Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The STP 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...Yes Charles Dickens said it best. He described a time in which he lived and he described an epic adventure in my life.The short version: It was wonderful, it was horrible. It was painful and exhilarating. Thing One was incredible and never ceases to amaze me and Cycle Guy is patient and loving and a great cyclist. I learned that prayers are answered in the wind and through other people. And that we really can do hard things.
Day 1: Getting through Seattle was crazy, the roads were pocked and scarred with a life well lived and in desperate need of repair. When riding in a pace line you ride so closely behind each other that it's important to point out things in the road that might get in your way. We became weary in the first 3 miles of pointing this way and that. It was soon over when we turned onto a road along Lake Washington.

Early morning fishermen, Early morning rowers And early morning sunrise Greeted us with bright skies and smiling eyes.

We rode through Ikea District, past a Krusteaz Plant and through many towns some of which I know their names. We came to the first big hill outside Puyallup. It was super long but freshly paved which meant it was smooth and pock free. The hill was long but I set my expectations to "slow and steady wins the race" and made it up without incident. Of course the boys beat me because they like to pound it up the hills but we had agreed beforehand that hills are a personal challenge and we would regroup at the top.

Soon we came to an amazing highway near Nisqually. We got in our little paceline and rode and rode. We stayed around 20 miles an hour for a long time. Usually, 20mph puts a pretty strong breeze in your face but there were times when we had no wind. This was such a weird feeling. Apparently the wind was blowing in the same direction and speed as we were going. I have never felt so free. I think that must be a little bit like a bird feels when he is just soaring with no wing movement. We were literally soaring and it felt like magic.

Every now and then, T1 would say something like, "I like this road." So did I.

When we left that highway we entered a little rail to trail in the Tenino area. It was beautiful. Lined with trees and bushes running parallel to a very busy street but set apart by several feet of trees and brush. That went on for a good 12 miles and then we entered the world of small town Washington again. Stop lights and stop signs but remember this is Washington, the people are friendly and accepting. Besides that, we were only 3... they knew that the next day a good 10,000 people would be cycling through their otherwise quiet world.

There were many times that I felt like it could never be better than "this". I was with two of my favorite people, this would be our last big adventure with Thing 1 before he leaves on his mission, the sun was warm and the wind was cool. It truly was the best of times.That's Mt. Rainier in the background. We had been trying to capture it all day.

Very soon my rear end began telling me that it would really like me to send in a replacement, but as that was not possible I simply ignored it's pleas and just gave it a rest every now and then. Besides that, it is so cool to go into a convenience store and have somebody ask you how far you had ridden that day and casually say, "Oh we've gone about 70 so far and plan on riding 100 today." To the non cyclist you are physical fitness royalty.

I was so happy to see the Welcome to Centralia sign I think I may have let go a "Whoop, whoop!" or maybe it was "Woo Hoo!" Whatever it was it was genuine and filled with joy.

Day 2: At the beginning of the day T1 and I each had one very sore knee. (I know I have said to many of you, "Oh no, cycling is good for the knees". Well on Saturday morning my left knee was begging to differ.) So I went to a local market to buy some athletic tape, I drove slowly through the parking lot trying to figure out if it was open.

A police officer was sitting in his car in the lot and I considered asking him if he knew. Then I thought, that's dumb, why don't you just go check the doors. Since I was just slowly moving throught the lot, by now I had made it to the other side so I decided to go around the corner and back into the parking lot to park.

As soon as I left the parking lot, the lights went on the police car and I was pulling over. "What did I do?" I asked befuddled. He pointed straight across the street from the parking lot exit to a 'One Way' sign and said, "One way street." I hadn't even seen it.

He didn't give me a ticket and told me that yes the store was open. I guess he really did know=]

Saturday was hard. My rear end hurt, my legs hurt, and I was questioning my endurance. T1 was hurting too. We moaned for a few minutes but then remembered that the first 10 miles are often the hardest so we pressed on.

We pressed up hill and down, up hill and down, and sometimes up hill and up some more. But we kept pressing on.
Saturday was the first day of the official ride and we started getting passed by the 'one dayers' within the first 10 miles. K, so you thought I was crazy. These people weren't on mile 10... they were on mile 110... in one day. And they kept pressing on and passing at some amazing rates. I think Cycle Guy would have loved to join them, but he was kind and patient and a great support to his weaker counterparts. It's good he likes us!

The hardest hill of the day was going over the bridge into Oregon. It is steep on both sides with some major connections between sections. They slow you down coming up and they pound your hands and body coming down. But I can say something for them, they didn't beat me! See that? Welcome to Oregon!

From this point we stayed on Highway 30 almost all the way into Portland. Maybe another 40 - 50 miles. Terry joined our line for a while. That was nice. He was a strong rider and just wanted to go a little slower pace for a while and it really does make a difference to ride in a pace line.

You know when you ride in a boat and the water right behind the boat is smooth and clear but the sides of that, the wake is rough? Well it's the same in a line of cyclists. If you ride one behind another the front person takes the brunt of the wind and everyone behind can enjoy the draft or slip stream. So, he joined our line and even took his turn pulling. (being the front man)

Pretty soon we saw a big tree off the side of the road. It's shade was sweetly inviting and we didn't resist. I was in pain. This was mile 70 for the day, 170 total. I was tired and I was hurting. There were times I thought if I got in a wreck I could be done for the day. Don't worry, I'm not suicidal, just a little crazy.

So when CG got a phone call from Dahlia's husband that he was at the next official rest stop and would like to join us we had a new drive. We got back on the bikes knowing that we would have a friend in 7 miles.

Jim was there. He said, "Since my legs are fresh, would it be okay if I took a couple of pulls?" That would be great we thought. We liked having a fourth man before so Cycle G. let him in on our average speeds and he took the lead. We usually switch every 3 minutes and my watch was set to ring at that time. Twice I hollered switch. Once he came back. I think he was just gauging how fast we were really going. He let CG pull for almost a full 3 minutes and then he was back in front and stayed there for a long time.

He was literally an answer to prayer. As he pulled I still hurt, I was still tired but I never had to take the lead and really feel the wind. Gradually we got faster and faster and soon I got a 2nd wind. There were times I wanted to quit, I wanted to cry, I wanted to snuggle up with my Mom in the gold chair in her room. But Jim came along and carried us through the last 30 miles of a very long 2 days.

It seems so much like life. Sometimes we are in the best of times, sometimes we are in the worst of times. I believe that Heavenly Father is aware of them all. The good times and the bad times. He gives us the wind at our backs and He sends angels to carry us through when we really need them. Angels like Jim who step in and help to carry our load whatever it may be. (I'm sad to say that I don't think we got any pictures of Jim. Thank you so so much for coming! You really made a difference.)

T1 was so fresh that pretty soon he was pulling. But not just pulling our line, pulling our line past several others UP hills. He was amazing. I was proud. And pretty soon I couldn't keep up anymore. T1 and Jim took off ahead and CG stayed with me. But guess what? I wasn't that slow! We hooked up with another pace line and stayed with them for quite a while.

Then I saw it: WELCOME TO PORTLAND

Definitely the most beautiful sign I had seen all day.

It was still another 10 miles to city center, and I knew that but I didn't care, we were there. I had made it into the city of my destination and I could ride the last 10 miles. About 5 miles later Thing 1 and Jim ran out from behind a building and joined us for the last leg of the ride.For the last city block huge crowds were gathered cheering for us. That was awesome. I have never been an athlete, I have never been on that side of the cheering and it felt really good. I'm going to be a much better cheerer from now on.

We entered the finish line together. Numbers 309, 310 and 311. Our numbers were even announced on a loud speaker as we crossed the line. And then as we rode into the park and past the barriers I heard my name and there on the other side was one of the best college roommates a person could ever have. Dahlia and her sweet little girls cheering us in.Look what I won! My own stuffed lion from Mike and flowers from Dahlia, Rinzey and Kiley. Just like the winner of the Tour de France. Look at those cute little hands.

Fashionista made us certificates. I will display mine with pride!

I'm so proud of Thing One and I'm proud of Cycle Guy. We did it. We accomplished a great physical feat.

Now I know it's true. I really can do hard things.

15 comments:

Linda said...

Those are wonderful pictures. You did it! Mike looks so proud and T1 looks like, "Yeah, my Mom can do anything." I hope your knee (and butt) feel better very soon. What an accomplishment of a lifetime!

nikki_ty said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm so glad you did it! Are you going to do it again next year? Or maybe I'll ask you in a month or so when you're not sore anymore. :) Have a good week relaxing. (wink wink).

Me and My Family said...

wow! That was great! I am so glad you did it and am sure T1 And CG are too. You made me cry I was so happy for you. You are a wonderful writer and friend of course. I love you Jenny

Tipper said...

Congrats-congrats!! WOW that is an amazing accomplishment-you should be very proud of yourself. And I loved how you compared it to life-the ups and downs-and being carried through the rough spots-very nice.

mike j said...

You were one tough rider. Way to go.

The Old Bag said...

Congratulations! This is huge -- not only your first century, but you decide to do it again the next day. Not many (in spite of all the people on STP) take on a feat like that.

And, it's amazing how needs are filled just when we've had enough challenges on our own!

Larraine said...

Jenny, You are my hero!!! What a woman!!! You are an inspiration to so many of us. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Jenny-Jenny said...

You rock mom dad & T1!8-D

Kaija said...

Wow, you didn't even act sore at Girls' Camp. Impressive. We're all so proud of you!! And that was a wonderful post, by the way. It was very well written.

Bandanamom said...

Wow Jenny! This is amazing! I am so glad you posted the link to your blog on facebook.

I am really glad I found you on the internet again!

Bandanamom said...

I just realized - you won't know me by my blogger name...it's Lezlee.

Jenny86753oh9 said...

Wow! Those are amazing pictures. How in the world did you ride all those miles and STILL take wonderful pictures?! I rode my bike the other day around our block a few times (about 2 miles) and my butt was cramping up something fierce. I'm a pansy and you ARE royalty!

Renee said...

Congratulations! What an adventure!! Thanks for inspiring and sharing your story with the rest of us. I also loved seeing the Northwest in the background. Great job!!

Joy For Your Journey said...

Oh, wow!!! Congratulations!! That was so much fun to read. I loved your application at the end as well. I think there are so many of life's lessons to be learned from your experience. Thanks so much for sharing both in word and in picture!

Good job!!!

Tanielle said...

Way to go!!! You are just awesome!!!:-)