[Editor's Note: Congrats Ohio! Ohiofinfan4life conducted the Dolphins Cycling Challenge on Saturday and Sunday. Designed to raise money to fight cancer, the second annual bike ride had multiple lengths and events scheduled. True to Ohio's nature, he chose to take part in the 170 mile, two-day ride - the longest ride there is. --Mosul]
There were so many memorable moments that it is hard to believe just how incredible my weekend was. However, my highlight came at the end of the 70 mile ride on Sunday. After racking my bike and stowing my gear I headed over to get some grub,...I was starving. The Wifey & I grabbed our food and sat at a table with a few other folks - a brother (and his wife too) & sister that are both cancer survivors. We shared about 15 minutes together and it was here I felt the impact of what the DCC is all about. Hope. Wifey asked the brother how has his life changed. Again I was moved by what he had to say, "I'm a much nicer person now. I don't take things for granted, I was mean & nasty SOB before". All the while his sister was grinning and nodding her head. She thanked me repeatedly, and seemed to be in disbelief that I rode as far as I did having only just taking up road cycling last Spring. I was humbled by her gratitude, and happy to help the cause.
The other highlight of the weekend happened as we were leaving. With all the goings on I really didn't think much about my own Uncle who had lost his battle to cancer a few years earlier. Sure he was on my mind, but I really didn't reflect on him, his spirit, or what he had meant to me in my life. I taped his picture to my head tube (front of the bike) and he was along for all 170 miles. However, when I was alone and putting my bike onto the trunk when I looked at that picture and took that time to reflect. I'm not too proud to say that I began to weep. I do miss him.
I remember vividly when I got the E-mail saying riders can pick up their packets on Wednesday. I've always been the excitable type and that day was no different. The notice stated that they could be picked up at noon....I showed up at 10:30 (just in case they arrived early,....they didn't). You guys know how I like my gear...
A short speech was given, some special instruction, concluded by the National Anthem. And off we went. The special instructions given were about the 1st 18 miles of the century ride. We were to ride as one group, at a slower pace of 16 MPH. The reason - they wanted to pass the Sylvester Cancer Center as one group and there was going to be a special ceremony at the 1st water stop.
Here I am bringing it on in to that 1st stop. Note the Phin Addict fist,....
I don't know how many riders were there but it was a lot of them ! And one of them was Zach Thomas. I was able to get a few words in, as many wanted to talk to him, get a photo or an autograph. I mentioned that I had met him a couple times before, one being about 7 years ago in the lobby of the training facility. It was then he looked at me and said, "Don't you have a huge Dolphin tattoo on your leg ?" Dude remembered me!
Before we headed off, I just happened to be lined up next to Zach for about 5 minutes. More small talk, mainly about Texas and its heat vs the Florida heat in the Summer time.
One thing about me, I like to blow peoples' minds. That's why at the next water stop (when the opportunity arose) I called my buddy back home and told him I had someone that wanted to say "Hi" as I handed my phone off to Zach. Yeah,...he was floored. It's not everyday you get a call and an all-time Dolphin great is on the other line,....unless we're tight,....lol.
Let me talk about that remaining 82 miles for a minute. It was a bitch ! Straight into a headwind the whole way up A1A. While I was closer to the front more often than the middle, I was never in the back. Here I had to get the feel for group riding. If you get stuck in the middle, you are more than likely boxed in and can't move up in the pack. I learned fast to keep my big ass to the left as to pass others when the opportunity arose. Here I look especially happy for as hard as I was working to this point.
Now,.....it's OK for me to refer to my ass as big,....or gut for that matter. But, the 1st one of you that pokes fun at it,......I'LL TRACK YOU DOWN & DROP THE HAMMER ! On a side note, I made a conscious effort to "suck it in" on day 2 whenever a camera was pointed my direction.
Let me say I was feeling the love. Wether it be my jersey, M.M., or my tattoo it appeared people were digging my style ( you'ld have to be out of your mind to not,....right ?).
This was at the last water stop of the century ride. I long for the day when the Fins can again have a true home field advantage. Until then,....bet your ass I'll stand watch. Ohioan by birth, DolFan by choice !
Now during the day I chatted with Fins CEO Mike Dee & Mad Dog's Son Michael. Both of them were as nice as could be, but once I found out Michael was a "Michigan Man" too, I took a few good natured jabs. What else did you expect from a proud Buckeye.
I haven't been so happy as I was when we reached our destination in West Palm Beach. But, before we rolled in Michael and a couple others broke off from the pack about a half mile out and sprinted to the finish. I thought I want in on some of that action, but I was boxed in and just ready to get off the bike.
Once at City Place, I grubbed down, threw back a couple adult beverages, and mingled with some new friends. Of course, Nat Moore was still pressing Tanya,....for participating next year. We also chatted with former Dolphin, who now works for the Fins, Twan Russell. I didn't know this, but he is from Ft Lauderdale, played his college ball in the area, and wore the number of his favorite Fin as a kid,....John Offerdahl. Pretty cool stuff. Not to mention he's a nice guy too.
Finally,...a good nights sleep. I'm sure gaining an extra hour of rest didn't hurt either.
Some more new buddies. Event director Nick and Fins CEO Mike ( yeah,....we're on a 1st name basis).
Now on day 2, I had a plan. Get up front and stay there. You see, I heard some rumors that they were going to turn us loose for the stretch we rode on I-595 and again about 10 miles from the finish. All with the wind at our back ! So, that's where I lined up for the start,...up front.
Yeah...I saw the news truck there, but didn't think much of it. That is until the reporter walk straight up to me only to ask for an interview. Mothertrucker ! There goes my primo spot up front. Now I couldn't care less about being interviewed for TV, my mug is not what we might say is TV friendly. But she spotted M.M., my Uncle's pic....and undoubtedly my package ( JOKE ). The Wifey videoed the whole thing and here I am trying to do my best for the camera. But when I watched the playback, I laughed my ass off. Here is little old me, and in the background is Mike Dee, Michael Mandich, and the director of the Sylvester Cancer Center. I would say that was a slight misstep on her part, but not my doing. Average Joe, 1...Big Wigs, zip.
Anyways, I finished that and got back in line. As we headed out, I was close to the front...but not in the front. Have you ever seen any of the Tour de France ? They use the whole road, we got one lane with oncoming traffic in the other. Again, I hatched a plan. After the 1st stop, I grabbed a lead position and stayed there ( mostly ). Shit...it was easy with a tailwind. True to form, once we hit 595 those who could took off. Now I watched some of the Tour de France once there is a breakaway, you better hit the gas or eat dust. I hit the gas. you wait even a fraction of a second, and you've waited to long. There was about 10 in that lead pack and there was no catching them. However, the 2nd pack I was able to hang with. But it really wasn't a pack as it was guys with the hammer down. Top speed on that stretch for me,....37.3 MPH. That portion of the ride wasn't long in milage ( 7 miles or so ), but it had an on ramp, a couple of overpasses, and the exit ramp. At one point, I was running out of gas when I heard someone behind yell, "push it Griffin !" . It was Michael. I had told him yesterday that if he breaks away again, I coming to ! I must have got the jump on him, only to get reeled in. But his word of encouragement was just the boost I needed. Back on the gas ! I think I drank a gallon of Gatorade at that rest stop.
Again, when we headed out,...I jump right into a lead spot. Somebody here, and elsewhere told me to ; ride it like I stole it, go hard, go beast mode, top ten finish.....no less. And I was going to try to deliver. But honestly, I had my doubts,...there looked to be some really strong riders out there. And 10 miles full tilt is a bitch,...I was guessing. Well,...the pace car pulled off and it was on. 10, maybe 12 of us made a break for it. We were cooking pretty good, going no slower than 23.5 MPH. But it was more like 24-26 MPH. That is some work right there kids,....real work. And about 5 miles from the finish I thought I was going to fade. Not to be, I stuck with the pack. If I started to fade,...off the saddle I went, 5 or 6 good strides, and right back into the pack I went. I won't lie, I was tired. And as we enter the stadium grounds I was last in the pack. It was a hard left, followed by by a hard right after 20 yards or so. Then it was one final straightaway from the edge of the parking lot directly into the stadium. I saw those corners coming up, and hit them with just enough speed to jump a few spots. And soon as I hit the straights,...OUT OF THE SADDLE AND DIVE TO THE FINISH. That was enough to jump another spot or two.
There I was rolling into the stadium, the crowd erupting with cheers, the sun shining on my smiling face ! 170 miles,...like I owned it. And there was the Deep End Crew. I heard some yell, " OMG !!! There's Griff !!!" I remember looking right at Stripe,...his eye about popped out of his head. Then they totally hit me with my own personal Rudy moment. GRIFFIN ! GRIFFIN ! GRIFFIN! I was floored.
LETS GET THE PARTY STARTED !
I hit the bike rack and unload my gear and who do I see,.....Chad Henne. Of course I got my duffel bag near by. Signed 8x10,....check. Signed jersey,....check.
I mentioned my crew,....hardcore DolFans ! To ! The ! Bone !
That's it. Just another day in the life,...or two rather. And what a couple of days those were. I'm sure I might be missing something here or there. But mind you,...I can't type, I'm tired as hell, and......I want to go hug my pillow.