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Celebrating Imagination and the Wonderful, Wild Ride that is Life

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One of those moments

When you work on behalf of a non-profit organization whether it be for a short period of time, such as fundraising for a specific event like selling daffodils for the American Cancer Society or ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, or working in an official sense as I am now doing for the Young Survival Coalition, one thing you can expect, but never get used to are what I call, for lack of a better name, "One of those moments."

These moments are characterized by someone sharing a story, or going beyond the usual effort required to donate and support a cause, and truly touch you in a way that will never be forgotten. It isn't the generosity of the monetary gift, or even the generosity of a person's time that makes these moments sepecial. Instead, it is the generosity of these people's story, a window into their soul that touches you, that opens your heart like a flower, and that for an instant, makes anything in life seem possible. It is a moment as close to grace as anything I can imagine.

Each one of these moments is precious, like a childhood memory; they never cease to give me goosebumps or to fill me with near incomprehensible emotion.

Forever etched in my soul will be the man, from a donation attempt for our first annual scrapbooking event, who worked for a manufacturer of tote bags and camera cases. After he agreed to give me a donation, he asked, "How much can you carry?" I responded, "As much as you want me to." As I began openly crying, he said in the kindest voice possible, "Don't cry, honey, just make a difference." and sent me on my way totally encumbered by bags of all shapes and sizes.

There are also those strangers, faceless and nameless, who anonymously sent me donation checks when I walked in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk with my sister. I will never cease to be amazed by their generosity. To give money to someone they don't even know was a remarkable thing. Due to their help, I raised over $6500 that year without hardly trying.

Then there was the homeless woman along the route of that very same Breast Cancer Walk who thanked each and every one of us for coming, for walking, for working to make a difference. That angel saw us and understood what we were trying to do even when she didn't know if or when she'd eat that night, while dozens of others, sitting at outdoor dining tables up the street had completely ignored the line of walkers as we passed by. I will never forget her.

There are all of those individuals who have shared their story of cancer, or that of their loved ones with me. There are those people who are moved by something I say who take the time to tell me that it touched them in some way. Each one of these moments is a gift.

Of course every donation, every pat on the back, every word of encouragement is a blessing, but some people, some occasions, just take my breath away and make me choke on tears.

This ride has brought about lots of those moments, too. But the most recent example, truly the most generous, has left me speechless, humbled and touched beyond words.

It came from a woman who works with Brad. It seems that she had shared the story of my ride with her son. He decided to put together a donation for me and included the following card.

I can't even describe how touched I am by this card. I absolutely LOVE this drawing. I especially appreciate that he drew me looking very, very happy which is indeed the way I feel. But beyond this fabulous drawing, it was what was on the inside that rose this gesture of generosity above any other than I have ever experienced. Here is the inside of the card:

Yes, that's right. It turns out that Nathan is a cancer survivor. Apparently, when he was three years old Nathan was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. He underwent treatment with chemo, surgery, and radiation just the same as me. Nathan is now nine years old. I am most touched by the fact that Nathan decided to sign his card with "Cancer Survivor". I believe this was his way of reaching out and letting me know I'm not alone. There truly is no more selfless or generous gift that I could have been given. Nathan, you are at the top of my "Moments" list.

Thank you, and thank you to your Mom. Hopefully I will be able to come up with something special for you in return.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Two cancer journeys, only one way through.

Yesterday Brad and I got to go for a great ride. He planned the whole 40 mile trip which took us down to the tip of Park Point, back along the shore of Lake Superior, and up a hill that loomed large in my psyche. We had ridden up it about a month ago.

It is a very steep, long hill. I am still stinging with the knowledge that the last time I tried to make it up, I gave up. I let my mind overpower me, and I simply gave up. I am usually not a quitter, but it was clear that I had made the decision from the start that I was not going to make it up the hill. I quit way sooner than I needed to, and Brad rode past, making it all the way to the top. I did a walk of shame up the hill which had no shoulder, bad footing, rocks and chunks of asphalt, garbage, etc. as cars whipped by me at 40 mph. Honestly, it wasn't all that much easier to walk the hill. By the time I reached Brad (who had kindly pulled over to wait) my calves were screaming from trudging up in my bike shoes. I felt so darned defeated. To his credit, Brad didn't say anything. He knew my pride was hurt; not because he had made it, but because I had done the one thing I hate: quit.

So yesterday he informed me that we would be taking that hill on our way home. I was nervous all the way, wondering how I would fare. But to my surprise, it was a completely different experience. My heavier training schedule, coupled with our friend Mike's "Confidence Building 70 mile Killer Ride" from a couple weeks ago had worked wonders. I breezed up that baby. I was even ahead of Brad. I felt so good, in fact, that I suggested adding on to the ride. It really is amazing how much attitude can effect the outcome of certain situations.

Yesterday took me up another kind of hill. Julie called me in the morning to tell me it was time to do something about her hair. The chemo had finally kicked in and it was coming out fast and furious. I had agreed to cut it for her. I was dreading seeing her beautiful naturally curly mane fall away; I knew it would be hard for her, but it was going to be hard for me too. Baldness makes it really hard to ignore the fact that your friend is fighting cancer. Again. So, this wasn't really my hill alone, but it was a hill: and an even bigger one than the one I conquered on my bike.

I got to her house and Sara, her neighbor and friend, had brought over a beer for each of us (perfect!). Plus, our friend Kim was put to the task of photographing the process. Julie had decided this was not something to be sad about. It was something to try to have some fun with. So, that's what we did. I started out by giving her a cute little wedge cut in the back. Then she ended up with a long, curly mohawk which we all agreed looked fantastic! I thought Sara would explode with distress over the short mohawk and lone lock of long, curly hair we left on top. It really got weird when her whole head was shaved and only that long piece was left. She looked like a seriously twisted Kewpie Doll. Finally, the last cut was made, and she was bald. Smiling, laughing, the same Julie as always, just a little lighter on top. Truthfully, she was absolutely radiant. We all put on some lipstick and gave her a kiss on the head.

I realized that the experience of cutting off her hair was the exact same as riding the bike up that hill. It was all mental. Cutting off her hair was a threatening hill to climb when we first thought about it, but once we were over the hump, we were all relieved and happy, especially Julie. I can't imagine a better example of attitude effecting the outcome of a given situation.

Here are a few photos of the transition:

While I get to ride my bike, Julie has to sit for countless hours of drugs being pumped into her veins. Drugs that do NOT make you feel good. But drugs that are clearly doing the job. And both Julie and I know what we need to do: keep our head down, with our eyes fixed on the horizon, our mind focused on the long term gains and not the short term discomfort, holding tightly to only those things that we really need to get us through, and casting away the baggage. We're both going to make it. Neither of us are quitters. I know this to be true. I love you, Julie, my friend. Pass the beer, and I'll laugh with you all the way through to the downhill side.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For Audrey

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Audrey. She is, to put it mildly, a remarkable woman. Perhaps you know someone like her. The first time I met her, I knew I needed to become her friend. She makes everybody want to be her friend. In fact, everybody is her friend!

It is fitting that her name is Audrey (though she doesn't usually go by it) because she reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, another heroine in my life. My Audrey is very much like that Audrey in that she is stylish, classic, and beautiful even while wearing a t-shirt and jeans. She is also like that Audrey because she has a beauty that goes all the way to her core; she knows what truly matters in life, and seems to sow seeds of happiness in everything she does. She is unfailingly kind, optimistic, but also enjoys a naughty joke once in a while. She gets my sarcasm, and she likes me despite my flaws. As far as I can tell she likes everyone. I have never heard her utter a rude or unkind word about anyone. She is patient. She is everything I wish I could be, but know I can't. She is a dove. I am a labrador retriever. Audrey's home and family completely match her temperament. They are the kindest, most generous, and most welcoming people you could know. That is a direct testament to her quiet influence. To visit Audrey at home is to always be greeted like you are returning home after a long journey; it's exactly like coming home for Thanksgiving.

I am introducing you to Audrey because I want to share a simple gift she gave me. It was the kind of thing she does every day, to everyone. But although to her it may have been a little thing, to me it meant a great deal. Perhaps you give similar gifts in your daily life, and don't realize how small things can mean so much, so I was hoping in a way, to thank you, too.

Training has gotten harder as the Tour de Pink gets closer. I am having to squeeze in the time to take longer rides, and I'm trying to ride everyday. The anxiety of whether I will be able to complete the ride is starting to weigh on me. Unfortunately, since I work as a breast cancer advocate, my schedule is getting tighter and crazier as October (breast cancer awareness month) approaches. I'm planning fundraisers, events, etc., and well, I'm getting a little grumpy. I should also mention that my daughter is a senior and the crunch to start filling out applications, and making serious decisions is also weighing on me. My house is a disaster. I come home to hairballs so large that it looks like our cats have had kittens. I can only avert my eyes, dim the lights, and leave it for yet another day.

It is harder and harder to enjoy my rides. But two days ago I went for a ride that was just great. I was feeling strong, like maybe I could manage the Tour without trouble. I was feeling so good on that day that I added an extra leg at the end of the route that takes me up a big hill to get home. I always dread that hill. But that time, I felt strong. I felt confidant. And I ended the ride feeling even better than when I left. It was pure gold.

Yesterday, was another story. I had a busy day and was feeling all the pressures weighing on me. I got home late to a kitchen full of dirty dishes and whatever impulse I had to ride was slowly draining away. I did the dishes and turned my attention to the pile of mail that had gone unsorted for days. All the while I made excuses as to why I could just skip the ride. It was too late. I was tired. Too much to do. It would be getting dark before I got back. I had completely convinced myself to skip it when I listened to the days' phone messages. Message #1: some saleswoman who won't stop calling. Ugh. Message #2 was from Audrey. And it went something like this:

"Alane, I just wanted you to know that we were driving up the hill yesterday and we saw you riding your bike. I wanted you to know that you looked so strong and so ready for this ride. I am really proud of you. You looked so strong."

Small. Simple. But it got me on my bike. Audrey doesn't know what that small push, which wasn't even meant as a push, put in motion for me last night.

After listening to the message, I immediately suited up and got on the bike. It was chilly, but a beautiful evening. The first surprise came when about a mile and a half up the road, I saw my husband, biking home from work in the opposite direction. I love him. My heart still jumps a little whenever I see him, so this was a special treat. We waved and the evening air echoed with our "I Love Yous!" as we parted. I got to take a moment and think about what a remarkable husband I have. He has been doing the work of two people this week, is on call, and was riding home to drive our son to practice after which he would go back to work, and pick our son up again. What a guy. Thanks, Audrey, I needed to remember that, and told him how much I appreciate him later.

Those thoughts led to more thoughts; thoughts of Audrey. Her own family is dealing with a cancer crisis right now, and she is heartbroken but upbeat, and making the most of every moment. I thought about the grace and kindness it took for someone, in that situation, to think about me on my bike. And then these words came to me like a bolt of lightning: "You have to breathe out to breathe in." It is a wonderful physical phenomena that our respiratory system works so well, without our help, in simple rhythm to keep us alive. But the words stuck with me for the ride. You have to breathe out to breathe in. You have to give to receive, you have to love to be loved, you have to share to be a part of something, you have to spread happiness to be happy, and life will fill you up as long as you let it in. Thanks again, Audrey.

This thought was so overwhelming to me that I barely felt my legs pumping for the rest of the ride. But I was struck with a constant stream of images; Images about my life and how incredibly full it is. The opening of a flower, the feeling of my daughter's hand as a toddler, the first time I really felt the deep connection between us, the light in my son's eyes, the arms of a friend, laughter, faces, and more. I began to cry a little as I became truly in touch with how full and wonderful my life is; how my cup truly does runneth over. How I am so, so grateful for all that I have.

Because of Audrey's small gesture, I cried tears of joy as I remembered moments long forgotten. I had an incredibly beautiful ride. The evening was golden; it was my favorite time of the day. And my ride ended with a swift turn around a cul-de-sac circle where a beautiful deer stood in the center, motionless except for its head which it turned to watch me as I passed. Quiet, serene, and truly blessed.

I am going to try to make change in other people's lives today. Even if it's only in small ways. Because Audrey taught me how a ripple can create a wave, how a chain reaction can be started with one small gesture of kindness. You never know the effect your actions will have. But I hope Audrey knows this time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the sweet side.

Hands down, bicyclists seem to be the nicest people around. At least the ones that I have met, anyway. But I'm pretty sure that statement would hold true for any cyclist. I say this because, every single one of them that I have met on this journey has been supportive, kind, eager to help, full of advice, and very gracious. From the guys at Ski Hut, my local bike shop, who have done nothing but encourage 2 novices like Brad and myself, to the hard core cyclists who have shared training routes, insider tips, and even taken us on a grueling "Confidence Building" Ride (see my last post "I don't know which was harder"). Not a single one of them expressed shock or incredulity at what we were about to try to do; instead, they have been nothing but enthusiastic.

My belief that all cyclists are nice was further enhanced today when I took off on a longer ride. First I have to tell you that all week, Brad has been fighting a nasty cold and hasn't been able to ride. Plus he had to take a trip out of town for work. So, I've been left to train on my own. Some days it's awfully hard to force myself out the door, especially if I know I'm pushing myself to do a longer or harder ride. Today was particularly tough since with my spouse gone, I have been turned into even more of a taxi driver for the kids. Soccer, drama tryouts, more tryouts, more soccer, games, homework projects, grad pictures, the list goes on and on. (My hats off to every single parent out there. I honestly don't know how you do it.) Anyway, with Brad gone I am on constant high alert, which means I don't sleep well. Being on call 24/7 with no backup is definitely no picnic.

My training goal for this weekend was to go on two back to back medium-to-long rides. I was hoping to do 40 today and possibly 50 tomorrow. Of course, between a soccer game and driving Cory where he needed to be (with a stop to purchase alka-seltzer on the way: I heard something about rockets) I was left with only 2 hours and 20 minutes to try to ride 40 miles. I was very grumpy when I started out. I felt rushed and out of sorts. Not to mention the fact that today was hotter than it's been in weeks and I was heading out in the hottest part of the day.

So I started out, climbing up a street of hills when I saw a bicyclist ahead of me in the distance. I thought that perhaps it might be someone I know. I was in a hurry, so I was trying to climb the hills a little faster than usual. After a couple of miles I caught up with her. I was a little surprised to see another woman riding alone; usually I'm the only one out there. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't someone I know. Darn. I was hoping for some friendly company. So, being in a hurry, I passed her. After I passed her I realized she had caught up to me and was saying something. She was asking if I wanted some company. I couldn't believe it, and wasn't sure of the etiquette in these situations. I wanted company, but I wasn't too sure about a stranger. But I said "sure". It turned out she was taking the same route that I was, but she was almost done. Her car was parked a few miles up the road. We rode along together (at a faster clip than I was intending) and talked. She kept riding with me for quite a way even though we had gone long past her car. In the end she turned around and headed home, but not before she gave me her cell phone and email so I could call her for company if I wanted to another day.

I have to admit that after she turned around, the ride got harder. I had trouble keeping up the pace, even though I'd been breezing along before, talking all the way. But I managed to bike 38 miles (just short of 40, dang it!) in 2 hours and 24 minutes. I couldn't have finished so quickly without the company, of that I'm sure.

I spent the rest of the ride thinking about why bicyclists are so nice. I decided that it is because we're traveling at a slower speed. We're developing an intimate relationship with the world around us while everyone else whizzes by in their cars. (Me too, at all other times of the day!) It made me think about all the great things I've seen from the seat of my bike. I saw Spring finally come to the Northland. I watched the roadside, normally ugly and inhospitable burst forth with the beauty of lupines. On more than one occasion I startled nesting herons who took to the sky in a frenzy. I will never forget riding silently behind and then alongside a beautiful, patient gray wolf. I've seen turtles and watched Brad rescue more than a few from death on the center lines. I've seen ugly things too, like the heaps of trash people toss out their car windows, angry, rude drivers who want you to get out of their way, and the worst: all the small, seemingly inconseqential animals who have died on the road; possums, skunks, deer, a kitten, turtles, garter snakes, and even a hawk. Everytime I've passed by, I've said a small prayer. I say, "sorry, little animal, I'm sorry." Bike riding gives you the time to do that. To pray, even when you're normally not a praying person. To reflect on things you'd otherwise miss because of the fast pace of life. It forces you to slow down and see the world at eye level. And it gives you the opportunity to meet total strangers who become friends.

Monday, September 7, 2009


In a (somewhat) lame attempt to prove that I still have a life outside of the YSC, I thought I'd post a few pics of some recent pages I've made. Take that, Kos!

This is one of my favorite photos of Brad and Erin when she was a baby. You can totally feel the bond between them just coming straight through the picture. It was fun to finally scrap it. I LOVE that she's sucking her thumb in this picture. She was so adorable. I had a lot of fun trying to create a soft, layered look on this page.

Again, this is one of my favorite photos of all time. Cory was such a huge fan of Toy Story (1 & 2). He loved his "Buzz Yightyear and Woo-y" Toys and carried them everywhere. If you're familiar with the 1st movie, there's a scene where the boy has a cardboard box costume to pretend that he's Buzz Lightyear. This was our facsimile.

I love doing new things and trying techniques on my layouts. That's what makes it really fun for me. I only had one photo of Cory in his Buzz costume, but wanted to include more because it was so special. So I printed the same image (smaller) onto printable shrinky-dink material, cut them out and heated them in the oven. I was left with these great customized 3-D page elements. Then I added eyelets all over the background to simulate space. FUN!

Again I scrapped some absolute favorite photos. Cory has always been able to fall asleep wherever and whenever he wants. There was a time when we were in K-Mart that he actually cleared a shelf and fell asleep right on top of a pile of Martha Stewart towels! If only I had a picture of that. Instead, I had these three photos from him on the sidelines of one of Erin's soccer games. He was chilly and tired, so he zipped himself up into my jacket and took a nice nap, still sitting up!

Here's a close-up proving to my friend Julie that I met her scrap challenge and used one of the chipboard borders she retrieved from our yard sale! I also had fun playing with paint, sewing (which I seem to do on every page these days), and scalloped borders. I hand cut these, including the one out of veneer. I also really liked the way the title came out...I wanted the letters to be a little 3-D so I curled them up a bit. If you notice, this is really the same layout format I used on the first layout of Brad and Erin. I've been doing that a lot lately, too. I don't know why. It just feels right. And if it feels right, go for it!

I don't know which was harder.

I spent two days this week doing two very different things, and honestly, I don't know which was harder. I'm still processing them both.

First, and way more important, on Thursday I went with my friend Julie for her first round of chemo. She has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time after being cancer-free for six years. That will most definitely ruin anyone's summer, but somehow Julie remains to stay afloat and enjoys herself as much as possible. She's just wired that way. She's a good person straight down into her soul; let's face it, she's the only person I know who is friends with the Jehovah's Witnesses that frequent her house. (Since it's the only place they are greeted with friendly converstaion, I suspect!) Anyway, Julie is exactly the type of person you hate to see go through this: she's someone everybody loves. So, I picked her up Thursday morning for her appointment in our convertible. We're finally getting a few days of summer here, so we need to enjoy it whenever possible. And can you really think of a better time to be in a convertible?

Suffice it to say it turned out to be a lot longer day than we thought: seven hours. We actually closed the chemo ward down. To be fair, this was her first visit and she had to meet with her Doctor, hear all the "possible side effects" of her treatment and sign off on any paperwork. But she was in that chair for a very...long...time. The nurses were awesome, friendly, helpful, and not too intrusive. They kept her meds coming as quickly as they could. But it was a long, hard day. Julie came through it with her laughter in tact. Thank heaven she enjoys my sarcastic sense of humor, while the final nurse we saw that day did not. The conversation went something like this:
  • Nurse (directed at Julie) "We're letting you go home a little earlier than normal, but be aware of any of the following side effects: shortness of breath, heart racing, chest pain, falling down, lightheadedness...if that should happen, go to the E.R."

  • Alane (also directed at Julie) "Oh, NO. That WON'T be happening. You are NOT going to do THAT!!!"

  • Nurse (directed at Julie but clearly meant for Alane) "This is your friend? She's mean. What'd you bring her for?"

  • Ouch. No sarcasm allowed on the chemo floor.

Suffice it to say, the day was hard for Julie. But she came through it very well. I drove her by the Portland Malt Shop for a chocolate malt on the way home. (They are the best: hurry up and go before they close for the season! The mint chocolate malt is my fave...I love the little cookie on top!)

I was so happy to hear the next day that despite feeling flu-like, Julie was doing pretty good. No nausea to date, and I hope she is out enjoying this awesome weekend.

Of course that night, I couldn't sleep. I get into a routine when I'm stressed but can't process it: I grind my teeth a lot when and if I do sleep. My feelings about her going through this are being held deep right now. I know when they do bubble up, it's gonna hurt, but for now I'm dealing with it. Being on the other side of the chemo bag is no picnic, I'm not gonna lie. But it's nothing like having to go through it yourself. That is the truth. Mystery solved, people: as survivors we often say watching what it's doing to your loved ones is harder than going through it. I can officially, and authoritatively say, "BULL!" It's a lot harder to go through it. Trust me.

So on to difficult day 2 of a completely different sort. Around the time of Julie's chemo I started getting calls from our friend and neighbor Mike inviting Brad and I to go on the killer ride that would test out mettle and prove we were ready to ride the Tour de Pink. I will admit, I was dodging his calls. Every time I heard his voice on the answering machine, I'd tell Brad he needed to call him. Needless to say, Brad was in a similar stance of avoidance. On Friday Mike caught me on the phone, and of course, because he could sell anything to anyone, I agreed. Plus, I knew it had to be done. The plan was to meet at 8 AM on Saturday for a 70 mile ride. Which he promised would be "Low Key".

At this point I should tell you that Mike rode his own individual TDP ride earlier this summer: he started out on what was to be around 800 miles from his High School Reunion in MI. The important thing to know is: he was doing it alone. No back up. In the end, he made it 500 miles before the knee pain and numbness in his hands was so bad he had to call for a ride home. But he'd done 500 miles in 4 days. Yikes! Needless to say, I was not certain that his definition of low key and mine were one and the same. Here's a photo of me & Mike after his ride, when he was awarding me with some of the over $5000 he raised for YSC:

So shortly after we agrred to the ride, the next shoe dropped. At about 10 or 11 PM, I get a message from him that another friend, Steve, and Bill S. were coming with us. It is hard to describe my reaction to this news. Bill S. is a bit of a joke in our household (and not in a mean way because he is a very sweet guy). He runs, bikes, swims, skis, you name it, constantly. He is literally an Ironman. Brad and I often joke that we stand in our front window eating donuts watching him run, bike, and ski by all day long. Needless to say, the intimidation factor was at an all-time high.

So Saturday 8 AM arrives. We suit up and head out for our "low key" ride. Very quickly, it became clear that we were so out of our league. Anyone who knows Duluth, knows the nature of the hills. The city is built on a cliff, for heaven's sake! We zipped along Skyline Drive in fog as thick as peanut butter. The pace was a little faster than what we're used to, but at that point in the ride, we were feeling okay. It was what came after our first rest stop that nearly killed me. We rode into Jay Cooke Park, a state park near here that has two absolutely brutal hills to get up. The three of them were chatting about the view, while Brad and I prayed to suddenly have the ability to fly. Don't get me wrong: they were awesome, and encouraged us every bit of the way. I literally would have quit many times if Mike had not ridden next to me and talked me up the hill. He was like Yoda. "Patience...take your time..." It was brutal and painful. Then we got to rest stop #2. I have never consumed so much sugar in my life. By the end of the ride, I actually didn't want anymore. (That's a definite first for not want sugar or chocolate!) We hit the "easy" portion of the ride with lower, rolling hills and straightaways. Mike was leading us, and suddenly the speed increased tremendously. I though Brad was going to kill him. (But of course he'd have to catch him first!) In the back of my mind (and I'm sure Brad's) was the fact that we needed to save the last bit of energy we had to make it up the hill that leads to our house. That hill loomed like a demon in my mind. It loomed until Mike gave us the choice to get the inevitable climb into the city over with in one fell swoop rather than dragging it out over a series of inclines. Fools that we were, we fell for it. After riding 55 miles, we hit it. I almost wept. A one mile long hill going straight up, back up to Skyline Drive. I honestly cannot believe I made it. This time Mike tried to talk to me, and I couldn't even expend the energy to do that. It was all I could do to keep pedaling. The cruelest part of all was that there was a curve at the top that made it look like it was the end, but when we hit the curve, it just kept on going. Brad said a little piece of his heart died at that moment, and I believe him. Finally, we made it to the top and the others were like "Yay, that was totally kick-ass! You made it!!!" But they failed to notice, that even though the big hill was done, we were still on an incline. If I was a violent person and had access to a firearm at that moment, I would have used it. Don't judge me, you would have too if you'd been there.

Remarkably, in the end we made it up our last hill to home. I can say without a doubt that was the most physically difficult thing I have ever done. Today is the first day that I don't feel like crawling back into the bed.

All of these guys were stellar, including Bill. He drifted back and chatted with us, and never left us in his dust even though for him, this was an easy ride. Steve, thank God he was there. The man is in incredible shape (he practically bounced up the hills, chatting all the way.) But he made us laugh and kept us out of our heads. And Mike, we can't ever repay him for building our confidence like he did. It really was a gift, and he was a great cruise director.

I thought I'd include a pic I took while on the ride. It's terribly out of focus since I was bouncing on potholes when I took it. But you can see Brad in the pink shirt in the middle of the pack. Way to go, honey! That's Steve on the left, Mike on the right, and Bill at the back. They are a truly great group of guys.

So which day was harder? I'd take the physical stuff anyday over the mental anguish. But this time, they were both hard and rewarding in their own way. I'll have to reflect on this question for a while....if I come up with an answer, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ouch and oof and aye-aye-aye!

I have seriously upped my training. It's hard to always find the time to ride, but I have been riding every day. I'm trying to mix up my routes, take some hills or some longer rides, or just go slow (like this morning...when slow felt like the only alternative to backwards.) Riding on the roads around Duluth gives you quite a varied experience (and I don't mean multi-culturally, although that could be accurate too.) To give you an idea of what I mean, Brad and I set off last night for a ride. He quickly mentioned that he wanted to steer clear of certain roads. (Roads I take practically every day, by the way.) Apparently he is not too fond of the surface conditions. I can't say I blame him. Those of you who aren't from Duluth, may not realize just how bad potholes can be in a place that's frozen seemingly nine months out of the year. Travelling some roads is literally like picking your way through a mine field. But, I believe in the old adage that "what does not kill us, makes us stronger." Or at least it puts callouses on our bums. We'll show those East Coast riders how to handle a washboard road!!!! I am regulary cursing at the painful beating I have been taking from these roads. (Embarrassingly, sometimes in front of others. Including children. I'm not proud of it.) In my defense, it is impossible not to let out a few choice phrases when your teeth are rattling and you are concerned about possible spinal cord injury! I am well acquainted with the local vernacular use of Uff-Da!!!! Or even better: Uff-Da Yay!!!(Which I have quickly and strangely modified into my own version: Uff-Da Oy!!!) I feel that this better expresses my East Coast roots. So, yes, last night we circumnavigated the worst parts and had a nice, smooth, and fast ride. But, being a glutton for punishment, this morning I got up and went for a little bone-crushing-joint-jolt riding. As my friend Corey (that's twice you've made it on here, man!) my bike guru has pointed out, I am seriously decreasing the resale value of my bike. I can only imagine what that means about my own personal resale value. Brad, you're stuck with me...even if all this riding just keeps making me shorter! Soon I'll be a head with shoes.

Evidence of a Life