Thursday, October 21, 2010

Days 39 and 40

Our two last days - one long, one short - destination Atlantic Ocean somewhere around Charleston, SC.

We rode 112 miles at an average of 19 mph on day 39 - and this seemed like a low to moderate pace to me. What the hell happened to my sense of speed and distance? Riding with Joseph and Jeff over the past 40 days has taught me that I can do 100+ miles at around 20 mph and still live to fight the next day - its a pretty amazing shift in the way I see my riding. We ended in Summerville at a beautiful place called the Middleton Inn, where we had probably our best group dinner, though we missed Joseph who "snuck out" to visit Chiyo in Charleston. As always lately, we missed Dana (who just found out that she may have broken her right hand as well as her left elbow) and Britt.

Once we knew we had survived Day 39, our last riding day beckoned. Actually, it was a great day, but not really a riding day. I didn't bother wearing my heart monitor and never raised a sweat as we cruised 32 miles through historic Charleston enroute to the Wild Dunes resort and the ocean. Friends, family and champagne greeted us (I had asked the Trek team to line up some tourists to cheer for me when we arrived but they couldn't make it happen!). I missed having Sara here, but get to see her in Dallas tomorrow for a weekend at the Four Seasons (Andy has two games there this weekend), so I can't complain too much.

We then dipped our wheels in the Atlantic and the trek/adventure/ordeal was over! Everyone had cause to celebrate. The four members of Team EFI (myself, Bill, Joseph and Jeff) had managed to dodge sickness, accident and exhaustion to ride every pedal stroke of our 3270 miles. Bill turns 65 tomorrow and is incredibly inspirational to the rest of us younger lads. William managed to ride almost all of those miles, despite a huge pile up, bloody face and banged up body. He had trained less than the rest of us, but no one persevered like he did. Brian and Diana were sidelined at times with all of those things that Team EFI missed - sickness, saddle sores, asthma, sore knees and sheer exhaustion - yet they struggled through it all - together all the way - and got here in style.

So, it's done, and there are a few special things to be thankful for:
- Sara not vetoing my trip right at the start (you really could have you know), and not killing me as I made her live through all of those 100 mile training rides. Thanks - I love you.
- Jeff and Joseph, who pulled me when I needed pulling, and who taught me how to ride faster than I thought I could for longer than I thought I could. Thanks - I couldn't have asked for two better, stronger riding partners and friends. This ride wouldn't have been remotely as much fun without the pair of you.
- Dave, Karl, Marquette and Tara - our Trek guide crew - who did their jobs incredibly well every step of the way. More importantly, they made this trip fun, every step of the way. Dave with his relaxed style and bad jokes. Marquette hitting the unruly "kids" and joining in as one of us. Tara with that twisted sense of humor that always left you guessing. Karl, with that infectious enthusiasm that makes him an absolute joy to be around. You guys made this ride what it was - thanks.
- Britt and Dana, who I came to know while training for the ride, but only came to fully appreciate during the ride. Your presence was a big part of this ride for all of us, and I hope this is the start of many (shorter) rides together in the hills of Marin.
- All of my friends for their words of encouragement, before and during the ride. Yes, they always started the sentence with "you are nuts...", but I felt the love!
- Scott and Studio Velo, for talking me into that bike. I crossed the country with 1 flat tire and 1 chain replacement! Independent and tubeless tires forever! Thanks guys - things could not have gone more smoothly.

And thanks legs - I calculate 3270 miles, about 200 hours of cycling and somewhere around 1 million pedal strokes - you can take a break now!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 38

Spartanburg to Columbia, South Carolina and our third last ride! A routine 104 miles by the time we were finished, almost all on beautiful roads with few cars to worry about. The two always reliable engines, Jeff and Joseph, were actually feeling the effects of all of those miles of pulling the rest of us, so I was actually feeling the strongest throughout the day - and had to keep the speed down to match the needs of the group.

When did 100+ miles become so routine? Even as we finished the ride, I felt very much ready to keep going (though ready is definitely not the same as willing). The eastern part of South Carolina is nice, but not too exciting - I think it's natures way of making us feel better about all of this riding coming to an end.

Tomorrow we ride to Summerville and a night at the Inn at Middleton, which is supposed to be great. It's another 109 miles, but pretty relaxed in terms of climbing. More importantly, it's our last real ride of the trek! The following day is a very satisfying 32 mile victory ride into Charleston.

141 miles to the Atlantic!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 37

Asheville NC to Spartanburg, South Carolina. We're in our last state!

Just to prove we're pretty soft in the head, we decided to ADD a climb up the mountains from Asheville today, so that we could better experience the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bill and Gary (the Asheville Town Manager, a friend of Gary and a very strong racer in his own right) led us up the mountain - a beautiful climb and an even better descent, all while surrounded by the changing trees. After the descent we rejoined the scheduled ride, which essentially meant that we had to climb right back up to the elevation we had just left. As I said, a bit soft in the head.

Bill stayed back to take a bunch of photos we will now steal from his blog, and Jeff, Joseph and I pushed up the hill together as fast as our legs would take us. After the climb, we had a fantastic descent off of the eastern continental divide - rushing alongside the river with mountains on either side. The descent took us past Chimney Rock, and the glimpse I got looked beautiful, but with J&J all you generally get is a glimpse.

After lunch at a little Deli, we headed back out. I had a 2:30 conference call waiting for me at the hotel 30 miles away, so we revved up the engines and were there in 90 minutes, including a stop at the state line for the photo op. I now need to buy my two wing men a drink as they got me hear in lots of time, safe and sound.

The countdown continues, with only 241 miles to the Atlantic. 100 tomorrow, so the math will be easy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 36

Sevierville to Asheville, North Carolina - 90 miles and our second last state!

An absolutely beautiful ride across the Smoky Mountains and alongside the French Broad River. For the first time on the trip, Jeff, Joseph and I were actually the first ones to leave the hotel, along with Karl and Bill. It was freezing cold and very foggy, but we persevered and it soon warmed up as the sun rose and broke through. Once we could see where we were, it was beautiful, and we rode at a pretty sedate pace for the 50 some miles before lunch. Post lunch, it was time to climb. For the first time, I forgot about the rule of energy conservation and just rode the climbs the way I would ride Mt. Tam - and Jeff and I left the group behind pretty quickly. We knew it was only a question of time until Joseph caught us on the more level road alongside the French Broad River, as he had a Boys and Girls Club reception waiting for him (including his son) in the hotel parking lot. Once we were reunited we headed into Asheville as fast as our legs and the need to absorb the great scenery would allow.

Asheville is great, and we had a very nice dinner with Bill and his wife Susan, who have a second home here. Wish this was a rest day as I'd love to spend a bit more time here. We're now down to three serious ride days left (80, 100 and 109 miles) before our short 32 mile ride into Charleston and the Atlantic Ocean.

We might actually make it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 35

108 miles from Crossville to Sevierville, Tennessee.

After a grueling ride yesterday, we all agreed to take it easy today and pretty much behaved ourselves (with the exception of the expected Joseph bursts of "catch me if you can" acceleration). This felt like a very comfortable ride, and allowed me to really enjoy some of the backroads of Tennessee. We got some incredible views of the Smoky Mountains (they really do look smoky from a distance) along the way. They look amazing from a distance and, up closer, imagine a series of slightly higher Mt. Tams.

Believe it or not, I may actually have been the freshest of the group at the end of the ride. Jeff and Bill both bonked a bit toward the end, Jeff probably more as a result of yesterday's effort than anything else. Joseph rode like Joseph, and he probably just let me lead him in to let me feel good, but I'll take it.

Sevierville is something else - like a smaller Branson, but primarily focused on Dolly Parton and not nearly as nice. We are staying at the Fairfield Inn and narrowly avoided eating dinner at the Olive Garden, so you can imagine my joy. As I write this, Sara and Syd are having dinner at Piccos - my favorite restaurant. Have a Tuna Tartare on me girls!

Asheville, North Carolina tomorrow - I'm psyched! It should be a beautiful 80 mile ride with lots of climbing, and Asheville itself sounds great. Bill has a second home there, and we get to eat at a great restaurant with he and his wife Susan.

407 miles to the Atlantic!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 34


Today was 125 miles from Nashville to Crossville, Tennessee. From one world to another. We climbed 7200 feet, I used 8500 calories - and it was a very long day in the saddle. We actually averaged around 19 mph, mainly because at any given time one of us was pushing too hard for my taste. After Joseph got an early flat, he and I (him leading the way of course) raced to catch up with the rest of the group. We passed them, picked up Jeff along the way and sped off to lunch #1. After lunch, Karl joined us - which meant I was now in the company of three guys, each of whom was capable of making my life miserable. Joseph and Karl sped off and I stayed back with Jeff, who was feeling a post- rest day energy let down. For once, I actually led Jeff as we maintained a strong pace, finally catching up with our two companions.

From there, I just managed to hang on as the other three took turns abusing the rest of the group. By the end of the ride I was definitely in survival mode. I even got my first flat of the trip - a complete tire blowout  that required a 20 minute wait for a new wheel from the van. Jeff and Joseph just stood there laughing. I had gone to great pains not to mention that I was the only one who hadn't had a flat, so as not to jinx it - but earlier in the morning they had both talked about it and the jinx was in anyway.

Have to go - Andy's game is on. Another long ride tomorrow - can't wait!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 33

A rest day and a chance to reflect (not something I tend to do much of). There are just four of us left in the EFI (every f**king inch) club - Jeff, Joseph, Bill and myself. BTW, Bill is 64 and a very strong rider about to complete a trip across the country - so there is lots of time for the rest of us  to get going! So far (let's not jinx it) we've avoided sickness, accidents and sheer exhaustion to stay on our bikes. While I'm not sure that the low number of EFI members is the best ad for this trip, it does demonstrate how hard it can be (and therefore how satisfying it can be).

William is a member of his very own club - the "dogged determination" club. He came into this trip with the least amount of training and (this may be doing him a disservice) as the oldest member of the group. He got sick, he was exhausted at times, and he had a horrible bang up in the same accident that caused Dana's fractured elbow. Through it all he just persevered. He was forced to get off his bike a couple of times, but he remains my vote for the toughest member of our group.

The two J's - Jeff and Joseph - have been the strongest riders throughout. For me, they have made this entire ride MUCH faster and MUCH tougher than it would have been without them here pushing me almost every pedal stroke. Between this and their friendship, they have also made it MUCH more fun than it would have been without them. Thanks guys!

And then there are our four guides. Each with their distinct personality, each making this a great experience in their own unique way. This group makes or breaks a ride like this and, trust me, they've made it great - so far!

OK - enough reflection for now. Jeff and I just toured downtown Nashville and had lunch at the "famous" Tootsies, complete with live entertainment. Dinner this evening at a local establishment of some kind, then it's back on the road for 126 miles of climbing enjoyment tomorrow.