Monday, May 5

Tour de Cure: Ride Review

Man, that was the most heinous thing I've ever done (on a bicycle). The temperature was in the low-40's and there was a constant rain.

Tour de Pluie
My apartment is just a few blocks from the start/finish point at the Portsmouth Middle School. As I pedaled there at six-o'clock in the morning, which is often about the time I'm going to bed, I questioned the weather report's definition of "light drizzle." Little did I know.

I could tell it was going to be a good day when I checked in and received my race number--thirteen. I'm not a superstitious person; in fact, the worse something augers, the more I want to do it. After that, I met up with the team in the parking lot. The rest of the team was concerned that I wasn't wearing anything apparent on my legs. I decided against wearing leg-warmers or tights on this raining, low-40's-temperature day, partially to prove my hardman status, but mostly because I don't have any leg-warmers or tights. I went to Gus' Bike the other day to get some, but they didn't have any in stock, since the summer season is around the corner. Anyway, instead I went for the so-called Belgium Knee Warmers--covering my legs in a thick layer of muscle-warming oil and Vaseline.

Early Breakaway
And we were off. We started around New Castle at a leisurely pace in the light rain shower for a few minutes, then a couple guys decided that the pack of riders was a little too crowded for them, and they took off ahead. Someone on my team very jokingly yelled "breakaway--someone get up there!" Playing the part of the dutiful domestique, I jumped ahead and caught up with the other guys, and we formed a tight little echelon, leaving the field behind. It was fun for a minute, but we held back and rejoined the field somewhere in Rye.

Detour
After a couple of towns, our team ended up riding mostly by ourselves, having left most of the field behind--though others were farther up the road. In some unknown town that I've never been to, a squad car was parked across the road. He flagged us down and informed us that we had to go another away--a tree was down across the road, blocking the route. He told us which road we had to turn down. I think.

So we go a way down the road, when I start to feel a familiar and unpleasant rumble in my rear--I had punctured my back tire. We pulled in to a gas station and changed the flat under the protection of the pump island. A couple other guys had brought CO2 cartridges to pump up the tire. I'd never used them before. You just just screw it in to a little gun-pump thing and pull the trigger once to pump up your tire. It beats hand-pumping any day--especially when your hands are uselessly numb.

While we were there, someone asked for directions, since we were off the course, and lost. Apparently we were in Amherst, Massachusetts. I'm not even sure if the tour was supposed to even go to Mass. The rain was picking up too. Tom Luther, NorEast president, snapped a photo of me, brandishing my number 13 bike, lost, off the course, in another state, in the driving rain. It was great. It was perfect. But when you are not moving, you get cold. So we headed on, in the general direction that we were told.

Fork in the Road
Eventually we came across the painted road markers defining the Right Way for the Tour de Cure. It was very encouraging for all of us. The we came to a fork in the road. There were four colors, one for each route: 25, 50, 75, and 100 miles. 100 and 75 went one way, and 50 went the other (25 had forked off long ago). I was in it for the 100 miles, I mean--that's what I signed up for, right? That's what everyone sponsored me for, right? Of course I'm tired and slightly hypothermic, but the rest of the team decided that it would be prudent to take the 50--the weather conditions were deplorable and we had already gone quite a bit off route, adding some mileage anyway.

New Hampshire
Eventually the road we were one came out on to Route 1A, Seabrook New Hampshire. Finally--familiar territory. This is about 15 miles south of Portsmouth--the home stretch. We followed the road north, and I lost my legs somewhere in Hampton or Rye. I couldn't keep up with the team. John Healy and Tom Luther kept coming back for me--John was physically pushing me, to help me up the hills. I owe him a debt of gratitude. The "Now entering Portsmouth" sign was a welcome relief.

Wet Steel Bridge
Upon entering Portsmouth from the southeast is the Sagamore "singing" bridge--a cyclist-eating cheese-grater of a bridge. It's also at the bottom of a big hill (we would be going up it after crossing). Last summer, I crossed it coming the other direction, having just bombed down the hill at about 35 miles per hour, and there was a light morning dew on the bridge. Wet steel grate bridges and bicycles don't make friends, I've learned this lesson before. Tom and John started to ride across it with comical results (no one got hurt but it was terrifying to watch). I walked my bike across the bridge, then pedaled up the hill in a huge gear, my fingers too cold to shift any more. Then we made our way down the last mile or so to the finish.

clothes floor hot shower raining cold bicycle ride tour de cureEpilogue
I immediately went home and took a shower that was almost as long and hot (and certainly as wet) as the Tour itself was long and cold. After a change of clothes, I went back to the Finish, where they were serving the best kind of pizza: free pizza. I mean, no one told me there would be free pizza when I started this. If I had known, I would have signed up a lot sooner! Some people say that hunger is the best sauce--I say that freeness is the best sauce. No doubt about it. But I digress.

Conclusions
Back when I started this year, I had stated that one of my goals for the year was to complete a 100-mile ride. While I still have that goal ahead of me, I feel like over-all Sunday's Tour de Cure was a success for me. The weather conditions were by far the most horrible thing I've ever endured--my toes were totally numb, and I was covered in several layers of dirt which were kicked up from the wheels in front of me. I feel good about it, though. In the end our mileage was around 60 miles, or 100 kilometers, so not bad. Mission accomplished!

And of course the point of the Tour de Cure--to raise money for research, education, and support services for diabetes. My sponsors generously donated $660 for me, and the NorEast team overall raised $3,120. This is a huge help and will help fight diabetes. For more information, I encourage you to check out www.diabetes.org.

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