Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sunday - LIVESTRONG Challenge Philadelphia

Sunday started early at 5:30AM. We rushed to clean up, pack and leave for the Challenge. The traffic getting into the College had some long lines. Lucky for us we came down Morris Rd. which did not have one car and we made the light. We were able to get into LOT #1.

Once we parked I got my bike out of the car and found the back wheel to be off-center. It was rubbing my breaks. At first I though the rim was bent, but I loosened the back tire bolts and readjusted the tire several times. It did not stop it from rubbing. Kristy saw what was wrong and told me to change to the walk, but I refused. I did not spend the last 6 months to do a walk. I was there to ride and even though the tire rim was off I was not going to let it stop me. I told Kristy I was doing the 40 mile ride. [In retrospect, I should have sought out BIKELINE or not attempted the ride.]

Things were very hectic. It was 6:30AM and we still had team members who needed to pick up their packages before 7:00AM and they were still 20+ minutes away. My wife was going to pick up the packages of two members and I was going to get it for three others. Lucky for me I saw my friend John picking up his package so he was able to get the others for me. Kristy took a few pictures of me at the package pickup and then I went outside to my assigned lane – Lane #5

When I was waiting for the start I spoke to a few people that had rode in last years Challenge and did a test run of this year’s course the day before. They said it was tough with a lot of hills. I was getting excited to get going.

As I waited I started to think about all that has happened over the last year.

  • Getting kicked in the groin by my daughter Caroline and finding a lump on my testicle
  • Diagnosed with testicular cancer
  • Learning about cancer
  • Surgery
  • Finding out we conceived our daughter Annabelle
  • Applying for the LIVESTRONG Summit
  • 4.5 weeks (Mon.-Fri.) Radiation treatments
  • Getting selected for the LIVESTRONG Summit
  • Attending the LIVESTRONG Summit
  • Getting active in the cancer community (websites, blogs, newspapers, etc.)
  • Birth of my daughter Annabelle – At true Miracle
  • Signing up for the LIVESTRONG Challenge
  • Fundraising (general donations, events and sponsorships)
  • Attending and participating in the LIVESTRONG Challenge

It all hit me and I had to gather myself a bit. What an emotional rollercoaster I have been on the last year. Then I looked over to my left and see my wife, family and friends cheering me on and taking photos. It was a great feeling. All the hard work had led me to this point. It was time to challenge myself physically.

The 40 mile got started. I immediately felt the tire rubbing and continued to ride. For the first few miles I stayed with the majority of the riders up front. Once we got into the back roads and hills I tried to pace myself and found out that I was really doing well. The entire time I knew I was expending more energy to compensate for the tire rubbing and unfortunately for me it was only getting worse.

By the time I hit the first rest stop I was completely soaked head to toe. The heat was brutal. I stopped and drank all the water I could, topped off my bottle and ate a few power bars and oranges.

As the ride went on there were more and more hills. Being an inexperienced riding I was having a lot of problems getting up the hills, but I was determined to keep going. The one thing that I told myself all day – THIS IS EASIER THAN DEALING WITH CANCER. I will not kid you, I had to jump off the bike on a few of those hills and rest and in some spots walk up hill. The tire issue was not helping. It was the hardest physical challenge of my life. I enjoyed every minute of it!

Unfortunately for me my tire situation became worse. As I was going up one very long hill my back tire locked. I could no longer pedal. I had a BIKELINE van in front of me so I stopped and asked him (George) to help me out. Within seconds he was able to find I had a spoke that was no longer attached to the center of the rim. He was not able to fix it, but he was able to get a coworked to stop and help. While the one guy fixed the rim George found a problem with my left gears. He attempted to fix, but said it would need to be serviced. It took 40 minutes to fix the rim/spoke, but they did what they could to try and get me going again. They said they could not guarantee that it would last, but they did fix it. I was off again! George and the BIKELINE crew were great.

By this time every single person had passed me so I had a lot of catching up to do. On one downhill I hit 43 MPH. That is by far the fastest I ever went on a bike. Yes- it was very scary and hard to stop. As I came down the hill and started up another my back tire started to lock up again. I was only a few hundred yards from a rest stop, but the tire would not longer work.

I admit, by this point all of the disappointment turned to rage and I was about to throw my bike into a lake (or make an attempt to do so but the lake was very far away) when a SAG van stopped by to see if I needed a lift. I had to face facts, my day riding my bike was over, but there was another ride about to begin.

As it turned out the SAG van #14 stated they would take me back and after spending an hour in the van I asked when I can get back they stated only when they are done following the last bike rider. This was not good news. I immediately called an told my wife. I told her to tell my friends they can go home as I was going to be in a van for a long time. The volunteer stated his job was to follow the last rider and was not able to go back to the event until he was done.

As you can imagine I was a bit PO’ed at this point and it would be an understatement to say my wife was PO’ed. Several hours into my ride (better known as my kidnapping – as I like to say) in SAG #14 my wife called for whate felt like the 10th time. She spoke to a volunteer at the event and found out the LAF did have people getting picked up at rest stops along the course. I immediately hung up and told the driver. I told him I wanted him to as the command center to arrange for a pick up at the next rest stop. They did not commit to a pick up but stated they will look into it.

We arrived at the further rest stop on the course (42 miles away from the event) I got out to use the rest room and when I got out I got some great news. They volunteers at the rest stop were breaking it down to return to the event and they were able to take me back with them.

At this point I was already in a car for close to 4 hours and found out it would be 1 more hour to ride back, but I took them up on the offer as the SAG #14 still had to go find the last rider and follow them in so they were not getting back until late afternoon.

I rode back with Bret who was an avid baseball fan. He loves the Baltimore Orioles and talking baseball so we had some great conversations about MLB, LLWS and some baseball stadiums. It made the time fly.

I would like to THANK Bret and Ann (I hope I got his wife's name correct) for allowing me to ride with them back to the event. They saved me from another 3-4 hours in SAG #14.

In an hour, I was finally back at the event. I left at 7:50am and returned at 3:00pm. I called my wife and found her in a few minutes. As I walked up carrying my bike my wife, Sister Kelly and brother-in-law Alex greeted me with congratulations. It wa great to be back. As you can imagine I will be writing a letter to the LAF to see they ensure that SAG vans or other vehicles are dedicate to bringing people back once they are either physically unable to complete or have bike issues.

The SAG van part of the day was the worst, but I got great reviews about everything at the after party event and concert. I will not let the SAG van ruin the entire event for me. I loved participating in the LIVESTRONG Challenge and only wish I could have crossed the finish line riding my bike, but I know that it was out of my control. I should have gotten the bike fixed before the challenge started - my own fault. That will never happen again. Now I have a goal to finish next years Challenge.

Next up, the Ride for the Roses in Austin, TX October 12-14. It should be another amazing LAF event. I will be doing the walk there and no the bike. There is nothing like getting to go to LAF events and experience college football season while in TEXAS.