This fund-raising ride is a great way to use my love of cycling to help others. Last year I rode as a member of the Hewlett Packard team, and this year I was promoted to Team Captain. I got some team training rides organized, sent out recruitment and fund-raising e-mails, and put up posters and flyers around the HP buildings.
I was a bit worried at the HP team's progress early on, and I still have a lot to learn to become a successful Team Captain. For a while there were just two of us, then three, until the ball finally got moving and the team grew to 13 riders and did very well at raising funds to fight diabetes. By the way, did you know that diabetes has increased five-fold in the last few decades? It has become a huge problem for millions of people in this country alone.
I again signed up for the "120K" route, which left from HP's Palo Alto headquarters out to the Pacific coast and back, for a total of 78.7 miles in the saddle. Others signed up for either the 25K, 50K or 75K routes, depending on their fitness and available time.
Last year a nasty cold nearly kept me from riding, and this year my crash in a race on Memorial Day threatened my odds of doing the ride because my back was still sore from hitting the pavement at 35 MPH. And because my nice bike's frame broke I had to ride my beat-up old commuter bike. But perhaps the thought of letting down my sponsors spurred me on. The day before we celebrated my brothers' birthdays and that was not only lots of fun, but allowed me to carbo-load too! Some of the carbs might have been in the alcohol family, but who's counting.
I had to set my alarm to 4:30AM to get to Palo Alto in time to be ready for the 6:30AM opening of the 120K route. But I had forgotten my car needed gas so I had to scramble for an open gas station at 5:20AM. And my cell-phone service died so I couldn't communicate my tardiness with any of my teammates. Ugh!
By the time I got there the 120K route had just opened, and I hurried through sign-in (and got the special cowbell welcome from the nice Lion's Club volunteers because I raised over $1,000!). Fortunately my friend Rob Jensen hooked up with me, but I was sure everybody else I knew was already out on the ride. He grabbed me some of that yummy Hobee's coffeecake, the first piece of many, and we were soon ready for a 6:50AM start. The weather was very pleasant, about 60 degrees and clear with no wind, but I brought my arm-warmers and vest for the cooler sections along the coast.
We hooked up with some "Nektar" team riders, and followed behind them all the way to Kings Mountain Road. There Rob hooked up with his "Team Bridget" friend Jim, while I decided to use my fresh legs to get a hard workout up the long, steep climb and forged ahead at full speed. About halfway up I hooked up with my HP teammate Nate, which was great, because I was feeling guilty about not being there for the 6:30AM start like I'd planned. He's a great guy and we chatted a bit before I continued on at my masochistic pace up to the first rest station at the junction with Skyline Boulevard. More coffeecake, some trail mix, cookies, and banana ensued... let the pigout commence! (We typically burn about 500 to 800 calories an hour, and replacing them is critical on any ride over an hour or two; this one would take about five or six hours.)
All four of us grouped up for the ride along Skyline, but had to contend with a very, very irate driver who kept honking as he drove along. We then dropped down the long, chilly and very fast descent on Highway 84 to Pescadero Road. I was very glad I brought my arm-warmers and vest this year... it sure beats having to stuff paper towels down the front of my jersey! The climb up Haskins Hill is much easier when you're not in a race, but it's still a long drag up and I used it for some more training. Soon enough we were really booking down toward the picturesque village of Pescadero, and the rest station there, with me taking a lot of long, hard pulls. My legs and back felt great.
Nate was a bit behind us, so while Rob, Jim and I munched more food he slowly pedaled into town; it turned out the bolt on his seatpost had sheared right off so he had to stand and pedal for 6 miles! We looked around for help getting a replacement bolt, but in the end we continued on without Nate rather than delay.
We followed team Nektar again, on Stage Road, but went ahead after a while on the climbs, crossed HWY84 by the historic San Gregorio Market, and hit Highway 1 alone. The weather was spectacular, and we really enjoyed the views of the ocean as we met up with Tunitas Creek Road... and another rest station! Munch, munch.
The steeper sections of Tunitas Creek are, well, steep! And go on for about 7 miles. Whew! While we were struggling up this hill an SUV passed us with none other than Nate waving out the passenger's window! He's been unable to find a new 8mm bolt. It's important to save a bit of energy for this climb, when you're riding up it anyway. Fortunately we had and Rob really laid down the metal forcing Jim and I to work hard to keep up. As we did this some Alto Velo club members whooshed by us like we were standing still, and I used their draft to move up... the rainbow stripes on one of their jerseys showed they weren't just casual riders but gifted athletes with a world champion in their midst. Soon I caught Rob and had fun pulling him back up the last few miles to the rest station on Skyline by Kings Mountain. Oh yeah, more food.
Then we whooshed down Kings Mountain and back into the warm valley where the temperature was approaching 90. As we got nearer to the finish line we started spotting all kinds of riders from the 50K and 75K routes, on every kind of bike you can imagine, including mountain bikes, tandems and bikes with trailers. Some of them were clearly not used to riding these distances, but, man, I sure was impressed with their willingness to suffer to help fight diabetes... props to them!
Rob and Jim split off to meet family obligations while I crossed the finish line at HP and promptly started gorging myself one last time in the shade of the Packard Grove's trees. This year because I got back earlier, around 12:20PM I estimate, I was able to get a tasty double-cheeseburger instead of the vegetarian fare left over by the riders from the shorter routes like last year. In fact, my total ride time was 4:52, not counting stops, at an average speed of 16 MPH. I got to hook up with my teammates James (who rode the 50K) and Nate, and my friend Richard, and checked out some of the exhibits too.
But the best news was that the HP team not only improved on the 2007 team's total of $4,268 raised by 9 riders, but smashed it with $8,252.86 raised by 13 riders!!! I am amazed at what we accomplished for the fight against diabetes! And there's still time to donate. Just click here and be generous!
See you next year!