11 December, 2009

10 December, 2009

For Sammy, my #1 Facebook fan. It's BeBop Parking Lot, Xmas edition.

08 December, 2009

Oy. What a long layoff. A month-and-a-half?!? My apologies.

There's been a lot of catching-up to do after the monumental "Road Trip 2009." But I've also been trying to figure out what I want to say about this year's LIVESTRONG.

(feel the "UGH": me after 90 miles of Texas hill country. Notice the stoop and grimace--but cool jersey!)

The FIRST thing to say is a big "Thank You!" to everyone who donated to the LIVESTRONG cause. With your support, we beat our goal (by a frog's whisker!), and raised over $5,000 dollars! That is a huge, huge thing at a time when economic worries abound. So thank you, sincerely and with maximum humility: you guys really came through.

As you can see in my pic, I wore the special TEAM LIVESTRONG '09 Jersey on the ride. We (you, friends and donors, and me, rider) were awarded that jersey for passing the $5,000 mark. Not a lot of people had been able to do that this year. This jersey is not available for purchase--you have to earn it. So I was very proud to ride in these colors. (If only I could have looked a little happier at the finish....) Also notice the little yellow placard I attached to the bike. It was a little tribute to Paul. I haven't found any close up photos of it yet, so bear with me on that. But it was cool.
(the "before" picture: all bushy-tailed and caffeinated in the pre-dawn parking lot)

Also, due to our outstanding fundraising performance, our entire team (Team Sunscreen Jr.) was invited to the LIVESTRONG dinner Saturday night. We looked awesome.

Doug Ulman, the LIVESTRONG President is a young guy and a cancer survivor. He was MC for the night. He brought Lance onstage for an extended interview where all of the questions came from audience members. Austin is Armstrong's hometown, and also where the LIVESTRONG Ride idea began. This was the 13th year they'd done the event, so the atmosphere was very collegial, with lots of return participants. It's also the time for the LIVESTRONG corporate supporters to show up and hob-nob. There was not as much of that special, first-time electricity at the dinner as there was at the Portland event, and this was kind of disappointing to me. However, we did sit with a wonderful couple who were ON FIRE for the cause. Dianne and Elisha were terrific dinner companions. This woman started a Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in San Antonio! How's that for committed? She has a terrific blog that is worth checking out, even if only to see more pictures of Blair, Dana and I. Yay Dianne!

(We're laughing because I was about to take my own picture, and I was telling Dana to back up, and at the edge of the balcony the cement floor ends and there's a little step down to the steel footing that holds the railing--and when she stepped onto this and felt that drop, she thought {quite understandably} she was going over the edge--yikes! Funny moment, captured here by event photog.)

The Ride:
"--And they're off!!"

#1 I really missed my Team Sunscreen team mates. And I really, really missed Paul. Truth be told, I've been feeling down since the finish of the ride. There was so much to do leading up to the ride--trying to raise funds for the cause, working out the logistics of the two-week road trip, updating the blog and Facebook, etc., plus my freelance work--that I didn't have too much time to wallow in the melancholy of heading out to this event without Paul and his family beforehand.

But doing the ride alone gave me plenty of time to think of Paul's death, and in a more general sense, how quickly our lives go by. While on the trip we received word that our dear friend George Porter, aged 94, had passed away (and from cancer). 94? And Paul not even 40. We visited George a month before the LIVESTORNG ride (he's in Rhode Island, of all places), and before we left, he asked us to put on a CD of football "fight songs" from his alma mater, Dartmouth. He said college still seemed just like yesterday...that life goes by so quickly.

A melancholy line of thought to pursue for 90 miles. Paul's death is still sinking in for many of us, I'm sure. But the physical ordeal of the ride itself (more on that next) worked as a sort of medieval, ritual-cleansing that did help me gain a little perspective. "Wisdom through ordeal," as we say in Chino.

#2 The ride was tough! The weather was fine, cold in the morning (to this California lad, at least), and never got Texas hot; we had cloud cover most of the day and the temp stayed in the 60's up to maybe 70. The only problem was the wind. It was blowing a bit, knocking a few of the route signs over, but either I've improved as a cyclist, or it wasn't as bad as it looked, because I was able to pedal through it without crumbling, (which had always been my m.o. with headwinds--until this ride).

And the route itself was kind of tricky. LOTS of small hills. Which is misery. And some steep ones. And we were often riding on narrow country roads (one-and-a-half lane) with lots of blind-ish turns and massive, Texas-style cow crossings. Sadly, there were some NASTY accidents on these. Nothing too serious, but lots of riders down in the first 20-25 miles. There were just a lot of us bunched together, going all different speeds. Multiple ambulances had to cruise through the course to reach the stricken. Certainly got your attention. I was lucky and avoided 1) a guy who lost control of his bike trying to stop because of another crash and 2) a dude whose chain broke (!) right next to me on a climb. First race I've done without a crash of my own, I think!

# 3 And the mass of riders! There were almost 4,000 that did the ride. We started almost a half hour late, and it took me a good 10 minutes just to get to the line. Then we were off (the great pix of me at the start courtesy of Blair). And then we were stopped. We started in a high school parking lot, and from there so many riders were trying to filter out onto the highway that we were again reduced to walking speed for a mile or so. Literally walking speed. All this added up to a significant handicap of nearly an hour. Significant why? Because anyone wanting to complete the 90 mile course had to reach the 37 mile marker by 11 AM or get bounced to the 65 mile course. This was an indignity I could not accept. I had my donors to think of. So I put the hammer down best I could, and reached the mile marker (and much-needed rest stop) just as the traffic cop announced, "WE ARE CLOSING THE 90 MILE COURSE RIGHT NOW. IF YOU WANT TO DO THE 90 MILER, YOU MUST MOUNT YOUR BIKE IMMEDIATELY AND GO!"

Ugh. OK, OK.

#4 This was our last rest stop at mile 85. Mile 85?! My man parts had been frozen-bullfrog numb since mile 60-something. I needed an anti-numbness zone.

Or so I thought.

Because after I finished and had a little time to walk around, the numbness started to go away. And feeling returned. Not a pleasant feeling. It was so painful that once Blair had loaded me in the car and begun to drive us back to the hotel, I began writhing in agony. Well, squirming. On the radio they were playing Pink Floyd, and for the first time ever I didn't mind. The song: "Comfortably Numb."

If only.

Great visual: when you left that final, mile 85 rest stop, you were met almost immediately by a really steep (but short) hill--and right at the crest was a florid splat of trail mix/m&m barf that would have made Jackson Pollock proud. LIVESTRONG!

One small mercy: the whole ride I was watching my odometer the way a schoolkid in detention watches the minute hand on the wall clock. All along the route were mile markers (MILE 10, MILE 20, etc., you get the picture) and my little bike-mounted odo and I were keeping perfectly in synch with them until around mile 65. Suddenly we were off--the boards had sprung ahead in their count by more than a mile. Wha...? The difference persisted 'til the end. My odo's a little cheap and has been known to register some funky stuff, so maybe I dropped a mile-plus somewhere on the road. But I pedaled that last 10 miles or so terrified that the mile markers were now lying, and this seeming advantage would come back to haunt me with and extra mile or two to be tacked on at the end.

I couldn't take that!

But no, everything continued apace and I didn't hear anyone else complain about the course mileage, so maybe I got away with one. By the end, I was more than ready to stop, whether I'd gone 90 or not. Once I hit that finish line, I was done, in every sense of the word.

#5 My ideal scenario had me spending five hours, thirty minutes of riding time to do the 90 miles (this is not fast for those who don't know--it's just fast for me)(this excludes the rest stops, of which I only took one long one, but still). As I crossed the line I was caught up in the moment, responding to the (very appreciated, very cheery) cheers from the LIVESTRONG staff, and a moment later when I looked down, my timer had 5:30:38. Right on.

#6 Is there an eerie resemblance between these two guys, or what?
It's esp'ly noticeable in the easy athletic confidence both riders exude. Two pros, indeed. Y'know, from where I'm sitting, the one on the left might even look a little more..."muscular"? Let's leave it at that--I don't want to lose my 2010 LIVESTRONG entry.

And speaking of 2010 entries: The schedule is out! Check it HERE. The road is calling, and the mighty Team Sunscreen must meet the challenge. The most likely event (I'm guessing) will be San Jose, which happens July 10-11 (click on the words for more info).

There's also a LIVESTRONG in Blair's favorite American city, Seattle. Hmmm, that sounds irresitible...

So saddle up and c'mon! I guarantee you'll have a fantastic experience. LIVESTRONG 2009 was tough, esp'ly the emotional part. But I feel very lucky to participate, and very, very thankful for all your support and friendship in this endeavor. I'd like to think we did Paul proud.

"2010, HERE WE COME!!"