Monday, June 24, 2013

LIVESTRONG Davis Challenge Century ride

First things first: I had originally posted portions of the following as a comment Sunday evening just before I crashed for the night. Then on my drive home today I was thinking about it, and realized the day needs more than a comment...it was such a grand day that it deserves a full-on post of it's own. So...I apologize if you had already seen the comment, as a lot of this will be the same, but I am expanding substantially AND adding pictures. With that, I take you to the THE REST OF THE STORY.

I realized I hadn't covered too much on Saturday' events, so here goes. We started gathering in the park around noon, and Team Fatty had our own tent compliments of LIVESTRONG. 
Looking clockwise from the left that's Fatty (checking something on his phone), Rob and Dave, then Greg, David (davidh@marin from the comments at Fatty's), his son Rune, his daughter Sage (you only see the top of her head...SORRY Sage!) and Lisa (aka the Hammer) sitting in the middle. Just a nice afternoon to hang out in the shade, temp is in the low to mid 90's.
Saturday evening was the Awards banquet, which the entire Team Fatty was invited (as we were once again the Team Champion fundraisers). Also David's wife Allison was the Messenger Champion (she had the most individual donors to her fundraising site, over 100). This was the first year we've met Allison, the last 2 years David came down by himself (they live in the Bay area). If you read Fatty's, her 'comment' name is Wife#1, and I must say what a huge pleasure it was to FINALLY meet her! You'll be hearing more about the family later on...it's quite a story!
 Here's Allison getting her award, which was just after she gave a WONDERFUL acceptance speech! 
(it was the best of the night. Seriously!)

 This year rather than have Fatty give a another speech, he was just called up to sit on a stool and chat (and answer questions) from Chris at LIVESTRONG. (btw: Fatty actually won TWO awards again this year, Captain of the Team Champion winners, AND he was also the Individual Champion, 
having earned more $ than any other person).

And here's me after the banquet was officially over, giving my I AM ALSO A WINNER pose.
I don't know why I do that every year...it just feels good.

The weather forecast had changed dramatically just a day or two before the ride. It had originally been forecast for HOT and HUMID, however it had shifted and now called for cooler than usual (OH THANK YOU GOD!)  with the possibility of rain (NOT so good). During the heat of the day it was probably in the low to mid 70's (and it didn't rain) which is a HUGE blessing from the 90's or hotter temps we've had the last 4 years (two at San Jose, 2 in Davis). Yes, this is my FIFTH LIVESTRONG event! Gosh how time flies!

We showed up around 7am on Sunday morning and lined up at the VERY FRONT, due to our status as the Team Champions. There was much picture taking and the announcer-dude (about 15 feet to our left) was a very busy man being as he had a captive audience of ALL 800 or so riders and their families/friends/etc.
 At the start line, from the right (yes, I know I did that backwards) that's Rob (Zeeter), Jeremy, myself, Greg, Steve, and sadly I can't remember the name of the last guy...anybody? I am so ashamed!

 At one point while we were all milling about, I slipped my bike behind Gregs, then pulled out a short piece of rope I had brought along and tied our bikes together (unbeknowst to Greg). I then said rather loudly: "OK, I'm READY to RIDE! He turned around and boy was that a great look on his face!
(Photo credit to Rob, thanks my friend! My shot was badly blurred).

 Not too long before the start. That's Fatty and Lisa on the left, Rob is sitting in the tri-wheel custom rig (he was in a really bad car accident almost exactly 5 years ago, and is currently fighting very hard just to do what we see as very simple things). He and his dad Dave will once again pedal that rig over the 45 mile route, and Amy (his mom/Dave's wife) rides a bike along with them. That's Amy standing to the right of Rob (black hair). They are SUPER awesome and inspiring people to say the least!

The Texas 4000 group then was called to the VERY front (as they always do) and one of them, a young girl named Hillary, sang the National Anthem very admirably. The Texas 4000 (in case you've never heard of it) is a group of University of Texas (Hook-em-HORNS @Austin) students who commit to raising at LEAST $4500 AFTER being put thru the wringer and being selected from all the throngs of kids who submit entry forms. Then they split them into 3 groups (Coastal, Mountains, and new this year: the Ozarks) and they ride their bikes EVERY SINGLE DAY from Austin to Anchorage Alaska (hence the 4000...that's MILES). We meet the new group of them ever year as the Coastal group plans their ride to coincide with Davis. We personally meet and chat with many of them every year, and if ever there were a more inspiring group of young people, well...let's just say that I just can't imagine that's possible! You can Google "Texas 4000" and find all kinds of information, AND you can even follow the groups progress. They finally will all meet up in Whitehorse Alaska and then ride as a huge group from there to Anchorage. It's quite a commitment as you can imagine...takes their entire summer vacation (but WHAT a vacation!).

 Finally a little after 7:30am we are off. Most of the Texas 4000 group pedals off to the side (as they are riding for FUN today, as tomorrow they pedal on to San Francisco and beyond) so the rest of us can FLY. The Fatty train is quickly organized, and in not very much time at all we were again at the very front of the race (officially it's NOT a race but a ride. However, any time there are more than 2 bikes, don't kid yourself...it's a race). I took one short pull at the front and then quickly got back into the line, saving my strength for the LONG day in the saddle that I know was ahead of me. My goal this year was to finish WITH Fatty, Greg, Lisa and anybody else who is able to hang on for the full 95 miles.

Yes, it's a rather lofty goal.
 
 This is the view from the FRONT of 800 cyclists (ok, 798 if you want to be picky). That is Lisa (aka the Hammer) in front of me, and then Fatty on the very front setting the pace. Beyond Fatty it's all open road, 
with what I believe is the police escort still in view.

Around mile 10 we had picked up a few non-Fatties into our paceline, and as I was riding 3rd or 4th wheel, the guy in the very front rode us right over a lovely deep square-edged pot-hole (without pointing it out so the rest of us would NOT hit it, which is his responsibility being the front rider). I was riding about 6" behind Jeremy, focused entirely on his rear wheel (at that speed and following distance you really need to be paying attention to the rider in front of you). I saw him bounce hard, and mere microseconds later I hammered over the hole, which (unbeknownst to me) bounced one of my 2 irreplaceable Fatty Camelback Podium water-bottles right out onto the road (which is pretty dangerous, as everybody else behind me now needs to not only miss the pothole, but also my water bottle which is skittering around on the road). I'm really going to miss that bottle...rats. (By chance does anybody have an extra to sell me?) It was a horribly hard hit on my rear wheel and I was worried (with what turns out to be good reason). Within the next mile my rear tire was going flat. I sadly pulled out of the blazing Fatty Train at mile 11.5, and that was that. I would not see them again until after the finish. Many of our team had already fallen off the blistering early pace, and one of my teammates Leigh Anne kindly stopped to assist with my flat repair (and catch her breath I suspect...the Fatty train was holding between 22 to 26mph thus far, with no sign of slowing down).  After I changed out my tube we took off, with most of the "fast" riders having already gone by.  

Unbelievably, within the next 2 miles it was flat again! I only carry ONE spare tube (Note: I have NEVER-EVER flatted twice on one ride before, and was quite distraught ...I think I said some bad words), but Leigh Anne had again pulled over with me and quickly volunteered her tube (so I didn't have to try to patch my tube on the road. Or maybe it was so she wouldn't have to watch me fling my rear wheel into the field and have a pout-fest). She apparently had been designated as my 2013 LIVESTRONG guardian angel (every year at this ride it seems I have need of help, and every year one of our teammates always steps up). I was quite thankful, as TRYING to patch a tube is not very easy or fun in the best case, and doing it on the side of the road (watching all the REST of the fast people zing on by) would be miserable. I pulled the tire off all the way this time and checked my rim...I was afraid maybe I cracked it with that huge hit...but saw no damage, and also no damage to my tire that I could find...so I pumped up the new tube and off we went. We saw the occasional Fatty here and there, and off and on we would find others interested in either working with us or just taking a rest in our draft....some would hang with us for a while but mostly (for the next 86 miles) we were pretty much alone, which seems hard to believe with 800 riders on the course.

We took turns pulling on the front with the other resting in the draft, and I have to admit there were a few times when she was absolutely destroying me (but being a guy riding with a girl I couldn't say anything and had no choice but suck it up and hang on for dear life, praying she would back the pace down before I passed out). Turns out that many of the guys on the team have similar stories after riding with her in previous years...she is quite strong. In a moment of complete honestly I have to admit here that there was probably NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER that I would have been able to hang onto the Fatty Train to the very end, and looking back in hindsight my flat tire was probably a good thing, as it saved me from utterly destroying myself (like I did LAST year, and the year before that, and the year before that....you get the picture). The 100 miles seems a LOT further when you've burned up ALL your matches early in the ride, believe me.

Everybody knows that the last 80 miles of a century are the hardest! (I read that the other day at Fatty's, don't know his name, but he is the author of the "100 Miles of Nowhere, Where the Winds come sweeping down the plains division" post on 6/21/13). I LOVE THAT LINE...it should be on a T-shirt!)...but thankfully it was cooler than expected, and the wind was manageable. There is one little story I need to share in what otherwise are the boring miles of survival. We were cruising along pushing the best pace we could manage, and had already come out of the hills and were onto the last 30-40 miles where the road is FLAT and LONG, with an occasional 90 degree turn where all you see is more FLAT and LONG road in front of you, and the wind constantly shifts directions. I was in front taking a long pull into the headwind when Leigh Anne says she recognized the rider ahead (just a few hundred yards)...it was a woman she had met earlier but didn't catch her name, and she asked if I could find that out when we catch her. I put my head down and put some real effort into it. We were gaining on her by seemingly INCHES at a time. In what seemed like FOREVER I finally managed to cross the gap and pull alongside her, and it turns out she was much older than I am (just guessing of course, but she had a nice  head of silver hair peeking out of her helmet)...and she was a rather tiny thing..I'm betting she couldn't have weighed more than 100-110lbs. She then jokingly said "what took you so long? I heard you back there and slowed down for you". We all got quite a kick out of that...but secretly what was left of my self-esteem just poured right out onto the road like a cup of spilled milk, as this little 'older' lady was crushing me. 

Turns out her name was Janet, and she is now a hero of mine. I rode alongside for just a minute or so chatting, then dropped in behind into her draft to recover some (YES. I was now drafting on the little 'older' lady...hey...give me a break, she was killing us!). Soon after that two guys came up and by us rather quickly. Janet instantly jumped out of the saddle and hammered her way onto their wheel, leaving me fighting hard to catch onto that little train. It almost killed me but I pulled us across, but then the guy in front accelerated even more. I held it as long as I could and finally told Leigh Ann there was no way I could hold that pace, and she said she couldn't either so we dropped off, once again on our own. Not too much further there was another 90 degree turn, and the guy in front (who had pulled away from the other guy and Janet) , slowed and waited. After we had all made the turn he lit it up once again, and I said "NO WAY we're falling for THAT again!" and let him go. They quickly put some distance on us, but a little while later I could see they were slowing down...we had almost caught up with them when they all pulled into a SAG stop. At this point I think we were at about mile 85 and had no need of a stop, so we kept going. And that was the last we saw of Janet.

The remaining miles went by pretty quick...you start to regain some energy when you can see the Davis water tower in the distance off to our left. As we were nearing the end we were chuckling at our "87th wind" (we each had been taking long pulls in front and then long drafts in the back to recover...each time you get back in front you suddenly have ANOTHER '2nd wind'). 

And finally we are back inside Davis and the closing mile or so inside the town where you are protected from the wind by trees and buildings, and there are police waving you thru all the stop-signs and stop-lights. FINALLY we make the turn onto the final 600 yard (or so) finishing straight that goes right back under the start/finish line. The announcer-man on the right of the finish line has a display unit telling him who we are (we all have little chips on our bikes and there are sensor units laid out on the road throughout the course...we passed over the final one a few hundred yards from the finish so that's how announcer-man sees who is coming up to the finish).  He makes a big deal to the crowd of EVERY finisher, announcing your names in his booming voice, and people are clanging cowbells and cheering for every single person. It's a real feel-good moment for sure, and all cancer survivors swing off to the right side where they are given a yellow rose. We soft pedaled thru on the left side, and finished with a riding time of right around 5:30, with an elapsed time of right at 6 hours (that includes all the stops including my 2 flat tires). It would have been an entirely different story here if Leigh Anne hadn't stopped back at mile 11...she really saved me from a rather sad day on the road.

And back at the ranch, Greg, Fatty, Lisa, Jeremy and a few others came across the finish line under 5 hours ELAPSED time, with just UNDER 4:30 of actual ride time (which is an incredible time for sure!) After we finished we were sitting around under our little tent eating pie (compliments of David H every year), chips and salsa (compliments of Amanda) and whatever else we could find, and just enjoying the company. Every so often another Fatty finisher would come over and would regale us with their story. Around 2:30pm or so Fatty and Lisa had to jet (literally, as they had to fly back to Utah). David H and family (I mentioned them earlier: David, Allison, Sage and Rune) were ALL riding the full century. Sage is 12 years old (this is a correction, I originally mis-stated that she was 13...sorry Sage!), and Rune is 9. There is a time cutoff at 4pm (after that they pull you off the course. This is also a correction, I originally thought it was 5pm) so they realized they'd never make that finish if they started with the rest of us at 7:30, so they were out on the course (making them the FIRST people to start) around 5:40am. Allison said they were the FIRST people to use the port-O-potties at the first few SAG stops, which is an amazing gift for sure! The Fatty train had passed them around mile 35, and we passed them at mile 50. They were looking pretty good at that point...I had already gone by and then Sage flew on by me in a little 'you can't pass me' sprint-thing...it was SO cool! Here at the half-way point was the entire Houston family riding a century together. (Oh..and David was riding his forty-something pound tandem bike with NO 2nd person, Allison was riding a 'cross' bike with off-road knobby tires, and the kids were both riding bikes that must have weighed at least 30 pounds...which really makes me feel rather pathetic thinking about ANY complaints I might have had during the ride). 

ANYWAY....around 3:30pm Jeremy (who had an App on his phone so he could see the data from the little bike sensors)...told us that they had just passed the 90 mile mark (the century was actually only 95 miles)...so we knew they were now very close to finishing. We all went up to the finish line, and Greg read my mind and beat me up to the announcer-man and gave him all the info on this incredible family so he could make a big deal when they came across the line (which he did)...So we were all there at the finish line and along with a LOT of other people, and raised quite a ruckus as they passed. Allison told me their ride time was 8:27, with an elapsed time of 9:53 (all SUPER AWESOME!!!!)

Here's the link to my youtube video of them coming across the line (this was my FIRST ever youtube btw):

Houston family finishes 2013 LIVESTRONG Century

And here is the triumphant Houston family posing for the press! That's Sage, Rune, Allison and David.
And just so you know, they are the NICEST people you could ever hope to meet!
Our Fatty-Family is CHOCK FULL of people like this! That's what really makes all this so special!

 After the ride we all showered and changed, and then along with the Houston family, our new friends Jason and Amanda and their son (all new to the Fatty family this year), Rob, Greg and I all went out for a really nice Italian dinner to put an exclamation point on our wonderful day. We were sadly missing our good friend (and "Sista from another mista') Angie Gibson who couldn't be here with us this year...Angie, we really missed you! Sure hope you come back NEXT year! Poor Greg and I...what were we to do? NOBODY was there to tell us things like what to eat, what to do (at every moment) and in general making nearly all our decisions for us (being guys, we truly NEED this btw). We didn't hear "You're KILLING ME Smalls!" even ONCE this weekend! How utterly SAD for us! Just 2 guys, totally WRACKED with indecision!

And so...like every other LIVESTRONG event we've been to, it's been just a GRAND experience, and I also now have a few more faces to associate with the names of our huge Fatty Family.

And with that, another year of my highly anticipated LIVESTRONG weekend is over once again (boo hoo, It always makes me sad to think about it).

Have a great week!

Cheers!

11 comments:

  1. I am so glad that you had a great weekend, Matt! I know that there were some concerns about the level of support or drop in enthusiasm, and I am glad to hear that that is not the case. Livestrong IS a good organization and should (I hope) come out of this year or two stronger and even more effective, with a clearer message and identity for the general public.

    Now, time for the TOUR DE FRANCE! I am so excited for this year's race! and I have so many riders that I will be cheering for: Evans, of course, and TJ; the whole Garmin team especially Talansky; Greipel for the sprints, and sincerely hoping that Andy, Conta, and even Jacob Fuglsang have found their form (cleanly!)

    I've even got my spare bike up on a trainer with the idea that I will spend SOME of the time pedaling as I watch (we will see, we will see...) I am so far behind on the fitness account, since I have been trapped at home on my days off for the past month due to the kitchen remodeling (and eating too much to relieve stress), that pedaling on the trainer will be a level 9 exertion!

    Rae

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  2. DavidH-Marin, ca.June 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Matt. What an amazing report of a fabulous weekend. I hope that one day I can attempt to hang with the Fatty Train through some portion of this ride. I fear that if I attempted the effort required to hang on for only 10 miles, the remaining 90 would definitely be the hardest ride of my life.

    Thank you for the kind words about my family. I was truly one proud Poppa to see all of them work through the effort to ride such a ride...with a cutoff time. Next year I hope we all see each other again, even stronger. As for Lance, I just want to remember that he did create something positive, LiveSTRONG, and for that I thank him.

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  3. Matt I LOVE this ride report - and I would even if we were not in it at all! What a great story telling there is here and I am still literally laughing out loud at the picture of the bikes tied together. Hilarious! I will quibble with you being an hour off with our finish time (the course actually closed at 4 not 5), but that's only because I am irrationally sensitive about how slow we are amidst the super riders that are all of Team Fatty.

    We cannot wait for next year!!! Our goal will be to start with the whole group and still finish on time. Maybe Sage will even ride the Fatty Train for a bit. That girl can pour it on when she is feeling good! Oh and I think we all agreed that dinner would be on either Greg or Zeeter, right? ;-)

    It was such a pleasure to meet you all.... and get twice as many beers as we had tickets together.

    Allison

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  4. great write up Matt. Really wish we had stayed and hung out and cheered the Houston's coming into the finish. Also sounds like the dinner was fun too. Looking forward to next year.

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    1. Yes Yann, you must stay for dinner next year and we have to go back to Paesano's ... SO good! Sage wants to hang with Isabela soon. I told her we could arrange a "play date" and was severely reprimanded for my choice of verbage. "We hang out mom, we don't have play dates!"

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  5. Hey Matt, thanks for the great write-up, really enjoyed running over the events of the weekend again! Allison - you are on! See you next year and the supper is on me!

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    1. Hey Greg's not here to defend himself, I say he buys next year. :-)

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  6. Matt, as always your LS ride write-ups are inspiring!

    Vive le Tour! Here we go for a wild three week ride. So glad the team has already announced we will be around next year in some form with Trek - yay!

    There is a great special that has been running on Universal. It's called 100 Years of the Tour. Really great old footage of races - pretty well done! Maybe it's running all month. It was on often this week.

    Already heard Phil make a mistage - gave the Belgian national championship to the wrong rider! Drink up!

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    1. I saw that special on NBCSports -- yes it was good, I only wished that they talked a little more about Lemond and his accident, return etc.
      Fascinating to hear more about the great names and rivalries that I have heard but never really knew the details of.

      Yay for Trek! Great to hear that the team is continuing! Also pleased that Blanco has found a sponsor. You know that I have a soft spot for the Dutch teams.

      OH my gosh, drama on the finish line! Is this a secret plot to get Matt Goss the win?

      Rae

      Vive le Tour!

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  7. I felt so bad about your flat, Matt. We ran across those two, who would race out in front, get swept up, spat out the back, then hook back on and repeat, several times. They NEVER pointed anything out and ALWAYS jacked the pace by about 3 mph. I finally just stayed away from them We dropped them after out second stop (at 65 miles) and never saw them again.

    I was lucky this year when Fatty smelled the barn, he dumped both Lisa and I. I think they might not have slowed down if it was just me.

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  8. Great ride report, Matt! I was on your wheel when we hit the square hole, i barely missed your bottle but managed to bounce out 2/3 of my food (and i can't eat the regular bars they provide at the stops, so that was a long, *hungry* ride).

    And i'm the forgotten last guy in the pic up there ;-)

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