Thursday, 30 May 2013

Racing the Storm

Riding along the St. Clair Parkway is beautiful, across the St. Clair River on your right lies Michigan and on your left are hundreds of huge river-front houses. I filled my water bottles, put on sunscreen in preparation for today's extreme heat and began to putter my way along in a headwind to Courtright. 

After about 26 kilometres I turned around, excited for a hard tailwind the whole way home. 
Shortly after turning toward home, I sensed a change in the wind, it had cooled and strengthened. I looked over my shoulder and this is what I saw:

Out of nowhere! I was still over 20 kilometres away from home but, with a strong tailwind and a sudden energy to outrun this storm, I flew home. Lightening flashed as I arrived back in Sarnia. With a mere 4 kilometres to go the storm let loose on me. So much for staying dry! I arrived home soaked to the skin with puddles in my shoes, but refreshed from today's earlier heat. Such is the life of training!

This is what's called "helmet-head"

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Day in the Life...

Four weeks from today I will be arriving in Los Angeles, California to begin my second trip across the continent via bicycle. While writing this I can't help but think of the hours of preparation and training that have gone into this event. I have spent the last nine months training and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it (well, almost).

This past year I lifted weights, attempted to run (yes, I learned running can be fun ... I guess), played floor and ice hockey, did my best to play indoor soccer, and joined a fantastic Cross-Fit group. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cross-Fit, it is essentially a combination of cardio and weight-lifting. It is an intense workout that I has been so incredibly helpful in preparing for this bike trip. It is easy to see personal improvement and, when done in a group setting, can be quite a blast! These fantastic people were instrumental in pushing me to work harder and encouraging me when I wanted to quit (thanks Jordan for leading us!):

The Cross-Fit Crew
Now more about this ride: 81 cyclists will be travelling the entire 6,200 kilometres from Los Angeles to New York City while 136 will join us on sections of the trip. Our route will take us from LA , through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ontario and Quebec to end in New York.

So, what does a typical day look like on a trek such as this? Well, first, I get up around 5:30, dress in my cycling shorts and jersey (this is no easy feat in a small tent with sore muscles, I can tell you!!), pack up my tent and sleeping gear, and put this gear bag by the semi-trailer that hauls our belongings for us. I then eat breakfast, pack my lunch, ensure my bike is road worthy and the tires are still inflated, and be on the road by 6:30.

For the next six to ten hours I will ride about 110 kilometres, stopping for water and rest as needed- either in the towns we pass through or at SAG stops manned by our wonderful volunteers. Once I arrive in camp for the night I track down my gear bag (unpacked from the truck by early arriving cyclists), set up my tent, do some minor bike maintenance, shower, eat a snack, take a nap, read, hang out with friends, nurse sunburns and sore muscles, and eat a wonderful supper. The day ends with our pelaton meeting. Here, we review the day's ride, discuss any accidents or flat tires, and review our ride the next day. We talk through any potential trouble spots along the route- such as busy interstates, tricky turns, or mountains the need to be climbed- and anything else that needs discussing. After pelaton we meet in our small groups and, by 9 PM, most cyclists are snoring away in their tents. Eight and a half hours later, we wake up and repeat.
Our Tent City
Gear Truck
Pace-lining- dangerous, but much more efficient!

SAG Stop
This may sound mundane, but hear me out. I have found that there is nothing more rewarding and relaxing then one's daily worries consisting of nothing more than sleeping, eating, talking, and riding. That is it. That's all. How many of us can claim this as the sum total of our days? I count myself blessed (although terrified) to have the time and physical ability to devote my summer to this fundraising venture.

Now, don't get me wrong, this summer is NOT going to be all fun and games. My body was NOT built to sit on this tiny wedge called a bicycle seat for eight hours a day, nine weeks straight! No matter how hard I train, my muscles will inevitably complain, my butt will cry for relief, my mind will scream at me to stop, and I will not, repeat not, be able to apply enough sunscreen.

And the sunburns just make the tan lines even better!
And this is where all of you come in. Remembering my last trip, I can personally attest to the power of the church community and how necessary their support was to our success. Just a few stories to illustrate:

Riding into a town called York we had a headwind and, not having properly paced myself the day before, I was tired. I had so many kilometres to go and just didn't have the mental energy to battle into the wind for the next six hours. So I prayed, struggling not to cry. And God sent me Jerry. Sweet, retired Jerry. He pulled up behind me, must have noticed I was near my wit's end and said, “just follow me, I'm headed that way anyway.” So I followed him, the whole way into York, drafting in his path, Jerry breaking the head wind for me. I thank God to this day for Jerry.

Over the first four weeks of our trip I had gradually developed severe neck pain to the extent that, if I turned my head even a little, fiery pains would shoot up my neck and down into my arms and back. I cannot describe the pain, and I was miserable. But LaVonne, head cook and member of my small group, would faithfully offer to massage my neck, even after her long day of cooking, menu-planning and shopping. Eventually, with the help and advice of my fellow cyclists, a change in posture gradually eased the pain.

And finally, not because I'm out of stories, but because I fear making this post into a novel, riding into Sombra, Ontario deserves an honourable mention. After weeks cycling through the United States, we enter Canada using the ferry in Sombra. Have you ever been so excited that you could scarcely breathe? Well, I was having trouble breathing! I couldn't wait to get across that river! That welcome into Canada, complete with cupcakes, signs, watermelon, Timmy's coffee (of course) and dozens of smiling faces, was the talk of the group for final days of the trek.

And, for those of you who are wondering, this is Sea to Sea. I'm glad you stuck through to the end of this post and I hope that you will continue to follow this blog as I continue this venture in the weeks to come. Please remember us in your prayers, please pray for opportunities to raise awareness and for our safety as we ride.