If you are a first-time Face of America participant, here are a few suggestions on how you can have the very best experience before, during and after the ride to Gettysburg.
Each participant category has a category fundraising commitment that must be met or exceeded by participants by the commitment deadline of April 26, 2019 to ride in Face of America. Rather than waiting until the last few weeks to undertake your fundraising efforts, start early. Use your online User Center to create and send emails to your friends, family and colleagues asking for their support. Many companies offer matching funds for employees in charitable causes, which can provide additional support. But, be sure to plan ahead since matching funds often take a month or longer to be processed. Once you reach your goal, increase it to a higher level to encourage new donors to continue to donate.
By its very nature, Face of America is not a competitive event. It is a fairly leisurely ride with full support, including SAG vehicles, mechanics and staffed rest stops. Many riders are surprised and delighted when they complete the Face of America, simply because they were not confident they could complete the long miles. But, the ride is intensely rewarding and inspiring. Athletes from across North America meet each other and spend time talking and becoming an extended family. Even if your friend or colleague is not interested in cycling, invite them to meet you in Gettysburg for the ride conclusion. There’s nothing like seeing a friendly face when you pedal past the finish line. And, if they purchase a meal ticket, they can join you for lunch and meet some of your new friends.
Hotel properties, particularly in Arlington and in Frederick, often fill quickly in the late winter. This is not just from Face of America athletes, but from other activities and groups in the area. Make your reservation early so you’ll have the best choice in properties and the lowest rates. Waiting until March or early April to make your room reservation will result in properties that are more distant and usually at higher premium rates. If you are a registered adaptive athlete or caregiver, you’ll be contacted by the World T.E.A.M. lodging coordinators to make arrangements for your lodging each night of the ride.
It makes sense to train prior to a lengthy physical activity, but surprisingly, some participating athletes find one excuse or another to not train. Riding more than 50 miles in a day, even with rest stops every ten to 12 miles, requires physical stamina. This is particularly so on the second day, when you are bound to be a little sore from the first day. World T.E.A.M. has posted online some helpful training activities and practices which can be a guide to those athletes who want to be serious about their effort. For many athletes, however, the best advice is to simply get out on your bike and ride in the weeks prior to the Face of America. Even five, ten, 20 miles per day of riding will help you at the event. And, if you are bringing your own bike or hand cycle, be sure to have it tuned up and properly fitted prior to your departure for Arlington. There’s nothing worse than having to ride 100 plus miles on a bike that is uncomfortable or improperly tuned.
Although the Friday afternoon check-in is open from 12 noon to 6 p.m., take off early from work and arrive well before the final hour of registration. With more time, you’ll not be stressed and you can take the time to meet some of the other riders, explore the booths at the rider expo and check into your hotel room. In addition, arriving early avoids the Friday late afternoon traffic that can be so troubling, particularly in the capital area, giving you more time to relax and enjoy yourself. If you have friends or team mates who are arriving on Friday afternoon earlier than you, remember you can ask them to check-in for you, saving you that task. Generally, we’ve seen the busiest times at check-in are the hour after it opens, at about 4 p.m. and in the last half hour to closing.
Face of America is meant to be a social experience. You’ll be riding alongside hundreds of other athletes with diverse and interesting backgrounds. At each Face of America, approximately half of the athletes are returning for their second, third, fourth or greater ride. If you’re a first-year athlete, take advantage of the knowledge and experience of your colleagues. This is true both prior to the ride and during the cycling itself.
During the last decade, Face of America riders have experienced everything from hot, sunny weather with high temperatures in the upper 80s to cool, showery weather with fog, wind, drizzle and rain. It makes good sense to watch the weather forecast prior to the weekend. But, be sure to check the forecast for along the route, as weather conditions between Arlington and Gettysburg will often be different, particularly if a front is passing through the region. Consider placing a light rain jacket in your rear jersey pocket. Bring with you your drivers license, credit card and cash, spare tube, tire iron, portable pump and a few high energy snacks for an on-the-road snack. You’ll have an overnight bag for the hotel, but it will be transported to the day’s ride ending and not accessible.
Each of the Face of America routes include a group of skilled ride marshals who are dedicated to making the ride safer for the participating athletes. These marshals are always on the lookout for potential dangers for the riders, and will take steps to make sure each athlete is safe. Perhaps your introduction to the marshals will be a request to move to the right side of the road. Don’t take it personally – the marshals are simply trying to keep everyone safe. If you experience mechanical difficulties, including flats, a marshal will stop and assist you, including flagging down one of the SAG vehicles to transport you and your bike to the next rest stop if necessary or requested. Other marshals will assist adaptive athletes on hand cycles climb particularly steep hills. All marshals work closely with the moto team on motorcycles. The moto team watches intersections and directs traffic, sometimes with the assistance of local law enforcement officials, to make sure the cyclists are safe.
On the Face of America route, rest stops are scheduled every ten to 12 miles. These stops include porta-potties, quick energy food and beverages, such as water and sports drinks (first stops in the morning often include coffee and hot tea). A stop at about noon will include lunch. Be sure to take advantage of these stops, each lasting on average from 20 to 30 minutes. Take care of physical necessities, refill your water bottle, and have a bite to eat. Most stops will have a mechanic on hand who can help with any adjustments or issues with the bikes and hand cycles. If at the end of the rest period you are still feeling tired, you may take the SAG vehicle to the next rest stop. Ask a ride marshal for assistance if this is your choice.
Adaptive athletes and caregivers will be provided dinner options by World T.E.A.M. All other athletes and volunteers will be on their own for dinner reservations and costs. In Frederick, there are a variety of restaurant options for individuals and for teams to enjoy a meal – larger teams should make reservations early for their dinner, as the restaurants do become busy on Saturday evening. Some restaurants are within walking distance, but Uber or cab service can be helpful, particularly after a long day of cycling.
When the ride rolls into the finish in Gettysburg, many athletes find this to be a hectic time. In addition to having an outdoor lunch, athletes traveling back to Arlington on the chartered buses need to get their bikes or hand cycles onto trucks for transport, find their overnight bag at the Penske baggage trucks so they can change clothes, and locate the correct bus going to their desired destination. In addition, there is often live music at the lunch, groups with booths or demonstrations, and a short concluding ceremony hosted by World T.E.A.M. Usually, all this happens within about 90 minutes. With all of this happening, it’s easy to forget the accomplishment of having ridden two days to historic Gettysburg, meeting new friends and learning more about America in the process. Take a moment to acknowledge your achievement. Share emails and Facebook pages with your new friends. Make plans to ride together again the following year. And, better yet, make a commitment to bring additional athletes to the ride.