Friday, June 1, 2012

The Epic ExperienceDay 4 & 5: When Everything You Ever Wanted Gets Under Your Bike

Team CF was asked to write about our experience for the tsEpic blog. Here is what we put together. 

Team CF:  As a new mountain biker, the sport grew in my heart like wildfire. (Speaking of, I hear tomorrows ride on Tussy’s Trail views were made epic by a recent wildfire.)
Today was so much fun! No, yesterday’s course was pure fun, with the ups and downs and smooth riding and all you had to do was keep on keepin’ on.  Today was nothing like that.  Today, riding was a battle with the rocks.  The trail was a line of rocks that were hidden underneath grass, sand, dirt and mud.  You could barely see the trail beneath your feet and when you did see it under the shrubbery, it was because there were too many rocks condensed into one area to support any sort of life form.   Today around 150 people risked their lives to cross the rocks for what?
Because of descents that left me so happy I couldn’t cheer loud enough.  At the end of one of the second descent, I was so happy I couldn’t remember why I hated my bike on the third days’ road ride.  I couldn’t be happier!  I ride with the ease of knowing my time doesn’t count.  But Chip on the other hand, rides with the pressure of having not only the team counting but if he keeps up his amazing rides, we could get loads more publicity for Team CF.  The point of Team CF is to promote healthy living for people living with Cystic Fibrosis.  Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that mainly affects the lungs and digestive system.  The idea behind Team CF is to get people with CF out active and using their lungs.  My personal motto is ‘use it or lose it’.  So here I am, as an athlete with Cystic Fibrosis, in a 7 day stage race with athletes I’ve read about in magazines.  I’ve never been more inspired and welcomed by the people who have supported me and the entire effort of Team CF.  I am on a team motivated by their loved one’s.  It’s an experience that is inspirational down to the soul.  Being part of this effort has been awe inspiring and if I could convince everyone to join the biking community, I would.  Chip rides in with the very first group of men who are taking the Epic by storm and I have been riding in as they clear up the cones and I have never felt like a champ with my team waiting at the finish line. 
Kaitlyn, Chip, Nate, Jesse and Jack 

Day 3: When Things Go Dark Inside My Soul

Today was LONG! As I rode the emotional roller coaster, I was literally riding PA’s finest roller coasteresque gravel roads.  (But there was no motor powered crank to get me to the top.)
It felt like a 40 mile uphill climb on gravel road that you cannot gain or keep momentum.  Each push of the peddle was its own effort.  Yesterday was so fun.  Yesterday, I was excited to hear that today’s stage was on the road to give my legs a bit of a break.  But it was a different pain today.  Today I felt lazy.  I left this morning without my heart rate monitor, but I quickly realized I would not need it.  My legs were moving too slow to get my heart in a furry. 

The first 17 miles were enjoyable.  The sun was shining, and the views of the small towns were great.  People were on their poaches, well some were still there by the time I rolled through.  We followed a river.  But, and I learned this today, if you are next to a river, it only means that you are at the bottom of the valley.  And we NEVER finish at the bottom of the valley.   

All day I pulled out my self-laminated elevation map to see where the dreaded 1000ft climb was.  THIS the big climb, I would think.  Then I would realized what I had just done was too small.  Rinse and Repeat.      
I had been peddling along and feeling good and happy and moving when I hit the check point at the 17 mile mark and joined a group of riders.   I saw them and wanted some company, so I pushed it harder to catch up with them for about a mile and found my place in the group.  A little down hill, a little more up hill, and we hit a trail.  This is called ‘Fishermen’s Trail’….self explanatory. It runs along the river bank. There was no trail! It was all broken down mossy boulders that trees had pushed their way through.  I don’t know that I have seen such a beautiful and enchanting forest, but there was no way I could efficiently and safely ride it.  

Not many people in the whole race could (I come to learn upon finishing).
It was here that I lost my newly found riding mates as they passed through fisherman’s Trail.  This was very discouraging.  I don’t know why, but I was at an emotional low point. The trail opened up to a gravel rock covered road that you could look straight uphill for at least a mile.  I just couldn’t motivate myself to get the drive to pump it out.  I stopped at the creek, rinsed off my face and talked to my legs.  I took a pile of salt from my bag and knew there was no way out but up. And so I trucked on.  The next part was the worst.
I hit the rail trial.  The challenge of a hill was stolen gone, the beauty of the forest; gone.  I was left with a no speed, straight, grassy, sandy trail.  It felt like at least ever before I saw a change of scenery.  I couldn’t even push myself to push myself, I lost a lot of momentum there. 

It was emotionally and physically all up hill from there.  I hit the tunnel.  Imagine riding into a black hole in the side of a mountain after not having seen a soul for what felt like hours.  I had no idea if it was paved, and I had heard a rumor that there was a boulder somewhere in the middle. If I crash into this boulder, who will ever know? I was pretty sure I was the last one on course.  So I turned on my go pro so I could at least have some good footage of my last moments.  There was no boulder, but there was a vampire handing out beer on the other side!!! That worked wonders for my attitude as I raised in altitude.  I was never more released to see the dreaded 1000ft climb.  FINALLY SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!
The climb was gorgeous! Sandy rocky terrain and about 24 feet wide before it dropped on either side.  I literally biked straight up to the top of that mountain.  I felt like a champ! I absolutely loved the climb and everything that came with it.  At the top I saw my Pops, and Matt from the crew.  They threw ice-cold water and hugs at me and I was on my way. The last 13 miles!

I knew I was on the last leg.  I was cursing the monotony of the gravel road when the arrow pointed to a trail.  “WHAT THE HECK! I THOUGHT THE REST OF THE COURSE WAS GRAVEL ROAD?!?!” That’s when I realized I was crazy.  And the thunder cracked and the skies opened up.  I had just spent 40 miles in 90 degree weather fighting the gravel road asking for a trail, I get one and the rain comes pouring down.  I realized that this was exactly what I was asking for all day, and so I had no right to complain.  I thanked those responsible for such luck. 

At ¾ of a mile to the finish line a support truck came and tried to pick me up.  I knew I was one of the last, but I had just riden all that way and you want to take the glory of the finish line away by driving me in?!? NO WAY! I can take a little rain J

And so I did! And as I pulled in, 5hours and 9 minutes after starting, my Pops and Team mate Nate Cross were there cheering me on. 


The more I think about 43 miles, the smaller the number sounds.  After I did a 7 mile bike race, a 5k running race sounded tiny.  Today, I was a lot less scared of the endurance aspect and I had faith that, at my own pace, I could finish.
I nearly didn’t get to the starting line in time. I was up a the mess hall filling my goo container with goo.  They played the national anthem.  I love the national anthem.  It allows me to humble myself and think about how lucky I am to be where I am.  Pride is a wonderful thing to have and uphold. When I hear the national anthem I am motivated to make the day, the event, or the moment something to be proud of.  Whitney Huston was the singer that brought me to my zen place. 
The entire first half of the race, I was waiting for the uphill to be over, but not out of exhaustion, just because I knew when I was done the HUGE up hill, it was ALL downhill.  One of the speakers mentioned that if you’re not ‘in it to win it’ then stop and enjoy the scenery today.  Fact: On my team of 5, I am the slowest.  I am racing myself and challenging my body.   At one point during a gravel road 5 mile uphill (I’ll get to the mossy dark forest of black magic in a minute) a clearing to the right opened up to a gorgeous view of a valley with rolling hills behind.  I thought, this is AMAZING!  I am so lucky to soak it in.  I knew that no matter the outcome of the day, I was blessed to be given this opportunity to ride.
Having said that, I was recently dislodged from what might have been the wicked witches summer layer.  It was a single track 1.5 mile uphill climb. Not one person was riding! The trail had barely enough space for your bike, so pushing it was dangerous as you were stuck between the falling off the side of the earth and you were combating mossy loose and freshly wet rocks to avoid imminent death.   My extremely optimistic point of view stated because I came from seeing the dark side.
As I reached the top of the climb I hit one of the most fun and rocky sections of trail I have ever ridden.  It was challenging, wide, rocky, mossy, and FAST! There was a lot of standing above the saddle, and just trusting that your bike wouldn’t crash, and then getting back up when it did.  It was, as my friend Jim would say, ‘miles of smiles’.  I loved every second of it.  Coming off of that, I hit a creek and was verbally reminding myself ‘let it roll just keep rolling’ as I tried to climb out of the woods onto the gravel road.  I stopped dead in the middle and a couple just ahead of me laughed and said ‘well it was a good try!’ I went back and for the with them for the rest of the day. 
I was coming up on mile 28, and check point two.  I was feeling like the boss, and moving along and nothing in the world was going bad.  I felt a little crampy, so as I rode away from the check point.  I turned around and went back to get a banana, and continued. 
Crampy is not a world used lightly.  Not 3 miles later my entire legs cramped up so bad that I fell off the bike and couldn’t get my leg to straighten for 3 mins.  No exaggeration.  I talked to my legs, rubbed my muscles, promised my feet a foot rub if only they would calm down enough to bend.  Eventually I punched out the cramps, and slowly made my bike move.   I was slow as a molasses stick from there though.  If one muscle cramped while my leg was straight, an opposing muscle cramped when it was bent. If my legs felt good, my toes cramped.  At one point I couldn’t clip back into my shoes because my foot was at a completely perpendicular position playing freeze tag with my calf muscles.
This was EXACTLY my concern coming into the race.  NO SALT = NO MUSCLE MOVEMENT. NONE.
I pushed it through making more promises to my legs and more punching and rubbing.  Finally, I turned the corner to finish, and I felt like THE BOSS.  All of the other riders did not waited for the boss to come in though.  I guess they were all showering. 
Dom was there!  Cheering and whooping with Nate Cross, a team mate who is just absolutely amazing to be around. He is high spirited and a real team rallier! I came into these two guys and was so proud.  It took me (officially) 5 hrs and 20 minutes and 35 seconds to finish. I was so proud and astonished.  Now I know what tomorrow will bring…ish
Tomorrows’ course is HILL CITY CENTRAL. Maybe even HILL COUNTRY right by HILLS VILLE USA.  I’m nervous about cramping up big time, but I got some ELETE formula that is high in salt content from an ELETE rep and trans rider Sarah.  She told me lots of CF athletes use it! I am so relieved to have it, and am praying it will work.  I am also going to carry table salt with me and take handfuls of that!
It’s currently 10:30 and my roommates have  retired and my vest just powered down, so off I am to bed. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow!!! Fun fun fun!!1