Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Philly tried to break me. Cancer is still around. Game on in Austin for Round 2.

Lance Armstrong addressing "the troops" before kicking off the 100 mile leg.
I won't lie. Sunday's LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia broke me. Lance warned us in his opening remarks that, by far, it was the most hilly, challenging course of all the LIVESTRONG Challenges. You know that is a BAD sign. But his words of encouragement were tremendous, and especially exciting after learning that there were over 3,000 riders flooding the chutes for the various Challenges in Philly, that we'd raised $3.8 million dollars. This was also after Lee Applbaum of RadioShack presented the LAF with a very generous check.

In the 100 Mile Chute
Though I was excited at the beginning, I also felt sick to my stomach. Nerves? Tension? Stress? Fear? All of the above? I can't tell you. But I definitely didn't lettem see me sweat, and I put on my happy face on the outside. I'd ridden the day before, put in about 16 miles, and my back was feeling a bit strained, but not awful. I'd fueled up the night before, though I did indulge with my protein - had lamb (darn you, Dave & Billy for taking me to an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant with irresistible fatty meats!) - which I presumed was why my tummy was extra nervous. But, then again, I was very concerned that my nursing my back had impacted my training to the point my legs could handle the distance, but my back couldn't handle the course. And, when Lance said the hills are tough, and I was expecting flats, well, anxiety kicks in.

Adrenaline and the 3,000 other riders sent me at a blistering pace (or, maybe that's what happens when Lance starts a ride off... ) and my cyclometer was reading 23, 25 and 27 mph. And I was being passed on the left. We were riding 6-9 abreast at the beginning - the roads were cleared. It was amazing. I've heard about the sound of a professional peloton - that it sounds like an on-coming train. And here I was, part of that train of cancer-kickers, hammering the pedals. The clicking of the gears sounded like an old black and white movie featuring a steno pool. The whirring of the wheels spinning reinforced the fact that I was now in the middle of what "drafting" is all about. Our joint momentum was literally pushing me forward and pulling me up slopes with ease.

After a few miles, though, the slopes evolved into hills, ever increasing in pitch and length. I was not prepared for this. Though the peloton thinned out, there was still momentum and I was riding 15-18 mph uphills. Back was straining a bit, but legs felt fine. Then the real hills started. And there was a crash ahead of me. While, of course, I stopped to see if the woman was ok, I secretly gave myself a break to restart up a pitch that wasn't Rica-friendly. I walked with her while I stretched the back to test how it was doing for a few yards. Pinching wasn't the feeling I wasn't, but that's what I got.

I clipped back in, and I found that I was now trailing the 100 mile peloton, and amid stragglers from the 100 mile. I could look behind me and see the aggressive 70 milers were approaching. I clipped in and kept moving on. But, let's just say there was a payoff for stopping and being in the gap.

I found myself in between two groups of riders, and I was riding solo for a mile or so. We hit a flat area, with a slight hill approaching. All of a sudden, on the opposite side of the road, I see a motorcade approaching - 2 police motorcycles, lights flashing, a black SUV, a gap, and a second black SUV. The gap was suspicious, and, as we approached one another, I see that's not any ordinary gap. There are 4 cyclists, in black kits. One has a white helmet, and Oakley jawbones. It's the Boss. Lance. I'm approaching Lance Armstrong. On a bike. And I'm alone. Now, I see Lance is nodding at the riders ahead of me and acknowledging them, but I don't see or hear any verbal exchanges.

This is not the actual thumbs up.
But I didn't have a camera, so this is as good as it gets.
And he was riding with much cooler folks than Landis.
He rode with College, Bart Knaggs and a member of the U23 team.
As Lance approaches me, (because, let's face it, he's going faster than I am - I may as well have been a brick wall), he looks up, looks me in the eye, says, "Hey, Great job! Keep it up!" and gives me a thumbs up. I, goofily, reply, "Uh, thanks! You too!" Needless to say, my pace upped, and I rode up that slope pumping hard.

Lance must have had an "in" with the weathermen, because soon after, the heavens opened up and we were not showered, or merely rained on, we were pounded with rain. I took of my lenses, as they were collecting more water than good and fogging up, and, riding barefaced, I couldn't see - the rain stung my eyes. My shoes collected so much water, with every downstroke, I could see water coming back out of my shoes by my ankles. And then the real hills hit, and more and more riders were walking.

My hair got all mussed up.
The 100-mile ride was canceled due to torrential downpours and possible lightning. 20 miles in, the hills took their toll on my back, even with walking. I went to a medic who said she knew the course well and I asked for her opinion. I told her I don't mind hurting for the next day or two, or "suffer" like we cyclists love to do, but I didn't want to re-injure myself. She determined that my back hadn't healed enough from injury to be able to sustain riding the profile any further without sustaining further damage, and I was already at risk of having re-aggravated the sprain. A SAG wagon was called, and another rider and I were driven back towards the finish line. But, we decided we were not going to finish on 4 wheels, but on 2. So, we were dropped off along the way, and we rode back in. And I did it with an angry vengeance. I hit 23 mph once more, sprinted at the end until they stopped us in the chute.

By end of day, soaked to the bone, chilly and sore, I clocked in 35 miles. A far cry from the 100 I was determined to ride.

But sometimes it just isn't meant to be.

So, now, with even more determination, my goal is set to ride the full 90-miles in Austin, TX and to meet my $15,000 fundraising goal so I can fly the kids out to face the LIVESTRONG Challenge and for Zach to ride with me.

In Philly, I rode for Ryan Weiss and my Gramma. Gramma and Ryan will remain on my bike, but who will join them in Austin?

For sure, Carolyn Davis, Lisa Allison and Darlene Berggren, three AMAZING Mary Kay sisters, two of whom have come out winning the battle against cancer, one falling before she had a chance to fight. Tal Friedman, Scott Joy, Jody Schoger, Debbie Thomas, Lynn Lane, and many other fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders and supporters who are fighting, surviving and thriving. I will ride for Michael Patrick, who has been picking a fight with cancer for years, and, as much as he could, riding EFTA races for the Gary Fisher 29er mountain bike racing Crew. I will ride for my Aunt Carol, who beat cancer. I'll ride for David Breakstone, Nancy Leferman and Jonathan Singer, part of my Bi-Cultural family. I'll ride for many others, with their names pinned to me, mounted on the walls, and elsewhere.

But I'll also be riding for you. One day, whether directly or indirectly, you'll be affected by cancer. 1 in 3 will fight the disease personally. 28 million are fighting right now.

I ride for you, in hopes that one day, you never will have to fight. As Lance said to us on Sunday, one day, we'll be able to ride for ANOTHER cause, because cancer will be a thing of the past.

Help me win this fight. Please consider a donation today, or pass this blog onto someone that you think might be interested in supporting the cause. I have a LONG way to go - almost $10,000 to go - to hit my fundraising goal to support the LAF.


Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Lance Armstrong Foundation.

More photos from the day can be seen on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/39868920@N05/sets/72157624665967471/.

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