Angels on Motorcycles
This past October I participated with Team In Training for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and completed Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo, which is a 103-mile bike ride complete with over 8000 feet of climbing. It starts and ends in Santa Rosa, California and winds through some of the most scenic roads in Sonoma County. To say that it is a beautiful ride is an understatement. It takes you through forests and then out to the coast highway. To say that it is grueling is also an understatement. At least for me, anyway. I’m new to cycling, but I followed the training schedule and was physically prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was the freezing rain and unexpected mishaps that delayed my team again and again. I wasn’t prepared for the treacherous descents with hands so numb, I couldn’t feel them on the brakes. And I wasn’t prepared to come upon a horrific crash only seconds after it happened.
Because of the rain, I was personally plagued throughout the day with the problem of not being able to clip my cleats into the pedals due to the mud, especially after stopping at aid stations. I would roll along struggling with one cleat or the other, spewing every swear word in my vocabulary until I could safely go no further and then have to sit on the side of the road, sopping wet and dig mud out with a stick. It is not in my psyche to quit, no matter what, but this day was trying my competitive nature, both physically and emotionally. While at the main rest stop where a big lunch was served, I think I was on the brink of hypothermia. I was shaking uncontrollably and if the color of my teammates lips, a deep purple, was any indication of the way I looked, then I was probably going to freeze to death if we didn’t just keep moving. As I was standing there shaking, and stuffing my face with the best turkey sandwich I had ever tasted in my life (because when you are burning that much fuel, you feel like you have died and gone to heaven when someone hands you an oreo cookie), one of the volunteers came up to me and said, “Honey, you need to go sit in one of the cars with the heater on.” I said, “Thank you, but if I get in one of those cars, I will never get out.” Sufficiently stuffed, I went about a half mile on my bike only to sit on the side of the road, yet again, with stick in hand. So that was how the day was going at the half way point. And yes, I should have had my cleat covers.
The next stop was around mile 75 at the aid station just before Coleman Valley Road, which is the last and final really tough climb. I had been on my bike for close to eight hours now. Cold and exhausted don’t quite do it justice and I also had a stabbing pain between my shoulder blades. At least my butt and parts close by felt fine. I wasn’t so worried about the climb itself, I just couldn’t get it out of my head that I had to ride another almost 30 miles. We took off from there onto Highway 1. Coleman Valley is a left turn, not too far away. Again, I couldn’t clip in. Again, for the 84th time, I said, “mother-fucking cocksucker.” That was my favorite phrase of the day. I road along with my right foot in and struggling with my left until I made the turn. I had no choice. I had to stop. It would be impossible to climb this steep, half-mile hill with one foot detached. I told my teammates to go on and I would catch them at the next aid station. Tears stung my eyes. My brain and body were spent. I prayed for a SAG (support and gear) wagon to come by and pick me up. I was done, but I went through the motions. I sat down, found a stick and started digging. Two guys on two motorcycles road up and stopped. They were part of the ride support team. They turned off their bikes and started walking toward me.
“What’s going on, you okay?” one asked.
“No.” I was crying, but embarrassed and tried to appear less like a hysterical female who might have bit off more than she could chew. “Mud in my cleats.”
“What’s your name?”
“Jodee,” one said, “we are going to help you and get you on your way. You’re doing great. You’re on the home stretch. By the way, thank you so much for being out here and doing what you are doing with your team.”
I turned and looked him in the eye. “Thank you for saying that.” I said, and he reached down, put his hands under my arms and picked me up off the ground while they other one picked up my bike.
“Get on,” they said. “We are going to hold you and your bike up while you clip in.” And that is just what they did. I had one in front of me and one behind and I pedaled in place until I was successful.
“You ready?” the guy in front asked. “Yep,” I said. And with that the guy from behind gave me a running push. I was elated.
“I love you guys!” I yelled, as I rode off.
They yelled back, “You can do it, Jodee! Go Team!”
There were many difficulties that day, but they were interspersed with great moments. That was my favorite moment. I had renewed energy and a renewed spirit. The rain had stopped and I had no more issues with my cleats. I finished the ride. I wonder if those two guys have any idea what they did for me that day. I hope so.