Best Buddies Challenge-Hearst Castle Recap

As you all know, I participated in the Best Buddies Challenge at Hearst Castle this past weekend. I completed a 30 mile (untimed) ride, and it was one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever completed.

Best Buddies is an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, such as Downs Syndrome and other similar conditions. Best Buddies Challenge serves as a way for people to raise money for the cause while actually participating in an event where they can be alongside Buddies, sharing the experience together.

I learned about the BB Challenge through my office, who is a sponsor of Team Maria. Team Maria was founded by and is led by Maria Shriver, whose brother Anthony Shriver founded Best Buddies. Every year, Team Maria accumulates one of the larger teams at the event, which consists of 100, 62, 30, and 15-mile bike rides. This year, our team raised over $250,000!

I knew that it would be a challenge for me to complete the ride, being that I had never ridden a road bike and the furthest I’d ever ridden my beach cruiser was 11 miles back when I was slowly scoping out my first half marathon course. As I stated in my August goals, I set out to go on a couple of long rides with Russell (who is also a runner…BUT, I insist that he is Superman…for multiple reasons, but one of which is because he runs like 2x faster than I do. So running together is kiiiinda out of the question, but bike rides are perfect! 😉 ). I had a suitable bike for these rides thanks to Lisa, one of my oldest and dearest friends. We only went on a couple, but I could tell I didn’t like riding as much as I do running…

As I’ve already shared, I made it to one spin class which kicked my ass, and did one interval workout on a stationery bike. None of this properly prepared me for what I faced on the Pacific Coast Highway on September 5th.

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My coworker Lyndsey and I arrived at our shuttle around 8am which took us 30 miles north to the starting line. It drove on the actual course (see above pictures), and every time the bus went down a hill, we thought, “Oh god…we have to ride back UP this hill.” Also, check out those cliffs and that nonexistent shoulder :-\ I tried not to think about it too much because I figured I am in pretty good shape because of my running and it was probably all mental, right?

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Welp, we got fitted on our Cannondale road bikes and soon found out why most people choose to do the easier 15-mile ride. First of all, it took a little while to figure out how to work the gear shifting and which gears I should be switching to in which phases of the ride. Once I thought I had that figured out, I zoomed ahead of Lyndsey thinking I could sustain my high speed, until I got to the first giant hill.

It was brutal. My GPS estimated that the elevation gain was 200+ feet and it was over about a mile long span. HOLY CRAP. I stopped to take a breather at the end of that first big hill and waited for Lyndsey to catch up with me, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get through the rest without a buddy.

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And I was right! The first 15 miles of the ride were extremely treacherous. It was a net uphill ride, with a lot of rolling hills and windy roads. We were riding on Highway 1, which is a busy freeway, and cars zipped by frequently. One of the most terrifying things about the ride was the downhills, when I had to clutch the brakes as hard as I could because I didn’t feel comfortable racing through the sharp turns. As you saw above, the shoulders were nearly nonexistent and the highway was more or less on a steep cliff. My GPS told me I was going 20+ mph down the hills, and one wrong move could have ACTUALLY meant serious injury or death. My forearms ended up being the one thing that was sore multiple days afterward!

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After two large hills and an hour and a half of riding, I was seriously contemplating quitting at the 15 mile rest stop. But Lyndsey and I refueled (these “sport” jelly beans were amazing!) and kept pushing ahead for the second half. Fortunately, the second half of the ride only had one small hill at the beginning and was completely flat for the rest of the ride. While the first 15 miles took us about an hour and a half (including 4-5 water breaks), we powered through and finished the second 15 miles without stopping in about 45 minutes.

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with my coworker Mira and her daughter Olivia (who did the 5k walk), and Justin (who smoked us in the 30-mile ride)!

It felt amazing to finish, and in the end I was glad I did it. I was also glad that I had padded bike shorts on over my leggings. #TRUTH #bikeseatsarenojoke!!

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As a reward for our hard work, there was a ton of swag and free food and drinks waiting for us at the finish line…along with free massages!

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Later in the evening, we went to a barbecue at Hearst Ranch, where we got even more delicious food and Bruce Hornsby performed.

IMG_8470The last stop of the night was the VIP Party which was actually at Hearst Castle. We spent most of the evening getting a private tour! ….and taking advantage of more.free.food.

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However, the highlight might have had to be seeing Lauren Potter (an actress from Glee who happens to have Downs Syndrome) have a dance off with her boyfriend. I seriously wish I had their moves!

Overall, I’m so glad I did the Best Buddies Challenge and I think it’s a great event. Can’t wait till next year…at least now I know what to prepare for 😉

Have you ever done a charity event?

How do you convince yourself not to quit when you hit a wall?

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