LA2DC Leg 24 Day 13 – 5/6/15

Sivas : Sachsenhausen

IMG_2470Today’s Leg is a monster! This will be the toughest Leg of them all at 110 miles and over 12000′ of elevation gain!

When I first signed up for LA2DC. I saw that they had plenty of riders for this Leg so I thought I would just skip it. However, now that I had ridden each day of LA2DC I could not stop now!

The LA2DC warriors to join me on this Leg are Hagop Koulyan, Aram Kavoukjian, Eric Josephbec, Khachik Gevergyan, Vicken Seplian and Anush Ricci. Vicken and Anush needed to be picked up at the airport and would meet us later. They both had ridden with us for several days for some of the earlier Legs and then had headed home. They had planned to come back for the last day and ride Leg 26 but they missed us too much so they worked it out so they could come back a day early and have a go at the mountains! 
IMG_2474Vicken caught a a red eye flight and never slept! This would be a tough ride fully rested but to tackle it with no sleep, that is proof of his amazing spirit!

The last few days we would pass a lot of cemeteries. Today it seemed like they were every 5-10 miles. We also passed many historical sites. I wished we had more time to take in some of the sights and history but we have to keep the wheels rolling!

The first 10 miles of the ride was mostly flat and small rolling hills. About 12 miles in we hit the first steep longer climbs. My legs were burning and my pulled muscle in my back was aching. The way I felt at that time I wondered if I could make it through this day. Then the words “I must” popped into my mind and I began to say it out loud to myself repeatedly and I rolled on! IMG_2479

I told myself I would just get to 100 miles and then I could get picked up. Khachik offered to be my domestic. He is such a good guy and a very smart and smooth rider. He pulled on the flat sections but once we hit the hills it was everyman for himself because pace-lining doesn’t usually work very well in steep terrain. Khachik knows how to pace himself for the long haul. He kept telling others to slow down in the beginning of the ride. It is difficult for some riders to know their bodies and how to pace themselves to be able to ride these long distance rides. Learning this comes with time and experience. The old children’s story about the Tortoise and the Hare is a good one for cyclists to be reminded of.

IMG_2475We would be 33 miles into the ride before we would get word that Vicken and Anush would be meeting us shortly! This was exciting news for me because I really enjoy the company of these two. We pulled over for a break while their bikes were prepped to ride. Hagop, Vicken, Anush and I had ridden several Legs together so it felt like the gang was back together!

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It would take me to about mile 50 to really feel warmed up. I felt good for the rest of the ride. I am used to climbing and do well on the longer climbs since I have a chance to ease into them. The shorter climbs are the ones that hurt me because by the time I warm up to it and get in the climbing mode it is over. Just as I was warming up I could see one of the other riders that was going hard in the beginning slowing down and not looking to good. I bet he wished he would have listened when Khachik and I told him to take it easy earlier!

The hills got steeper and longer the further we went. I tried to keep the group together but we were spreading further apart the farther we went. It was really hot and humid out. The temperature was somewhere in the low 90’s and the humidity was probably close to that too! Surprisingly I was feeling really good. I guess all those climbing miles I did in training were paying off!

At mile 95 I passed the support vehicle as they were checking on another rider. I told them I would go to 100 miles and then get picked up. As I passed the 100 mile mark I did not see the support vehicle anywhere in site so I figured I would just keep going and finish the last 10 miles to complete the Leg. The remainder was rolling hills with a few longer climbs and then it ended with a nice downhill run!  When I arrived Khachik and Hagob were already there. The others would arrive shortly after. IMG_2487

Ride stats:
109.3 Miles
12,228′ Elevation gain
Ride stats on Strava

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LA2DC Leg 23 5/5/15

Sis : Sobibor

Today I decided to mix things up. I have been riding the first leg each day and today I decided to ride the second leg. Three of the riders on the second leg group like me are riding all the way to D.C. So they have been riding together almost everyday. Those riders are Vasken Melikian, Grigor Gevorgyan and Sedrak. Also Khachik and Nick would be joining us for this Leg.

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Since this was the second leg of the day we would drive for a couple hours to the start of the Leg while the first Leg riders rode. The drive over was interesting! Grigor was reciting Poems and leading in the singing of Armenian patriotic songs. It was a lot of fun! It was also nice to get the drive done first instead of after the ride when we are tired, dirty and hungry!IMG_2462

These guys are all good and experienced riders. They know to start easy and get in a good warm up. After a few minutes I felt comfortable in the pack and could relax a bit. IMG_2466

This would be our biggest day of climbing so far with almost 8k of climbing in over 100 miles. The climbs were mostly rolling hills, so the climbs were short. Since I could not stand up and charge to the top of the short climbs as the others were doing due to my back pain I would fall behind on each climb. The guys would slow down at the top to let me catch up!

When we got to the busiest road of the day it started to pour rain. We rode in the rain for a while and then took cover under a bridge for a few minutes. It seemed that after a while we were outrunning the rain and it started to ease up. It was a scary spot to be riding in the rain on such a busy road. Several times we pulled to the side and had our support vehicles do the same to let cars pass. It did not take long on this road to back up so we pulled over often. It seemed as though we were in the middle of nowhere so we could not make sense of how busy the road was!

A couple of times I moved to the front of the pack and Khachik told me to move to the back that he was my Domestique today and I needed to rest. Domestique is a french word meaning servant. In cycling a Domestique is a team member that works for the leader by riding in the front so the leader can conserve energy.

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During the ride most of the conversation was in Armenian so I did not understand most of it. But the mood was jovial and the time went by quickly. I am slowly picking up a few Armenian words here and there.

Ride stats:

117.4 Miles
7579′ Elevation gain
5085 Calories

Ride stats on Strava

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LA2DC Leg 20 Day 11 – 5/4/15

Samsun : Dachau

As we gathered for the starting photos of today’s leg it began to rain. I had checked the weather forecast early in the morning and it did not call for rain so I was not expecting much rain. We were almost ready to take off when we decided we wanted to take our windbreakers. It’s a good thing we did. IMG_2432

We had all the same riders from yesterday’s ride except for Mark who would be heading home today. We had one new addition named Nick who had completed the first leg with us. We went over some pace lining rules as we started to ride.

The crew was working together well. This being our second day together helps a lot. Pace lining really takes many days with the same riders to feel confident with the other riders and to get everyone flowing smoothly. I was still paranoid from my two crashes so the riders that were not flowing smoothly I stayed back more than I would have liked and was always looking for my bailout option! I do not want to wind up laying on the pavement again any time soon.

We were flowed into Terra Haute pretty smoothly and quickly. We were 23 miles in. That is when it went from a few drops of rain to a very serious downpour. Some of the guys went into a coffe shop to use the restroom and I duct for cover against a building while Bobby adjusted our air pressure for better traction in the rain. IMG_2436

For the next 25 miles it rained pretty steadily, at times it really opened up for short periods. It is difficult to pace line in the rain because the water is shooting up from the rear tire of the bike in front of you. Plus with wet street and potholes everywhere there are safety concerns. This slowed our pace down quite a bit.

As the rain eased up the rain the road got even rougher. At times it was just gravel or dirt with holes and dips everywhere. The pace was even slower now. This extremely rough section lasted about five miles. The positive thing was the scenery was incredible. We were riding through a dense woodland area. It reminded me a bit of the Northern California Coast minus the redwood trees.

Once the forested area opened up to meadows and pastures we passed a few country homes here and there and the road became a little smoother now.

At mile 60 we stopped for lunch. A local guy was driving by and he asked if we were the group riding from California. He had seen a piece about us on the local news the night before. He said he had spent 20 years in the military and traveled all over the world and until that news piece he had not known about the Armenian Genocide. This was a reminder of why what we are doing is so important! He said “Its a shame what happened to those people” to him it was “those” people but to me they were my family and my people!

IMG_2443The lunch break felt good to relax and eat but we stopped longer than I would have liked and it was hard getting warmed up again. We continued along the country road a while longer before turning on to a busy road and then heading into the city.

Overall this leg seemed to have the roughest roads of all the legs I have ridden! Many of the busier roads have shoulders but they are so full of potholes, cracks and debris 90% of the time we don’t dare ride in them. It really made me appreciate the riding we have in Southern California!

Today Everone finished and Rafi and Ed having completed the last two legs said this is a new record for them! I have now ridden over 1000 miles!  IMG_2449

Today’s ride stats:
114.9
3409′ elevation gain.

Today would be the longest day both in miles and time.

Ride Stats on Strava

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LA2DC Leg 18 5/3/15

Samsun : Dachau 

 Today Leg started in Boone Missouri. It was around a 30 minute drive from the hotel to the start of the ride. This was a very scenic area with lots of green hills and woodsy areas.

The riders for Leg 18 were Sasoon, Rafi, Artin, Ed, Mark and I. We started at 7:55 and it was already pretty warm out. The freezing mornings and rainy days seem to be behind us now.

IMG_2130The road started off nicely with lots of rollers similar to yesterdays ride. My back was sore from yesterday’s crash. In fact it hurt so bad that I could not sleep most of last night. When I first got out of bed my back was so stiff I was not sure if I would be able to ride the entire Leg today. Those first 20 miles of rollers hurt me on the climbs. I put the pain up on that shelve and rolled on.

Our first stop was the historic town of Saint Charles Missouri about 25 miles in.  The streets are cobble storn and there are many old brick buildings here. Then we would ride parallel to the Missouri River for a while. At mile 58 we crossed the mighty Mississipi River! Shortly after crossing the river we found a shady spot for a lunch break.IMG_2124

We were cruising along on a flat section and I felt something strange on my left peddle. I thought something had happened to my cleat. Sasoon was next to me and said he heard something drop on the road. Then my left crank came off. Luckily this happened on a flat section and not on a fast downhill section! After I was able to find the crank bolt a few hundred back, Bobby our mechanic quickly reattached the crank and we were on our way once again.

By 80 miles in the tempature was in the low 90’s. We could feel the heat radiating off the pavement. Not to mention the humidity. We were all feeling it but Mark was really getting cooked. We stopped for a break in the shade and poured some water over his head. A local resident came from his house across the street and asked if we needed anything or wanted to use the restroom.  These folks out here are so hospitable.

Today just like the past several days we had strong crosswinds blowing to the north. Everyone smiled when we had the brief sections heading north and we could enjoy the tail wind. It was a nice break.

Ride stats:
108.7 miles
3573′ of climbing.

Ride stats on Strava

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LA2DC Leg 16 Day 9 5/2/15

Mezereh : Trnojpolje

Adrian, Missouri to California, Missouri

Today my friends Alen and Noel Gharibian joined me for this leg as well as Gary Koshkaryan. Noel and Alen told me they would pull all day so I could take it easy. I had trained with these guys for this event along with Roobik so I knew they were strong riders and that they were capable of finishing this leg quickly.IMG_2405 IMG_2409 IMG_2411

We had to drive about an hour from the hotel to the start of the ride. By the time we got to the start and got going it was 8:00 am. We took it easy for a while to warm up the legs. Alen and Noel got in late so they did not get much sleep but they were pumped up for the ride so it did not seem to hinder them. Gary had ridden leg 15 the day before so I am sure his legs were feeling it though he never complained. I of course had a few miles on my legs too.

The last few days had long relatively flat sections of road. This route had many short rollers that were actually a fun change of pace and we were eating them up!

25 miles went pretty fast and we were settling in to our pace line. Then all it took was one rider to coast for a second and then the next rider had to slow and move to the left and my front tire clipped his rear wheel and I was down. As I hit the pavement I scraped my old wound open on my left hip as well as loosing more skin. I hit my shoulder and twisted my back and felt a muscle pull in my back. The wind was knocked out of me and I laid there for a few minutes! I wondered if this might be the end of the road for me.

I had joked with Dr. Harry that morning about him being bored and that we didn’t want to give him anything to do that day. Well unfortunately we broke the monotony of his day. He sprang into action. He stretched my back out and cleaned up my wounds and in 30 minutes or so we were riding again.

A few miles in as I stood to peddle up a hill the pain intensified. I had my foam roller in the support van so we stoped and I rolled out my back on a grassy area near a church. I wondered what the locals must have thought of this scene but did not care because it was helping.

The rest of the crew kept riding and it took me about five miles to catch up. Now those rolling hills that had been fun earlier were not much fun now with the back pain. If I stood to peddle as I like to do to attack short climbs it hurt my back so I had to stay seated. Staying seated was not good for the saddle sores!

My pain is a tribute to their suffering!

My pain is a tribute to their suffering!

My pain is a tribute to their suffering!

Noel asked how I was doing, I told him I was fine and that I had put the pain on a shelf. He joked that the shelf must be getting full!

Noel and Alen stayed true to their word and stayed in front taking turns breaking the wind for me all day. They were riding very strong and I had to yell out “notch” more than a few times. That is the code word for slow down.

Around mile 80 I hit a rock and got a front flat. Our support guy Bobby was on the scene in seconds with a spare wheel and changed it out quickly and we were riding again.

With our awesome support crew this event is the closest I will ever feel to being a Pro rider! They take care of our bikes, clean our wounds, mark the route for us, make our meals and keep us safe on the road while putting themselves in danger. They are truly amazing!

Riding in a pace line is the most efficient way to ride in a group. When you have new riders everyday and some of them have never ridden in a pace line things can get tricky!

Ride stats for the day:
108.5 miles
4124′ of elevation gain
Ride Stats on Strava

My ride stats for the trip: 789.7 miles and 26,495′ of elevation gain.

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LA2DC Leg 14 Day 8 – 5/1/14

 Marash : Majdanek

Wichita to Yates Center

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Todays I teamed up with Armen, Kevork and Vatche for this Leg.IMG_2350

The first 20 miles of this ride was through the city. Some of the roads were very rough which was not good for the saddle sores! This would be the most stop lights and the most turns since we left L.A. I am not a fan of city riding and that is why I mostly mountain bike.  

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As we were rolling through town I saw this street sign for Holyoke Street. When my grandfather first moved to the States from Diyarbekir he lived in Holyoke Massachusetts so this made me think of him and our cousins that he came with the Simsarians.

Once we got out of the city the road was fairly smooth. The wind was blowing north as it has been for the last few days. Our first stop was around 45 miles at the city hall for a restroom break, snack, photos and say goodbye to our friend Kevork who would be heading home. Kevork’s wife cheered us on along the way waving her Armenian flag. IMG_2376

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By myself but not alone, rover, wanderer…

We kept on rolling with a few short stops along the way. The pace was slower than I was used to and at mile 90 our support driver Thomas told me that we could split up and Bobby would stay with Vatche and Armen. Most days I tried to keep everyone together but with the rough road I really was ready to get  off the bike so I jammed ahead to the finish line. Vatche and Armen would roll in About 20 minutes later.

Ride stats:
108.3 Miles
2162′ Elevation gain
3324 Calories burned
Average temperature during the ride 79 degrees. It will only get warmer from here on out.

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LA2DC Leg 12 Day 7 – 4/30/15

Marash: Majdanek

Hugoton to Mulinville, Kansas

Today was another one of those days where we started right from the motel so that gave us a little extra time in the morIMG_2344ning which was nice!

Our wonderful Chef George made us another great breakfast consisting of oatmeal,waffles, eggs and fruit to energize us and send us on our way.

Todays team consisted of Anush, Kevork and I. This was Anush’s fifth day of riding and my seventh so our legs were a little fatigued.  Kevork just joined us so this was his first day of riding. Kevork had just completed his first Century ride a few weeks ago so this was the longest ride he had ever completed. 11165942_10153221299660056_2061267785_n

Anush and I gave Kevork some quick pointers on riding in a group and drafting. He was a quick learner and appreciative of the tips. We enjoyed his enthusiasm and spirit!

This Leg was pretty flat with only a few small rollers and some unexpected longer descents that put a smile on our faces. We did have the usual cross wind blowing north but at times we had a nice tailwind giving us a welcome gentle push.

We stopped for a seat height adjustment and the paparazzi were all over us!IMG_2335

For as far as the eye could see there were miles and miles of wheat fields. It looked nice but became a bit monotonous after a while.

To break up the monotony we sang songs. Kevork led us in a few Armenian songs. We sang one of Anush’s favorites! Old McDonald had a farm… Yeah things can get a little crazy after hours and days on the road!

After the ride we dropped Anush off at the airport in Wichita. I enjoyed riding with her and was bummed to see her go but she promised to return for the last Leg into D.C.

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Ride stats:
Miles 114.6
1578′ Elevation gain

Ride stats on Strava

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