August 12, 2004
Ashland, VA to Yorktown / Williamsburg, VA
Dena’s new best friend, after she ran over this guy’s brother yesterday with the PAC Tour trailer in the Shenandoah National park. I confirmed with Lon that this is the first time that they bagged a bear on PAC Tour.
Our last breakfast together, as a group.
Bikes lined up for today’s final ride.
Our last motel was at one of the many truck stops we seem to often end up near.
Two frogs and a Ski on bikes.
Lot’s of historical markers as we near Yorktown.
Alan, Anne Marie, and Herb at a rest stop.
Finally, at the FINISH! The whole crew, my wife Becky, and a lot of other riders’ friends and family were there to greet us. It was a great feeling to be done. It felt a bit strange, too – all of sudden, you’re at the end and you suddenly realize that you no longer have to ride your bike anymore.
The water felt refreshing after a rather warm and humid ride.
Ski playing with Bisti.
The last segment is done!
The final map. It was auctioned-off at the banquet for $1,000. The winning bid by Rick Houle will go towards the building of a school and water well in Peru.
And last message board. The ‘regroup’ was not optional.
Profile and statistics
A nice easy, flat day.
We started as a group of 54 riders and crew. We finished with 47 riders and crew. We lost two brothers from Texas around the third day – one of the brothers was completely in over his head and was just not prepared for the demands of the tour. Two other riders planned to only ride for two weeks. Two of our young crew members, Rebecca and Parker, left the tour as planned as we passed near their home in Wisconsin. And we lost a very good rider after the first week. This rider, a 40K state time-trial champion, went out very hard on the first couple of days. I remember benefiting from the torrid pacelines he led. I also remember mentioning to him that the real challenge of PAC Tour was not any particular day but the consistancy needed to string 26 days of riding in a row with out any real recovery days. Very early on, he developed knee problems that just didn’t respond well enough to treatment. Considering the investment of time, training, and money, he learned a very expensive lesson the hard way: 40K is about 3370 miles short of what he needed to complete for this tour. Hopefully, he’ll be back again for a better experience. We also had one rider, who broke her scapula from a fall, continue on as a full-time crew member.
Not that it really matters or that anyone was keeping track, I’d estimate that about half of the riders rode the entire tour completely under their own power, shunning the temptation of taking a ride in the sag wagon. Personally, I did achieve my goal of riding every inch under my own power. I can’t say that I ever even considered taking a ride in the sag wagon, even on the couple of tough days that I found challenging. My randonneuring experience was a big help in this regard. That said, the successful completion of this tour was hardly a given; there was the uncertaintly of new challenges each and every day. We covered a variety of terrain over the course of the trip. Some days were hot, some had unfavorable winds, and some had unexpected surprises along the way like roads under construction or errant wheels falling off cars. As each day started, there was also the uncertainty of what aches and pains you’d have. Until you got in the saddle and started peddling, there was no way to be sure what kind of day you were going to have. And there was always the risk of a mechanical failure or the injury from a crash.
Although I didn’t exactly follow the PAC Tour training guidelines, I felt my preparation for this trip was more than adequate. While this tour was at times, very challenging, I never felt that I suffered due to a lack of training. A winter program of weight training and stair masters in the gym was the starting point. Due to the bad winter we had in the Northeast, I only got in around 3,600 miles before the start. And then there was the 12-day Alaska cruise just before the tour that was a bit of training setback (mostly in the form of extra pounds around the waist to lug up the climbs). What I lacked in quantity, I think I made up in quality by riding in the hilly Pennslyvania region I live in. Riding a brevet series along with an early season Fleche was also very helpful. Also, I think there is some carry-over effect, year after year. Last year’s PBP effort was a big boost, both physically and mentally. And after year after year of riding, I think you eventually learn how to listen to what your body is telling you and how to best respond to your physical needs.
Some other ride statistics:
We gathered as a group with friends and family one last time for a farewell banquet. I was really glad that Becky was able to make the 7 hour trip down to join us. She got a chance to meet some of the interesting people I’ve lived with over the past 4 weeks.
Plaques were handed out to each rider commemorating the tour. As each rider was presented with his/her plaque, Susan had an appropriate comment. Some of the comments were quite funny: For the “Best Climber” award, she was going to say “Mountain Goat” but she was worried that Dena might then mistake this rider for some animal she could run over with the PAC Tour van (Dena is the driver who bagged the bear, a couple of days earlier). Rich “Ski” got a special award with his plaque: a crown made from the wrapper of a gallon-sized container of chocolate pudding (this was Ski’s lunch of choice). And so the evening went, with each rider getting recognized.
Lon had the final words and some pretty good advice. He pointed out that the past 4 weeks have been very stressful for both bike and rider. For the bike, he suggested a complete tear-down and overhaul. For the rider, he suggested some active recovery with some easy fun rides, like going out for a short breakfast run with friends. We would then come back much stronger in about 2 weeks. He also cautioned us about the potential feelings of “let down” and “burn out”. I know all about that – I definitely experienced some “burn out” after my Eastern Mountains PAC Tour in 2000 that led to a long, slow decline and the addition of 40 pounds to the waistline. I also saw some “let down” in other riders after PBP, last year. Knowing how hard it is to come back from this, I hope to avoid this potential pitfall.
One way to avoid the pit fall of burn-out is to think of the finish in Williamsburg as just another waypoint in an on-going journey. Just as this tour was broken down into 26 days of riding and each day had individual goals of reaching the next rest stop, this tour is one step along the way in an on-going journey to balance family, work, and self.