Before you ask, no, it did not take me this long to recover from the ride. I’ve just been stewing on the best way to write out what I took away from the Pelotonia experience.
A month later, I still don’t believe that I have the right words. That I can fully explain how I felt that during all of this, but especially on ride day. I’m going to try to do it justice, but I just don’t think it’s possible.
Let me start by telling you about the opening ceremony. After a little frustration with getting around downtown, with all the hustle and bustle in a city that Rick and I are not familiar with, we finally begged a lot attendant to let us in because we were hopeless. Thank you, lot attendant, for your assistance in keeping us sane. Anyone who knows me well knows that I get a little bit anxious in situations that I’m unfamiliar with. I’m not typically a person that can go do something without some planning. I’m incredibly thankful that my husband was home to go down with me (and drive) because there’s a high likelihood I would’ve turned around and gone home after getting shunned away the first couple times. Anyway, not off to a good start.
But the second that we walked into the opening ceremony grounds, all that anxiety and stress melted away. It was the energy, you guys. You could see, feel and breathe it. It was amazing. I didn’t see a single person that I knew but instantly felt like I belonged. What a beautiful sense of community. First step was completing rider check-in, getting my bag and photo taken with the “first time rider” frame. Next, food. It was amazing. And after that we ran into my wonderful friend Stephanie and spent the rest of the time socializing with her and checking out the tents. Knowing I had to get up super early, we peaced out at a reasonable hour to head back home.
After getting a few hours of sleep, my alarm went off and it was time to get ready to ride! Since it was a bit chilly that morning, I layered up with a long sleeve shirt, my ride jersey and a jacket. Again, incredibly thankful that my husband could go downtown with me, we loaded into the car and headed back to Columbus. Parking was much easier this time, and we were walking towards the breakfast tent with my bike in tow. Among a sea of people, most of which appeared to be serious bike riders, my mountain bike and I trudged on.
I should tell you at this point that my ride was a Mongoose – a red, barely used but yet totally worn out, mountain bike. I’d ridden it twice leading up to this and not for more than a mile. We found Stephanie and started walking with the flow of people to the start line. Again, it was the energy. Everyone was there for the same reason and that was just totally cool. I loved seeing all the jerseys and where everyone was from…all the corporations that were involved with this. Before we knew it, we were boarding our bikes and the ride had started.
[Steph and I were off. Check out that pretty red ‘goose of mine!]
The first part of our 25-mile ride was through the city, and there were so many people already there to cheer us on. Some with signs, some with music, others with water and some just with their own voices – thanking US for riding, for raising money, for being passionate towards the cause. There were police officers keeping us safe by blocking off streets or directing traffic, something that this first time rider was INCREDIBLY grateful for because quite honestly I hadn’t yet figured out the whole braking thing.
The ride transitioned into less of downtown yet still inside the city, and then into more of a country setting. Steph and I settled into a consistent pace, which required less of me fumbling with my gears. Neither of us said anything until later, but we were both secretly worried that by the sound of it, my chain was going to rattle itself off at some point. My neck and shoulders started hurting pretty early on so when I would try to stretch them, I would also lose control and almost wreck into my riding partner. Thankfully we’ve known each other since college so I can only hope she wouldn’t have been as mad at me as a stranger would’ve 😉
It didn’t feel like we’d been riding that long before we noticed traffic ahead slowing, and then stopping, and then people getting off their bikes. We did the same, and I took the chance to grab a drink from my water bottle. Since I hadn’t figured out the whole how-to-ride-without-hands-and-not-fall-over thing yet, I had been waiting for this moment. While we were standing there, I was curious how far we were so I took a peak at my phone and we were already about 10 miles in! I couldn’t believe it. After crossing the bridge (it was under construction, so I guess that’s why everyone got off and walked across), we were back at a steady pace and it didn’t feel like long after that we were approaching the half way point/rest stop. It looked busy. Steph said “I don’t need to stop but we can absolutely if you need or want to!” I did a self-check: I just drank water, my legs felt pretty damn good, and I wasn’t hungry.
“Nah, let’s keep going!”
So…off we went! I honestly felt good – I wasn’t out of breath, I felt like I was running ahead of schedule (I’d found out that a normal, fit person would typically do it in about 2 hours so I told myself 4), and having a riding partner was so helpful. We had a good pace but still chatted the entire time, which made everything go quicker. It was a pretty uneventful ride. As we approached downtown Pickerington, there were a lot of people on the sidelines, some with signs like “thank you for saving my wife”, and that was the moment when I started to feel the feels. Yep. This normally unemotional, doesn’t even cry at movies girl was starting to feel a little something in my eyes. As we rode through downtown, we rode by a bar of a bunch of bikers outside revving their engines and cheering us on and I thought to myself “this is really cool.”
And then I got choked up.
Which quickly changed as we left downtown and had to climb a HUGE hill and I thought “oh my gosh I’m not going to make it. I’m going to fall over.” which is basically what almost happened, but I was able to hop off my bike and walk up it just in time. I couldn’t get my gears to work the way I needed them to, and the pavement was a little cracked and there were little rocks and I just envisioned myself getting really hurt over nothing. My angel of a friend waited for me to catch up, even though we only had ~5-ish miles to go and she could’ve easily finished in good time. That was the point where I was like “oh my gosh, my legs! They are so jello-like and tiiiirrreeedd” and having her there to motivate and push me was exactly what I needed. “It’s our last hill! You’ve got this!”
And then as we rode into the entrance of the high school “You did it! We’re done!”
Two hours, ten mins. I was seriously super proud of myself.
We rode under the finish archway, spotted Rick, found a spot for our bikes and yes, we were officially done. There was just something really amazing about all the people telling ME thank you – I wanted to thank all of them for being there, for supporting us, for the yelling and clapping. They dedicated their day to giving us that push.
[All smiles at the end!]
[I rode for my father-in-law, Mr. Rick and a family friend, Mr. Black, both of which were diagnosed with extremely rare cancers that had no reference points on how or why or what to do for them. Mr. Rick unfortunately passed away in 2013 but Mr, Black was able to beat his disease and now is in the clear! I believe research for even these rare diseases is extremely important and hope that some of the money from Pelotonia goes to finding ways to treat cancers like theirs. I also rode for my paternal grandfather who had colon cancer, my uncle Billy who had lung cancer, and my mom’s best friend, Aunt Dina, who beat her battle with breast cancer.]
[As close as I could get to a map of the ride.]
Bob Evans catered the meal at the end of the 25-mile ride and it was amazing. I could’ve easily had three servings. I had ice cream from a fantastic ice cream truck. But since my body was serious about the shakes, we packed up and headed home not too long after. I immediately took a wonderful bath and then napped for two hours.
Thankfully, and by some serious miracle, other than my shoulders, I was not sore. At all. My legs acted and felt like they could’ve kept going. Apparently I’m in a little bit better shape than I thought I was. When I went into work on Monday, it was awesome to hear everyone else’s stories from their ride weekend. Many people I work directly with did 100+ miles. Everyone seemed to share the same energy and fond remembrance of memories.
And, thanks to the people who believed in me and/or believed that finding a cure for cancer, I was able to make my fundraising commitment as of that weekend, so yay! After I complete this blog post I need to start writing my thank-you’s ❤ Overall, even though I’m not a biker and I don’t ever think I’d be someone who would ride a bike as a hobby, it was an incredible experience to be a part of and something I won’t ever forget!