Tag Archives: Stars and Stripes Challenge

Stars and Stripes Challenge – Part Two

I left off yesterday having climbed the third time up Paris Mountain on the Stars and Stripes Challenge ride. However, to continue with the story of the ride, I have to go back a little bit. It is a story of things not working exactly how you hoped, but then having things happen better than you expected.

(A warning: this one is a little longer than my normal 1000 word limit!)

Earlier in the week I received a call from my friend, Dave McQuaid. He has popped up before on some of my other charity rides. Most notably I remember he and Chris Hartzler showing up in “the-middle-of-nowhere” Georgia to pace me through a hard segment of the Ride for Mike from Memphis to Raleigh.

Here is the bib number for the 2012 Stars and Stripes Challenge

This time he was wanting to help in anyway he could for the Stars and Stripes Challenge. He didn’t think he would be able to ride the whole three laps with me, but he thought perhaps he could meet me as I started my second lap and help pace me to the mountain again. If possible, he wanted to help provide some drafting help along the way. Not knowing who many people might attempt a second or third lap, I was all for the idea.

Sure enough as we rolled down Main Street after the third lap, I saw Dave in his Low Cadence kit. He moved up to the front and began to pull us. However, at the same time, Richard Bailey (a local Category 1/2 racer) also joined us. It turned out that he did much of the pulling toward the mountain with Dave on his wheel.

Then it was time to climb again. I knew that Dave’s best time was around 14 minutes. My mind got a little confused as I wondered what to do. Should I go slower to keep him with me? Should I go with the other riders? Finally, I had to decide to once again find a rhythm that worked for me. It would be up to Dave to stay with me. Besides, I might not go that fast!

Turns out I climbed in 13 minutes. Looking back, I’m quite pleased with that. What shocked me was that coming off the mountain I got a PR. I came off the mountain in 6:50. I chalk that up to two things: 1) changing my line to Boyd’s, and 2) the fact that I didn’t have to brake as I approached State Park Road. Having Richard as a rabbit didn’t hurt either.

David was somewhere well behind me at that point. On this second lap, I was was just staying with John, Eric, Richard and Clark. I was hoping they would stay with me on the third lap!

My trusty Giant TCR Advanced (16.3 lbs) helped keep me going

We slowed a bit in order to talk some. It helped to pass the time as we rolled into downtown. At that point, we lost Richard.

As we came through the start/finish line, there were still people about who recognized that we were part of the charity ride. We got some kudos as we passed. However, it was also obvious that things were just beginning to ramp up for the pro race. We made our last turn left to start the third lap.

I said goodbye to John Cash as we rolled through. Now three tired riders were heading out into the wind to finish a final lap. We didn’t have a lot of talking going on. We were just sharing some time at the front to get us down the road.

Then we came to an intersection and Eric let us know that this was his stopping point. His brother was there waiting for him. Now it was left for Clark and myself to handle the mountain.

It was pretty uneventful those last miles to the base of Altamont. We turned and started up. Stars and Stripes riders on their second lap were now climbing along at their own pace. I’m sure they, like me, were using the “In Memory of” and “In Honor of” signs along the side of the road as a motivator to climb to the top.

I realized at this point that I had not done a good job eating. The hollow feeling of a pre-bonk was starting find its way to my stomach. On the Water Tower section, I told Clark to go ahead of me. This was going to take a much slower pace this time.

Multiple times I took my mind to think of Mike as he was going through his chemotherapy sessions. How many days was he fighting sickness and pain, but he kept going and fighting to the end. 2.2 miles of chosen suffering up Altamont was nothing compared to that.

Finally, after 15 minutes, I crested the climb. I’m sure I looked like death warmed over to those beginning to assemble to watch the pros. My pride wanted to tell them all that this was my third time up and that is why I was struggling the way I was. All I could do though was smile a grimace and keep pedaling.

I caught and passed Clark on the downhill and that was the last I saw of him on the ride. Before was what I thought would be a lonely ride into town. However, as I approached the left turn onto Pleasantburg Drive, I saw a familiar jersey in front of me. It was Dave.

He had made a short cut to get him back to Piney Mountain. With great relief, we stopped at the SAG stop and then Dave started to pull me toward the finish. I had to tell him to slow a couple of times as my lack of nutrition was starting to really pay a toll on me.

Finally, we reached the area of the start/finish. I went to turn to go down the straight to the line and I was stopped. Some USPro staff and a policeman were standing by barriers. I looked at them and said, “Can I please come through so I can finish by crossing the line? I’ve been out there for three laps.” The staff said, “Sure.” The policeman gave a more forceful “No!” I asked one more time and he still said “No!”

I’ll admit I was a little frustrated at that point and said, “Well, that was a waste of all that time.” Of course, that was a stupid thing to say, but I was fixated on finishing that third lap for Mike. It was the lap I was supposed to do all those years earlier. At that point, the policeman said, “You can go down the sidewalk.”

I started down the walk kind of in a mood of frustration and self-pity. Then I saw a break in the fencing. On impulse, I rode through it and set my sights on the finish line. I kept waiting for someone to yell at me. I also realized why they were blocking it off. The pros were being called to the stage to be introduced.

I did have a few staff members glance at me with quizzical looks. However, I rode like I knew what I was doing and like I was supposed to be there. Whatever the case, I made it to the  finish line just a Ben King was rolling past me to make his way for introductions.

I crossed the line and pushed the stop button at 3 hours and 38 minutes. As I pushed the button with finality,  I said to myself, “That was for Mike!” Then I felt very, very tired.

It was now just past 11:00. I was supposed to be at the top of the mountain in 30 minutes to help Timmy, Ted and Craig! There was no time to hang around. I needed to go!

The next thirty minutes or so were horrible. I was slap dab on empty, I pushed my bike through the crowd hoping to find something quick to eat, but didn’t have time to get my included charity ride lunch. Then I remembered that Cleve Blackwell and his SRAM gang would have BBQ at the base of the mountain. I got out of town at around 11:15 and it was that BBQ kept me going on my fourth trip down Old Buncombe Road.

I reached the base and quickly downed a sandwich with a Coke. Then I started up the mountain for the fourth time that day. It struck me that would be the same amount of times as the pros.

Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I made it up to the top at around 12:10. I found Matt who was helping to organize and asked him what he wanted me to do. He told me he appreciated me making the effort, but he wasn’t sure I was going to make it after trying three laps. He had arranged for some others to step in.

At first I was pretty bummed. It would be really cool to say that I had an opportunity to hand a water bottle to someone like Ted King during a pro race. However, as I stood by the barrier (there was no place to sit down), the day started to catch up with me.

The field came by for the first time of what would be a very exciting race. I hung around a little bit talking with a friend and then decided I needed more food. I rolled down the mountain and started the ride back to Greenville.

I spent the rest of the event eating food and drinking lots of water in the VIP tent. I could watch the TV coverage on the large screens while listening to race announcers from the stage. As the racers entered the city, I would leave the tent and go to the barriers to see them speed pass.

Then the end of the race approached. I knew that George wouldn’t be winning his final national jersey. Still, I wouldn’t have minded Tejay keeping it in the BMC team.

However, then Timmy Duggan moved to the front. I remembered seeing him there Sunday evening unassumingly making crab cakes. My mind saw him sitting there on the steps of a deck getting ready to fill water bottles and do the “menial” work to prep for the next day’s race. I couldn’t help but start pulling for him.

Sure enough, he pulled it off in a very gutsy performance! He did the jersey justice and I’m sure he just picked up a bunch of new Greenville fans. You can’t help but respect that kind of move.

My only regret is that I didn’t make it up in time to be part of the Greenville Militia to help Team Teamless to victory. It really would have been cool to be a small part of it.  But, hey, guys… I really did try!

Then again, it was a wonderful day of an incredible Memorial Day weekend. Come to think of it, I really don’t regret a thing. Congratulations Team Low Cadence! Congratulations Timmy Duggan!

How I spent my time after the ride... getting old, I am!

Stars and Stripes Challenge – Part One

Sunday evening I was invited over to a friend’s house to make some plans for providing support for several riders in the US Pro Road Race Championships. These were several guys who didn’t have the team support and would be sharing resources. Our job was to be there on the mountain to hand them water and ice-socks. Little did I know what the morrow would bring.

I walked in the kitchen door to find Timmy Duggan at the counter putting together crab cakes that would then be taken out to the back deck for the grill. I looked out the back door onto the deck and saw Ted King having an animated conversation on his cell phone. Another rider caught my attention in the dining room area. It was Craig Lewis.

Craig I knew, but this was my first time to meet Timmy and Ted. I didn’t hang out too long. I was just supposed to meet them so that they might recognize me should I be the one holding a water bottle for them near the KOM on Paris Mountain. It would have been tempting to stay around after I saw all the food on that grill!

However, I rolled off for home. I still needed to get ready for my own event — the Stars and Stripes Challenge. I would be rolling off from the start line at 7:30 Memorial Day morning. I still had things to get together and sleep to seek.

I woke up feeling pretty good and left in plenty of time to make it to the start line. The weather was a tad humid, but I could tell it would be overcast and the temperature was reasonable. It was going to be a great day to ride a bicycle!

Talking with friends from over the years at the start line (Photo Bill Thomson)

Once again it was like a reunion. I met more of my “charity ride” friends as I rolled toward the start line. Bill Thomson surprised me by showing up wearing his Low Cadence kit. I also met Eddie Helton who was putting away the camera for a bit to ride the course in his Low Cadence kit.

All the talking came to an end and the ride got closer to rolling off. I was thinking of what was ahead of me. Three laps of this course would be pretty tough. The professionals would be doing four — plus some additional laps of the downtown circuit.

My plan was to sit in on the ride to the base of the mountain. I knew that at that point people were going to start busting it up. Some of those guys would be planning for one lap. I’d have to let them go. Killing it on the first climb might be a set up for later failure.

You would have thought we were in a race. The gun sounded and some riders went right from the start. For a bit, I was just trying to acclimate my body to the sudden speed! So much for cookies on this ride!

Rich Hincapie came rolling by and it was funny to watch as various riders attempted to get on his wheel. I was near him when on a very straight section of Buncombe Road I saw a rider go swerving to his left. I took a detour to the grass on the right side to stay clear and was passing him as he hit the deck. I heard, but didn’t see, at least one other rider go down behind me.

Ironically, that seemed to calm people down. This may have been partially due to the crash causing a split and I was now in a smaller group. Whatever the case, the group settled down to focus on getting to the mountain where we would start our climb.

I didn’t want to have to ride through a bunch of riders ascending Altamont. I did my best to work toward the front before we made the turn. Looking around, I could see John Cash and Boyd Johnson. My initial thought was, “Oh, no, these guys are going to push my pace and I’m going to blow up!”

As I was thinking this, I saw Matt Tebbetts go around and start with purpose up the mountain. Others went after him, but I knew he was only planning one lap. “Just find your rhythm and ride with the next two laps in mind,” I told myself. At the same time, I had to be aware of the cut off time.

As it turns out, I was able to get on Boyd’s wheel and let him pace me up. I did drop back a little during the second section of the climb, but had something left at The Wall to come around a number of people who had passed me earlier. Boyd and I crossed the KOM line side-by-side. First climb up? 12:20. During the pro race, riders were going up sub-9 minutes.

Then it was time for some fun! We started off down Altamont. Boyd took the lead and I got on his wheel. It was a blast synchronizing my moves with his as we sped through the turns. On two turns I took my typical line while Boyd took a more aggressive one. I learned a little from that and put it to use on the following descents.

By this time there were only a few of us in the group. Four of us rode into town together and then as we started our second lap I loss some riders, but some others had caught up with us. I settled in with John, Eric and Clark.

John would have to drop off after two laps to attend a funeral. I lost Eric on Old Buncombe Road as we were on our third lap. Clark went over the mountain with me, but then split off to go home. However, I didn’t finish my third lap alone…

Click here for Part 2 of the Stars and Stripes Challenge and what crab cakes had to do with the pro race.

I am 9 minutes slower than Captain America

The bicycle has allowed me to do some pretty incredible things over the last decade. As I look back, racing has been a part of it, but my greatest memories haven’t happened in competition. They center around people, places and events associated with helping others. I’m talking about “charity rides.” Well, I have another thing to add to my “that was incredible!” list.

Definitely one to add to the "that was incredible list!" (photo Eddie J. Helton)

As you know, I signed up to ride in the Stars and Stripes Challenge as a way to remember my friend Michael T. McCaskill and raise money for the fight against cancer. The ride is scheduled for Monday and I’m still planning to roll out with everyone that morning. However, something I didn’t expect came my way.

Because of the generosity of those supporting me in the cause, I was given the opportunity to race the USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championship course. At 9:49 AM Saturday morning, I was slated to start from the same ramp that the pros would use at 11:30 AM. There would be a dozen of us rolling off to see how fast we could make it around the course.

I had no idea how I would do. I really didn’t care about where I fell within the group. What I wanted was to get the best time I could and then see how that would measure up to the pros. In my mind, I was thinking I would be happy to come in within 20 minutes of the winning time.

As I got there it was like a reunion. I was running into various people associated with my Palmetto Peloton Project days. Some of these folks I had ridden with from Greenville to Austin — twice. I also had the pleasure of meeting some new folks. I will admit that it is kind of cool to say, “Hi, I’m Jonathan” and then have the person say, “Wait, Jonathan P… P… Pait, right? The guy with the blog?”

John Cash finished in 51:20 on his Trek (photo by Lance Footer)

John Cash showed up. “The Man in Black” is a great guy. He absolutely knows no stranger. He has a few years on me, but he is fit and has enough energy for both of us! I knew if there was anyone there that was going to get a faster time than me, it would be him. As the previous “winner” of the ride, he would start last with me right before him.

However, the thing about it was even though we had fun trash talking, mostly we just had a great time talking about the things we were doing to help others. I caught him up on what was happening with Ride for Mike and pointed him to Helping Hands Ministries for a project he was interested in doing. He told me some stuff that LiveStrong was doing (he is a LiveStrong ambassador) that I was not aware of and I was glad to hear about.

Then we got in the starting chute.We weighed our bikes and John’s Trek was just a tad heavier than my Felt — and I had a disc wheel. His sure looked faster though! The Felt weighed in at 8.51 kilograms (18.8 lbs) so I was well above the UCI requirement — not that it mattered.

The tool for the day -- got lots of nice comments

Then I had a moment that really stuck out to me the most. Tom Wennogle was standing in line before me. He was kitted out in normal riding gear on a typical road bike. He looked at me sheepishly and said, “Don’t mind me when you go by. You’ll probably catch me right away.” He continued, “I don’t think I’ll get anywhere near your time.”

I asked him, “Yes, but how much money did you raise?” He got a perplexed look on his face and replied in a questioning tone, “$5000” “See,” I told him. “You beat me. The money we’ve raised means a lot more than the times we’re going to get out on the course!” It did me good to see him smile. “Thank you for saying that,” he said. Well, I meant it.

Wow. I’m not ashamed to say that I was pretty pumped about standing at the top of the ramp getting ready to go out on the course. Later that day, Dave Zabriskie would be preparing to roll down that same ramp to claim his 7th US Pro Time Trial Championship. Here I was about to roll off with the same officials following the same process. Even the race announcers were calling the event as we slow dozen started our attempts.

With about 20 seconds to go I started to wonder if anyone had ever fallen off the ramp. I fleeting moment of panic passed over me that I might be the first one. It passed and I just got ready to roll off when the official waved me to go.

I was away. I could hear my family and some other folks cheering me on. The voices of the announcers were saying something about John and I battling it out (I was John’s one minute man). Then I started up the long climb up to Old Sulpher Springs.

Before long all I could hear was the sound of the solid disc wheel turning beneath me. I tried to keep right on the edge of my comfort level. I knew I would turn left and then have a roller with more downhill than up. I could recover a bit then.

It seemed to be working as I made the turn onto Verdae Blvd., I was starting to feel my legs loosen up a bit. Then the tightness came back as I had to climb a short punchy stretch coming back up Old Sulpher Springs. That led right into some more shallow, but painful, climbing up to the turn around before flying quite a distance downhill to reach Innovation Drive.

That was the place where you got a rush! At nearly 40 mph I entered a sweeping left turn. I was thankful for those fast descents I had been making on the west side of Paris Mountain! I was hanging on as the bike screamed through the corner.

Then it was time to climb again. Innovation Drive was basically a climb (with one short downhill break) all the way up to Laurens Road. However, once up to Laurens there was a long downhill where I was able to recover a bit. One short climb near the turn onto Millennium Blvd and then it was like riding a shallow bowl from end-to-end up to the finish line.

I made the first lap in 16:16. I had no idea if that was a bad or good time. I just knew that it was a time that was fast as I thought I could go knowing that I had to do it two more times!

The second lap was 17:01. I felt that it was slower than that. However, starting that final climb away from the start — I felt it was REALLY slow. I just tried to imagine that John Cash was getting ready to catch me. I searched for a comfortable cadence and tried to get my wattage up to 300 if I could.

Checking the wattage while starting the climb from the start (Eddie J. Helton)

By this time I had passed all the riders in front of me except for Scott Tetzlaff. He was out there Merckx style and I just could not close the deal. I could see that I was gaining, but he finished probably 200 meters in front of me.

As I was coming down Laurens for the last time, I looked at the clock. By that time, I had realized the times I was getting and I so wanted to come in under 50 minutes. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but I set it as a goal to see how close I could get to that time.

All during the ride, I could hear people cheering. As I would come by the start/finish, I could hear the announcers calling. Somehow, someone had gotten them the story of Michael T., Ride for Mike and Low Cadence. I was lifted during the earlier laps by hearing them telling people to go by the blog and learn more about it. That made it all worth it. I as also encouraged that John Cash never came around me!

As it turns out, I learned that I am 9+ minutes slower than a pro on his best day and about 2+ minutes slower than a pro on his worst day. That was the spread between the top pro finisher and my time and the final pro finisher and my time of 50:39. Still, for me, coming within 5 minutes of much of the pro field was pretty cool!

I went to bed Saturday night with a smile on my face.

Another bib number to add to the collection of fun!

Thank you to the Palmetto Peloton Project, Sunshine Cycle Shop, Boyd Cycling, Eddie J. Helton Photography and the wonderful supporters of Low Cadence and Ride for Mike. You all made for a pretty great day.

2012 Ride for Mike, Part One is days away

Much thanks to those who have supported my return to the Stars and Stripes Challenge. It is the first part of a two part 2012 Ride for Mike. This one has come about rather quickly and I wasn’t expecting too much. However, the support has already exceeded my expectations. You folks are awesome!

This first part endeavor is to complete as many laps of the USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship course as I am allowed. What makes this event special to me is that it was the first ever Ride for Mike. During that first time I was going to try to do three laps. While I finished the first two laps in enough time to start my third attempt, I did not do it. Looking back it is something I regret. I have some unfinished business with this ride!

Please support the 2012 Ride for Mike

Please support me in the Stars and Stripes Challenge on May 28, 2012. It is part of the 2012 Ride for Mike. Click the logo above and designate your gift to Jonathan Pait.

You can still give!Just make sure you choose my name, Jonathan Pait, from the drop-down list when choosing a rider to support. Once you do that, you just complete the rest of the form and submit it. It’s easy!

The ride takes place this Monday, May 28. We’ll be going out on the pro course before the professionals come out for the actual race later in the day. Come on out and cheer us along! You can learn more details at the Palmetto Peloton Project website.

I’m taking Tuesday and Wednesday off the bike to let the old hip and knees recovery a bit. Thursday and Friday I’ll put in a bit of a tougher ride and an easier spin. Saturday and Sunday I’ll spin about a bit to keep the legs loose. Then on Monday, I’ll be ready to roll!

Again, thank you to those who have shown their support!

  • Windell and Linda Pait
  • Nick and Bette Uwarow
  • Bill Thomson
  • Cheryl Slocum
  • The McCaskill Family
  • Stephen and Suzanne Dersch
  • Scottie Weiss

Here is the plan for 2012 Ride for Mike

Some call it coincidence. I call it Providence, but there are those times when small things happen that really encourage you along the way or let light into a time of confusion. One of those instances happened to me yesterday.

If you read yesterday’s post, you probably sensed that I have been struggling with how I planned to approach the 2012 Ride for Mike. I hinted at a short-term goal (that I will share this morning), talked about the longer-term goal (idoitfor.org) and then expressed my loss at what to do on a “big scale” as I have in years past. Well, yesterday afternoon someone showed up in my office unexpectedly and cleared it all up for me.

So, here is the plan for the 2012 Ride for Mike.

Stars and Stripes Challenge

The short-term plans for the 2012 Ride for Mike is for me to participate in the 2012 Stars and Stripes Challenge. Yes, I realize that it is less than two weeks away.  You may ask why the sudden decision to make this charity event a focus this year.

The first Ride for Mike website

I need to take you back to the first ever Ride for Mike. Though not called the Stars and Stripes Challenge at that time, September 2, 2007 was the first one. Now, I bring you up to this month when we learned that the US Pro championships would now be leaving Greenville for Chattanooga. While I am sure that the P3 organization will continue to have a charity ride in Greenville, the entire nature of the ride will change because it will not be associated with the Pro race.

That is why I want to make this event part of the 2012 Ride for Mike. It could very well be the last opportunity to repeat that first ride that started all of this! No doubt it will be emotional for me as it brings together so many aspects of the last five or six years.

So, I do ask for your support. If you have enjoyed LowCadence.com over these years, consider a gift. If you want to join in the battle against cancer, consider a gift. I realize the time is short. I realize that finances are tight for many of us. Just know that your gift is appreciated more than you know.

Objective: Finish what I started. In that first ride I set a goal to ride the Pro course three times before the time cutoff. In 2007, I only did two laps. This year (depending on what we are allowed) I want to get in that third lap.

How do you give? Go to the Palmetto Peloton Project’s website and access the giving form. There is a drop down list for participants. Find my name, Jonathan Pait, and then finish filling out the form. Proceeds from the event will support Breakaway from Cancer’s Nonprofit Partners, and the Greenville Hospital System’s Institute of Translational Oncology Research.

I’m excited about that opportunity, but not nearly as excited about the next one! This will help explain what I was talking about in the first paragraph.

Mike Rides a Century for Mike

I was sitting in my office when I heard a familiar voice out in the lobby. The voice said, “Is Jonathan Pait in?” The receptionist came to my door and said, “There is someone here to see you. Are you available to speak with him?” I jokingly replied, “Well, it depends on who it is!” I then stood and approached the door to find Michael T. McCaskill’s dad standing just on the other side.

This was a surprise! I didn’t expect him to come in my door (the McCaskill’s live in Tennessee) — especially on the very day that I wrote the post about the 2012 plans. We talked a bit and then I brought up my blog post and the change of plans from my initial big dreams of a multistaged charity ride in Memphis. I didn’t want to disappoint Mike.

As always, Mike was extremely gracious and understanding. He expressed that he and the family were behind anything that I decided to do. He reaffirmed his desire to see the I Do It For Foundation go forward in his son’s memory.

I then brought up another subject. That subject was his first ever century. We had talked about it during the Family Fun Ride in 2011 and mentioned it in passing since that time. However, this time, I wanted to nail him down on a date.

That is when Mike gave me the best idea of all for the 2012 Ride for Mike. Why not make Michael T.’s dad’s first century ride the 2012 Ride for Mike? Talking about an emotional culmination of purposes! This would be huge!

Mike tied up the loose ends by saying, “Why don’t we do that and use it as the springboard for the I Do It For Foundation?” So, now we had an event with incredible meaning and a cause that would extend that meaning into many other lives. In a future post, I will tell the whole story. When you read that story, you will understand why symbolically that 100 miles means more to me than the hundreds of miles I have ridden over the years for the Ride for Mike.

So, stay tuned! That story will be coming. Also, we’ll be sharing the date and place for the event. Both Mike and I wouldn’t mind having some company should anyone decide to join us. Finally, we’ll be working to provide the logistics of how you can give toward the I Do It For Foundation — the purpose of the funds will go to getting the foundation off the ground and get us started funding the development of the tools the foundation seeks to create to serve others.

Hey, I’m starting to get excited!