Sunday, September 14, 2008

STAP Ride for Life

The ride yesterday was very eventful. During the first 50 miles or so everything went perfectly. We left Stewart Park at about 6:45am and started to ascend route 34 in direction North. I was able to start in the front pack with the leaders. They were all wearing the same jersey and I was the outsider. Altogether we were about 8 riders. The tempo was over 20mph on the flat sections and I was feeling really good. We skipped the first pit stop. Around the 45 mile mark one of the team riders had a flat and we all stopped so he could get it fixed. During those 6-8 minutes nobody passed us, so the lead was already pretty big. While the flat was being changed somebody noticed a slight hiss coming from my back wheel. This was no good sign. I decided to continue until the next stop where I could take a better look at it. At the 50 mile stop I decided to change the tube. The rest of the riders refilled their water bottles and left. This was a position I did not want to be in. Alone and with 50 miles to go. I took a very long time to change my tube, but finally managed and moved on. At this point I had seen several riders stop and continue, while others had just passed by. I got back on my bike and decided to work hard. I caught one rider but then I was alone again. For a while I did not see anybody in front or behind me. This again was a bad sign. I was pretty sure at this point that I had missed a turn somewhere. It turns out that I did in fact miss a turn and ended up riding an extra 5 miles to get to the next stop at Seneca Falls. On top of that, I had another flat. This time I had no extra tubes, so I decided to put my old tube back in (it was loosing air at a lesser rate) and kept stopping every other mile or so to fill it with air again.

At the Seneca Falls stop, knowing that I had already ridden 5 extra miles, had 2 flats and was riding alone, I gave up any hopes of being competitive (even if this was not a race). Luckily there was a mechanic volunteering, who helped me patch one of my tubes and also found a small thorn in my tire. That was all I needed for a little extra motivation. The hope of not having any more flats. Unlike most of the other riders, who were in groups, I was pretty much on my own. After taking care of my bike and eating some lunch I got back on the road and started putting up a strong tempo. I was passing a lot of people, but I knew I could not keep it up for long. I noticed there was a group of riders getting close so I decided to wait and ride with them. They were all young high school seniors and were riding at a comfortable pace for me. So it was fun once again to be in a group an not have to do all the work. Little did I know what was about to happen...

At around the 70 mile mark the rider in front of me dodged something on the road and the next thing I saw was the asphalt from a perspective you do not really want to experience. I flew over my handlebars and went face first into the ground. I just laid there for a moment. I knew I had hit my jaw and mouth. I checked my teeth and all were there. I had a lot of blood on my hands, but it all came from my chin and skin between my upper lip and nose. I really do not know how it all happened. It was so quick. I thought I was probably not going to continue. I got up on my feet and noticed that I had also road rash on my right knee. Everybody stopped and their faces did not seem very comforting. At this point I knew I had no broken bones. The next thing was to check the bike. It miraculously did not suffer a scratch. As I fell the bike got jolted into the air and thrown to the side of the rode, where there was some vegetation. The only issue is that my odometer sensor was torn off. I'll have to find a way to glue it back on. The next stop was 1 mile ahead, so I got back on the bike and rode with the others seeking for some medical attention.

At the stop a nurse checked my wounds, put some antibiotics on it and gave me ibuprofen. I ate some bananas, refilled my water bottles, cleaned the blood off my bike and rode off with the high school guys. Along the last 30 miles another rider had 2 flats and we stopped so he could fix them. Towards the end, when we had just passed Taughannock Falls there was still one more hill left. I gave it my all and when I looked back none of the high school team was able to follow me, so I kept up the tempo and arrived at Cass Park (the finish line) around 2:50pm. There I was greeted by at least 50 people cheering and yelling, with whistles. It was really nice. To my surprise Grazie was among them and I got my well deserved "I am proud of you" kiss. That was definitely the highlight of the day. Discounting stops for flats and and my crash, I was able to ride an average of about 20mph. There was also a medal, more food, a massage, all very appreciated. A nurse took further care of my face injuries and I rested until 5pm when we left Cass Park through town to Stewart Park as a group of 400 riders or so. This was the "Victory Ride" and people along the streets were cheering and honking. It was a really nice feeling. At Cass Park there was more food (really good stuff from the Ithaca Bakery), cake from Sarah's Patisserie and refreshments.

The event was able to raise 250,000 dollars so far for STAP. Donations can still be made until October 15th. I am very grateful for your donations, which have enabled my participation in this wonderful event. Below are some of the pictures that Grazie took while volunteering

Thanks again,
Juan S.

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