When I signed up for the ride, I made an initial commitment to raise the minimum $500 required to participate and to ride a 13 mile course. Once I began training for the ride, I realized I could do much more.
Through the generosity of family and friends my total raised eventually hit $1595 and on ride day I completed the 46 mile circuit.
The ride wasn’t easy. It was cold. The forecast of a 70 degree high was way off and temps were in the 50s throughout the ride. But cold or not I figured I would warm up once I started peddling my hybrid bicycle, a Fuji Sunfire 1.0, over the hills and dales.
In fact, about 3 miles into the ride I was wondering if I would really make it. I was hurting like I had not hurt before so soon into a ride. Between the cold and the fact that 2-3 weeks prior I had pinched a nerve that caused pain in my left leg and numbness in my left foot, I wasn’t feeling so good to start the ride.
But by mile 10 I was feeling good enough that passing the first pit stop with a wave to the volunteers manning that station seemed like a reasonable decision. I could make it to the 20 mile pit, no problem, I told myself.
As rider after rider blew past me on their sleeker, lighter road bikes, I thought more than once that ‘next time’ I’m doing this on a road bike.
About mile 13 I glanced down at my back tire. Is it low? It looks a little low. I’m prepared for a flat but I really don’t want to stop even to air up the tire. Ahead is a turn and a couple of ride volunteers.
“Does my rear tire look low?” I ask as I slowly pass by. “No”, they say. “Looks Fine.” Whew…that picks me up a bit.
A few miles ahead, I breezed down an incline and around a curve to see a long asphalt ribbon climbing far into the distance as it reached the horizon. Yikes. “That looks steep”, I thought. Then I remembered one of my training ride lessons. DON’T look too far ahead. Focus on the ‘now’.
That was good advice I gave myself because the next leg of the trip seemed to be one climb after another. To be sure these climbs are nothing for the Lance Armstrong’s in the ride but for this over 50 year old with a pinched nerve, they were becoming somewhat daunting.
BUT, I reminded myself, “the next pit stop is coming soon”. A glance at my odometer and I see that I am nearing the 18 mile mark. Cool. I can make it another two miles and then I can rest.
A turn ahead. A sign.
“Pit Stop – 5 Miles”. WHAT?
Apparently my assumption that there would be a second pit stop 10 miles from the first was wrong. The pit stop was actually, logically, at the half-way point in the ride. At 23 miles. Time to play some positive mind games.
Happily there was some beautiful scenery along the ride route. More than a few times I wished I were out for a more leisurely ride (in a car) with my DSLR so I could stop and take some shots of the beautiful landscapes and the old barns and farm equipment I was passing. Slowly, passing.
At the 20 mile mark there was yet another hill. A biggie in my eyes. At this point I’m really feeling the problem from the pinched nerve. Even though I’m hydrating and taking electrolyte supplements, I’m on the verge of cramping. My left foot is almost completely numb.
What was I thinking by committing to a 46 mile ride? Are you crazy? Then I think about why I got involved in this ride.
Oh yeah. It’s about her. And the other survivors who will benefit. It’s not about me. Yeah, this is a little bit hard. But, it’s not CHEMO hard. If Jane can do chemo and surgeries and radiation, this is a walk in the park for me.
I shift into ‘granny’ gear. I’m trying to keep my legs moving so I don’t cramp up and do what I can to get to the top of this incline. At the top, there should be relief. A flat stretch, or maybe even some downgrade. I make it to the top and see that I should be only a mile from the pit stop. THANK GOD. I will most certainly NOT be passing this pit stop.
At a turn ahead, an enthusiastic volunteer claps and waves as I follow the right turn arrow. “Pit Stop” she shouts out as I peddle by, trying my best to look like I’m not actually about to croak. Turn the corner. Pit stop ahead. At the top of another, thankfully short, climb.
A large sign says LUNCH. Sounds good to me. But first a real pit stop.
Leaving the latrine area I see colorful signs and food tables set up on a small rise. Volunteers have some games organized and riders, all of whom seem to look much fresher than I’m feeling, are eating or throwing darts (at a board, not each other) or playing ring toss.
I take this opportunity to do some twitter and Facebook updates. Soon I get a few encouraging responses from my supporters who see my posts. Now I’m feeling better. A turkey club roll, some fruit, some water and the old legs (to say nothing of my backside) are all feeling like I can make it through the last half of the ride.
I ride out with two young ladies on road bikes. We chat briefly and all decide that it’s actually getting colder. “See you when you catch us up ahead”, they say as they pull away. I did see them ahead once or twice. From the back. And then they were long gone.
Thankfully, the second half of the ride seemed to have fewer climbs. Or maybe I was just psyched that this was the home leg of the trip.
At about 30 miles the pain in my leg starts to crank up to where its more than ‘noticeable’. Reaching into the pockets of my jersey I realize I failed to bring along any Advil. UhOh.
At that point I let my mind wander and by the time I reach mile 35 I think I’ve written an entire novel in my head. It’s amazing how fast the (seemingly) creative ideas can come when you’re avoiding something unpleasant. Like pain.
At mile 36 there’s another pit stop. This looks familiar. I’ve seen you before. You’re also the 10 mile pit stop. Not wishing to offend any of the volunteers, I decide I should stop this time and take advantage of their good work. Sure…that’s why I stopped.
Some beautiful person had made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut up into small squares and several of these seemed to be calling my name. A fellow rider, apparently someone I had actually passed along the way (go figure), approached me eating a cookie. “I see you’re going for the protein. I’ve going for the sugar”. “Nah”, I say. “I’m just going for the peanut butter.” “Well, I’m heading out. See you when you pass me ahead.” “I’ll look for you”, I say. She took off down the hill. Never saw her again.
Nice how the other riders are encouraging, intimating that I’ll be passing them when I get going again. HA! Not likely. But it was a very nice gesture.
The last 10 miles were the easy part of the ride. I pass a guy in a Round Rock Express mascot suit. Yes, the whole suit. He’s peddling along in some kind of recumbent bicycle…and making really good time. I don’t think I could do that. But then again, he was probably the only guy on the ride who wasn’t cold.
At 5 miles out I pull my phone out of the jersey and call Jane. I want her to be at the finish line when I get there.
By this time I’m feeling pretty tired and still a bit cold but there’s comfort in knowing that I will definitely finish. I look at my timer and I’ve been riding about 3.5 hours. I’ve been out almost 5 hours, so I guess those two pit stops were a little longer than I’d realized.
Of course there was one last climb near the finish but by then I knew I could just throw the old bike into the easiest gear possible and eventually I’d get to the top.
The signs ahead point to the finish line. I hear people cheering ahead as other riders ahead of me move around a bend and down an asphalt drive.
I’m not too far behind and I end up coming through the ‘Finish Line’ alone.
And yes, I did raise my arm in victory.
There’s Jane. Smiling a beautiful smile. My reason for riding.
“Stop”, she says as I ride to clear the way for cyclists behind me. “You get a medal”.
Some Final Thoughts:
At this time Inflammatory Breast Cancer has no cure. But with the benefit of research that has produced better medicines and better courses of treatment, IBC does not have to be the death sentence it seemed to be when Jane was diagnosed six years ago. At that time the life expectancy for someone with IBC was around 18 months. She’s been cancer free now for over 5 years. If you have Inflammatory Breast Cancer, DO NOT GIVE UP.
The Mamma Jamma Ride Against Breast Cancer has raised over $500,000 that will stay in Central Texas to help those diagnosed with many different kinds of breast cancer.
Ten different area charities and resources such as the Breast Cancer Resource Center will use funds raised through this ride to assist survivors as they go through treatment and beyond by: providing rides to chemo or radiation treatments, living assistance for single parents who can no longer work, by providing meals where necessary and many other forms of assistance to survivors who need a helping hand.
It was a privilege to participate in the first Mamma Jamma Ride Against Breast Cancer. The ride organizers did a fabulous job. The course was appropriately challenging and it was perfectly laid out and organized.
To all the readers of this blog, I encourage you to find a similar event in which to participate.