Firsts and Fears

The last set of training guidelines suggested 300 miles a week for the final 10 weeks, with an emphasis on consecutive long rides.  Sunday through Saturday I got in 301.5, the first time I have ever booked that many miles in a week.  But this weekend was the real test.  My century Friday left me exhausted.  Could I rebound?  Saturday was easier: 87.4 miles and 3297 feet of climbing.  I never thought I would consider 80+ miles a recovery ride.  But I left the big test for today.  The route (Mass-Sky out of Front Royal) is considered the local climbers’ test.  You cross over 2 mountains and have 3 climbs that are 2 to 4 miles long.  I have been fearful of facing it.  To have it follow 2 long days was particularly intimidating.  But this is the kind of climbing I will have during the tour.  So I wanted to test my readiness.

I did it!  My legs feel sore and tired.  My mind is numb, but I kept up the mantra that I can climb anything if I go slow and steady.  Today was 6778 feet of climbing over 80.3 miles, a personal record.IMG_1242

This is the view from the top of Massanuttan, looking east into the Shenandoah Valley and Luray; the reward for the first climb.  (I would have added a selfie, but I failed at that first).

An Average Day

The PACtour averages 108 miles and 3785 feet of climbing per day.  So Friday I went out and did 108 miles and 4826 feet of climbing.  I was exhausted! It is hard to imagine doing it again, day after day.  So that is what I will do — at least a metric century today and a climbing day tomorrow.


In 1954 I was too young to remember how my mother anxiously checked my neck flexion every morning, looking for the first subtle sign of paralysis.  I was too young to remember how they converted a maternity unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, designed for the joy of new life, into a corridor of iron lungs in which paralyzed children lay, encased in iron lungs which noisily hissed as they performed the life-sustaining task of breathing for those who could not breathe for themselves.  I may have been too young to understand our parents’ anxiety during those summer months, but I certainly sensed it.  I do vividly remember my cousin, paralyzed below the waste by polio, as he awkwardly navigated on crutches; he would swing his leg with a twist of his hip and the metal-encased leg would clang forward.  It was frightening to a young child.

There were more than 15,000 cases a year back then in the United States.  Then came the wonderful vaccine: first as a shot, then on a sugar cube, and now as drops on the tongue.  We were early adapters; I got the shot.  By 1979, polio was eradicated in the United States. Now it has been 99.9% eliminated throughout the world.  16 million people who would have been paralyzed have been saved. It took an average of 400 million immunizations a year and billions of dollars.  But there were less than 40 new cases last year, and only 5 reported so far this year.

We can end polio by 2020.  It will take another $1.5 billion dollars, community effort in some of the most difficult places in the world, and ongoing monitoring to identify if there are any hot spots.  Walking away from the challenge would likely result in 200,000 cases a year in 10 years. Let’s do the work required to eliminate this disease in our lifetime.  It is within reach.

I am asking you to donate through the Rotary Foundation at Dedicate your gift to your favorite polio survivor, your local rotary club, or to the Rotary Club of Frederick County, Virginia – Crandell.  Every dollar contributed will be matched 2 to 1 by the Gates Foundation.   Later this summer, I will start pedaling in San Diego.  For 27 straight days, I will ride more than 100 miles a day, until I arrive in Savannah, Georgia.   I will pedal to fund-raise in honor of my cousin and all those who have been effected by polio.  Even more meaningful, this will be a small part of the final push to end polio forever!3070_rot_gpei_tw_1024x512_page-1


So I am now officially 3 months before the trip.  The training advice is:

  • 150-200 miles per week
  • One day per week over 100 miles
  • One long 150 mile ride during the month
  • Hang in the back of a fast group (20+ MPH) 30 miles per week

I got in a century Friday and 250 miles for the week.  I seldom ride pace lines, but can certainly hang with them.  So I am feeling confident — maybe too confident.

I finished a half-century yesterday in time to get a mile swim and then meet my buddy, Jim, to go to a beer festival.  Nice idea: sampling some beers on a sunny day.  I swear I was on my third sample (maybe 18 ounces total) when I started feeling woozy.  So we stagger over to a restaurant, hoping that a pizza will help.  It didn’t!  I was leaning over with my head below my heart.  Then I was prone on the bench.  Our poor waiter didn’t know what to make of me.  He finally asked if he should summon the paramedics or the police.  To his credit, he ended up propping me up as I staggered back to my office.

After a couple glasses of water and a nap, I was fine.  I even got back to sampling a few more beers.  Diagnosis: low blood pressure from dehydration.  I thought I had done a good job with fluid intake in both of my last rides.  So I still have some work to do to be ready for this ultracycling.  So much for my confidence!