Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Annual Peach Pedal

(from left/back to front) Mark, Mike, Chuck, Russ, John, Kujo, Pete, Lori, Karen, Michelle, Anna, Robin, Linda

So on Sunday a bunch of friends and I headed out to Marine, IL to take part in the Annual Peach Pedal. Of course my real reason for riding was not the pedal itself, but the need to pick up a homemade peach pie from Mills Apple farm.  I know the name states it’s an apple farm, but they also grow peaches.  Plus, they make the most awesome pies ever. You can get Peach, Apple, Rhubarb Apple, Apple Caramel, really, you name it, you can get it. They are all so good, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think the Peach probably wins for me.
A few days before the event, I called Mills and reserved 2 peach pies for me and one for Chuck. We wanted to make sure we had them waiting at the end of the ride.

We all gathered at the registration desk about 7am, where John handed out $3 off coupons.  Once we were all registered, we stood waiting to start, I thought a few of the group members were in the bathroom line and that’s why we were waiting. I couldn’t figure out what was taking so long, and then Mark says John said to meet him on the corner.  Well, we headed to the corner and didn’t see anyone.  Chuck, Russ, Mike and I were together with Mark, Linda and Karen ahead of us. As we rode past Chuck’s truck parked at the side of the road, we saw that Lori his wife and Michelle had a flat tire on one of the bikes, we stopped and Chuck pulled the tire off for them. Looking back, we should have taken the time to have Chuck fix it. That would have been the right thing to do, but instead we left them to work it out themselves.  On a positive note, they did fix it and since they were riding one of the shorter routes we still ended up finishing at the same time. 

We headed north on Wagner road and found that it had been recently rocked, we later found out that about 75% of the route had been recently rocked.  Let’s just say we spent a lot of the ride working on our bike handling skills.  I hate gravel, which is why I have never attempted the Dirty Kanza race, I did feel like I was at DK during this ride though. 

At the first rest stop, we were able to get back together with the entire crew, and I told John I couldn’t believe he just left us like that.  Oh, of course he had some excuse like he thought he missed us and we already left.  I may have spent a little too much time at the start chatting with a guy who had the coolest “Tony the Tiger” jersey on, I had to find out where he got it.  So I guess you now know what I’m asking for, for Christmas this year. 

Now that the group was all back together we headed out on the next leg of the ride.  We spent some quality time together wondering who would go down in the gravel first.  After fish tailing a couple times, I was sure it would be me.  Our next stop was at a gas station in Livingston, where I bought a “Little Debbie” brownie.  I shared it with John, and I don’t know about him, but it seemed like the best brownie I have ever had.  Well if you have ever had a LD brownie, you know that they are not very good, but when you are so hungry your opinion sometimes changes.  If I had one right now, I would probably take one bite and throw it away. Of course there have been times when I have seen some shot blocks on the road where someone has dropped them and seriously thought about picking them up and eating them.  What we won’t do if we feel a bonk coming on. 

On we went, right through the small town of Livingston as the only Church in was letting out.  We had to deal with some traffic for a while with everyone leaving church.  They were probably commenting, what heathens we were for being out riding our bikes instead of in church, but they were all feeling generous and no one tried to run us off the road, we can count that as a blessing for the day.
We may have counted those blessing a little too early though, it wasn’t long and we hit some railroad tracks and ended up with a flat tire in the group. The bigger problem was as we were waiting for the tire change a coal train rolled across the railroad tracks that we would have to cross, and of course it stops. It was stopped for a long time and although Anna thought we could crawl under the train and drag our bikes, that thought got vetoed.  We decided to try a different route that would get us back on the real route without going too far out of the way.  It was a good choice, but some of us missed a turn so Mike had to sprint up and get us back on track.  The funny part was, Chuck the master orienteerer was up front leading us when we missed the turn.  Well to Chuck’s credit, he didn’t have the map and was just pulling the group along, he figured someone with a map would yell to him to turn. What he forgot was the fact that he is half def and couldn’t hear them even if they did yell. It’s just a good thing Mike was there stop him before he ended up in Chicago. 

After we got back on track we had a really nice pace line going when out of nowhere two guys came flying past us. Oh, if you ride you know how that works, you never let someone dust you out of nowhere. As the two guys pass us, Mark and Linda who were on a tandem, get the guys in their sights.  John, who is behind me, looks up and says “oh no, it’s on”.  Was he ever right, Mark took off after them and we all followed, I put my head down and it took everything I had to hang on, but we finally backed off after a mile or so. After a short recovery from that sprint we rolled into the last rest area and it was then that I realized it was Antonio a superfast guy that I ride with on the Tuesday Night Team Godzilla ride that had passed us. After seeing him, I was feeling pretty good that we stayed with them to the next stop.  

We had about 6 miles to go to make the finish, so we headed out.  We came upon the guy in the Tony the Tiger jersey and he fell into our pace line and rode in with us.  Just before the finish, we passed Lori and Michelle finishing up the shorter loop, so we knew that they got the flat fixed without the help of that low down Chuck, who just left them stranded on the side of the road. OK, really they told Chuck to go, that they had it covered, but I like to blame Chuck for everything. 
We stopped and got the group together for a photo op and Tony the Tiger took it for us.  As we chatted with him, we found out that he was in from Wisconsin, but he use to like in U City, so he and John talked about that area for a while since John lives there now. 

It was a great ride in great company, with the coolest weather we have had all summer, plus we even got a few rain drops, not enough in this drought year, but it was nice to have gotten a few drops.  As for the pie it was great as always.  You know I only live 9 miles from the apple farm and I ride my bike past in at least once a week, but it takes going to the Peach Pedal for me to stop for a pie.  Maybe that’s a good thing, if I stopped every time I rode past, I would be 400 pounds right now.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tour de Donut 2012

My Horoscope for July 14th, Donut Day!

“You are likely to hit at least one obstacle today -- but sometimes roadblocks are there to keep you from getting into dangerous situations, so take a deep breath when you encounter one. Try not to look at it as a bad thing. The limitation you encounter is there for a reason. You may have to struggle more than usual to get somewhere today, but in that struggle you will appreciate your journey all the more.”

But do you think that I believe this to be true? If you know me at all, I just laughed when I read this.  I even sent it to Chuck and he laughed too.  I guess I need to think before I laugh from now on.

See something else happened in the days leading up to the Donut that might have also been a message to me. Mark, Jenny and I went out to pre-ride the course on the 4th of July. Jenny got a flat just 10 miles in, and this is how it went.  Jenny had a mountain bike tube with her, no good, Mark’s tube didn’t have a long enough stem for Jenny’s wheel, no good, my tube got caught in my bag zipper and had a hole, no good, Jenny’s patch kit had dried up glue in it, no good, Mark’s patch kid had dried up glue in it, no good, my patch kit was at home in the bag on my other bike, no good again.  So it goes to say we didn’t finish the ride.

Just two days before the donut we tried another pre-ride only to find out that the roads had been graveled between miles 16 and 25, with one really bad section around mile 16. We finished the ride, but were contemplating how dangerous this ride could be with the all the gravel and the big field of racers.  There was also a fast decent at about mile 3, we worried about bike congestion on such a steep decent and the danger of it. Of course it didn’t stop us from racing anyway.

So Race day rolled around and there I was in Staunton, Il, the home of the Famous Tour de Donut.

My teammate Jenny and I had rustled up four domestiques for a short 34 miles of pure riding pleasure with some hills and gravel thrown in for good measure. 

We had 3 returning domestiques, Mark, Joel and Daryl, plus one new one, Russ.  It’s great that these guys will spend their Saturday morning pulling our butts around the Donut course. And they work hard to pull us to a fast finish, for the last 3 or 4 years we have finished either 1,2 or 2,3 overall. We were hoping for a 1,2 finish again this year.

My teammate Chuck wouldn’t be riding with us this year, because his son Jacob wanted to ride and eat donuts, so they showed up ready to eat.

A few of my Team Godzilla teammates also showed up, not everyone, but a few.

Even Gary and Steve were there ready to go, I would call Gary the grandfather of the donut, but he might not be so happy with that title, so I won’t. Maybe I should say the Godfather of the Donut.

We were all being followed by the paparazzi, the famous videographer Patrick, and famous photographer Rob.  Ok maybe they aren’t so famous, but they work for donuts and that is about all we can afford, we spend all our money on our bikes.

After a team picture was taken, which may have gone off a little late because I was in the bathroom, but hey, if you gotta go, you gotta go. I went out for a quick warm up spin.

Lucky for me the infamous tandem team of Mark and Linda saved my place on the starting line while I warmed up.

So after some opening comments by the awesome race director Christian, who was all over the place on race day, I’m surprised he was caught on film.

The national anthem was sung and we were ready to play ball. The start of the race is always sketchy with all those bikes rolling out at once, but all six of us got on the road without incident.

The riders were sent on a short loop through town and then headed east to Reservoir road. My team’s strategy was to try to stay safe in the masses and regroup at the top of the hill at the end of Reservoir road.  When we got to first turn onto Reservoir road, Mark and Joel were in front, me and Daryl were behind them and Jenny and Russ were behind us.  Just in front of us, two bikes went down hard on the corner, but we all made it though without incident.  Not far past that corner we headed down a steep, fast decent and bikes were handlebar to handlebar, everyone was flying, my speed was about 35 mph.  Daryl and I were to the right side of the road while Jenny and Russ were over to the left, about halfway down the decent, I hear an explosion, it was a tire blowing, I turned my head slightly to the left and saw a lady go down, then saw Jenny and Russ both in the air along with their bikes. Then I heard another loud pop and assumed it was another tire blowing.  I later found out the second pop wasn’t a tire blowing at all, it was Jenny’s helmet hitting the pavement, we need to take a moment her to give thanks for helmets.

Daryl and I hit the bottom of the hill pulled off the road and ran back up the hill. All three involved in the crash had skidded to a stop on the right side of the road.  Jenny and Russ were getting on their feet and trying to help the other rider, whose name I later found out was Kay, to get up.  I quickly dialed 911 on my cell phone, good thing I had put it in my jersey pocket, and in just minutes a police car appeared.  I hung up and was talking to Kay helping her stand then later helping her sit, she wasn’t feeling well and sitting was a better idea.  We checked out the bikes, Russ’s was ok, Jenny’s and Kay’s were trashed.  While all this activity was happening riders were zooming by us, I think most of the field had passed when Jenny told us to take off, she would stay with Kay since her bike wasn’t rideable.  As I started to walk away, Kay asked if I should stay to have my arms looked at, I looked down and my arms were all bloody. I said, “I’m fine that’s your blood”.  Daryl and I ran down the hill grabbed our bikes and started the accent to the top, with Russ behind us.  After making the turn at the top of the hill Mark and Joel were riding toward us, with very concerned looks on their faces. Chuck had ridden past them and told them about the crash, but they had no idea what had happened or who was hurt. We quickly filled them in while trying to navigate around hundreds of slower riders.  I still have no idea how a dozen more people hadn’t gone down in that crash, it was really a miracle.

We soon hit the 1st donut stop and we flew through it, eating no donuts, then on Old Rt 66, we came upon some stopped car traffic and another bike crash, about 8 riders down, we slowly maneuvered through and picked up the pace again.  I really had no expectations at this point, I figured we were so far back there was no way we could get back in the race. 

The boys worked so hard pulling me along in some places we were hitting 24 to 25 mph, but then we would get caught up in thick crowds of slower riders and would have to back off.  Of course, sometimes I needed to back off.  I have no idea how they did all that work, Mark, Joel, Daryl and even an injured Russ were working their butts off for me.  They are an awesome group of friends, and happen to be super strong riders too. 

As we hit Airport road we knew that there was a section of deep gravel ahead, when we turned the corner everyone was off their bikes walking through it, we jumped off too. Looking back, there was a line we could have taken to ride it, but there were too many people in the way to take the line. 

Back on the bike we rolled through some really rough and graveled roads, a few times I got caught up in the crowds and the guys had to slow and wait for me to get out.  Of course there were also a few times when my legs just wouldn’t do what I asked and the guys were waiting then too.  There was a lot of yelling “she’s back on” during that 8 mile section of the ride.

Oh and also during that section I heard Russ behind me yell a few expletives. I yelled back “are you ok Russ” and he said he had been stung by a bee. It got him right on the neck I think more than once, I’m thinking it was a vampire bee.

We soon made it to the second donut stop and we were actually on a really good pace. Along the route local residents were out in their yards cheering us on, cheering always helps me pick up the pace. Mark yelled “what do you want to do Robin” meaning since we were so far off the front, should we stop for donuts or blow the stop.  I said lets blow it and we kept going.  With 10 miles left to go we finally hit some smoother roads and was able to pick up the pace. 

We held the pace well all the way back with me only falling off one time, we even had Joel, who was pulling at the time, pick up the pace, he was confused though, he is used to Mark yelling “Robin’s off the back slow up”, so he started to slow and Mark yells “no faster”, we just all started laughing and I thanked Joel for trying to give me a break. 

We were once again back on Reservoir road heading to the finish line, we rode past the crash site, and I was thinking “come on get past here, don’t let this spot jinx you”, if I were catholic I might have crossed myself.  As we passed the many cheering spectators, I heard a guy yell “Darbon, hurry up, you have to work midnights”, oh Darbon is Russ.  So Russ not only crashes, gets stung by a vampire bee, then has to help pull my butt around, but he also has to work midnights after the whole escapade.  He’s one tough Brit though, he took it all in stride, like he says, “it’s just a flesh wound”. 

We  turn into the final straight away and come upon a rider who ended up in our picture, so the finish photos isn’t great, but I think you can see the guys look like they were out for a social ride, while I was gasping for air.

We rode through the finish, did a short cool down lap and headed back in to recount our race.  I think I told the crash story 20 times in the following hour.  Russ showed off his wounds, no photos of his hip road rash though, that would have made this post X rated. He did show it to me and he gets some bragging rights with that road rash.  Russ’s jersey has holes in it, his shorts were bloody, but fine and he has a little cherry on his ankle. 

Rob took a team picture of us, but Daryl had to run off right after the race, he was couching his son’s baseball game, so he missed the photo opportunity.

Then we got a picture with our Cyclery teammates.

Lots of Zilla’s took home hardware, and even though Al isn’t a Zilla I had to put his picture in because I ride with him every week and tend to use his draft a lot.

Of course Jacob has all the bragging rights, he placed and Chuck, his dad didn’t, but it looks to me like Chuck was just as proud that Jacob won, that means he kind of won by proxy.

As for me I ended up 4th out of 122 in my age group and 15th out of 456 women, and 119th out of 1438 finishers. We also had a ride average of 20.3 mph, not bad for being trapped in the crowd so many times.

Thanks, to my domestiques, Mark, Joel, Daryl and Russ, better known as my guys, for all the hard work and giving up their chance to win an award, because I know that all of them can ride much faster without me.  You know I appreciate your hard work and I know how lucky I am to have friends like you.

One last note: Although Jenny, Russ and Kay are bruised, sore, and covered in road rash, they are all ok and will ride again, that’s what really counts in the end.

You can see all the photos taken by Rob by clicking here.