Otherwise known as INSANITY! And I mean that in a good way, of course!
Let me say two things right at the start: first, I only took two pictures today, despite the fact that there were many interesting sights along the way, and second, this ride kicked my butt! I finished, though, and I wasn't even the last one to roll in!
I woke up at just after three this morning and couldn't get back to sleep; I was too excited about the ride, I guess. I finally got on the road at about 5:30 (because even though I was up early I still couldn't leave on time). Unfortunately I kept having problems with my bike rack and had to stop three times to monkey around with it until I got it the way I needed it. So now I was running late-- registration check-in was from 6:30 to 7:30, with a projected start time of 7:45 am and I wanted to get there before seven so I could get a good parking spot!
I got to Kelly Drive in Philly at about 7:15 and found a spot easily. I had pre-registered, so getting my number, cue sheet, and other stuff was quick and easy. I took a picture of the riders assembling at the start, as you can see above, but it doesn't show AT ALL how many people were there. I don't know what the number was, but hopefully it will be on the web soon and I'll post it.
Right from the start I knew it was going to be a bit rough. At eight in the morning the temperature was 77 degrees with a humidity level of 82 percent. The humidity did go down as the day went on, but the temperature went up, with the "real feel" going as high as 98 degrees!! Oh misery!
I opted for the 35 mile shared roads ride (meaning shared with cars). The info on this option said the terrain was hilly, and I assumed that meant something similar to "Lancaster County hilly": rolling hills with an occasional steeper climb, with lovely flat sections in between to give some rest. Well, I was wrong. VERY WRONG!
The first fourteen miles were torturous. Seriously, if I had realized how hilly it was going to be I never would have thought I could have ridden it. I'm not sure that I've mentioned it here on my blog, but I am one overweight chick right now. I won't say how much, but it's significant. Maybe someday I'll post some before and after pictures. Anyway...
I actually had a little mental breakdown at about mile eight when I realized that it was going to be an incredibly challenging ride and I still had 27 miles to go. I sat on the side of the road and cried for about twenty minutes, wondering how in the heck I was going to do this thing. I just decided that I would go as slow as needed to, walk if I needed to, and rest if I needed to. It would be that simple.
And that's exactly how I did it. I walked up quite a few hills, lol. The first rest stop, at Villanova University, was around mile fifteen. The oranges, bagels and cold drinks revived my spirits! The best part? It was mostly all downhill to the next stop, about ten miles farther down the road.
Along the way I met this guy, whose name I can't remember, and his horse Showtime:
I don't usually think of cowboys and Philadelphia as really going together, but they look awesome don't they? He said Showtime was 27 years old-- he's in great shape for such an old guy!
I didn't get a picture, but there was a couple riding a recumbent tandem who always seemed to be either just in front of me or just behind. The woman was in the front seat doing the driving while the man was in the back seat strumming a blue ukelele! And they were singing as they went along. I wish I'd taken their photo.
I also rode for a while with a woman from Berks County, and we exchanged numbers at the end of the ride, with hopes of getting together and doing some biking.
The last leg of the ride was on the Schuylkill River Trail (pronounced SKOO kill, but with a G sound in the middle there, too). After a few miles you could opt to get back on the street in Manayunk (MANny unk), or follow the trail the whole way back. Since the trail option was also the flat option, that's the one I chose! And it really was a trail-- packed dirt and small rocks, running through trees along the Schuylkill River. I saw two big turtles sunning themselves on a fallen tree trunk and I stopped to take their picture, but just as I was getting my camera out some people rode by and the turtles slid back into the water. At that point I just wanted to get to the finish so I put the camera away and pedaled on.
When I got to the start/finish point I rang my bell like a crazy woman for about thirty seconds. I was too tired to whoop it up any other way. I got a quick butt massage-- yes, butt massage (and legs, too). I needed it something awful! I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and after resting for a half hour or so I loaded up my bike and headed home.
I will definitely do this ride again next year, and I will definitely choose the same ride option that I did this time around. I want to see how much I improve over the next twelve months! Although it was a tough ride for me, I'm glad that I underestimated the term "hilly." If I had really understood it I never would have chosen to try the 35 mile route and challenged myself.
I think I'll take a rest from riding tomorrow... but maybe not...