I want to start today’s post by saying that I had nothing to do with how well-cared-for and organized Team Fatty was for this event. That is all thanks to Team Fatty-Philly’s fearless co-captain, Jen. She put hundreds of hours into making it easy and fun for us all to get together, get to the start line, and hang out.
So let me echo what I have heard many, many members of Team Fatty-Philly say: Jen, you are awesome. Thank you so much.
And now, here’s my report of the day.
The Ride to the Ride
Team Fatty-Philly met at a hotel near the venue, to make parking and getting to the start line a little bit easier. I wanted a chance to hang out with team members, so I came down a little bit early.
Which all went fine, until about three minutes before it was time to go. Then my “pre-race purge reflex” kicked in, which I do not want to detail too thoroughly. Suffice it to say that just before any major ride or race, my body instinctively knows that it ought to get rid of anything it doesn’t need to carry.
And in short, by the time I got back down from my room to the parking lot, everyone was waiting for me. They gave me an ovation, which — considering what I had been doing and the fact that I was currently holding up 100+ people — was probably not deserved.
So we rode the five miles together, following our very own pace car.
Even as we did this mellow-paced, low-to-no-effort ride, I thought to myself, “I am not going to want to have to tack this on to my ride at the end of the day.”
We got to the gate with plenty of time to spare, so we had time to just mill around and talk before we could take our rightful spot at the front of the line.
Fool that I am, I stood up on top of a boulder and began to give a speech. Sadly for me, I had nothing to say. So I mostly just said, over and over, “Thanks everyone for coming out. It means a lot to me.”
Which everyone already knew, but it’s what I was thinking.
Oh, and I also stuck my arms out and waved my hands for applause a lot. This was surprisingly effective.
Oh, check out my right leg; the knee is still pretty swollen. It wasn’t hurting badly, though. Just a little bit stiff whenever I walked on it.
The Starting Line
I have to say, I loved having the biggest team at the LiveStrong Challenge. And I loved that everyone knew who we are and were excited for us. And I really, really loved that we got to be the team at the start of the line, with 6000 people behind us.
(Click here for a large version of the above picture)
The start time was delayed a bit, which gave me a chance to get a photo with Ethan Zohn, the winner of Survivor Africa. He was doing a shorter run since he’s currently in chemo treatment, but he says next year we should count him in to be in Team Fatty.
Then I talked with a reporter from the local NBC affiliate. We talked for about five minutes, from which they used a sentence fragment. Yes, not even a full sentence, where I explained what “Fighting like Susan” means, just the part where I mention she passed away recently.
I’m not happy about that, but that’s the way it goes. You can find the segment here.
As we were waiting for the start, I told the team my ride plan for the day. Go out fast for a little while, just to see if I can stay with the police escort for a while. Then I’d hang out at the first rest stop for a while and just cruise the rest of the day, riding and talking with anyone who would put up with me.
Then we counted down the seconds and off we went.
And something happened to me. Namely, I felt an incredible rush of adrenaline and a strong aversion to giving up Team Fatty’s lead position.
So, along with about five other Team Fatty riders, I rode out of my skull, off the front and pulling anyone who could follow. My knee was sore at first…and then, magically, it wasn’t.
Almost before I knew it, there was the first rest stop. The one I said I was going to stop at and hang out for a while.
But I hadn’t been counting on being not just near the front, but at the front.
I just couldn’t make myself get off that train.
So I kept going, riding with the fast guys, and feeling nigh indestructible. I passed the place where you have to decide whether to ride 70 or 100 miles. My leg felt great. I was at the front of the lead pack. Of course I was going 100 miles.
And then, about thirty miles in, I faded. Hard. It was remarkable, really, how fast I dropped back. There I was, actually taking my turn at pulling the group, then I dropped back, and suddenly I couldn’t hang anymore.
I looked back, seeing if there was another group I could glom onto.
There was nobody.
So I pulled over to the side of the road and had a snack until someone else from Team Fatty rode up, and we rode together to the next aid station.
I should say that my expectations for the Philly ride and route couldn’t have been more wrong. Specifically, I had expected that the weather would be miserable, based on the fact that the weather for the two days prior had been rainy and miserable.
Instead, the day was warm — but not unbearably hot — with declining humidity and a nice afternoon breeze.
Also, I expected that the route would be through an urban jungle. Instead, it was through the countryside, alongside beautiful old farms and 17th-century cemeteries, and through countless tunnels of dense trees.
And, most importantly, I thought the ride would be relatively flat. But it was not. No sir, it was most definitely not flat. Hills never lasted long — a few hundred feet — but they were steep and frequent. And since my whole climbing technique revolves around finding a climbing groove, these hills punished me. Punished me hard.
On one of them, I saw the devil. I rode by him, putting out a fist for a fist bump, and he acted like he was going to give me one … and then pulled away at the last moment, cackling evilly.
It was one of the most awesome moments of the whole ride.
Later, at the finish line, I got a photo with him.
You can see that in this photo I haven’t quite forgiven him, yet.
What was really great about this ride — this whole event — was the people. Team Fatty was just incredible. I don’t know how many times I heard “Go Team Fatty” yelled out from the side of the road.
Or how many signs.
Others were incredible too. I’m sure that people who have done this kind of event a lot get used to it, but to me the whole unity of purpose combined with the celebration of having done something good really made the whole day feel important and special.
I rode a good chunk of the day alongside Chris Carmichael, who attends many of these LiveStrong Challenge rides. I think that having the honcho of CTS and a blogger called Fatty might have caused a tear in the fabric of time and space, but he was still a good guy to ride and talk with.
As the 100-mile course merged back with the 70 and 45 mile courses, I started coming across more Team Fatty members. As they passed me or I passed them, the greeting was always the same: “TEAM FATTY!”
I never ever ever got tired of that.
And then my 100 miles was up. I don’t believe I have ever felt so good at the end of a century, nor has a century ever flown by so quickly.
And for the first time ever, I wished for more.
After the ride, I hung around the finish line, wanting to thank and congratulate Team Fatty members who finished after me. It was all I could do to not give them all a big hug, I was so excited to see so many of us finishing the ride, having accomplished so much.
And I got lots and lots and lots of photos with Team Fatty riders, all of them looking pretty much like this:
After a while, though, my effort started to catch up to me, plus I was still in an increasingly icky-feeling pair of bike shorts. I bolted back to the hotel, got something to eat, changed into clean clothes, and got back to the finish line.
I’m sure I missed seeing quite a few Team Fatty members cross the finish line, but I kinda had to, or I’d have fallen over. And probably gotten a weird fungus on my butt.
Wrapping up, LiveStrong Philly was an incredible celebration of having done something good — raising a lot of money to fight cancer.
Count me in for 2010.
PS: Jason Crane has a great list of other people’s photos and stories from the event. I’ve gone and read every one of them. Check out his list here. (And thanks, Jason!)
PPS: Almost all of the photos you see in this post come from Kevin, who spent his whole day photographing Team Fatty, from the start line to the road to the aid stations to the finish line. Thanks, Kevin! (Check out all his photos from the day here)
PPPS: Thanks to everyone at the LAF, not just for the day-to-day work they do in the fight against cancer, but for putting on a really uplifting event. Special thanks go to Colleen and AnneMarie, who helped me in too many ways to even start mentioning, because they’d get all bigheaded and demand raises and stuff.