Sunday, September 9, 2007

MS Global -- Stage 4

The morning came a bit too soon for some of us, as we spent a bit of time at a street festival near the hotel last night. There were bands playing on corners and beer gardens along the way. Tons of people, and good American rock music sung by
But today was a blast, too. It started off on a good note, as many Global-ites were thrilled to find that there were scrambled eggs in the breakfast buffet at our new hotel here. Usually, there is a variety of cereals, yogurt, fruit, breads, and what Americans would call lunchmeats -- ham, salami, liverwurst -- and a bunch of different kinds of cheeses. Oh, pastries and plenty of coffee, too. But today, there were scrambled eggs....they had to fix more fast as we kept depleting their supply.
Before the ride, we met for a group photo which is always fun. I don't have a copy yet, but hopefully can post one in a wrap-up post when I get back to the States. After the photo, I left with the second group -- my normal group -- and we headed out for yet another great day of riding. Great weather and a couple of fun climbs with great descents.

We casually rode out of the city, and within about 10-15 kilometers, began climbing what the ride leaders called, "The Wall." And believe me, it was like a wall. It went for 2 kilometers and the average grade was 14% -- THE AVERAGE GRADE WAS 14%. It was TOUGH. There were a few points where I doubted I could make it up without stopping to rest, but each time I felt like doing that, I thought of Lisa and how she has to ride through all of her MS complications and pain, and I managed to keep turning the pedals over. I can't explain the intensity of that feeling...I feel like I'm pushing myself to my physical limits, and then I think of Lisa and what she endures all the time (I call these "Lisa Moments"), and I'm overcome with a combination of powerful feelings: being grateful that I have my health and fitness, feeling great love for Lisa and her family, and wanting Lisa to continue to have the strength she needs to keep battling MS. Those are just a few of the things I feel and think at those moments.

Back to the climb...I had a great massage yesterday from one of the soigneurs, Christina (Spain), and thank goodness, as my lower back was in for another trying day with the climbing. This wall was largely switchbacks that wound up through apple orchards just above a little village -- gorgeous, but not much time to enjoy the view as I was too busy trying to stay upright and headed forward!

After the wall, we did some easier climbing for a bit, and then hit the first big pass of the day, Passo Palade. After the 14% wall, it seemed fairly easy, though it was long and steady, too -- about 12 kilometers with an elevation gain of 800 meters. This is a view along the way.
At the top of the pass, we had lunch, and, of course, cappuccino -- well, I had hot chocolate, but many others had cappuccino.
And today seems like a good day to show you some more of the faces of MS Global 2007. The first pic is Jim and Vivian Turner and Patti Columbus, all of Southern California, who I've become friends with since we all met last year at MS Global. They're at lunch here on Passo Palade.

Also at the lunch stop: Jack, Jimmy D., and Tammy (my roommate here), who all live in Fort Collins. Those of you who received my fundraising letter know that Jimmy D. (for Dunlap) is one of the riders with us who has MS. He is a former racer, and now promotes races. And he's an amazing rider. He has had a very rough year with some significant time in the hospital with some particularly bad flares, but has been on new medication for the last three weeks, and has really improved. And he's once again kicking everyone's arse on the climbs. He rides with the fastest group each day and is doing great. He's quite an inspiration.
After lunch, we did a long fun descent down Passo Palade, and then we climbed the last pass of the day, Passo Mendola. At the top, we all gathered again, and here are a few more shots of the faces of Global there.

This is Ahmad, a photographer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and he's one of our ride leaders. He doesn't usually spend his time at rest stops like this, but he had a knee injury shortly before the trip, and all the climbing has irritated it. He stopped riding yesterday and won't get to ride anymore while here, so he's been helping out the staff in the support vehicles.

Since Ahmad can't ride, Claus, our mechanic from Denmark, is acting as a ride leader in his place. He does things like the Ironman triathlons, so he's plenty fit for it. I rode with him up most of the last climb today.

Me, Jimmy D., and Karen "lil Hudie" Hudak simply enjoying each other's company.

I have been forgetting to take pics of the signs at the top of passes, but remembered this one...

Our last descent of the day was next, and it was long, windy (as in curvy), and really fun. I haven't mentioned yet how amazing the roads are here. They're in incredibly good shape, especially considering we've mainly been riding high in the mountains. They're smooth and it's almost as though they were designed for cyclists, as the curves are perfect for descending. I'm not the strongest descender, and I've been loving them. On the way down this one, we stopped to take pics of the view. This is Michelle and me -- we not only climb at roughly the same pace, but we also descend at nearly the same speed, so it continues to be fun riding with her.

At the bottom of the descent, we regrouped outside a beautiful old cemetery on the edge of Bolzano.

Michelle, Larry (her boyfriend and a ride leader), Claus and I were the last to take off from here, and we headed down into Bolzano on our own. We ended up getting a bit lost...this is Larry and Claus trying to radio for directions...
But, hey, if you have to get lost, I can't think of a better place to do it than in the vineyards and orchards outside Bolzano!
After riding around the city a bit and asking for directions from a few people, Claus and Larry got us back to the hotel -- all safe and sound. Yet another amazing day on the bikes.
80 kilometers / 1,970 meters elevation gain / 1 wall and 2 passes
Usually we have dinner as a group, but tonight we were on our own. I went to dinner with Karen, Pat, Patti and husband Paul, and Christina, and we went to a brew pub with delicious food.

Patti, Paul, and I shared this - "The Happy Rustic":
It consisted of dumplings, roasted tomatoes, broiled chicken, ribs, sausages with sauerkraut, and garlic bread. And, yes, we had dessert, too; we all shared homemade vanilla ice cream with hot raspberries, apple streudel, and cherry yeast cake. Oh yeah...we'll have the energy needed to do the grandaddy of all climbs tomorrow:
Passo Stelvio

1 comment:

Denise said...

Sausage and sour-kraut the night before a ride?! You a crazy, chica!