As part of one of our T9 Challenges, our Product Pusher, Katy, participated in the Napa Valley Century Ride a few weeks ago alongside a whole team of T9ers. Some gals participated in the 100km race and a handful went for the full 100 miles – we asked Katy to share with us what it’s like to bond with your team riding through beautiful wine country. Rough life at Title Nine, huh Katy? 

It’s 4:30am and my alarm goes off…it’s Sunday. Most people might roll over, grab their alarm clock and give it a good hard throw into the wall – but not us, not today! Today was the Napa Century ride – and for a dozen of us T9ers, that meant the opportunity to push ourselves further than many of us had biked previously, and to do it together. At T9, pushing yourself is expected – we go hard at the office and in life!

So, it’s the crack of dawn, and I haven’t loaded a bike onto the car so quickly ever! Within 45 minutes of waking up, I’m at Dom’s house and she’s smiley and as ready-to-go as ever. It’s inspiring – I know my fellow T9ers, like me, love days like this! One more bike on the rack and we’re off! Save for one more pause at a traditional Starbucks stop for many of us having made multiple pilgrimages to Napa previously to train for the event, we scream down the highway in anxious anticipation of the course ahead.

By 7:30 am, the groups of us T9ers gathered near the start line. This is not a competitive event, so the jitters and nerves you can feel from folks are simply the excitement, anticipation, and eagerness to just get out there and begin pedaling! We’ve got a long day ahead, and after last minute gear checks, a pump of the tires and high fives around, we snapped a few group pictures and riders began peeling off! Most T9ers opted for the metric century, 100km, and three of us chose the 100 mile course as our challenge. For both courses, we knew that Ink Grade would be the toughest section of climbing – 4 miles of quad-burning fun! The metric mavens tackled this challenge around mile 20, but the longer course held this fun for the 60-something mile mark…oofta!

Time-out! It is worth backing up to mention just what efforts it took to get us all to this point. No one goes and hammers out a century ride without prep, and we at T9 are fortunate to work for a company which supports us in taking on challenges like this every year. For months, we organized rides, worked out with a trainer, and, perhaps most importantly, encouraged and held each other and ourselves accountable to having signed up to take on this challenge! This day was the culminating event of a long journey.

Back to the course… Every rider has their own unique story! For the group I rode with, we set goals of sticking together, having fun, and finishing! None of us wanted to start out too fast or push too hard, only to regret having an empty fuel tank with 20 miles to the finish line. It was smart to have discussed this ahead of time and it helped us all stay steady – with the excitement of the start line, it can be all too easy to fly out the gates without realizing it! It was a crisp morning and I questioned my choice to leave my arm warmers behind. It’s summer in Napa, however, so I knew in a few hours, it would be plenty hot and I’d be craving a cold shower soon enough. The first 37 miles flew by – fresh legs, good conversation, and wait, why is my back already hurting?? Not many riders can do a century without a few aches and pains, but I was less than thrilled to be feeling my back so early in the ride. Rest stop one was a great opportunity to stretch out, shake the legs, and grab a quick bite. To be out on the bike for so many hours and with such a physical challenge ahead, it is super important to fuel your body properly. This means staying ahead of the game, eating and drinking lots of water before you think you need it! This event had potatoes at every rest stop – my new favorite, for sure!! Yum!

Knowing our biggest climb was after the 60-mile mark, we just kept on pedaling. Finally, we reach the base of Ink Grade and we know what the next 4 miles means…up hill, lots of turns, and burning muscles!! We’ve ridden this in training rides, but never in this heat. Plenty of people are stopped along the way, but we decide to muscle up. It’s hard enough to pedal uphill for so long on a steep grade, but the idea of having to start again after stopping erased that option from most our minds! Believe it or not, this actually was one of my two favorite sections of the ride! One, it felt like accomplishment to get to the top. Two, the people along this stretch were really supportive of one another and it was fun to be a part of that energy! And three, the views while descending the back side were incredibly beautiful…some of the best we saw on the course!

Our last rest stop was 12 miles out from the finish line and we thought the hardest miles were behind us…think again T9ers!! Welcome to the Silverado Trail with a classic Napa mid-afternoon headwind of 15mph! Dig in folks, these miles are going to be doozies! We were very happy to have ourselves a line of 4 riders so we could draft and work together toward the finish. This was my other favorite section of the course! I loved the camaraderie, the feeling of closing in on the completion of an epic day, and honestly, the challenge of that darn headwind! We had four smiling faces as we turned the corner into Yountville and could hear the Reggae-style band playing near the event BBQ! Thanks to Group Me, we had already heard of our fellow riders finishing earlier in the afternoon. Though we missed raising a cup of free ice cream to the success of the day with everyone (can’t blame them for wanting to get out of bike clothes ASAP!), the stories started flowing Monday at the office! Congrats to all riders at the Napa Century Tour, but especially to my T9 pals – I’ll ride a hundred miles with you any day!

When you live the life of T9 it really is true what they say – where one journey ends, another begins. For many of us, it meant a quick week of recovery and a fast re-entry into training. Why? T9 has entered multiple teams into the Tough Mudder Challenge at the end of September – time to switch our bike shoes to running shoes, and get ready for mud and obstacles!! Bring it on!!