalk toward my destination. This is, I believe, what made me so sore.

giro-apeckxHave you run in cycling shoes before? If you haven’t, the best way I can explain it is for you to take a board the length of your foot and put a smaller block of wood about a third of the way down the board. Strap the board to the bottom of your foot with the block just under the ball of your foot. Now, run.

It was only about two football fields, but it was enough. However, I made it before Boyd Johnson and Neil Browne left. Boyd was kind enough to get me a tube and we got the wheel switched out. I pumped the tire and after the delay we were ready to roll.

We started out and immediately I felt a bump coming from the rear. In my haste, I had not inspected the wheel before we started. Unfortunately, the tire was not seated correctly and the tube was bulging. We stopped to let a little bit of air out of the tire. I turned around to go refill the tire and told the guys to go ahead without me. I would catch them.

Quickly I refilled and got started. I knew that even if they were going slowly I would have to push it. I also realized that “slowly” is a relative term for cyclists. My realization was that “slowly” to Boyd was probably a tad faster than “slowly” for me.

It wasn’t long before I was getting close to the red line. I glanced at my heart rate to see it ticking up against 178 bpm. That would not be good if I couldn’t get that down before we hit Altamont.

Finally, I saw them up ahead. That was the good news. The bad news was that we had reached Furman. I would have next to no time to recover before the climb.

I caught them just as we turned off the SRT to make our way to the base of Paris Mountain. I was gulping in air and trying to bring my heart rate down. This was not going to be pretty.

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow. Suffice to say that by the top of the Water Tower segment, I was backing off. Not only was I tired, I was also having issues with my gearing. My chain kept slipping.

Then I started getting text messages from my office. It was annoying to be suffering along and hear “Ding Ding” coming from my rear pocket. “Hey! I’m dying here!” I said to no one who could hear me. “Let me die in peace!” The phone didn’t care, “Ding Ding” it replied.

I suffered over the top in 15:20 something. The ride down to meet up with Boyd who had left me in the dust allowed me to finally recover a bit. I turned around early in order to get a head start on him.

Before long I heard him coming around me saying, “Here, jump on.” With that he took off with me hanging onto his wheel. It was the most fun I had on the ride. That is until the final climb. I got into a rhythm that I could hold and started up. Boyd got farther and farther away.

The three of us came together at the top. Neil mentioned that he was toast from the Tuesday Night Worlds the night before. Boyd commented that he planned to cut short because he was racing the Ring of Fire that night. I simply replied, “I won’t argue with you.”

We all three turned and while Boyd and Neil soared off down the Furman side grade, I limped down fearful of something else going wrong. It wasn’t a good ride. However, it is one of those rides that give you a story to tell. I guess that is one reason why even a bad ride on your bicycle is a good one.

I love a surprise

I haven’t been on my bicycle since Friday. Both Saturday and Sunday were packed with events and along with that it was pretty soggy any time I did have a little freedom. Not to worry though, I was basking in the good vibes from Friday.

Things didn’t start out so good. Most of Friday was spent shifting an outdoor event I had planned for Saturday evening to a “plan B” indoor event. While I had it all sorted out by late Friday afternoon, I was pretty fried. While I had planned to go and ride some, I was now second guessing the idea.

JosiahThat is when I got a text from the Beautiful Redhead. She was letting me know that she and Thing Three would be going on a bike ride down the SRT. She mentioned that she hoped that I could catch up with them.

Well, the decision was made. I would be riding after all. The more I thought about it, the better I felt about it.

Before long I was on the bike and heading to Cleveland Park. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I caught them. I probably depended on where they started their ride.

I kept looking ahead and trying to find two people riding together that had the general shape of my family. Nearing Blue Ridge, I thought I recognized them. Sure, enough I was soon riding along with them toward Furman where they planned to stop and return home.

It was fun riding along with my chatterbox of a 9-year old. Annette was following more behind us. We continued this way until we stopped by the lake at Furman.

They would head back the way we came. I would continue on and go over the mountain. If it took them as long to get back as it did to get where we were, I would probably beat them home.

We said goodbye and I started off to the base of Altamont Road. I was curious to see how things would go. My calf muscles and Achilles tendons had been bothering me for a couple of days. At that moment, they didn’t feel so bad, but sometimes climbing makes things worse.

I hit the start line with a simple plan. Don’t worry about power. Don’t worry about time. Just try to keep an average speed over 10 mph. If I could do that, I would reach the top in around 12 minutes.

My computer face was reading speed, average speed and cadence. At first I was being thrown off by the speed field. It was jumping all over the place and not much of it was over 10 mph. However, as I looked at the average, I could see it was climbing until I finally stopped looking at the speed and focused on the 10.6 mph in the average speed field.

In the first segment from the start to the first turn I averaged 11.1 mph. From that turn to the water tower segment I increased the average to 11.8. On the water tower segment I grunted up at 9.7 mph. This still had me averaging over 10 mph through one of the harder sections.

I made up for it between the top of the tower section and the halfway there point. By covering the section with an average of 12 mph, I was pleased to have a 10.6 average to work with. I knew it would go down. The question was how much?

Things start getting tough for me at this point. I figure it is mental more than anything. However, I was happy with the average and I was feeling pretty good. The average speed from halfway to the Blue Post of Death was 9.8.

It was at the blue post that I started to think this could be a good time. Not a record breaking time, but a solid finish that would be the best of 2013. I would really have to croak in order to not get under 13 minutes.

These thoughts spurred me on to keep that average. My next segment would be from the Blue Post of Death to The Wall. The grade improves a bit once you pass the post and you start getting encouraged as you can count down the turns to the yellow 15 mph warning sign that to me signifies the star of The Wall.

That segment rolled under the wheels with an average of 10.2 mph. It would now all come down to how fast I could climb The Wall. I shifted down and stood to give it the best I could. I pushed it up and didn’t let up until I got over the line. My mind just kept telling me that I was definitely going to make it under 13 minutes.

I crossed the line having averaged 8.5 mph for that final segment and 10.7 mph for the entire climb. I pushed my lap button and looked down. I thought I was seeing 12:24. Wow, that would make me happy seeing I hadn’t climbed in under 13:05 at any point this year.

Rolling home I was a happy camper. It wasn’t just because of the good time. It was mainly because my legs were feeling good. The heaviness I mentioned a few posts ago was gone. I actually felt I had some power when I reached the first kick up after cresting the top of the mountain.

Getting home I uploaded the information and was pleasantly surprised to see that Strava listed me climbing in 12:19. That is only one second off my best time since I’ve started using the service. I was tied with my second best time from May of last year.

Maybe next time I’ll aim to keep the average over 11 mph.