Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cinderella Classic 2012 Race Report

Hoping for the Best

Up at 5am and packing up to go.  My dear husband had prepped my bike and put it in the car.  I'd packed my bag the night before.  Speaking of the night before, I'd had dinner with some mom friends, ate A TON (and called it carb loading), got home around 10pm.  After packing and fighting sleep I think I drifted off at around 11:30pm.  Five hours sleep, not the best start to the day but I hear it's normal for you to get a bad night sleep before a big event.  I had my coffee, a bigger-than-normal bowl of Special K, and hit the road to Melissa's.  I got to her house and opted to take my car because I have a bike rack on the top of my car.  Bit of a mistake.

We were driving along, pointing out how the sky looked pretty good and manifesting all the positivity we could muster about the weather when - clack, boom, bang! - something happened on the roof of the car.  Oh no, a bike must have flown off!  Please God, no!!!  We were on the Richmond/San Rafael bridge and it was windy as hell!  I pulled over and jumped out of the car and see that Melissa's bike had blown over, but not off the car, thank goodness.  The back tire strap held it on.  I hadn't tightened the front wheel tight enough and the wind knocked it over.  We wrangled the bike down while fighting the wind and trying not to think about the bike flying over the side of the bridge in the process.  So much for taking my car.  But thank goodness the bike didn't fly off and possibly hurt someone. 

We arrived at the fairgrounds and checked in.  The skies were actually looking pretty good, the clouds had parted and we could actually see some blue.  My back was hurting a bit so I took some ibuprofen for insurance.  Maybe it will be a nice day.

Ready to Start

"Heavy winds and rain battered Northern California on Saturday."

But it was not going to be a nice day.  We'd been happily cruising along for about 13 miles when it started to rain, just sprinkling at first.  I remained optimistic, after all, it was just a sprinkle and there was no major wind to speak of.  By the time we arrived at the first sag stop things had changed quite a bit.  The wind had picked up, it was no longer just sprinkling (but still not a downpour), and the temperature had dropped considerably.  I had some peanuts, a couple oreo cookies (oreos, brilliant!) and a few bites of a banana.  I called Miguel and gave him an update, "cold, wind, rain...not sure how long we'll go but we're heading back out."

Melissa and I pulled out of the sag stop and somewhere over the next 5 miles the downpour started.  And the wind just kept blowing.  I put my head down and pedaled.  I'd lost Melissa but knew she probably wasn't too far behind.  My thoughts were drifting all over the place but kept returning to the question of finishing.   Somewhere along the way I settled on this, "I'll ride until I can't, and when that moment comes, I will stop.  But that moment is not now."
Heavy winds and rain battered Northern California on Saturday.  "It's a pretty strong front," said Austin Cross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Cross said wind gusts up to 40 mph were reported in the San Francisco Bay area.  -sf chronicle

If I Can

I'd been having some stomach cramps and when I sat up and took deep breaths they mostly went away.  But I was probably not drinking enough water, in fact I'd barely drank any water, so I made a conscious effort to drink more.  I prayed that the lunch sag stop would be indoors and provide some warmth.  Neither were true.  It was at a school and, while we were covered, it was still freezing cold.  And I was soaking wet.  I grabbed a bagel, smeared some cream cheese on it, and found a corner to stand in.  A man was there helping his wife put on more layers.  I had leg warmers in my jacket and asked him if I should put them on, "Put on everything you've got," he said.  Yeah, that makes sense.  Apparently I could no longer think and I was starting to shiver pretty bad.  I pulled off my pants, put my dry leg warmers on and pulled my wet pants back on.  I think I felt better.  I listened to him tell his wife, several times, how much worse it was to be watching someone cycle in these conditions than it was to do it.  I wasn't sure about that but he validated that it was indeed as bad as it felt.

Putting on a Happy Face

People were dropping like flies.  I called Miguel and gave him the update, "I'm going on."  I overheard a woman ask a sag guy, "Are lots of people dropping out?"  He assured her she was not alone in her very sensible decision to call it a day.  Another woman, "The hail did it for me."  I wasn't certain it was actual hail that we saw but it sure felt cold enough to be.  I saw a woman walking her bike around, apparently looking for someone, crying.  Melissa showed up after about 10 minutes and she'd only had a few bites of her food when I said I had to take off, that standing there was worse than being on the bike and I was getting colder by the minute.  And then I noticed her lips.  They were blue!  I asked if she was ok to go on and she said she was.   In looking at the pics of myself I think mine were no better.

Fingers and Toes

We started to pull out and I lost my balance while clipping in and fell.  Fortunately I was barely moving, and I knew I was falling so I landed pretty well.  We got back on the road and I started singing "Old McDonald had a farm...".  What can I say, the cows had inspired me and I was a little nuts at that point.  I was winding my way through what felt like the country and I forced myself to look up and take in the scenery.  I'd lost Melissa pretty quickly and there were periods where I was entirely alone, "must look for arrows."  The route was mapped with pink arrows on the ground and I did NOT want to get lost.  My hands were starting to hurt, I was getting these weird tingly pains when I moved them, like nerves were frayed.  And I couldn't feel my toes.  I tried wiggling them around but that's hard to do in bike shoes.  The wind was such that in one direction it was brutal but in the other it was not.  I focused on the positive, on what was going well.  I approached a couple of women and commented on the conditions, "are you going to finish?" one of them asked me.  "If I can."  "Good for you, we're not so sure."  They pulled ahead of me for a while but then later I passed them as they were waiting for a sag car, "I'm just tired of being cold" one of them said.  Totally.

Wet Roads

The Worst is Over

I kept returning to my mantra.  And reminded myself this would end, that I would be dry and warm again.  Of course I questioned why I wasn't stopping.  I kept checking in with my body and, other than the cold, I actually felt fine.  My legs didn't hurt, I was in good shape.  And I asked myself if I was having fun.  I decided that in some strange way, I was.  And that I was gaining one hell of an experience - that had to be worth something. I stopped at a sag car to fill up my water bottle, "you have more guts than I do to be out in this weather."  I thanked him for the boost to my spirit and moved on.

Official pics (waiting to see if I can use coupon code before I buy them).  I look nuts in that last one!

I passed a Luna Bar cheering squad.  Those ladies were awesome!  Out there in the rain and cold, and cheering us on. I know this whole post probably sounds very dramatic and that's because for me, the day was very dramatic.  I am not a super experienced rider.  This is the longest ride I'd ever done.  In fact, prior to this I'd only done one 50 mile ride, and that was before Marek was born.  All my other rides were less than 35 miles.  Anyway, I knew I was inching closer to the third and final sag stop.  At lunch Melissa had said her husband, Sean, was going to meet us there with towels to dry off.  He actually drove out to cheer us on at the start and was hanging around all day!  I wasn't sure I was going to stop though.  Towels were seeming kind of pointless and I worried that if I stopped I'd never get going again.

Somewhere around mile 45 things started looking up.  The rain was no longer a downpour and the wind had died down.  And mile 45 sounded awfully close to mile 67.  Earlier in the day I'd overheard someone say, "They say the course is 62 miles but actually it's closer to 67", so I'd prepared myself mentally for 67.  I started imagining 20 mile routes around my house and how very doable 20 miles are.  I had done the same thing when I had 35 miles to go and it was helpful.  I should mention the hills but with the weather taking center stage I'd barely noticed them.  I know there were some, I remember fighting with my baby gear, but they must not have been that bad.

Pure Joy

I didn't decide to stop at the last sag stop until I saw it.  I stopped, went pee and ate a few more Oreo's.  Sean was not there so I called him. I told him where I was, "You are tough."  Coming from Sean this is no small compliment, he's an Afghanistan Veteran and looks like a linebacker.  With the lift in weather and being at mile 50 I was starting to feel giddy.  Anyway, Sean told me he'd stopped to meet Melissa around mile 40 so she could warm up in his car.  He told me that she almost quit, that it was still pouring down rain, but that after warming up and drying her gloves she decided to go on.  Yay!  I know how much this ride means to her and I was happy to hear she didn't quit.  I asked a woman what the rest of the ride was like and she said "fairly flat."  Perfect.  I called Miguel and gave him the update, "much better, I think I'm going to make it."  He cheered me onward.

So, 17 miles to go.  My brain was toast and I kept trying to calculate how long that would take.  Maybe a half hour?  Uh, no.  But seriously, I actually believed this for a while.  Maybe I needed to. Around mile 60 my feelings went from giddy to pure joy.  I am going to finish.  I. am. going. to. finish.  I was chatting up anyone that would talk, I was standing and pedaling up little hills, I felt good, strong.  And the weather - well it was like a whole new day.  I took a picture of it but because my camera was all steamed up you can't tell how nice it was.  My jacket was actually drying off.


I saw a sign, "Fairgrounds" with an arrow.  I am so close that there's a sign!  I got excited.  And then, when I came around the corner and entered the parking lot I welled up with emotion.  I felt so happy it was over, so happy I did it, so happy.  A few tears later I parked my bike and went in the expo hall but then realized I'd left my Garmin running.  I stopped it and then went to get my patch and cool socks and sample some energy bars.

Then I sat down with some food - a sandwich, hot soup and more Oreos.  I ate the soup, the cookies, and a few bites of the sandwich when I started shivering again.  So I headed back to the car to change.  I peeled off the wet layers and marveled at how dirt seemed to sneak its way in everywhere!  And oh how lovely my dry clothes felt.  And I realized my lips were blue, still, after all this time.  I think they stayed blue for an hour!

"You won't believe it, Miguel!"
I connected with Sean and we hung out waiting for Melissa.  In the meantime I cheered on other finishers.  She arrived and was equally happy that she'd finished.  We shared some moments from our time apart and commiserated about how awful it was at times and then headed home.

I stopped and got two pieces of fried chicken and then stopped again and got a snickers bar.  I wanted what I wanted and I didn't care about the calories.  According to my Garmin I'd burned over 4,000 calories so I figured it didn't matter anyway. I ate more later at home and in the end I decided to not bother counting my points or log my Activity Points and just call it even for the day.


The day turned out differently than I ever could have imagined.  If I ever expect to ride in the rain again I will take better precaution.  My clothes were ok, but could have been better I think.  I will probably register again next year and hope lightening doesn't strike twice. 

Most important, I tapped into something I didn't know was there.  I had told Melissa I would not keep going if it was god awful.  And then it was, but then I did keep going.  I think I just need to know I can stop if I want to.  Or need to.  I like my new-found motivational statement.  I might have to put it on a t-shirt or something. 

I'll ride until I can't, and when that moment comes, I will stop.  But that moment is not now.


For anyone that might be interested, here are my Garmin stats:


  1. You rocked it yesterday! I think that you finding it within yourself to continue on is AWESOME!

  2. OMG Girl...You are completely making me cry! I am so happy for you and proud of you. I did a 35 mile ride in weather like that once. I've never been so cold in my life.

    I have to laugh at your fuzzy math toward the end (17 miles in 30 minutes...LOL). I do that all the time!

    Congratulations again. You are awesome!

  3. Wow - you are a super athlete! "Most important, I tapped into something I didn't know was there" - great line - hold onto that. What you went through on this bike ride should hold you in good stead for any tough sessions for at least the next 6 months!!!

  4. Yay!! I was also there! We had a group of 5, 2 of them stopped at 23 miles and 2 made it without even stopping.. I finished the 65 miles by 3pm. There was a lot of times I was I was riding by myself, hoping that I was on the right trail. The last 10 were tough--yay we made it!!

  5. Wow congratulations Michelle! I had tears in my eyes as I read the end. So inspired by this!

  6. Congrats, that's a huge accomplishment! Riding in those conditions is no fun so I imagine it would have been easy to quit. Great work!!

  7. YOU DID IT! Sounds like it was more of a vision quest! It's amazing how much we can do when we put our heart and soul into it!

  8. so admiring of your accomplishment! congrats!!

  9. What an accomplishment!

  10. Wow. Seriously amazing!

  11. Was this a race? Or just for "fun?" You are crazy (and amazing and talented and dedicated!) mama!

  12. Thanks for all the support!! I've only read it 3-4 times (that's all?!) since I posted it and I get teary too.

    CookingRN - so cool you were there. Crazy day, right?

    (I just copied all my FB friends' comments to here so they will stay attached to the post, I'm such a sap that way).

  13. I would have quit. But you rock! If you can conquer can do ANYTHING! Way to go :)

  14. Way to go, Michelle! Normally I would have commented on the race starting out with the biggest elevation gain, but seeing how that was probably minor compared to the challenges ahead, I won't. Instead, I'll just tell you how impressed I am by you and all the other women who found something inside themselves to make it the whole 66 miles! You're so good at finding ways to go that extra ways. Can't wait to see what crazy challenge you take on next. Probably another "fun" event like the Cinderella, right?

  15. This post is so inspiring and scary! I am riding miles June 9th and am really scared already! After reading I immediately started praying for good weather! Very impressive..

  16. I was there too and I'm laughing as I read your comments. I think everyone was having the the same conversation in their heads and with other people-especially asking others if they were going to finish. You should feel so proud of yourself for finishing in terrible conditions. I finished in 2006 under equally bad conditions and still look back on that accomplishment knowing that I was tested and made the grade. Heck, I even lost 3 pounds on that ride! This year I rode with 3 girls and 2 adults and only made it to the second rest stop. We all SO wanted to finish. I'm so happy to hear that someone made it all the way. Believe me, you will remember this forever as being one of your greatest accomplishments. As for me, I didn't finish, but I did lose another 3 pounds and I'm signing up to do the Marin Century-a full 106 miles.

  17. Leanne - Thanks for stopping by. I don't think there's any way in the world I could do the Marin Century. Doesn't that include some crazy hills? I'd need to work on hills A LOT before I could ride 106 miles, let alone with hills! Are you in Marin?? Email me: at

    Thanks Kristy! That elevation at the start is fake. Miguel used my Garmin and started and stopped it in San Rafael. I forgot to clear it out before I started my ride. That's why there's that big jump.

  18. Good for you!!!!! I did my first metric century last year and the conditions were similar, not quite as wet but very cold. I can feel your joy and I am just as proud for you as you are!

  19. You are amazing! So far and so wet and so cold! What an inspiration!

  20. Fantastic!! So glad I jumped back to read your post. Sounds like you had an AMAZING day!! Congratulations on your accomplishment. And I, too, love the new mantra. Would make a terrific T-shirt. Congrats again - and KEEP GOING!!

  21. this post has really inspired me. i've been wanting to undertake a long bike ride/race and i have plans to look for one to do this fall in my area. after reading this post, i'm all sorts of excited about it!

    1. Awesome, go for it! and hopefully you won't have to deal with crazy weather conditions like I did.


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