I did it! Yessir, I’ve gone from cycling a paltry 21 miles back in June (to which Barry Haarde prodded me to go further) to 105.5 miles yesterday. Not bad for a 55-year-old mom. I’d jump up and down but my left knee is stiff.
On Saturday, I completed my first “century,” riding over 100 miles across Massachusetts. Many lessons learned from this event, and many parallels to our hemophilia community. In fact, I thought about our special community the whole way.
The first annual “Ride to Remember” honored two fallen police officers killed in June 2012 in the line of duty: Kevin Ambrose of Springfield, and José Torres of Westfield. My brother Tim Morrow, a K-9 officer in Springfield, my hometown, was a close friend of Kevin Ambrose. The ride raises
awareness of the perils of our men and women in blue, and also raises money for law enforcement families. So I couldn’t help but think of my friend Barry Haarde, who rode across America, both last year and this year, to raise money for Save One Life, and to raise awareness of our “fallen,” those with hemophilia who died from HIV, contracted in the late 1970s and early 1980s from the blood-clotting products they used. Barry posted a photo each day of his ride on Facebook of someone who had passed away, including his own brother, to honor their memory. Like our police officers, these young men sacrificed their lives so that others, including all our children today, can have a safer life. Only, they did not go willingly into this service. No matter. Heroes all.
together as much as possible—very tough, as the roads were often one lane each way as we weaved our way through the charming towns of New England. My brother Tim and I are naturally competitive and wanted to break away (well, he later did!) but we complied as much as possible. He had trained weekly with his colleagues; I trained solo. I’ve never ridden in a group before. I looked about and saw a lot of hardware—expensive bikes, wheel, spokes, cables—and software—arms, legs, heads. I was a bit wary of riding too close to anyone due to my own inexperience in group riding.
my front wheel to keep balance. The first rest stop was only 18 miles away, which also seemed too soon. We’re used to going 20-25 without a break.
the sun rose. Stop #1: Palmer. So far so good. We laughed, joked, ate more
bananas and guzzled water. Tim and I would later mention we have never eaten so much in one day in our lives, but you have to eat. It’s the one piece of advice I
took seriously: eat every 15-30 minutes, drink constantly. My sister-in-law Lee made delicious sandwiches that went down fast. On we go!
long. I’m not a big person, and I don’t have the quadriceps that some of these cops have, but I noticed on the hills I blew past a lot of the guys who could outgun me on a straightaway. I attribute this to my cross training and core workouts with my trainer, Dan. When the quads burn out, and they will quickly on these hills, the body kicks in other parts, like back and abs. Mine were primed and
ready to take over on hills. This is why cross training is so important: you can get serious back problems from overtraining one part of the body and not all parts. Yahoo! Up the hills I went, happy.
We passed through such quaint and picturesque New England towns: congregational church steeples piercing the blue skies above pumpkins plopped next to hay bales, antique shops. This is Sturbridge, our next stop and a historic town. I am baffled that I have never toured Sturbridge
Well, things change! Back on the road, muscles got warmed up, and we hit a huge, long hill right off the bat. That was tough but again, I found the hills not a problem. I felt more motivated and competent and pushed it. Looking at the MapMyRide app, which charted my whole ride, I hit
18 mph at some points on this ride. Maybe that was down hill? Naw, because my speedometer said 35 mph going downhill. We were kicking it! This felt great
now. I learned something important about group riding, which I now prefer to
call team riding: you can draft. This means you ride behind another cyclist, who absorbs the brunt of the wind. You ride faster with less effort. I usually
can’t get above 18 mph, and even then only for a short time; now I was easily doing 19 mph with minimum effort. A lesson for teamwork, a lesson for our community. Stick together; lead; follow; be efficient; allow other leaders to take the helm when you get fatigued; listen to the leader, who spots danger first—Slow! Pothole!
Occasionally we had folks coming out of their homes to stand by the side of the road to cheer us on. Sweet. I felt unstoppable. Finishing was not going to be a problem!
as I could pedal pretty well up the hills, blowing by the big guys (and some petite women) who puffed and struggled. I started riding on the incoming traffic lane; I didn’t have to get too close to other riders, and had lots of room. Fun!
push that knee for anything. I think I was right on Rt 9, police motorcycles swarming around me, riders now zooming by me. I had been popping Tylenols the whole ride to help with general muscle soreness and specifically my neck, which has some arthritis in it. But nothing helped this. I hobbled along, dropping further and further behind in the pack.
College (that didn’t show on our ride map), where we all gathered in a huge, heaving, blue mob.
I limped over to Tim, who was straddling his bike and gripping his handlebars, even though this was a 30-minute rest, like he was ready to bolt. He took me to the emergency team where they taped my knee. It
was the least we could do, and the most they could do. We waited on the grass
till 5 pm, when the organizers grouped us for the final push into Boston. There
was a ceremony waiting for us.
well. I felt I was the last rider (though Lee assures me I wasn’t). The streets were lined with thousands of people waving, cheering, with flags and banners for the fallen officers and for us. I was in a surreal zone mentally. Through Fenway, down a tunnel, popping up to Beacon Hill and our beautiful state house
with the gold dome forged by Paul Revere himself.
It was done. 105.5 miles. As I sailed to the back of the State House, I saved my GPS map and stats, and then and there my second and last power pack died—perfect timing. Everyone had that “high” so familiar when you do something athletically great, and are so tired but so euphoric. My
brother Tim and I hugged; this is the first time we ever did anything like this
together, let alone apart (although he is quite a competitive athlete). My
sister-in-law Lee gets the credit for providing our gear when we needed it,
giving us fuel to keep us going, and being moral support!
A beautiful ceremony ensued, with full honor guard, and the heads of state of the law enforcement, including Attorney General
Martha Coakley. Though we were exhausted and hungry, we stood more or less silently for 90 minutes while the dignitaries went through speeches and read the names of every single officer killed in action in Springfield. Very sobering, very sad. Such heroes.
Now, we don’t have those worries. We have those fallen to thank. I hope someday we can, through our own memorial.