Sophocles once wrote, "Knowledge must come through action; you can have no test which is not fanciful, save by trial." When I was diagnosed with cancer, I went to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Testicular Cancer Resource Center (Mrs Fish found that one!)and even the government's National Cancer site (where I logged on as a doctor to find out what the doctor's know). I knew I needed to know everything about this disease. When I showed up at the radiation oncologist's office, he said, "I think you know more about the disease than I do."
This year, I attacked the course for the LiveSTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia the same way. I looked at the maps, the terrain and tried to remember last year's ride (IT'S NOT A RACE!!!!). One of the amazing things I remember from last year were the hills. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them. This year, I focused on where they were, what it took to get over them, where the tricky ones were that make you think there's a downhill around the corner. Like Eddie Murphy's ice cream, it's just a giant pssssyyyyyyyche.
Around mile thirty, there is a sizable hill. I remembered it from last year, and I was ready for it. Around mile fifty-five, there is a one-mile climb that will absolutely brutalize you. I was ready for it. This is not to say that I didn't hurt, feel pain going up the hills. A guy named Bob came up on a Klein next to me on the one-mile climb, and tried to coach me through it. While I appreciated the sentiment, and I knew what he was trying to do, I just said to him, "I need to focus on this right now. Really." Then I retreated to what my friend Eric calls his "Pain Cave" and pedalled away. At the top of that climb, I saw Bob again and he congratulated me.
The other bonus at the top of that one-mile climb was the Landis Inn and party. This year, it had special meaning because my buddy Kurt (more on him later) was riding with me, and that was his mother's maiden name. He wasn't expecting it, nor was he expecting the party at the top of the climb. I was. They make homemade chicken soup (yes, please!), hot dogs (no thanks), and the world's coldest peach. This was new for this year. There is nothing like climbing a mile in 88 degree heat, cresting the hill, pulling in and eating the world's coldest peach. God himself came down and delivered that peach to me, I am assured.
The last forty miles were amazing. I rode with Dave, who was three months out of treatment, his arm still scarred from the surgery, his hair still growing back. When I asked why he was riding so soon after his surgery, he said, "I just want to show cancer it picked the wrong guy [Now where have I heard that before?]. This is my way of saying *%$# you, cancer!"
At mile 80, we were at a rest area/refueling station when a guy came in. He pulled off to the side of the road and collapsed. We saw it, and I ran over to see if he was okay, saw he was not and ran to get a volunteer (running in cycling cleats....there's a visual). The volunteers and I got ice-cold compresses on him and cooled his body temperature while the doctors were called to the site. It was not the first disaster we saw. Earlier, there was a scene where, I suspect, someone went over the edge of the course on a downhill. Knowing the course, and what it demands of you, is essential to completing it.
I know the course like I know the disease. You can prepare for everything. You can expect the unexpected. And even then, there are surprises. Some are good. Some are bad. But if you train your mind, your body, your spirit, your soul, you will prevail. Luck favors the prepared.
Knowledge is Power.
Attitude is Everything.