Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tour of Champions!!

If you recall I blogged about being invited to the Tour of Champions back in April, which you can read about here. You have to raise at least $12,000 to qualify for the trip and I just barely scraped in with that amount of fundraising. :-)

This past weekend was the event! It was such a fun time and I enjoyed getting to meet new people and ride in a new area. (See that elevation change for Friday's ride...)

This year's TOC was in CO Springs at the beautiful Cheyenne Mountain Resort. (Not a bad place to blog from, right?)

We kicked off the weekend Thursday night with a luau. We mixed and mingled before hearing about our awesome fundraising (over $1.6 million for our group of riders!).

Then we watched a video that highlighted all 130 of us TOC qualifiers and heard from people on why they ride and what the MS society means to them.

It was so inspiring and amazing to hear how so many lives are touched with our fundraising! It was a wonderful evening! I sat with some of the other ConocoPhillips riders and a few other new people. Here are a few of my favorite fellow riders!

Friday we headed out on a challenging bike ride. Despite being from CO, I have lost any altitude acclimation that I used to have!! The hills were tough, but I never walked. :-) 35 mph downhill juxtaposed with 5 mph uphill at times...Here's Jan and I getting ready to ride out!

And here's Jan and I exhausted after the hills!

We rode to Garden of the Gods and took a short break and hiked around before grabbing lunch.

We headed back and I use the hot tub to relax in the afternoon before we departed to dinner.

Everyone is on their own Friday night and so as a thank you from the ConocoPhillips team, they treat our group to dinner. There were about 20 of us (riders and guests) and we went to Warehouse Restaurant in downtown CO Springs.

We spent most of dinner ping around and introducing ourselves and talking a little about why we ride. I am by at the youngest rider (in age and years riding). It's so amazing to hear from people who have been riding for 20+ years!

Saturday I signed up for the Air Force Academy tour. I had never been on base before and thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the grounds and hear about cadet life. At breakfast I met three ladies, Alison, Kelly, and Karla, who were also going on the tour and we stayed together most of the day.

A bear greeted us on our way in to the base!

Then we walked around the grounds with our guides Jennifer and Kaisley. They bombarded a freshmen dorm room so we could see what they looked like and make sure it was up to spec (bed has to be made a certain way, etc). One of the poor boys was still asleep and had to make his bed in record time and then hide in the closet!! Fortunately our cadets gave them a positive write-up so they will get some weekend passes. :-)

Below is a picture of each classes signal which they put on their class ring and then the bridge over the grounds with the school motto.

The upper left is a memorial for any fallen Air Force graduates. The bottom left is the chapel in the background and a piece of the World Trade Towers in front for a 9/11 memorial.

After seeing the grounds we headed into the chapel. They have four different chapels for the main religions- Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist. Each has a separate entrance.

The religious services are no longer mandatory per the separation of church and state in the 70's and students can attend at the Air Force or go offsite to worship elsewhere.

The chapel was absolutely gorgeous! Our tour guide Jennifer's parents were married there!

Here is the Catholic chapel. They have 14 of these wooden crucifix portrayals and each one has a small cross somewhere in it.

Lastly we saw the Jewish and Buddhist temples. The Jewish one has these beautiful Old Testament carvings. The upper right is Solomon and the conflict between two mothers. The bottom left is Ruth and Boaz. The final picture in the bottom right is the mediation room for Buddhism.

After our tour we headed back to the hotel and hailed a can to take us to Noodles and Co. Alison went to school in Boulder and she and I both had a craving for it. We introduced Karla and Kelly to the amazingness of their mac and cheese!

We headed back to the hotel and lounged at the pool for a couple hours until it was time to head to our evening's festivities.

We headed to the USA Olympic Training Center and spent the cocktail reception walking around the gift shop and main visitor center. We also took a few goofy pictures along the way...

A torch burning that you could see outside the building and inside looking up.

Then we headed into the auditorium and watched a video with some Olympic highlights. Despite some technical difficulties, it was a great video!

Next we heard from Kelsey Campbell, a women's wrestling Olympian. She competed in the London Olympics and had the gold medalist as her first round fight. She did her best, but didn't bring home any medals. Her determination to improve and hard work to get where she is at today was inspiring! (Sorry it's a dark pic.)

Then we headed over to the gym for a men's gymnastics demonstration. The two boys are 17 and 18 and will be visiting schools this fall hoping to get scholarships for gymnastics and continue training. Both Sean and Jake were amazing, and I don't just mean their abs.

(We had to take this picture in case they become famous.)

After dinner we got to hear from some guest speakers in the CO chapter. They spoke about how MS has affected their lives and what they are doing to help create awareness and support for research and programs.

It was inspiring to hear more stories from people and it makes me want to continue riding and raising support for MS. I hope you'll help me reach the TOC level again next year!

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