Saturday, January 09, 2016

Big N's (numbers), Many G's (gratitudes)

Sun setting on 2015

I finished 2015 having ridden 13,625 miles bringing my total miles ridden the last 14 years to 161,375, the equivalent of nearly 6-1/2 times around the earth. That’s a Big N, for someone who really only started riding at age 56. So many G’s for physical health, strength, commitment, perseverance, the unending support of Kirk and my family, and friends to encourage me to dream on, and the availability of financial resources for me to chase those dreams.

January 1, 2015 Kirk and I, left Glendale, AZ after the Fiesta Bowl New Year’s Eve in time for me to be back in Tucson to start a New Year’s Day 9:00 a.m. GABA ride from the Loop Bicycle Shop. Fog on I-10 was so dense we were grounded to no more than 30mph for long stretches. Fog and snow did not dissuade 25 intrepid riders’ circumnavigation of the 55+/- miles of multi-use path around the City of Tucson. 

January 11th was one of my tip-pity-top, most treasured cycling achievements: 200 miles completed in 12 hours elapsed time, another Big N. The clock never stopped running, not even for a pee break. This was my 3rd for-real attempt of my coveted 200/12. My first attempt was aborted for medical reasons, the second attempt I aborted for weather reasons. On January 11, 2015, well into my 70th year, I knew this would be my last attempt. With each passing month I would only be losing both strength and endurance and there is wisdom in knowing when to stop, when to say when. If it was to be, it would be January 11th. Kirk crewed, my friend, Jeff Rogers from Chicago was also attempting his 200/12, and our son, Daniel Thrall, joined me on the course for the last 2 hours as my pacer and encourager. Details of that glorious day are here. An additional Big G gratitude on January 11th was the absence of any seizure activity which, actually, was the reason for aborting my first 200/12 effort. 
March 27th I had a seizure, lost consciousness, and fell off my Bacchetta. Not a bad fall, bike was ok, and road rash was all I could show externally, but it was a wake-up call for sure. I knew the time would come that I would need to transition from a 2-wheel recumbent to a trike. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so soon. 

I sold my dearly beloved Bacchetta Ti Aero to a friend and local bentrider. By June 1st the ICE Sprint X was my new ride.

It is an amazingly beautiful, exquisitely engineered machine worthy of many oohs and aaahs. I feel beyond grateful (Big G) there is a truly viable and fun option for me to continue my cycling passion; beyond grateful for Kirk’s support through it all and his willingness for me to lay out the big bucks to make it all happen. So much to be grateful for, but I find myself still grieving that my performance speed is less and that my ability to be competitive is diminished by my 3rd wheel and the 36 pound naked weight of Hielo, his name, which is ICE in Spanish. I guess the Big N associated with Hielo, other than his price tag, would be the 4 pounds I lost the first month I rode him pushing his weight up our hills, mountains, and passes. 

When we moved to Tucson in 2011 I was eager to become active in the Arizona Randonneurs catching some of their Brevets around the state. But then, enter Epilepsy and my inability to drive for 22 months while we worked to find a medication regimen that would keep me seizure-free. At the time there were only a couple of 200k (minimum of 125 miles) RUSA Permanent Routes (Randonneur USA, i.e. RUSA) out of Tucson. I decided to develop a cadre of Tucson-based 200k’s and one 300k which I could then ride basically from my front door. Ride one per month for 12 consecutive months and earn what’s known in RUSA parlance as an R-12. 

Since my seizures had not become stabilized, there was risk involved in heading out for a 200k alone. To receive RUSA credit for a RUSA sanctioned ride, all participating riders must be RUSA members. Big G gratitude that there are so many Randonneurs I have gotten to know in Arizona that finding one or more who would be willing to ride a 200k with me was really pretty easy. The hardest part of the R-12 was riding a 200k in June, July, August, and September in Southern Arizona in 100+ degree heat. Driving to a cooler clime was not an option given my potential for seizures and inability to drive legally or safely. 

The challenge of the R-12 is in the discipline and commitment to the challenge: staying healthy, managing your calendar to carve out the time, doing your best to manage the weather, and crossing your fingers that ride-stopping mechanicals don’t abort your ride.

I completed my first R-12 in July 2015, Both a Big G and a Big N.

I have never been any good at math, not even arithmetic. So it was fitting that I decided to celebrate my 70th birthday (October 18th) with a 300k RUSA Permanent. A 300k must be a minimum of 186 miles, but the one I built for my birthday 300k turned out to be 192 miles. I figured it this way: 100 years minus 70 years equals 30 years which means I should/would ride a 300k. 

The next challenge would be to find some willing Randonneurs to share the joy with me. Find I did. There were 5 who enthusiastically said YES!--3 from Phoenix, 1 from El Paso, and 1 from Chicago. When ride day arrived, October 3rd, 2 were injured and 1 was sick. David Brake from Phoenix, Jeff Rogers from Chicago, and I would be the celebrants. Kirk met us at the Control at mile 125 with food and at the Control at mile 175 with a vegan, gluten-free birthday cake. 

This would be my longest ride (192 miles) and the most elevation gained (7,500’) on Hielo, my trike. Big N for sure, and Big G for sure, too: seizures under control for 7 months, awesome husband who was so cheerful and willing to support us at Controls, awesome friends willing to go the distance and descend Empire Pass on Rt 83 in the pitch of night full of switchbacks, rumble strips, and at least 4 miles of a 6% grade.  

My next planned birthday ride will be in 10 years when I turn 80: 100 - 80 = 20 so I hope I can ride a 200k as an octogenarian. 

Me, Jeff, David

There have been many other super fun times on the bike in 2015: riding with Kirk once a week and sharing with him his amazing enthusiasm for cycling (he rode 8,000 miles this year and he’s only been riding 2 years!); a 4-day bike tour with my son, Daniel, in SE Arizona; driving to El Paso to ride with my Rando friends, Margaret O’Kelley and Paula Lubbe-Crowe; repairing kids’ bikes at the Boys and Girls Clubs in Tucson with other GABA mechanics, standing at the front of the Gold section at El Tour de Tucson shivering with Daniel before the start of the race (he missed Platinum by 9 seconds!!!!); developing and implementing, with other GABA members, training rides for new riders using the awesome 55 mile multi-use path around Tucson as our training ground, and so much more.

As the sun finally set on 2015,  it's hard to imagine 2016 being more memorable and more epic than, but I plan to show up daily and discover what it will bring.