Sunday, August 22, 2010

LIVESTRONG Challenge 2010


With very tired legs and a body to match, I arrived at the hotel shortly after midnight and was asleep by 1:00 a.m. I got up at 5:00 a.m. and headed out of the hotel to Montgomery County Community College for check-in at 6:00 a.m. And no breakfast.

I went to get my ride packet and the volunteer handed me a jersey. That's all. Thankfully another volunteer corrected her and told her that I get level C (jersey) and the gifts with levels A and B too. But I didn't get the iPod and will dispute that with them afterwards.

Last year I checked in and they rang cow bells and made an announcement that I raised $2900. It was actually more.

This year I raised $5,000 and nothing. Sort of disappointing.

I returned to my car and started assembly of my jersey. I wore the new LIVESTRONG jersey and added my race bib, my honor bib, my memory bib, and my survivor bib. Before I rode I posted a picture of my bibs on Facebook with this heading "Really wish we didn't need these events." Then I made my way to the start line.

There I could hear Lance Armstrong address the crowd but could only see the back of the stage and his legs. He addressed the 3,300 cyclists and said that he looked forward to a day when we could gather and just ride. He said, "I really wish we didn't need these events."

After the comments from Lance, the ride went off at 7:40 a.m. It was announced that he would ride 100 miles but I heard he cut it short at 45. It was dry at the start but around Mile 20 it would start to rain and it rained steady and hard at times.

Some of my 3,300 Cancer-fighting friends

The start was slow, it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before I began moving even though the front of the 100-mile riders had already departed. The first 7-8 miles consisted of working my way farther and farther towards the front. I blew by the first two rest areas and reached the intersection of where the 70 mile group turns but the 100 mile group continues for 30 miles.

I was told that shortly after I went through the intersection that LIVESTRONG closed the 100 mile route. There weren't too many of us who got to ride 100 on the day. Call me lucky.

I was a little sore but not so much sore as simply without power. When I came to Landis Hill, the longest and steepest hill on the route I wanted to walk, like I saw others doing, but knew I couldn't. I had all the excuses -- Mount Washington, four hours sleep, a 12-hour drive, no breakfast -- but knew I had to keep going. And I did.

A number of people complained about the rain. My standard response was that fighting cancer isn't bright and sunny. Metaphorically speaking, I expect a rainy day.

I was most disappointed in that no one commented about my bib - FU Cancer. In a crowd of people who hated cancer, not one person. One did say "I like your bibs." And that was all.

When I saw the sign for 30 miles to go I started rehearsing what I would do when I crossed the finish line. Last year was tough. For many survivors who cross the finish line it is the end of a difficult journey. For me it was the realization that my journey was just beginning. And it was tough.
Rest stop at Landis Store, Pa.

Crossing the line as a survivor is emotional. I can't explain it but you can ride 99 miles and be fine and when you come to the finishing chute in the last mile it becomes very emotional. I wish for none of my friends to ever know what I'm talking about.

Today would be different. I was looking forward to crossing this finish line with positive emotions.

After riding all day with no power left in my legs (thanks, Mount Washington) at Mile 90 my legs came back. I started passing people. Tons of people. I both wanted this moment to last but yet wanted to get to the finish.

With one mile to go the sun came out. It would be the only time I would see the sun all day. I entered the right side of the chute for survivors. My final 200 meters went way too fast. Or I went way too fast. I hope they had photographers to capture the moment because I grabbed a rose and held it in the air and almost ran over some people who had stopped. Oops.

Must make it 100 miles

On the day the Challenge was only 97 miles. So I rode the extra distance, with the rose between my teeth, to make it 100. It had to be 100.

After I changed out of my soaking wet clothes, I went to the luncheon in the tent.  I wore my Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb shirt. Strangers came up to me to ask about the race. Was I doing it? (Yes, already did - yesterday.) What gearing  did I use? (24:28)  Did you know my friend rode it yesterday? (Uh, no, I don't think so.)

Wear a bid that says "FU CANCER" and none of the 3,300 cancer fighters wanted to acknowledge it. But put on a Mt. Washington shirt and strangers come up and talk. Even with people who hate cancer, they don't want to talk about it.

Right after I got back to the car a deluge occurred. Just another day fighting cancer.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations. I lose weight reading your blog. Really appreciate living through your achievements as I sit here in my lazyboy with my laptop on my laptop.