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

Monday, June 2, 2008

AMBBR - Lake Tahoe 2008

WOW! This weekend, the event, the people, the cause, and the weather all blew me away! Everything exceeded my expectations. Most of all, the emotional energy. More of that later!

It all started on Friday when some of us went for an informal "20 mile" bike ride. As it turned out we exceeded 26 miles, but I was surprised that the altitude didn't seem to affect me, even when we climbed a steepish incline to view a beautiful waterfall. The air was prestinely clear, (something you value when living in LA), and the snow capped peaks made a dramatic backdrop. The smell of pines and sequoias added to the euphoria. I was just ecstatic to be there.

Saturday, I got up early (ish) to feel the temperature for myself. I had heard stories of bone numbing cold temperatures for the start. However, I actually felt too warm wearing all of the cold weather gear I had brought. What shall I wear? It's something to think about!

After picking up my entry packet, I headed for the hotel room where I carefully placed names on my bike (see my previous blog entry). The wave of emotion was expected, yet still took me by surprise. I was suddenly acutely aware that I would not be here this weekend, in Lake Tahoe, amid such beauty, if Mum had not been diagnosed with Leukemia. The purpose of this ride felt even stronger than before. Obviously, any cure is too late for Mum, but if the money I raise can help others... The thought gets lost in my emotion.

Our last official practice ride goes well, and I still don't feel any affects of the altitude. We rack up 24 miles as we pull back in to the parking lot ready for a shower.

At 4:00 p.m. we all head over to our Pasta Party, the traditional pre-event Carbo-load. Judy and Megan are with me as we head up the elevator towards the conference room surrounded by other participants from all over the country. The sound of enthusiastic cheering and clanging cow bells becomes louder and louder. It is just like I would imagine a stage on the Tour de France to sound like. As we walk down the hallway we are cheered by our mentors and coaches, a hero's welcome. Wow, my emotional fragile state is breached again. During the dinner there is a presentation of how the founder, Bruce Cleland, ran the New York Marathon to raise money for Leukemia Research in honor of his daughter who had cancer. I was touched once again.

After the dinner we had our pre-event meeting with Coach Andy. He ran over the plans for the big day, gave us last minute tips, and finalised the ride groups. I was happy, I would be riding with the same people I had ridden with for most of the season, Our fast group: Jose, Becky, Tim, Becca, Thai, and myself. Actually, we aren't that fast, just a little bit faster than the others, that's all!

I am busy getting things ready for bed and an early (ish) night when I decide to add air to my rear tire (tyre!). Just as I am getting close to full, boom, there is a loud rushing of air as I realise the valve stem has broken off. Now I get to practise a flat repair! I use one of my spare tubes, leaving me only one spare tube for the ride tomorrow. I get to bed at 10:30 p.m.

Event Day. 4:30 a.m. Sunday, I get up, however I have slept poorly. The emotion, the excitement, the nerves all kept my mind racing, and me tossing and turning into the small hours of the morning. I heed the coaches advice, "if you don't have it you can't use it", and wear most of my warm gear. It is reassuring to know that there will be staff at certain rest stops that are able to receive unneeded items and transport them back to the start. I bring my small backpack to make it easier.

After breakfast I bring my bike down from the hotel room. The elevators are jammed with bikes. The only way to get down is to ride the elevator up, stopping at every floor, up and down! Our team assembles on time, 5:45 a.m., and heads over to group together at the start line. We wait as waves of riders are set off at 5 minute intervals by chapter. Our chapter, Greater Los Angeles, is to leave at 6:25 a.m. Soon enough we are off pedalling gently through the brisk morning air, allowing our muscles to warm up slowly.

The first few miles are spent dodging potholes in the road (the considerate riders point them out) and navigating our way past slower riders, while in turn being passed by faster riders.

At mile 11, our 2-mile climb up the switch backs to Inspiration Point begins. It is steep and full of riders. The road is closed to north-bound traffic and at times bicyclists fill the lane completely. There isn't much opportunity to enjoy the view as we have to concentrate on the riders around us. At Inspiration Point, Maeve, our Campaign Manager, is waiting and cheering. She accepts our unwanted clothing. I choose to remove my cycling tights, but retain my knee warmers. The short descent is fast and chilly with a breathtaking view of Emerald Bay to the right. Immediately there is another climb and our group chooses to continue up the hill past the first Rest Stop, Vikingsholm. Another fast descent drops us into a flat section of the ride where we make our first stop for food at the Homewood Rest Stop. 26 miles done and we have been riding for nearly 2 hours.

Riding again we soon come to the turn-off for Truckee. Here, as we navigate our way through a parking lot there are families cheering us on. One group cheering especially wildly is Tim's family and girlfriend. That brought my emotions to the fore again. You see, Tim is a Leukemia survivor - he is in remission. If you remember from an earlier post, he had just finished his last round of Chemo weeks before our training stated back in February. What a guy, I am honored to have him as a teammate, and more so, in our group of riders.

The run down hill to Truckee followed the Truckee River utilising a bike path for half the route. The river was beautifully clear and pretty often running slowly through alpine meadows. The bike path while away from traffic had its own danger. The danger of a head on collision between cyclists. The closing speed of riders approaching each other can be in excess of 30 to 40 mph. In a congested setting where faster riders encounter slower groups of riders and wish to pass extreme care must be taken.

As we swing into the Truckee Rest Stop, Tim's family is cheering again, wearing "Tim" t-shirts.

Now the temperature has climbed to around 60F (16C) I choose this stop to strip off my warm outer jersey, knee warmers, long fingered gloves, and skullcap. I put all this in my backpack, choosing to retain my arm-warmers and windbreaker. I also switch to my short-fingered gloves.

The climb out of Truckee is also into a headwind and we use pace lining to conserve our energy. Tim's family has leapfrogged us again and is cheering once more. This time I quickly slip off my backpack and throw it to them asking them to take it back to the Finish. They are awesome! Every time they pass in their car they cheer too! The emotional energy and boost I got from them and all the other families along the ride was phenomenal. It gave me strength, while at the same time bringing me to the edge of tears. I could imagine Dad and Russ cheering me on, while at the same time knowing that Mum would have cheered for me too!

My own little family, Judy and Megan, were at the entrance to the Kings Beach lunch rest stop. Megan was holding up the sign she had made weeks earlier. It was awesome to see them and I was proud of them! After they hugged and kissed me and I ate lunch our group was off again, ready for our last 30 miles. However, Spooner Junction was between us and the finish line.

Our ride continued through Incline Village before our climb to the top of Spooner started at mile 80. The climb was long and warm rising 800 ft in 8 miles. It was certainly tamer than hills we had done in training, but the altitude was an added factor. Thai was really feeling the effects of the altitude and because of his asthma was having problems catching his breath. We would stop and wait for him periodically on the climb. We were determined that after all our time together training that we would all finish together.

When we reached the Spooner Junction Rest Stop we celebrated knowing that the final few miles were just a formality. We decided to regroup at the bottom of the descent in Zephyr Cove. The initial descent was very fast and by the time we reached the tunnel Becky and I were out in front and we were pushing the pace. We rode the 8 miles to Zephyr Point enjoying the run. When we stopped I called Judy to let her know we were only 3 miles from the finish line. Once the others caught up we continued to the finish.

As we entered the approach to the finish line the sound of cheering and cow bells was incredible. As we had arranged we all spread out and crossed the finish together, Thai and Jose were just behind us. As mentors, they wanted us to cross first. None of it mattered because once again emotions ran high as we high-fived each other and congratulated each other. Judy and Megan ran over along with other teammates and families to congratulate us.

It was amazing. We hung around and cheered as our other teammates came in until Coach Andy arrived with several of our teammates and a bottle of champagne. Apparently he stopped a mile or two down the road to buy it! We had a fantastic impromptu celebration right there! There were now only 3 of our team left out on the course. We waited for them to come in. When they crossed the finish line with Jayne, their mentor, Liz lost it and sobbed. I could understand her emotion.

Now we were all in it was off to the victory party to celebrate.

The statistics given to us this weekend's ride were; 3,350 riders in the event. 1,800 of them were fundraising for TNT - Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Collectively the 1,800 riders have raised $7.5 million dollars to date!

(I will post photos later in the week!)

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


Anonymous said...

Well done, lad! Bril! Wicked!
John and Lesley

Unknown said...

Congratulations Brian! Well done. I think your Mum would be proud.

Anonymous said...

Congratualtions, Brian! Reading your posts, I could feel the wave of emotions you felt too as you rode. What an awesome feeling it must have been to actually be there. Thanks for keepping us all updated on the whole journey.

Ken, Sue, Bekah & Jessi