The moment I’ve been waiting for since March finally came.
In five hours, 30 minutes and 53 seconds, I crossed the finish line at Bevelhymer Park in New Albany, completing the 57-mile ride that helped raise money for cancer research.
I have a lot to say about the ride itself, but first I have to take you back a little to the day before, August 5th. I took this past Friday off work to get all my errands done, since Friday night was the opening ceremony in the Arena District and Saturday was going to be a busy day with the ride and then my folks coming out. I didn’t know how I would feel today, so I wanted to make sure I had everything taken care of in case I was worn out and spending the day in bed was the only thing I accomplished.
So now we go back to Friday night …
Rider Check-In and the Opening Ceremony
I would like it to be known that as much as I love the Arena District, I do not enjoy finding parking in the Arena District around 5 p.m. on a Friday evening.
Friday itself was errands and getting those chores taken care of. My team was emailing each other the logistics of the group photo we were going to take at 5:30, which included wearing the team jerseys with the CEO. Now I was planning on styling my hair and wearing makeup anyways, but the note that the CEO was going to be in the picture definitely upped the ante of “you absolutely cannot look like crap” today. Which is a little easier said than done when it was humid and I’m prone to looking like a poodle in humidity.
The riders had the option of checking in our bikes Friday evening or early Saturday morning. A storm rolled through Friday, and I remembered the guys at the bike shop said I wasn’t supposed to have the bike in the bike rack when it was raining heavily, since rain can cause some rusting. A part of me thought about checking my bike in on Saturday, but then I asked myself if I really wanted to fight with putting a bike rack up when it’s still dark at 5 a.m. and I’m trying to get out of my place on time.
I went with the Friday night check-in, and this was a good choice.
After checking myself in and getting my tires refilled – I asked the guy if my front tire felt squishy, and he confirmed both tires were “very squishy” – I got the bike racked. By Friday afternoon there had to be about a thousand bikes all lined up next to each other. I took a video to send to Mom, since I had never seen anything like it.
Then came the task of finding my team. The expo/opening ceremony was spread across McFerson Commons and North Bank Park in the Arena District. I knew we were all meeting on the grass in front of the Pavillion at North Bank, but for the life of me I couldn’t find them. I found everyone else’s jersey but my team’s. I decided to hop up on the brick wall and try to find my team that way, walking along it until I saw the blue jerseys. Or rather, the blue jerseys saw me – specifically, the CEO.
He called me over and joked about how “we all have been waiting for you to get here,” and was lovely, as was his wife. I told my mom later on that I’ve never been teased by a CEO on my first meeting, but here we are. According to the emails from our team captain, our team of about 30 riders raised $58,000 between the fundraising efforts of riders, volunteers and virtual participants.
I spent the next hour walking around the expo and taking in all that was there to see. In addition to the expo, there was a buffet there, so I decided to get dinner of lemon grilled chicken breast and watermelon, since I was craving fruit in this heat.
Do you remember the heat and humidity I mentioned earlier? It turns out the jerseys are great for when you’re actually riding, but get hot when you’re just walking around in them. I also made the mistake of ordering a size down, since the internet said that when in doubt as an in-betweener, order the size down because the material is designed to stretch. This wasn’t my case at all, and you all can imagine my surprise when I tried on my kit for the first time and discovered I was carrying a spare tire.
In addition to my jersey being a bit tight, the sports bra I was wearing under it was really pushing me together. I’m currently heavier, and it turns out when you’re a little heavier all around, you have cleavage when you actively aren’t trying. I had the jersey unzipped a little to get some air in there, and over the course of the evening the bobs were finding their way out.
At 7 p.m. the opening ceremony began. We had several speakers, including local newscaster Maria Durant, the CEO of Pelotonia, the Pelotonia President, Ohio State’s President and doctors from The James and the Pelotonia Institute of Immuno-Oncology. It was an emotional evening about surviving cancer and the work the fundraising from Pelotonia helped to support. I filmed some parts of the speeches for my mom, and then I noticed something.
I was sitting down on the grass and wearing a skort, which was determined to ride up when I was walking. I didn’t notice how much the skort rode up until I looked down and was greeted with big white thighs, with all the cellulite in the wind and broken veins enjoying the evening sun. Great, so I was all breasts and thighs, like a bucket of KFC chicken that nobody ordered.
But the real kicker was another rider from Team Buckeye offering me some help. I noticed throughout the ceremony and the speeches he was emotional – which everyone was at one point or another – and he came over to ask me if I wanted him to get the ant out of my hair. I had my sunglasses pushed up and an ant was making its way from my sunglasses into my hair. I thanked him for removing it and thought to myself God, I’m a functional hot mess. I’m spilling out of my clothes and there’s bugs on me.
Funny hot mess moments aside, the magnitude of Pelotonia finally hit me. Prior to Friday night, during all of my weekend training rides, my focus was always on the ride itself – can I maintain my 10 MPH pace, what can I do to eliminate my chance of getting a migraine? But listening to the speeches at the opening ceremony and really taking in the event itself made my realize how big and significant what I had committed to do actually is. Over the 14 years Pelotonia has been an event, almost $250 million has been raised for cancer research at The James. That’s huge and almost can’t be put into words.
I laid down Friday night and had a hard time relaxing enough to fall asleep. How could I? I was riding 57 miles in the morning.
At 8:15 We Ride
Go figure I woke up to rain, which wasn’t supposed to roll in until later in the afternoon.
I got to the Arena District in the nick of time, just before the main roads were closed down for the 200-mile riders to come through. My poor bike was damp from the rain that moved through, and I felt like I had to apologize to her. Poor girl has spent her entire life in my living room or the closet, and has never known was rain is. My departure time was 8:15, so I had a little time to call Mom and Grandma to give them my morning update before I needed to get back into the loading area.
Another note about my kit is that the shorts have a sewn-in saddle. I already have a memory foam seat cushion on my bike, so when I hopped up on it, I was surprised to discover I could sit down and get taller. Although it turns out the solution to avoiding butt pain is to have two cushions.
At 8:15, we were off. I’m going to break down the ride into 10-mile increments and explain it that way.
Miles 1 – 10: I purposely stayed back on the way out of downtown, since I figured everyone would be crowded together and I didn’t want to be tire-to-tire with anyone else. We headed east on Broad Street towards Bexley and then cut up Cassady to Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue to Hamilton Road took us past John Glenn International Airport towards Gahanna. At the 10-mile mark was the first rest stop, which I rode through and got a drink of my Gatorade.
Miles 10 – 20: New Albany – Reynoldsburg Road to Kitzmiller Road was beautiful. I love horses, so getting to ride by horse barns and beautiful homes made me happy. New Albany as a community is beautiful, and I was enjoying myself. Around Mile 19 I started to experience some fatigue and a bit of Gatorade wasn’t helping. My saving grace came at the Mile 20 rest stop. The rest stops had plenty of food, water and porta-johns for those who needed them. I saw the tray of grapes and went to town. I’m not even the biggest grape fan, but the humidity and wanting some water was all it took for me to go to town on the grapes. I overheard another rider mention pickle juice, which I’ve drank before in previous marathon training cycles. Pickle juice has electrolytes in it, and I needed a boost. So I chugged that and I must say – grapes, pickle juice and Gatorade leave an interesting after taste. But, the boost of energy after the pickle juice is even better than coffee.
Miles 20 – 30: Still riding my pickle juice high, we took the back roads out of New Albany toward Granville via Worthington Road. The main highlight of this stretch was a nice downhill letting me take a break from pedaling, as well as passing a house where they had rabbits like the ones you see at the county fair.
Miles 30 – 40: This is where it got a little tricky. Granville has a lot of little hills that I honestly forgot about, since it’s been a while since I was last out that way and it definitely wasn’t on a bike. The area is beautiful and I was enjoying myself, but I was now starting to feel it in my thighs. We rolled into Granville to families gathered in front of their homes and a crowd gathered downtown to cheer us on as we rolled through. Now, we had plenty of spectators leading up to this point, but something about Granville got me emotional. I also noticed two ladies who were cancer patients there, cheering on the riders, smiling and enjoying themselves. I admired them.
We had a rest stop at Mile 37, after a round of hills that were getting increasingly brutal. I ate another round of grapes, telling myself that I had only 20 more miles to go, so I could do it. I heard there was a massive hill at some point that most of us would have to walk our bikes up, but since the main portion was behind me, how bad could it be?
Miles 40 – 50: It was bad.
The hills weren’t getting any easier, and lo and behold, right after we left Granville and made our way out of the village of Alexandria, we finally got to The Hill In Reference. I just looked at it and got off the bike. Turns out taking the walk break was the best idea of my ride. Getting off the bike for a bit felt great on my legs, and believe it or not, walking up a hill feels incredible after you’ve been pedaling a bicycle up them for so long.
I’m not really sure where we were, but we found ourselves back on the road we came into Granville on. I couldn’t have been any happier to see familiar roads.
Miles 50 – 57: To my elation, once I got back on familiar roads, I was able to get back to my original speed. My energy came back as we made our way to Bevelhymer Park, and I finally took a moment to bask in the realization: I just biked 57 miles. I completed my first Pelotonia.
I did it.
I rode my first Pelotonia. For the past three years I’d wanted to do it, but I had to wait and now it was finally here. Crossing that finish line and seeing my folks was one of the best feelings of my life.
I’m not sure when I’ll do it again, but I know I will.
So with all that being said, I know this was a long post. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and now I need to go apologize to Marina over the past few early mornings.
Yours in reading and goal-crushing,