Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ACT Ride Journal: Day One

ACT V Rider Journal by Emily Mills (#72)

Day One: Madison to Baraboo (75 miles)

I was nervous. Everything was packed and ready to go but I was standing on a grassy median in a parking lot at Olin Park in Madison, feeling a little bit ill. The main thought racing through my head: “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”

When I initially signed up for the ACT V Wisconsin AIDS Ride back in early spring, those 300-odd miles were still in the far-off, unreal land of the future. August: that would give me plenty of time to train and raise money. In the beginning, I had been more afraid of the fundraising aspect of the event. All riders were required to bring in a minimum of $1,100 in donations (all for a great cause and organization). That’s a bit daunting to the girl who only ever sold six or seven boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and those all to her immediate family. But I was determined, and thanks to the help of my band and a whole slew of good family and friends, I was able to raise well over the minimum--$1,565. Excellent! Now there was just the matter of pedaling those 300 miles. Easy peasy, right?

At the ass-crack of dawn on Thursday, August 2nd, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Surely I hadn’t trained nearly enough, hadn’t strengthened my poor knees enough (patellofemoral syndrome is a real bitch), hadn’t tricked out my custom built bike enough (a Surly Crosscheck, courtesy of the best cheerleader a gal could want: my boyfriend). The sun was getting ready to rise, all around me my fellow riders and crew were assembling, wolfing down bagels, applying sunscreen and sorting through luggage. Open ceremonies began. My stomach turned knots as I listened to the pep talks and speeches. My eyes teared up as they rolled in Rider Zero—the riderless bike meant to represent all those lost to HIV/AIDS—all to the haunting tones of bagpipes.

Then it was time to go. I said my goodbyes, still feeling almost dizzy with dread of the miles and miles of self-powered road running that lay ahead. I clipped in and pushed off. No turning back.

Our bike parade wound its way through the shady streets of Madison and Middleton. We passed people just leaving for their daily commutes to work and I thought, “OK, this is definitely better than going to work.” We saw a few friendly faces out on the sidewalks to cheer us on even at that early hour. When the sun had fully risen, the heat of the day started to settle over us and everyone knew it would be a scorcher. Still, morale was high.

We stopped for our first pit stop at Lakeview Park in Middleton. I was disheartened by the locked bathrooms but forced my bladder to calm itself until the next opportunity to pee came along. I refused to become one of those crazy people who use their chamois pads for urination-on-the-go purposes. Oh no, it would be clean living for me!

The ride away from town was pleasant. Our route took us right past where I work at ETC and out into the countryside. This is where we would meet out doom: Popsicle Hill. If you’ve never been on one of the Wisconsin AIDS Ride, you may be unfamiliar with this term. “Popsicle Hill” refers to the highest elevation point reached during the whole of the ride. Upon reaching the summit, riders are rewarded with a popsicle. It would be the best damn popsicle I’d ever had in my entire life.

In this case, our ascent was actually what felt like a series of three very long, very steep hills on Freedom Road, just outside of North Freedom, Wisconsin. By the end I decided that much as the hawkish Republican goons would have you believe I do in fact hate Freedom. Road. So sue me. It was hot, it was the first day of the ride, and it was steep as hell (just over 444 meters, which in the Midwest is quite a lot). It was one of only two times that I had to get off my bike and walk it up a hill. I am not ashamed. I would probably have ruined my body for the remaining three days if I’d pushed it any further.

See Popsicle Hill on the elevation map of the days’ route: (then click “Show” in the left hand corner of the top menu bar, then click “Elevation”)

Grueling hills and an unfortunate dearth of ice midday aside, it was a good first day of riding and one hell of a way to break me in to what lay ahead. The tallest hill was behind me, the century day next—but I was starting to actually believe that I could make it.

We made camp at Baraboo Middle School that night, sleeping bags and air mattresses sprawled across the gym floor. Tubs and a clothesline for doing laundry in were made available and so I busied myself with the washing of bike shorts and sports bras. Dinner, provided by local caterers Captain Dix (who had a hilarious and wonderful truck parked out back), was good and satisfying. I sat out on the cement wall in front of the school, enjoying the light breeze and chatting with a few other people who decided that being outside was better than in. That night, I went to bed at 8:00. I don’t think I’ve done that in years. But it was a good thing, because come 5:00 the next morning, alarms and coughing woke me up and it was time to get going again.

Next Up: Day Two – The Century

1 comment:

F.C.G said...

I am amazed!! Looking foward to reading the daily write-ups.


The Lost Albatross