Sometimes one of the toughest parts of climbing a challenging hill on a bicycle can be the last few meters from the top. Already fatigued, the anticipation of the relief can pull focus and cause all discomfort to be more pronounced. Time itself seems delayed by the very gravity and weight you are fighting against. That’s when personal breakthroughs are made. Grit and intensity become the final source of fuel to power the will and body forward.
Some of my appreciated friends who follow this blog may not know that back on July 21st, ten weeks ago on Sunday, I suffered a pretty nasty bike crash in a criterium race in Murfreesboro, TN. It was the very last turn of the last lap; I leaned the bike over just a millimeter too far in a sharp left hander and clipped my pedal on the pavement. I went down with the full impact on my left shoulder. The resulting injuries were a broken left clavicle and five broken ribs. As bad as it may sound and terrible it was, it’s a common injury for cyclists and part of the risks involved with the sport, but the timing was particularly bad in preparing for the unique physical challenges of riding Go Jim Go.
As I have mentioned in this blog in years prior, it’s not the pace or speed, but the sheer volume of saddle time that is unique to this event. The back to back days of five plus hours of riding is what is personally most challenging to me. My injuries had me completely off the bike for four weeks and only sporadic, short sessions on my indoor trainer after that. I did not do my first real bike ride back on the road until two weeks before our scheduled kick off. So I began this year’s ride with least amount of fitness and lowest level of physical conditioning of any prior year of Go Jim Go.
Welcome to day three. I am under trained and I am feeling it. Body aches, sore in sensitive spots, groggy and tired. The phrase TGIF crosses my mind and passes my lips often. I am at that point on the proverbial hill climb where the end is in sight, but yet so far away. Discomfort is pronounced.
However, Friday morning did feel like a bit of a reprieve, since we were riding local, I got to sleep in a whole extra half an hour. I made absolutely zero operator errors with the coffee maker so was able to get an adequate amount of caffeine into my system rather than on the kitchen floor. I met Wayne and his always bright side perspective at 6:30 and we headed south the YMCA in Olive Branch to meet the rest of the team.
A significant factor of the days ride is the tradition on this leg of the journey being that we are joined by the always jovial and affable members of the Hernando Cycling Club. They are a great bunch of guys and solid riders. They bring an added energy and excitement to the Go Jim Go pack as our numbers swelled to nineteen total riders, a real peloton! Riding today from HCC was David Bauchard, Michael Klappholz, Michael Smith, Jesse Newman, Bo McAninch, Kevin McCarter and his Dad Ronald McCarter. Also, riding was first timer Wes Hale. Eric White from Brown Missionary Baptist Church is back for the trip. I’ll add that for the third year in a row, Brown Missionary Baptist is a $10k contributor to Go Jim Go. Yes, not a typo, ten thousand dollars! Returning rider from last year, Bill McDonald, who is the captain of the captains at FedEx. Matt “Toucan” Wengler back again for day three and John Ferguson from Wednesday’s ride returns for more mileage. I was also so proud to see my fellow Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare associate Karen Lamport ready to roll and the last rider of note today is David Cook from Ripley, MS. David is riding for his granddaughter, who was born not only prematurely but also with a case of pneumonia. However, thanks to the Le Bonheur NICU at she’s now doing great.
These cycling saints and the Jim-Go regulars suited up, zipped up, lubed up, lathered up, watered up, clipped up, carbed up and were pumped up for an awesome day of riding.
It is always a challenge safely moving a caravan of that many vehicles and riders through the busy roads and intersections of North Mississippi. We had a quick pre-ride meeting and expressed the importance of safety, the need to keep the group tight, to stay focused and communicate to the front any issues from the rear.
Typically, I ride point with Wayne keeping Jim out of the headwinds so he can conserve as much of his energy as possible from point to point. Today however, just like any cycling team, the roles and duties change depending on the conditions and situations. Kuhar and Mango, Mango rotated into my spot and I went to the back to help keep things moving efficiently and to provide any needed assistance to our guest riders.
Sometimes the traffic lights and left turn signals are just not long enough to get nineteen riders rolling again from a dead stop back up to speed. Not to mention the following Bikes Plus support vehicle and Go Jim Go RV. Also, on flat road with no hills with our group we can only maintain a pace of about 19-22mph. That’s miserably slow for Mississippi morning commuters. So for any of you drivers down in Desoto County that we delayed or inconvenienced that might be reading this, I hope you will forgive us and understand our mission and cause. Overall, the motorists were most generous sharing the road. The vast majority of horn honks were of greeting and support including that one Ford F250 that sadly suffered an unfortunate horn malfunction as it passed. The horn seemed to get stuck and would not silence as it drove by. I sincerely hope that mechanical bad karma does not manifest itself in the transmission on I-55 at rush hour.
The team rode really great through the very pleasant morning sunshine and temps. Often times we were lined up in a perfect two man pace line looking like a real Euro PRO squad.
We visited our awesome Ford sponsor dealerships, Homer Skelton Ford and Country Ford. Then began our school visits. I am always amazed at the incredibly creative routes that our team navigator Wayne comes up with to maximize the number of school and sponsor stops we can make. Friday’s schedule and route was flawless and we hit all eight stops right on cue. Again, with all the bodies, bikes, vehicles and traffic, it was a logistical planning miracle.
It was yet another amazing morning of support from the area students. Not only did they cheer. They cheered loudly. They also backed up all that bravado with cold hard cash! Just about every school we visited had collected more than a thousand dollars with a few exceeding over two thousand. Kids helping kids, very cool when you think about it.
So when our school and sponsor stops are on time that also means lunch is on time! Today’s scheduled lunch had been creating a buzz since breakfast because today we were headed to the Mid-South Fair for some of that famous, delectable one of a kind fair food. Behold the turkey legs!
A special Blake’s Blog shout out and humble thanks to Belinda at the Mid-South Fair who set up an absolutely delightful lunch under a tent for the riders. The spread also included Pronto Pups, fresh corn on the cob, baked potatoes with all the fixins’ and grilled chicken kabobs that were so good I came so close to ending my day on the bike right then and there. We really enjoyed the lunch and hospitality. In addition, Jim collected a face full of funnel cake and a check for over four grand! Thank you, thank you Mid-South Fair!
And then it was time to ride again. It was a bittersweet pill getting back on the bike after laying waste to twenty plus turkey legs. After all that a man needs a hammock, not hills and heat on a skinny bike seat. Yet duty calls and the worthy must answer… Burp.
To add insult to injury, after that exquisitely delicious lunch, our next sponsor stop was Southaven RV who had on display some of the most luxurious RV mobile master bedroom suites I have ever seen! Though I shudder to think how it would depreciate the value if a sweaty biker borrowed one of the king size beds for a post lunch siesta. Thank you Southaven RV for the very nice vehicle and mobile respite you provide for our team. It is essential for our travels and prevents any indecent exposure arrests.
There are some beautiful riding roads just south of the state line and Wayne put us on a bunch. By this time the temps were pushing ninety plus on the pavement and many of those beautiful roads also have repetitive rolling hills that keep hitting you like waves rolling in. With the hills and the heat, add some tighter time constraints with the approaching bus pick up and car line school schedules and you have a need for a faster required pace that started to take its toll on some of the riders.
When the muscle cramps start to come, they are devastating, there is not much you can do but back way off or call it a day. As Captain Kuhar often reminds us, “This is not a bike ride; it is a TV show that involves a bikes.” Meaning we are beholden to live TV schedules and satellite windows. So for the few guys who had to call it and get in the RV, you have my sincerest respect. You gave it your all and had the smarts to know when it was time to punch out without complaint for the sake of the greater cause, the schedule at hand and safety of the rest of the team. It was an honor to ride with you and I hope to see you again next year.
Hernando Middle School and Lewisberg Primary and Elementary came through for us big then still under turkey leg power we started out our long haul back to the Olive Branch YMCA.
The turkey leg express pulled into the station with the day three mission safely accomplished. Sixty five miles covered and almost seven hours in the saddle. Thirty eight bike wheels, zero flats.
My accident recovery over the last ten weeks has been a bit of a hill for me to climb, but with much love and support I have reached the summit. I am grateful that I reached that summit in time to be a part of Jim’s team again this year. Once you crest any hill, the heart changes from pumping in effort and strain to exhilaration and joy. Pain dissipates, muscles begin to relax, the lactic acid clears, your tunnel vision readjusts to panoramic and your breath becomes more fluid as gravity shifts from foe to friend pulling you forward. It could be small or large, but it is always a victory. With your success, you are grateful for the experience, celebrate the achievement and appreciate what got your there. Now it’s time to recuperate your physical engine and reflect on the acquired knowledge to prepare yourself for any new challenges on your road ahead.
Thanks team, tanks sponsors, thanks for the donations, thanks for reading.
Go Jim Go!