Thursday, July 16, 2009

Captain Demetri

Captain Demetri
Originally uploaded by dmourati
I took this photo while at the helm of a 30 foot catamaran on the San Francisco Bay.

We took a sunset sail aboard the Adventure Cat from Pier 39. We made our way to the Richardson Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, then back along the San Francisco coast to the pier. I got my chance at the wheel towards the end of the night.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Livestrong 100 Mile Course Complete: Take that Cancer

Yesterday, Team JD completed the Livestrong San Jose 2009 100 mile bike course. The event marked the culmination of nearly three months of training, some of which has been detailed on this blog. Today, as I look back on the event, I'm with the overwhelming courage displayed by the cancer survivors who joined us during the event, the graciousness of all the volunteers, and the dedication shown by all 3000 plus participants and the generosity of those who supported us along the way.

It was an emotional day. From the introductory remarks from Carly Fiorina, a cancer survivor herself, the event created an atmosphere of perseverance. The National Anthem, sung by a LAF organizer and survivor was the most beautiful and powerful rendition I have ever heard. Once the opening remarks were delivered and the event was properly blessed, the countdown began. Under police escort, at 7:30 AM (by somebody's watch, I had 7:32), we were off.

The police escort lead the front of the pack out at nearly 20 miles per hour. That was too fast for Team JD so we slipped to the back of the 100 mile pack. Shortly after we took off, those going for 65 miles were turned loose on the course. With fresh legs and fewer miles to complete, some of the 65 milers overtook us before we even reached the first rest stop. We cruised past it, knowing full well we were good on food and water for at least the first 30 miles.

As we rode towards our first stop, off in the distance, high atop the hills facing the Pacific Ocean, we saw a foreboding marker of our Hicks Albino Quest training ride: the abandoned Air Force battery. Somehow, it was comforting to know at least we would have to climb that monster that day.

As we traveled on more familiar terrain, we made it to mile 30 for some Peanut Butter Jelly Time.

Refueled, we headed South through a route familiar from the I Care Classic, but in reverse. Eventually, we wound up in Gilroy's wine country and rode past another familiar site, the Jason-Stephens Winery. Somehow, when we had driven down there a few weeks past, it seemed farther away then on the bike trip.

The next section was perhaps the most mentally challenging of the entire ride. We battled winds on Santa Theresa for what seemed like an eternity. Other teams were more organized and formed pacelines to cut through the wicked winds.

We were not so organized so we had to battle through it on our own. After completing the long stretch of energy-sapping headwinds, we took a right onto Bailey and merged back in with the stragglers from the 65 mile course. A brief climb and a few more miles brought us to Power Stop 6, the base of Metcalf Rd, also known as the Metcalf Mauler.

I should say here the the Mauler was my inspiration during all the climbing sections of this seasons training rides. I would think to myself, any training I do now will just make the mauler that much easier. I had built this climb up so much in my head that I knew we had to tackle it once and for all.

The climb is brutal. It is steep, it is long, it is dangerously unpaved and exposed. There are motorcyclists heading to and from the Motorcycle park at the top of the hill. Everyone on their bikes was in a foul mood. We had to advise one rider who had just undergone heart bypass surgery to reconsider his options.

At the first break, we sat down with two cyclists who were in over their heads and calling it quits on Metcalf. One, a young guy, was bleeding from his knee saying he had angered the cycling gods. Another rider, a recumbent enthusiast, complete with long pony-tail and laptop bag, was asking whether his 6 foot long vehicle could be fit into the back of a Dodge minivan.

We cycled on. And on. When we saw the shack at the top we knew from riding last year's event that we were almost there. A few more turns of the crank and the previous 15+% grades melted to a still challenging 7-8%. A course marshal riding a motorcycle perched at the top of the hill gave us the thumbs up sign as we crested the top. A few feet more along the ridge, along side the motorcycle park, sparked this conversation with a wild-haired young motorcross rider:

Motorcross dude (in a taunting voicee): I think I can, I think I can
D (looking over): Hey
Motorcoss Fans: wave
D: waves back
Motorcross Fans: Woohoo, you did it congratulations!
D: Waves and smiles, Thanks!
Motorcross dude (relenting): Naw, you made it up here, I gotta give you props
D: smiles, and rides away

After a quick descent, it was time to take on more water and fuel for the final climb of the ride. If you look at the course profile, the big spike at mile 68 or so is Metcalf, which when combined with the second spike a few mile later, look like the dual horns of a Devil. Well, the devil was there, I'm told, cheering the riders on along Metcalf saying they were at the top. Cruelly, however, he was some 1000 feet from the top giving the riders a false sense of hope.

Once we crossed the peak of the second devil horn, I knew we had a fun descent in store. Somehow, cruising along at 30 miles an hour without pedaling will put a smile on the face of the most exhausted cyclist.

We cruised back through San Jose as the familiar urban landscape unfolded under our wheels. The pony-tailed recumbent cycling was back, and he made a move to pass us. Not gonna happen you hippie, I thought. Especially after you SAG'd your way to the top of Metcalf with that junker. Order restored, we rolled into the finishing line just past 4:30 PM. My cycling computer showed 98 miles, including the three or so we did to get to the start earlier that morning.

As we got to the finish line, Team JD regrouped to cross over together. I gave a victory salute and felt an odd lump in the back of my throat. Emotions washed over me as I bypassed the cheerleaders and other volunteers congratulating each and every rider as they rode in. The ride was a great accomplishment and I'm glad I had Jodi with me to keep me going as the miles added up and the mental anguish kicked in. We trained together for this, we started together, fundraised together, and it only made sense to finish together.

After a quick bite, we hopped on the traino for a ride back to Saratoga and another 3 mile slog home. As my odometer crossed 100 for the day for the fist time, I pumped my fists and celebrated the moment with my teammate.

Team JD, at the Start. Notice, I'm half clipped in 30 minutes before we were supposed to head out. Photo by Berend.

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