The Road To Montauk
The Road To Montauk
It was 6:30am on May 18th and I was standing in the Babylon
Train Station Parking lot with my spandex-padded butt-cycling shorts, helmet,
cycling shoes, Team In Training Long Island cycling jersey, and one hundred
miles ahead of me for the Montauk Century Ride.
My number was 2513.
I received it in the mail from the Five Borough Bike Club a few days
earlier. I thought it was a little
spiritual, being that my number in high school was #2 and my Aunt Margie died
on 5/13. I also had a bell tied to
a red ribbon hanging from my handlebars that symbolized Pete Macaluso, a former
rider for Team in Training Long Island and a dear friend to many of my
teammates. He passed away last
year, and he was always known to wear a Santa hat to all of the rides when he
could no longer do the rides and came to cheer everyone on.
We took off and before I knew it I was at Corey Beach at the
twenty-one mile rest stop eating a fruit and nut bar (Nutrigrain, and good
too). I hopped back on and rode
all the way to Westhampton Beach to the next rest stop on Library Avenue. There I met my family and my two little
nephews, the older one aged four.
There were riders everywhere and he had many questions.
“But…but…where are the pedals?”
I explained that they were different pedals that attached to the bottom
of my shoes to make it easier to ride.
I shortly had to take off again, and waved goodbye before my adrenaline
And then there was Dune Road. Ah, Dune Road.
I passed the old Drift Inn and felt a weird pain in my right knee. Now I have to mention that I am pretty
tough, and rarely am bothered by a sports injury. When I was ten, I attempted to ride my BMX down a dirt hill
in the woods that was two stories high and left over from some halted
construction. I flipped over the
handlebars and blacked out and woke up with blood everywhere as one of the
neighborhood boys carried me to my house all worried.
But this, this sudden knee pain, definitely hurt.
Somewhere in Southampton I finally admitted to another rider, Alisa,
that I had a potential problem. I
described it as we rode, and she reluctantly replied, “I’ve heard of
that.” When we got to the Water
Mill stop, I took Aleve and hoped for the best. My four-year old nephew and crew arrived shortly after I did
and I gave him a Ba-nola bar.
“Aunt Alanna, you made it here before us but at the next stop, we may
get there first. Or you will get
there first, but we don’t know, it could be either one of us!” A competitor at heart; I trained him
He was right; I rode down Further Lane in East Hampton
besides a picturesque scene and even saw cows along the way. Suddenly, I heard an eruption of cheers
and applause. It was the Team in
Training’s last cheering section, and there was my nephew running up and down
the side of the road cheering and jumping. I pulled over quickly to say goodbye to them as they were
turning back after that stop, and he handed me some flowers. “Here Aunt Alanna, I picked these for
Fifteen miles to Montauk after that was a breeze.
The knee was numbed, I was making good time, I hit Bluff Road, and then,
I got a flat. Of course it had to
be the back tire, the harder tire to change because of the gears, and I
mentally became discouraged.
I had also lost the rest of the Team in Training folks
because I stayed a little longer with my family in Water Mill. Well, I lost the A Team, the fast
riders, and the B team was long behind them. I got the wheel off of the bike but the tire was not budging
from the rim as I wrestled it with a tire lever. Many people passed me, and I understand that being so close
to the end and wanting to finish.
Unfortunately I had to wait twenty-five minutes for the next TNT Long
Island rider to finally stop and help me.
A young girl actually stopped who wasn’t with the team, but she couldn’t
get the tire off either. Finally,
Julian, a team member, said, “I know you!” and he pulled over to help me change
the flat. Then the rest of the
riders eventually came by including Bobby, whom we like to call “Schmoopie,”
and he reprimanded me.
“You see, Alanna? God punished you and humbled you for leaving me in the dust.”
Before I knew it we were tackling the rolling hills in
Montauk. They were actually not
that bad with the help of some electrolytes, and we made it in before the
Two weeks later, I flew to Tahoe. I was apprehensive about going, but I made the money
fundraising and was urged by many teammates to go. Throughout the training season I heard them talk of it and
heard words like, “switchbacks” and “Spooner,” but I never really paid attention. I am glad that I didn’t, because I
learned that the more you know about the Tahoe ride, the more dread and fear
you’ll have in the time leading up to it.
It was only one week away, and I began to panic. I had only done the training rides once
a week on Sunday, the minimal training schedule, and ignored the other
recommended workouts during the week.
On the plane ride there, the team was sleeping, taking pictures of each
other sleeping with mouths open, and I, and my friend Alisa, were
nauseated. She had never done
Tahoe either and had only done El Tour de Tucson, and we admitted our last
minute fear of what it was like.
George told us of the switchbacks that climbed the mountain
and Spooner Junction at mile eighty that was an average of an eight percent
incline…for eight miles.
We arrived in Reno in the afternoon on Friday and boarded a
charter bus to Stateline, Nevada where our hotel was located. As we approached the lake, George
pointed out that we were driving down the road that would be on the course at
approximately mile ninety-one and there would be some rolling hills before the
finish line. We would also go
through Cave Rock Tunnel at mile ninety-three, a seventy-five yard tunnel on
the precipice of Lake Tahoe, and it was a Team in Training tradition to yell,
“GO TEAM!” as you made your way through to the other side. Alisa and I looked at each other and
still did not know how to feel about that stretch of the course, or any part of
the course. But then, there it
was- deep and fresh as the eye could see, the most beautiful lake I have ever
seen swaying serenely below the white capped mountains. Using the word “beautiful” just does
not do it the justice it deserves and I have not figured out another
replacement just yet. I don’t know
if it is communicable unless you are standing there breathing in the cool
breezes that occasionally rise up from the lake.
The bus hummed through the tunnel and voices erupted, “GO
We arrived at Harvey’s Hotel and Casino across the street
from Harrah’s and quickly checked in so that we could go pick up our
Everyone was really tired from the flight and the altitude
affected most of us a bit but I had prepared a little by taking an aspirin
every day for a week prior to the trip.
We were thirty-seven, a smaller group from the Montauk ride (about
sixty-something), and were each assigned a roommate for the weekend. I had never met Naomi, my roommate,
mainly because she trained with the Nassau group. She was an accountant and was known to be an excellent
rider. She was much shorter than
me and we laughed at how small her bike appeared compared to mine. We quickly had to run down to the back
parking lot to get our bikes off of the truck that shipped them out there and
make sure there was no damage during the trip. After I brought my bike back upstairs, we went out to a
little steakhouse in town. Shortly
thereafter, I passed out sleeping.
At 7:30am we had to be across the street at another hotel to
pick up our packets and numbers for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride
2008. Immediately after that we
were to meet in the back parking lot for a practice ride to make sure
everything was working properly. About
a mile into the ride, I felt that damn knee thing again. Panic! How was I going to ride 100 miles the next day through the
mountains? I had rested it since
Montauk which was two weeks prior and took Advil a couple of times. I went running on that Wednesday before
the travel day, due to the fact that I got nervous about not riding since
Montauk or doing anything in preparation for the ride. Our bikes were shipped right after
Montauk so the only choice was the gym and the weather was just too nice for
that nonsense. However, when I did
go running I did not feel a thing.
Only on the bike did this pain surface and unfortunately, it made me really nervous.
After the ride I walked through the little town and bought
CO2 cartridges (to pump up a flat) since you were not allowed to travel with
them as it is a $30,000 dollar fine.
I also picked up some bike stuff at the two bike shops and them ran into
CaryLarry, or Cary and Larry, mentors for the team, and they twisted my arm to
go get sushi at The Naked Fish in town.
I had a safe lunch, including a miso soup and salmon steak, and then we
returned to the hotel. This was
when the fun started. The Team in
Training had a pasta party at 4pm for all of the national chapters at a
ballroom in Harrah’s. We were to
meet in the lobby with our Montauk tee-shirts to be united that read, “Brake
the Cycle” referring to the fight against cancer.
As we rode up the escalator, I started to hear cheering and
clapping. Not just a faint crowd,
but about seventy-five people surrounding the opening doors to the
ballroom. We entered into a huge
ballroom past an ice sculpture that read, “Team in Training: 1988-2008
Twenty Years of Saving Lives. We had reserved tables right in the
front and each chapter from each state was introduced. Then there were guest speakers, and the
announcement of the top three fundraisers for this season nationwide. Then a man named Rick Stark was
introduced, and he was a Team in Training coach/mentor for the Northern Ohio
Chapter. He is an economics
professor, and threatened to present a three-hour economics lecture if we did
not protest. I noticed something
was abnormal about his cheek, but thought it was maybe nothing.
The point of his speech was about appreciating time here on
earth and in life. How do you
spend your time? Do you work all
day, come home, eat dinner, and then continue to work throughout the
night? He mentioned that the
things that you do the most are what is important to you and what you consider
a priority. If it is the case that
you work all day and night, then that is
what is most important to you. He
recollected that when he read his speech to his wife she began to cry. When he asked what was wrong, she
stated, “That used to be you.” He
emphasized that everyone needs to be more conscious of how they spend their
time, and if in fact that is really what they want to be doing.
Spend time with your family, do things that you enjoy doing.
Life is too short to have time fly by without contributing to life what you
want to contribute.
In the midst of his speech, he also casually mentioned that
he is a survivor and has had numerous surgeries, one of which was four weeks
ago. Doctors had to take a piece
of his hip bone and put it into his jaw when they discover that his jaw bone
was dying due to the relentless chemotherapy treatments he has been
receiving. He left us with his
Chapter yelling O-H and I-O at the top of their lungs on cue and then the
director of the race spoke about the safety factors to consider for Tahoe the
next day. He is also a radio VJ,
and did the weather report for Lake Tahoe in his radio commercial voice. It was over, and Alisa and I were ready
to throw up.
Later that night Larry looked at my clips on my shoes and
the seat height to make sure that there were no obvious blunders that may be
causing a knee injury. I saw Cary
in the hall, and he revealed that some team members were going to the lounge on
the 19th floor for a bit.
Naomi said I was brave, but I did not plan on staying too long or
drinking any cocktails. Pete
Macaluso’s son Eric was up there as well and in Tahoe to ride the next day, and
he felt a little French red wine would help me sleep. John and Mary, TNT Nassau riders, assured me that Tahoe was
going to be a piece of cake. Bee
Bee, another rider, leaned over her glass of wine and whispered, “I wouldn’t
say it is a piece of cake, but you’ll be
alright. The switchbacks are hard,
but do-able. Spooner is hard
because it is at the end when you are exhausted.” After two glasses and a bite of a delectable piece of
chocolate cake, I hit the hay.
Naomi and I had a quick conversation that she would not remember because
she was sleeping and it was my fear and I, all alone for the night.
Naomi was up before me and we quickly got our gear on and
were waiting for an elevator by 5:35am.
It took four elevators to open and have to pass us along because they
were all filled with bikers and finally we got down to the back parking lot and
filled our tires up with air. I
had taken two Advil that morning and prayed to God to get me through it.
We lined up behind North Texas, one of the many Team in
Training chapters. There were
1,900 riders from the team in training and approximately 3,000 riders
total. It has become a tradition
that each chapter adhere a symbol of their chapter on their helmet, so I saw
some interesting helmets during the day.
We took a more personal approach, and all thirty-seven of us had a
little Santa hat attached to the left side of our helmet in memory of Pete
Macaluso. North Texas had a small
armadillo on the top of their helmet, and the Gulf Coast (Texas) had a Texas
star. Minnesota had a Spam can,
Pittsburg had a miniature Heinz ketchup bottle, Hershey, Pennsylvania had a
Hershey kiss, the Sun Coast (Florida) had a sun, the Desert Mountain States had
a cactus, Michigan had a red flyer, Hollywood had the Hollywood sign, New
Jersey had a picture of the Garden State Parkway, Northern California had a
wine glass (plastic) and Georgia had a peach.
And we were off.