"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
It’s done! My 4th 90 Day Challenge is complete! Ski to Sea was last Sunday and I did my road bike leg of 42 miles.
I felt so accomplished! And sore. And tired. Full disclosure: my butt and I still aren’t on good terms – it hates me.
Ski to Sea is a relay race that has taken place in my beautiful corner of Northwest Washington for 101 years now. It consists of 7 different sporting events that require a team of 8 people to complete as the course winds from majestic Mount Baker through the foothills of the Cascade Range, follows the rushing Nooksack River, along rolling hills of pastureland, and finishes up by crossing Bellingham Bay – a distance of usually between 90 and 100 miles. I can’t imagine a more beautiful area to have a race through – I might be slightly biased. The legs of the race take place in the order of cross country skiing, downhill skiing/snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing (two man team), mountain biking, and sea kayaking. Only the first 500 teams to sign up are allowed to race.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been training for the road bike leg as part of my latest 90 Day Challenge. I trained quite a bit but I never got to ride the actual course. Last week before the race I’d had a few training mishaps. My attempt to ride the course resulted in a flat tire only 6 miles into the ride and would have left me stranded in the Cascade wilderness were it not for some guys who stopped to help. Training for the rest of that week was a bit of a fiasco in itself. After I got my tire fixed and was back on the road doing my tri-weekly commute of 26 miles round trip to work, the river flooded over my route home. I ended up walking through 6 inches of chilly water halfway through the ride and shivered the whole way home. If that’s what it took to get all of that misfortune out of my system before the race, I’ll take it!
The morning of the race I woke up at 5 AM to meet half of my team so we could carpool up the mountain together. I fell asleep on the drive up – NOT a morning person. I was dropped off at my starting point, the Dept of Transportation’s plow station. And there I waited for 3 hours for the race to start and the legs ahead of me to make their way down the course. Me and 499 other cyclists cuddled up in blankets waiting patiently. There were athletes of all kinds out there: from the daily commuter types like myself to Olympic-level competitors. Some of the cyclists were from Europe and had been flown in to win this race for local companies as an advertising scheme. These guys had $30,000+ bicycles, the aerodynamic conical helmets, the whole star package. It was phenomenal to watch them warm up and when their runners handed off the timing chip to them, they were out of the starting chute like bullets!
I’m happy to say that I avoided getting any flats during the ride, I passed a few guys who were pumping up new tubes on the side of the road. The first 20 miles were easy, I felt strong, confident, and capable. But the last 20 miles were murder. We turned onto a road and there was a long, steady, gradual climb. And when the hills got steeper I even saw some cyclists unclip from their pedals and start walking their bikes. I’m glad to say I didn’t walk my bike at any point, but the hills took it out of me and there were times when my speed was pitiable slow. Checking my speedometer periodically I was nearly gleeful to see when I had just 5 more miles to go. The final push, all I had went into those last few miles.
Before long I was riding through the town where the finish line was set up. Bystanders were cheering, encouraging me that I only had a mile to go, just a little further, keep riding! And then I saw it, no finish line has ever looked so beautiful. I rounded the corner without slowing down and charged into the chute, then slammed on my brakes to hand off the timing chip to my teammate. My feet were numb and unclipping my shoes from the pedals felt like a battle. And then I was stumbling towards the sidewalk. J met me with an embrace and took my bike so I could slump into oblivion for a moment. My race was done.
After a few minutes of rest I was able to stop at J’s house. I had salt granules clinging to my skin from sweat that had long ago dried up. And I was famished, nearly ready to start chewing on my arm. After a meal and a shower we headed into town so we could watch our kayaker skim into the finish line. We got to spend time with friends, there was plenty of food for a starving me, and by 9 PM I was ready for bed – thoroughly exhausted.
Ski To Sea was an unforgettable experience. My leg took me 2 hours and 53 minutes to ride. I had hoped that it would take me 2 hours and 30 minutes at most. But truly, I’m glad to have completed it without injury. A couple of people had accidents and were rushed to the hospital. And that just means I have a timing goal to shoot for when I start training for the race next year. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to know that I’ve ridden in Ski to Sea – it’s an accomplishment for this couch potato.
And my 90 Day Challenge? Now that it’s complete I’m ready to start a new one. I’m going to start training for The Bellingham Bay Half Marathon in September with J.
* And I’m doing a bit of a happy dance because this is my 100th post! Yay!