Ride for the Roses Number 15 is in the books. Overall, it’s a fantastic book, as usual, but with a major plot change, and, for the first time ever, an ending. This has always been my favorite weekend of the year: Reconnecting with special people who are passionate about fighting cancer and about living Big Lives. Making a difference by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars with the team and showing cancer patients that you can survive your disease and come out even better on the other side. Loving Austin. Period. And Lance was back.
The weekend started with the appreciation dinner, at which our Team Lance and Friends, with the organization’s founder front and center, was recognized for raising the most money of any team. But oddly, unlike every single other year, the captain, Lance, wasn’t allowed to speak to the crowd. It was…. well, it was weird and a bit insulting… and not unexpected. But still, as my teammate Jon said, Lance got the band back together again.
There was the usual visit to Mellow Johnny’s, the Mocha Azteca, the eating Tex-Mex 5 out of 7 meals, the Saturday spin on the bike where we covered 15 miles in 2 hours. And new this year, since Livestrong cut out the Saturday night dinner, The Team Lance and Friends gathering at La Mancha. It was truly a throwback to old times. There was a lot of laughing, teasing, strategerizing for our inaugural kickball invitational the next day, and figuring out who was going to ride what distance. I had planned on riding the 65-miler, reserving the right to drop back to 45, as I haven’t done much bike training AT ALL. Lance says, “Ride the 45 with us, come on, come on, come on.” I was vague in my response. Riding “with Lance” for me usually means redlining off the starting line til between mile 10-12 when my head and lungs explode. But I’ll play along. It is, after all, old times revisited.
It was a great day for a bike ride with 2200 like-minded friends. Our Team Lance and Friends riders got to be right in front. Again, just like old times.
But this time when the gun went off, I hung with the group for just a little bit. I mean a REALLY little bit. In less than a mile, I watched Lance pedal off into the distance. I could easily squish him between my finger and my thumb in about 2 minutes. Back to the 65 miler. I waited for my regular Livestrong riding gang, who started a little farther back, and we had a great day. Perfect weather, perfect distance, Serena’s first organized ride. Fewer homemade cookies than most years, but it was a fun day.
Then, it was off to the inaugural Team Lance and Friends Kickball Invitational Tournament. I was on Team Lance, which played Team Anna (Lance’s longtime girlfriend). This wasn’t your grade school kickball (not that I know, I’d never played the dang game before). You had to hold a half-full (half-empty??) Solo cup of beer the whole game. There was a lot of falling and rolling in the dirt (Jerry). And there were a lot of beer geysers as balls were caught and thrown (Lance. Anna. Everyone.). Hilarious. If you were wondering, Team Anna beat Team Lance by one point. So, of course there’s already talk of a rematch. There’s a competitive streak even in the kickball world, I guess.
And the ending. After 15 years loving and supporting first the Lance Armstrong Foundation and now Livestrong, it’s time for me to turn the page. The short(er) version is that since Livestrong got a new CEO, most of the people I’ve loved at the Foundation have left. There are changes being made to operations and mission that I just can’t support. With changes to patient navigation and restructuring of direction, I am not sure how Livestrong can continue to “help cancer patients now.” After years of transparency that I am used to getting from the LAF/Livestrong, there is murky communication/explanation coming from this new incarnation of the foundation. It’s troubling and worrisome to me. After months of struggling with this decision, and a weekend of hoping that I was wrong about what I thought was happening there (I wasn’t), it’s time for me to, well, to break up. Move on.
I’m trying to be philosophical about this. Maybe there is a shelf life for relationships between foundations and their supporters. Maybe it’s time, after all the drama and trauma Livestrong has been through, for the foundation to find new supporters, new donors, a new life that doesn’t include those of us who remember the vibrancy and power of the old LAF/Livestrong. All I know is that it makes me sad. But excited to see what other front in the fight against cancer might fit better into where I am and what’s important to me right now. You’ll still see me in Livestrong gear. I’m not taking off my yellow wristband. The fight is still the fight. I’m just moving on to a new army. #Onegoal.