Thursday, December 15, 2011

Relentless Forward Progress....

When I woke up the morning of my ride I thought that I heard rain. I opened the hotel room door to find palm trees flapping in the wind. Wind is not uncommon in Florida, particularly the beach. I checked the weather to see that there were 15-20 mph winds coming ENE. We loaded up and drove to the bridge that was the Florida/Alabama state line and the starting point of my adventure. It was drizzling and around 65 degrees. I felt oddly calm despite the wind and knowing that I had at least 419 miles of riding ahead of me. I took off and immediately realized that the wind was not a tail wind, but a mixture of a cross and headwind. I also realized that it was humid, and I was overdressed, so after a quick pit stop to lose a layer, I continued. Within the first few miles I was already on the radio asking "when do we turn again?" I was thinking "we are going to keep turning, and then I will get a TAILWIND!"

Thanks Mr. Dolphin, but I've got 20 hours left
It is an on-going joke that mother nature doesn't like me, and sure enough, she was pretty pissed. When I turned onto Hwy 98 I was holding on for dear life. My right lat was already fatigued from leaning into the wind. I radioed in asking how much longer I had before my next turn and Jason replied "about 50 miles" It was totally demoralizing. I was barely able to maintain 15 mph with a HR that was no where close to where I wanted it to be. My mind was thinking nothing but negative thoughts and I was beating myself up every time that I looked down at my bike computer and saw my speed. I was thinking about all the hard work and training I had put into the ride and now it was all a waste. Then I realized that a negative attitude wouldn't help me get anywhere any faster, so I might as well just suck it up and accept the situation for what it was.

I got really tired (like sleepy tired) around mile 110. I wanted caffeine of some sort. Jason said no, that it was too early. I was glad that I listened to him, because the feeling passed rather quickly. That was honestly the only time during the ride that I felt like I needed a nap.

The wind started to steadily die down, and around mile 120 I finally felt like mother nature was happy again. I was surprised how many people were so kind and offered words of support. It was nice to hear people yell out the window "GO DANI GO!" My crew was doing a wonderful job of bringing me bottles and sandwiches. I felt like I was taking in plenty of GU Brew and peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. The gels were not tasting as great as they normally do, so I opted to eat more solid food and drink the GU Brew instead.

Around mile 160 I felt an excruciating pain in my left knee. I had to pull over almost right away. We lasered it with our cold laser, and we also kinesiotaped it (but that didn't last very long because my skin wasn't dry) but the pain was still there. It was swollen, but I felt like I could continue. I am a big believer that things of this nature are about 1/4 physical and 3/4 psychological that you can control how you feel by your thoughts. I tried really hard to focus all my attention on something other than the throbbing pain in my knee. I thought about the people at the retirement facility where I work. How they lived through the great depression, war, so many things that our generation has never really experienced. I thought about how incredibly tough and resilient I think they are. I found strength and comfort thinking about how excited they were for me and this venture.

As night approached I felt energized. I really like riding at night, mostly because I feel like it's the hardest mentally. You have to not only be alert enough to stay awake, but you also have keep yourself entertained because you can't see more than two feet ahead of you.

Knowing that I was approaching Tallahassee was a great feeling, this was the halfway point! I like breaking all my long rides down into segments, and this ride was no different. It wasn't a 420 mile ride, it was 4 105-mile rides! Sounds MUCH easier that way doesn't it?

If anyone tells you that Florida is pancake flat, they have never attempted to ride from the West Coast to the East Coast. It is NOT flat. There are a lot of false flats, and Tallahassee is just down right hilly. Every hill appeared to be at the bottom of a light, which was of course red. The process of unclipping, stopping and re-clipping in to climb a hill was both hard on my knee and a little frustrating. Needless to say, I was happy to see Tallahassee city limits and move on.

Night riding found me having to stop quite a bit. 14+ hours of riding and drinking all day had caught up with me. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom NON STOP. I was still taking in fluids and food quite well and I had starting drinking Red Bull and Coke. My knee pain was pretty persistent and I was trying to stop and ice it once an hour while I used the bathroom.

I must have looked kinda funny, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00am running into random gas stations in full bike gear with an ice pack. One guy even came outside and took pictures. I just kept telling myself, and my crew over and over "RELENTLESS FORWARD PROGRESSION".

Not sure why he was taking pictures of me!
The miles ticked by and Jason and Chuck took turns alternating handing me bottles out the window. I asked Jason to just "talk to me" because it was helping to take my mind off the pain in my knee. He started to read all the facebook comments, and twitter messages, e-mails, and texts. At one point he even added a verse to Bethaney's rap! I was totally overwhelmed at the amount of support that I was receiving. Here I was riding all alone in the middle of the night, through tiny little towns in the middle of no where, yet I never felt alone. At one point Jason was texting our friend Alex and he said that Jill was getting up at 4am to do a "virtual" ride with me. I started crying. The more Jason talked to me, the better I started to feel. I was more than 300 miles into this thing, and was feeling better than I felt at mile 150.

I thought a lot about the journey, and what I had gone through to get to this point. I thought about what an incredible gift it is, to be able to have a body that is willing to endure such pain and keep moving. I thought about how I used to feel when I was 70 pounds overweight and would get winded walking up a flight of stairs. I thought about people who have chronic illnesses and diseases that prevent them from being healthy enough to even walk. Rather than feeling discomfort and pain I couldn't help but to feel like I was pretty lucky to have this opportunity.

120 miles left turned into 100 left, which turned into 75 left, then 50, then 25. Honestly, the last 100 or so miles almost seemed like they were unreal. Had I really been riding this long? Was I really about to be done?

Caution: Bridges become mountains after 400 miles of riding
It started to get really warm, and I began to climb bridges, which meant that I was getting closer to the beach. I needed to stop to pee, but I was SO close, I didn't dare stop. Bridges felt like gap climbs. I was giving it everything I had, but I was still barely moving. When I got into Jacksonville I was SO close I could taste it. My pace started to pick up. I could smell the beach. Jason kept telling me that I was close, but all I saw was stop signs. Millions and millions of stop signs. Then the worst part of the ride happened. We hit a detour, which just happened to be the road that I needed to turn on. I will be totally honest with you, after making a block and ended up back where we started, I totally flipped out. I wasn't very nice. I may have said a lot of bad words. Something along the lines of being a $#%&& rat in a $#&& cornmaze. I could SEE the beach, and I knew that I had to turn right on Atlantic Blvd and unclip, foot touch the sand. But I just couldn't get there. FINALLY, we found it, I was riding as hard as I could, I unclipped and ran to the sand. I was DONE. I thought that I would be really emotional and cry, but really, I just wanted to sit in the ocean and pee. So I did. Then being the show-off that I am, I attempted the longest brick workout ever, and tried to run on the beach. Horrible calf cramp stopped me about 20 feet in.

The home stretch! Such a beautiful area!
Official Elapsed time: 27:54, actual ride time 26:04. I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't disappointed. I wanted to go faster, much faster. But you cannot control the circumstances, you can just make the best with what you've got.

As I am writing this, 10 days after finishing I still don't think that it has quite sunk in. Physically, my body felt really good, almost too good. I went to the doctor to have my knee checked out, it was a pinched hoffa pad most likely caused by lowering my seat too much (lesson, leave bike maintenance to All3 Pros!) That has since subsided and I am able to ride and run without pain. The only thing that is still bothering me is my wrist. I developed De Quervain Syndrome . Yes, I am the only person in the entire world that could ride a bike for 26 hours and have their wrist in a brace. Honestly, it was probably partly due to the wind forcing me to hold on much tighter to my aerobars than normal.

There are few words to truly express how grateful I am to those of you that reached out to me before, during and after my ride. I had over 200 e-mails. Women that I have never met before sent me messages telling how inspirational they thought my performance was to them. I really had no idea that word would spread like it did, and that it would be such a big deal. Really, I am just a girl that rode her bike across a state with an official and timed it! Anyone can do this! It's all mental!

First and foremost, I have to thank my crew, Jason and Chuck, and my official Keith. I appreciate you taking times out of your busy lives and dedicating an entire weekend to helping me achieve my goal. Your support was invaluable and I wouldn't have made it one foot without you! Chuck gave up SEC championship tickets to crew for me, a true friend.

Scootise: I would still be a gym rat taking spin class if it wasn't for you. You have made more of an impact on the Atlanta Triathlon community than any other person I know. Thank you for continuing to encourage people to get involved in this wonderful sport

To my "psychological" crew back home: Slayer, Poonstar and company, Team Ryals, Tat, my All3 Sports Teammates, EC Crew, Dynamo friends, Jill's Rev3 Teammates and everyone else that offered me words of support, THANK YOU! It meant so much to me to know that there were so many people out there that cared so much about me.

My dad: Thanks for making me tough. As a child I hated the discipline, as an adult I am so thankful that you made me follow through with everything I committed to and never let me quit.


Coach Shanks: You came on board late in the game, and never once doubted whether or not I could do this. You are one goofy speedo wearing guy, but you are one of the smartest, most compassionate, and caring coaches I have ever met. I am excited to see where we can take this!

Jason: None of this would be possible without you. You have redefined what is humanly possible through your own athletic achievements. You're the most incredible athlete that I know. You may not always win, but you always finish, and always have a smile on your face. I love this journey that we are on, but even more importantly, I love you!

"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can be great." -Mark Twain

Dreams start off a minor thought in your head. Spoken out loud they receive fuel to grow. The more you nurture it, the brighter the flame gets. You share your dream with people who believe in you, and it spreads like wildfire. Suddenly it's not just your dream. People believe in you, and they want you to succeed, and when you do they are as happy for you as if they achieved it themselves. This is how I feel. I am honored to make so many people so proud of me. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

"How often in life we complete a task that was beyond the capability of the person we were when we started it. ~Robert Braul "


  1. Well done! Great ride and a great report! Congratulations!

    I like the part about folks driving past you and cheering you on. Very cool.

    And you should totally tell people you went for a run afterwards. You don't have to say how far, and chances are that they won't ask anyway. :-)

  2. AAAHHHH!! I love it and I love you!!! You are such an awesome and inspirational woman!! Let's plan the next adventure, post-baby!! Congratulations on such an incredible achievement!!

  3. Great report! The way you wrapped it all up was truly heartfelt. Riding 422 miles across Florida seems like a physical task, but you make it clear... it's all about the journey. WELL DONE!

  4. Solid post! It's always fun reading the 1st hand insight of what was going on, without making it a novel.

    And fear not, I still get winded walking up a few flights of stairs haha

    Proud of ya!

  5. Awesome post! LOVED reading it. You are so incredibly tough.

    Your last paragraph was just fantastic!

  6. Sooo awesome!! Loved the report... very inspirational. I can't imagine doing what you did. Glad you are all healed up except for the wrist!

  7. Absolutely unbelievable and so very inspirational! Looking forward to see where life takes you next and what new adventures you have up your sleeve!

  8. "RELENTLESS FORWARD PROGRESSION"...I love that. May I use it? Impressive ride! It is so good to see other women's long distance ride stories. When some of it is familiar, I think to myself, "Thank God, I'm not alone." Thanks so much for sharing