mj’s legacy relay leg 14.. no 15!

Friday evening I drove to Rockwood PA to met up with two of my relay-mates, Mark and Charlie, for our introductory meet and greet, an easy spin to loosen up the legs and to check out some of the trail conditions.  We met at the Rockwood Trail head and were instantly biker buds.  🙂  We rode for about a half hour or so and ran into a few other trail users who flew in from Colorado and were riding the majority of the trail from Pittsburgh to D.C.  (How often do you hear of West coast flying East Coast to ride?  I know!  And what a fab photo of the tired yet happy riders!)  After a few minutes of chat and introductions Mark noticed an uncanny resemblance of one of the riders to a cousin he hasnt seen in years.  He approached the rider and after a moment of analysis he confirmed it actually IS his cousin!  What are the odds!?  It was such an amazing coincidence and is still funny just thinking about it. (you had to be there)  Since we were all just finishing our rides for the day (and add distant relatives) we made plans to meet back at the trailhead in a few and head over to a local restaurant for some good eats and company.  We did just that and it was a most perfect end to my day when I seriously thought I’d be ordering in and hanging solo at my hotel for the night. 

I checked into my room around 9pm and got my things ready for the morning.  Set the alarm clock for 4am, set my phone alarm for 4:05a and ordered a wake up call for 4:10a as a final back up.  (a 4am kinda person, I am not.).  After what seemed to be a decent nights rest I woke up like a shot at the first “BEEEEEP”.  I think a slight fear of sleeping in might have played a role there.  I checked out, grabbed some oatmeal and headed over to Rockwood right on schedule… so I thought. 

As I rolled into the trailhead parking lot I saw a group of riders and couldnt help but smile with excitement for the day.  A man approached my car and asked “are you Michelle?”  “Thats me!” I said with a smile that I quickly lost when he adds “they already left.”  My belly takes a dive.  WHAT?  Are you joking?  Your kidding!?  My brain continues a mile a second as I recap, am I late? no I’m not late, is this guy messing with me?   This guy gotta be messing with me.  He continues, “they are running over an hour ahead of schedule.  They have been gone for about 20 minutes now.  Do you want to go to the next trail head and join the next leg?  My brain continues on fast forward.. crap he is so not messing with me! should I jump out and try to high tail it down the trail and catch some one?  Should I seriously drive to the next leg?  They have been gone for 20 minutes already? Oh I could cry like a little girl!  Before I even realize it I’m asking “how do I get to confluence!?”  The stranger says “follow me!” and we’re off!!  I’m following a red cavalier back out of Rockwood down the road I just drove in on. My adrenaline is in full effect!  We reach a main intersection, pull over and instructs me where to go.  I tear off like a bat outta he!!.  I reach Confluence, its still not even my original scheduled start time off 5:49a from Rockwood and I must be the only person awake in the whole town.  Not a peep is stirring except for me & my CRV, its plenty dark and I dont know where to go.  I start looping around the streets and soon pass another moving vehicle thinking they have GOT to be with the relay.  It ends up being a friend who is there to pick up one of the riders.  This guy (I never did get his name) showed me where the riders were meeting so I parked my car and started getting ready for the next leg.  The originally scheduled leg 15 riders start to show up and I told them my situation.  Before I know it I hear “their here!” and we all gather for a moment, I catch a glimpse of Mark and Charlie and we’re all “heeeeeyy!!!!!” but I must quickly take off with my new group of relay buds into the darkness.  Now its (finally!) just a matter of… go, go, goooo!!! 

Since I knew nothing about leg 15, once we were settled into a pace I pull along side someone and ask “how far are we riding?”  27 miles.  Wow,  thats kind of a big difference from my originally intended 19 miles, especially when I was just planning to ride it back to my car.  Now I have an extra 16 miles to do.  Hmmm, I wasnt sure how I felt about that, but put it out of mind until the leg was done.  Before I realize it someone yells out we lost a few riders off the back.  Yikes!  I hope I can hang on!  I’m not even sure if all of their intended riders made it or not, but my riding group included Alex (with a cool accent originally from, I think, Argentina), Andy (carrying the beacon/proclamation), Charlie and me.  I tucked in line and gave it 100% to hold onto the pace line for the next hour and a half or so.  We rotated through several times with each one of us sharing the front.  I lead a few times, but am pretty sure I slowed the pace down some when I did.  I didnt get too concerned as our average pace was lingering around 17 mph.. above the 15mph minimum… and that whole HOUR ahead of schedule thing!  

My late, but early start did give me the advantage to still catch the sunrise while riding.  Since that was a deciding factor for picking leg 14, then to accidentally end up riding leg 15 and still ride with the sunrise was amazingly cool.  At one point we approach our first small up grade, the trail turns to the right opening up the woods to an amazing vista of beautiful woods and the youghigeny river far below.  I think we all equally gave out a “whoooaaaa!!” at the impressive sight and thats the moment I realized “hey, its daylight.” and our lights were no longer needed. 

I finally get the nerve to ask how far along we are.. getting tired sometimes its best NOT to know… but I asked.  21 miles in.. only 6 to go!  Whew.. I can do that.   Not much later we realize we lost Alex.  We turn back and find him changing a tube.  Even though we were beyond ahead of schedule Alex tells us to go ahead and finish up the ride since we were so close to the finish.  Charlie agreed to stay with him and Andy and I headed out to finish it up.  Before we knew it we were rolling into Connellsville and approaching the next trailhead and the end of our journey…  an hour and ten minutes ahead of schedule.  Geesh! 

Fast forward.. I park my car downtown around noon, pull my bike back out and roll around the point waiting for the relay riders to make their way into the park for the 1-2pm finish and festivities.  There is some theatre action occurring on stage when I first arrived and later the RMU marching band was there to welcome the riders. They were really energetic and sounded awesome!  I love a live marching band and they represented the city well!  The riders eventually start filling the park, it didnt take long to find my leg 14 relay mates, we exchange stories and I finally received my relay jersey since I missed meeting up with our captain, Mike, before the ride.  Yeahhh!  Soon we were all invited on stage as they introduced the relay riders and all off the Venture Outdoors Bike Tour riders that completed the entire trail from DC to Pittsburgh over the last week.  A handful of important people gave some speeches.  There was a really nice military salute and fly over and an entire full day of festivities continued on, but that is when my adrenaline rush finally fizzled and I headed home for the afternoon.  I fully intended to make it back down to the fireworks, but am afraid I did not get a nap in and hit the wall around 8pm giving in to the thought of even trying to get myself back downtown.  I’ve already heard that Pittsburgh and the Zambelli family reached the very high bar placed on this fireworks display.  What a downer to miss it.

Thanks to the PNC riders (Andy, Alex, Charlie, Jeff, Rodney, Glen, and Devon!) that bussed my sorry butt back to Confluence after feeling too wet and cold to repeat the ride in reverse.  I cannot thank you enough!  Thanks to PNC for sponsoring the event and providing those awesome busses!  Thanks to Venture Outdoors for organizing that cool ride.  Thanks to all the amazing people and volunteers that helped create such a wonderful trail system, and last but not least, thanks to Pittsburgh for putting on such a sweet birthday party!

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