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Friday, March 30, 2012

For Dustin: The Game is ON!

Mea Culpa. If you look at my last blog post, you will see I disappeared for an entire year. That's not true, of course, but sometimes life has a way of interrupting. I took a break from blogging and I recently realized that I've missed it. It's the only way I know to put thoughts down so they aren't rattling around in my head, packed away like cardboard boxes in an attic. It's the only way I know to mark life on the calendar in words and photos so I will never forget... the memories of course, where I've been and what I've done, but more importantly, for me: the feelings...the little in between moments of life that are often the most meaningful. So here I am again. Hoping to catch the in between and live and remember fully. I spent the last year on the bike, off the bike, and in between. I dealt with setbacks related to physical issues: terrible knee pain and raging arthritis for which I've started new treatment to tamp down. Despite these issues I trained for Tour de Pink along with my dear hubby, and we rode in the West Coast ride from Thousand Oaks, CA at Giant Bicycle's headquarters through the mountains (yes, I'm qualifying them as mountains) to Santa Barbara and back along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was incredible, and nothing I ever would have imagined doing in my lifetime..but as I've well learned, dreams, and life for that matter, have a way of taking you by surprise. I have also learned that it is best to put yourself in the position to be surprised by happy ones as much and as often as possible! One of the greatest experiences of the ride other than the scenery was in meeting Dustin Brady. If you have followed my posts at all you may remember one titled "For Michelle". It was aout Michelle Weiser, Giant Bicycle employee who was responsible for the donated bicycles that Tour de Pink survivors receive...I was the lucky recipient of one of those bikes for my first ever Tour de Pink in 2009, and I wrote then that although I barely knew her, Michelle had literally changed my life with the gift of that bike. Michelle herself was a breast cancer survivor, but she passed away in 2010 and I deeply regretted never having the chance to tell her what her effort had meant to me. So I wrote that blog post as a tribute to her. In it I mentioned that I didn't even know her: whether she was married, had a family, or anything. I was thrilled one day when I received an email from Dustin who was Michelle's fiance. He had read my blog post and wanted to let me know that indeed, Michelle had been loved, and that he had appreciated that I had written about her on my blog. (Again: life really does conspire to slip in jaw dropping surprises now and then just when you're not looking!) I immediately felt connected to Dustin and was incredibly grateful that he had reached out to me. Fast forward to my preparation for the 2011 Tour de Pink West Coast ride. As the days were getting closer, I learned that Dustin was planning a special tribute to Michelle of his own. He was participating in the Kona Ironman triathlon to fulfill a promise he had made to her. And he was raising money all the way to support Tour de Pink and other young women with breast cancer. To put it mildly, it was hands down the bravest, most generous, most mindblowingly awesome thing I've seen. Even with moderate training Dustin completed the triathlon and was greeted at the finish by the winner of the event who had waited for Dustin to arrive just so he could shake his hand. Awesome in so many ways. To read a great post, most of it written in Dustin's own words, check out this link. When Brad and I got to California I had a spark of hope that I might meet Dustin, but I knew he had only just completed this amazing feat and frankly might need a little downtime. But I was proven wrong. The very first night he was there. I walked up to him sheepishly and said, "You may not remember me, but..." But, he did. Of course he did. He took me into a great big bear hug and I can still feel it to this day. Some things are just meant to be. We hit it off immediately. And even with my hubby's approval, I will tell anyone wo'll listen that I have an undying love for this man. He is charming, shy, incredibly kind and generous, has a great sense of humor, and when you look in his eyes you know he's dedicated..he's in it for the long haul, no matter what. He is truly an Ironman. It was awesome to see him along the route as we rode by, cheering us up long climbs, and celebrating with us at the finish line. Like Michelle, Dustin gave me an incredible gift...but this time it was the gift of getting to know him, and for that I am truly grateful. For more info abut Dustin and the organization he has set up to keep Michelle's fire and tenacity alive, visit his website, fcancerup. Here's a pic of me and Dustin on the shore of the Pacific after Brad and I completed the 220-mile ride.
And here's one of me giving Dustin the signature FCANCER salute!
I will close by saying there's so much more to say about the 2011 ride...I'll share it as I go along. But it's important to note that Dustin is doing it again...the Kona Ironman triathlon...and so am I, but on two coasts...Tour de Pink East and Tou de Pink West. The game is on!

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