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.

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