Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on the Year - 2014


For the second straight year, a year of great riding was marred by the passing of a friend. I reached 5,000 miles in October but slowed towards the end due to tendonitis or a torn meniscus or both. But then found the will to suffer through a cold December to reach 6,000 miles.

In order of chronology, here are my top ten rides:

(1) Riding in Pennsylvania - Abandoned Turnpike and Ligonier - Riding with the 4K for Cancer has been fun the past three years and this year's adventure through the tunnels at Breezewood and on to Ligonier would be no exception. On both days I rode in small groups with Jamie Roberts who would die on the road in Kentucky 10 days later.


(2) Ride the Rockies (Multiple Entries) - My second time and it is a blast riding in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I missed the first day due to a wedding then extended by a day to ride over Berthoud Pass to Winter Green, Colorado, with Bradley Allen. But it was a somber ride as we had just received the news of Jamie's death.

(3) Stelvio Pass - I went to Italy with Trek Travel to ride in the Dolomites. I did not know much about these Italian climbs and I loved them all, none more than the 48 switchbacks one must navigate to climb over Stelvio Pass.

(4) Three Country Ride - Imagine a ride starting in Switzerland, going into Germany, then to France, back to Germany
and ending in Switzerland. I did that in July with friend, Ben Zahler.

(5) Crater Lake and Alex - I planned to ride around Crater Lake, Oregon, and to ride with 12 year-old, Alex Shepherd. I achieved one of those. I rode around Crater Lake (it was awesome) but was at least able to visit with the Shepherd family even if we didn't ride.

(6) Home Sweet Home - I'm about as native Pennsylvanian as one can be except that my grandmother was born in Oregon in 1907 (and then moved back to Pa.). She never returned but I did, doing a 50 mile ride in and around Sweet Home, Oregon.

(7) Washington - I promised Chey Hillsgrove that if he did the 4K again I would meet him at the finish. On their next-to-last day, I met the 4K in Port Townsend, Washington, and rode 45 miles with them as part of a 70-mile day. And I went over 24,906 miles cancer-free (should that be a separate entry?).

24,906.25 miles - Cancer-free

(8) Mt Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb - My seventh straight year up the mountain, I came that close to not going. But I was encouraged by my daughter, Ashley. I didn't push myself, we had the worst weather in seven years, but I can't say that I really suffered. All that riding in Colorado and Italy must have been good for something. And we saw a moose. Or two.

(9) Livestrong Challenge
- Great weather and great company, I didn't ride 100 miles but it wasn't about the miles. It was about riding for Jake The Hero Grecco and Alex Shepherd.

(10) Ride of Silence - I learned on June 14 that Jamie Roberts was killed and as I rode with Bradley Allen up Berthoud Pass in Colorado I thought about organizing a Ride of Silence for Jamie. That came to fruition on October 26, two days after Jamie's 25th birthday.

I am thankful for every ride, for every day of health. I don't know what 2015 holds outside trying to organize a ride for to raise money for children's cancer research. This I do know: the rides that become my "Top Ten" are rarely expected, rather something happens on the ride that makes them so memorable.

Peace and safe riding!


Cold December Riding


There's not a Top Ten ride in here. There's no great performance rides in here although the day after Christmas I had a personal best in D.C. And I had one on the W&OD near Leesburg. But riding this month wasn't about performance.

Ashburn, Va. To left turn or not to left turn.

December should be a slow month. It is a cold month and this month was cold.

Train Station in Benson (Holsopple) Pa.

On June 2 I rode with Jamie Roberts near Bedford, Pa. We were talking about many things. She asked me how far I normally ride (year). I told her I like to get around 6,000 miles. But I was off to a slow start (then on pace for less than 3,500 miles). I expressed my doubt. She said "I think you can do it."
W&OD decorated for Christmas, Herndon, Va.

I didn't promise Jamie I would get to 6,000 miles. I sort of shrugged and we talked about eating at Panera in Altoona. 

The Grinch, Vienna, Va.

Going into December I was far off pace when I remembered that conversation. So I rode. And rode.

David Vito, Barry Sherry
Reston, Va.

In one stretch of 11 days I covered 400 miles. I fought the winds but mostly the cold. December miles are tough miles. But I covered more in December than in January, February, March, April or November. I rode the same distance (592 miles) that I rode in May.

Early morning on W&OD, Dunn Lorring, Va.

The day after Christmas, inspired by our conversation of six months ago, I reached that "goal" that I never really set out to achieve.

Four Mile Run Trail, Alexandria, Va.

It took a lot to ride long miles in December. An hour in the cold is OK. But two to three (or longer) and it's just cold. Fingers freeze. You think about being cold.

Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Many people ask me how far do I normally ride. I never know what to say. My average ride this year was 27 miles. In other years I think I was around 26 miles. But I don't ride every day.

Can you guess what this is?

In December my average ride was 33 miles. That's two hours, without stops, being outside in the cold. But I stopped. I took a lot of photos. By contrast, my average November ride was 21 miles. June was my best month, 39 miles per ride, but that was bolstered by six days of Ride the Rockies in which the average daily ride was 71 miles.

Stoney Creek, Hooversville, Pa.

Many of my descriptions of my December rides include the word "cold." Yet I kept riding. I am sure it was my "best" December ever and if November through February constitute cold-weather months, it was my best cold weather month ever.

Stoystown, Pa.

Almost 600 miles. Had I known today I was only eight miles short of 600 for the month I would have ... parked the bike anyhow. I was freezing.

Built 1813, Stoystown, Pa.

My "6,000" mile day was memorable in that I rode to Catholic University to honor Jamie. And my Pennsylvania ride on December 27 was pretty good. I forgot leg warmers and rode in the cold Pennsylvania air - planning to ride 10 but rode 27 miles - just an average ride in 2014.

The Miller Farm
Plank Road, Davidsville, Pa.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Biking Bahamas


It was my first cruise discounting the overnight ferries between Finland and Sweden. We flew into Orlando on Thursday and stayed at Walt Disney World's All Star Music Resort.

Swimming Pool at All Star Music Resort

On Friday morning, we met Ashley and Bryan, Annabelle and Sonora, for breakfast. We then boarded a bus for Port Canaveral to meet our ship, the Disney Dream.

Disney Cruise Line bus
Everything on board the ship was taken care of. Food and soft drinks were free and unlimited. There were three swimming pools and a couple of water slides. I even utilized the fitness center Sunday morning but there was one thing missing. No where to ride.

Sonora, Annabelle

In the fitness center were recumbent bikes but no upright bikes. I needed to ride. 

Deck 11 aboard Disney Dream

Castaway Cay is a private island leased by the Disney Cruise Line for use by their guests. After swimming for a while in the crystal-clear turquoise water I needed to go for a bike ride.

Beach at Castaway Cay

They had bike rentals on the island - $10 for one hour. All they had were "cruisers," many seemed to have rusted chains. I looked for one that had the best drive train and inflated tires.

There weren't a lot of places to ride. I followed a path to an old (inactive) runway to a special bike trail that was a one mile loop. At the end of the loop, back on the runway, I turned and followed the road as far as it would take me to the ocean.

No longer an active runway. I hope.

I turned around and went back to the loop. I rode it again. And again. Then took the road

back to the beach. And back to the loop.

Part of the Bike Loop

I didn't ride fast but I was faster than anyone on a bike. (Or foot.) Many people haven't heard "on your left" or "passing" as they took up the entire road with their parties of two or three or four. I smiled. I was having fun. No big deal.

"Abandoned" Plane

After an hour I returned the bike. Apparently I was charged $10 for an hour but I sensed an hour could have been 240 minutes. But I don't know if I could have ridden that long on a cruiser. But regardless, it was a good day to be on a bike.

Returning to the ship


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jamie's Ride of Silence


On June 14 I was riding on Berthoud Pass with Bradley Allen, climbing on the lower section, tears in my eyes. Then I knew I had to have a Ride of Silence for Jamie Roberts. She had been killed the day before and I was numbed by the news.

The logistics were relatively simple. We weren't going to Kentucky so I made a decision to host it in Rockville. I had to wait for the 4K for Cancer to finish on August 9 so I was thinking mid-August. But Jamie's team, Team Portland, suggested a date near her birthday and, working with her family, we settled on this day.

Joanna Wang

I sought permission from Ride of Silence and they told me there is the one event every May 3 but we could have a Tribute Ride. And so it was that today was the Ride of Silence Tribute Ride for Jamie Roberts.

I had no idea how many to expect. I first thought we would have a dedication circle, 4K style, but upon seeing all the people, roughly 60, we instead brought everyone into a circle, with their bikes. I welcomed the group and gave instructions on the ride (keep silent and ride on!). Jamie's father, Bob Roberts, also thanked people and gave us more details on the route.

Although Team Portland brought more than half of their team, I asked Shelby Perkins to read a modified version of the Ride of Silence Poem. Shelby was also a 4K alum, Team Seattle, but was a college classmate and teammate of Jamie's as well.

Barry Sherry, Anthony Venida

Today we number many but we'll ride as one
To remember Jamie whose ride is done

Our helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow

The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering her we held so dear

Today's ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share

To Jamie -- not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride

(Credit/paraphrased from Ride of Silence Poem, by Mike Murgas)

Rock Creek Park

And then - I forgot to add a moment of silence! I suppose it wasn't necessary since we would ride for the next hour in silence but I still wanted to do that.

We started on Bauer Drive then rode towards Rock Creek Park. It was beautiful looking back and not seeing the end of the riders. 

Passing Jamie's house

We reached Rock Creek Park and tried to maintain double file on the path since going to single file may cause a traffic jam. As we came upon a walker, Bob, who was riding side by side with me, coughed loudly to get their attention. Later, as we came upon a couple stretched across the path I announced we were coming by with a funeral procession on bikes. The guy laughed! I imagine he was embarrassed when he saw our silent procession, with black arm bands and lights flashing.

As we entered Jamie's neighborhood there were a couple of hearts drawn on the street with Jamie's name. As we passed her house we saw a 4K Flag and signs for 4K JR and Jamie Love.

Ariana Staffen, Julia Roberts

We rode at 10 mph and complete the 10 mile loop in one hour. Back at the school we gathered once more. Bob spoke and hugged every single rider. He asked for anyone to talk and called on me - and I was deep in personal thoughts to share with him, so I declined. But Shelby spoke and then we started saying our goodbyes.

Jackie Weiss, Shelby Perkins, Rachael Callahan, Eric Tien

Both Team Seattle and Team Portland asked me to meet them for lunch. Team Seattle was first which is the one I accepted but wish I could have gone with both groups.

Bob Roberts

It was an amazing day honoring Jamie. Friends, especially her Team Portland teammates, some "strangers" (other 4K alumni that had not met her), some of the Key to Keys riders, and total strangers joined her family in riding for her today. 

4K Alimni
Front - Caitlyn Epps, Katie O'Rourke
Middle - Walt Drennan, Ashley Arnold, Mitchell William Parrish, Emily Lipsitz,
Shelby Perkins, Chelsea Johnson
Back - Taylor Mulkerin, Ariana Staffen, Anthony Venida, Margreteh Williams, Dan Johnson, Jackie Weiss, Adam
Wedekind, Rachael Callahan, Chey Hillsgrove, Eric Tien, Joanna Wang, Chris Blazer, Emily Lake

I could feel Jamie's presence in the wind and how the leaves fell. Complete silence except for the crunching of leaves under the wheels. I wish we didn't have to have this ride but since the events of June 13 were tragically real, it was great to honor her.

Chey Hillsgrove, Barry Sherry

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's Not About the Miles


This was about the LIVESTRONG weekend. Saturday morning I went to Mellow Johnny's, Lance Armstrong's bicycle shop, where I had reserved a bike for the Challenge. Reservation was simple and efficient. I recommend working with Peter Finklea, the Rentals Manager and I'd gladly rent there again. 

I went over and met Will Swetnam and six other guys from Cyclists Combating Cancer at the Grand Hyatt. We rode five or six miles to Ruby's, a country store / gas station / BBQ. That was a good lunch. As a first-timer they let me sample their "three main food groups:" Juicy beefy brisket, lean brisket, or turkey. I went with the lean brisket.


After lunch at Rudy's we went over to the LIVESTRONG headquarters for packet pickup. As part of Cyclists Combating Cancer I was happy to find the room dedicated to our CCC group.

Cyclists Combating Cancer Room at LIVESTRONG

In the evening I attended the LIVESTRONG Awards dinner since I was part of Cyclists Combating Cancer, the top fund raising team. Unlike past dinners, I wouldn't say there were headline speakers (no Lance Armstrong) but everyone, especially the award recipients, moved the audience.
Look- it's the Movember Guys

I stayed after and spoke with outgoing President/CEO, Doug Ulman. He was kind enough to pose with my new Team Alex jersey, in honor of Alex Shepherd.

It was a late night, a short night, and a very early morning. I was out of the hotel at 6:00 a.m. At check-in Saturday, the volunteer had encouraged me to get to the $500 threshold. I was at $240 at the time and he told me to come back Sunday. I have some wonderful friends who donated and thus I had earned a backpack overnight. I needed to get there early and pick it up before the event.

At the Challenge I was joined by Vanessa Beltran. She refereed for me five years ago and rode in the Texas 4000 from Austin to Anchorage this summer. We signed up to ride 100 miles. 

Or maybe I should say I signed up for 100 miles. I love distance riding and there's something about going the distance in a cancer ride. But Vanessa hadn't ridden her bike since August 8, the day she finished her ride in Anchorage.

Just a rider and his dog

We rolled out with the 100-mile group. We passed many and were passed by many. We caught one of the speakers from last night and rode with him and his friend. We would see them throughout the day. They were also signed up for the 100 miles.

Kathryn and Vanessa

At the first rest, Vanessa saw a 4K for Cancer rider go through and pointed her out. Once we were on the road, we first caught Kathryn Flowers, a staffer with the Texas 4000. After riding a while with them, I excused myself and went ahead to catch the 4K Rider.

Vanessa, Alaknanda

I noticed her jersey and as I pulled up beside her I said "4K Seattle 2013 -- that would be Bradley Allen's group." Alaknanda Renukuntla, who went by "Lucky," looked at me in surprise. After chatting for a few minutes she told me that Bradley said "if you don't already know Barry, you will one day."

We rode into Rest Stop #2 which was a Texas 4000 Rest Stop. We met a number of the 2015 team.Vanessa was having a great time meeting them. Vanessa loved the rest stops and she took every opportunity to ask volunteers and riders their stories. And that is what the ride is really about.

Texas 4000 Rest Stop

The weather was great. It was about 70 degrees with a cloud cover as we rolled out. It didn't burn off until more than half way through the ride and even then, reached the mid 80s.

I like this course. Two years ago I averaged almost 18 mph on the 100 miles including 22 mph for the last hour. And today I felt good. I certainly had 100-120 miles in my legs. I was enjoying reminding Vanessa of that. And she reminded me she hadn't been on a bike in two months.

Dell's Angels rest stop was right behind this building

The final time for a reminder was at the "Biker Bar" rest stop, Dell's Angels. There was a sign there announcing we had to be at the 4th stop by 10:30 a.m. to ride the 100 mile course. It was six miles away, the time was 10:06 a.m . By averaging 15 mph for 24 minutes, we could make it.
What cramping looks like

She would spend more time at the rest stop.

We rolled ahead to the 4th stop and I counted down the seconds to the 10:30 cutoff. We missed it by a minute. At the stop we met students from the Hispanic Student Association at the University of Texas. We talked to them about why we are riding. We talked about Jake and Alex and the students seemed surprised that kids would have cancer.

We had missed the cutoff but I was already resigned that 65 miles would be enough. We had an excellent conversation with the Grassroots winner and enjoyed talking to the people volunteering at the rest stops.

Logan Debord, Barry Sherry, Vanessa Beltran
Credit: Logan Debord

Talking about the battles was more important that cranking out the miles. Our friends, the Grassroots winner who talked about his wife, Brianne, also decided that it's not about the miles and decided to ride 65 instead of 100.

Buda, Texas

Until Thursday's ride which I unexpectedly rode 55 miles, I thought I would need 100 miles to reach 5,000 for the year. But I came in needing just 46 miles and would get it no matter which route we would ride.

5,000 Miles. Or Close Enough.
Before cancer I didn't track mileage other than look at the odometer on my bike. Unless the battery died, the odometer method worked great and I never had to record anything. But using a Garmin it became necessary to use a log. When I returned from treatment in 2010 I started tracking mileage. And while mileage was never a goal, 5000 miles just seemed to be the right number for me. In 2010 I reached it on the LIVESTRONG Challenge course - Philly. It wasn't during the August event but I drove there in late November to reach 5,000. And today it would be during an actual LIVESTRONG event.
Buda, Texas

I did not wear a Survivor's bib. Five years ago in Philly I wore the bib. I needed to be a survivor. I needed to let the world know I was going to be a survivor. But today was about Alex. And Jake. And a ton of other friends.

At the finish line the survivors are recognized. It was the only time I allowed myself to be a survivor.

Five years ago I was choked with emotion. Today I was all smiles.

Waiting for me at the finish was a volunteer, Haley Gold. She was at the dinner with us, she's an intern at LIVESTRONG, and also rode with the Texas 4000 this summer in Vanessa's group. We saw her this morning as we rolled out at 7:30 and she waited for us, for me, to finish. It was very meaningful that she was the one the presented me with a rose.

It was a day I felt good. If I didn't have the rental bike which needed to be returned, I may have ridden 20 miles back to Buda, turned around, and finished with 100.

But instead we went to the LIVESTRONG lunch in the tent. And met other riders.

We also honored friends who are battling or have won their battles and escaped this hideous disease.

Erin Bishop once said "you always ride for Jake." I do and I always will.

It was a day to remember my friends who passed. I lost a good friend, Joe Petrucelli, this past year. And to honor those who are battling. Good thoughts for Marilyn Chiodo and George Born. Katie Bugge. Brad Lawmaster. Ned Lowmaster. Patricia Lawmaster. Elaine B. And so many more...

And today was especially for Alex. Twelve years old and battling. I can't imagine. I am hoping that next year he can come here, or to Davis, and get his own yellow flower.

And I'll be riding with him.

Source: Kreutz Photography