I know it could sound haughty and arrogant and self-centered, but I’ve got to say that I am so freaking PROUD of myself. And Anna. And, of course, my mom and dad and even sisters Tessa and Brie, but mostly Anna and I. We did it. We completed 30 miles. We really weren’t sure we could.
Friday afternoon, the afternoon before the race, Anna and I had agreed that we would meet at my house early to try to beat some of the traffic going over the Chesapeake Bay bridge. No matter how early we left, however, we were destined to sit a spell in bumper to bumper misery simply because the Chesapeake Bay bridge is the primary route to Ocean City and to all other ocean front towns. And because it was the last day of school for Anne Arundel County students, so many families would be celebrating. And because that last day of school was a half day. I too felt like celebrating, as summer is just as much a welcome break for the teachers as it is the students, and my celebration apparently would be to complete a 30 mile bike ride. I was beginning to think that my mother HAD really started to rub off on me…
The drive was long but lovely and we kept each other company the whole way. We checked into our enormous hotel room and promptly took a short nap. Anna and I awoke to our parents knocking on our hotel room door, prodding us to the race registration check-in and dinner. They were excited and animated and, even here on the Easter Shore at a bike race they’d never participated in, knew some fellow cyclist. As Anna and I exchanged knowing glances, they introduced us to RUNNING friends that were now also CYCLING friends who we just HAD to meet. Figures. At the race registration, however, we discovered that, because of the generosity of my family, I had raised $1000 and now qualified for a “Top Crab” jersey, which I would get to wear throughout the race. I was just hoping to raise enough money to meet the $300 minimum for entry and not have to pony up any of my own funds to cover the difference, so this was unexpected and very special. I was getting pumped.
After an upbeat, fun dinner with Mom and Dad, Anna and I headed back to our hotel to wait for Brie and Tessa to arrive. When I called Tessa months prior to the race and asked her if she’d like to pedal it with me, she tactfully replied that she wouldn’t be able to carve out the time for training leading up to the race because of her other obligations and, therefore, she would definitely not be participating IN the race. But neither hell nor high water can keep Tessa away from any event where all her other sisters are assembled, so she registered as a volunteer, left the babies with her hubby and trekked to the Eastern Shore. When I first mentioned the race and the idea of volunteering to Brie, she didn’t even hesitate. She immediately registered as a volunteer and began contacting the appropriate people to make sure that both she and Tessa could be stationed at the same rest stop. They showed up, wine in hand, after a full day of work and a long drive out the Chestertown, MD, ready to volunteer their hearts out.
The morning of the race, Anna and I were nervous. The race organizers had provided all meals for registered participants and volunteers, and so we would be eating in the cafeteria with the other would-be racers. Neither Anna nor I had ever wished so fervently that we had only volunteered for something, not actually participated in it. I managed to choke down my eggs over the butterflies in my stomach while Dad cracked jokes and made conversation and Mom sorted out last minute details, like where the start line was and what time they actually had to begin the race. Since they were participating in the Metric Century ride, a 62/63 miler as it were, they would start before us and, after some serious prodding on Mom’s part, they headed off in the direction of the start line. Tessa and Brie returned to inform us that they had to ship out to their assigned rest stop, but they wished us well and assured us that we would see them as soon as we could managed to pedal to their stop, hopefully still upright and coherent. Anna and I were alone and a little apprehensive. We were freaking out. We got our bikes, checked the tires, added air, adjusted a chain that had partially come off, all of which made us feel tough, but did not calm our nerves. At 9:00, we set off from the start line.
The first 5 1/2 miles we had to cover before we reached Brie and Tessa and their promised rest stop were largely very flat and not that difficult. It took a few miles to readjust to being on a bike again, and our rears complained during that entire adjustment period, but by the time we pulled into Kent County High School, we were feeling ok. We spent just a few minutes chatting with Brie and Tessa, or rather, guzzling water while they talked to us, and then were off again. Shortly after we left their encouraging smiles, however, we discovered the hills.
We weren’t expecting hills. We had been told, by our mother no less, the woman whose brain child this whole adventure was, that this course was flat. In fact, I distinctly remember that as a selling feature when she was pitching this idea of a 30 mile bike ride to me. And there they were anyway- hills. On the second hill, Anna informed me that we were walking to the top. I dutifully hopped off my bike- there would be no leaving one man behind. We guzzled our gatorade and pushed on, hill after hill. We walked just one more hill and seriously considered turning around, right there at whatever mile we were at, and starting back for the finish line, when we ran into an encouraging cyclist who assured us that the half-way point, and therefore rest stop, was only 1/2 a mile further. We trudged on. “1/2 a mile” might have been a slight exaggeration on the part of the cyclist, but she was well-meaning and we pulled into the second rest stop exhausted and discouraged. And heard someone calling our names.
As we feebly dismounted onto shaky legs, our mother, beacon of all fitness, called excitedly over to us, all smiles and enthusiasm. I could have strangled her with her helmet strap. She looked so happy and not nearly as drained as we were, despite having completed over 30 miles already that morning. Our father was no better, all chatty and positive. For them, this seemed to actually be FUN. All Anna and I wanted to do was find some shade to curl up and give up. But they brought us lunch, complete with SANDWICHES and COOKIES and SODA! After 30 minutes and the best sandwich of my life, Anna and I felt like new women ourselves and understood our parents buoyed spirits. We even enjoyed seeing them and hugged them before they headed out on their final half of the race.
The next 7 miles were hard- the day was so damn hot!- but not impossible and we learned to master the art of removing the water bottle while pedaling, drinking, and then replacing the water bottle while gliding. We felt accomplished. We pulled into the rest stop at mile 22 happy to see that it was the same rest stop as earlier and that we would see Brie and Tessa again. In fact, they took care of us from the moment they saw us, helping us off our bikes, getting us drinks in the shade, filling our water bottles and even taking our bikes over the mechanic at the stop for more air and a thorough once over. They did not, however, cave to my plea that they stuff us and the bikes in the back of Brie’s Ford Fiesta and take us to the finish line. As we climbed on our bikes for the final miles, however, we felt remarkably better.
At 1:00 on the nose, we pedaled across the finish line. Even with our long breaks at the rest stops, we were able to finish in 4 hours, which was much better than we thought we’d do. As we pedaled the final leg of the race, Anna even began planning for next year, began talking about how much fun it’d been and how nice everyone was. As if on cue, some of the more experienced, better cyclist came along side us and began chatting with us, keeping us company for a few of the final miles. There was music and medals and sandwiches and Rita’s mango italian ice in the shade.
Two by two, the rest of our family began to show up and assemble, relaying their accounts of the day. Tessa and Brie had great stories and a little bit of sunburn from the rest stop; Mom and Dad had great fun and photos from their ride; Anna and I had a huge sense of pride and accomplishment and a gratefulness that we had survived. But we also realized that we had all enjoyed ourselves. We realized that we had all gotten something positive from the experience. We realized that this was the first time just the 6 original Foster Family had been away together since before Anna’s engagement 6 years ago. And we realized that we would do it again, may even ask for donations again, next year. Prepare yourself now, we may come a knockin’!