I wonder sometimes if I make these athletic events such big mile markers because they have mile markers themselves. This century ride was a serious privilege. As I checked into the hotel I crashed into Amy Dodson (http://blog.livestrong.org/2010/04/23/amy-dodson-one-leg-one-lung-100-miles/) who I had met briefly in Austin. We agreed to go running the next day and she wanted to both run and cycle longer than I had intended to since she’s training for an ironman. I accompanied her and was impressed… she has a great humility to her. I posted her blog on my facebook and my mom who knows I’ve ran 5 marathons and 5 half marathons was finally inspired to sign up for her first half…
I went to the booths to pick up my packet and met the UT kids from the Austin 4000 (http://www.texas4000.org/) and was thoroughly impressed with the character and maturity of these kids who are riding 4000 miles to fight cancer. Somehow the fact that I was going to ride 100 the next day seemed a lot smaller… But it was just a weekend of great characters, people who had formed different teams from the area, who were riding in honor of someone, in memory of someone, as survivors themselves. I ran and rode with someone with Amy who is missing part of one leg, I met with someone who rode a very modified bike so that they were able to because of some of their medical issue. I met a woman who was not a cyclist at all but whose son was a serious one who was riding 100 miles on tandem with her to celebrate her success over breast cancer (he was a serious enough cyclist to where on the ride he would pass me going up hill).
I’ve done some Livestrong and Brain cancer related events for a while now… trying to “pay back” the people who saved my life… but this was the first weekend where I felt more comfortable with this being part of my permanent identity. Some of the awkwardness and uncomfortableness I’ve had seemed to be far more faded and I tried to embrace two big parts of the speech that Amy shared… to those who much is given, much is expected and our scars are a symbol of our courage. I mentally rode with my aunt who passed away from cancer in mind, with a sticker to remind me of the little girl who I’d taught to bike through this process. I even had some fun with it and because of a certain donation I had to shave my legs. I’ve always had plenty of respect for the female gender but it grew exponentially with 4 razors and over an hour to take away 30 years worth of hair…
Like I do before every event… I laid out my gear Friday night. When this all started, showing some scars which are still healing but much closer than they ever have been, I had joked that this bike that was lent to me was about what an engagement ring should cost so I was committed. Then I realized that in the gear there was something old (the gear I’d been training with), something new (the new Livestrong helmet ), something borrowed (the bike itself) and something blue (my road id medical bracelet), it seemed like proper gear to be having at the end of the training and the beginning of the road. My heart is still healing from all of the messes from the last year… Interestingly enough I met someone who had made “gold ring bands” out of the Livestrong bracelet. I remembered the comment I’d made that if I ever propose again it would be with Livestrong gear… she immediately gave me a new ring. I’ve put in a safe place for now.
The ride itself was both easier and tougher than I expected. It started out very cold and I shook for the first 10 miles… one of the Texas 4000 girls offered me their jacket… it took all the machismo I had to say no. I didn’t have music like I do with running and after mile 71 each stroke was longer than I had ever done. I was afraid of stopping since I was afraid of not being able to get back on the bike but I didn’t want to make rookie mistakes so I rode with various people till about the halfway mark because they were smart and took the power stops and I just refilled the water bottles…I was averaging about 17.5 miles an hour for that first half… I rode with a girl from the Texas 4000 for the first 20 miles, with a 6 year survivor for another 10, with someone who had so many names in memory of on the back of him for 10 more. I didn’t feel the need to stop at mile 60 but was out of water but one of the kids from the Texas 4000 said they were going to stop anyway and traded me water bottles. So there was essentially no stopping in the second half.
Then riding on my own, trusting the training that Chris Brewer had provided I kept stepping it up the second half to finish in a total time of 5:20 about a 19 mile an hour overall pace. I had set a goal of finishing between 5:30 and 6:00 to have a good time but the bigger goal, learning the lesson from Boston, was to have a “good time.”For the first time ever (I tried to take the turns and downhills fast and not be too scared of the helmet not staying in “new” condition. I pulled off both almost only hitting the break once).I loved the ride but the muscles hurt…sometimes love don’t feel like it should because it hurts so good. I went in fist in the air and screaming to my heart’s content about finishing my first century. It was awesome.
I am going to miss the bike and the cycling… but it gave me some quiet reassurance that like new life with a disease you never saw coming and life changes left and right you would have bet tons of money against… that maybe just maybe something new that you never saw coming and couldn’t possibly imaging learning how to do, much less do well, can go okay. I thanked the Livestrong staff and said something that I needed and need to acknowledge that if I had listened to more of their guidance like turning to one of their connections for the emotional success of both my family and me and not just the logistical and medical items, I’d have done far more right. Life has changed and will probably continue to. It’s an incredibly unpredictable adventure where I’ve had to learn skills I never knew I was missing and rode through things I never expected… and each one that was successful was where I let more experienced people guide me. This was a skill I didn’t have until recently (and that I am nowhere near being good at), a course I’d never seen some with new friends and some with old ones all due to the second chance that I’ve been given. A rather big one in my opinion… I hope and pray I can do what’s required with it.