Friday, August 26, 2011
LiveSTRONG Ride for Five: Part III
You are riding hard now, trying to make the cutoff. You can feel the lactic acid building up in your legs, particularly on the hills. You remember your friend Kurt saying the world is flat when you're in a car. Not so much when you're on a bike. You're breathing a little heavier now, too, but you still labor onward, and also upward. You're in some bigger hills now, and trying to remember where the cutoff is, how far you still have to go, and you're trying to do the math in your head. Your head which has begun to ache. Badly.
You felt it coming on at the last rest stop and asked at the first aid station if they had Tylenol or ibuprofen. All they had was aspirin, and you're pretty sure it's just in case someone has a heart attack. You are not going to have a heart attack. But you're starting to feel like this headache could kill you. How does one run an event like LiveSTRONG and not have ibuprofen or Tylenol? You remember from previous years there is a rest area just past the cutoff area, and if you make it, you might be able to find some relief. You pedal harder.
You find yourself looking at the clock. It is past 10.00 now. If they've moved the cutoff up, you won't be able to ride the 100 mile course for the second year in a row. You look at the sky and while there are clouds in the sky, there is certainly no sign of threatening weather. You take some solace in this fact and get out of the saddle for a bit to change your position on the saddle. It feels good to pedal from a standing position for a while. Then you see the cutoff area. You pedal up, hopeful.
You see hordes of riders being directed to the left. The 70 mile course. It occurs to you exactly what has happened. They have closed the 100 mile course. Again. It is 10.13. You're somewhat perplexed because the skies look fine. There have been some light sprinkles, but nothing worthy of rerouting. You are disappointed. Many of the people surrounding you are bitter. And angry. And vocal. A couple of riders go through the rerout, with the understanding they will be alone, unsupported, on the course. You think about it for ten seconds and then think better of it. You turn to the 70 mile course and pedal away from the complaining. Your head is still pounding.
A guy pedals up next to you and strikes up a conversation. He starts complaining about the 100 mile course being closed and you bite down on your tongue until you taste blood. After a couple minutes of this, the man reads your silence, then says cheerfully, "But it's not really why we're out here today, is it?" A glimmer of hope lights on your ride and you start to talk easily with this guy, whose name is Vinnie, from New Jersey. Two years ago, he had a rash and it was really bugging him and his girlfriend was nagging him and nagging him to go see a dermatologist. Finally, he relented, to get her to stop whining (the irony was not lost on me at this point) and he went to the doctor. The doctor took one look at the rash and said, "That doesn't concern me, but this mole, this mole, and that mole do. We're going to cut them out, today." So they cut out his moles and they tested positive for melanoma. A silly rash and his girlfriend's badgering had saved his life. Now he tells people that if things don't seem right, they should go see a doctor. It's the same thing that saved your life five years ago. It's the same you've been preaching ever since.
You pull into a rest area and say goodbye to Vinnie from New Jersey and you're glad you were able to share stories. Now, you need Tylenol. You locate the first aid station and mercifully they have some. The guy asks if you want three or four. Two will be loads, you assure him. He is surprised. You are surprised that people would take more than 2. You toss them in your mouth and knock them back dry. Relief is on its way.
Sean and Jennifer pull in and now the remaining Team Fish riders are all together. You leave together and talk lightly, focusing on the riding. Sean decides to stop and take pictures, so you and Jennifer ride on. Jennifer is a strong rider and your pace matches each other well. The miles flow beneath you as you talk of her three children, how different they are, how precious they are to her. You think about your own Li'l Fish and how much you love her, how the fight you had five years ago almost took so much from you. You realize again she won't be at the finish line for the first time this year, that she and Mrs. Fish are home getting ready for school and a Selena Gomez concert. You miss them immensely, but you know the love you have for them will bridge the miles.
Overall, you are feeling solid, and your headache is gone. Your commitment to eat when you can, even if you have to force it a bit, has served you well. The switch from Gatorade to a more complete drink, Heed, this year has kept the cramps at bay and you feel energetic. You are in good shape. You enter the last miles and the rolling hills. You realize you are almost finished, and as with last year, you are surprised at how quickly this has happened with the 30 fewer miles. You pull over to TXT Mrs. Fish and Li'l Fish, then head for the finish line, tell them how much you love them.
The finish line is divided to the left for riders and to the right for survivors. When you finish down the chute, people are going nuts and screaming for you when they realize you are a survivor. It's all a little much and you feel the tears come again, for the five more years you have had to fight this awful disease. For the five more years you have had to live your life. For the five more years you had had to spend with your friends, and to see your brother become a father. And most of all for the five more years you have had to love your wife and hold your daughter. The Ride for FIVE is over, and you look to the skies and thank your God for FIVE more years.