Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Bike Trip 3/16-17/2013

AJET Charity Bike Ride:  Everyone on Sunday Morning before the 2nd day Ride

The Oita AJET organization hosts several events every year like a scavenger hunt, welcome parties, sayounara parties, etc.  This past weekend, for the 2nd year in a row, I participated in the yearly bike trip .  This cycling event is organized to raise money for charity.  Last year the money went to a charity in Japan.  This year the money will go to Foundation 18, a charity that helps children in Indonesia.  The Oita AJET charity bike ride is popular and we get JET ALTs and their friends from all over Japan.  This year I think the furthest participants came was from Okayama, about 300 miles away.

The organizers have a big job to do!  This year Nichole and Rhianna selected the route, tested it, drove it, mapped it, and found rental bikes for people who wanted to participate but don't have a bike, like me.  They also had to get a truck to transport those bikes to and from the meeting places.  They arranged food for all of the approximately 65 participants including snacks all day for the riders and volunteers, dinner on day 1, and breakfast on day 2.  They secured cabins at the campground that we rode to, ordered t-shirts, towels, bags, and rider numbers, collected participation fees and charity donations from all the riders, and informed everyone what they would need before, during, and after the trip.  Nichole and Rhianna also recruited volunteers to ride in cars along the route to make sure riders made the correct turns and always had food and water if they needed it.  Nichole and Seiichi were ready with knowledge and tools in case any riders broke down or needed assistance.  They did a lot of work!

64 Registered Participants
47 First Timers
40 Bike Riders
24 Non-Oitans
17 Veterans
8 Prefectures Represented
1 Goal: Support Foundation 18!
I volunteered last year and drove the route and supplied food, water, and directions.  We had a great time and I wanted to try to bike this year, so I signed up, but I had doubts since I hadn't ridden a bike in about 15 years.  I borrowed a friend's bike for a practice ride a few weeks ago, and that went alright, although my seat was too high even on the lowest setting  and I was really sore for days after.  On day 1 I showed up and picked out my bike.  It became clear that I don't know anything about bikes, or I wouldn't have attempted this 80km ride (about 50 miles) on a little town bike.  I thought my bike was so cute and I loved it.  People were giving me doubtful comments before the ride started.  I did not take heed.

My total crap bike

I was in the back of the pack within a few minutes and dead last for the rest of the miles I completed.  And it didn't help that one of the volunteers called me and said I must be lost.  I sat there e-mailing map pins to my location for about 15 minutes until I found out that I was on the right track and should keep going.  My bike was so difficult to ride.  On one hill I just got off and walked my bike up.  Finally Seiichi, who is basically a professional level cyclist, rode with me so I wasn't alone.  He literally put his hand on my back and pushed me up some of the hills, while riding his own bike.  I don't know how he did it.

I got to a volunteer vehicle and stopped for a rest.  One thing some of the volunteers are asked to consider is riding for a cyclist for a while if they need a break.  I was going to keep going, despite how arduous the past 25 miles had been, but a volunteer, my friend Kate, kinda wanted to cycle for a while and asked if I would mind.  I don't think I ever would have quit, but since she asked, I enthusiastically lent my bike to her.  I sat in the car with a serious endorphin high.  I had worked really hard to get those 25 miles down the road.  

My friends Kane and Patrick

The bike broke down on her after a while and neither of us cycled any more that day.  That night, Saturday night, we got to the cabins and I lay on the sweet floor, thankful to no longer have to move.  The organizers and awesome volunteers brought to our cabins the makings for soft tacos.  Bekah cooked the meat while I took a shower with borrowed soap:  Japan is cool because since we all go to the onsen together, walking around naked isn't that big of a deal.  I had an onsen towel which is about 10 inches wide and hangs from about your sternum to mid-thigh, and those who want to be more modest in the onsen hold it like that as they go from bath to bath...  Anyway, I put on clean clothes and we all had soft tacos.  After that we played nerd trivia which entailed us asking each other self-made questions about George Lucas and Harry Potter.  Then we went to the evening meeting where we had a little awards ceremony; best volunteer, best sign, first rider to camp, and first rider to retire.  That was me!!  I got a trophy for being the first rider to "retire."  As soon as they brought it up I was pretty sure it was me and I was beet red as I received my trophy.  

The cabin 6 girls from left- Lena, Francesca, Me, Bekah (Not pictured, Azusa)

Then we got to watch Seiichi propose to Nichole!!!!!!!  I was so happy.  Nichole is my best friend in Japan, and I suspect will be a friend for life now since we are both from Florida and can see each other whenever she visits from Japan.  I have heard so much along the way about Seiichi and about them together.  He is such a good-humoured, generous person and she deserves him.  Nichole and Seiichi are awesome together and I was filled to bursting with excitement when I found out what was gonna happen.  Seiichi sat next to me during the awards and Nichole was up there giving them out having NO IDEA.  He practiced in my ear, "Will-you-marry-me?"  I said that yes, that was right, and that he had to get on his knee and hold her hand.  Finally, the lights were turned out and we all turned bike lights on them.  This out-of-prefecture kid was supposed to play Bruno Mars' Will You Marry Me, but he accidentally played The Lazy Song.  He fixed it quickly though.  Then Seiichi got on his knee and Nichole was like, "What are you doing?  What are you doing?"  Seiichi got the box out of his pocket and the rest is history.  She said, "Of course!"  The guys were saying that even they teared up.  It was great.

Then we played Bingo and I didn't win, but Martin won both of the Plumeria flower hair clips and he gave them to me the next day.  :-)  

Then I went to bed at about 9pm.

My beloved road bike... I made it!!!

On Sunday we all got up early, ate breakfast, and got on the road, sort of.  That process took a long time what with group pictures, an info meeting, driving the bikes to the starting point, shuttling riders, etc.  I think we got out by 10am-ish.  I got an actual road bike on Sunday and for more than half of the trip, I wasn't last!!!  I actually got to rest points and there were other people there!  It was exciting.  At our last rest with about 20 km left I had to sit for a while.  Other riders arrived and left and that's when my pack became last.  I also had to walk my bike up some hills because I couldn't figure out how to use my gears, but my pack mates checked it out for me and showed me how and that really helped.  Finally, finally we pulled into the Tsukumin Park after 80 km of cycling.  I did it!  A "High 5 tunnel" was prepared for our arrival, but I couldn't take my hands off to high 5... I tried and I almost crashed into people, which was appropriate for the last person to arrive.  This time I won the medal for being last, and it wasn't like the trophy for being the first to quit.  I was actually proud 'cause I MADE IT!!  

The 1st and Last to arrive

Honestly, I figured a point would come during the day where I could gracefully bow out.  I thought maybe I would need a repair or maybe someone would ask to ride like the day before.  That situation never came up, I just kept going, and I finished.  I'm really happy that I finished.  I read somewhere that completing goals like that actually matters.  It registers in our brains and bodies in ways we don't know, and influences our future thinking.  I thought about that during the day.  I knew I could quit anytime if I wanted to, but once I got to a rest and realised I was already half way, I decided I wanted to make it.

I wasn't tired after the ride.  I actually felt energized.  But I knew that really I must need rest.  I got home and took a hot bath and did 1-load of laundry 'cause I absolutely had to, and I hit the sheets at about 9pm.  

 At one point I had convinced myself that I would likely fall off my bike and get mortally wounded.  But, I never fell off once!  Yay! 

Today I feel great physically.  I mean, I feel tense and sore, but I can feeeeeel the goodness it did for my body to be out and active in the fresh air, in nature, all weekend.  The other day I realized that I hadn't really spent any time outside for days.  Just car to work to car to house.  So I took about an hour and a half to walk to my Starbucks date and rode the bus home.  I love the way my body feels after this ride.  I'm worn out in the healthiest way and I can feel how good it is for me.  

AND I raised ¥8000 for charity!  Here is the website for Foundation 18.  If you think cycling 50 miles after not riding a bike for 15 years is awesome, donate for the kids!!

From Japan,


1 comment:

Nichole Fife said...

I love you too and thank you for making the HAPPIEST moment of my life thus far into such a success. Oh, and for coming to the bike trip <3