Sunday, July 26, 2009
Katz and I stayed together up until the start of the climb and then I got ahead by a little bit. I didn't think I was much of a climber before this race but come to find out I actually enjoy it. I think. We both managed to stay pretty positive throughout the race, instead of cursing the hills as we've done in previous days. We were on day #2 with no rain and the scenery was gorgeous. Especially as we kept going up and up, and oh, up some more the views got better and better. We ended at Independence Mine with a decent size crowd to cheer us on. As I passed over the finish line I pulled out my flag for a little wave and the reward of crossing that finish line was awesome. The view for one thing, but knowing that we had overcome the physical and mental challenges of all 250 miles, the rain, the bugs, the little sleep...we had done it and our race motto of 'Taking Alaska Down One mile at a time' was as apparent as ever. I finished in 3rd but after the race today it's so much more apparent that it's not about the place, but about the finish, and that we both did. There was a short awards ceremony after the finish where I got some flowers and a huge check like you see on TV. To be honest, I felt weird standing up there without Katz. She's the one that got me into this crazy insane adventure and I never would have done it without her. She's the one that helped me get up many a hills and the one who rode by me on those sucky, rainy days. We both won, we really did. I know I'll look back on this in a few years and be amazed at what we accomplished here. We rock. We just do.
We drove back to Anchorage and stopped at the first Starbucks we saw. We were deprived after 8 days without Starbucks. How we did it, I don't know. We have an awards banquet tonight and then our journey back home begins at 1:30am. Through Pheonix and then I'll be off to Chicago and Katz back to CO. We are more than ready to get home, bringing our sore muscles with us.
Right now we are back in the same hotel we started out in 8 days ago. Although the days went slow, and the races even slower, it's crazy to look back and have it be over. Just goes to show that life goes by too quick. Good thing I have these crazy adventures and good friends like Katz to share them with.
So, this is the end of my Alaskan adventure. Thanks for tuning in.
Peace Out Alaska!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Today was a tough ride with 56 miles of what I consider a lot of climbing. 3000 plus feet. From mile 1-45 I was feeling pretty good and then the sore muscles and tired arms started to set in. These long rides are not my favorite and I'm much happier when the rides end before mile 30. Today Katz and I stayed together for the entire race. With the sun out and the perfect riding weather we were having a good time often commenting on how luck we were to be alive and be in Alaska with the ability to ride our bike. It was one of those kind of days.
Other than cursing a few of the hills as they kept coming and coming, we were rocking the race. Around mile 48, the hills stopped being as frequent and there was more rolling hills through to the end. At some point during the race my odometer sensor flew off my bike but Katz said we were going around 40mph, my fastest ever. Since Katz and I had worked together so well, we made a deal that we were going to have a tie for the day. At mile 48 I started to feel a bit off and was struggling to keep up. Katz is able to get more momentum on the downhill so I often fall behind on the descents. I kept us as best I coud and Katz really helped me by pushing me to keep going as hard as I could. We came across the finish line at the same time but Katz held back a little bit so I could catch up to her. A real teammate. So the day's results are Katz and myself: tie for 3rd.
We've got some good laughs as many of the male riders don't like being beat by us girls. TYpically, the men start ahead of us and Katz and I do our best to catch up to them. Today we caught up and passed at least 5 of them. You always get this "ohh, heyy' as you pass on by. Sometimes its a leap frog as they get a little motivation as we cruise by and they pass us a few miles down the road. That's when Katz and I try our hardest to pass them for a 2nd time and stay ahead. It's great fun and us girls rule, obviously.
If you look on the www.sadlersakchallenge.org website the results are incorrect. For some reason, the times of Katz and I are switched around on a number of stages. Going into our toughest and last day, tomorrow, I have a few minutes up on Katz. But with 30 miles and a 4500 foot climb up and over Hatcher pass anything can happen and it's really anybody's race at this point.
We are in Palmer, AK for the evening at the Peak Inn Motel. We checked into our room at the China Buffet next door. Turns out it's better than expected with a big room, fast internet and good cell phone reception but we were a little weary at first. We head to dinner at the Palmer Salvation Army soon. Every town we've been through has been so warm and receptive to us. We all come and invade their town for the night and we've got nothing but a great response. It's been fantastic.
Katz and I keep reminding ourselves that the goal is just to finish. This week has been tough, both physically and mentally, and finishing the race tomorrow will be huge for both of us. It's one of those things that we'll look back on and be amazed that we did it. I can't say either of us are eager to sign up for next year, once just may be enough.
As I said before, both of us will be ready to get home. After tomorrow's race, we have an awards dinner and then our flight leaves at 1:30am Alaska time. Back through Pheonix and finally home in CHicago Monday afternoon. Now that will be a good day.
Friday, July 24, 2009
So, a shorter course it was. We started at 11am and were told we had 18 miles of a few hills but mostly flat before we got to the real climb. Katz and I started off together and for the first 18 miles we helped each other and switched off drafting every 2 miles. I appreciate drafting more then ever now. You get a few good minutes to rest a little, get some food, and take in the scenery. Today, even with the rain, the scenery was beautiful. We were in this winding canyon and there were waterfalls all around. It was gorgeous. A true Alaska moment.
The climbing started around mile 18 but the real serious climbing began at mile 20. By real climbing I mean a 9% incline for 5 miles. Yes, that is steep for those not versed in the incline %.
I was feeling pretty good so I got ahead of Katz and did my best to climb hard. Rain and wind still present, I felt pretty good throughout the whole climb as I watched the odometer creep up oh so slowly. I finally reached the finish in around 3 hours and did my best to get warm and into some dry clothes. There were some locals that came out to watch the race and one mom and her cute daughter had made an awesome sign that I got a picture with. I'll make sure to post it. I'm also posting a picture of the 9% incline but the picture really doesn't do it justice.
I finished a few minutes ahead of Katz and come to find out it was enough to bring me into 3rd place overall, about 8 minutes ahead of Katz. That's the beauty of a stage race, we can flip flop times every day and just see who comes out ahead at the end. But today was a tough one, and I give props to all that finished.
We have much much more climbing to do in the next 2 days so it's really anybody's race. Tomorrow is the longest day at 54 miles and it has a substantial amount of climbing. Then stage 8, the last day is around 30 miles with a 4000 foot climb in there over Hatcher pass. Something to look forward too (sense the sarcasm)
On a good note, the sun does actually shine in Alaska. Of course it waited until after the race to end and while we were driving to the hotel but the big burning ball of gas actually came out for once. There were even a few blue sky patches in there. It was a miracle. And even more of a miracle is that the forecast for tomorrow is cloudy, but no rain. Hallelujah. Cross your fingers it stays that way.
Onto stage 7 tomorrow. Already. The week is going by fast and as fun and challenging as it is I'll be more than ready to go back home once we're done. I'm missing my lovely husband at home.
Peace Out Glennellen!
P.S. The woman in the 2nd picture is Yasuka, our support vehicle driver. The 3rd is me finishing the race and the 4th the female racers lined up before we start. And last, is a picture of the only bear Katz and I hope to hug while we're here.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The race started at 10am and we set off into a wet 38 mile road race. I learned yesterday that the town of Cordova is accessible by only boat or plane and in the actual town there are only 38 miles of road. Today, we rode those 38 miles. I started off and was feeling great, in fact, I felt great almost the whole race. There were some gradual climbs at the beginning that led into a long 15 plus mile flat stretch. I was ahead of Katz until the turn around which was close to mile 27. We worked together for the next 8 or so miles, drafting and giving each other a bit of a break. With 3 miles to go, I fell a bit behind and was working frantically to try and keep up with her. I never caught back up and finished about 20 seconds behind her. She did awesome. In fact, we both did. With an average of 14 mph for 38 miles in these rough conditions we are pretty proud of ourselves. I beat my time from two days ago by a good 30 minutes and the course was 2 miles longer. It was a good day. It was cold and wet at the finish so we hurried back for a shower and some lunch and we feel like a million bucks.. or maybe just a nap.
The town of Cordova is so small and much of the town came out to see the race which was awesome. All along the course we had people cheering for us. Near the end there were a group of guys with cowbells that rang them and ran alongside us for a few seconds. We felt like we were in the Tour de France, riding through the Alps. Only we were in wet and windy Alaska instead.
As the rain came down today I was thinking a lot of Jimi. He was looking down on me today and helped me finish strong. With all this rain I tried to keep thinking of his motto, it is what it is. As much as we may try and do rain dances all night, its not going to stop. I've decided that I don't so much mind the rain and being wet, it's more the cold, especially in the hands. ALl the wind and rain can make them go a bit numb. Nothing like riding and changing gears with hands you can't feel. It's lovely.
Now that we are all showered up, we are going to head into town for some shopping. We are staying at an old salmon cannery right on the water and sleeping in what used to be the quarters for the workers. it's pretty neat. Although better cell/ internet reception would help things a little...
Tomorrow is a busy day. We wake up, get on the ferry early and head to Valdez. At 1pm we start the longest day of riding, at 55 miles. But it's not just a flat 55 miles, as there is an extremely difficult pass we have to go up and over and there is actually a time limit in which we have to do it. When I came I had two goals, one not to come in last, and the other to finish every day on my own. So making the time cut off and not getting picked up by the slow rider van is a good goal.
For now, we get to relax. Until next time...
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Today was an 11 mile time trial along a bike path in Girdwood. Since the path was so narrow we started out fastest to slowest to have minimal passing along the route so I started in 4th, 30 seconds behind Katz. I was feeling great and ended catching Katz around mile 2. We are learning pretty quickly that the time trial is my kind of race and not so much hers. Like hills, I have better luck at the shorter races where Katz is the opposite, and she rocks it on the long rides and climbs, where I struggle. (See yesterday’s blog) Being that this race was only 11 miles I knew I couldn’t make up too much time from yesterday but I was gonna give it a good shot. I passed mile 2 and continued on my way to the turn around at a decent pace. Right before the turn around there was this big hill to go down, just to turn around and go right back up it. Halfway up the hill Sherry, the other female racer, and I passed each other and she yells out, “I just saw a bear on the path, be careful” I’m not going to lie, that freaked me out a little. Until that point I was all about seeing a bear but I got a bit nervous to know that there was one lurking nearby. I think it actually made me go a bit faster to try and get off the course. Come to find out it was a baby bear which is even worse, as I’m sure the mom was just waiting to attack. The rain was coming down so hard making it extremely difficult to see so I doubt I would have seen it if it were right in front of me. I kept thinking I was going to run into it with a friendly bump on my part. What a story that would make, bumping a bear with my bike. Thankfully that didn’t happen. So with no bear sightings to report, I kept going strong and finished in about 55 minutes. I’m not sure how many minutes I finished ahead of Katz but after yesterday, I think I closed the overall time gap between us by a few good minutes.
We got to go back to the hotel to shower before leaving Girdwood which was awesome and we made some time for the gift shop as well.
From the hotel we headed for Whittier and got to go through the longest tunnel in North America. I have no clue how long it is.
So now we are sitting on a ferry crossing over to Cordova on the Prince William Sound. We were told we would see some sea life, but the excitement so far has been sea lions. It was thrilling.
We are in Cordova for two nights, which makes us happy. We don’t have the greatest cell/ internet/ anything service while we are there so there won’t be any pictures but hopefully a blog each night.Tomorrow is another road race, this one 38 miles. We were told it was flat but after looking at the course, it’s definitely not. I think I’ve learned to embrace the rain and after yesterday, I think I can handle the elements. Or at least work with them.
So until tomorrow, Peace Out!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The race started at 10:30 am in Hope, AK. It was a 37 mile road race that was 17 miles down and then back to the start. On the drive from Seward to the start in Hope it was pouring and we were crossing our fingers that it would end before the race started. No such luck.
We got on the bikes around 10:20 for a 10:30 start. At this time it was raining lightly and quite chilly. But due to a delay in course set up the race didn't start until 11 and we were sitting out in the chilly rain.
At 11am we finally set off and the 1st half of the race was a lot of downhill. Right before we started the rain got real heavy and by mile 2 we were all soaked a literally sitting in a puddle of water. Not to mention it was difficult to see the road. As usual, the kneelers took off pretty quick and Katz and I decided to attempt our first drafting experience. The benefit to drafting is that the person in front blocks the wind and pulls you along a bit while you stay close behind on their wheel and get a little bit of a break. We were switching off every few miles and it was awesome. Around mile 10 the rain even started to let up a bit and we were going good and making some good time. There were a few hills and Katz is a better climber than I am so it seemed like she was pulling me up the hills which I felt a little bad about. We decided that at the turn around we would go at it on our own as I didn't want to ride on her wheel and make her do all the work.
At the 17 mile mark we turned and started heading back. Around mile 19, on a hill, Katz got ahead. I was attempting to keep her in my sight in hopes I could catch her but that didn't work out so well. Things were OK until mile 22 or so and then IT started...the howling winds the rain downpour, the hills... and for much of it I was alone, seeing no riders ahead or behind me. I am the first to say that I'm not a fan of being alone, especially in Alaska on a back road. Not to mention that I love crowds as the cheers motivate me. Luckily the support vehicles came by every so often to make sure all was well. But from mile 23 to 36 I was not a happy camper. It was like I had a split personality, ranging from "This is great, I can do this" to "Melissa, what the f--- are you doing here, this sucks, I should quit" and then back to "Wow, Alaska...this is amazing"...and it went on and on all the while the tornado like winds and the rain kept coming. I think I even hoped for a bear attack at some point.. that must have been my low point.
I finally reached the end in 3:08, 13 minutes after Katz and I was spent. The rain was still coming and it was freezing and windy enough to blow Katz's wheelchair down a hill and into a ravine. Luckily she wasn't in it.
Katz rocked the race coming in in under 3 hours. I'll need to work hard if there's any chance of catching her. But my goal was not to come in last, and I think I can make that happen so I'm happy. After today, just finishing this thing will be a miracle.
We got into the car and changed as quick as we could and moved onto our hotel. The hotel is this awesome resort on the mountain side and the hot tub made it that much better. We went to dinner at the CHallenge Alaska ski lodge and the food was awesome. They did a raffle and the guy missing both legs won socks. It was awesome.
Today was one of the most challenging I've had in a long time. Physically and mentally as I'm feeling pretty sore. Already. And it's is only stage 3. I am really starting to wonder what I've gotten myself into..
I'm not too happy about being so pessimistic today as it typically takes a lot to get me that way. But it is what it is, and it's over. Thankfully. And tomorrow is a new day.
Speaking of tomorrow, although there is no chance of the rain ending, its bound to be better than today. It's only an 11 mile time trial, so it should be fine. After the race we get on a ferry and go to Cordova for the next 2 nights. The ferry is supposed to be awesome and the scenery even better. Hopefully there will be a little break in the rain so we can see some of it.
I have n pictures from today, I wasn't really in the mood, but I'll post some from yesterday.
I'm off to bed now. Tomorrow is a new day.
Monday, July 20, 2009
We started off the day with breakfast served at 7am by the Salvation Army in a pkg lot surrounded by the Alaska mtns... can the day start much better than that?
We headed to the race start after bfast which was right underneath a glacier on the mountain side. Glaciers actually look blue if anyone was wondering... I was set to start my time trial at 9:10. This was my fist time trial and for those not in the cycling world here is how it works. Each person starts a minute apart and you go as fast as you can for the set distance, today was 14.5 miles. The goal is to beat the clock and it's even better if you catch the person in front of you. I started first for the women so I had no one to catch but that was OK. I was on my own until about mile 5 when the women kneelers passed me at a pretty speedy pace. Like I said before, they are a bit out of our league... some of the best handcyclist in the world in fact...Katz had started a minute behind me and she passed me around point at mile 6. I kept her in my sight and managed to catch back up and pass her at about mile 10. I held her off until the end but didn't make up the minute I had started ahead of her. The final results were Katz, 3rd and Me, 4th. I had come in 18 seconds slower than her. The 1st and 2nd place kneeling riders were 9 and 12 minutes ahead of us. Um, yeah. They are speedy. The 5th woman Sherry, came in a few minutes behind Katz and I so we were holding a retty respectable 3rd and 4th place. To explain a little further, throughout the week all the riders times are added up and the fastest overall time at the end is the winner. And to add to the course, in true Alaska style we saw a coyote on the course. No bears yet..
We got a quick break for lunch and a little rest before we headed into downtown Seward for the criterium. Like the time trial, this was my first criterium. What it is is a .67 loop that you do 20 times. The top 3 people in each category get bonus pts. For example the 1st place female gets 30 sec taken off of their overall time. The 2nd place, 2o seconds and the 3rd place 10 seconds. Keep reading for better understanding. The clock started and the two kneelers immediately took off leaving us again to 3rd and 4th. The course was a bit hilly with a few good turns in there and I was feeling pretty good. I was having a blast and ended up in 3rd gaining 10 bonus seconds. The 4th and 5th place riders got no bonus. So, this morning I was 18 seconds behind Katz but since I came in 3rd and her 4th, I am now 8 seconds behind her. It's a bit confusing but it works out. The end of the day's results are Katz, 3rd and me 4th, behind by 8 seconds. Its going to be a good race between Katz and I. We are both very competitive people and as much as we want to win on the course, we will both be genuinely happy if the other wins. After all, out goal is to have fun and to finish. So far so good. Plus, we have some pretty sweet looking jerseys. We had some made for the race and love them. Thanks Soldier Ride..:) Look for them in the pictures.
After the criterium we had dinner in the town of Seward and met some of the locals. A town of 3000 located right on the ocean, surrounded by mountains. You can't beat the scenery. The weather was pretty decent all day. A bit wet as it's supposed to be all week but luckily it didn't pour on us, just a little sprinkling and wet roads. Let's hope for no worse tomorrow.
Each of us riders are assigned to a support vehicle. Katz and I were given a team name of Team Diva with our driver Yasuka from Japan. Yasuka doesn't speak much english and we were a bit hesitant at first as she drives us everywhere, helps with our stuff, the course, etc.. and the language barrier was a slight issue. However, she has grown on us and now we LOVE her. She literally runs to get the things we need and helps us with everything and anything and we totally lucked out. We all make quite the team.
We just got back from our nightly 30 min massage. Yes, we learned today that there are massage therapists with us along the trip to work on us every night. We were PUMPED. So to finish the night off, Katz and I went and got outdoor massages, under a canopy, listening to bongo drums, in Alaska. Oh, what a day.
Tomorrow we head to Hope, AK for a 36 mile road race. There is definate climbing but it's not too too bad. If anything today was a bit of a wake up call that this week is going to be a toughy. Today was supposedly the easy day. But what's life without a good challenge...
And lastly, many of the pictures I post will be of Katz and I doing the peace sign. Those are in honor of Jimi in hope that he's smiling down on us. ANd speaking of pictures, the internet connection is a bit spotty, so if there are no pictures it's becasue they wouldn't download.
Time for a shower, then to bed. Good Night.
Love you mom.:)
p.s. Only 1 picture today. I've tried for hours and this is all I get. I'll try more as soon as we get better service..
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Let me just say that Alaska is gorgeous. Even with the rainy, cloudy day, the mountains and the lakes and the green is just beautiful. The weather forecast doesn't look so hot this week but I'm hoping for 1 good day not just for the race, but for the scenery as well.
Katz and I checked into the Seward Lodge and went to our nightly logistics meeting. TOmorrow is both a time trial and a criterium, both which will be a first for me. The time trial is 14 miles starting at 9:10am. Katz starts a minute behind me at 9:11. Then the criterium is 20 .67 laps around the city of Seward starting at 2pm. It will be interesting just given the fact that I've never done either of them. As I've previously written, there are 5 women racers. Two of them are super fast, both Paralympic medalists and ride what's called a kneeler where they kneel as they ride. One is from Germany, the other from the Netherlands. The remaining 3 of us are all from the US and we ride longseats where we ride sitting down with our legs out front. The kneelers are typically much faster but given the experience level, I think they may be faster in either.. My goal is top 4 and for those not so hot with math, that means not last. We'll see how it goes.
Katz and I have been appropriately named Team Diva. There are 39 total racers and all are quite serious as this is a big time handcylcing race for all of us. However, Katz and I are here to have fun and really just to finish. We gave our bikes a kind of once over and called it a night while other are out there meticulously making sure everything is right. We get a good laugh out of ourselves. Makes it more fun.
Tonight at dinner we did learn how to fend off a bear. No joke. Act big and talk to it in a stern voice. "Bear, please don't eat me" Let's hope I don't have to try that.
After dinner we got to get on our bike and make sure everything was A-OK before tomorrow. So far, so good. I was a little worried as my method of traveling with my bike may be a bit, well, ghetto. Instead of a bike case, I use a big roll of saran wrap. But hey, it worked just fine. Hence the Team Diva.
I'll update as much as I can. If you want real results the website www.sadlersakchallenge.org is having close to real time results. We aren't guaranteed cell phone reception and internet access everywhere but I'll do my best.
I'm can't believe Im actually here with day 1 tomorrow. I know I am ready. With all that's happened this past week I haven't been on my bike in 6 days. We'll just consider it a heavy taper... But that being said, this week is for Jimi. All 267 miles.
Well, here we go... Wish me luck.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
After hearing of his death, it makes everything else seem so much less important. Alaska is of course, still on the table, and I leave for that journey this Sat. I know that Jimi would want things to continue and encourage us to keep going. I will ride this race in honor of him and I know he'll be looking down from heaven screaming 'go, go, go' with his trademark shaggy hair and baseball cap. Training has been a plenty and I am ready and will be fine. To all the bear and moose out there; bring it on...
There was a week of backpacking through Olympic National Park. 17 miles of what we thought to be a beginner trail was one of treacherous rock fields, lots of sandy beaches and inclines so steep they needed ladders and ropes. After 17 miles I was amazed by what I had accomplished. My first real hiking experience with a backpack and I had made it. When I got back I wrote to Jimi to tell him of our adventure and I got a one line reply back saying 'Im proud of you'. That made the accomplishment that much sweeter.
Over the 4th of July Dick and I went out to SC to see my family. It's easy to take advantage of what life offers and family and friends until tragedy happens. I knew when I left SC and got to see my new niece and my nephews, my parents and sister that I was a pretty lucky girl. After loosing Jimi, I am beyond lucky to have them here and alive and to have had them around the last 29 years. it is now that I wish I lived closer to see them more and to be more active in their lives.
There have been more 5K's all of which my time has improved. The latest being yesterday in 33 minutes. It was hard. Really hard. I heard the news of Jimi as soon as I finished and was in shock. Yesterday was a day filled with tears and talking to many of my teammates. He is a great man gone much much too soon.
I am heading to CO at some point this week for the memorial service. I think some of the team and I will go out a day early to spend some time together and speak of all the good times we had with him.
To learn more about Jimi follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=102018515921&h=kDIJx&u=1Y-pi&ref=mf
I hope you can all thank your lucky stars to be here and to be surrounded by those you love. Call your parents, hug your family and friends. Life is just too short.
As Jimi often said, Peace Out!