Let's begin with arriving in Charleston. After a wonderful morning in Savannah, Georgia, we headed out for our 2-hour drive to Charleston to check off our 38th state. Our first stop was at a local, reputable bike shop that rented road bikes. I had pre-reserved a road bike for this event. I had exchanged emails and phone calls, but still had that feeling in my stomach that they would drop the ball. And drop the ball they did! I arrived to pick up my bike and it had no pedals. Are you freaking kidding me?! The person in charge (and who I had been communicating with) said I should have brought my own pedals. I reminded him that I had explained I needed clipless pedals and I'd be bringing my shoes. Long story short, he tried arguing, I politely stood my ground with details of our exchanges, Greg came to my aid, and eventually bike shop guy relented and did the right thing...in the end...and almost an hour later. He even gave me three samples of Hoo-Hah cream (as if that helped my near panic attack...well, eventually it was helpful!). At any rate, I had my bike WITH PEDALS and that's what mattered.
If you've never been to Charleston, you really must go. The town is beautiful with all the Southern mansions. It is full of amazing history. We were impressed with the restaurants, the shopping, and the large number of dessert places! The night before my ride, we had a delicious meal at Coast. The lobster ceviche as incredible, all our meals were rave-worthy, and the service was outstanding. After dinner, we stumbled across a cupcake shop, while looking for a macaroon shop, where we indulged in a few (hundred) extra calories.
So the night before the race, I had no.sleep.at.all. I was so anxious about meeting this Metric Century Ride goal and even more excited about seeing George Hincapie. How could I sleep knowing that I was meeting one of my cycling crushes in the morning?!
Before the Ride. Would you believe it was warmer in Cleveland than in Charleston? Uh oh. I had been watching the weather with more obsession than Megan watches the Kardashians. It was supposed to be pleasant - low 50s to start and ending with mid 60s - perfect cycling weather. As I lined up, it was a frigid 37 degrees. The ride was delayed by 15 minutes to allow all riders to assemble. That was 15 additional minutes for my thighs to turn bright pink. My legs looked like a Lilly Pullitzer Christmas tree! My ensemble included the most heavily ass-padded shorts I could buy, my white long-sleeve Nike running top, a blue sleeveless cycling jersey (yep, Meg said I looked liked Alice in Wonderland on a bike), with a last-minute add-on of Greg's brown NF long-sleeve. I then looked like a petite Chewbacca! As my fingers were going numb from the cold, I panhandled till I found a kind soul who loaned me his spare gloves. He did so only after telling this Cleveland girl he was a Steelers fan! Whatever, my fingers felt much better.
As I was lining up, George Hincapie arrived. It was my kind of red carpet experience. He was dressed in BMC clothing as if he had just finished a ride in the Alps alongside Cadel Evans. SWOON. I am such a cycling dork that I began smiling like a teenager with a crush. He is as marvelous in person as you'd expect. I did not have the cycling speed to ride alongside him for the event, but I did see him pass by me on the return loop and I grinned all over again!
The Ride. The Ride was advertised as a 100k+ event since it was measured at 67.61 miles. However, all road markings said 70k! I know, right? What's 3 more miles when you're already doing 67? This charity ride was a smallish group of riders who mostly maintained speeds of 25 mph. No worries, I was here to test my limits, to burn a few calories, and to have fun. I did all three with an average speed of 14.7mph (when you subtract the rest/water stop time).
The first 20 miles I rode by myself. It was so freezing cold, I was more concerned with trying to keep myself warm that the miles ticked by fairly quickly. I couldn't believe the sign that read "15 Miles". And I had to keep my focus and not let myself realize that I had 55 more miles to go! As we know, the mental challenge always outweighs the physical.
The first rest stop came at 20 miles. It was here that I ran into two wonderful ladies, Beth and Jan. Beth regularly competes in triathlons and Jan had just finished a 1600 mile trek on her bike from Portland, Maine. The three of us spent the next 47+ miles together. So glad to have company and both ladies were incredibly interesting. Beth shared my passion for the Tour de France and she even had a fantasy TdF team!
The route was mostly scenic, offering great views of old oak trees dripping with spanish moss. We crossed a draw bridge (thankfully, down) with the water glistening and even seeing a pelican diving to catch food. At one point, we were stopped behind an old pickup truck for about 5 minutes while waiting for a train to finish crossing. The pickup truck had a bumper sticker about eating Yankees. If questioned, I was going to keep my hometown to myself!
We passed by a road named Dolly Dimples and, of course, that provided a good laugh for a bit. At one point, Jan asked me what my longest ride had been so far. I asked her how far had we gone already. She said 45. So I said my longest ride was 45 miles!
Prior to reaching the third water stop, we crossed a beautiful marsh where we saw a family of turkey vultures. The crosswinds were tough, but the natural beauty of the marsh was a treat in itself. At the third water stop (around mile 52-ish), the volunteers were outstanding. One guy held my bike while I stretched and he told me that he had been a Browns fan since the Brian Sipe days. He shared that his college roommate had graduated high school with Brian Sipe and he had been a fan ever since. It was a nice story that took my mind off all the pedaling for a few minutes. I do love hearing stories from people about their Cleveland experiences or connections.
I won't lie. The last 10 miles took a hundred years to finish. At least it felt like a hundred years. I will tell you that working in a team makes all the difference. Because Jan had just come back the previous week from her 1600 mile ride, Beth and I took turns pulling. Working in a team also makes you work a little harder so you don't let down the others. I really think this helped me finish as well as I did. And it was during this final stretch that Jan saw me squirming for comfort and she yelled out that, at this point, changing positions in the saddle wasn't going to help me. She was right. It was a "soreness" that I cannot describe, but does rival childbirth. Ouch is all I'm going to say about that!
As we rounded back into Park West I began to get excited because everything looked familiar. It was so cool when the firefighters at the station cheered as we rode by! But how is it possible that the beginning miles are quick and light and the final miles are long and hard?! Fortunately, I was full of a sense of accomplishment and that amazing feeling carried my sore ass and tired legs to the finish line! I even finished a full hour sooner than Greg predicted. Yay me!
At the finish line, Beth, Jan and I enjoyed a plate of pasta. Because we had finished so late, the dinner forks were gone so we had to use those big catering forks. Hysterical! As wonderful as a pasta dinner seemed, I couldn't really eat because I was plum tuckered out!
Greg and the girls had spent the morning at the Charleston Aquarium and joined me shortly after I finished. Some tots at Sonic for Meg (what would a trip to any southern state be without a stop at Sonic?!), a quick shower for me, then off to historic King Street for some window shopping. We stumbled across a great little college bar, plopped ourselves down, and enjoyed a celebratory ale. Dinner topped the evening with ribs and pulled pork at Sticky Fingers. I had collard greens and Carolina baked beans with my dinner. I'm pretty sure my dinner had the same number of calories that I burned earlier in the day!
And with the help of family and friends through their generous donations to the Jerry Zucker Charleston Ride for Hope, the 38th state was checked off!
Kim, are you ready for the next adventure in Vegas?