Monday, September 24, 2012

Ride Bikes All Night: The DC-PGH 24-hr Relay 2012

Over beers after the Carrie Furnace ride, my friend Mark mentioned that he was doing a 24-hour relay ride between DC and PGH. It didn't take much more than that simple explanation for me to be intrigued and want to participate. A couple Fridays ago I tried to stay up all night. I tried to sleep all day Saturday. (It didn't work; I was up by 11 a.m.) And by 8:30 p.m. I was setting off on my bike toward Edgewood, where I'd join my team for the second leg of the relay, from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. We didn't get to Cumberland until after 11:30 p.m., and once there we eagerly awaited the arrival of the first team, who had started in Georgetown at noon. They were tasked with riding the C&O Canal, much rougher and a bit longer than the Great Allegheny Passage. We saw the first set of headlights close to 1 a.m., and the first members of our team set off into the night. I didn't get my first go at the trail until the third leg (which was really fine with me, as the first two legs were the uphill journey that I didn't reeeeeallly want to undertake). So, at around a.m., with the temps in the 40s and darkness obviously surrounding us, my partner and I took off down the GAP. We had a series of lights on our bikes and helmets, but still could only see about 10-15 feet in front of us. When we entered into patches of fog, the visibility was cut to only a few feet. It was kind of terrifying, but also incredibly fun. We needed to keep going at a fairly quick pace to not fall behind a very tight schedule that would get our team into Pittsburgh before the 24-hour period was up. When we rolled into Rockwood, we were ahead of schedule. The next pair of riders took off, and I devoured a peanut butter sammich, several handfuls of Cheez-Its, and then I passed out in the back of the van until it was again my turn to ride, sometime around 7 a.m. As the miles counted down on my second leg, I felt myself slowing down. A combination of lack of sleep, the cold, and the race against the clock were wearing down my legs and my stamina, and any plans I had of joining the final leg into Pittsburgh were quickly fading away. I had mentioned so much when we got to the van when the leg was over, and a couple of my teammates scoffed and said I would do it. I just shook my head and started shoveling all food possible into my mouth. But they were right. By the time we got to the Boston Bridge, 22 miles away from the Point, I was ready to go. We had two hours to go 22 miles, so the pace wouldn't need to be killer to make it by noon. Three of us set off toward Pittsburgh, and - after a quick bathroom break at the Waterfront Eat N Park - we were on the Eliza Furnace Trail, quickly heading toward the end. My ride partners had me lead the charge into Point State Park, and it was an overwhelming feeling of awesome to get there and to finish the 24-hour relay with time to spare. It was an even awesomer feeling to get to Over The Bar and drink beer and eat food and sit around a huge table with both teams recounting stories and having some great laughs. After meeting my dad and brother for a beer (okay, a margarita and a beer) in Market Square, I was home, on the couch, and ready to watch the Steelers game. Of course, I slept through it, and through the next fifteen hours. 

I didn't take many photos. In fact, I don't think I took any until after my second leg ended. And then the ones I did take were while I was riding my third and last leg into Pittsburgh. But, enjoy.

Doug and Mark, my partners for the last leg of the relay.

Supposedly, the trail is going to be done by Spring 2013. I hope so. Jumping the fence after Sandcastle and then traversing the makeshift "trail" by the railroad tracks was annoying.

Oh, hey! I'm doing it!

Bikes in the back of the van.

Cumberland--Pittsburgh team: Doug, Chris, Mark, Me, Mark, Mary, and Mike. No one warned me that bright-colored jerseys were required. But, now I know for next year.

This was very honestly one of the best things I have done since moving back to Pittsburgh. I'm sure everyone has tired of hearing me espouse the joys of biking, but it really has given me something I can be proud of. This ride - moreso than either of the solo treks I've done on the same trail - showed me how strong I've become and how much I can accomplish when I'm determined. It was a total blast.

Things have been a little slow on EvBetPGH lately. I hope that changes soon. I'm almost over the cold that sidelined me post-relay. And it's fall. As much as I enjoy summer in Pittsburgh, the can't be beat.

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