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.
JD – Team Polka Dot
2 years ago