Of course this whole event raises money for the Team Noah Foundation, which is my mountain bike team. Last year we raised just over $2,100 and this year we want to do better than that. So if you have a few extra dollars, please click over to our donation site and put them towards a good cause. Team Noah Foundation helps the families of children with a Congenital Heart Defect spend as much time as possible with their kiddos while they are receiving treatment. Dwayne and Bettina, Noah's parents, got to spend 10 beautiful weeks with their baby boy, and want to give other families the gift of that much time or possibly more. So after Noah's death, the Foundation was created and his memory is what we are riding for today.
Bike from Alpine Shop (Kirkwood, MO) to Aerie's Winery (Grafton, IL)
55 miles, mostly road
1600 Friday - 2030 Friday
|Thanks Maria for the pic from the Alpine Shop parking lot!|
|Dwayne and Chuck on the Chain of Rocks Bridge.|
Run Aerie's 12hr Ultramarathon (Grafton, IL)
40 miles, all trail
2100 Friday - 0748 Saturday
|Peat, Dwayne, Chuck, me, JZ at the start.|
Laps 2, 3, and 4 are pretty hard, but mostly in my mind. Melissa is staying solidly in front of me by about 5 minutes and I'm starting to crack mentally. I keep telling myself that racing doesn't actually start until the sun rises (about hour 9), but I am trying to run/hike pretty fast and only making up a minute or so on Melissa. I start to project the effort I will need to make up the remaining 4 minutes and that makes my head hurt. I start to doubt that I can win. This is pretty crazy because we are SOOOOOOO not about winning on the Epic Birthday Adventure - it's an ADVENTURE for godssake. But if you've known my last 6 months of solo racing, it's been a mind-screw for me, and 2nd place here will not help that. Thankfully, I hear a familiar voice behind me and it's DWAYNE!! I almost hug him in relief and blabber on about all of my fears and insecurities. Like the good teammate/mentor that he is, he gets my head straightened back out and we move. Not 2 miles later, Melissa appears in front of us, we run with her for a bit, and then motor on up the signature climb on the course, the "Big Long Turd" as named by Jeff in 2014.
Looking back at the splits, we made up 11 minutes on Melissa on Lap 5. 11 minutes is how hard my mind was screwing with my body. That is crazy. Thank you Dwayne.
|Final meters of Aerie's 12hr. My number was 34. I got 7th place overall. 7 is special.|
I spend the next hour or so piddling with my bin (adventure racers will appreciate this) and getting ready for Stage 3. Kate rolls in right on time (she rode STL-Grafton solo this morning due to work obligations yesterday) and Ian gets dropped off as well. Chuck, having pushed far past his perceived limits, decides to call it quits and gets a ride home with Matt. The rest of us saddle up and ride out. 16 hours down, 15 to go!
Bike from Aerie's Winery (Grafton, IL) to Bike Stop Cafe (St. Charles, MO)
26 miles, mostly road, 2 ferries
0930 Saturday - 1230 Saturday
|Chuck, Dwayne, Adam, Matt, Jason, Kate, Peat, me, Ian. Ready to roll south!|
|We are on a ferry!! The Brussels ferry.|
My favorite moment of this stage happens when we hop onto the Boschert Bike Trail and I see a giraffe. A real giraffe! I start excitedly yelling at everyone, "Hey look at that giraffe over there!!" and then I realize it's a fiberglass giraffe. Not alive. Whomp-whomp.
|Adam, Dwayne, Peat, Kate, JZ, and my empty bowl of chili at Bike Stop Cafe.|
Bike from Bike Stop Cafe (St. Charles, MO) to The Mound (Weldon Spring, MO)
20 miles, mostly road
1330 Saturday - 1600 Saturday
Except, the warm temps (60 RealFeel) have turned the Katy into a soggy, tire-sucking, slow pea-gravelly mess so we decide to re-route on pavement. JZ knows a way through the discombobulated subdivision hell of St. Charles, so we follow his lead through miles of cul-de-sacs and tan vinyl siding. My slight slowness in Calhoun County has devolved into absolute anchor-laden bike riding. I think I ate too much at lunch and now all of my body's blood is in my stomach, trying to digest and distribute those calories. I can't do anything to help the situation either, besides pedal slowly and try not to get too down on myself.
Luckily, my teammates realize what's up and come to my rescue. Dwayne does a ton of pushing, which is crazy because he's on his singlespeed franken-bike (mtb frame, cx tires, thud-buster post, trunk rack, aerobars). Peat even gets in on the fun too with a triple push. Everyone else keeps the pace moderate in front so I don't fall too far behind. Struggle Street can be many lengths, but today it is 20 miles long. Even 20 miles has to end sometime, and finally we cruise through the Research Park and onto the brand-new GRG trail that links up with the Hamburg that leads straight into The Mound. Jeff, Maria, and Melisa are there as a terrific welcoming committee, but my first priority is getting off the Warbird and laying on the pavement for a while. I'm seriously WORKED and I just need some time to digest. Jeff knows exactly what's going on, he's been through this before too, and luckily everyone else finds things to do during the break so it doesn't feel like I'm holding anyone up. 22 hours down, 9 to go!
Bike OT Night Ride Route
30 miles, gravel/road combo
1700 Saturday - 1930 Saturday
|Ready to leave The Mound. Thanks Melisa for the pic!|
Do you know how long a sunset lasts? Longer than it takes me and Jeff to haul my tired ass up Terry Rd. I keep wanting to stop and enjoy the cloudless perfection, rich oranges and golds silhouetting my friends, their bikes and the bare Missouri woods, but getting going again would take too much effort. So I just steal quick glances here and there, trying to conjure up a sense of gratitude for the beautiful day, however painful it's been.
We bomb down the pavement to Defiance, have a quick group conference to discuss gin shots at the biker bar, decide against them, then get back on the Katy towards home. Again, I can hang with the group on the flats but once we hop onto the Hamburg and its slow uphill grunt, I'm off the back again. But Peat sticks back to chat so we have a great time grinding out the final-ish miles. 25 hours down, 6 to go!
Hike Clark Loop of Lewis & Clark
5 miles, insanely muddy trail
2030 Saturday - 2230 Saturday
Now, the real purpose of sticking in some running-slash-hiking-slash-oh-come-on-you-really-thought-we'd-be-running-at-this-point?-Hiking-FTW! was simply to give our butts a break from the bike saddle before the final ride home. Also I wanted to introduce my cycling friends to some hike-only trails, which happen to be my favorite in MO. So we say goodbye to Jeff (thank you so much for driving support), hello to Yvonne, and switch into our running shoes for some time on foot. Yvonne tells us the story of the Love Connection trail as we access the Lewis & Clark trail system and start the Clark Loop. And we find a lot of mud.
My hip flexor isn't feeling awesome either, but my desire to do the "whole" Epic Birthday Adventure is stronger than the discomfort so I slog through the remaining 3 miles. It doesn't sound like long, especially to me since I've ran this loop so many times, but tonight it is long. So long, and full of mud that each step is like a slip-n-slide. Mud cakes onto my shoes, adding to the load my overworked hip flexor has to deal with. Yvonne chats with me for a while, and I grab a stick to function like a trekking pole, but eventually it's just me, alone in the woods following the faster progress of 5 bobbing headlamps in front of me. They wait for me every so often, but honestly in my emotional state it's better to just be alone, and somehow everyone understands that without saying anything and lets me bring up the rear.
The miles tick by so, so slowly. I get sadder and sadder. I cry a little. I know this is normal and a sign of being pushed to the limit, which is exactly what I asked for when planning a 31-hour birthday party. Whose idea was this anyway? Oh yeah, mine. I encourage myself by drawing on the strength of my friends - Peat refusing to let a broken hip ruin his bike racing. Adventure racers worldwide who battle through 12" of mud like it's a road 5k. Dwayne and Bettina absorbing more pain than I'll ever know after losing Noah. I can deal with a whiny hip flexor for 1 more mile. Finally, The Mound comes back into view and I tumble into the Interpretive Center, eager to sit down, eat something, and saddle up for the final part of tonight's journey. 27 hours down, 4 to go!
Bike from The Mound (Weldon Spring, MO) to Alpine Shop (Kirkwood, MO)
30 miles, gravel/road combo
2330 Saturday - 0300 Sunday
After returning to The Mound, we find out that Peat and Kate have already started their ride back to Alpine Shop, so it's me, JZ, Dwayne, Adam, and Ian left for the remaining 30 miles. Maria and Yvonne make sure we've got everything we need and then wish us good luck as we connect back into the Research Park and onto the Katy. Before we cross the Missouri River on the Page Bridge, we stop at the gas station across the street in hopes of pizza. No pizza, but they do have coffee, hot chocolate, turkey wraps, and potato chips, all excellent sources of fuel for a midnight ride.
|Real cyclists eat on the curb. Eyeballs.|
There wasn't much to do once we finished. No finish line, no crowds, just a quiet parking lot. Ian and Adam still had to ride home to their houses, an extra 45-ish minutes, and they both refuse rides from me. Studs. I say goodbye to Dwayne and JZ and we just all drive away. So simple and so complicated.
I knew that 31 hours was going to be hard. We ended up being outside a long longer than that, thanks to several leisurely stops for meals and changing clothes. For me, I woke up Friday 0600 and went to sleep Sunday 0400. 46 hours awake and 31 doing some form of exercise is great prep for a 72-hour race I have next month in Florida. We covered more than 160 miles on our bikes, and everyone had different foot miles, about 45 for me. But more than numbers, the support I felt from my friends and teammates was far beyond anything I'd expected. It's hard to explain, maybe I can only explain it to someone in the woods at 3:00 AM, but to everyone who joined in on this Epic Birthday Adventure, thank you for picking me up when I was hurting and telling me my crazy plans were not crazy at all. They just take a long time.
Also thank you Noah for the stunning weather.
Please consider a donation at http://www.plumfund.com/pf/teamnoah15 if you can :). Fundraiser closes Friday 13-Feb at midnight!
Aerie's Full Results