Thursday, August 27, 2009
LiveSTRONG 09: Cry Havoc!
"Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war"
And so we were off....like a herd of turtles. From past experience, I knew just to wait and let the throng clear out. When you get that many people, with bicycle skills that vary that widely, moving in roughly the same direction, it can be a recipe for disaster. I had an incident in (I think) my first LiveSTRONG where someone fell over while still clipped in. They fell sideways across my right leg and only an act of God kept it from breaking my leg or damaging my ACL. I honestly don't know how that did NOT happen. So, this year, we just let people ride out ahead.
As we started out, my neck was still stiff, and I worked on loosening it up a bit. My thoughts turned to a special piece of cargo I was carrying with me. I have a friend Phil, whose son Collin is fighting cancer right now. I printed pictures to carry with me in the event, recognizing at some point I would need his strength to be my strength. Collin is a cyclist, too, and someday I want to ride this event with him, in person. For now, though, his picture and his spirit.
As we passed the grandstand, the announcer was talking about people riding by. I shouted out to him as we rode by: "TEAM FISH!" He announced, "...and there goes Team Fish. Let's see if there as rowdy at the end of this thing!"
"Oh, you'll hear from us!"
Once out of the cattle chutes, the ride eases into the rolling hills of the area. We passed the areas where Pat got three flat tires in the first eight miles of our Inaugural LiveSTRONG. I can still see the grandmother and granddaughter rolling past us, encouraging us not to give up. We went through the first eight miles without incident, and I said a prayer of thanks.
We decided to blow past the first rest area, which is always a bit of a zoo anyway. The cowbells were out in force, for sure this year, and people were cheering and clapping as we went by. The enthusiasm of the crowds at the beginning of the ride are incredible, and something to be experienced. I ended up riding with a guy named Eric for a bit. Turns out he is a brain cancer survivor. The cancer he had forms a large cyst which then sends tendrils out across the brain. When he was diagnosed, he said he was cocky and declared, "I got this thing beat (beet?). Piece of cake." His neurologist/oncologist entered his brain and peeled every single one of the tendrils back, one-by-one. With his type of cancer, it's not the cyst that kills you, it's the rupturing of the tendril that leaks all of its toxicity into the brain, so this surgery was critical and very delicate. In the end, it was a success, and Eric just passed seven years. People ask why we haven't made advances against cancer, and I would argue the money we have spent and the things we have learned have taken us light-years ahead. I'm also sure Eric would agree.
Mark and Kurt rode on ahead, strong riders the two of them. Mark races cyclocross (look in the Bicycle Dictionary for cyclocross - you ride a racing bike on dirt, over barriers, around puddles: think steeplechase on a bike) and he's a tough competitor. Kurt is a tough guy who likes to ride, so the two of them were perfectly suited to ride together. I rode with my brother Pat, and it was good to reconnect with him. We talked about family and health and just rode together to the next rest stop, where Team Fish regrouped.
This rest stop came just in time for me. I wasn't tired or anything, but my neck pain had translated into a monster headache. I rolled in, past the fife and drum corps and cheering volunteers and grabbed a couple of ibuprofen. Sweet relief would (hopefully) soon be mine.
We got ourselves together and rode out, knowing that a hill, our first climb of the day, was coming up. Little did we realize WHO and WHAT was waiting for us....