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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 Jackson County Brevet

This is a wonderfully supported ride! I did it for the first time last year and loved it! In 2012 I had a great group of friends with me and we had fun watching over a guy named Mike who was doing 100 miles for the first time. This year we had two guys with us who were both exceeding their self imposed limits, Alex Fuentes and Randy Hemphill.

Now to be fair I don't think Randy had too much of a problem because the weekend before this he won the first triathlon he's ever entered. He smiled and seemed happy the whole morning. I've raced with Randy and I've seen what he's capable of so I wasn't worried about him. Alex on the other hand just started cycling this year on a hand me down Litespeed from his father in law. A very nice bike for a starter. Beats my first bike a Cannondale R400 aluminum frame of pain.
Before this ride Alex had maxed out at 52 miles for his longest ride ever. I thought this would be a long painful grind for him that may require a helping hand from a friend. What actually happened was much more ego friendly. He should be very proud of his effort.

Registration was a breeze and I was back at the car getting ready when Stephen Sisk rode up grinning. It struck me then how asleep I still was and how infectious a smile can be. When I smiled back there was instant excitement in the air. I jumped out of the morning funk and into the day I'd been trying all week to make it in to. The brevet! But it's really not a brevet?! It's a century ride, people! Marketing genius though! And I was about to have another great story to tell about something other than pain and suffering! So who cares... it's a Jackson County Brevet!

The list of shiny happy people at the start with me are as follows: Stephen Sisk, Mike Withrow,  David Latty, David Shabat, Kim Turpin, Alex Fuentes, Brad Donaldson, Tim Evans, Gene Whitmire, and Randy Hemphill.
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle hung out and acted like he was with us. But he wasn't. He rode with the dignitary's in the lead out group for approximately 2 miles and then bid us farewell. I'm sure he had more important things to do that day but it was 65 degrees and the promise of partly cloudy?! If your cycling heart doesn't ache to be with us on a day like that then I say you're not really a cyclist. You may just play one on TV.  But I know Casey, he's a friend, and if he could have joined us he would have.
The dignitaries prepare to lead us out.
The announcements were the usual tear jerking stories of triumph and fortitude. The organizer Robert Wilhiet started this ride to fund research of Aplastic Anemia. His wife was stricken with it years ago and he's been on a mission ever since. This ride happens to be the largest fund raiser for the disease in the nation! It all just fuels the fire for the ride.

They start the riders in sections. If your average ride is 20+ mph you go in the first group. 2nd group is 16-19 mph average. 3rd group is below 16. They gap you by about a minute or two. We had police at every major intersection for the first 30 miles and some volunteer motorcycle gangs were babysitting us the entire ride.

The ride out of Braselton felt more like a parade as we slowly made our way into the country. Once on the open road Stephen and I hammered out a pretty fast pace to get us off the front and to set a good tempo. It worked! But soon I started looking for some relief. When we looked ready to take a break there was David Latty and Mike Withrow to take our place and push the pace. We worked like that all morning with David Shabat and Randy taking monster pulls as well.
I constantly checked on Alex who was in full survival mode from the start. He did the few things I had been telling him were imperative at your first century; EAT, DRINK, and STAY IN THE DRAFT. He found himself on the front a few times and kept the pace nice and high. He only spoke when spoken to. He was very focused.

I guess I'd have to say that our favorite SAG stop was the 60's style one. They were playing Foghat and dressed like hippies. One guy had a giant afro wig on. It was there that Kim's rear tire blew out. We were almost ready to leave when the shot rang out. David and Randy fixed the flat while Alex and I smoked a doobie. We left that SAG feeling really good.
My second favorite SAG stop was the Wizard of OZ one. They played music from the movie and were all dressed up like Lions and Tigers and Bears...                 Go ahead... you can say it.

I enjoyed the mini Cliff Bars the most. The cookies went down so fast I didn't taste them. The red Poweraid was the best drink. And yes I was kidding about the doobies. I only mention it because I just recently found out why they call themselves the Doobie Brothers.

I fail miserably at trivial persuit.

So we hammered away with fresh food and a smile. Well some of us were smiling. The miles were flying by but I knew the dreaded 80 mile bonk point was looming.
I'd told Alex about it. I told him the best defense is a caffeine gel. I carry two caffeine gels for the last 20 miles of any century I do. No caffeine until then. When I dropped back to check on Alex he had actually listened to me! He really took my advice! A novel concept in today's society. I firmly believe that he made it to the finish, without a single push, because he focused and took advice. And he trained hard. Which helps tremendously.

Our high pace finally broke Kim and others who decided to ease on back. But we were averaging over 19 mph and that simply must be maintained. Unless one of our newbies cried uncle. Which never happened. Alex hung on and finished with us without so much as a whimper.

And then out of nowhere we rode up on Craig Tinsley and Taylor Graham. They had started with the 20+ group and for over 50 miles pushed a ridiculous 23 mph pace. It didn't take long for them to realize... that's no fun! Believe me, I've done it and I choose to enjoy the "ride" and save my suffering for a "race". When we caught up to them they looked beat and awfully glad to see us. At first I couldn't understand how we could have caught them since we took time with Kim's flat. But then Craig told me that they had taken a wrong turn and went off course. Yikes!

With less than 20 miles to go we all shut up and just pedaled. I'm telling you the last 20 miles are the hardest no matter what pace you kept. You just want to be done. You just want to be sitting at the table with some spaghetti and a coke. You just want off that saddle!
The post ride meal was great! You could go with some pizza or spaghetti or both. There were rolls and salad and drinks. We sat and listened to Robert make announcements and give away stuff. It's all kind of foggy but I think both David and Randy got a door prize. Stephen has done every JCB since it started and deserved a door prize. I am writing this blog so I deserved a second helping of spaghetti.

It was another great ride with friends! And we even broke a lot of guys own records by finishing the 100 miles in 5 hours 12 minutes and averaging 19.8 mph. I'm very proud of Alex Fuentes who proved to be up for the challenge and probably hasn't yet fully understood what he did. Nor has his taint.


The Tuesday before the Jackson Brevet I participated in a Memorial Ride for Mike Walker a fellow cyclist who passed away peacefully the Friday before. I didn't know Mike very well. I only had a few casual conversations with him over the years. I only knew him as the older guy who leaves early from the Tuesday Night Throwdown. We catch him somewhere during the ride and as the group passes you can hear each rider saying "Hey Mike! - Hey Mike! - Hey Mike!"
He was a veteran. I didn't know that. He was 66 years old. Didn't know that either. But what took my breath away and what says the most about people of Mike's generation... he was the recipient of 2 Purple Hearts. Let that sink in for a minute and you'll understand why sometimes I could smack myself in the head for not taking more time to get to know people. He was a cool guy and I missed out.

Here are some quotes about Mike from some people who didn't miss out:

As cyclists we're an interesting bunch. We whine about getting dropped, brag sometimes about dropping others and complain about not having people to ride with. I'm humbled by Mike Walker. He showed up every Tuesday and left early because he knew he wasn't fast enough to hang. He NEVER once complained about this. I would often come up on him out on rides because he rode a lot. I'd always make it a point to slow down and chat with him because he was just a cool guy to talk to. He always was in a good mood and just loved being on his bike. I think we should all strive to be like Mike. Tuesday a few of us are planning on riding the upper short loop at a no drop regardless of who's there pace in honor of Mike. See you there!
- Dustin Mealor

This morning there will be a memorial service for a good friend and fellow cyclist, Mike Walker.  I told some of the guys we ride with once there was nobody I respected more on the Tuesday Night Ride than Mike.  He shows up rides his bike, always smiles, never complains no matter what.  He just loved to ride that bike.  I saw him riding last Tuesday I threw up my hand and he did the same as he pedaled out of town.  I have been off the bike for awhile and I have just started to ride a little again, I was looking forward to getting into good enough shape to ride with Mike on Tuesdays.  That was kind of the plan.  I will think about Mike when I ride now, put my head down, tough it out when it gets hard, and "Ride at MY Pace".  Just like Mike.  And Mike, I know where you are now and the group ride will be just a little better because you are there.
- Danny Short

In just a few hours, we will gather to say goodbye to my Uncle Mike. No one I've loved has ever died suddenly, so I am still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that he is gone.

"Mikey," as many of us called him, was proactive when it came to his health and well-being. He loved to exercise. He watched what he ate. He was the most disciplined person I have ever known and the youngest 66-year-old you can imagine. I exercise regularly, but my motivation is to keep my butt from creeping down the back of my thighs whereas Mikey truly enjoyed the process. He was an avid cyclist. Loved snow skiing. He swam. He lifted weights. He'd been a dedicated runner.

Mikey didn't have children, but he had us -- nieces, nephews, family, lots of friends and a wife who was his partner in life, business, and without a doubt his best friend. No one will miss him more than her.

My sister and I gathered photographs to best represent Mike's life at his memorial service. Through these photos, one thing is evident: Mike's was a life well-lived.

A smiling, innocent boy with a skinned chin in a black-and-white school picture... A tan, lean young man with haunted eyes earning two Purple Hearts in Vietnam.... Marrying his best girl.... Working.... Going to college.... Traveling the world.... Pursuing his passion for aviation.... Always working, reading, learning, and moving forward.... A quiet man.... An honest man.... A better man would be hard to find.

I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone -- never knew him to judge. (I'd like to know how he managed that because personally, I've never had that kind of restraint.) Mike never treated me like a kid. He talked to me like I was his equal and always seemed amazed by my accomplishments, no matter how small. That's a big deal to a kid and something I've treasured as an adult.

1947 - 2013

One of the things that I am most proud of is being able to make Mike laugh. Where he was a quiet, reserved and classy guy, I'm pretty sure I was born without that filter most people have that keeps them from saying exactly what they think. I think he and I appreciated each others differences.

As disciplined as Mike was, he did allow himself a couple of indulgences -- fine, red wine and excellent Scotch. Several years ago, I asked him to teach me to drink Scotch. I joked that if I learned to drink it then he and I would have something to do when I visited him in the nursing home one day. He obliged and shared his finest (and Mike had the good stuff) Scotch whiskey with me. I tried, but I never learned to fully appreciate this particular spirit.

But, I can tell you one thing in absolute certainty. At some point today, I will pour myself a couple of fingers of excellent Scotch and toast one of the finest men I have ever known. Cheers, Uncle Mike! You will be missed.

- Kris (Mike's Niece)

Thanks for reading! Stay safe!

Chad Hayes

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