September 25, 2015

Pedal the Cause 2015 Recap

Last weekend I participated in Pedal the Cause, a fundraiser to raise money for cancer research.  As of now, there are only two such rides---one in St. Louis, and the other here in San Diego.  For the San Diego ride, 100% of the money stays here in San Diego and goes to four beneficiaries who collaborate to try to find a cure for cancer.  They had different ride options---10, 25, 50, 75, or 150 miles.

How did I get involved in this?  Well, I wanted to give myself a big biking challenge.  Last year I did my first century and thought it would be a good idea to do another big ride.  There are tons of different rides out there, different centuries, metric centuries, fundraisers, etc-- and Pedal the Cause (PTC) caught my eye. My friend Todd did the 50 miler last year and loved it.  And cancer is a cause very near and dear to my heart.  Just last year I lost my mom last year to ovarian cancer, and my husband lost his father to pancreatic cancer many years ago.  Not only that, I have many friends who have been fighting cancer, and know so many who have won---and unfortunately, so many who have lost. I decided to sign up for the BIG challenge----150 miles, go big or go home!---and with that came a commitment to raise at least $2000.  In the end, I raised over $3000!  The ride would be long and hilly----from UCSD (the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla) to Temecula, and then back the next day.  75 miles each day.  They would put us up in tents for the night.

I had a good riding base from my half-Ironman in July, Vineman, but had to kick up the training in the last few months.  I trained the best I could given burnout (I was so burned out after Vineman!), family commitments and extreme heat.  My longest training weekend was two weeks before---when I did 60 miles on Saturday and 40 miles on Sunday---but I did a lot of miles and hillwork.  Looking back, I could have benefited from maybe one or two more longer rides. I trained a lot with Todd, and did some rides with some other friends, and sometimes on my own.   On our last training ride, the weekend before PTC, Todd and I randomly met a couple, Kandy and Jim, at a stoplight (they had recognized Todd from seeing us out riding the previous weekend!).  It turned out that they were also doing PTC and we rode with them for a bit before we went our own ways.  We were looking forward to seeing them the following weekend.

The night before the ride, we had went to Petco Park for their kickoff party and packet pickup.  Apparently this was new---they are now partnering with the San Diego Padres, so that was cool. I signed my waiver, and got my packet (number for my bike, etc) and my jersey. They had dinner for the whole family, a band, and an overall great vibe.  Those people who had not yet made their fundraising commitment had to sign a paper acknowledging that they would be responsible for the balance if they didn't raise the money.  I saw Todd and another friend of ours, Mike, and also met new people while standing in line.  Then home to pack and early to bed!  Not only did we have to pack biking clothes for Sunday, but also things for the overnight---toiletries, flip flops, warm clothes, and a pillow, sleeping bag and pad (tents were provided but were empty).

at packet pickup

empty stadium at Petco Park kickoff party

Todd picked me up at 6:00 a.m., and we made our way to UCSD.  We parked, assemble our bikes, checked in our duffel bags, and made signs noting why we were riding. It was right there, before the ride even started, that I started to cry. Writing my mom's name down hurt so much. I miss her terribly.  It was sobering seeing all the signs people were writing.  There were also posters to sign that would be delivered to cancer patients at Children's Hospital.  Very sobering.   Soon it was time to get to the starting corral.  Trevor Hoffman, former San Diego Padres pitcher, was there to see us off (he rode, too!) Happily, we ran into Kandy and Jim, and posed for some pictures before wishing each other luck and starting on the ride.

me and Todd pre-ride

me and Kandy

My reason for riding. Already crying before the ride even started.

Trevor Hoffman, giving a pep talk

I'm not going to do a mile-by-mile description.  First, there were too many miles to do so!  But second, it all became a blur.  I had 150 miles to cover and it was hot. I mean, HOT.  Triple digit temperatures.  As it was a ride, not a race, I didn't need to prove anything to myself. I'm a slower cyclist to begin with, but I made a decision to take it extra slow during the weekend.  I just wanted to complete the ride safely.  My goal became to make it from one aid station to the next.  Most of them had snacks (ie pretzels, licorice, and chips) but one had lunch, a pizza truck making brick fired pizza.  As the stops went on (and I stopped at ALL of them) I started to sit longer, savoring the shade, getting a cup of ice to eat, and pouring ice down my sport bra.  I get hot very easily, and there were times on the ride I thought I was going to faint, it was so hot.  So I did the best I could.

mile 19.  first aid station, and feeling great.

So I kept my pace, and met tons of people along the way.  The stories I heard made me cry.  I met a woman who lost her husband a few years ago to lung cancer (he had never smoked). I met a woman whose best friend died of melanoma last year. I met  team from Missouri who had also biked through Texas, raising $1M for cancer research.  EVERY SINGLE PERSON RIDING had a reason to be there, a personal connection to cancer, and had raised money for the cause.   Lots of of tears were shed while biking, and I was not immune. I talked a lot to my mother during the ride, asking her for strength to get through.

I wore my Ironman Vineman 70.3 jersey the first day (I wore the PTC jersey on day 2) and got tons of comments. I was the only one I saw in an Ironman jersey, and people kept referring to me at the Iron Girl, etc.  It definitely made me well-known on the course, and helped to keep my spirits up!

lunch.  hot and dying of heat.

praying for strength?

The last 30 miles or so were awful.  It was so hot, and very, very hilly.  There was carnage all over the roads.  People stopped on the side, sitting in the shade.  People resting on the ground. People catching rides to the camp, as they were too exhausted or dehydrated or cramping up to continue.  I was so thankful for the plentiful aid stations and the numerous volunteers who were there to assist.  I was drinking a lot, taking my salts, and pouring water over my head every few minutes, but the heat and hills were very wearing.  There's a few big climbs, and before each of them I'd stop to steel myself for the job that had to be done to get up.  By this time, I had caught up to Todd (he was ahead of me the first half of the ride) so it was great to bike with a friend!  Finally, FINALLY, we crested the last hills and made to the rider camp.

my tent

charging station

panoramic view of the tent city

As soon as we rolled in to the camp (to our names announced and people cheering) volunteers took our bikes.  Good! I didn't want to see it for over 12 hours.  I saw my friend Mike and went  over to say hi....then went straight for the massage tent to make an appointment.  Coincidentally, at that moment someone didn't show up for their massage, so I was able to go right then!  I still had my helmet in my hand and bike shoes on, but I didn't care!  I went over to the massage tent and had a nice 15 minute massage, which felt great on my sore muscles.  Next, I found my tent (each rider had their own two-person tent--our duffel bags were already delivered inside!) and made my way to the trailer that contained hot showers.  Ah.......the shower felt great!  (As a side note, PTC did provide each tent with two towels, which I used, but I also brought a towel from home. I'm glad I did).

Massaged, showered and happy, I found Mike again.  He was with his friends, drinking beer---and informed me that they had run out of beer.  WHAT?!?!? I literally had been dreaming of a cold beer for the last 2 hours. I was so upset!  One of his friends offered me what was left in his cup and I greedily drank it, then I went back to my tent to "unpack".  They had a tent set up with power strips, so I put my phone and Garmin on to charge up.  After that, it was "happy hour' at camp (we had missed the lunch served since we didn't get in until 4:30!) and we sat on a big grassy area outside, listening to a live band.  They had snack food, but I was too nauseous to eat.  I wanted beer!  They did have wine, but I didn't want that.  Lots of people had their families there...something I had considered, but when I mapped it, it was 90 minutes from my house. I didn't want J to have to drive 3 hours round-trip with the kids to see me for a few hours!  Soon, there was more beer--- they had made a trip and had bottles and cans---and that made everyone happy.  By this time, Todd had showered and joined us, and we relaxed on the grass, drinking beer and listening to the great band.

relaxing with Todd and Mike--finally with beer

Next was dinner.  They had a great buffet, and even some vegetarian options.  Some people spoke, which was really moving.  Listening to them speak was very poignant to me. It made me realize that I was part of something bigger than myself, that I was doing something good.  The sense of family in the tent was amazing.  In fact, the sense of family throughout the entire two days was strong.  I've done so many races, and there is is always a sense of camaraderie on the courses...but here, this weekend, the feeling went beyond camaraderie. It felt like family.   The feeling in the air is impossible for me to describe, but I felt it in every cell of my body. We were all in it together.  After the speakers, they had dessert, but I skipped it in order to get to bed.  I was in bed by 8 (although I slept fitfully).

I woke early, and went to the tent to get breakfast. There I ran into Kandy. She told me that Jim was not able to ride back, as he had been having severe leg cramps all night long, and asked if she could ride back with me.  While I was concerned and upset for Jim, I was thrilled to have Kandy's company.  We finished eating,  I packed up my belongings, pumped air in my tires, and was ready to roll at the kick-off time of 7:00 (after getting a picture with Trevor Hoffman!)

the name of camp---Camp Pedalton

me and Trevor Hoffman

My legs were already sore from Day 1, and I was exhausted from the heat and lack of sleep.  But I still had 75 miles to ride back!  Kandy and I started together, and did the entire ride together.  The first several miles were great---it was cool and there was a lot of downhill---but soon, at about mile 30, there was a huge, nasty hill that was maybe about 1.5 miles long (West Lilac).  I got up to almost the top of it, and then, with .25 mile to go, I had to get off my bike and walk it up the rest of the way.  My lower back was beginning to ache, and my left calf was starting to cramp. I could have probably pushed through---it wasn't too much further---but at what cost?  Even pushing my bike up that portion was brutal. By this time, the sun was out in full force and I was shaking with heat exhaustion and sobbing at the effot. I finally got up the to top where Kandy was waiting, and we rode another few miles to the next aid station where I sucked down lots of ice to try to cool my core.

From this point forward, all I wanted to do was get home.  There were tons of people getting rides back---people were cramped, or had heat exhaustion---but I knew I could get home.  The route back was different from the way there----and had about about half the elevation gain---but it was still hot!  Eventually we got to the coast, at the Oceanside Harbor, and we went south.  Even though it was still so hot, at least we had an ocean breeze at this point. That made all the difference.  We still stopped at all the aid stations on the coast, eating ice, refilling our bottles, but it didn't seem as much as a death march from that point on.

my reasons for riding

At mile 70 (of 75) we had to go back UP the Torrey Pines hill.  This is a 1.5 mile steep hill. I've done this hill a gazillion times, but never with so many miles under my belt.  To make things "interesting" they had a contest where they were timing people for a mile of the hill (there was a timing chip in the bike bib number).  They had signs up the hill saying "3/4 mile to go" or "500 feet to go" etc...and lots of cheerleaders along the way.  I just focused on getting to the top---I wasn't going to walk this one---and was so glad when I did.  There was an aid station at top where a volunteer poured an entire bottle of ice water down my back. Man, that felt good!

From that point on, it was just a few more miles to the finish.  Kandy and I did it together, and crossed the finish line together. I was thrilled to see not only  my husband and kids there, but a few other dear friends who surprised me to come cheer us on.  Todd had finished 45 minutes before, and was there too. As soon as we finished, Kandy and I got off our bikes and started sobbing, giving each other a big hug. I could NOT have done this return ride without her---she was amazing, and even though we just met, over the 7 hours we were together we became good friends. It's amazing how much you disclose on a run or bike ride----the saying "what happens on a run/bike ride, stays on the run/bike ride" is true!  Then I saw my family and friends, and was able to give hugs and pose for pictures. I was delirious at this point with the heat and exhaustion, and at one point was looking for Todd, and he was literally right in front of me! I didn't even see him.  After refueling on delicious BBQ and a cold beer, I was ready to pack up and go home.

post-ride with Kandy, Jim and Todd

Will I do this ride next year?  Absolutely, as long as there are no family commitments that interfere.  The cause was so special to me, and I loved knowing that my efforts contributed to cancer research.

BBQ and beer. Awesome post-ride fare!

This was one of the hardest things I've ever done, which is saying a lot. I've done so many tough events---many triathlons, including 3 half-Ironmans, 20-some half-marathons, a full marathon, a century ride, 2.4 mile ocean swims---and while each was one was tough, THIS event I think was the toughest.  The amount of hills (over 8000 feet of elevation gain when all was said and done).....the triple digit heat....the emotions thinking about my mom, father-in-law, and all the friends and family I have had that have won or lost their battles.  Whenever I really down, I thought how this was only two days of my life, and that this was nothing compared to chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.  I am proud of myself and my fellow riders for getting through this grueling ride, and look forward to it again---and hopefully raising even more money! I can't say enough about this ride.  Except for running out of beer at the first finish line (which they remedied), everything was perfectly well-run----plenty of signage, volunteers, food and drink. Massage and hot showers! Upgraded trailer port-o-potties!  Charging stations for electronics!  We were treated very well.  I'll be back!

 In the meantime, I'm dreaming of a world without cancer.


  1. Wow -- reading this brought tears to my eyes. It sounds like a wonderful, meaningful event. Way to push through the difficult parts.

  2. I echo all of this. It so much fun to ride with you week in and week out, but this took it to a whole new level. Also, PTC was an amazing event and I will continue to ride for the Cause until I can't anymore or until a cure is found.

  3. I'm so proud of you and impressed with your persistence. You'll always remember this weekend. What an amazing event and cause!!


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