It was a long, hard road from Katy/Houston to Austin, but my cyclists acted like they'd been out for a Sunday leisure ride. Never mind the aching musles, torn medial meniscus and numb body parts. Never mind the relentless sun beating down on them or dodging bike wrecks or bonking out when you're still far from the halfway camp. Frank, Jake and Dave rolled up to the team tent on Saturday afternoon and announced they felt fine. Well, they lied, but only a little. After a hard day of road riding, "fine" means "I am so glad to be here and off my bike. Where's my shoes, the food, Gatorade and the showers?" It also means "I have no feeling in my testicles/it appears I've lost my penis" and "It would be simpler to tell you what doesn't hurt".
The guys got settled in a bit and after a plate of Mexican food and some banana cream pie dubbed "sex on a plate" by Dave they were feeling a little better. Jake lucked out with his meal when the caterer pulled out some barbecued tofu. At first glance, we thought he was going to have to make it on green beans and potato salad.
I spent my Saturday morning and afternoon welcoming riders to the Team UT tent. It's mainly composed of employees and students from UTMB, the Health Science Center and M.D. Anderson but open to the general public as well. My job was to greet riders, rack bikes if needed and answer their questions. Most people wanted to know where there luggage was stored. When you're fresh off a 100 mile ride, getting clean is foremost in your mind.
The highlights of the afternoon for my three cyclists were: being freshly showered, getting a much needed rub down by Chel (she got some mojo in those hands!) and the knowledge that the next day's ride was shorter. In the evening, they passed time talking to fellow riders and chilling out. There was an amazing number of riders, volunteers and Fayette County fairground staff onsite. It was like a little city, but an extremely efficiently run little city. One rider said "It's like moving an army."
I had finally decided to stay overnight at the team tent instead of returning to Austin or going to a nearby farmhouse that rents out beds so I grabbed some clean clothes and headed for the showers. What an experience. I'd never used a mobile shower before. They're converted semis with six shower stalls on one side and a long bench and mirror on the other. I didn't care at all that I was stripping in front of five other women. All I wanted was to wash off the grime. I didn't care a bit who looked at my sweaty body, jiggly belly or cellulite. It was the best shower, ever.
Because cyclists are all about a good party, there were bands playing at various stages around the fairgrounds and the movie "Breaking Away" was screened at dusk at the ampitheatre. For those who weren't fed by their teams and all the individual entry riders, there were food booths and beer booths set up. You could buy anything from a funnel cake to a veggie burger and for dessert, Blue Bell ice cream. Fun times, indeed. I ran into an old friend of mine over by the cheeseburger stand. I hadn't seen Annette in 7 years, so we took some time to catch up and exchange cell numbers. The music stopped at 8pm and I'm fairly certain our entire team was asleep by 10pm. Early to bed, early to rise.
The next morning was a rush of activity as the riders dressed out, breakfasted and broke down cots before leaving to line up at the start. The other volunteers and I finished the tent clean up and were ready to go long before the gates opened to allow us to drive out. I was hit by a U-Haul on my way to the fairgrounds exit. At least I wasn't in my own car (sorry, Jake) but the damage was minimal. Scary, though.
All the way home I passed riders along the road. It was amazing and inspiring to see so many riders out in force. Add to it that the minimum fundraising is $400 per rider and it's even more incredible. I think the last count, before all pledges are in, is $6.2 million so far. The race officials expect to fall somewhere around $10 million by the time the last of the donations are tallied.
Once in Austin I met up with Rockett and Marcella to hang out at the finish. We cheered and clapped for riders and waited anxiously for Frank, Jake and Dave. I never saw Dave ride by but shouted estatically for Jake and Frank when they powered up the last hill to the finish. I am so very proud of them for tackling this huge personal challenge and ripping through it like nobody's business. The ride home was fiercely sunny, dangerously jammed with wasted cyclists and wrecks were common. The guys battled broken chains, flat tires and accidentally inhaling insects along with watching out for cars that were too closely riding the edge of the shoulder. Frank phoned in from 5 minutes out to give us the heads up on their position and to say he just wanted to be done. Done, done, done, done done. I could hear the fatigue in his voice but I was secretly relieved that they were close by and had made it safely back to town.
I missed the finish line photo ops when security started moving us away to make way for an ambulance but soon enough both Jake and Frank were in front of us, weary and spent but happy. Frank, who has turned as dark as a migrant worker this weekend, had visible salt on his face and arms. I did make several very weak jokes about tequila shooters and margaritas that were met with blank stares from my humorless, overheated riders. God love 'em, but they just weren't up for my bad jokes.
We left downtown and made our way to Chuy's for some well deserved Tex-Mex and drinks before heading home. The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent reclining in air conditioned comfort. It was a wonderful experience but I was oh so happy to lounge in front of the television.
It's not too late to donate in Frank's, Jake's and/or Dave's names. If you'd like to support one of my riders and donate toward the research for a cure of multiple sclerosis, please email me for their last names and email addresses. You'd need that information for online donations. Otherwise I can give you mailing addresses for any donation you'd like to make, none are too small.
Frank, Jake and Dave: You cyclists rock!