Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Riding for Jake


I was excited this morning because I wanted to take a page out of the book of my friends doing the 4K for Cancer ride across the United States. Each day these 90 young people write the name of a cancer patient or survivor or someone who has lost the battle on their calves. I had my son-in-law, Bryan Snow, write the name of Jake Grecco, a true super hero, on my calves.

Just 8 years old and battling brain cancer, Jake has taken chemo, radiation, and even brain surgery in stride. Weakened by my lengthy rides, I felt energized today riding with Jake's name on my calves.

I arranged to meet with old friend and co-worker, John Dockins, in front of the Trek Tent, and we rolled out at 7:30 a.m. On the road he started to hammer it although we settled into a good pace (which means we passed everybody) but we were joined by two others. For the first 15 miles four of us worked together in the heavy winds, which would be present all day.

Following a tractor. You know, we go the same speed
as a tractor but nobody yells or throws things at a tractor.

We had caught a tractor pulling some machinery at 20-22 mph. Perfect. We pulled in behind him and he created the perfect wind block. We rode in his draft for about two miles before he turned off. Rest Stop #1 was at the Summit Point Raceway. It was pretty cool. Some riders took to the race track for extra miles.

Rest Stop at Summit Point

Rolling out of the rest stop, we formed a new group with some men and women and hammered home with them. After the second rest stop, it got real funky.

Almost from the start today my legs hadn't recovered. I thought my body was weakening having ridden 300 miles in three days.

John took off from Rest Stop #2 dropping me. I was never more than 50-100 meters behind him but there the two of us went, passing everyone along the way, John, followed by me, trailing 50-100 meters later. The wind was very heavy and John seemed stronger cutting through the wind than I did. I chased for six miles, never pulling him back but never closing the gap. And I was getting pissed.

I wondered what he was thinking and later he said he thought I had dropped back to talk to some people and would catch him when I wanted to. I wasn't buying that. In this wind he was stronger.

John Dockins, Barry Sherry

Although the two of us had been passing people for six miles, I was going nowhere until I was passed by two riders. That quickly became three when I jumped on their wheels. Perfect. 

It was the perfect tow back up to John. As we got ready to pass him I tried to sneak past without him seeing me. But he did and he jumped on and briefly made four in our group.

But shortly after that the two guys in front passed a car that was going slow up a hill and I joined them. John initially came but clunked his gears and he was gone. Just like that.

If John truly thought that I was behind him and could catch him anytime I feel like it what I did then was a crappy move. But if he was going full out in the wind without regard for his friend then it was payback. Big time.

We joined up with some other riders and alternated the workload. One guy came to the front with about three miles to go to the rest stop and hammered it. He was a big rider and was "nose in the wind" going about 23 mph. I sat second wheel and felt like half the time I was coasting.

This guy (left) rocked it! Best "pull" of the five days.

After a lunch break, we hit the road. After 43 miles of hammering, it was time for solo work. John and I left the rest stop for one mile then he would take the cutoff road and skip the climbing loop. I turned onto the climb. It was a formidable two and a half mile hill, and one by one I started passing people on the climb. I'm sure I didn't catch everyone, but I passed five or six and wasn't passed by anyone.

Once over the top I bombed the descent and caught and passed 15-20 riders in the valley leading to the next rest stop.

At the stop one woman saw Jake's name on my legs and made a smart ass comment: "Do you name your shoes too so you can get the right legs in the right shoes?"

I was pissed. And hurt. I told her quietly that I was riding for my 8-year old cousin who was battling brain cancer.

I carried that with me the rest of the ride. The thought was we need fewer smart asses in this world and more compassion. I wanted to tell her off but the comment was made by, well, a smart ass trying to be funny and not with malice. Her group took off while I sat down and ate some food.

When I left the rest stop I wanted nothing more than to catch the woman who insulted my family. They were long gone but I that didn't stop me from trying.

I immediately hit the next hill. It was a shorter, one and a half miles, but steeper climb. There I passed by 10-15 riders on the climb and, over the top, bombed the descent. Once in the valley I started reeling in riders in front of me - maybe another 30.

Going through Martinsburg was like old home week to me since I know the area pretty well. Hitting the bike trail outside of town I passed 40-50 riders and was passed by none. I really felt strong in miles 80-90. Seriously, in the last 40 miles I was passed by no one.

Getting back, I sat down and ate lunch at the Bike Virginia campus. When it was time to roll out I needed 10 more miles for 100 and 15 for 400 for four days. As good as I felt in miles 80-90, I felt that bad for the next 10 miles. It hit me. I was tired. But I was riding for Jake. And I would finish.

I added enough miles to give me another century then went to Ashley and Bryan's place and laid down on the floor. I fell asleep. Three centuries in four days. Four hundred miles in four days.

I was very tired.

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