Monday, October 21, 2013

Centurions

I’ve joked that since this year I’d done an obstacle race and become a Spartan, done 26.2 miles and become a marathoner and now I would go out and ride 100 miles and become a Centurion. These were all soldiers of old battles and ancient empires but in the end they fought for life as they best saw fit. So, I for a guy who commutes on a bicycle, I’ve actually only done 3 organized rides all 100 milers for Livestrong.
Centurions were the top of the ancient army and they became that way in many fashions. But this weekend, it was a privilege to be surrounded by Centurions. There is no great way to compare the ancient centurions with any modern army because in the Roman empire, Centurions could gain their position for a feat of valor like being the first over a wall, they could be elected, or appointed. They could also be promoted from the ranks for a variety of reason but most of them were significant acts of valor. And that’s what this weekend was like, a variety of valiant men and women some strong connections, some looser ones but with a common enemy of cancer and it’s side effects and the need/comfort of being part of a community that was focused just as much about living strong right now as they were about avoiding death.Some were there as all but full time volunteers, some as staff, some as enthusiastic cheerleaders. 

I got to attend some Livestrong events and like the honest folks I’ve always known them to be they acknowledged the difficulties of the last year but showed that their strength and resolve is about moving forward. There were men there who cried tears as manly as they came to terms dealing with the fact that even as they celebrated an anniversary of their cancer defeat their wife had just been diagnosed. There was a young man with brain cancer that I had met at the first century that with all that was going on was not attending school this semester because of growth and treatment. His parents were optimistic and hopeful, open about their hurt. At the Livestrong dinner, they were selling shirts that said Jimmy Strong and appropriately enough, he was the one that started the ride on Sunday. I got to be part of the dinner by having been invited to be on the team that had raised the most money. I raised a few hundred dollars for this event since I mostly focus on the running events since that’s my forte but I tried to have some humor about it and like my first century shaved my legs like a true cyclist. Between that and the Hawktober Mohawk, I couldn’t ask to be more aero dynamic. The simple truth is even on my best fundraising day I can’t hang with some of those guys and their connections for fundraising and on Sunday… well I couldn’t hang keeping up with them on the bike. But it was a privilege to be a foot soldiers even if they were the Centurions of that army.
here were nods and tears for those who had passed in the last year, some who had fallen too quick, and others who well outlived their prognosis but still passed away much too young. There was one of the staff who was gearing up to do her first marathon in honor of someone who had passed away from brain cancer much much too young in their early twenties.

The ride itself was about perfect. I rode with some people who it was not more than a bike ride because they wanted a century in every state or one every month that year. I rode with someone who was witty enough on a steep hill to shout out to his friends as he passed me and them standing on his bike as he pedaled up on a hill: “See I still stand for Livestrong.”  I rode and chatted with people honoring their father, their mother, their friend, their child, some their own triumphs. Because I’m not that great of a rider and because it doesn’t take as much lungs as running does, some people who were my speed were doing shorter or longer distance or stopping but I got to chat with more people than usual, thus why I like the cycling events because I meet more people during the event. They have several water and food stops along the way but the weather was cold enough to where I only took one in the 100 miles and did the ride at about 18 miles an hour in just under 5:30 minutes, fastest one yet. Best part was that cancer finishers at the end of events get a special rose and mine was given to me from a lady who is a saint so much so that even her name means that. I'd met her at my first century ride last year and it made the finish that much sweeter.

Two friends who I’ve made along this journey brought a gift for Kiana, someone they’ve never met. And yet seem to take in as their own nice/granddaughter. And that’s the beauty of Livestrong and organizations like it… even as nods and tears were given to those who had passed, those recently diagnosed, we were sharing the frustrations of the side effects of this medication or this insurance problem or the horribleness of a disease that comes so randomly and sometimes so mean and pathetically aggressively. And even for people like me who are getting a break from treatment or who it’s stable or in remission or achieve full removal, there is a nervous worry about that those screwed up cells which have taken time, energy, emotion and worry are just being passive aggressive. But rather than mope with those worries, these centurions, these leaders of the fight against cancer’s current effects besides just the medical ones, they fight. They fight sometimes with money, sometimes with long rides, sometimes with jokes and sometimes with drinks and dancing and we know that even in the midst of those silences or not talking about it, that there is a comfort to standing in the presence of those who get it a little bit more than most people.

 Until/unless science gets better, I will have a cancer that has no known dietary, lifestyle, genetic or environmental components but I am grateful to Livestrong because they’ve given me tools, directions, inspiration to fight back with each of those elements. It was certainly acknowledged that because of a cyclists cancelled wins, it’s been a rough year but they aren’t anywhere near done doing good and being good at it. And I was proud to have ridden 100 miles for and with them because of the hundreds of people they have helped in hundreds of ways.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I am a Brazilian runner and journalist and I would like to interview you for Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil`s largest circulation newspaper. Please get in touch. My e-mail is rodolfo.lucena@grupofolha.com.br; my facebook profile: facebook.com/rodolfolucena or twitter.com/rrlucena

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