But first (I could get used to this one step backward kind of post), the Admiral’s cruise was terrific. We embarrassed him with singing and a cake, took out canoes one day, went to a GREAT wildlife refuge, and watched the Hubbard Glacier calving.
You can tell which place I loved the most. Anyway, we got to Anchorage Friday morning. The rest of the fam went on to Denali. I started what turned out to be a very long trek home so I could catch the last day of Pelotonia. I flew from Anchorage to Seattle, but my Seattle flight was delayed so long that I didn’t get home until after 3 am. And I had to be back at the airport to catch an 8 am flight to Columbus. The cats were not amused.
I got to Columbus, picked up my rental bike from Paradise Garage, and made good on a huge hunk of serendipity that was handed to me and Shannon, a longtime pal and former colleague in Orlando. She and her family have been waiting for two years to get a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence for her son, Colt. Who knew that the training center she was sent to was in Columbus THIS WEEK????? It was a terrific way to start this powerful and empowering weekend for me and for Shannon and her family. It was random and absolutely perfect and I consider it a big sign that I am in the right place. I can’t show you the dog until Friday’s graduation, but here’s Shannon and me.
I knew this year’s Pelotonia (my fifth) was going to be different. Right out of the get-go, I’m only signed up to ride 35 miles. I rode 85 over two days last year and 182 the year before. I also went in to this year having had rubber on the road exactly once. I was hopeful that sea level (85 feet of elevation, to be exact) would be the component that made for an easy cruiser ride. But I know better than to try to produce that outcome. Good thing, because it didn’t happen. It became a great lesson for me, in humility and also in appreciating the big picture.
My friend, Alex, whom I’ve known since way back in the Livestrong days, said he’d be my wingman. No matter how slowly I wanted to roll, he’d roll with me. I think that made a whole lot of people feel better about me riding at all. I woke up not feeling it. The breathing should have been much better at sea level than it was. I told Alex that there was a chance I’d sag out, but he should keep riding, of course. So we rode under the start banner. I made it 1.2 miles before I realized I wouldn’t get to the 35th mile until sometime Monday, and I had a plane to catch. I had to stop twice on teeny weeny itty bitty hills. It felt like a vise was tightening my ribcage so I couldn’t inhale… air or anything else. I didn’t have enough O2 to even call for help (I also forgot to bring any of the emergency info that Pelotonia gave us. My bad. Good thing Alex is (sometimes) smarter than I am). Lisa in Sag Van #17 showed up soon after. Lisa is a take-charge kind of volunteer, which is awesome as I spent the next hour with her. We waved goodbye to Alex and she started doing sag things, helping a rider who’d broken a cleat, alerting the police officers and state patrol about when the last of the riders would pass.
It was fun at first, then I started to get a bit incredulous at my lost ability to ride a fricking bike. I think I’d actually been incredulous for a while, because I do remember telling Alex that I couldn’t believe this is me. 6 Ironmans, 3 cross country rides, 4 European bike trips. And I just about killed myself riding 1.2 miles. Who am I? I know I’ve had blogs about My New Reality. I believe all that, but I just couldn’t seem to let go of what can only be described as grief. There. I said it. As an old therapist told me years ago: Acknowledge it, Feel it, Let it go. I loved the decades of being a somewhat successful competitive athlete. I loved that a fun day for me a couple of years ago was riding up Royal Street (mostly so I could ride down). I loved being able to get into open water and not have a panic attack. Most likely, unless there is a miracle, and that’s always a possibility, those days are gone for me in this lifetime. There. I said that. I’m going to work on being more accepting of my new limit and use them to try new things that I can, or think I can do. For an hour. Or less. This is me, letting it go. I’ll try not to backslide, but no promises.
When I got into the van, Lisa said I could ride as much as I wanted and get into the van whenever I felt like it, but that sounded selfish and Bogarty, so I declined. But I’ve never (that I can remember) ended a ride or a triathlon in a sag van. So Lisa looked at the turn-by-turn sheet and found a place with not much elevation gain a couple of miles from the finish. That’s where I would get out so I could finish the ride. That would also make the video crew that was shooting a segment on me as a 5-year rider very happy. No dramatizations here. That last 2.5 miles weren’t easy, I won’t lie. Because these days, a speed bump can feel like Brown’s Canyon to me. But I did it. I crossed the finish line. I did my 2019 Pelotonia ride on two wheels, four wheels, and two wheels. All 3.7 miles of it. But I also raised more than $9000 for the James Cancer Center’s cancer clinical trials. THAT is the big picture. When people ask me, thinking it’s the old me, how far I rode, “$9000 for clinical trials” is how I’m going to answer. I also did a video for Pelotonia to tell folks why I ride, what it means to me, why I love it. That video may spur someone who’s never ridden or just didn’t know about the event to join and raise even more money. Maybe for a trial for me some day.
This was apparently also the year that I returned to hot dogs. I mean real hot dogs (well, turkey dogs). I’m a snob about hot dogs, but this one was particularly delicious.
I also was grateful to see the people I love like this woman, Steph, who can pull any animal out of a hat if you ask.
And Ronda, a breast cancer survivor who takes Lance’s Debt of the Cured to new heights.
No pictures of Doug, AG, Sam and Clara again. But spending time with them is my favorite part of Pelotonia weekend.
Again this year, in my swag bag, a personal note from a Pelotonia fellow who, on Monday, returned to the lab to look for better treatments and maybe a cure for different cancers. That is what the weekend is about. Not the bike. Not the miles. Not the (countless) hills. I know that now. It took not being on the bike to really really know that.
It’s about One Goal. The Greatest Team Ever raising money together to reach that one goal. Cure Cancer. It’s happened twice for me. Now I’m looking for number three. #Defy