Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Unity is Strength

The Iroquois League was a loosely knit group of Native American tribes who lived not far from my area of the country. There is a legend which talks about Peacemaker, who journeyed to all five of the local tribes: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. He asked them to stop fighting and learn to live in peace. He brought good fortune to each of his stops, and the people believed him until he got to the Onondaga. There, the Peacemaker met Tadadaho, who would not consent to the union with the others. The Peacemaker persuaded him to join the League by promising him that he could watch over the Council Fire, a position of respect and power.

When the leaders from the five nations reached the first League meeting, they brought their weapons with them. The Peacemaker had them bury their weapons under the Great Tree of Peace and told everyone who lived under the tree to look ahead for the sake of the League. Then, the Peacemaker gave each leader an arrow. He broke one to show that, apart from each other, they would be easily broken. Then, he bundled the arrows together and failed to break them; they would be strong, unbreakable, if they stood together.

And so it has been with Team Fish. Last year, I got left out alone on the back country and was broken. This year, we rode largely together...and all of us finished. Team Fish's riders featured a strong nucleus of people with one focus: no whining. There is nothing better than riding hard with people who don't whine.

For the second year, my brother Pat rode, this year stretching from 40 to 70 hard miles. The difference at the LiveSTRONG Challenge is much more than 30 miles. After the first 40, the terrain changes rapidly, but Pat (down 20+ pounds from last year!) faced it head on. He lost his phone...at the bottom of the aforementioned huge hill. He had to climb it from a dead stop. And, he did. And, because he's Pat, he HAD to have mechanical problems. His rear derailleur malfunctioned. Pat rode to the rest area, had a bike tech monkey-rig it enough that he could finish and gutted it out. To say that I am proud of him would be an understatement. I have a sneaking suspicion he is going to shoot for 100 next year, and he'll be down another 20 pounds...or more. And he will finish, just like he did this year--STRONG.

Riding for the first year with Team Fish was my cousin, Iron Mike Haws. Mike is from New Jersey. South Jersey, to be exact, an area which features terrain that makes South Florida look like the Rockies. And, because this was his first year, he had no way to gauge just how big the hills are. To say Mike had little opportunity (much less understanding of how) to train on hills would be a gross understatement. The biggest hill Mike faced in training was a bridge overpass. But, he gritted his teeth, bore down on the pedals and pushed himself up the hills, because that's what he does. He even rode up the one-mile climb, breaking it out when everyone around him was walking. Mike just said, "No" and kept on climbing. At the end, I could tell he was feeling it, but he just kept going without complaint. Mad respect, Iron Mike. Mad respect.

I have a buddy, Kurt Enck that I goaded into triathlons last year. Now he's getting hardware. I like roping Kurt into these insane plots of mine, because: 1)It's so easy and 2) He's always game for an adventure. The easy part was explained to me early on by his wife, with whom I worked. It seems Kurt has friends that are always asking him to come watch them do an event or some insane stunt. Sooner or later, like the proverbial cat, the curiosity gets the better of him, he starts thinking about doing the event and it snowballs (usually out of control) from there. I like Kurt because he's strong and also mentally tough. When things get a little dicey, he brings a youthful enthusiasm that is simply contagious. At one point, somewhere around mile 50, there was a group of guys from Jon's Crew riding with Kurt and me. We got a paceline going and were soon drawing through at 26+ miles per hour. Kurt hopped right in and joined it, even sprinting out at the end in a mad breakaway, shouting like we all used to when we were ten years-old, summers lasted forever and our biggest concern was catching the ice cream truck.

But this event is so much bigger than just those who ride with me. The real driving force is those who supported me, the real team Fish. We more-than-doubled last year's fund raising, hitting OVER $4,000!!!. You are the lifeblood of this effort, and to say that I couldn't have done it without you doesn't even begin to express it. I rode this year for your fathers and your mothers, your husbands and wives, for your sisters and your brothers, for your sons and your daughters. Many of them are still with us, having kicked cancer to the curb like the stupid bully it is. Some of them are no longer with us, having finally been beaten by cancer, but certainly not before they let it know that it was in for one long-assed, knock down, drag-out fight.

There are so many people to thank. My family, especially Mom and Dad, who could not be with me this year because of my Mom's illness, and the Haws family who came out to support us. My neighbors who supported me through the disease, and who now offer their support as I fight cancer on this front. My coworkers, who pushed me over the first $1,000 and forced me to shave my legs. The gang at JP Fitness, for your continued and unwavering support. The boys and girls of Beginner Triathlete, for your constant inspiration. Teh Lownje--God love you, you've brought more smiles to my face than I can count. The boys of Men's Group whose prayers surely helped me over more than one of those hills, and who sent God's angels to lift us when we needed it. To the Iowa contingent, Austin Powers rides strong. Kurt, a huge thanks for Teh BUTNZ! Thank you all for the cards, thoguhts, e-mails, prayers, PMs, and for inviting me into the most important parts of your lives.

I lead a blessed life. Sometimes, we don't realize how truly blessed we are until we almost lose it all. I was talking to my daughter today about the ride and she asked me why I do it. "Because, honey. Someday I hope that you'll be able to tell your kids about a disease that people used to get, called cancer."

Thanks, beyond my feeble attempts to thank you all. I love you.

Unity is Strength.
Knowledge is Power.
Attitude is Everything.

1 comment:

Mary said...

perfect ending - congratulations on a monumental achievement and for being a source of inspiration to me!