The Reason I am Doing It.

It was my brother's idea at first, he told me he had looked into doing a sponsored bike ride in England. The idea was to raise money for leukemia research because our mother had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2005. Since I enjoy cycling, raising money for leukemia research while bike riding sounded perfect. An evening of "Googling" later, I had found Team In Training, a group that fund-raise with endurance sports for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I initially registered for the 2007 Lake Tahoe event, but had to drop out when it became aparent that Mum was losing her battle with leukemia. This year I am back and intent on raising $5000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The event I am training for is a 100-mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe on June 1st 2008. Because of the altitude (6,225ft.) and the distance, training is important. So, every Saturday for 5 months I will be getting up at 6:00 a.m. to join my team for training rides. There will be a lot of hills to climb!

So when the training gets tough, I look down at the top tube of my bike where I carry 2 names that inspire me to push on. The names are, my Mum – Ruth Davies, and my Aunt Meg, both of whom lost their lives to blood diseases. My Mum, as many of you already know, passed away last year from Leukemia (AML). I thank God for the 14 months of remission she had and the last vacation we spent together in February 2006. At the end of 2006, the leukemia returned and this time there was no stopping it. After wasting away, my mother died in April of 2007. Similarly, my Aunt Meg passed away in February of 1993 after an 11-year battle against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. What these two women endured is infinitely more than any discomfort I feel during my training.

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, go to: TNT Donate

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Week 8 - March 29, 2008 - Distance 53.66 miles

Midweek Training: On Sunday I dusted off my mountain bike and rode the Rocky Peak Fire Road, a 2.5 mile climb on an unpaved fire road to the summit of the third highest mountain, at 2,714 ft (827 m), in the Santa Susana range. I was a little rusty! It has been over six months since I climbed this trail, and I was surprised at how many times I had to stop to catch my breath. It seems that when riding off road there are different muscles/techniques in use than when road riding. Still, it proved to be excellent cross training and it was a beautiful view from the top! Thursday was the only other day I was able to ride this week, however, I completed the ride home from work in my fastest time to date.

Group Ride: Today's ride distance is just over a half century! We rode from Duarte and practiced two techniques, pacelining and intervals, covered in our pre-ride clinic. Pacelining is where a group of four or more riders will ride in single file in close proximity then periodically (10secs to 2 mins) the lead rider will rotate off the front of the pack and join the rear. This way everyone benefits from the "pull" of the lead rider, and the time spent at the front is minimal. Pacelining can easily increase the speed of the group by 2 to 5 miles per hour. Intervals: this is sprinting till exhausted then recovering and repeating. Coach Andy tells us these are beneficial on short rides as a way to increase strength. We did 2 intervals today for demonstration purposes. The lead rider was told to break off from the group and sprint for 20 seconds then slow to 16 mph. Each following rider would then wait 10 seconds and leave the group to "chase them down". I noticed my speed hit 26mph on the flat when sprinting today.

After our practice we continued our ride out through many of the neighbourhoods we had visited before until we reached the Rosebowl parking lot we had frequented as the start point of some of our previous rides. This time it was for a SAG stop. Sharon, a volunteer, was driving the SAG car that we had put our sandwiches or other snacks into before the ride. My peanut butter and banana sandwich really hit the spot, followed by raisins and nuts. A quick refilling of the water bottle and a bathroom stop and we were off again, back to Duarte. At the end of the ride I am feeling "saddle sore". There is mention that next weeks pre-ride clinic will cover the use of "chamois butter" which I believe is a euphemism for "butt cream"! Seems to me we should have had that clinic earlier in the season!

Fund-raising: You guys are awesome! Today I was given a water bottle as acknowledgement of the fact that I was in third place in funds raised to date in our team. The first place fund raiser, Tim, is a guy who just finished his chemotherapy at the start of this season. He has raised over $5000 so far! An amazing guy, and his hair is just starting to grow back!

This week, Judy and I have made our personal donation of an amount that will cover the cost the Society pays out for my hotel and flight expenses. That way an even higher percentage of the amount you donate goes to the cause.

Judy has also been busy organising a fund-raiser to be held at The Habit Burger here in Simi on Wednesday, April 16th between 4 to 9 p.m. So for all you locals that like to eat, plan to be there. 20% of the sales accompanied by the flier will be donated by The Habit to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, all you have to do is eat, (you were going to do that anyway, right!) Judy has created an awesome flier and will be handing and emailing it out to as many locals as possible. Come hungry!

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to learn more go to >TNT Donate

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Week 7 - March 22, 2008 - Distance 45.16 miles

Midweek training: On Sunday I rode 15 miles in a loop around Simi, taking in the hills up by the Lost Canyons golf course. I managed, after work on Tuesday, to do a quick 6.5 mile ride, getting in a couple of good short hills. It was a hard ride to do because all I could think of was the food waiting at home for me when I returned. Rode to work and back again on Thursday. The ride home was 5 minutes faster, but I am not sure whether the caffeine and calories from my mid-afternoon Starbucks helped, or maybe it was the dash home to use the bathroom!

Group Ride: For today's ride we were back in Pasadena, the city of a thousand traffic lights and stops signs (tongue firmly in cheek). I think we stopped at most of them! Apart from the constant stopping and the traffic, the Southern California perfect weather made the ride wonderful. My riding today just hit a groove, there were only a few hills and I was able to keep up a really good pace. Maybe this training thing is paying off!

Our ride group had a couple of mishaps along the route, we had 2 chains come off, and one rider had debris lodged in the brake pad. After the stop to fix the brake pad, I clipped in early to get going, tried to balance while waiting to roll out, and promptly fell over with the bike when I was unable to clip out. No damage done, no blood, just a bruised ego (it's so embarrassing falling with 7 riders standing watching)! Even with the mishaps, we covered 45 miles in less than 3 hours 40 minutes (an average speed of over 12 miles per hour). If you extrapolate that out to a 100-mile ride then you could expect 100 miles to take nearly 8.5 hours. That's a long time on such a narrow seat.

Fund-raising: Many of you have asked when the ride will take place. It will be on June 1st. Also, donations can be made up to 2 weeks after the event. However, since the format is donation driven, as opposed to per-mile sponsorship, it is better to get as much of the fund-raising done as possible early on in the season. Then as the length of time in the saddle increases, we have less time to spend fund-raising. Also, if your company gift matches, the extra time is needed for processing the paperwork. So donate now, if you are able. Also, thank you for the encouragement you have given.

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to learn more go to TNT Donate

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Week 6 - March 15, 2008 - Distance 42.97 miles.

Mid-week training: Just the 24-mile ride to work and back on Thursday. I did the ride to work in 50 mins (my fastest so far). But, I didn't stretch when I got to work and my right leg, behind my knee, bothered me all the way home.

Saturday's Ride: What a beautiful day! It started out clear and chilly. Appropriately, our pre-ride clinic was on clothing. Apparently, even though it will be in June the Tahoe ride may start out in the low 30s Fahrenheit (just above 0 Celcius), so layers will be important. Arm warmers, and leg warmers (no! not the 1980's Flashdance kind) are very useful. As are the thin windbreaker cycling jackets, just like the one I bought last week!

Our ride took us along Mulholland Drive, a road I had driven many, many times before on car rallies and scenic drives. The views were breathtaking and the hills were... tiring. But, seriously it was an awesome ride. I felt good, even though I dropped back on the uphill sections, I caught up on the downhills. It must have something to do with the 26lbs of Japanese steel I am pedalling. I am kicking myself for not bringing my camera as the ride through the Santa Monica Mountains was gorgeous. I will have to add appropriate photos later.

The ride route took us out to Westlake Village before heading back to the start. At a little over halfway we had our first SAG (Support And Gear) stop, where Deborah (who was standing in for coach Andy) handed us water to refill our bottles before telling us to get going again!

Reflecting on this weeks ride, I realised that it is the furthest I have ridden a bicycle in approximately 28 years. Yes, I am sore and tired, but many thanks to Bill and Crystal for this evenings dinner, good conversation and wine. Now I am relaxed once more!

Fund-raising: You guys are awesome! Donations recieved now exceed 50% of my goal, I am now over half-way to my goal of raising $5000. This is an awesome feeling as it doesn't include the corporate matching gifts, (icing on the cake). This Tuesday is Recommitment Day, where I have to guarantee (with my credit card) that I will raise a minimum of $3800 by June. I am confident I will get there, but my personal goal is to raise over $5000.

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to learn more go to TNT Donate

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brian's New Coach

Hi Everybody! Judy, the wife here! I thought I would share a picture of Brian's new coach:

Drill Coach Megan

Brian was telling me how he needs to strengthen up his lung capacity for his Tahoe ride, so what more to help strengthen his lungs than EXTRA WEIGHT? I figured 40 lbs would be good to start off with. So we attached Megan's trail-a-bike to his mountain bike and off the two of them went, climbing the hills of Simi Valley.

Megan was yelling like a good little drill sergeant....


(Yah....she might look sweet in the pictures, but don't let her looks fool you!)

I think they did about six miles up and down and around Yosemite Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood.

Megan came home tired and I got her to bed early. Brian.....he went off on another short sprint through Simi.

You guys would be so proud of him! He's really doing great with his training. I know I'm very proud of him.......!

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to learn more go to TNT Donate

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Week 5 - March 8, 2008 - Distance 33.22 Miles

Midweek training: I managed to log 35 mins on the trainer on Tuesday and ride to work and back (24 miles) on Thursday, my time was a tad slower than last week though.

Group Ride: The sun is out this week, and sunscreen is the order of the day. We started our ride from the Rosebowl in Pasadena at a later time of 8:30. This was to allow us to ride over to Pasedena Cyclery for a bike maintenance clinic.
I was assigned to a slower group for this short ride and missed riding with the faster guys.

The bike maintenance clinic took longer than anticipated and we didn't leave for our real ride till 11:00. I think a few miles were trimmed from the ride in the interest of getting back sooner, hence why we did less miles this week than last. Jose, my mentor and the leader of the fast group, asks if I like the pace of the slower group. I tell him it is a little slow and would still like to ride with him.

Riding with the faster group again was enjoyable yet it challenges me. All in all, it is a good thing. I find I am slower on the hills than the rest of the group. I am realising that it is not strength that I lack but it seems to be more of a cardiovascular limitation. I must try to work on that especially since the Tahoe ride is at high elevation (less oxygen). However, I seem to catch them up OK on the flat. Our ride is somewhat uneventful, except as a traffic light changed Tim very nearly collided with Becky. She had decided to stop, he had decided he was going through. It was close!

Last weeks nutrition clinic paid off because I had plenty of snacks to sustain me for the ride, especially since we got such a late start.

Fund-raising update: Thanks to all of you who have contributed so far. My progress towards my goal of $5000 is good. There are a substantial number of donations that are being matched by corporations. However, I still have a way to go. Family and friends in England and around the world will be on board this week as my mail went out and my e-mail will go out tomorrow. Thanks again for all your help, we can reach this goal together!

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to learn more go to TNT Donate

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Week 4 - March 1, 2008 - Distance 33.42 miles

Last Sunday, my birthday, I was laid up with a bad back for at least half a day. It was a strange day, I missed getting a call from my Mum. It's strange how it flattens the day, even though you know you won't get, and weren't expecting, a call from her. Still, I got to talk to my brother, Russ, and my Dad.

My wife, Judy, got me a cycle trainer for my birthday and by the end of the day my back felt good enough to set it up and test it out. It's going to be great to use in the evenings (when it is dark) and when it is raining.

On Thursday I rode to work and back, 12 miles each way with a hill in between. It feels good to get my first midweek ride in.

Our Saturday training ride has 2 clinics, the first one on "interval training" (basically sprinting till tired, then recovering and repeating) followed by a second one on nutrition. The nutrition one is very interesting and serves to remind me that all I have for today's 33-mile ride is water. Oops! I wont make that mistake again. Apparently, it is important to eat the right kind of carbohydrates on a longer ride. Generally speaking they are all the kind of foods you should not consume if you are not training: white bread, sugary drinks, energy bars, etc. It seems the sudden increase in blood sugar levels will not occur because your body demands the energy - NOW! Additionally, it is important to replenish electrolyte levels to avoid muscle cramping (something I experienced a little of riding home after work on Thursday).

"Today's Team Ride has only one hill" coach Andy tells us at the Saturday pre-ride briefing, "La Tuna Canyon Rd". I recognise the name, and think to myself "isn't that up by the 210 freeway". This thought is later confirmed when we are told that the riders will re-group by the 210. It turns out that La Tuna Cyn is almost a 5-mile climb. It starts very gradually with but after a brief downhill becomes much steeper. Bottom gear all the way up the last 2 to 3-mile stretch! I am fortunately distracted from the gruelling climb by the conversation I am having with Cherie, one of the mentors, who earlier, at the pre-ride meeting, had shared, with the team, her experiences in caring for her Sister-in-Law who had passed away in 2006. The story had touched me because of the parallels with my Mum's illness and passing. It had been emotionally difficult to listen to. It seems many of the riders share a passion that goes beyond cycling, we want a cure so that others don't have to endure what our loved ones did.

The descent from the summit is long and at times fast. Our biggest challange is staying warm. The temperature is around 50F, but most of us dressed expecting the sun to put in a late morning appearance. Instead we faced light misting and a heavily overcast sky. Once back at the parking lot we are intent on getting warm and I "bundle up" as the slower riders come in.

Then it is off to lunch at Baja Fresh again where we are treated to a show and tell of coach Andy's damaged rear rim. It seems he bent the rim in a slow speed collision while climbing La Tuna, then while trying to limp the bike back he rode ove a 1 inch drywall screw that drove itself through the tire into the rim. Talk about bad luck!

To make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to learn more go to TNT Donate