Tuesday, November 3, 2009

LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE, Austin, October 25th

It has taken me some time to digest what the whole weekend was like, how it affected me, and probably all of the other people that were there. Also, it was a tough travel trip, well, tough being relative in the big picture, if you know what I mean.

Saturday morning I went down to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my rider packet, to see what the LAF had set-up for us to see. The thing that was most overwhelming, that even now staggers my mind, is the tribute site in the center of the hall, where so many of us put the names of family, loved one's, friends, who have been touched by this disease. To see the Survivor's, yes, with a Capital "S", celebrating, being celebrated. Everything came into an even clearer perspective for me, even though I knew why I was there.

When I picked up my rider packet, I was told that they no longer had 2-XL t-shirts, and I could have one from last year, but since I have had this time to ride, I decided to go ahead and take the Large, thinking I am in good enough shape to wear a smaller size! Unexpected benefits of unemployment, I guess.

I returned to the hotel, and had to go to a nearby cycling shop, as I had discovered that when I put my bike together late Friday night, early Saturday morning that the screws and nut on the seat post collar had rattled out during the flight. This was going to be just the beginning of my challenge, little did I know. As I rode the bike back to the hotel, I also noticed that the steerer felt loose in the headtube, which is a real problem, if any of you know what that means. I figured I could go out to the start Sunday morning and get this solved.

So, bright and early Sunday morning, I was off to the start line. Great guys from one of the local shops put an additional headset spacer in for me, tightened things up and then it was time to wait for the start of the ride. The greatest thing about the wait was that as Team Fat Cyclist members arrived, we automatically gravitated toward one another, and other riders were constantly shouting "GO FATTY!"

As I stood on the starting line, maybe all of the cyclists felt the same way, realizing the enormity of what these LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE rides and runs mean to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and as a result, to the thousands, perhaps millions of people who they have been able to reach to as a result of the fund-raising efforts of everyone involved.

There was constant chatter from the announcers about Team Fatty and Team Nagel, who raised just slightly more than we did, a great job by them, 11 members compared to our massive team! There were four groups up front, Lance and his buddies, Team Nagel, Team Fatty and the Ride for the Roses riders, who individually raised $10,000 or more.

Lance spoke, rolled out, and the wait was on for our start. Again, with his words, I think the mighty weight of the challenge of this fight against cancer became more apparent as we set out to ride.

As we started, I must admit that even though I knew that pacing myself for this ride was important, I tore out, pushing myself at 20-25 mph through the first 8-10 miles. I would eventually pay for this, although I didn't know it then! Well, I probably knew it then, I just didn't know how.

And when they describe this as Texas Hill Country, they aren't lying. And for any of you that think because I live in Denver I go up hills more easily, forget it. I'm still 6'3", 210#, and gravity still works against me! Even rolling hills are a big challenge for me, but it was something I relished.

My goal was to the 90 miles in roughly 8 hours. As I reached the turn-off to the 65/90 mile split, I experienced something that I had never felt before- a cramp in the top of my right quad, which is just above the knee cap. The muscle seized and I was a little concerned. I reached the split, talked to one of the medical support personnel, and made a decision to not do the full 90 miles, much to my own chagrin.

The hills continued, the camaraderie of the riders was truly wonderful. Wearing the distinctive black and pink of Team Fatty, with Team Fatty clearly on the back, made for a great ride. I rode a different pace, talking and laughing, listening to people's stories about why they were riding, talking to survivors, other Team Fatty members.

As I look back, the thing that has meant the most about this ride is the ability to contribute to something bigger than myself, to do something, in some small way, for those people who are so close to me, who have touched me with their stories.I realized how truly fortunate so many of us are, to forget the struggles of daily life for a few hours and be part of this collective committed to making a difference.

Team Fatty, 600 strong nation-wide, raised $790,000 for LAF. We fought like Susan, for AW, for Donna, for my grandfather, for Judith, for so many others. We aren't finished, there are so many more miles to ride. Elden Nelson has created something for all of us to be a part of, to help make a difference.

Thanks to all of you who helped make a difference!