Friday, October 29, 2010

Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge Part 1: The Lead Up

Ordinarily, before a century or similarly significant ride, I stay up the night before, checking weather reports, packing my saddle bag or trunk bag, making and freezing water bottles, laying everything out that I’ll need, but knowing that most of my essentials are already mounted on my bike and ready to go as usual. Prepping for the Austin Challenge was going to be different. For starters, my trusty Eros was staying behind, and I was riding a rental bike. Mind you, it was a Madone 5.2 – nothing to sneeze at – but I’d never ridden one for more than 15 minutes, I was going to be using Speedplays for the first time (thank you, Phil Cheevers). But it wasn’t the bike I’ve trained with and grown to love. My Eros simply wasn’t going to suit the ride, though, and it would have cost more than the airfare to get to Austin to bring it with me.

Secondly, I had to pack for a 90-mile ride that wasn’t taking place for 5 days, but I also had to be mindful of what limits I had for baggage on Jet Blue. 1 bag, 50-pound limit for checked luggage. I couldn’t rely on the fact that I always had a helmet, pair of gloves and emergency repair kit in my car in case I forgot something at home. I made a list, checked it twice, packed my cycling gear in isolated bags, unpacked my cycling gear and repacked them, like the dutiful obsessive-compulsive that I am. I knew I’d have to buy a saddle bag in Austin – mine all include mounting brackets that are installed on my Eros or my Trek 3900. But I didn’t want to have to spend money on gear I already owned and could bring with me. I triple checked that I had my LIVESTRONG kit for the Challenge itself, a spare LIVESTRONG kit, just in case, my Trek Bicycle Store of Fairfield kit and my Team Marathon kit for training, so my sponsors were well represented in Austin and I felt no guilt about not wearing either kit for the Challenge itself.

In addition, I had to make sure that my son, Zach, was packed as thoroughly for Austin. I knew we’d be riding the Challenge, and at least 2 training rides. I was sure we’d try and squeeze in a little more riding, and we’d need to get around town by bike as much as possible so we could save gas and get as much time in the saddle in as possible. Let me tell you – having to go through the dresser drawers and laundry of a 12-year old boy is not a fun experience. But, with a clothespin on my nose, tongs and rubber gloves, I managed to pack his chamois, his kits and his gear.

I also double checked that we had every bib that one of our donors and supporters signed in honor of or in memory of cancer fighters to mount on the Tribute Wall.

I promptly arose at 4:15 am, took a shower, changed into my LIVESTRONG Challenge t-shirt from Philly and Team LIVESTRONG hat, loaded the car and drove off to my parents’ house where Zach was sleeping and the car was picking us up to take us to JFK. (Note to self: When taking high doses of antibiotics to kill a sinus infection in a short period of time so you can ride to kick cancer that say “take with food” on the bottle, do it. The car sickness leading up to a flight is not pleasant.) We finally arrived, and, of course, my suitcase was too heavy, so we got to do the pack-repack-shuffle at the gate. Fortunately, having flown El Al and to/from Israel several times in my life, I knew to arrive 2 hours before the flight, so we had plenty of time.

A nice diversion from the anxiety and nerves of the Challenge was checking Facebook on my Crackberry to learn that my first camp friend, Sara Voit, was not only going to Austin, but at JFK at the same time. As we were trying to message each other, sure enough, we found each other in the commissary, and then discovered we were on the same flight! We got to spend some time catching up while I downed a bagel. We didn’t catch up again once we arrived in Austin, but it was nice to know a little more Young Judaea was rooting for me in Austin.

We arrived, and I have to tell you, LIVESTRONG knows how to welcome people in style. We didn’t earn Ride for the Roses status, and we were arriving a couple of days earlier than most, but Doug Ulman, CEO of LIVESTRONG, was graciously awaiting our arrival at the Jet Blue gate to greet us. Ok. That’s a bit of a lie. Doug Ulman was there, and he did greet us at the gate. But that was a pure coincidence – he was flying to New York as we arrived.

After getting our luggage, and taking the obligatory posed photos with the LIVESTRONG guitar at baggage check, we were whisked away to my friend David’s house, who let us stay at his house and use his wife’s car for the week.

Despite being in Cedar Park, wild horses could not break the magnetic pull towards our Austin-mothership – Mellow Johnny’s & Juan Pelota’s Café. Zach wanted his first cup of coffee, and no one was more appropriate to grind his first coffee bean than the baristas at JP’s. I wanted to play with my borrowed toy and see the shop that Lou Joaquim helped put together and influenced her decision to open Trek Bicycle Store of Fairfield. (I’ll admit it – I also hoped that, by arriving before the masses, Lance might decide to hang out at his bike shop. It was a pipe dream that was left unfulfilled.) Imagine my delight when I found that Mellow Johnny’s branded saddle bags were not only in stock, but on sale! (As in, I didn’t have to feel guilty about buying cycling gear without the benefit of my employee discount!) I also realized that, while unpacking at Dave’s, I'd forgotten one little detail – I forgot chamois butter. Thank goodness MJ’s was well stocked. (Gosh, you’d think they knew there was a big cycling event coming to town, or something… )

Within a few seconds of arriving, our rental bikes were being pulled and prepped by one pair of MJ mechanics, another staff member was taking photos of us in front of Lance’s bikes and Pedal Hard, and we were ready to partake in the sweet nectar served at Juan Pelota’s Café.

After getting hyped up on caffeine, endorphins from finally arriving and hanging like a hipster at JP’s and realizing we hadn’t had a thing to eat since before our 8:20 flight departed New York, I resorted to my old standby. Sure, friends had told me where we “had” to eat in Austin, but I knew I had plenty of time to hit those spots. So, I asked a group of Mellow Johnny’s staff members where to eat. Unanimously, they directed us to the Hula Hut, where they described the food as being Hawaiian Tex Mex. Baffled, but starving, we packed up my Madone, Zach’s 2.1, our gear and drove to the Hula Hut.

As if things couldn’t get better than Mellow Johnny’s for us cycling dorks & Lance Armstrong fans, I think Zach and I like Tex Mex and waterfronts just as much and we found ourselves in a secondary Nirvana.

Day 1 was in the books after an amazing meal. We returned to Dave’s, hit the sack, and got ready for why we were in Austin – to kick cancer with LIVESTRONG on and off our bikes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rica,
    So glad to hear you had a hula good time in Austin! It is a rocking city, isn't it? Excellent pictures. I love when visitors feel the good Austin vibe as soon as they hit the airport.

    Happy you visited. All my best, Allie Austin, TX


I'm all about free speech, etc, but I have to ask that comments are respectful of other readers, the fact that I, and many of us who follow this blog, support LIVESTRONG, and that you reserve Lance or LIVESTRONG bashing for another forum. As of right now, I'm still allowing Anonymous postings, however, that may not be the case in the future. Thanks!