If it’s the first weekend in August, I must be in Columbus. And it was, and I was. My fourth Pelotonia weekend was as hopeful and inspiring and fun and powerful as the ones before. Not that anyone can with certainty, but I can’t predict Pelotonia happening for me a year away, so I’m always super happy just to be there and able to ride.
This year, three amazing women I am happy to call friends decided to come along to experience Pelotonia for themselves. (Spoiler: I think they’re hooked. Already talking about their return in 2019.) Unfortunately, their plane had a mechanical, and they missed opening ceremonies and were still putting their bikes together five hours before the 100-mile start. Wonder women. My friend, Alex, was coming from New York, and HIS plane didn’t take off because of weather, so I spent a day and a half solo. That’s actually pretty fun, in Columbus.
It took a bit to get my bike, which I’d shipped to Columbus, because SOMEONE dropped SOMETHING on my carbon wheel and destroyed it. Luckily, the guys at Paradise Garage were terrific and got me a moderately priced wheel that looks like my other wheel, thus keeping me from looking like a Curtis (or a Fred, depending on what part of the country you live in. I’ve noticed regionalisms, but you know what I mean). I found a great sushi and ramen place for dinner, took hot yoga Friday morning, and then the real Pelotonia fun began.
I finally got to see Doug, my pal and Pelotonia’s CEO, as he opened the RTRX Leadership conference. He was terrific, as usual, but it’s not a great weekend to catch up on what we’ve missed in each other’s lives. Go figure. He had to go be at five places simultaneously, but there was a good reason to return to the conference in the afternoon. My friend, multiple gold medal winning Paralympian skier Chris Waddell lives in Park City. I live in Park City. I have seen Chris more often in Columbus than I have in Park City. He was one of the speakers at RTRX, and he was amazing. He talked about limitations that don’t have to be limitations; they can be opportunities. He got to race and win at the Paralympics, and he’s climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. People in the room (myself included) were mesmerized with his story. I hope to see him and Jean, his wife, in Park City soon, but if not, I suppose we’ll all meet again in Columbus. (!)
Opening Ceremonies are always exciting and inspiring. So many people (almost 8500) are in town to actively work and finance clinical trials to treat and cure cancer. Three people whose lives were saved by Pelotonia grants told their stories. There was much hope on the stage and in the crowd. It’s all pretty incredible. Then, when I looked in my rider bag, there was a note in it that pretty much brought everything to a quiet place for a bit. It’s from a Pelotonia-funded scientist thanking me for raising money so he can work and potentially discover something that might help……. me.
In no time, it was time to ride. This year, for a multitude of reasons, I didn’t ride the 180 (182!) that I did last year. Thanks to Steph and Olivia from Pelotonia, I was able to ride the 55-mile route for Day one, and the 35 mile route that I was SURE was mostly downhill (more on that later) for Day 2.
One of my ride-mates for the day was Ethan Zohn, who I’m sure you remember as a Survivor (tv show) winner, and two-time survivor of cancer. I was thinking my ride training was bad until I talked with Ethan. He said he did two spin classes. And he was anxious to see what happened in the 46th minute (spin classes are usually 45 minutes). I felt like I could be Peter Sagan riding with Ethan. (I wasn’t.)
I also got to ride with Doug’s wife, the amazing Amy Grace for the first time, as well as Brooke and her sister, Betsy, who has a brain tumor. SHE is a rock star who’s not letting a brain tumor limit her life. It was a great little team. This part of the ride is hilly, and not that they ever were, but hills aren’t awesome for me these days. Still, we all stuck together, and it was a perfect Pelotonia day. This is also where Pelotonia became Pelicania** for us. As we all do, we were posting and Instagramming and Tweeting photos all day. I hit “tweet” after typing in P-E-L, thinking I was tagging Pelotonia. But actually, @PelicansNBA had automatically come up. I just left it. Ethan saw it a bit later and asked, “Who’s @PelicansNBA?” I had to confess to my laziness at not retweeting with the correct @, and the Pelican Peloton was born. We all started tagging @PelicansNBA with every post, and there were a lot. I’m sure at the NBA HQ in New Orleans, a social media team was wondering why Ethan Zohn was sending them bike pictures.
I finally got to see Holly, Sally, and Sara from Park City at lunch. They rode that 100 miles after sleeping for two hours and STILL came in with a smile and enough energy to make this photo happen.
The girls took off from Kenyon College in Gambier at 7. They had another 80 to ride.
I, on the other hand, got to ride in the pace car to Granville, the best town along the route. They take supporting Pelotonia and the James Cancer Center’s cancer research very seriously. The whole town comes out. I was happy to have been able to ride through the day before and start here on Day 2, the first time one of the ride options has begun here.
The Pelicans all flew off for Day 2, so I rode with Alex and his son, Michael (we rode the whole 180 (182!!) together last year), and sweet Claire, one of my teammates from Mississippi who climbed Kili with me a few years ago. Her husband is Jeremy Relentess Forward Progress. Guess what: The 35 isn’t mostly downhill. I probably told, oh, 25 people that it was mostly downhill, but I’m pretty sure I made it up. At one point, Claire said she was thinking, “Maybe this is downhill to a cyclist, but it’s not downhill to a runner.” It was a hot, windy (headwind, of course), climby couple of hours, and I was more than happy to see the finish line. Holly, Sara, and Sally finished their 80, and we celebrated with the gang before taking early flights home, and for me to Bethesda.
I, of course, can never be just a spectator when others have flight troubles. For whatever reason, Delta routed me through Minneapolis to Baltimore. Bad weather in Minneapolis meant we circled until we got low fuel and landed to refuel in La Crosse. We landed in Minneapolis, oh, about 20 minutes after my Baltimore flight left. I eventually made it to Maryland, but the delay scuttled my plans to get labs done early at the NIH, where I am now, on a 6-hour tPA drip, trying to bust the clot in my port line.
I flew straight from an event that raised millions of dollars for clinical trials to my own clinical trial. Without clinical trials, I most likely wouldn’t have been here for my fourth Pelotonia, much less thinking about what route I’m going to ride next year. I think I understand the connection between the fundraising for and the execution of research trials better than most. Maybe that’s why Max’s note in my rider bag took my breath away. And why riding with a Survivor winner (I like to think I’m that, too) was symbolic, and lots of fun. And why it means so much to have my friends pedaling with and around me, stretching to the same goal as the rest of the 8500 others on the road. #Onegoal. #curecancer #greatestteamever #defy