I woke up and rolled my bicycle out of the hotel, the swish of the doors closing behind me, hermetically sealing in my still-sleeping family. It was 6.00 am and the riders of Team Fish were arriving to the site, with me only minutes behind. The parking lot was glazed over with a light sheen from an evening rain, and the way the skies were lightening gave me the feeling that there was more on the way. I ran back inside, grabbed a couple of donuts from the continental breakfast, and then piled into my car. I changed my routine this year: I always lay out my complete ensemble the night before, meticulously accounting for everything I need and making sure it is exactly where I want it to be. In hindsight, I wish I had done it again Saturday night. The traffic was about the same as always, which meant that I was going to be right on time. But, upon pulling in, I really would have liked to have had more time to get things ship-top-shape and squared away.
This was my fourth tour of duty with LiveSTRONG and I was joined this year by my brother, Patfish Hunter (4th Tour): Kurt Fishmagic (3rd Tour); Papa Behr, the Patron Saint of BUTNZ! (1st Tour); Sean (2nd Tour, 1st with Team Fish) and Randy (1st Tour). I set a goal of six riders (the most we have ever had was four) and I was so glad these guys came out to ride with Team Fish this year. I contacted (a different) Kurt, the BUTNZ guru, and he designed and created pint glasses for the Team Fish riders, which I presented to them as a thanks for riding with me. It was like passing out really cool groomsmen's gifts, and they were very well received. Now all we had to do was pedal 100 miles to fill them.
Last year, Lance was at the World Cancer Summit, the beginning of an attempt to bring the nations of the world together to make collaboratively curing cancer a global concern. This year, he chose to spend the Sunday with us. The LiveSTRONG Philadelphia event offically kicked off with a great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by a local soul/jazz singer. Note to humans: when the Anthem is sung, one is to remove one's hat/helmet, stand still and at attention facing the flag (or the music, if you can't see the flag), and SHUT UP! KTHXBAI. Lance gave a speech about how much he appreciated 3,200 riders coming out and raising more than $3 million to fight cancer. He also stated that Philadelphia had significantly raised the bar in fund-raising, and that his home town of Austin now had some catching up to do. He finished up by saying that he really likes the Philadelphia course because it's a particularly challenging course. I think a lot of people kind of perked up at that. I heard more than one person say, "Wait. Did he say Challenging? Lance thinks this is challenging? What did I get myself into?" There was the obligatory safety speech, which I actually listened to, given the conditions. I think a lot of people gave it the same attention they do airline attendants and company webinars, and I wondered how many of them would later regret not listening.
And then it was time. We started rolling out over the names of riders, chalked into the road Tour de France-style, a reminder of just how many people were involved in this event. The crowd was huge and everyone was cheering for us. I was reminded of those scenes in war movies where the soldiers march out (there's a great one in Glory) and people are trying to pass on their strength and courage to the guys going into battle. It felt like that, I imagined, and then I realized that we are at war. And we're going to WIN! It actually gave me goosebumps (yes, again) to hear the cheers of all those people and to think of Team Fish and the support you gave this year, to look around at the riders of Team Fish, a bunch of guys who decided to give up a lot of time to train to do this, to fundraise, and then spend a Sunday riding in the rain with some fool who thought it would be a good idea three years ago and hasn't had the good sense to quit. I love TEAM FISH!
And out onto the course we rode....