Today I learned there is a zero drop out rate on this ride. This means everyone who starts finishes. I suppose it is reassuring since today – Day 4 is our hardest ride of the trip. Colorado is difficult but it is a steady climb. Today’s ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway is several miles straight up and many switch backs.
I started the day, cranky, not having slept enough the night before and woke up with stomach/digestive issues. I decided not to eat a smoothie anymore first thing in the morning. Today, I ate half a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of blueberries.
A few miles into the ride, we passed by a construction zone, and the construction worker was so kind as to hold the opposing traffic while we rode by. He greeted us by saying, “top of the morning to you.” His kind gesture helped me thru a few miles.
We met a few other riders over the last few days, one of which is James from the UK. He is in his gap year (high school to university) and traveling the entire Trans Am route unsupported. This means he is traveling by himself, carrying all the same stuff I have in my cubby on his bike. Our team has adopted him as a tag along and he likely will stay with us until Colorado, where we will go West and he will go to Oregon. He has a tracking device called a Spot. He presses a button when he’s reached his daily destination safely and it beeps back to his parents to alert them he is ok. I thought it was a brilliant device. They can also track his daily movements too.
We passed two families riding tandem bikes, with 6 kids each. They too are traveling across country for the summer. I wasn’t sure what to make of them. If the idea was bold or crazy.
We stopped by a fruit stand for lunch and I was so excited that Totoro bought us more good luck. Donut peaches are not available yet but it was available in Cider (from last year’s patch). For those of you who do not know donut peaches, they are absolutely my favorite fruit. They are only in season for the first two weeks of July. Eat some for me this year, as I’m not sure I’ll see them in Colorado.
After the fruit stand, we made our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I heard a lot of about the beauty of it, but was not ready for the massive climb. Today was the single hardest day of exercise for me ever. Today’s ride was harder than my marathon and my half ironman combined. I had prepared for those events. I’m only in my 4th consecutive day of exercise. In retrospect the Blue Ridge Parkway should not be attempted by someone (aka me) who has only been on a bike for 4 days in a row for the first time.
I was mentally prepared that today would be a hard climb and I was prepared to be last and slow. I made the best of being last by making it count. I stopped to take pictures. Below is me on the Blue Ridge Pkwy.
Being last is not so bad. At West Point, the graduating cadet who has the lowest GPA, is rewarded by a standing ovation by his fellow classmates and is nicknamed the Goat. In an Ironman, you always remember the first and last place finisher. Me, being last, means I won’t be left behind or forgotten.
We have a few support vehicles. The first car, driven by Christine, goes ahead of the group to put signage on the road to show the Rest Stops. The second car is driven by 2 of the 4 route leaders. Two route leaders are riding with us, the other two drive and they take turns every day. The sweep car makes sure everyone makes it in, is driven by Jack and Anne. Jack and Anne waited all day for me to finish and stopped every 2 miles towards the end to make sure I was ok.
At the end of the day, even though I was the slowest rider, I was not the last. I know how to read maps. Poor Sharon and Mike missed the last turn and had to be picked up by the SAG (Support and Gear) wagon.
The descent was a Grade Level 12 or above, 3 miles straight down with switch backs. I was getting cold and tired by the end so I didn’t bother to break much. I was going fairly quickly (even by my standards). I saw another rider, pull off to the side of the road. I asked he if all was ok, and he said just giving his breaks a rest. I thought to myself, why would your breaks over heat, and how could he even pull over, I can’t even stop, let alone slow down. Some times, with the craziness in life there are moments when you think you might be close to death. This was not one of them for me. I knew I would make it to the bottom, and maybe with some road rash. Fortunately, I did make it safely to the bottom and when I arrived in camp, I asked if there was wi-fi. My teammate laughed at me and said there aren’t even bathrooms available. Another night of washing my hair under a garden hose and showering down with Action Wipes. A picture of my tent below.
At the end of Day 4 – a photo of my glove tan lines and shorts tan lines.A side note, one of our route leaders, Matt (L). He loved the descent so much, he decided to ride back up and descent a second time. He is my hero for the day. Drew (R) is our other route leader. They rode the Northern Tier route with Bike the US for MS (Maine-Seattle) last summer.