On Saturday the IMOO group traveled up to Wisconsin for a 2 loop ride of the Ironman course. I was anxious all week leading up to the ride. I knew there would be hills up there that I have never ridden before. My tri buddy tried to easy my fears by telling me they weren't that bad. He obviously has forgotten what it's like to ride only the flat lands of the midwest. Or, maybe he does remember and didn't want me freaking out and then backing out of the ride. Hmmm. :) Which is exactly what I almost did Saturday morning. Keri cancelled her plans on going up so I was the only girl (don't ask me why I still call us girls when we are in our 40's - just do). The 6 men (didn't call you guys boys) going were all very strong riders. The thought that I would hold them back kept nagging at me. At 4:20 a.m. Saturday morning (20 minutes after the alarm went off) I bit the bullet, got of bed and got ready as fast as I could. I was smart enough to pack my bag and bike the night before. I knew if I didn't go I would regret it later, so I kissed the kids and the husband as they slept and off I went. I was 5 minutes late and hated to keep the gang waiting but as always they were very understanding.
The drive up was quick. We made good time even with a stop. Thankfully I didn't have to pee in the car, that's another story. When we made it to Verona the weather looked a little threatening. The ground was covered with cotton weed and there were already cyclists heading out to ride the loop. We unpacked, changed and off we went. The terrain was hilly on the 1st mile! Oh no I thought. This is going to be a long day. Hold back I told myself. Take it easy. The guys can ride their ride and you ride yours. Well, the land scape leveled off and the ride was enjoyable. We did get lost and cut about 10 miles off the loop but I was ready to go back and try it all again. We ate, drank and checked the weather. It was drizzling off and on and we knew the rain was coming. It looked like we had time for a second loop so off we went. Knowing what to expect made the second loop less daunting. I was able recognize barns, tractors, and road kill, the ride was going by quickly the second time. We reached the point where we thought we made the wrong turn and fortunately there were other riders were there that helped us find our way. All I can say is I had no idea what I was in for at that point. A bunch of the guys did Galena the week before and told me this was nothing compared to that - it makes me want to try Galena! We came on the first "hill" - thankfully we went down before going up. WHEE - what a trip! I was on a roller coaster without the seat belt. I kept telling myself not to look at the speedometer and don't look ahead because the up hill would freak me out. Well, I that was a mistake. Not looking forward I mean because I was half way up the hill and thought I needed to prepare better for this, even with the push of the descent that I had just gotten. I made it to the top tho - at about 6 mph. Shortly after that another hill down, this time I looked 42mph!!! Then I prayed, then I laughed, I was doing this, life is good.
Well, with about 10 miles left in the ride, I was starting to tire. My right knee was sore because I started to stand to get up the hills. Some of the hills were very deceiving, they would wind a little making them look less intimidating. This ride was definitely a learning experience for me and I knew I would have to keep coming back to make it less threatening.
The most difficult portion of that ride was probably the most scenic. It was beautiful up there. Even with my sun glasses on and the color of the countryside was as vivid as could be. Purple wild flowers, green grass just floating in the wind. A red barn with some of the paint chipping off. A white farm house with a gravel drive lined with honking geese and ducks. A sign of kindness, "Riders stop and get water." The sign even cautioned riders to be careful of on coming cars. The drivers of the cars and farm machinery were great. Respectful is a better word. They would slow down and go around us. We weren't riding 2 by 2 but they still slowed and drove with caution.
It was a great day - we got back to the car and started to pack up and down came the rain! We were so lucky we missed it. I thought for sure I would fall asleep on the way home. I didn't want to tho. It was raining and I didn't want Doug to drive in the company of 2 sleeping tri mates. As luck would have it Gil and I weren't as tired as we thought and the conversation was good enough to keep all of us awake. :)
Sunday I had the opportunity to ride "Bike the Drive". I did it last year for the first time and loved it. It a chance to ride on Lake Shore Drive - an extremely busy and sometimes congested road that boarders the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The skyline along this stretch of road can leave you speechless even on a cloudy, rainy morning. I ended up going with my tri mate Tom F. and Rick W. followed us. Rick would have rode in with us but he was meeting his sister for breakfast after the ride.
Once we finally found parking and got set up we headed toward the lake front. I needed to pick up my packet but after looking at the time I realized it would probably be smart to just start riding. If I was asked about my number I would have to deal with that problem when I came to it. We tried calling Doug, Scott and Laura to hook up with them but they were obviously enjoying their turn on LSD, so I left a message with Doug and off we went. Right out of the gate a paceline passed us and Rick told me to hop on. "What?" I thought - and then realized he was kidding - So we rode south to the museum at 57th street. It was very relaxed pace. After making sure we had enough water we were back on the drive. The warm up was over and we decided to pick up the pace. We knew it would be really stupid to pound all out because the drive was filled with families just out to enjoy the morning. That was another cool thing about this ride. Seeing little ones on their bikes with training wheels and their bucket size helmets resting on their heads. Way to cute. Ok, so back to riding, off we went. We managed to keep about 21 mph pace. We made it from the museum to McCormick place in half the time it took us to ride out. As we passed Soldiers Field I saw a fellow rider with the same Boston Marathon jacket on that I have. I called out to him and asked what he thought of the race. He said it was great and I told him I was there too. He started to laugh and said the weather was similar. We reached Grant Park and had to be very careful because riders were getting off the drive or entering it. We had a near collision at one point but thankfully it was avoided and there was no harm done. We rode over the river and it was down hill from there! Rick took off, I could see he was enjoying every second on his bike. Tom and I stayed pretty close to each other. Some how I passed Rick because the next thing I know he's riding behind me with a huge smile on his face. Uh, there is nothing cooler than seeing someone find happiness out something as simple as riding a bike. And I was surrounded by it! We went about a mile further and my cell phone rang. It was Doug or maybe it was Scott - they had just finished the 30 mile loop and wanted to hook up. We were only about a mile and half apart so we pulled over at North ave. and waited for them. Within minutes they were with us. It was great riding with them. We did a lot of laughing. On the way back to Grant Park, Scott, Rick and Tom pulled a head. Doug and I were talking and Laura was just behind us. We suddenly hear Laura yelling something, we looked back and she was still riding so we thought she was just yelling. DUH! What were we thinking? She had a flat! We pulled over and Doug changed it. About half way thru the change a very well intentioned man stopped to help us. Instead of realizing that Doug knew what he was doing he decided to lecture Doug on the do's and don'ts of changing a tire! What?!? It was aggravating at the time but became funny after the fact.
Rick called to make sure we were all right and said he would try to get another 1/2 loop in before the drive reopened to cars. We met up with Scott and Tom F. in Grant Park. There was a moving tribute set up to the fallen U.S. soldiers of the Iraq war. A pair of boots for every soldier who had lost their life fighting in the war had been placed at the north end of the park. I learned this morning on the news that boots are put out every day because the number, unfortunately, increases. God bless the families of these men and women and the men and women still fighting for our country.
It was a good week-end. It's just the beginning to a long training season. I have a lot of work to do. :)