Since my mother died from ALS
16 years ago, I decided to volunteer to help the Somersett Challenge Ride to Defeat ALS in Reno this year. I was asked to help mark the course the day before the ride. We got kind of late start, meeting up at Somersett at 3 pm. We had to wait for everyone to arrive and then had to get some volunteers who were not from Reno oriented on the part of the course they would be marking. I had my 9-year-old son and his best friend along to help. We volunteered to do the last third of the route, including Somersett Parkway up to Beaumont Parkway and down to Verdi and Belli Ranch. I volunteered for this part because there would be less traffic and it would be safer for 9-year-old boys. This picture shows arrows for the 3 different routes: 82 miles (really 88), 50 miles, and 30 miles.
Placing route markers the day before the Ride - a big job
The boys tried to get the arrows ready before we stopped by peeling them off and sticking them around the car. But I ended up with an arrow on a car window and we still can’t get the adhesive off. The best system turned out to be that I would peel one arrow off and hand it to one of them, peel another off and hand it to the other, then peel two off for me. They would place the approach arrows and I would go do the one at the turn and the confirming one after the turn. The boys were pretty patient but they got bored and they were ready to start their planned sleepover. We started at 4:45 and got all of Somersett, Verdi, and Belli Ranch done. At 7 pm I called the race director and told him that I had to quit to get eat a good dinner and get a good nights’ sleep before the long ride. Luckily, our section was the end of the ride. He said he would have time to finish the course marking (Caughlin Club to Mogul) the next morning after the 6 am registration. I decided that was not the best way to spend the day before a long ride but I was glad to help out for a good cause.
6 AM came quickly. Registration went very smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised at how warm it was. I decided I wouldn’t need a jacket at all. We gathered our group of riders: my husband Stan, his friend Spencer, my friend Tracy, her friend Chris, and my friend Renee’. We knew we wouldn’t see much of Stan and Spencer but the four women stayed together for most of the first half of the ride.
The first rest stop, staffed by ALS of Nevada folks, at Picollo School
We did see Stan and Spencer flying down Geiger as we slowly climbed. Tracy and Chris climbed faster, while Renee’ and I chatted the whole way up.
Four Gorgeous Gals on Geiger: Meg, Tracy, Renee', Chris
The rest stop at the Geiger turnaround was fun.
Geiger Rest Stop
Renee’ had to leave right away because she had to be somewhere by 1 pm. Descending Geiger was interesting because a strong southwest wind had developed and we really got buffeted around as we flew around the corners. The pavement on much of the descent had recently been scraped, probably in preparation for paving. Between the wind and the rough pavement, it was the toughest Geiger descent I have done.
Now a group of three, we cruised across the valley. When we got to the Zolezzi/Arrowcreek intersection, the 50 mile route went up Zolezzi and the long route went up Arrow Creek. Chris headed up Zolezzi, while Tracy and I climbed Arrowcreek into the headwind. This is about when we started feeling occasional rain drops and the closest cloud was about 5 miles up wind. We climbed to another great rest stop at Sage Ridge School, which was about the mid-point of the ride. Once I started climbing into the headwind, ie, once the cycling got a little tough, I stopped even thinking about taking photos.
After a little rest at Sage Ridge, we climbed up and around Arrowcreek Loop. Then we worked our way through the valley mostly riding into the wind to Caughlin Club, which was the next rest stop. By this time we had mostly cloudy skies and occasional rain drops. Here my odometer read 62 miles: a metric century and the previous farthest I had ever cycled. Tracy took off here because she had to be somewhere at 4 pm.
I rode into Verdi and saw that many riders had turned around to head back through Verdi to the finish. The course was set up with lots of options to shorten it. I had made a personal commitment to cycle 82 miles, so I continued on. I stopped at the last rest stop in Verdi at Coffee and… and then I headed up Bridge Street. From this point on I didn’t see anyone else. It was just like my training ride the week before. I told myself, “this is just another training ride”. I rode through Belli Ranch and after descending the gravel road to the river, I was crossing the bridge over the Truckee River and I startled a man on the bridge. He said, “Where did you come from?” I said, “From Belli Ranch, down the gravel road.” Then he saw the number on my back and he said, “Are you in a race?” I yelled back,” The Ride to Defeat ALS”. I was moving pretty quickly at this point. I had popped a Clif Sureshot gel at the last rest stop and I was impressed at the amount of quick energy those little gummies gave me. I wasn’t really thinking about how hard it is to ride that far – I just told myself that no matter how hard it was, it was easier than what my mom went through.
I rode back to Mogul and back up Silva Ranch Road, again. This time I turned up Del Webb Parkway. I was watching my odometer as it approached 82 miles. I decided I would flag down a sag wagon once I hit 82 miles. I had complained that the ride was longer than advertised. And it was interesting how my whole body and brain were committed to 82 miles and no more. 82 miles was at the T intersection at Del Webb Parkway East and West. There was a nice thick patch grass where I could sit. When it became clear I was unlikely to see a sag wagon, I called the Race Director and asked him to send one. As I waited, I thought about my ride. I probably could have made it up the climb to Somersett if it hadn’t been for the headwind I fought all day. The 82 miles took me over 7 hours, which would also have been less without the head wind. The sag wagon arrived and took me up the last few miles to Somersett Towne Center. Much to my disappointment, the after ride party was over and the chairs and tables were being put away. But I was in luck because they had not yet put away the food. I had a wonderful chicken stir fry. Another nice thing is that my husband came back and was able to eat with me. He did not ride the whole route so he had already showered and he had even been out to work for a while.
In my final analysis, I am proud that I rode 82 miles even when most others were quitting. I am pleased that I felt better after 82 miles this year than I did after 62 miles last year, when I only trained 6 weeks. And even the two days after the ride, I was not sore, just tired. I took 4 days off from riding, and felt great when I went out again on Thursday and Saturday.
My next goal is to ride 100 miles, and I want to do it before my next birthday. I’m thinking Chico Wildflower on May 1 might be the one.