Angel Ride May 2012

Riders: Garth,  Doug, Pete

For me the Angel ride started a couple of years ago. I had read about it but the hefty fund raising minimum kept me at bay. The more I thought about the ride the more I was drawn to it. The key was to get someone to donate enough money, something I hate to ask for, usually I just make the donation myself but for this ride it was a little beyond my means. So last fall I asked the director of Eastern Connecticut Cancer Institute, the facility I work at, and the Doctors group I work with for a combined donation to get me started. I figured they would make a donation but was surprised when they gave me enough for Doug and I both to register. It didn’t take much to persuade Doug to commit to the ride. So we formed the Tolland Bike/ Nerac Earth Cycling team.

Life was good until  fall 2011 when I fell and cracked a couple of ribs. I knew and the ER doctor confirmed at least 2 months of no cycling. Finally, I was healed and at the point to start training. Then while in the shower  my retina detached and I  lost my vision, this would be the third time it has happened to me. So off to Hartford Hospital for emergency surgery and a minimum of 2 months out of work and 3 months off the bike, not even the trainer.

About two months before the Angel Ride I got the clearance from the eye specialist to start riding. OK 5 months of no spinning and 20 lbs heavier was a rude awakening and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

As the ride got closer the more nervous I got but was determined to participate. Doug and I started talking about the logistics that would be involved with the ride. The ride starts in Norfolk, Ct and goes to Ashford 88 miles the first day, you stay at the camp that night then to Mystic, Ct 54 miles the following day.

We offered to let any Nerac rider join us and shortly before the ride Garth decided to jump in. So after touching base the three of us left for Norfolk at 4: 30 AM  (holy crap its too early ) on  Saturday morning. Let it be known that this was the only time I kept up to Garth!! After many speeches clapping and Doug cheering when he wasn’t supposed to be we were off to Ashford on our bikes

From this point on the only time I would see Doug was at the rest stops when he would wait for me. After a long, long day I finally arrived at the camp in Ashford. Day one included around 5500 ft of climbing and temps close to 90. Although Doug and I are usually in the same cycling condition and ride a lot together my 5 months of recuperating had me finding Doug already showered, changed and relaxing. I was hoping to average 14 mph and ended up with 14.8 so I was happy. I think Doug averaged closer to 17 mph and Garth well he probably had a 40 mph average. I was sound asleep by 7:45 PM and thanks to a set of earplugs, never heard the guy  snoring all night who apparently sounded like a helicopter landing .

The next morning found my legs a little stiff but surpisingly not to bad. After a huge breakfast , we were on our way to Mystic. Doug dumped me on the first big climb as I thought he would, but that was OK as I had told him earlier “don’t wait for me, ride at your pace I’ll see you at the rest stops”. Being more relaxed the second day allowed me to look around and enjoy the scenery a little more than the first day. We live in such a beautiful state with great cycling. Sometimes I, as I’m sure everyone else does, forget to enjoy our surroundings with hectic schedules and trying to get our miles in when time allows.  About twenty five miles in I hear someone calling my name and Garth spins up next to me. Let’s clarify that Garth slows down to chat for a couple of minutes. During our conversation he says your doing great and your always smiling then hits the afterburners and is gone leaving me to think yes my legs hurt my heart rate is pegged but I have a smile on my face. Before I knew the finish line was in front of me and I had around 3000 ft of climbing and a 15.9 mph average my highest of the year.

This was one of the best supported rides I have done. The volunteers, motorcycle riders and the facilities were awesome. The rest stops were spaced at perfect intervals and nicely stocked with food and drink and cool towels if you were overheating. Dinner, breakfast and lunch were fabulous. The people on the sides of the roads, at the rest stops and the finish line cheering to all the cyclists gave me a wholesome heartfelt feeling of appreciation.

For me this ride had many emotional and triumphant outcomes. Like just being able to regain my vision and ride my bike with my friend Doug. Making new friends, including Garth, along the two day hill fest through Ct. After the last rest stop on day one I didn’t think I could complete the ride I had nothing left in my legs but I kept going, even if it was my granny gear, kept thinking of those kids and what they have to overcome, if they could do it then I could do it. It reminded me of the kids with cancer I’ve treated during my career and how we developed a bond of friendship, an understanding of how hard life can be and how determination can help you overcome those challenges. Also, I regained an immense appreciation of how beautiful our state is and confirmed my belief that the best way to see it is to ride your bike across it.

I  thank my friends who helped out with  generous donations especially Dave at Tolland Bike and Nerac Earth Cycling for their support. If you want to check out the program this ride funded ;                                                                                       

I’d like to try this again next year, hopefully 20 lbs lighter with a little more time to train so I can wait for Doug at the rest stops and maybe Garth will only have to slow down to 30 mph when he says hello on his way by.  -Pete

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