I've been through this before: ride a hard double century, feel indestructable in the days following, fail to give my body the hard recovery it secretly craves. After Terrible Two three weeks ago, I didn't do anything overtly stupid; I even scaled back from my normal training. But despite this, after the following weekend, I was simply spent. I suspect allergies had a hand to play in this, as well, but then I think one becomes more sensitive to allergies when the adrenal system is overtaxed. And if double centuries are designed to do anything, it's overtax...
At the start of the Livestrong San Jose, I was pleased with the generous support of donors to my ride. I think it helped I'm matching donations with one of my own to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, to whom I feel a huge debt for their work to preserve the lands which make the region between San Francisco and Santa Cruz such a cycling paradise. So the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Open Space were both beneficiaries of my ride today.
At the ride start the positive feeling from everyone was infectious. This had nothing to do with Lance Armstrong's day job: so he happened to race a bike with an affinity for a particular race in France (little did most of us know what Lance was having what was clearly his worst day in that race in 14 years.) Instead it was all about Lance Armstrong's tremendous work towards raising cancer awareness. Lance came to the brink of death and not only survived but went on to physically thrive as so few people can (no snide remarks about doping: a huge number of enormously talented athletes using similar methods were unable to seriously challenge him during his seven-year reign of the Tour). Had there been a Lance Armstrong Foundation in late 1995 and early 1996, when Lance experienced the first symptoms of his disease, what was a close brush with death could have been a much more straightforward treatment. It's shocking, really, that cancer in a man who's body was his principal asset, an asset exposed to daily care and pampering, went so long undiagnosed.
My only riding the preceding 7 days had been trips of a few miles for simple transportation. One thing I've learned is that when your body calls out for rest in a particular way, you listen. Normally I like to wait before riding again until I feel restless: the feeling I have to ride or else I'll go crazy. I wasn't quite there yet, but compared to the suffering of the cancer patients who are the focus of the ride, I had to be there.
Often, though, you're ready for something before you realize it, and once we were riding, I knew I'd be okay. I stayed near the front during the opening twn miles during which we had a rolling police closure. Finally we hit Shannon Road, the first climb of the day, and although I was relatively close to the front (around 20th) I was still a bit too far back to make the first split. I went over the top solo, but was caight on the descent by Yahoo's Jane Despas and Kevin Klein, and Webcor Alto/Velo's Pete Tapscott. We joined Trek-Livestrong's Ben King and (I think) Julian Kyer. My Roaring Mouse teammate Tyler Swartz also ended up in the group and a few more guys I didn't know.
We went well. I took a few pulls but not too many. My lack of riding for seven days, though, took its toll. As we approached the rest stop at mule 29.5, I decided to stop for some food and drink. The others continued on. They'd go on to stop only once during the 100 mile ride, at the mile 40 rest stop.
But from that stop I was able to enjoy myself a bit more. I liked being able to pause at some of the aid stops along the way and thank the volunteers for their wonderful assistance and cheer. I rode for a bit with Linda Jackson and two Team Tibco supporters, but most of the time I was riding alone. Honestly, though, I didn't feel alone at all. I felt the volunteers (500 in all!) and general spirit of the event supported me the entire day.
The highlight of the route is Metcalf Road, a little brute of a climb which averages 12% over much of its 970 vertical feet. I was a bit discouraged because a Third Pillar rider, who'd been riding with a female teammate, passed me on the climb and definitively dropped me. But approaching the top, a volunteer emptied a water-soaked sponge onto my back, providing an invigorating kick against the warming day and the exposed slopes of Metcalf.
From the summit of Metcalf at mile 75, I got to experience wonderful San Felipe Road for the first time (I'd climbed Metcalf once before). Then it was a matter of penetrating sprawling San Jose. I was surprised some of the busier intersections were still controlled by police. The organization of the ride was simply superb.
A bit of an anticlimax jumping from one traffic light to the next approaching downtown. But this didn't temper the joy of crossing the finish line, 5 hours and 15 minutes after I'd started. Not the most blistering pace, but that wasn't the point. It was in every way a wonderful day, a day to celebrate life and health even in the sobering face of so much sickness and death.
So thanks again to all of my supporters. And I encourage more people to consider this ride in years to come. I really hope the issues between Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis don't hurt the wonderful work the Foundation is doing. It's a breath of fresh air in the fight against cancer, one that was sorely needed, and they have plenty of work left to do.