As I’d mentioned previously, I really wanted to do the LIVESTRONG Challenge, but felt that my health issues over the summer might preclude me from participating. Thanks to the great support of my friends I raised $500 in a very short period of time and was ready to ride. When I signed up for the challenge, I joined the Austin Cycling Meetup team because I’d ridden with a few of their members previously. Three of us were going to ride the 90 mile route and we had arranged to meet at the start.
I made some last minute adjustments to my bike the night before and was ready to roll. I woke up early that morning, which is pretty typical for me. It always seems that I can’t sleep well the night before a big ride. I don’t know if it’s the anticipation of the ride or thinking about the mental checklist I had made so I wouldn’t forget anything. Nothing is more embarrassing than showing up for an organized ride without a critical piece of equipment. I stopped by my local Starbucks on the way out for my usual large latte and some banana bread. I feel like Norm from Cheers when I walk in there because everyone knows my name as well as what I will order, but that’s a subject for another day. I ordered an extra shot because I knew I was going to have to keep up with Darryl, with whom I was riding for the first time.
Traffic was pretty light at 6 in the morning…until I got to Dripping Springs. While they did have the traffic flow pretty well organized and police officers channeling traffic, it was still a circus. It reminded me of a family vacation we took where we visited my folks in Sarreguemines, France back in 1997. We were over there during the Tour de France so I suggested we head down to Colmar, which wasn’t too far from where my parents lived. That year, Jan Ulrich was the heavy favorite to win and he grew up not to far from Colmar, across the border in Germany. Colmar is a historic town whose normal population is about 65,000 people. This day what seemed to be over a million people descended upon this town. You couldn’t even drive near the town because they had all the roads blocked off. Instead, you were directed to a large field that was filled with cars as far as the eye could see. Hundreds of buses shuttled fans from the parking lot into Colmar. There weren’t quite that many people in Dripping Springs that morning, but the atmosphere was very similar.
After parking and getting my bike assembled, I headed to the start. I managed to squeeze through the 1000s of cyclists to find my ride mates. Over 3,100 cyclists were participating and we had raised over 3.1 million dollars for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. They even had Patrick Dempsey there. After the announcers whipped the crowd into a frenzy (well, ok, maybe not quite like that, but we were all pretty pumped), we were on our way.
I managed to hang with Darryl and Robert for about the first 30 miles. I was struggling a bit to keep up with them as we started into the hillier section of the course because as you can see, they are about 1/2 my size. I would always catch them on the downhill sections because that’s where I have blazing speed. As they say, “what gravity giveth, gravity taketh away.” We stopped at a rest stop to regroup and wait for a few other members of the group that had fallen even further behind. They finally arrived and told us to go on without them.
Darryl, Robert and I rode together for a little while longer before they dropped me for good. I decided to ride my own pace so I wouldn’t burn myself out later in the ride. Before we separated, we passed a couple of guys riding with prosthetic legs. It was quite remarkable actually. They were able to pedal using both pedals. I never did learn their story, but felt inspired after that. If they could ride that far, how lucky was I? I realized that I was quite fortunate to be able to get on my bike whenever I wanted and ride. Now, whenever I’m wavering about riding, I’ll think back to those two riders and realize that I really have no excuse not to get on the bike. It makes me appreciate that I can still do this that much more. As a cyclist, you’re always searching for motivation that you can use when the going gets tough, when you need to summon your inner Jens. There were lots of ride highlights and it was fun spending time with friends on the bike, but seeing those two cyclists was definitely the highlight of my ride.