WFRT Post Ride Blog

So the big day was on Saturday. I haven't really been able to bring myself to write this last log because I don't want to admit that it's over. I already miss my teammates and our training sessions. I'm going to do my best to describe the experience for you.

I didn't sleep at all the night before the ride. Maybe 2 1/2 hours. Maybe. I was mostly worried about the weather. Forecast said 20mph winds from the north. Not exactly what you want to be cycling into for 100 miles.
Got to Wrigley Field to check in at about 7am. There were so many bikes! We got a good T2 group photo in and then began to line up in the corrals. Group A was for people who anticipated finishing within 4-6 hours, Group B was 6-7.5 hours and Group C was +7.5. Alex, Dan, Coach Chris and I lined up at the back of Group A. We grabbed another assistant coach, Gillian, and waited for them to let us start. The horn went off and we began to ride into the Wrigley Field Concourse. It was sort of a mess in the beginning, pushing our way along with our feet rather than pedaling. We came out the front gate and headed up Clark St. The first 2 or 3 miles were very slow going due to the amount of cyclists and the lack of traffic control. Once we got a little further north speed picked up a bit, but that's when I had my first water bottle incident. I have 2 cages on my frame in which I keep a bottle of water and a bottle of electrolytes (usually Gatorade). I also have 2 cages on my seat post because I tend to go through more fluids than most people. My Gatorade cage on the frame snapped in half at about the 3rd mile. Alex came to my rescue (as he has during past rides) and put the bottle in one of the pockets of his jersey. We continued.
We were instructed to skip the first rest stop since it was only 13 miles in, so we kept rolling. As we were turning onto Sheridan Road, a group of XXX racers were riding by the opposite direction and I heard someone scream my name. My friend Michael was riding with them and just happened to pass by right in front of me. How serendipitous! We made our way back onto the street and not long after hit a patch of really rough road. I felt one of my water bottles fall off the back, turned around quickly to see that Alex was stopping to grab it. I wanted to shout back at him to leave it because I still had the other ones, but didn't get the chance. I slowed down to let him catch up and Gillian came by. That's when she told me I lost both of them, and he ran one over. Doh! I was down 3 water bottles in 14 miles. When Alex finally caught up he had all 3 of my bottles in his jersey pockets. Hooray!
At rest stop #2 we stopped. It happened to be at a bike shop so I ran in and bought a new cage for my frame. The bottle that Alex ran over was fine, just empty. I filled them all up, ate a banana and we were back on the road. This is when the winds became more apparent. I had committed to memory the general ride route and at which miles the rest stops were. I basically counted down miles, sometimes tenths of miles, until the stops. I was struggling by the time we got to rest stop #3, which was sponsored by T2. I knew I was going to see familiar faces and possibly get hugs, so I kept pushing. I fell behind our little pack for a bit. There was a point on the McClory Trail where Chris came up behind me, put his hand on my back and pushed me to catch up to the others. I don't know how many times I screamed "F@#$ you wind!!!" I was starting to have chest pains and was going through water quickly. I know we took longer than we should have at the rest stops, but it was the only way I could get my energy back up to make it to the next rest stop.
After leaving #3, we were 7 miles from the Wisconsin border. That's what I focused my next countdown on. We got a great shot in front of the Wisconsin sign, but it wasn't long enough to quell the cramping in my chest. I fell behind the group again. This time I was on my own for a bit. The winds were brutal. I came up behind a single rider and drafted off of him for a bit, but then he slowed down so I had to pass him. Every time there was a slight bend in the road instead of being blasted in the face by wind, I was nearly knocked off my bike. The chest pains became more severe. I was sure I wasn't going to make it to the lunch stop at mile 53. I started to cry. But then Alex came to the rescue, yet again. I saw him up ahead, slowed down and waiting for me. He let me catch up and then let me draft off him the rest of the way. The route headed straight to the lakefront along the most treacherous potholed road I have ever seen. Combined with the dangerous winds coming off the lake, we were only going about 8 or 9 mph for that last mile.
We got to the rest stop and took off our shoes (I was hesitant because I had a nightmare the day before that I lost one of my shoes at a rest stop and couldn't finish the ride). They served us sandwiches and cookies and chips, which was difficult to get down because I felt so lousy. My teammates kept reminding me to eat at every stop even if I didn't feel hungry, so that we kept our energy up. So I ate. After about 10 minutes my chest felt better, but my spirits were low. I couldn't imagine going another 47 miles like that. I was texting my brother and a couple other people because I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The longest stretch was before me (next stop was at mile 71) and I was incredibly disheartened.
We stayed at the lunch stop for at least half an hour, maybe more. Finally headed back on the road. I felt a bit more refreshed, but then we started hitting hills. There was one that I wanted to get off and walk, but Alex just shook his head. We slowly climbed to the top, only to be rewarded with a plateau. I'm still waiting for the downhill on that one! Other than the hills and the wind, there was not much that was eventful about that 18 mile stretch. We slowed down by a couple mph so I wasn't quite as exhausted when we got to rest stop #5. I sent out the warning texts: we were 16 miles from my mom's house. At the rate we were going, I told my mom and brother that we could be there anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. This is where things started getting interesting. Instead of becoming more and more fatigued, I found myself filling with excitement and energy. I was close to being home! Things were looking familiar. I felt a shift. We were just turning onto Chicago Rd in Oak Creek when another gust of wind nearly toppled me over. I screamed again, but then caught myself. I had this weird moment, maybe it was because I was becoming delirious from riding hard all day, but I remembered someone telling me to never resist anything because I am part of it all. And it was with that thought that my inner dialogue changed dramatically. I think I may have even said it out loud - I embrace the wind - and then started a new mantra in my mind, "I love the wind. I AM the wind." Over and over and over. Every time I felt myself becoming frustrated, I would double the efforts on the mantra. Pretty soon we were pulling into South Milwaukee, and I was visibly excited.
I started pointing out landmarks to my small group of T2 teammates - "That's where my great grandma lived" "That's where my dad's friend worked" "That's the Dairy Queen we used to go to when I was a kid." We were just about to turn onto Lake Dr, less than 2 miles from my mom's house when I heard someone shout my name again. My dad's best friend Dennis and his wife Brenda were camped out on a corner waiting for us to ride by! They snapped a picture and I started to lose my group, so I told them I had to leave. We had just passed the hospital I was born at (where Dan actually yelled out "Hi Vega's birth hospital") when a car pulled up and started snapping pictures. Dennis and Brenda chased us down to wave and cheer again. I told them to head to my mom's and we would stop to say hello and shouted out the address. I was probably glowing with excitement by this point. I'm sure it must have helped my teammates to have me suddenly rejuvenated and excited when we were at mile 86 or 87.
Then we saw them. My mom had signs and balloons on both sides of the street. There was a giant group of them on the side of the road. I barely saw who was out there - my brother Troy, his girlfriend Liz, Mom, mom's boyfriend Beaver, Grandma, probably Dennis and Brenda - but they were waving us on and telling us to head to the rest stop, just another couple blocks away. We got to the last rest stop and my friends and family started pouring in. Troy first on the bike, then Liz and my mom and grandma, Dennis and Brenda, and then Kory strolled over from somewhere in the park. I introduced them all to the teammates who were nearby, and Coach Chris. I was over the moon. I'm still shocked that I didn't start crying; I thought for sure I was going to be a sobbing mess (I've teared up a few times just writing this). I was too excited to be emotional. We hugged each other a couple more times and then I had to go. Troy decided he was going to ride with us for as far as he could, but that ended up being about 2 miles.
The last 9 miles to the stadium were through my old neighborhood where I was born (Bay View) and down Canal St. It was almost like I forgot I had ridden 90 miles to get to this point and felt more like I had just jumped on my bike from my brother's house and was headed to the east side or something. We passed my friend Courtney who had been riding by herself all day. I asked the group if we could slow down so she could ride the rest of the way with us. We climbed the last bridge and just as it crested, we saw the tents in the furthest gravel parking lot under the 35th St bridge. The last block was coasting down the hill and being directed into the parking lot by my friend Sean. As I turned, I saw Shana jumping up and down and screaming like crazy. I made it! I rode my bike all the way to Milwaukee!! I didn't even have my helmet off and a camera crew came over to talk to Alex and I. Just as I was finishing a sentence, Shana ran over and threw her arms around me. We stowed my bike, I put on my regular shoes, and then grabbed my camera. I wanted to be sure to catch the rest of my teammates coming in. We were about to walk over to the finish when Troy and Liz walked up. He couldn't believe that I had beat him there, and they had driven in a car. We walked over together and Troy snapped many pictures that my teammates are truly grateful for.

Now it's over. The training, the Saturday morning group rides, the anticipation. But I have hopefully gained some lifelong friendships and have proven to myself that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. While we were all at the game that night, the word started spreading that our head coach had said it was the most difficult century ride he had ever done. It turned out that the 20mph sustained head wind was punctuated by gusts of 25-40mph. He said directly to me that he would rather do an Ironman than ride that again. At least I know that any century ride I do after this will be less challenging.
That being said, I am aiming to ride the North Shore Century on September 18th. I was going to do the full 100, but may be accompanied by my brother for this one, so will probably only ride the "Diamond Century" (70 miles).
Other than accomplishing such a huge personal goal, I am filled with warmth knowing that what I did helped people. When I was struggling at the lunch stop, Shana reminded me that I was riding for people who can't. I thought of my friends and the people I was riding in honor of and was given a little more strength. This has been by far the most meaningful and powerful thing I have ever done. Not only did I help by raising funds for the AIDS Foundation, but I inspired others to get healthy and active along the way.

If you read this and feel inspired to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS, we are accepting donations until October 31st.


August 21st - WFRT Update

It's 6 days until the big ride. I have come down with some sort of sinus infection and sore throat so I am spending today in bed, attempting to kick it out before it gets worse. I missed the scheduled 60 mile "on your own" ride this weekend, but I logged 96 miles last week training. I am 7 miles from having ridden 1000 on the new bike! I'll post a pic when I ride next with my new odometer reading :)

Last Saturday we completed our longest, and last, group ride - 75 miles! The coaches were spread thin due to several events happening that weekend and we were left with just the head coach to manage the 25 or so riders who showed up. We all left at the same time and split up into our own pace groups. My friend Alex and I headed up the front straightaway where we met up with Dan. The weather was perfect, cool and partly sunny. I felt amazing and we kept our pace at around 20mph with bursts up to 32! While on Sheridan Road, we were passed by the XXX race team. It was intensely frightening and nearly caused me to hit Alex. The pack of racers sounded like a freight train as they passed us on curving hills by mere inches. No matter how much my cycling has improved over the last few months, I am nowhere near as skilled as those monsters!
Alex, Dan and I finished the ride in 4 hours and 1 minute - a full hour before anyone else did. Because the route ended at Murphy's Bleachers, I was only 3 blocks from my apartment (Alex was 4 blocks from his). We both went home to shower and change and then headed back to Murphy's to cheer on our teammates. I don't think I'll ever live down the fact that I came back in a dress. One of the women looked downright angry that I was cleaned up and pretty! All said and done, It made me realize that my goal of finishing the century in under 6 hours is totally attainable if I stick with Alex and Dan. As long as I'm healthy enough to pull through...

The Wrigley Field Road Tour posted the official ride route the past week. You can view it here: http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/46173486 (ignore the fact that it says "map my run" as we will most assuredly be riding). My mother's house is on the route at mile 87.9 (just north of the last rest stop in Grant Park at mile 86.2). I will be texting her from that final rest stop so she and anyone that wants to join her in cheering us on will be ready for our drive-by. I wouldn't mind if someone wanted to meet me at the last rest stop for a big moral push to the finale as well.

As I sit here and think about the last 2 1/2 months of training, I'm full of pride, gratitude and a bit of sadness. The Team to End AIDS has been my source of companionship and strength. It has been my social outlet and much needed break from schoolwork. It has totally wiped me out, but made me ultimately stronger. I will miss the weekly computrainer sessions and group rides. One of the coaches and a couple of my teammates have suggested making me into a triathlete next year - we'll see about that - but I know that with their help and support I could manage. I am so unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to train with so many amazing people, and equally moved by the generosity of all of you who have donated. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I haven't even got to the payoff of the ride!

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has helped me reach my fundraising goal before the ride! When I first put $2000 as my original goal back in April, I thought it was nearly impossible and most certainly unlikely. I even moved it back to $1500 at one point, just so I wouldn't feel bad about not making the lofty goal. I'm glad I was talked into changing it back because we totally did it! You are my heroes.

Thank you again for your help, love and support. It means the world to me.


August 8th - Wrigley Field Road Tour Update

Hi everyone!
I'm sorry I haven't sent any training updates in a while. It's been pretty crazy trying to get in all the training time and study for finals. Thankfully tomorrow morning I will be done for the semester.

I have passed the 800 mile mark on my bike. I will definitely hit 1000 before the day of the ride - how exciting!
Our computrainer sessions kick my butt on a weekly basis, but I haven't missed one yet. We've got our longest group ride so far this coming Saturday - 75 miles (80 for me). We will be riding from Foster Beach to Waukegan and back. That's from my house up to Great America for those of you who know the area. Insanity!

I really appreciate all the donations I've received. I think I mentioned in my last email that I have met a number of fellow participants who are currently living with HIV and it makes what I'm doing even more meaningful to me. One of these friends is the most amazing person and a huge positive influence on my life. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be able to help this person directly, and many more like them.

The reason I'm emailing is because we were sent a link for friends and family to be able to purchase tickets to the Cubs/Brewers game (finally). They are $65, but they include a Wrigley Field Road Tour t-shirt. Just copy and paste or click the link below:

Again, if you feel like passing on my personal fundraising page, I would be more than grateful. I'm still $255 away from my $2000 goal. If you need to give people a better reason for donating their hard-earned cash, just let them know that the state of Illinois cut $1.5 million in funding for the AIDS Foundation yet need for the organization continues to grow.

Thanks again for your support. So excited for the big day (only 19 days to go)!!!
Love & Light

June 18th - Wrigley Field Road Tour Update

Hi everyone!
I started training this week for the Wrigley Field Road Tour, and I thought it would be fun to keep all of you who have donated updated on my progress. If for some reason you do not want to receive these emails, let me know and I will take you off the list. I'm doing a blog on the T2EA fb app, so I will just post that here after every update.
Thank you so much for your donations again. You have no idea how much they mean to me.
I'm still trying to reach my $1500 goal, so if you know anyone else that is willing to help out, feel free to pass on my website link: http://afc.aidschicago.org/netcommunity/vegabells

Also, for those of you in the Chicago area, if you are interested in volunteering for any of our group rides please let me know. For every person that volunteers, I get $15 in fundraising credit and you get to feel good about doing something to help others. We have group rides scheduled for July 2, 16, 23, 30, August 13 and of course the big day of August 27th.

Thank you thank you thank you!

First Group Ride
My alarm didn't go off this morning. It was set for 5:42am, which would have given me enough time to eat breakfast and bike to the training site to be there at least 15 minutes before our 7am start time. But I woke up at 7:10. I have never jumped out of bed so quickly. I was nearly in tears. I never oversleep! I shoved some blueberries in my mouth, threw on my bike gear and left. I got to the site quickly, and was added to a group that was practicing skills and agility. We did "slow races" and circles, practiced looking behind and grabbing our water bottles. Then they taught us how to ride in a pack. It was nothing new to me, except the little chicken wing signal to switch off leading the pack. We left for the 15 mile ride (which turned out to be 18 or 19) at 9am and ventured onto the streets of Chicago with maybe 40 cyclists. I was at the head of the pack and got to lead for a few miles. I've always been a solo rider, mostly because when I try to ride with friends, they don't move as quickly and I get frustrated. This was a different experience. Even though we weren't at a higher speed, I was enjoying meeting some of the other riders and entertained by the shouting of random things all the way through the pack. We somehow got separated and I was the first one back to the starting point by 15 minutes. The best part was shoving my face full of banana and nutella after the ride (I was staaaaaarving). I'm looking forward to the first computrainer session this tuesday, and when they determine who gets put into smaller training packs according to strength. This will be a fun experience!

April 18th - Wrigley Field Road Tour

On August 27th, I will be biking in the Wrigley Field Road Tour, a 100 mile bike tour from Chicago to Milwaukee, to raise money for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). I'm taking part in TEAM TO END AIDS (T2) and over the next several months I’ll be preparing to bike to the finish line!

With your help, I hope to raise money for AFC in its work to develop a comprehensive system of HIV/AIDS prevention and care, advocate for sound and compassionate public policy, coordinate the activities of local AIDS service providers, and fund dozens of community-based organizations providing AIDS prevention, care, housing, education, and capacity-building projects.

Click here to visit my Web page

With over 40,000 individuals living with HIV in the Chicago area and approximately 1,600 new infections occurring in Illinois each year, your partnership in battling HIV/AIDS is more crucial than ever.

Please support me as I bike in the Wrigley Field Road Tour as a T2 participant. Any amount contributes to the overall cause, even if it's $5 or $10. Click here to make a donation

Thank you in advance for your contribution!
Love & Light,

PS. Because I will be training while in full time graduate school for Traditional Chinese Medicine, my time is extremely limited. 100 miles is a huge personal goal of mine, and in order to be allowed to ride in the Wrigley Road Tour I must meet the team's minimum fundraising amount by June 1st. It's quite a lot of money, so I'm asking you to forward this to anyone you know who would be interested in supporting the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Your help means a lot to me. http://afc.aidschicago.org/netcommunity/vegabells