The weather was cooperative for our chapter. Not too chilly, and not too hot. We escaped the storms that soaked other chapters. Three other chapters had to be pulled from their routes and bused to their hotels on one day because the weather was simply too hazardous. Not for us though. A few rain drops, and that was it. We even had the pleasure of seeing a rainbow at the end of a day's ride.
It was also really nice to see familiar faces again. Last year I was a bit nervous because I didn't know what to expect or what folks would be like. This year was much easier. Although there were plenty of new people too. I could see the same look of panic, "what have I gotten myself into", on the morning of the first day that I had last year as well. HA!
The first day is approximately 95 miles. Some hills, but nothing major. We ride from Richmond, VA to Charlottesville, VA. It's the day we basically learn to ride together as a group. The issue with doing these sorts of large, organized rides is that everyone comes to the ride with different skill levels & abilities. Some people are very experienced riding in a group and know what to expect. For others, this will be their first time. There's a level of trust that has to be gained when riding in a big group (or "peloton). Communication is key. You have to trust the riders ahead of you to point out any upcoming obstacles or turns, or changes in pace. You don't want to end up running into the rider ahead of you because you didn't realize the group would be slowing. Luckily, our group had a bunch of experienced riders and quick learners. Folks caught on quickly. By the end of the first day, everyone was an "expert".
We did have one crash. I am not sure what happened, but a rider went down way in the group behind me. I didn't even realize a crash had occurred until I saw the ambulance passing us and the leaders had informed us at the next rest stop. But the group did what they were supposed to do: Keep Going! You can't stop when a rider goes down because you might cause a pile-up, and also it keeps the medics (who were positioned in the rear of the pack) from being able to get to the rider. At first, we feared the rider had broken a collarbone, but it turns out he was fine. Just very bruised and shaken.
The second day is approximately 80 miles and "hilly". It's considered the most challenging of the 3 day ride. I actually think this is my favorite day. I find the hills challenging in a fun way, and it breaks up the monotony of pedaling for miles & miles. Hitting the rollers at just the right speed to use momentum to get up the next hill without effort is fun. Although a lot of folks were swearing at the last hill (there is a big hill that leads up to our hotel), I was actually kinda sad it was over. I might be a little crazy.
The third day is our "short" day, but its the day that we have to be on time to make the greeting ceremony at the memorial, so we have to stay on schedule. It's "only" 45 miles, but it can seem like a lifetime the closer I get to home. This year was special, because my childhood friend Lynn stopped by our lunch spot with two of her adorable daughters to see us off. It was really nice for me to have a friend see me off, and also I'm sure her little girls thought it was really neat to see all the motorcycles & the helicopter. Our lunch stop on the last day is at Fairfax County's PSTOC (Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center), and the Fairfax police helicopter gives us "escort" on the way in & out of the facility. It's a lot of fun. Ever been buzzed by a helicopter on your bicycle? I have. It's fun, if you don't blow over.
This year was a bit more emotional than last. All of the participants (riders, support staff, escorts, medics, etc) are assigned fallen officers. At each of our rest stops, officers are encourage to talk about their fallen officer. Many officers also chose to speak about officers they personally knew/related to who were killed in the line of duty. It was very sad, and very moving to hear their stories. We even had one rider whose brother was killed last year during the week of the Unity Tour Ride. He chose to spend the anniversary of his death riding with us. It was very hard for him.
|Once again, one of our riders, Kevin, had his son's elementary school create some motivational cards for us to help us during the ride. I really liked this card because the rider is riding in all kinds of weather, just like me. And also, I am super.|
|Just about to roll out on our very first day. Everyone was excited and nervous.|
|This year I rode for Det. David Adam White of FL. He was killed in the line of duty when he was shot while executing a search warrant on a suspected meth lab in February of last year.|
|This rainbow was an unexpected treat on our second day of riding. We just missed the very nasty thunderstorms that rolled by in the area.|
|The medal for this year.|
|I think this photo is from when we were coming into one of our hotels. You can see the look of relief and happiness on folks' faces.|
|Our first meeting as a group. Orientation.|
|Swag bag. I really like the mountain bike shorts, but I haven't tried them yet.|
|The mechanic's trailer, our mobile bike shop.|
|One of our rest stops. mmmmmm gatorade.|
|This guy rode a fixed gear. Yikes.|
|We had riders from all over the place. Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio....|
|Our motor escorts. These guys worked really hard to make sure we were safe.|
|Chair massages. One of our riders was kind enough to secure this as a donation!|
|Chilling after a long day of riding. Always the best part of the day.|
|Home! Gathering up with the other chapters so we can ride as one united group to the Memorial for the greeting ceremony.|
This year I rode a Van Dessel cyclocross bike. It's light & nimble. Although Kermit, my steel touring bike, did just fine last year, I wanted to see what it was like to ride a "real road bike". It wasn't much different, ha. It did make traveling with him much easier since I can lift him with one hand. The Van Dessel got a lot of compliments. People did keep asking where my "green bike" was. I said I'd bring it back for next year. My fitness seemed to be fine when it came to my riding. I think my running & (limited) biking has paid off. Even though I haven't done any 50+ mile rides yet this year, I had no problems completing the 95 mile ride on the first day. Honestly, I think losing 20lbs had a lot more to do with it than any (non) training I did. I do plan on biking a lot more (for fun!) this summer. Maybe even a few bike camping trips. The Unity Tour Ride re-ignited my love of cycling in a big way, and I can't wait to be back out there riding the canal or the local trails again.
I over-packed again. Even though I made a list after last year's ride, I lost it. I really didn't need to bring any nutrition with me: the rest stops were more than well-stocked with a wide variety of things. I also brought too many clothes. I wasn't sure what the weather was going to be like, so I erred on the side of caution and brought everything. Big mistake. I forgot laundry detergent to wash my shorts & jersey, but was able to borrow some. I also wish I had brought more advil with me. And I am kicking myself for not bringing my Keens. I wasn't sure if they would be appropriate, but I saw someone else wearing a pair. They are definitely coming with me next year, along with a cheap pair of flip flops to stick in my jersey pockets.
Things I will remember for next year (or the next big ride I do....more on that in a moment):
1. Don't bring food. There will be plenty.
2. Don't over pack on clothes. Bring a pair of pajamas. A pair of comfy pants. A pair of comfy shorts. A couple of tshirts & a hoodie. That's it (besides underclothes & riding stuff).
3. Bring Keens!
4. Bring a pair of flip flops to change into at pit stops, so I can give my feet a break for a few minutes.
5. More advil! Maybe bring some icepacks too. They feel good stuck in a jersey pocket on a hot day.
6. Wear more sunscreen, even if you think you don't need it.
7. Don't forget laundry detergent.
I think that's about it.
During the ride, I also brought some study materials with me. The week after the ride was the written portion of my promotional exam, for which I have been studying for the last 3-4 months. I foolishly thought I would be disciplined enough to study a bit each night of the ride. Ha! I think I studied for about 30 minutes total. (It didn't matter. I still kicked ass).
As soon as the ride was over, and I was back home, I started jonesing for another ride. So I signed up for the Climate Ride. Come September, I will be riding from NYC to DC with a bunch of awesome #bikedc folks, to benefit WABA! yes!
Yup, I will be fundraising again, so stay tuned for that. Speaking of which, I just wanted to thank each and every one of you that donated money to the Unity Tour this year. I raised just shy of $2,000 all told, and this year the Unity Tour as a whole raised 1.7 MILLION for the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. That's nothing to sneeze at. So thank you. The Survivors thank you. The Law Enforcement Family thanks you.
As for the Climate Ride, I will be posting more information shortly. I need to get through the second portion of my promotional exam before I can properly concentrate on the Climate Ride. Good, bad or ugly, it will all be over on June 8th. So expect more information after that date.
you have no idea how stressed I have been over this promotional process. I really, really want it, but it has been taking up a lot of my time & energy. I will be so glad when its finally over, even if I don't get promoted. It's certainly been a learning experience though!
How has your season of cycling been? I missed Bike to Work Day (boo), but I was there in spirit. I am so glad the weather has turned and that its actually warm & nice to be outside. Of course, it won't be long until the humidity & the mosquitoes show up, but I will enjoy it while I can.