Exploring Oregon 2009

Exploring Oregon 2009

Saturday, July 9, 2011


One year ago today I found myself mounting my faithful Bianchi steed in the stadium parking lot at UW in Seattle, intending (and maybe a little hoping and praying thrown in) to cross the state of Washington and arrive in Portland, Oregon the following day.  Before setting off, I had many a moment where I thought "204 miles of bicycling, are you crazy Summer?!  That's just wrong!"  But then I would think "10,000 people do this every year and 10,000 people can't be wrong.  Can they?"

The bug was planted in my ear a year earlier when a couple friends signed up for this ride.  I am fairly positive I thought them crazy at the time, but when I told my husband about what they were doing, he thought it was fantastic.  I remember him asking me to tell them that if they were thinking about doing it again the next year, to let him know as he would love to do that ride.  All I could think at the time was "Ack.  Two days on the seat of a bicycle.  No thanks."

Flash forward about six months.  2009 had quietly bowed out and 2010 tiptoed in, along with the realization that I was turning thirty that year.  Honestly, at this point in my life I had never been more out of shape and embarrassed with what I had let myself become.  I was moderately depressed and the idea of turning 30 did nothing to help.  I decided that nobody was going to be able to get me out of this rut that I had managed to get myself into, and it was up to me to get myself out of it.  I promised myself that I would turn 30 and feel good about who I was, and that 30 had NOTHING on me!

Of course I made these decisions, and a month later had done very little to accomplish my goal.  Then came the word that sign-ups for the Seattle to Portland bike ride were coming up.  Somewhere along the way, my train of thought went from "I'm going to get back into shape and turn 30 and feel good about it." to "I'm going to get back into shape, turn 30 and do AMAZING things!  Things I've always wanted to do, or thought I would never be able to do.  I am going to do them this year."  So naturally, I decided that riding my reduced-sized butt across the state of Washington would not only be an amazing accomplishment, but it would also be a great motivator.  So Jason and I signed ourselves up for the ride and paid our nearly $100 entry fees.  No backing out now!

So of course this meant that I needed to get my butt in shape, or I would inevitably end up dead along some stretch of road between Seattle and Portland.  Great motivation.

I joined some boot camp classes, and what my gym called the "Summer Fat Loss Blast Off."  Basically, my first boot camp class, Beginner's Bootcamp, was six weeks of cutting all alcohol, sugar, salt and processed foods out of our diet while tracking what we ate daily on a food log and attending some kick butt, cross training style classes twice a week.  I'll admit that the 'no sugar' rule was the hardest for me.  Admittedly I have a pretty bad sweet tooth, so I knew this would be hard.  I routinely drink coffee every morning, but I can't drink it without cream and sugar, so without sugar my coffee was out.  And no, splenda and the likes were also not allowed.  The hardest part came in realizing that sugar was in EVERYTHING.  Seriously, just try to find a cereal without sugar, or a pasta sauce.  I couldn't even have ketchup on a homemade lean hamburger because it's loaded with sugar.  Needless to say, it was quite the eye opener.

I followed this 6-week class with an advanced bootcamp class, which then shows you how to add things like sugar and alcohol back into your life in moderate doses.  The problem was that I simultaneously signed up for that "Summer Fat Loss Blast Off" program, in which we join a team lead by a physical trainer, and our teams would square off against each other to see who had the highest overall, combined weight loss percentage at the end of 6 weeks.  This program required working out everyday, anywhere from 30 or 40 minutes to up to 3 hours and also had some fairly strict diet regulations, which meant I still couldn't have sugar, salt, alcohol, etc.  That, combined with my Beginner Bootcamp resulted in 12 weeks without sugar, which was HUGE for me.  This was a serious test for my will power, and amazingly I surprised even myself with how strong I was.  In all honestly, I was the ONLY person on my team who didn't have a single piece of candy on Easter.  It really was a devastating Easter without Cadburry in my life, BUT, I survived!  I also vividly remember my entire office going across the street for margaritas one day to celebrate a job, and I alone stayed behind.  Not only was I not getting a margarita (which sounded amazing), but I had to look out the window and see all my colleagues sitting out on the patio enjoying the sunshine while I finished up work in the office.  Granted, I could have gone home for the day or could have just gone and sat with them and drank some iced tea or water, but I had stuff to do and had to cram work in when I could so that I had time to do my 3 hours of gym time that were often required after work.  It also seemed that anyone and everyone who baked was bringing goodies into the office.  Did they all know that I wasn't allowed to have them and liked to watch me sigh at their delicious looking cookies and cupcakes as I walked by?  Seriously...I amazed myself.  I learned that if I had something set in my mind, that I was going to abide by it.  It also helped that the "Summer Fat Loss Blast Off" was a competition, and I am extremely competitive.

At the end of the 6-week fat loss program I lost 10.6 lbs, 3.5% body fat, 1/4" off my neck, 2-3/4" in my chest, 5" IN MY WAIST, 1-1/4" in my hips, 2-3/4" in my thighs, 1/2" in my calves, and and 1-1/2" in my upper arms.  There wasn't a ton of weight lost, but there was a ton of toning.  In total between bootcamp and the fat loss program, I lost about 24 pounds, and had MUCH more energy and stamina, AND I learned to run.

I've never been a fan of running and was in fact one of those who would say "only if someone is chasing me," but I found trail running and fell in love and at the end of my fat loss program, actually ran 9 miles.  For this reason, I signed myself up to run my first 10k on my birthday.  It was fantastic and felt like a great way to kick the big 3-0 in the pants.  Take that thirty!  Even when I was 17 and in the best shape of my life I couldn't run 6 miles, and definitely would not have done so willingly, especially on my birthday.

With all this, I was still nervous about my Seattle to Portland (STP) ride.  I had got a great deal on the previous year's model Bianchi road bike at a local bike shop at the beginning of the year and had taken it out for quite a few rides, getting comfortable with it.  With all the other exercise I had been doing though, I was nowhere close to what the training schedule said I should be riding, and when it came time to head up to Seattle for STP, the longest ride I had been on to date was a mere 36-miler.  Part of me was okay with this.  I had this thought that I could do a 100 mile ride and hate it, and then I would be stuck dreading the STP ride.  I thought that I would rather go into it ignorantly blissful about the whole thing so that I could look forward to it.  Should I come to hate myself half way through, well, then I would just have too keep pushing, and I knew I would finish.

So there I am, a year ago, in the parking lot with thousands of people, preparing to set off for what would surely be my biggest adventure.  Excited?  Yes.  Nervous?  Of course, but there is something exhilarating about doing something so big and being a part of something like this with so many other people.  So we cued up and soon we were riding through the streets of Seattle.  Quite the spectacle to see these normally bustling roads closed down to cars and taken over by bicycles.  The scenery was beautiful and the weather started off a little chilly, but the early morning marine layer soon burned off and the sun felt good.

Our first food stop was a spectacle.  It was still early in the ride and so many people were there.  Thousands of bicycles scattered across the grass as people stood in line at the port-a-potties and the food tables.  It is amazing the sense of camaraderie you get with thousands of strangers when you all set off on an adventure such as this.  And let me tell you, there are some amazing people who partake.  We came across a couple paraplegics riding bicycles that you pedal with your arms.  Seeing them crank up a hill was inspiring to say the least.  There was also a guy on a unicycle...such determination as those things only have one speed.  We also came across a group that had built this contraption of three bikes somehow linked together with one steering wheel.  It is hard to describe, but they always got lots of attention when they rolled into one of the rest stops.

By the time we rolled into camp that first night, I was exhausted and excited to have come thus far.  We camped just a little beyond the halfway point, which helped because we knew that we had less distance to travel the second day.  Mind games...we knew how to play them.  Setting up our tent among the hundreds at the park we stayed at was quite the sight, and the spaghetti feed hit the spot.  We sat out in the sun, gorging ourselves with real food (we have been eating bread, fruit, cheese, energy bars, cookies, etc. all day long) and couldn't have been happier.  Getting out of our padded bike shorts and into some real clothes after a shower was bliss.  Fed, clean and exhausted, we slept like logs. 

The next morning we got up and had ourselves some pancakes, ham and eggs and packed up camp to hit the road again.  The only problem was that my right knee was killing me, which was funny because my left one was the one that had gotten a little achy at the end of our ride the previous day.  We got onto our bikes, and needless to say, our tailbones were none-too-pleased about it either (seeing as how both Jason and I have fractured our tailbones in the past).  We decided that we were definitely going to need some drugs to get through this second day.  About 20 miles outside of camp, we rolled into a little town with a store that was open on Sunday morning.  Bless them.  We got some drugs, and thank goodness we did because that was pretty much what got me through the day.

At our first food stop, I was really looking forward to getting off the bike for a while and laying out.  Unfortunately, it was still freezing.  The clouds hadn't burned off yet for the day and there was a slight breeze.  This was fine for while we were on the bikes, but armed only with a very light weight, very breathable jacket (thin enough to compact down to the size of a baseball to store in my small Camelbak backpack) it was far too cold to be sitting still.  Laying on the grass shaking in the cold turned out to be surprisingly less appealing than being on the bike and warm, so as soon as we finished getting some food into us, we left.

Stopping for a bathroom break a little later in the day, we decide to check the air pressure in our tires to find that one of Jason's tires has a small ballooned spot in the side wall.  Not good.  Armed with spare tubes but not spare tires, Jason talks with the bike repair tent there to find that they had only high end tires for sale, and they didn't take credit cards and I didn't even have my debit/ATM card to withdraw money with.  So with a limited amount of cash between the two of us, Jason takes the advice of another bicyclist and folds up a dollar bill inside the wall of his tire to add some stability and to keep the tube from pushing out on that weakened spot of the sidewall.  This seems to work, luckily, but I'm not thrilled with the idea of him riding around on a faulty tire.  If it decided to blow, it could mean a pretty nasty wreck at the speeds we were going.  Luckily about 10 or 15 miles down the road, we came across another bike repair tent with tires we could afford, so we get Jason fixed up and back in business.  All this tire repair business ended up taking about an hour out of our day, but we trudged on.

One of the most memorable moments of the ride was on the second day as we crossed the Longview bridge from Washington into Oregon.  We reached the base of the bridge and again were cued up on a side road with hundreds of bicyclists.  Once enough of us were there, they closed the bridge to car traffic and sent us up and over and on our way.  It was amazing to see that many people on bicycles taking over the bridge.  It was a slow process chugging up and over, and the bursts of cheers as we passed under the 'Welcome to Oregon' sign had me simply vibrating from head to toe.  On the Washington side, there wasn't much of a view of the bridge, but once we crossed over to Oregon and looked back, it was incredible to see how high above the water it was and to know that we just pedaled over it.  With that many people and that much excitement going over the bridge, I didn't even realize at the time the amount of climbing I was doing.  Now, every time I drive over that bridge, I reminisce about the time I pedaled my way across.

About three quarters of the way through day two, I was thrilled to reach the last food stop.  The sun had come out and I was exhausted at this point.  Some food and recharging in the sun was exactly what I needed.  I was still a little slow coming out of that food stop, but as soon as I saw Portland up in the distance, I got my second wind.  I'm pretty sure we hit every single red light on our way through Portland to the finish line, but the fact that I was in Portland, that I had, for all intents and purposes made it to Portland had me smiling from ear to ear.  Naturally we get stopped at the stop light one block down from the finish line.  We can see it.  We can hear them because they can see us and are cheering us on.  When that light turned green, I clipped my foot back into my pedal and had forgotten about any and all pain I was experiencing as I closed the gap, 50, then 30, then 15, then only 5 feet from crossing the finish line.

As I crossed, my throat got tight and my vision blurred as I got a little choked up at the thought that I DID IT!!  Not even a year ago I considered this an impossible feat - something only a crazy person would do.  Well call me crazy, I got it done!  I don't think I've ever been more proud to finish something.  Sure lots of people graduate high school and college, and I'm not about to say that college was by any means easy, but who rides their bicycle 204 miles across the state of Washington?  Well, I guess 10,000 people every year, which is a lot.  Still, I had to overcome both physical and emotional boundaries to get to that point - to get to that finish line.  It was a life changer for me.  I can do anything I set my mind to, I just have to want it bad enough. 

So my question for myself and everyone who may be reading this is, what do I want in my life and how badly do I want it?  Believe in yourself because nine times out of ten, you are the only one standing in your way.

Best of luck to all my bicycling friends who are pedaling their way across Washington as I type.  Enjoy the adventure!

(To see the professional photos I couldn't afford to buy of me riding, follow this link - http://www.marathonfoto.com/index.cfm?RaceOID=28052010M1&LastName=OMAN&BibNumber=7081&Mailing=25048)

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing what you can do once you decide to do it! We still have to do a race together. Keep up the good work; you found your inner athlete!