I’m a runner, not a biker. However, earlier this year for reasons I could not recall recently, I had decided I wanted to do something to challenge myself – that I could accomplish. After failing class after class in school I was ready to prove to myself that I could accomplish something – ANYTHING.
That challenge was the RSVP. A bike ride where you ride from Seattle to Vancouver B.C. I presented the idea to Matt and our biking group and it was on.
The week leading up to RSVP ended up being a roller coaster of emotions and as late as the day before the ride I wasn’t even convinced I was going to even do it. However, Friday morning came and somehow I found myself at University of Washington way earlier than anybody should ever be awake. We met up with our group which consisted of my dad, our friends Sean and Mike, Matt’s brother Zack and his uncle Stan, got on our bikes and took off.
Leading out of UW and heading up the Burke I was surprised at just how good I felt. I knew I had a 108 mile bike ride ahead of me but as I pedaled up the Burke Gilman trail, RSVP pals in tow, and looked out across Lake Washington as the sun came up, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of calm. It was going to be a long and difficult day – but somehow I would make it through.
When we hit the lunch stop at the halfway mark 53 miles in I was still feeling good and hoping I could maintain that feeling. However, the longer we were at the lunch stop – something we had all agreed we would be at no more than 45 minutes while the rest of the stops were a solid 10 minutes, the less I wanted to continue on. Typically, as my muscles rest it becomes more and more difficult to get back on my bike and I am normally slow going after a rest stop as I give my legs a chance to warm up. We finally set out and my pace was definitely slow going.
The 20 miles between lunch and the next rest stop were brutal. My legs were sore, my shoulders were sore and though my spirit was still somewhat strong I was quickly fading at our second to last rest stop – 74 miles in with no clue as to how I’d survive the rest of this ride.
My spirit had all but vanished by the time we hit the last stop of the day. We were 83 miles in with Chuckanut Drive standing in my way. A Bellingham staple and 10 miles of continuous hills – it’s a beautiful drive that overlooks Bellingham Bay. The guys hyped it up, telling me how difficult it would be. Before that all I had worried about was finishing the ride and then suddenly I was faced with this giant climb between me and the end of day one.
As we ascended the hill I watched as my team took off and I settled into a steady climb alone. Many thoughts ran through my mind during this time and I couldn’t even tell you what they were anymore. But I never thought to myself “when will this thing end?!” until I saw the signs. That’s right – signs. Apparently there is a lemonade stand at the top of Chuckanut and someone had made signs letting us riders know that we were “almost there” and asking us if we were “thirsty?”
You gotta be kidding me.
So now whatever thoughts I had shifted to this sign maker.
“WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK DOES ‘ALMOST THERE’ MEAN?”
“Have YOU ever done RSVP sign maker?”
“YOU KNOW NOTHING!”
“Why would ask people if they are thirsty? What kind of sick joke is this?”
“I hate you sign maker.”
Then suddenly, I see bikes. And I realized that this was it. I was almost there. As I made my way to the top of Chuckanut my emotions ran crazy. A mixture of disbelief, pride and relief all rolled into one. I hopped off my bike with tears in my eyes trying to make my way through the bike corral on the outside edge. Out of nowhere Sean came over to me, grabbed my bike and said “I got this – go.” And my tears fell as I walked over to Matt, choking through my sobs “That. Was. It?!” I couldn’t believe that the big “monster” at the end of day 1 that I had been dreading for months was done. My dad pushed a cup of lemonade into my hands and told me to ring the cowbell – ‘Ring the cowbell if this is your first RSVP’. The lady who runs the lemonade stand gave me a sticker, a sign that read 100.7 miles (that’s how many miles we were in), the cowbell to ring and took my picture. As I rang the cowbell the entire crowd cheered which just made me cry harder. After a few minutes I had finally composed myself enough to continue on. After all – we still had another 8 miles to go before we got to our hotel!
It was around 5 or so by the time we reached our hotel that day and I found myself completely exhausted. I even ordered the wrong entrée at dinner nearly starting a brawl with the waitress when she brought me quesadillas instead of fajitas. After 108 miles you want what you want but three different people told me I was wrong so clearly I was going insane. And it wasn’t over. We still had another 80 miles to go.
To be continued…