You ride easily over the starting area. The first ten miles are lightly rolling hills, and you can feel your legs, the power in them that you've built over this season's training. You trained hard this year, and it is paying off already. You realize you've forgotten only one thing, but it could be major. You're a redhead and you've forgotten sunscreen. It's still early, so the sun is barely up, and you're relatively sure they'll have sunscreen at the first rest stop. You choose not to worry about it just yet. One of the things you have learned is that the people who do well in this event are adaptable and tend not to panic. Check and check.
At the first rest stop, you drop off to get sunscreen and they do indeed have some. And, of course, the booth is manned by a redhead, who immediately sets about scolding me for not having any on. "Don't forget you're ears," she says to you. She realizes your mother is not hear to make sure you get them. On the whole, Lance's sunscreen is awful. It never, ever soaks into the skin. It just lays on your arms, legs and face with a pale white covering. You quip to the volunteer that it's a good thing this is not a beauty contest. On the plus side, for the remainder of the day, you will not need to reapply a single time. It is both wonderful and terrible.
The first stop is also an opportunity to regroup. Your friend George is hurting, can't get the legs under him for the ride. He can't figure out what it is, and you're equally confounded, as you know he has done some decent riding in preparation for this event. He is hurting to the point where he decides to cutoff at 20 miles, the legs simply unable to do what his mind and spirit are trying to will them to do. You remain puzzled for the rest of the day about exactly what just happened.
You catch up to your brother, Pat, and ride with him for a while, talking about his one-year-old twins and the joys and terrors and general sleeplessness of parenthood at that age. It's a juggling act, and you remember back to when your own daughter was that age. It was so long ago, before cancer, actually,. Sometimes you divide your life into pieces like this, before and after cancer. Most of the time, though, you're just grateful there is an after cancer, so you can ride with your brother and talk about his kids.
At the 45 mile cutoff, your takes a left and heads for home, for his children, while you stand up and rise to the next hill. Jennifer and Sean are up ahead somewhere, and you're confident you'll see them soon. You pedal a bit harder now, the 10.00 cutoff looming in your head. You still find time to toss BUTNZ! to the people who have come out to support the ride, especially the kids, waving like maniacs and cheering us all on. And, the cowbell people, who support you every year with their encouragement.
You speak with survivors who are riding with you. Like Tracy, the four year survivor of Ewings Sarcoma, a cancer that attacks the tissue and bone of your body. You speak with Ron who tells you he is a testicular cancer survivor. You ask him, "Did you lose Lefty or Righty?" He is taken aback until you explain you lost Lefty and he says, "I lost Righty, so I guess between us we make a whole man." You say simply, "I suspect together we make a great deal more than that" and he nods in tacit agreement. There is Carl, a runner who got the biking bug and now rides in events like this because he is in love with cycling. He wears the Navy jersey in support of his brother, who is in San Diego on active duty, and he talks about how much he misses him because they were always so close.
You also see people you know from previous rides. Jon's Crew rides in memory of Jonathan a young man who passed away. You see Jim, who fought with you through the last stages of last year's ride, over the last hills through driving rain, each of you encouraging the other. He has added another year under his brain cancer survivorship belt.
On and on it goes, thousands of people on a single road, pedalling to fight cancer because of these stories. Eventually, you catch up with Sean and Jenny, and you start focusing on making the cutoff. It's going to be close. Sean pulls for you for a bit, then tells you just to GO FISH GO! You race ahead to try to make the cutoff so they will let you ride the 100 mile course.