Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dexter Dog Camp @ Chez JD

You might remember Dexter - He's the super dog whose family is my really good friends. He came to Chez JD for Dexter Dog Camp for a few days. I picked him up yesterday and immediately began to spoil him. You see, that is what the Uncle gets to do - for the kids as well as the pets. My job, and I take great pride in it, is spoiling Dexter while he has his little vacation.

It starts of course with the ball throwing. Being a dog's dog, Dexter really loves to chase the ball. His family left me with the chuck-it and a brand new ball. What can be better than that - an energetic dog, a chuck it toy, a brand new ball and a big back yard. So, not long after we got him settled in, we were out chasing the ball.

He's still a bit of a puppy (just over a year old), so he really wants me to chase him around. Of course that is after I throw the ball for him - in order to get it back, I have to chase him. Not being the super knowledgeable dog guy, I was making the mistake of indulging him in this. C'est la vie, we had a good time.

The spoiling continues with the walks. Now at home, he has to stay on a short leash. Here at Chez JD, he gets to roam a little with the retractable leash. He still wants to pull, but the choker collar helps control that. We take a stroll around the neighborhood before bedtime, in the morning and in the afternoon. Of course, there is some ball throwing in there as well. All good dogs need to be spoiled this way when they are on vacation.

He likes to play and this evening when I returned from my french club (and after our walk), we were heading back to my little office. My cat Molly loves to sleep under the heater vent which happens to be right off the hallway that Dexter and I have to traverse to get to the office. Molly is paying attention as I walk by, and of course Dexter sees Molly so I stop and talk to both of them - Good Dog, Good kitten etc. Dexter is excited to be so close to her and I can tell. He was looking at her then looking at me while I'm talking to him and petting him. Suddenly, he goes into that head down on the front legs, butt in the air pose that is so common when dogs want to play with each other. I had to laugh. I know Molly isn't interested in playing with him, so I had to talk him down a little. 'You're to big to play with Molly' I said. Meanwhile, Molly is just looking at him like "are you stupid or what?".

Of course today there was more ball throwing (or chasing depending on your perspective). I decided I had had enough of chasing him around to get the ball back. I started working with him to drop the ball at my feet. He is such a smart dog (and had some good training by his family) and towards the end of it, things were working out the way I wanted - not the way he wanted.

All that ball chasing really tires a dog out, and what would a vacation be without some good sleeping? So, here I caught him in full repose.
I think he's dreaming about his family - Happy New Year Family!!.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Experiencing life mile by mile.

If you don't know, I like to ride my bike (really? wow, I would have never guessed by reading your blog JD!). I decided at the beginning of 2008 that I would re-set my odometer at the beginning of each year and track my mileage for the year. While the year is not yet over, I thought I would make a few notes about my recent riding schedule.

It started on Sunday (the 20th) with the Heritage Park WBL rides put together by Jim Cunningham. It was a fun ride that took us on a tour of roads out towards Enoree, SC. We started with a big group of maybe 50 or more.

The group trimmed down a bit after the one sprint zone that was called out. It was really fun, but I simply sat in the back and held on for dear life! Scott took the sprint after we blasted down the road at speeds over 35mph. I love that stuff.

As I said, a small group of people took off from this point. We headed down the road a ways and took a small break at a store. It was obvious that there was a faster group and a slower group. Jim split these two groups - one to go 70 miles and the other to go closer to 55.

I stuck with the 70 mile group and we rode into the increasingly strong headwinds. The group was down to about 15 or so hardcore individuals and we worked a pace line as we knocked out the miles. Technically, we only got something just over 68 miles.

Monday was another great day to be on the bike. I met up with a couple of my Greenville Spinner's Racing team-mates for a tour of Pickens County. We started from Chris' place in the north Main Area of Greenville. He took us on some great backroads that I had no clue even existed. He really knows his way around the area.

We made a stop at Tim's place to see the destruction - oops I mean construction going on at his ranch. He lives out near Pickens (the town of) and near Hwy 8. We took Hwy 8 up through Pumpkintown and across Hwy 11 at Aunt Sues. We looped around on Table Rock Road then started back towards Greenville. It was a really great tour, but after Sunday's ride, I was feeling it at the end of this ride. We arrived back at Chez Chris with just over 69 miles showing on my tripmeter.

I took Tuesday as a non-biking day and instead went to the gym for a core workout. I'm really trying to do better with some strength training. My biggest difficulty is forcing myself to be inside when I'd rather be outside - yes, even in the cold weather. Nothing is as nice as getting a good workout in the great outdoors - biking, running, hiking - you name it. I'd rather be doing it outside than inside a gym. Although I do have to admit, the scenery inside a gym isn't all bad.

Today, I decided to meet up again with my team-mates for another ride. Again, we left from Chris' place. We rode out past Tigerville in loop that took us again on roads that I had not seen before. We passed on climbing Callahan Mountain. In part because it was pretty cold up there in those hills! There was still a bunch of snow on the ground and along the sides of the road. We could really feel the temperature drop as we passed through Tigerville.

Our Total today came in at just about 56.5 miles. That puts me at about 193 miles for the four days. We have another ride scheduled for Saturday (hoping the weather is good), and I'll probably do some easy riding tomorrow before the weather turns. No matter what, I'll have over 200 miles for the week.

What's that mean for me on the year? Well, my odometer passed 4600 miles as we traveled along the swamp rabbit trail near Furman this afternoon. I don't think I'm going to be riding enough over the next week to hit the 5000 mile mark, but hey, I feel pretty good about 4600 (it will go a little higher - maybe 4800 - I'll post up the total when I know I've finished riding for the year).

Why do I feel good about it? Well, on the 3rd of Januray, 2009, I did the Spinner's 'First Fifty' - a ride put together by the Spinner's Touring Coordinators. When I started that ride, I had not (ever) ridden a bicycle more than 50 miles. I think my longest rides were in the 40s up to that point.

How far one can come in the course of a year. My next big event was the assault on Mt. Mitchell. That was my first century and it included over 11,000 ft of elevation gain. I spent a lot of time on my bike throughout the summer - lots of riding at Donaldson, weekend rides and the fun times riding from the Oakview school on Thursday nights. Not a lot of long distance rides, maybe some half centuries or metric centuries along the way.

In July of this year, I made the commitment to ride in support of the Challenge to Conquer Cancer. That was truly an incredible experience. I won't ever forget the times we had and the (many) emotions we shared on that journey. We rode A LOT of miles in preparation for the trip to Austin. We did several centuries during that training and our Polka Dot team managed to do consecutive centuries in our last two shifts. Pretty good for a kid (yeah - I'm still a big kid) who had never done a half century only 11 months before.

Over the miles I've met a lot of really good people here in the Upstate and surrounding area. We've experienced some really great times. Many of those experiences stretching over the many miles we've traveled together.

Merry Christmas my friends. May 2010 see us experiencing many more miles and good times together.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is it Bah Humbug or Happy Holidays?

Here we are in the holiday season and a co-worker accused me of being 'bah humbug' the other day! You might ask why she would have said that so I'll tell you. Folks were talking about how stressed and rushed they were in getting all of the presents purchased. My comment was "I've finished my shopping - I've bought nothing for anyone". That lead to her accusation.

So what does it really mean if someone is bah humbug? Well, here's why I don't consider myself as bah humbug, rather I'm simply refusing to be involved in the rampant commercialization of what is supposed to be a religious holiday (and you should know I'm not a religious guy).

1: The Greenville Holiday Parade (or The Polka Dot Elf Makes His Debut)

My Challenge to Conquer Cancer squad decided to have an entry in the Greenville Parade this year. Of course, I did the parade last year with the Bikeville group and I was surprised that I hadn't heard anything about them in the parade this year. So, I committed to the C3 event.

To make things more interesting, Dustin posed a challenge to the group and offered a grand prize. The person with the best decorated bike would win a case of New Belgium's Fat Tire Ale. You would not believe the trash talking that went on from this group! It was pretty fun to say the least. I knew there was going to be some serious contenders out there, so I started making my decoration plans.

I had decorated my bike last year with a few battery operated light sets and some other small items. This year I had to take it to a whole new level! After many hours, here's my final result (the polka dot elf!):

Big John also came out to play:

Along with Milt:

and Tedd:

There were many of my P3C3 friends who came out that night. We had a really good time and I think the kids really enjoyed our decorated bikes. Unfortunately the daylight and / or flash covered up all of the lights that we had decorated our bikes with, so you're still not getting the full effect. However, you can see additional photos at greenville online (C3 group starts at image 156) or you can see the Videos from the parade. (The C3 group is in video 3).

2. The Tacky Sweater Christmas Party at Saffrons (or The Polka Dot Elf Returns)
The following Saturday there was another Holiday event in which I participated. This was an event to benefit Camp opportunity. The event was all about tacky christmas sweaters. You can see some images on Link's Metromix and here's a shot of me (courtesy of the Link)

3. Christmas Lights Ride (or OOOOOOHHHHHHH Look at all the Pretty Lights)
Last thursday (the 17th of Dec), the Flour cycling team posted up a ride through some neighborhoods to look at all the pretty lights. While I did not bring out the polka dot elf, his ride was there. My friend Kari and I met up with the group at the back parking lot of the ECPI college campus. There was about 25 people there and many had done some kind of decorations - of themselves or their bikes. The pace was intended to be slow and for the pure social and viewing pleasure of the riders. There were two routes planned - 11 miles or 16 miles.

The first 4 miles the routes were co-incident. This was interesting with the group as I'm unsure of the experience of some of the riders regarding group rides. It was a bit of stop and go and people were all over the place. You had to be really on your toes to keep from getting tangled up with someone. Thankfully, there was no accidents, although we did have one rider get a flat.

At the point where the two rides diverged, a lot more people decided to do the shorter route than had indicated when polled at the start of the ride. This was quite funny as it left only 6 of us riding on the longer route. What a difference! The 6 who stayed together on the longer route were all experienced riders and our pace immediately picked up. It was no hammerfest, but the experience of the group showed in the pace.

We got off route a few times, but we all smiled and turned around. Every time we passed people we wished them Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. It was a lot of fun. The bonus being the ride through the Roper Mountain Science Center to look at those holiday lights. You don't realize that it actually is a 'mountain' when you drive through it. Riding my single speed surly Elf Bike made me take notice for sure. After the ride, we met up with other riders at Carrabas for a great dinner.

So, what really defines a person who is a scrooge? To me it is more the overall attitude and has nothing to do with how many presents one purchases.

with that, I wish everyone Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Upstate Winter Bike League Rocks!!

Today was the first in a series of rides put together by the capable hands of Steve Sperry and the folks at Carolina Tri. The UWBL was supposed to begin last week but was canceled due to weather. This week looked touch and go for a little while, but in the end, it all came together.

We met at Carolina Tri for a 10am start. It seemed to be a pretty good turnout for a cold and overcast day. I'm thinking about 80 riders or so for the A group. As we gathered around outside the shop, I looked around to see who had come out to play.
I saw a lot of my cycling friends. Gary, Owen, Randy, Kirk, Eric and a bunch of others I recognize but don't know their names. One guy who everybody knows was also there - Big George himself came out to ride with us. That is a cool bonus to living in Greenville - our hometown cycling great is along for the ride just like everyone else.

The first installment of UWBL for the season had a fun sprint zone only for the category 4, 5 and unclassified riders. It started after a stop sign re-group. Sperry asked the Pro, cat 1, 2 and 3 riders to hold back so the rest of us could have a go at the sprint zone. He led us out for about 1.5 miles along a road that was about 4 miles long. I had grouped up with my fellow Greenville Spinners Racing team-mates Randy and Kirk and we talked a little about some strategy.

We didn't want to lead the pack when Sperry released us, but we did want to be near the front. When Sperry released us, we were the only team that was in the front but there was a couple of independents in front of us. There was not a big rush as Sperry pulled to the side. I was leading Randy and Kirk, but I knew we didn't want to push too early at the beginning, so I just maintained pace with the other riders on the front.

It wasn't long before the Globalbike team came up on our left. Randy warned me and I felt a little stupid as I had put myself behind one of the other riders and slightly to his right. This left me with very little room to do anything, but I saw him drifting towards his left side thus opening a small gap between him and another rider (which happened to be Eric Christophersen on his fixie). I decided to move through the gap and Randy cautioned me in making this tight move. We made it through and just started to close the small gap that Globalbike was starting to open when I heard a crash behind. I think it split the field pretty well. I don't think anyone got hurt, but I did talk to a guy whose front wheel had gotten bent. He was still riding, so it must not have been too bad.

Globalbike was pulling hard off the front and we had two other riders between us and them. It quickly became apparent that the two riders between us and them were not holding the pace. Since I was leading our small contingent of Spinners, I made the move to bridge the gap before it got too big. They were pushing the pace, but bridging was not difficult. It did drive up the heart rate, and their pace was definitely keeping it high.

There was about 4 (maybe 5?) of the Globalbike guys up there and as their lead rider tired, he would drop off. In they days of group riding (not racing), I would have let him join his team by pulling in front of me. I made a concerted effort to keep him out of there. No way I was going to give him an opportunity to recover and become another rider on the front. As the Globalbike contingent got smaller, the Spinners got closer to the front.

A couple of other riders came up on our left to make a move and I followed. At this point, I knew Randy and Kirk were still back there. I was doing my best to make sure we were on the wheels of those in front of us. I kept an eye out for the finish and held on.

I saw the sign marking the finish a fraction of a second after an independent rider came up and passed us on the left. I made the move to keep with him, but he really had a slingshot effect and pulled a small gap. I passed one other rider in my chase and there was only two in front - one guy from the Piedmont Orthopedic Associates team (I think) and this independent who got the slingshot.

I was reeling both of them in as I watched the POA rider reeling in the independent. I was feeling good and I could sense other riders behind and to my right and left - I could hear them too as they worked to hold the pace. I was pushing hard, but I think I was in the wrong gear. Had I chosen to stand up and sprint, I know I would have lost ground. I needed to be at least one more gear harder and maybe two. So I kept in my saddle expecting at any moment to see Randy or Kirk come flying past me.

Despite remaining in my saddle, I continued to gain ground against the attack. Unfortunately, at the sign I was one bike's length away from the win. The POA rider was about a half bike length from the win. Of course, that means the independent took it. He had a great jump and a strong sprint to the finish. Although I missed out on the leader's vest, I was pleased to have been in the mix.

I was surprised when I turned around and saw Randy and Kirk rolling easy towards the intersection. I had thought them on my wheel the whole time. I'm not sure when I pulled the gap. The group took a few minutes break at the Possum Kingdom store while the Sprinter's vest was awarded. Sperry and Big George made the presentation. It's a cool vest despite it's pink color!

We continued on our route and George got out front and pulled the group for quite a while. I was sitting on his wheel for a long time. Kind of cool. Shortly after that, I found myself out front pulling alongside Boyd who I met not long ago on a mt bike ride at Dupont. I worked pretty hard on the front trying to hold the pace. I think I worked a little too hard as I started to tire around the time I got up front and pulled alongside George.

After dropping off the front as we approached the Piedmont Hwy, I decided it was best for me to just sit in and do my best to stay with the pack. I managed to do so and we pulled back in to Carolina Tri with an average of about 20.4mph showing on my computer.

A few things I learned out there:
1. I need to carry some nutrition with me on these rides. I had nothing but water. My breakfast was a bowl of cereal that wasn't quite enough to carry me through the 3 hour ride. Despite this, I managed to stay with the pack. Next week they are targeting a 4 hour ride - I won't make it without some nutrition.
2. I need to anticipate the sprint a little more and get myself in a better gear so I can stand up and go for it. Had I been in a better gear, such that I could have stood up to sprint - I may have taken the vest.
3. I don't have terrible instincts when it comes to watching the other teams work around me. I managed to keep with the lead team throughout the sprint zone. However, I made a bad choice early on when I put myself on the wrong side of a rider who I knew would be dropping out of the sprint. Thankfully, we managed to get past that cleanly to stay with the Globalbike team.
4. UWBL is a killer fun time!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A ride with George, for Thea

Greenville is a great place. Not only are we surrounded by beautiful country and great people, we also have some great weather to get out in with those people and enjoy that country! This past weekend was an excellent example. Unfortunately, it started with someone having a very bad mountain bike accident.

Thea, who I personally don't know (but knew of since the bicycling community really isn't that big in Greenville) was riding her mountain bike at the National Whitewater center (where I understand they have some really excellent trails) when she crashed. She sustained some pretty bad injuries to include 7 broken ribs, 1 cracked vertebrae and a punctured lung. These are the big ones I recall - there may have been others. Thankfully, she sustained no permanent nerve damage, but she was in a tough spot as she had no insurance.

It wasn't long before her friends at Carolina Tri decided to put together a fundraiser to help her during this difficult (and costly) time. Thus the Ride for Thea was born. I first heard about it on facebook, but soon after the emails started flying through the online communities and groups. Many of my P3C3 friends were planning to attend and it was a good opportunity to help out a fellow cyclist, so I too signed up.

I'm not sure when it happened, but the news that George Hincapie was going to ride with the group soon spread. If helping out another cyclist wasn't enough for folks, getting a chance to ride with Big George certainly increased the appeal of the ride.

To add to the fervor, Carolina Tri also lined up Thomas Creek Brewery to provide beverages and also put together a silent auction with some really cool stuff. When I checked the facebook event page a few hours before ride start there was something on the order of 150 confirmed guests. This of course was only the facebook contingent - I was sure there would be plenty of others who are not associated with Facebook.

I assembled my gear, got suited up in my cool Michelin Upstate SC Cycling team kit and headed out from the house. I added a technical t-shirt under the jersey as I thought it might be a little cool on the ride out. I am really glad I didn't choose to get fully outfitted in arm warmers, leg warmers and shoe covers! It was only slightly cool on the short ride from home over to Carolina Tri's downtown location. That wouldn't last long - forecast was calling for highs in the mid '70s!

As the crowd assembled in and around Carolina Tri, I was amazed at the turnout. The folks from Carolina Tri probably have a better number, but I'm betting there was close to 300 people who came out to ride with George for Thea. An awesome show of support.

The route was similar to routes I have ridden before, roughly from Downtown Greenville out Buncombe road towards Paris Mountain. The official route would skip Altamont road and continue parallel to Hwy 276. From Travelers Rest, it would link up to Tigerville road and follow that all the way to Hwy 253. Up 253 and through Tigerville. Past Hwy 11 and a right turn on Hwy 912. The route then looped up over Calahan Mountain, down past Camp Old Indian to turn back on Dividing waters road. Going back was reverse of the outbound route.

With Big George in the group, I wasn't really sure how things would pan out. I'm just a guy who likes to ride a bike, but there are a lot of guys who can put down a hard pace. What would it mean to these guys knowing Big George was riding with us? Would it turn into a hammer fest from the start, or would Big George's presence bring a level of calm to the group? I knew one thing - I was going to stay with the main pack for as long as I could get away with it.

With start time approaching, I was finding my friends and we created our own little group. I met some new folks who had come up from Atlanta to check out our excellent riding scene with the bonus of the cause and the ride with George. We rolled out after some brief announcements and a thank you from Thea herself.

I was pleased when the pace started off reasonable. I mistakenly thought Big George was up front controlling the pace. I found out later that he started in the back and worked his way to the front as we approached the fun (read that as 'climbing') portion of the ride. We stayed together as one big group for a long time. I'm sure we started stringing out a bit as we passed Altamont Road and made our way through Travelers Rest. The pace slowly increased as did our distanced traveled.

From downtown Greenville until we made the left turn onto Hwy 253, there really isn't much in the way of hills - some rollers for sure, but as we made that turn, the rollers started to increase in size. Since our pace was still increasing, I felt for sure the fun (read this one as 'hammer time') was about to begin. I was trying to keep an eye on my peeps as we rode along and I took advantage of several opportunities to put myself closer to the front of the pack (and closer to them). I was still pretty far back relative to some of my friends (like Taylor who was rubbing elbows in the front row), but I think I was in the front 1/4 of the pack.

We passed Tigerville Elementary where the rollers continued to grow. I was sitting in just waiting for the attacks to begin. I was surprised to see that we stayed together as a group until we made the right turn on Highway 912.

From this turn, it is a relatively short (maybe 2/3 mile) moderate climb on Hwy 912 to a left turn on to Callahan Mt Road. Callahan Mt Road is a short (1/3 - 1/2 mile), but quite steep climb. I'd like to give a percent grade, but I don't have any clue of what it is. As I turned on to Hwy 912, I saw the riders going off the front.

Big George had made his way up to the front by this time although I never saw him pass me. I figured he was up there with the lead riders. Eric Christopherson (sp?) riding a really cool fixie (yes, that also means single speed) was off the front and my friend Taylor was up there with them somewhere. I thought I saw Ed 'Leggs' Hernando going big off the front, but I couldn't be sure. I stepped up my pace, no thought to catching the lead guys, just wanted to do the best I could from where I started. It wasn't long before I passed Taylor's dad Perry. I lost Jeni, Courtney, Bo, Nikki and most of my other peeps somewhere along the way.

I was making good time up the Hwy 912 hill, passing some peeps, getting passed by a few as well. After the left turn onto Callahan Mt road, it gets really steep for a short distance. I kept my pace and caught and passed Leggs. Some more peeps managed to sneak by me as we passed others. About the time I made the sweeping left curve, I was getting my second wind. I kicked up a gear and started cranking. I began to overtake those who passed me on the steep section and continued to pass others. As I came around the right hand sweeper, I could see that those in front had stopped at the summit. No surprise, Big George was there. As I came up through the stopped bikes, I saw an opportunity to ride up next to him. I told him "Thanks George, we're all loving it right now". He smiled and gave me 5. Pretty cool.

The descent down past camp old indian is super fun. I didn't want to make that descent in a pack of bikes, so I decided to roll on down. Somewhere along the way my computer had stopped working, so I can't say how fast I might have gotten, but I barely touched my brakes - it was a blast!

At the intersection of old Hwy 25, I stopped for the rest of the group. It wasn't long before the Peloton came rolling up to the intersection. I hung back to find Courtney and her Atlanta friends John, James and Jesse. We had planned on riding Paris Mt on the way back and we needed to coordinate a little. I ended up riding with Courtney and John and it just happened that we ended up right with George. I called out to him at one point "George, are you going to climb Paris Mt with us?" All I saw was a raised hand - I don't know what his response was. As we rode along, I managed to snap a photo of him on his cool bike.

Ok, I know, you can't really tell that's George, so you'll have to take my word for it.

We rode near him for a while. It's cool that he was just one of the riders in the peloton with the rest of us out there. Courtney was close to George, John and I were in line behind her.
At one point, a small gap had formed between the group we were near and the front group. George saw the gap and made a move. Courtney was right there on him with John and I tucking in right behind. Kind of cool to imagine yourself in a grand tour with one of the greatest riders in the peloton pulling you back into the pack. As we re-gained the lead group, I called out "Good pull George". Not sure what he thought, I was amused with myself. We all joked later that George was our domestique for a few moments - ahhh, the imaginations we mortals have!

The peloton continued, still a rather sizable group as we made our way back towards Travelers Rest. The pace had really begun to increase by this time so the group was slowly dwindling down. A small breakaway of about 10 riders had gone off the front. I was feeling good so I gave chase. The riders who were leading the peloton didn't see me coming, so I had a pretty good head of steam as I went past them. I gave it everything I had for as long as I could, but I started to tire before I caught the breakaway. Not to my surprise, as I backed off the pace, I found I had pulled the peloton within striking distance. Those who were leading the peloton when I passed, took over from me and pulled us the rest of the way to the breakaway group. I tucked in behind a few riders and did some recovery. What a cool feeling.

Soon enough, we were passing the TR Walmart. This was the agreed upon re-group area for Courtney and her Atlanta friends who wanted to climb Altamont road. As I pulled off, I started watching for the others. James was the first one I saw - I called out to him and he replied "I'm Spent!" and kept going. I saw Perry, but he had plans of his own. Once the peloton passed, I looked up and saw Courtney and John on the other side of the road. We assembled in front of the Arby's and waited to see who else we would see.

Soon we saw Leggs Hernando. He had to get back home, so he bid us farewell and continued on his way. Courtney was all bubbly with excitement as she had stayed with the main peloton for the entire ride until we made the choice to re-group. Awesome ride for her. We never saw Jesse, so Courtney left a message on his cell phone and we continued our ride.

I tried to give John the low down on the altamont road climb. I described it the best I could as I didn't really know how things would turn out as we made our ascent - I knew he's a good climber from what Courtney had said, so I wanted to give him as much info as possible in the event I wasn't able to stay close to him.

We made the turn onto Altamont road and started our ascent. John set a pretty good pace and by the time we got near the water tower, I knew that pace was too much for me that early in the climb. I told him "It's all you man, go for it" and he began to pull away as I let off slightly. I still kept a strong pace, but I had backed off just enough for him to open a gap. Just past the water tower, we passed a guy in Hincapie kit. Little did we know the significance of that guy in that kit.

As I continued my climb, pride wouldn't let me give up too much ground to John. It was like we had a bungee cord between us. I would reel him in a little, then he would pull forward a little. Overall, I felt like I was gaining ground, but there was still 75-100 meters between us. I hope my description of the climb was adequate, but as I saw him make the final turn before 'the wall', I hollered "HAMMER IT!!!". At this point, he still had 75 meters on me.

I wasn't done though. I clicked up a gear and started rocking. I was in pursuit mode and whether I caught him or not, I was going to give it my best shot. I was surprised to see how much ground I had made up by the time I made the turn at the base of 'the wall'. I was now only about 20 meters behind. I was close!

Seeing him so close gave me an extra boost of motivation. I clicked up two gears and stood up. I powered my way up the wall steadily gaining more ground. When he crossed the summit, I was within 10 meters of him. Yes, he beat me fair and square, but I saw the look in his eyes when he realized how much ground I had made up late in the climb. He was surprised how quickly I closed the gap.

Ok, friendly competition aside, the really cool part was seeing who else had decided to climb Altamont Road. Yep, Big George had indeed said "Yes" when I had called out earlier asking that question. He's such a personable guy. He was posing for photos with the several riders who were at the summit as we came up. John and I looked at each other and I had to go for it. I asked, and Big George was kind enough to spare a few moments for our own photo op. I asked a fellow rider to snap a couple of photos and I'm glad I did. Here are both of them.

Big George had made a stop at the summit of Paris mountain to wait for his friend - you remember the guy (in the Hincapie kit) John and I passed just after the water tower? Yep, sure enough, George made a brief descent to pace his friend back to the top. As they passed, I asked George what his PR up Altamont road was - 8:45! Wow! That is awesome!

Wouldn't you know it, Courtney had not passed George's friend, so until she arrived at the top (less than a minute after they started their descent down the long side) she had no idea that George had been on the mountain. She was a little bummed, but John and I didn't think it fair to ask George to wait around.

There was one last thing I needed to show our Atlanta guest - the descent! John and I hammered down the long side of Altamont road and had a wicked blast doing it. A (very) brief stop for Courtney to catch up and the three of us continued our ride at a more leisurely pace towards our downtown destination. We met up again with our many cycling friends enjoying the food and beverages at the Carolina Tri store. It was a fantastic day for a ride, with some really great people and through some very beautiful countryside.

Have I mentioned what a great place Greenville is?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A letter to my P3C3 Supporters - Thank you!

The 2009 edition of the Challenge to Conquer Cancer is finished. We completed our journey safely from Greenville, SC to Austin, Texas. It was an incredible journey that I put into two separate parts. One part was the riding, the other part was the opportunity for personal growth.
As a ride, what else can I say but we endured various challenging weather conditions while doing our best to cover as many miles as we could during our shifts. I was quite confident the Polka Dot team could cover 100 miles every time we got on the bikes (for a 6 hour shift) and I was proven correct as we managed to complete back to back century rides for our 2nd and 3rd six hour shifts (105.4 miles and 100.1 miles respectively).

Our first 6 hour shift challenged us with some difficult climbing and very cold weather. While we did not cover 100 miles during this shift, we did manage to cover 75 miles under some very difficult riding conditions. One of our team-mates was pulled from the ride at about mile 25 for borderline hypothermia. Thankfully, she was fine once she was able to get her body temperature back under control.

Excitement ensued while riding along the Natchez Trace near Jackson Mississippi. The Park Ranger pulled us over and asked "Do you have a permit?".
Quite funny. He delayed our ride for a few minutes, but ended by allowing us to continue without our support vehicles riding along with us. The support vehicles leap-frogged to the next opportune vehicle pull-outs while we continued on the bike. This was our 105 mile day.
The second part of this experience was an incredible personal growth opportunity. It is thanks to the contributions of my supporters that I was able to participate in this event. Thanks to all of you who contributed because this personal growth opportunity has provided me a different perspective on life and the challenges faced by people with this horrible disease we call cancer.

An additional yet somewhat unexpected benefit also came from this grand experience. The fine group of people who participated with me have become very close friends. I have not experienced this comraderie since my Military days. We shared an incredible sense of purpose that gave us true unity in spreading the message.

That message was not all negative either. We heard many stories about and met many people who are survivors of this disease. It was also a message of Hope. Sally, our support driver, wore a pink cape for the entire journey. On the back of her cape were the words "Hero for Hope".

In some ways, we all became heroes for hope. Not just those of us out on our bikes or those participating in a direct support role, but all of you too. Those of you who contributed to this excellent cause should consider yourselves "Heroes for Hope" as well.

Thank you!

John Davidson

jd - Team Polka Dot

p.s. You can view the photos I took through this link:

p.p.s. If you did not have an opportunity to follow the C3 squad during the ride, you can read all of the squad blogs at Remember they are posted in reverse chrono order (most recent posts first). I've posted under the user name JohnD.

You can read my personal entries here
The Polka Dot Team (L to R): "Super" Sally Dunn, John Davidson, Jeni Schumacher, Perry Lyles, Ed Hernando, Dawn Williams

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Originally published on the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin blog site.

Team Polka Dot rolled into Austin last night after rocking another century to pass the baton to Team Green. We got really lucky with the weather last night. As we neared the transition with Team Awesome, we ran into a torrent. The lucky part is it lasted less than 10 miles. Team Green was not as lucky as they ended up riding through some horrendous weather for nearly half of their shift. For them it was a serious challenge to ride in those conditions.

We’ve all faced challenges throughout this journey from Greenville to Austin. All teams had a significant challenge with the cold temperatures in the beginning stages. They also had the challenge of long hours with little real sleep (more challenge for some teams than others due to the way the shifts worked out). Some teams were challenged with a climbing stage early in the ride. Most were challenged because they were also dealing with these conditions while riding in the dark.

I was talking to Ed the other day about the challenges presented by this year’s route. He was concerned that if the ride was too challenging, there might be difficulty in recruiting riders for next year. These adverse conditions, besides being difficult for the riders, could also present safety and health issues. This was perhaps his most important thought during the discussion.

During this time of year, it was inevitable that we were going to have some cooler temperatures in the mountains. Ed’s concern was the safety and security of the teams as they moved through this terrain. We were very concerned about Jeni after being pulled from the ride with borderline hypothermia (just to reiterate – she is fine now). Ed was also concerned for the well being of the entire team – we were all feeling the effects of the cold.

This discussion really got me thinking about the challenges we were facing during this journey. That Monday morning ride with the climbing and the cold weather was a significant physical and mental challenge – for me, and I think for just about anyone. I’m very proud that Team Polka Dot made it through those challenges. I think all of the P3C3 crew is proud of the way they were able to persevere through the adverse conditions presented to them during their rides.

As we rode the Natchez trace the following day (through simply incredible riding conditions I might add), I reflected further on how each person responds to a challenge. Everyone is going to respond differently to a specific challenge, and what is a challenge to one person might not be a challenge to another.

Most people in the United States voluntarily put themselves in situations in which they will be challenged. This is a luxury that we are very lucky to have. Unfortunately, there are many who find themselves challenged without having a choice in the matter. Nobody knows who will be diagnosed with cancer next. It seems too many already have been. I just found out about a co-worker who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

When I think about the challenges we have faced on this ride, I realize they don’t compare to the challenges ahead of someone who is diagnosed with cancer. On this ride, I always had the option to get on the bus or in the van. I didn’t have to keep riding. For someone with cancer, they only have one choice and that is to fight.

On this ride there are a number of warriors, a very high number of survivors and the rest have a personal story about someone they know and love who is or has fought the battle against cancer.

What I’ve seen from this P3C3 crew these last days is each person responding to their individual challenges with strength and courage. Collectively, we have responded to the Challenge to Conquer cancer with that same courage and conviction. I’m proud to be involved with this group of excellent people.

jd – Team Polka Dot

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WANTED: The Polka Dot Outlaws!

Originally published on the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin Blog site.

What a beautiful day on the Natchez Trace today. Team Polka Dot started their shift with a great transition from the Pink team who rocked the trace with a super strong ride. The weather for today’s ride was perfect and we had help from both Arthur early in the ride and Bob later in the ride.

The Natchez trace is a very beautiful road and very flat! Team Polka Dot rocked a strong pace for 88 miles before we got pulled over by a Park Ranger! It was unbelievable that the P3C3 crew traveled along the Natchez trace for our 88 miles plus the 90 miles covered by Team Pink, plus however many miles covered by Team White before getting enough attention to warrant a stop by the Park service.

The guy was a nice enough guy, but he started out a little gruff. I think part of it was because the riders thought he was pulling over the bus, so we (ok, it was really Ed) decided to keep riding. The Park Ranger had to get on his PA system to tell us to pull over. It surprised the heck out of Jeni, so she stopped while the rest of us continued to ride on. By the time the rest of us stopped, He had to yell at Jeni to “Come up here!”.

First thing he asked was if we had a permit! A permit? We don’t need no stinkin’ permit (do we?????). He was mostly concerned by the fact that we were using both a front and rear support vehicle. His concern was that we were entering a very high traffic zone and the folks headed in our direction would not be able to pass with the very high volume of traffic that would be making their evening commute along the trace.

Mr Park Ranger’s first suggestion was that we pull over and stop until the evening commute was over. Team Polka Dot would not let this happen – that is when we started asking what we could do. Of course, as riders, we were primarily concerned about keeping the wheels rolling. He explained to us that we could (against his better judgment) continue riding, but we would have to send the support vehicles forward and leapfrog with them from stop to stop. There was two pull outs nearby – one at 6 miles and one at 13 miles.

He had stopped us at about 445pm and we were scheduled to hand off to Team Awesome (aka Team Green) at 6pm. We were hoping that we would be able to get at least 110 miles in during this shift, but he put a bit of a damper on that goal. We stopped for about 15 minutes dealing with Johnny Law, so we considered the turnoff at 13 miles to be a possible transition area.

Dawn and the Hincapie Bus rolled to the 13 mile turnoff while Sally drove the van to the 6 mile turnoff. We had plenty of time left in our shift when we passed Sally, so we continued to rock on towards the 13 mile turnoff.

Traffic was definitely getting heavy – thankfully most of it in the opposite direction. This did seem to work against us a little as it did make passing us more difficult for those traveling in our direction. We picked the pace back up a little because it’s just what we do.

We pulled into the 13 mile turnoff at about 540pm. We had a choice it seemed – another 10 miles or another 5 (maybe 6) before the next good opportunity for transition. 10 miles in 20 minutes wasn’t going to happen, so we opted for the 5-6 miles. We kicked it up again and did our best to make good time to the transition area.

When we pulled in, we were obviously pleased to see Team Awesome (aka Team Green) getting suited up for their ride. Team Polka Dot rocked 105 miles along the Natchez trace today.

With the strong results from each team on the Natchez trace, plus our good showing, we made up some miles to get closer to our planned itinerary. Seeing Bo’s facebook post, it looks like Team Awesome rocked a century (plus?) as well, so that puts us right back on schedule. AWESOME!!!

Thanks to Sally and Dawn for all of their excellent Support. They are really taking care of us as we make this journey.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Team Polka Dot earns their Dots!

Originally published in the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin blog site.

Team Polka dot rode the first 6 hour shift of the Challenge to Conquer cancer today. We transitioned from the Pink Team who had done a great job in some very cold conditions. They looked relieved to be able to get into some warmth. We (as a group) are slightly behind the planned itinerary, so we actually transitioned about 14 miles outside of Dayton, Tn. This shift was our big climbing shift. Team Green had their climbs yesterday; today it was our turn to earn our Dots.

The ‘planned’ itinerary called for the transition to be in Dayton, Tn, but we’re glad it was not. As cold as it was, we needed that ‘extra’ 14 miles to just start to warm up our muscles – unfortunately, our hands, feet and faces didn’t necessarily get all that warm. We pulled through Dayton and the Bus stopped for fuel. Sally and Team Polka Dot continued up the climb. This was the first of three climbs for us today. In fact, this shift is what we have been training for when we did all of those Paris Mt repeats over the last couple of months!

As we made our first ascent, the sun was starting to rise. What an amazing site to see that orange line forming on the horizon. Unfortunately, the temperature was not rising with the sun (not yet anyway). The climb was awesome (hey, I love climbing, so no matter what, I’m going to have positive thoughts about any climb)! It was the longest of the three and we gained something on the order of 1000’. It wasn’t really over at the top of the main climb – we had some great rollers as we crossed the plateau.

The sun was up as we rode those rollers, but still, the temperature was working against us. As we started our descent, we were rewarded with incredible views of the valley below socked in with fog. Awesome. By the time I thought about getting my camera out to snap a photo, the views were obscured by trees. I think Keith may have snapped some good photos.

The descent was brutal. I actually love descending as much as I love climbing, however, this descent was just not fun. My hands became little bricks that just could not work the brakes. I pulled a gap on the rest of the crew because of it. Ed was not far behind, so we stopped before we descended into the fog. He was frozen as well and he looked like he was not happy.

Shortly, Jeni and Perry pulled up, and a few minutes later we started rolling again. I looked back to check for everyone, and Jeni was not to be seen. I asked Perry what was up and he told me she had gotten on the bus. I was worried, but knew she was in good hands with Keith, Rueben and Dawn.

We stopped just a short ways up the road at a McDonald’s to allow everyone a chance to re-gain some blood flow. Ed and Perry climbed into the van, while I paced in circles around the van. It turned into quite a long stop. I checked once on Jeni and was told she was ok, just very cold.

I was looking at our mileage on the day so far – we had covered only about 25 miles in about 2.5 hours. Then we took this quite long warming break. I was very concerned that we weren’t going to get 50 miles on the day. We had a lot of climbing left to go.

After some hot chocolate and more heater time, Perry, Ed and myself re-started our trek. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I saw that Jeni was still shaking terribly – this after more than 30 minutes in a heated environment with dry clothing and blankets – She was obviously borderline hypothermic. I am so happy she and the Medics made the choice to put her in the bus. She now was riding with Sally in our support van.

So, the remaining members of Team Polka Dot tackled the second climb of the day on their own, with Jeni ‘holla’ing encouragement through the radio to the team. I did my best to relay that encouragement to Perry and Ed.

We pushed pretty hard up this second climb. It too was something close to 1000’ elevation gain, but not as long or as much as the first climb. We stayed together throughout the climb and pulled to the side at the top of the main climb to allow the traffic to pass. We were all feeling pretty good at that point and like the first climb, this one rewarded us with several miles of rollers before making the 2nd descent. Thankfully, the temperatures were coming up and this second descent was not quite brutal – just tough and again, that is due to the cold.

A short stop at the base of the descent to allow more cars to pass and we began the third climb of the day. Authur had gotten suited up and joined us for this next part of the ride. Really cool that we have been able to share our stages with both Bob and Arthur – the mechanics from The Great Escape in Greenville.

Arthur helped in pacins us up the climb, but we were definitely slower on this climb than the last. Team Polka Dot was beginning to feel the effects of the ride. Once again, at the summit, we entered a series of rolling hills through some incredibly beautiful countryside. We set ourselves up in a paceline and started knocking out some miles.

Arthur helped out greatly by giving us some great pulls to allow the three of us some recovery time. On the radio, I could hear Sally and the Bus talking about our transition with the Green team. I was a little concerned when I heard that they were still quite a ways behind us at 1140am.

We discussed our plan of action should they not make it to the transition point on time. I chatted with Perry and Ed. Ed said ‘I’m spent’. Perry and I talked about letting Ed get on the bus while he and I continued, but Keith put his foot down; “If Ed is spent, everyone is stopping”.

Turns out we needn’t have worried. Team Green came flying by us at about 1150 to set up the transition area. They were a sight for sore …. legs? Yes, we were very happy to see them. They moved forward a few miles and we continued our ride. We met them at a local grocery store and handed off the baton.

That was our 2nd Stage experience. I really want to say Thanks to all of the other teams for doing such a great job through the night. It was rough conditions and you all showed your strength.

One other comment that I think is important. Seeing Scott’s bike on the roof of the support van really does make a big difference. I didn’t know him, but the outpouring of support for him and his family by this group of incredible people is very heartwarming. Having his daughter escort and his Father ride his bike the first few miles at the head of the P3C3 peloton was a very emotional experience.

RideStrong P3C3!!!

JD – Team Polka Dot

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Let the journey begin

Originally published on the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin blog site.

Those emotions I was talking about… somehow, I was able to keep control of them as we departed from GHS Cancer Center this afternoon. I was deeply honored by many of my friends who came to see us off this afternoon. As the riders lined up with the warriors in the front, followed by the survivors and then the rest of us, I actually got a little choked up. I struggled to keep tears from forming in my eyes.

As we rode away, through the lines of friends and family who came to show their support, those emotions came on very strong. What did I say – repeated exposure is going to teach me how to understand and deal with these emotions. There is no problem there – they keep coming up.

I was very bummed that I didn’t have enough time to get a photo with one of my warriors. I only met him today for the very first time – He’s a cute little guy only 8 years old. I think he liked that his name was on both my arm warmer and our team van. He wanted to take the magnet with him. It was very touching.

I hoped to spend more time with my friends who came to see me off. I’m not even sure I was able to thank all of them. Time rushes by so quickly – both in life and in this journey on which we have embarked. Thanks to Yukie for the chocolate chip cookies, to Silvia, Elise, Steve, Hoot and Janet, Gavin, Courtney, Debbie, James, Savannah – you guys made our departure very special for me today. Sometimes I forget how many friends I really have. Thanks for reminding me.

Special Thank you to Gavin for the excellent surprise we found in the team van when we got off the bikes – you’re the man. Perry says the 2nd tuesday of February will now be considered a national holiday to Celebrate GAFranks day.

Our first shift on the bike was pretty interesting. We had to stop many times to allow traffic to pass while we traveled along Hwy 88 and we got a little turned around during our tour of the Clemson campus. As we turned on to Hwy 76, the wind seemed to kick up a little.

Thanks to Bob Kramer for riding along with Team Polka Dot today. He pulled us along at a great pace for a good number of miles.

We traveled a little over 47 miles in our first 3 hour shift. That is about what our route planners mapped out for us, so we met our goal. I thought it would have been easier to cover more miles. It’s the stops that kill our average pace. We’ll have to continue to work on that.

Tonight we are headed to Cleveland, Tn to find a hotel. Tomorrow starts the first of our 6 hour shifts. We’ll ride from 6am to noon. I think it’s going to be cold in the morning, so I’ll definitely be bundled up.

Good luck to all of the teams out there tonight – Yellow, White, Pink, and Green.

jd Team Polka Dot

The Journey

Originally published on the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin blog site.

Here we are, just hours away from our departure. Like others, my bags are packed, the bike is ready (almost – have to mount my new tires), the bills are paid, the neighbor is going to keep an eye on my cats and my house. There isn’t much left for me to do before I head over to meet everyone at the Cancer Center.

I am amazed at the journey the peeps of P3C3 have taken me on so far and I am excited and scared about where this journey is going to take me next. Already I am an emotional mess. I’m afraid of how these emotions are going to be exposed over the course of the next week. But I’m excited because this is the type of journey of which I am in need.

It is never easy to put myself outside of my comfort zone, but some things I can handle better than others. Being outside of my physical comfort zone (pick an extreme adventure sport or activity) will always surge the adrenaline, but I know how that feels. I know what to expect and I know how my body and mind will react to it.

It’s the emotional comfort zone I have never really ventured far beyond.

I don’t know what compassion is really supposed to feel like. I don’t know the real meaning of pain or suffering. I thought pain was humping a rucksack through the mountains or swamps (or both) for days and nights on end.

I think I’m starting to get it. Talking with a survivor the other day I could see the pain and suffering in her eyes as she described to me what she went through during her diagnosis and treatment. There were emotions rushing around in me that I’m not completely familiar with. I was uncomfortable with these emotions, but I tried to grasp what effect they were having on my mind and body.

This is how I’m going to learn about these emotions – the same way I learned to deal with the physical and emotional sensations that had once lain beyond my physical comfort zone: Repeated exposure.

This terrifies me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Follow the P3C3 team on their ride to Austin!

This is my last post on my personal blog until I return from the Challenge to Conquer cancer. I'll be leaving on Sunday at 3pm for this incredible adventure. Please follow the P3C3 squad on the squad blog site

Are we ready?

Originally published on the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin blog site.

Today was a pretty fun day. I took the day off from work to help with the van shuttle. Seven of us went down to Atlanta to pick up the vans this morning and many people showed up to help out with final prep of the vans.
It was a long day, but very fun. I was able to get to know my fellow riders and support people a little better on the ride down.

The excitement in the air was thick as we got the vans ready for departure. Stickers on the vans to identify team names, magnets in remembrance of those who are gone from us and of those who are survivors and installation of roof racks.

Putting the magnets on the vans really brought home the reason why we are doing this thing. Seeing the names of those people who are remembered by their loved ones was really incredible. I brought home some magnets so I can remember those people for whom I ride as well. I’ll post them on the Team Polka Dot van on Sunday.
Everyone was a little wired because of the taper, but the energy was just incredible. This is going to be a great adventure, and yes, we are ready.

jd – team polka dot

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I think I'm in denial...

Originally posted on the Palmetto Peloton Project's Ride to Austin blog site.

I have spent many years avoiding serious emotional expression. I have insulated myself against almost anything. Almost any event that happens, I have found a way to shield myself from the real emotional effects of it. Nothing really gets to me….at least until I got involved with the Challenge to Conquer cancer.

When I began, it was another grand adventure – with a pretty serious commitment to raise some money for this cause. As I sit here tonight, just 5 days before we make our departure, it has become something else.

I don’t have anyone who is very close to me that has experienced the horrible effects of cancer or treatments related to cancer. I sit in my little insulated world without any real clue how difficult it is for those engaged in the battle and the loved ones of those engaged.

What has changed? Obviously, this experience has directly exposed me to people who are survivors, to people who are currently battling and to those who have lost a loved one.

Still, I find myself avoiding the real emotional expression of what I am seeing around me. In the last several weeks, a number of emails have circulated amongst the P3C3 crew about warriors who have fought their final battle and of others who have been called to fight again.

I’m afraid of the emotions associated with this news.

I want to believe that everyone in the world has it as good as I do. I want to believe that cancer doesn’t really affect as many people as it really does. I want to believe that people don’t really suffer through their battles…

Obviously, I’m still not coming face to face with reality. I am still in the denial phase of my relationship with cancer. I’m still afraid of the reality of it.

I only hope I am as strong as our Warriors when it comes time for me to face the reality.

jd – team polka dot

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Less than a week to go!

Wow, who would have believed how quickly the last few months would pass. It was less than 3 months ago I promised to become a fundraiser and rider for the Challenge to Conquer Cancer. At the time, I was quite terrified of the prospect of raising $5000 in support of the Palmetto Peloton Project. I can still hear Jeni's advice - Ask everyone!. I did, I asked people I knew, I asked people I didn't know, I asked people I met for the very first time. Many of them responded in a very positive fashion. So positive in fact that I am much closer to my goal than I ever thought I would get in such a short time. I still have some fundraising to do, but I'm close.

What's left is some last minute fundraising followed by the final preparations and the ride. I am unbelievably excited about this little adventure. I've met some really awesome people, and done some really great rides. I'm glad to be heading into the main event feeling well prepared both physically and mentally.

The past week and this weekend was the big taper. We did some good rides even if they weren't of the same length or intensity. Tuesday we met a little early to get the long country loop before it got dark. I had a good time taking Taylor and Gavin to school as we rode perimeter road back to the parking area.

Thursday we rode out of Heritage park. I feel a little guilty about this ride, but not terribly so. The plan was to ride out at a moderate pace, then kick it up on the way back. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but Danielle went off the front, and that set in motion a series of events that ended with me and Perry putting a major hammer down for a pretty nice run to a stop sign.

I had just rejoined the group (after a nature break) when I saw Danielle off the front of the group. Nobody was chasing, so I didn't really think anything about it right away. I was paying attention when Jeni split the two guys leading the pack (later she said they were debating whether to reel Danielle in or not) and start bridging. Not to my surprise, Perry broke from the pack, followed by Taylor, a guy in Timkin kit and Ray (another of my P3C3 buddies). When I saw Ray break from the pack, I decided I would go ahead as well. I broke ranks from the back of the pack, and pushed hard to bridge. As I was approaching the breakaway group, I saw that Jeni had made the bridge and had pulled in behind Danielle. Perry and Taylor also pulled in behind Jeni.

The Timkin guy was another story. He might have made a brief attempt at letting up, but he pulled around the breakaway group and set off at a pretty good pace. Perry reacted quickly and I let my momentum carry me right into his draft. Taylor pulled out with us and held our wheel for a little while. It wasn't long before Mr. Timkin started to let up. Perry then took the lead, and I stayed on his wheel. See, I am learning something - I know how strong Perry is, so I'm going to let him do whatever work he wants to do. I held his wheel until I sensed him letting up slightly.

When I knew he had done what he could do out front, I pulled around and called to him "tuck in here Perry, Let's go!". He grabbed my wheel, and we continued to hammer. I could tell he was hurting by the sounds he was making. I was pretty surprised as I have never known him to display weakness! I kept yelling at him to keep it up as we powered along the road. We saw the approaching stop sign and he kicked into sprint mode. He came up beside me and I continued to yell at him - I was trying my best to provoke him. "You think you got something??" I yelled as I stepped up my cadence to hold his pace. We came across the line together and let up to coast in for the stop. It was a great time. I think the other riders in the group were marking us a little as there was some great friendly competition out there that night. I think we did somewhere around 28-30 miles.

Saturday was the last 'long' training ride for the P3C3 group before we head out next Sunday. We did the 'Sticky Bun Run' from Furman up to the Bakery in Saluda. I was a little concerned about the weather as the forecast called for 60% chance of thunderstorms throughout the day. We started out with a few sprinkles, but that was the worst we got.

After we crossed Hwy 25 in Travelers Rest, we were treated to an incredible sunrise. The sky appeared to be on fire. Plenty of clouds in the sky, but they were clearing out and the sun was reflecting off the clouds. Obviously my words do it absolutely no justice at all. I pulled out my camera to snap a photo and wouldn't you know it, the battery was dead and I didn't have my spare with me! No pictures except what I snapped in my head! It was beautiful.

We did the traditional Furman to Saluda route. This did not include any of the optional climbs. The highlight of this ride was the climb up the watershed. Not a terribly hard climb at all. It is sustained and that is what makes it difficult. It can basically be split into three separate climbs - Dividing Waters road, Old Hwy 25 and Saluda Road.

In this group we rode with on Saturday, I am the strongest climber. There are some very strong riders, but something about climbing gets me really pumped and I can ride a pretty strong pace. There was a guy who I had not met before riding with us that day. I wasn't sure what kind of a rider he was, so I had my eye on him. I know Perry, Jeni and Megan, I know Taylor and Bo, Nathan was an unknown. As we climbed dividing waters road, I found Taylor and Nathan riding right up front with me. It was interesting to see how it played out, but more interesting would be the climb up Old hwy 25.

As we turned right off of Dividing Waters, Perry and I were giving tips to Taylor - it was his first time up this climb so we were trying to share our experiences with him. He set out pretty strong and actually led for a while. I took a few minutes to find my pace and let him do whatever he wanted. It wasn't long before I came around him and took the lead. I could hear someone behind me, but I was getting lost in my little climbing rhythm and tried to ignore them. I wasn't sure who it was, but I did suspect it to be one of five people - Jeni, Perry, Taylor, Bo or Nathan. In fact, I wasn't sure that it was only one person. I wasn't going to let it effect my pace though, I just kept my cadence.

There is a section on Old Hwy 25 where you can start to open it up a little. I suspect that this is where we dropped Taylor. I pulled the little breakaway for a while before I decided to see who I was dealing with. I pulled to the left and signaled them to come around. It was only Nathan, so I pulled in behind him to take advantage of whatever opportunity I could get from his draft. He kept a pretty good pace and seemed to be pretty strong during that faster section.

As the grade increased, I saw the chink in his armor. He was a pretty good climber, but I could tell I was stronger. All the riding I have been doing this year has really paid off. I came around him as we approached what I'll call the switchbacks. These aren't really switchbacks in the classic sense, but they are the closest you'll find on this section of Old Hwy 25. Those who know this road will know where I'm talking about. The grade increases as you approach these turns.

It's probably less than a mile to the intersection of Saluda Road once you get through these turns. I know this and I also know that the climbing is done about a half mile or so before the intersection. As I approached the crest of the rise, I clicked up a couple of gears and started pouring on the power. I had already pulled a gap, but I wanted to open it up as far as possible. I pushed up into the big ring and pushed hard until I crossed the small bridge just before the intersection. It feels really good to feel strong at the top of a nice climb - I felt it on Saturday.

Nathan pulled up shortly behind me. Taylor followed not too long after that. Jeni and Perry were riding together and Jeni decided to continue rolling along. As I remounted my bike, I saw Megan round the final turn before the intersection.

Taylor, Nathan and I played king of the mountain on the next climb as well. This time it was Taylor who crossed the state line behind me. I turned around and rode back down to ride with Perry and Jeni. We rolled together for a while before I got sucked in again by Taylor's obsession with competition ;).

We had a really nice (and pretty long) stop at the Bakery. It was really fun just chatting and listening to the chatter amongst the group. Everyone is really stoked about how close we are to this big event. There are some lingering concerns about meeting the fundraising requirements. I'm not the only one who is still a little short. Others are further than I am. I really hope that we all can make our fundraising goals. We only have one week to go.

If you can help, please visit the donation page and help out this cause by supporting me, or Bo and Nikki Zimmerman. We can all use any support you can give. As I said early in my fundraising efforts, no amount is too small - $5, $10 - whatever you can afford. It all goes to a great cause and helps my friends and I meet our fundraising goals. Without your help, our ride is not possible. Thank you to those who have given and those who will.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A cool experience

I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my last blog entry. After making my descent from Caesar's head - on my way back home I had one of the coolest experiences ever while riding my bike.

I'm not positive which road it was on, but I think it was on a section of Hunt's Bridge Road, just after crossing over Earls Bridge Road (coming from Owings Road). There was a nicer house on the left side of the road, with a large fenced in pasture.

Out in this pasture was a beautiful black horse. Don't ask me any other details except (S)he was really a beautiful horse. (S)he was obviously feeling frisky as (s)he frolicked in the pasture. I'm not sure if (s)he heard me or what, but as I passed by, (s)he galloped toward the road and started running parallel to the fence - which ran parallel to the road. (S)he was as close to me as (s)he could get and keeping pace with me. I sped up a little, (s)he matched my pace. I called out to the horse and made what I perceive as noises a person might make to a horse. Can you tell I'm not a horse person?

(S)he matched my pace for as long as the pasture would allow - probably only about 1/8th of a mile or so, just a few seconds really. As I left the horse behind, I called out "Thanks, that was really cool".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Climbing Solo

Today is a big day. This day marks 2 weeks before our departure. According to our training plan this is the last long mileage / hours weekend before we head out (apparently I was wrong about this last week!). For the next two weeks, we'll be tapering to allow our bodies some recovery time before we really hit it hard.

In the last few days, I've had some great rides. Thursday evening, I met up with Gavin and Perry's son Taylor for a little jaunt up and over Altamont Road on Paris Mountain. It was a very straightforward out and back route that I have ridden numerous times. We did the optional climb on Lake Circle Drive and up to the towers before crossing the summit. It's always fun on the descent down the Furman side. At the bottom I turned around and checked my time. I was well rested and thought it would be a good time to see about a personal best on the ascent.

I quickly passed Gavin and Taylor. I was finding my little climbing zone and they weren't in it. I felt really good going past the water tower. There is a steep(er) section there and sometimes if I'm not feeling it, it drags me down. It didn't this time. In more than one spot I kicked up a gear (in one spot I kicked up several gears) to carry as much speed as I could. I pushed through the wall and checked my time - 13:20. This is my best so far. I'm very pleased about that. Our total mileage for the ride was just over 22 miles.

Yesterday, I decided to start with the Sunshine Bike Shop Hour of Power ride. This is a fun ride that ends up being about 30 miles. Usually, several members of the Piedmont Orthopedic Associates squad shows up to this ride. I never really have had a chance against those guys (in the sprints), but I was interested in pitting myself against them after all this riding I've been doing (it's a relative thing right - how far back from them would I be this time?). Unfortunately for me, they were out enjoying their last big event of the year, so none of them showed.

There was a number of regulars who always turn out a good performance. Most notably, Tyler and Art. Phillippe, A co-worker I had recently met was also there along with about 7 other riders. I was very pleased with this portion of my ride. In the sprint zones, I was right up there with Tyler and Phillippe (who is very strong) and Art. At the rock quarry, Phillippe showed how strong he really is by just motoring away from all of us. We had no chance to catch him.

After the Hour of Power ride, I headed up over Paris Mt again. Just past the CVS, I pulled over to check on a fellow rider and saw that it was my buddy Steve. My plan was not to ride too aggressively, so I decided to ride with him. We tacked on about 23 miles together, then the final 3 I rode home. The total on the day was 56 miles.

Last night, I was looking for someone to ride with, but alas, no-one responded positively. I decided then to go ahead with my plan to climb Caesar's Head. However with one small modification - I would ride directly from home rather than starting from Furman. I thought this would add about 20 miles to the total distance.

The great part about the route I would travel is it included three of my favorite climbs - Altamont Rd from the State Park side, Caesar's Head and Altamont Road from the Furman side. My goal was to just have a fun ride. I knew I wouldn't be setting any personal records as I generally ride a fair bit slower when I am by myself - especially on a longer ride.

I finally got out of the house at about 10 till 8. This was a bit later than I had planned, but the bike did need some maintenance and I had not done that the previous night. It was a great morning, albeit a little cool. I started off with my bib shorts, a jersey, arm warmers and the C3 wind vest. I was a little cool for a lot longer on the ride than I thought I would be. I think I would have been comfortable with my long fingered gloves.

I really enjoyed the ride up the State Park side of Altamont road. I pushed a little, but not near as hard as I have done in the past. I found out it is just about 11 miles to Furman from my house by this route. I didn't actually go onto the campus though, I went straight along New Roe Ford Road.

From there, I pretty much took the route we intended the first time I climbed Caesar's Head. It is really beautiful countryside with very little traffic. I had my new camera, so I had to take some photos to test it out....Ok, I'll have to download additional photos later, but here is the obligatory shot at the state park sign.

I checked my time at the base of the climb so I could see how fast I might climb today. I really wasn't feeling it, but part of that is because I didn't have anyone pushing me up the hill. I was surprised though, I still did the climb in about 45 minutes and 30 seconds. I felt good about that.

I took a break to eat half a clif bar and fill my bottles. Then I re-traced my route back to the house. Once you cross Hwy 11, it really is just rolling hills all the way back to Altamont road, but I was not pushing hard. I know I'll have to do better with my nutrition on the ride to Austin. although I did not bonk, I did put my body in energy conservation mode. I spun to take advantage of any downhill and pull my average speed up, but on the uphills, I really didn't push at all. I just kept clicking down on the gears until I had a nice cadence.

I made it to the Furman side of Altamont road, and I knew I was going to be slow. I was so slow in fact that I added about 50% more time to the personal best I set just a couple of days ago! It was good though, just grinding out the climb with a reasonable respiration rate and I'm sure a reasonable heart rate.

I finished up the ride home and looked at the clock on my cyclocomputer. It showed an elapsed time of 5h50m. It also showed a ride time of 5h8m. That means I spent about 42 minutes stopped. Hmmm, I'll have to improve on that. Finally, it showed a total distance of 75.9 miles. This little experience has shown me that even working together as a team, my Polka-dot team-mates and I are going to have a big challenge to travel significant distances in a 6 hour shift!

However, Bring on the ride! I'm ready!.

2 weeks and counting!

Here it is, Sunday, October 4th and we are two weeks away from our departure date. In fact, as I am sitting here, the clock had just struck 3pm. That is our official departure time on the 18th - at 3pm we will leave from the Greenville Hospital System's Cancer Center. The address to the Cancer Center at Greenville Memorial Hospital is 900 West Faris Rd, Greenville, SC 29605.

I ask that everyone - especially those who have donated to Palmetto Peloton Project's Challenge to Conquer cancer - come out and cheer us on as we make our departure. It is going to be a very high energy event. All of our support vehicles will be there, all of the riders will be fully outfitted in their C3 kit. We expect some television coverage as well. There will be parking designated for those who want to cheer us on. Come a little early and find me and my team and wish us well on our adventure.

At 3pm, the entire squad of 27(ish) riders and 8 or so support vehicles will take off for the first leg of our journey. My team has the first shift and we will ride for 3 hours (3pm-6pm). All of the other teams will pull off after about 3 or 4 miles, pack up their bikes and themselves and do whatever they need to do before their own 3 hour shift begins. The Polka-dot team (my team) will pick up the first 6 hour shift starting at 6am on monday morning the 19th. All shifts from then on will be 6 hour riding shifts with 24 hours before the team resumes with another 6 hour shift.

I'm really getting excited about the trip now. I'm still a little behind on my fundraising, but I am getting closer. To date I am just under $4000! I have 60 people who deserve a very special Thank You. These 60 are the people who have made this possible for me by donating some amount to this great cause.
Your generosity is awesome.

If you are interested in 'watching' our progress and reading about our experiences, there is a special website set up: You can read about the riders and the support people, see where the riding team is currently located and most fun of all, you can read the daily blogs that each team will be writing. I'll do my best to post in both locations, but I encourage you to visit the ride to Austin site to read about all of the experiences.

P.S. There is still time if you would like to make a donation. Please make sure to select my name from the drop down at the top of the page.