El Paso, TX seems like a really long time ago. It was in El Paso this past April that I started my commitment to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Today, with the ride in Austin, I finished this commitment. What a journey! The statistics are all below, but unlike the way I have measured myself in the past, they do not even come close to telling the story. In April biking was a form of exercise. Today it is a mission.
In Austin I was able to be part of “The Ride for the Roses”. It was a group of about 30 people who had raised $30,000 or more. About 2 weeks ago we were asked to submit a picture and a paragraph about why we raised money for the LAF this year. The stories were awesome! I think I was the only one in the book who was not riding for themselves or a loved one who experienced cancer in the last 5 years. I wrote at the end of my paragraph, “I had no idea that there could be so much devastation and suffering outside of a war. I guess that is why they call it the Livestrong Army.”
As part the top fund raisers, I got to do a private ride with Lance Armstrong. (There were 30 of us.) During the Philadelphia event, my Mom commented, “I thought he would be bigger.” It is true, when up on stage or even right next to you, he does not look very big. I will tell you, however, that next to him on a bike he looks HUGE! Not very talkative but Huge. (I asked him, “Don’t you get sick of trying to figure out what to say to people like me?” His answer was, “No.” That was it – just No.) At that point my 30 seconds were up and I went to the back of the pack happy that I did not ruin his comeback by causing a crash. Hahaha
Probably the best part of the weekend (from a LAF standpoint) was the fact that Tony and Michelle Charameda were able to come with Jeri and I. Tony and Michelle started and continue to organize the Ultimate Challenge each February. This is a 24 hour exercise bike ride/relay to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It was at this event this past February where my hair brain idea to ride all four Challenges this year got its start. I was cool to see their enthusiasm build over the weekend. (Every time I saw the two of them together it looked like they were scheming about their event this coming February.)
The Road Rider
|MILES||HOURS||BIKE TO WORK||ASCENT|
Between May 1, 2008 and October 31, 2008 I am going to ride in all 4 of the Livestrong Challenges plus two other 100-mile plus rides. My estimate is that during this time I will ride over 3,000 miles, climb over 100,000 feet, and spend over 200 hours on my bike. Due to the fact that I will still have a full time job, I will need to ride to work at least 30 times during this period. Essentially I will be spending almost all my free time on my bicycle.
“I believe that even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.”
Author Unknown (found at Jimmy Johns)
I gave a speech a couple weeks ago to all the ODL-Zeeland employees. During that speech I talked about the need for everyone to add value. Specifically what I said was, “We all need to add value to survive.” I was talking about the survival of ODL, Zeeland Manufacturing, and each individual job. Toward the end of this presentation I used my bicycling for the Lance Armstrong Foundation as an example.
Being part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation is interesting. I believe in their mission to make the lives of cancer survivors and their families better. I also happen to be a fan of Lance. Being part of the individual events is also cool. It takes over 700 volunteers per event to host one of these bike rides. However, when it is raining, or cold, or 5:30am, or I am climbing a 2 hour mountain the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the 700 volunteers cannot help me. I need a way to make a difference – to add value.
This is where the “Need a Song” campaign got its roots. The idea is to tie a cancer story to a song and play them while riding. I devised the scheme of the attached post card, which tells a little of my story and the requests the name of a cancer survivor/victim, a song that reminds you of them, and a story. With very little work I now have 56 entries. They are AWESOME! I have songs from “Amazing Grace” to “You shook me All Night Long”. I have cards from survivors, family, and friends. We have found a company in Grand Rapids that records the stories right over the beginning of each song so they play as one track. They are very inspiring. (I have attached a sample.)
Getting back to adding value – now when I bike I have all these songs on random play with the rest of my music. When they come on they remind me of the value these survivors/victims had on the people who filled out these cards. Even though most of them do not know it, they are now adding value to my life. (It is like a shot of pure adrenalin each time a story comes on.) And I think about the value I can now add. I cannot do much right now but I can ride my bike and raise a little money.
The Road Rider
If you have time, would you send me a completed card with a story and song? I have 2,000 miles yet to ride this year. (Digital card attached) Thank you!
|WEEK OF||MILES||HOURS||BIKE TO WORK||ASCENT|
|Livestrong Portland||June 29||100 miles||Done|
|Livestrong San Jose||July 13||100 miles||Done|
|ODL across Michigan||July 26||152 miles||Done|
|Livestrong Philadelphia||August 24||100 miles||1|
|Apple Cider Century||September 28||100 miles||37|
|Livestrong Austin||October 26||100 miles||65|
Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Life’s such a treat and its time you taste it. There aint a reason on earth to waste it. It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself…LICK IT UP!
I’m living the next 5 minutes like these are the last 5 minutes. Cause I know the next 5 minutes might be all I have.
Steven Curtis Chapman
It seems kind of weird to have Kiss and Steven Curtis Chapman mentioned on the same page. Kiss is known for sex drugs and rock and roll (mostly sex!), while Steven Curtis Chapman is a Christian artist. Although they may be coming at it from completely different points of view, they are both saying the same thing!
While bicycling I listen to lots of songs and most of the time I have my iPod on random play. This past Wednesday morning “The next 5 Minutes” came on while I was riding to work. I do not know if I ever listened to this song before but I remember thinking that I do OK but I do not live 5 minutes at a time. (I have to schedule time in my daily and weekly schedule to be spontaneous!)
While biking today, at a time when the group I was with was well ahead, “Lick it up” came on my headphones. This has always been a great song to bike to but I never really listened to the words. I did today and was surprised to find the same message that I heard on Wednesday morning. Live life to the fullest!
In hindsight the connection should not have come at any surprise. You see Bill O’Brien (Injection Molding Manager at ODL) was killed on his way home from work this past Wednesday night. The few stories I heard about him in the last 3 days tells me that he did a much better job than I do “living the next 5 minutes. His funeral on Monday was “one of the largest ever” at the local Catholic Church. It was amazing to see how many people he touched, and then his wife, Vicky, spoke about dozens more. Bill definitely “Licked it up”. Awesome!
The ride across Michigan was great. We could not have had better weather. Fog in the morning when we started at 6am, got warmer throughout the day but never got over 85 degrees, and by noon we had a good 15mph tail wind. It was a super fast day for me riding behind Bill, Scott, and Phil. (I actually feel a little guilty and an already scheming how to do it again soon all by myself.) All 11 of us who left Lake Michigan went further or faster than we had ever gone before with one exception. Scott has ridden over 300 miles in a 24 hour period. He was just out for a training jaunt today.
Three rides down with three to go. The next ride is Philadelphia on August 23. Maybe they will have us ride the flat area around Philly and toward the Ocean. Probably not. They will likely have us ride toward the mountains and Allentown. Either way I will do it 5 minutes at a time!
NOTE: I road 130 miles of the 149 with a group of 4. I pulled for maybe 30 minutes of the 8 hours. There is no way I burned that many calories. My computer assumes that speed, climb, and heart rate all on my own. Also, I could never have ridden that fast on my own. I might have been able to go 15mph on my own with the kind of tail wind we had.
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…”
Roman 5 3:5
This is the bible verse Ann wanted read at her funeral Thursday. I printed it on a3x5 card and read it over and over again today. While I did not really know Ann, I did spend one week with her and the Hope Church Fish Club on the Appellation Trail many years ago. (Yes, I did a couple hikes on the AT. That is why I took up bicycling. I can coast down hill, and I can stay in hotels while touring.) The minister who prepared the bible study used this verse as the week long theme. I have liked it ever sense. Just never knew that it had such meaning to Ann until Thursday.
I definitely like the climb toward the end of the ride instead of at the beginning. The climb today was at the 70 mile mark. It was 2 miles to the top. Once I started my inclinometer never went under 10% – most of the time it was between 12 and 14%. Never saw it above 16% but someone said there were parts at 17%. Riders dropped like flies. One big difference today was that the 75 or so riders I passed on the way up, I never saw again. I have no idea if they finished or not. (I passed them at 3.5mph zig zagging across both lanes. It was not like I rocketed past them. Jeri was at the presentation by Lance at 12:30pm. His first comment was, “Who chose that route? That was a tough hill.”
An interesting observation by Jeri from Saturday night – we see people on TV like Lance and think he is larger than life. Then you see them in a room and realize that they are just another person. They feel pain, experience disappointment, and do not have all the answers. They may be successful in one area but struggle in another. The mayor of San Jose spoke and his wish for Armstrong would be that the 7 tours would be a footnote in his biography 25 years from now and that the book would really be about his fight against cancer. That would be cool. (With all this said, however, I would really have loved to see him go up that 2 mile hill!)
Have you seen the movie Wild Hogs? If you have not, you should. Not only is it funny, but there are two one liners in it that really stand out. The first is “Ride hard or stay home.” Henry Fonda delivers it at the end of the movie and despite him talking about motorcycles; I like to use it when thinking about bicycling. The Road Rider needs to ride hard or stay home. (Tomorrow morning I will be wishing that I had stayed home. Hahaha)
The second is, “You’re a poser.” It is delivered a couple times during the movie and is about “acting” instead of “being”. This is the line that I have been thinking about almost not stop since Livestrong-Portland. During that event I was invited to a pre-ride dinner. At this dinner 8-10 people stood up and talked about either their fight with cancer or about a family member’s fight with cancer. It was very moving. It also drove home that I was a “poser”. Well at least I started out as a “poser”.
I had this idea to ride all 4 Livestrong Challenges not for cancer but for me. I needed some goal out there that caused me to get on my bike most days of the summer. I liked reading about Lance Armstrong so this was a good fit. (I also get bored riding around Holland all the time.) It had nothing to do with cancer! As my 3 year old nephew Aaron would say, “It is always you, you, you!”
Then I found out that a coworker and my brother’s father-in-law had cancer at Christmas last year. What was with that? Rich was a health freak! He ran forever – even after the doctor told him not to. And he has terminal lung cancer! This motivated me to put a small team together for the Ultimate Challenge – a 24 hour exercise bike ride to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I did 6 hours, watched the promotion video 8 times, tears streamed down my face 8 times, and resolved to do my rides this summer as a fundraiser. (Rich had his right lung removed this spring and is in complete recovery now. Can no longer run, but does bike a little and plays golf everyday.)
So going into Portland I felt a little connection, but I left Portland still feeling like a “poser”. I have never had cancer. I never plan to have cancer. Jeri had Thyroid cancer before we were married, but it no longer affects her life and it was 20 years ago. Other than that, I have had no close family with cancer ever. I have not had any of my personal friends have cancer. I have never sat with anyone while they found out about having cancer. I have never listened to anyone cry because they know they will not survive cancer. While I ride my bike almost every day and with your help have raised over $50,000 this year for the fight against cancer, I was still really a “poser”.
Maybe I crossed over this past Thursday. A good friend of my Dad, Ann, died Monday of brain cancer. (Her brother died of exactly the same thing 2-3 years ago.) I have asked a few of you to fill out my song promotion card and my Dad left the information below on my desk Monday evening. I read it and immediately tears ran down my face. I called to tell him I was sorry, and could hardly leave a message. Where did all this come from? I did not really know Ann. My Dad has had other friends that he was even closer too die in the last few years and I was not this emotional.
Jeri and I went to the funeral on Thursday and it was then that I figured out the emotion. While listening to my Dad and Gordon talk about Ann the tears were streaming down my face, I realized that the emotion was anger. I was so fucking mad. I was not mad at God but at a group of deformed cells. Even now sitting on a plane next to a complete stranger the tears are again streaming down my face. It does not have to be like this! It does not have to be this hard for a mid 50 year old husband and three kids in their twenties. I did not really know Ann but it pisses me off that no one will ever get to hike with her on the AT again. I know the language is strong. There are only a few that ever hear this from me, but it is appropriate here. 12,000,000 people in the United States are dealing with cancer right now and that SUCKS!
I still do not have cancer, and I still plan to never get it. In that aspect I am still a “poser”. I think, however, that I have crossed of from “you, you, you” to doing whatever I can to make this go away. The Lance Armstrong slogan this year is “Pick a fight.” The only way I know to fight right now is ride my bike and raise a little money. This will be my fight for now. Unlike Portland, I have no nervousness about San Jose tomorrow. While I have been told that the course is more challenging, I am part of the LAF Army now. There is no doubt that Henry Fonda’s character in Wild Hogs will be proud of me tomorrow evening. Maybe Ann will be too.
From my Dad on Monday
Name of Cancer Victim/Survivor: Ann Dirkse
Song & Artist that reminds you of them: “Morning Has Broken”
Couple sentences about them: For my friend Anne, morning has indeed broken. She began her great adventure at 8:45am this morning. 7/7/08