Today is our last ride before the final into DC and we were all pushed to our limits. This is day 8 on the bike. Team B has now completed / endured the following:
860 miles (3,300 miles total all teams)
40+ hours of saddle time per person
46,000 feet of climbing
200,000 pedal strokes
The beautiful PA countryside was the setting for an epic day of cycling. The short 62 miles included 10,600 feet of climbing! The Nails have truly become a team. I have laughed harder and been emotionally moved more by them than any of my closest friends. We were determined to stick together to finish this journey.
Mile 23 was the first major test -- a 2-mile climb with an average grade of 7%. Slow but stead we marched up. Ten miles later we reached the real monster of the day: a 4.5 mile climb averaging 5% but kicking up to 15% a few places. The Tour de France hardly saw steeper. We inched our way up, hot, sore and tired. The week had taken its toll and we fell off the pace needed to make our deadline. Coach Jason kept the pressure on with encouraging words and shouts of "pedal pedal pedal" in our earpieces. He told us either speed up or we had to rotate riders off to rest. We sped off and were determined to stay together. We were a team. We put our heads down and summited together.
Jason won at the top and three riders were pulled off. It wasn't fair to do all that work and not get to descend but limiting it to two riders descending at a fast pace was safer. Elizabeth belonged in the lead because of her racing experience. I got to stay out with her even though Rob or Darren probably were better descenders. I lined up behind her and held on. It was the descent of my life. Although fast I had so much faith in her riding it gave me the confidence to push beyond what I had ever done before.
We rocketed down and then rolled up and down a series of smaller hills. By the time I had rotated out we had made up a lot of time. I climbed back in the van and wrestled my stomach out of my throat. Thankfully my teammates had something left as I was pretty much toast for the rest of the ride and had to let the others pull me in. They had reserves I didn't. Rob, Elizabeth, Darren and Kristen -- you are truly Nails!