In addition to racing, one of the things we encourage members of the team to participate in is charity rides. A week ago one of our cat 4 women, Jen Zeuli took part in the Team in Training ride out at Lake Tahoe. Here’s her report from that ride.
Everyone’s first century should be like mine. There should be balloons and cowbells and people waving signs that match your jersey. There should be a finish line and a medal and a wide selection of giant cookies. And there should be a purpose for it, something more momentous than, “I feel like riding 100 miles today.”
On June 7, I did America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a century around Lake Tahoe. I rode with Team in Training, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The fundraising minimum per person was $4,300. Of the 3000 people who did the ride, 1,700 of them were with TNT, and together we raised over 6.8 million dollars to fund cancer research and other programs that benefit patients and their families.
The ride started, for us, at 6:15 AM. Each group had an assigned start time, and we went in 5-minute intervals. I should explain that TNT mostly gets new riders, people who aren’t athletes and—in most cases, at least on my team—don’t even have bikes at the start of the season. They train together from February through May and then do the ride. I went to four or five of the training sessions so I could get to know people and found them, well, frustrating. People were really nice, but sixty miles should not take six hours. Hence, I found myself on Saturday morning with a small group our coach called the “Dream Team.” On the Quad rides I’m medium-fast, and I’m a neophyte racer who wobbles in a pack, but with TNT I’m a total rock star.
At about Mile 12 we came to a series of switchbacks leading up to Emerald Bay. I’d been hearing about these switchbacks for months—so hard, so steep, you stand on your pedals and nothing happens, etc.. As it turned out, though, I had been somewhat…overprepared. Thank you, Kate and Jeremy, for that one. When I got to the top I attracted some stares by shouting, “That’s all you GOT?”
At Mile 40 the six of us in my group were on a long, straight road, doing 20 or 21. While I was taking my turn in front, seven or eight guys from LA whipped past us. “They’re going much faster than we are,” I thought. “I should just let them go.” But when they pulled in in front of us, I decided, “The hell with this; I’m going for it!” I sped up and latched us onto the back of their line. Then other people jumped in behind us. Before long, we were rocketing along at 26 or 27 in a paceline of maybe 30 people, and the LA group didn’t even want to take turns. They pulled for seven or eight miles, until the rest stop, and I think I pedaled maybe four times.
Mile 80: We began the 7.4-mile climb to Spooner Summit, average grade 5%. The scenery was spectacular; the lake was crystal-clear, like the Caribbean, and it was ringed with mountains that were capped with snow. But it was hard. Just to make things really fun, I was doing this on mostly flat back tire. I was riding up the outside of a line of people, gasping out, “On…left…on…left” for what felt like forever, and I was getting a little loopy. Two of my teammates had pulled ahead of me, and I passed one of them, Ray, walking his bike up the hill. I had a conversation with Ray. I asked Ray if he was okay. Ray said he had cramps. I rode on. At the summit, the teammate who had taken the lead asked me, “Where’s Ray?” My response? “I haven’t seen him.” The whole interaction had vanished from my mind, not to reappear until dinner.
Mile 92: Incredible adrenaline surge! After five miles of downhill from Spooner, I felt like I could go at least another three hours. I was all wound up, attacking on hills and laughing maniacally.
Mile 98.88: Crossed the finish line, three abreast with my two surviving teammates. It was the first century for all three of us. I signed in, got my medal, and then hopped back on the bike. I needed my computer to say 100 miles. One of the people I rode in with told me that hers said 101 and I should just go by that, but that was unacceptable. So I did a victory lap.
I’ve been doing group rides for almost a year and have loved every one of them, including the time I got caught in an ice storm and the day a couple of weeks ago when I bonked and Anke put a video of it on Facebook. But this felt really different, like I was part of something much bigger than myself. I’ll do it again next year. I’d do it again next week if I could….