Mary Andelt remembers hitting her low point while training for the long distance bicycle ride, Tour de Nebraska. She calls it "The Meltdown". It happened during a regular Tuesday evening ride with her training class from the YMCA. She had two flat tires and then accidentally drove off the trail into a ditch.
“I picked up my bike and threw it in the weeds,” Mary remembers. “And then I called it an f-ing piece of s#*@. In front of the instructors. Need I remind you the C in YMCA stands for Christian?”
Mary rode back to her car crying. And there was her friend, Lee Anne Von Seggern, waiting in the dark for Mary to get there. Lee Anne gave Mary a big hug and helped get her bike back on the car.
And that might be the key ingredient in meeting a challenge like this one– a supportive training partner.
The cycling class met twice a week for indoor spinning and guest speakers. When the weather improved, they moved outside with trips to Pioneers Park, Cortland and Eagle. Lee Anne and Mary pushed each other through dark nights, long hills and early Saturday mornings. As Mary says, they “ham and egged it", a golfing term that refers to partners on a two person team trading good shots.
“I wanted to quit about every other class,” said Lee Anne. “In all honesty, Mary and I kept each other going. We were never on the same page at the same time. One class, Mary would be saying, ‘We can do this!’ and I’d be saying, ‘No way!’ and then we would flip-flop.”
They started the class as a way to fill the long winter hours, with no plans to actually join the Tour de Nebraska, a five-day ride through the Sandhills. But as the hours of training started to add up, the idea of joining the Tour began to gel. In March, Lee Anne and Mary loaded their dogs in the car and drove the route to see what they’d be in for. They were at once encouraged and terrified – but ready to sign up.
Mary had another motivation. She had seen the movie, Wild, the story of Cheryl Strayed who hiked more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail after losing her mother, her marriage and her confidence. Mary had lost her husband Bob to cancer and joining the Tour de Nebraska was her Pacific Coast Trail.
“I saw the movie on Christmas Day with my mother and I bawled like a baby all the way through it,” said Mary. “It moved me. I wanted to be the person Bob and my dad would be proud of.”
The day before the Tour, Lee Anne says she felt sick and almost had a panic attack. But the next morning the jitters were gone and they were ready to go. Over five days, they rode a total of 245.8 miles, between about 50 and 68 miles most days. And loved it. In fact, they’re both ready for next year and maybe another ride in between.
Lee Anne’s favorite part was making it up the “big ass hill” on day 2 before reaching Ord. They made new friends, visited a winery (of course) and enjoyed the beauty of the Sandhills.
Here are a few things to remember if you decide to try a similar challenge.
· It’s an investment in time and money. Lots of both. Lee Anne and Mary bought new bikes, tires, clothing and other equipment. And they spent hours training.
· It's Nebraska so the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Be prepared for wind, rain, cold.
· Many of the Tour participants camped out along the way and food was provided by local groups. But others, including Mary and Lee Anne chose to stay in motels. That would be my choice, too. There’s nothing like a hot shower and soft bed after a long day.
· Get a training partner!
Do you find it better to workout with someone or alone?