WFRT 2012 Post Ride Blog

This year’s Wrigley Field Road Tour was not daunting. After last year’s 25-50mph winds, I figured nothing could be as bad. Even if it was just as windy, half of the ride would be at our backs. Plus, I’ve become a much stronger cyclist in the year since WFRT 2011 and easily ride 150+ miles a week. I was a little concerned about my strength for the ride day, as I had a pretty emotional week and did not eat or sleep enough prior to the ride. However, when I woke up Sunday morning I felt pretty good, and made my way over to Wrigley quite early.
It was a different experience altogether this year. Last year, the Team to End AIDS had 60+ riders. We had lots of volunteers doing support and even had a rest stop that was run by T2. This year there were 3 of us registered, and no volunteers or coaches or T2 employees. I was planning on doing the ride on my own, like so many training rides this summer. The route didn’t go past my mom’s house or my familiar Milwaukee landmarks. There were no cheerleaders for me on along the way. I just hoped to be able to finish in under 6 hours so I could get in the car and drive to Colorado. When I got to Wrigley, I had a nice surprise to find last years T2 manager volunteering at gear check. Got a quick hug and hello and then I spotted a couple who looked familiar to me. Jacob and Kim are friends of one of my classmates and her roommate and I had seen them at a birthday party recently. I walked over to say hello and introduce myself and found out Kim was riding on her own as well. She didn’t know what pace she normally rides at because she doesn’t have a computer, but I suggested we ride together and see if she could stick with me. We lined up at the back of the Group A riders (ride time of 4 ½ to 6 hours). I put my list of people I was riding for in my jersey pocket and headed out through the concourse of Wrigley Field.
The first 15 miles were grueling and slow because we were riding through the streets of Chicago, stoplights and traffic and all. Plus we were in a very condensed pack, not spread out at all. I told Kim that when we got to the Baha’i temple, I would have to sprint down the curve just because it’s my favorite stretch of road. We did that, and I was going about 25mph heading to the front of the pack when some guy whistled at me and yelled “she dropped her chain back at the bridge!” So I pulled off and waited for Kim to catch up. We were then at the very back of the pack and had some catching up to do. At the first rest stop, she took her bike into the shop to have them check the derailleur. It was a much longer rest stop than I had anticipated, but ultimately helped her shifting and our speed. I kept my eye on my average speed on the computer. I knew that to make a 6 hour century, I would have to get my average up to 16. With the slow start, that was going to be difficult. However it was such an amazingly perfect day that every mile seemed to make us faster. Somewhere around mile 40 we caught up with a pretty fast pack and were able to cruise at 24-26mph for a good long time. By the time we got to the lunch stop, I was super excited and couldn’t believe I felt so fresh after 60+ miles. I was having so much fun. There was a point where I think I was smiling so hard my mouth felt like it was going to tear in half.
Before the ride, I purchased a mini speaker for my iPod and put it in my top tube pack. It took me a whole day to pick the playlist for the ride – and I kept it all upbeat and dancey. I got lots of comments from fellow riders along the way about having the music. 3 of the guys from the pack we hooked up with before lunch found us before heading out and we stuck with them the rest of the way. They wanted a team name, and one of them suggested Team Vega first because I brought the music. By the end of the ride, out team had a word for each of us – something like Team Vega-Kimistry-Penguin-Quick-something-or-other. It was great riding with them. One of the guys, Dan, said he always had a goal. He would spot the next pack of riders ahead of us and aim to pass them. He said we weren’t “catching” them, because that was actually a taxing way to look at it. He said instead, we were pulling them to us. I then asked, “wouldn’t it be better if they were pulling us to them like magnets?!” So we were pulled to each pack, one by one. The 4th rest stop came up really quickly. We were going so fast that entire time, being pulled to each pack. It was actually a bit too much. We missed a turn before the rest stop and had to turn around. The 5 of us agreed to slow down a notch for the next leg of the ride.
Rest stop 5 was just 10 miles from the finish. I had been feeling really good until about a mile before the stop. I don’t think I had been drinking or eating enough the previous 18 miles and was starting to feel nauseated and lightheaded. I scarfed down a banana and some pretzels and we got ready to head out again. We had caught up to a really large, fast pack just before the stop and decided to stick with them the rest of the way. Being back in Chicago meant slower pace, stop lights and traffic once again, and I was starting to get worried that I wouldn’t make my 6 hour goal. The last 4 miles were a little rough. I kept feeling dizzy and had to tell myself it was the home stretch. Kim started sprinting through lights to avoid reds and we actually passed up most of that pack. The last mile before Wrigley, me Dan and Frank kicked it up to 22 mph. We hit 100 miles just north of Irving Park Road. The air show was finishing at the lakefront, and as we approached Wrigley Field, the Blue Angels were soaring overhead. I was bursting with excitement! What a cool way to finish a century ride – with Blue Angels doing loops above your head!!
I crossed the finish line at 5 hours and 58 minutes. Kim’s boyfriend, Jacob, had been waiting for us. He is the one that said we were among the first 30 people to finish and were the 4th and 5th women to cross the line. We were so excited. Kim said she felt invincible. I didn’t feel anything like how I did at the end of last year’s ride. I went home, showered and packed my car. I headed back to Wrigley for free food and to meet up with my new riding buddy before heading out on a road trip to Colorado. It was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I was excited for Kim, who discovered how badass she really was – doing her first century ride. I’m excited I now have a girl friend who can ride at my pace! We’re already looking at doing the North Shore Century in September.
I left Chicago at about 6pm to drive to Colorado and after I had to fill the gas tank the first time, I reset my trip to see just how far 100 miles felt. Every time another 100 miles went by, I would think of how far that actually is – and get a different perspective of what I accomplished. I feel very blessed to have the physical ability to do something like this, and even more grateful that I can benefit others with this ability. The real heroes of the day were all of my sponsors who generously donated to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Thank you!!

If you read this and feel inspired to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, there is still time to donate; AFC will take donations through the end of the year on my page. http://afc.aidschicago.org/netcommunity/vegabells2012