Monday, September 30, 2013

When You Can't Breathe, Nothing Else Matters

Sand dunes at riding into Provincetown

"When you can't breathe, nothing else matters....." - American Lung Association

This past weekend was the American Lung Association's Autumn Escape Bike Trek across Cape Cod.  Three days, 160 miles.  Jedi and I signed up for two of the three days, as a very generous Legos agreed to watch the kiddos for the weekend.  No trailers allowed on a 100 mile trip!  This was also to be our first ever overnight trip without the kids.  In nearly six years of parenthood.  Yikes.  We joked that we were so desperate for time away that we were willing to ride our bikes for hours a day and sleep in dorm with my coworkers to do it.  Yes, the Trek is put on by my company, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, as the main sponsor.
[Part of] Team Sunovion

Before I get into details, I have to say that this was an amazing and inspirational experience.  The ALA the major nonprofit supporting research and advocacy for all kinds of lung diseases.  Cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis - their scope is huge.  They have been major defenders of the Clean Air Act, and instrumental in lobbying for stricter laws for tobacco manufactures - raising taxes on cigarettes and restriction advertising to ensure children don't ever try their first drag.  They fund research that has significant advanced the treatment of these conditions.  It is amazing.

Even more amazing were some of the people we saw on the Trek.  One team, riding for Alpha-1, a genetic variety of COPD, had members riding on supplemental oxygen.  The keynote speaker on Saturday was a 33 year old man recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  He rode all 160 miles.  It was just not possible to not be inspired.

Luggage vans in Brewster

I'm also going to take a brief step up on the soapbox and say that I'm pretty impressed with my company and our team as well.  The pharmaceutical industry is widely villainized in popular culture as being greedy, devious billionaires who will do anything to make a buck - especially harming patients.  I've worked in pharma for over a decade, and I have not seen a single instance of this kind of behavior.  My coworkers have always genuinely cared the patients that we are working to serve.  America's health system is flawed, true, but the truth is that without development companies, there would be no new medicines.  The cost to develop new treatments is so unbelievable staggering, with so many moving parts, that it is a small miracle that any companies are still in business. Those of us who do depend on them for our livelihood, we do so knowing that we are working to help people.  Like the nearly 60 riders and volunteers from Sunovion that raised money (bake sale - yup!) and gave their time and lots of sweat to the Trek, on top of the substantial corporate check written to the ALA.  I don't own a jet plane - maybe it'll be in my next paycheck, but I don't think so....
The wound

So anyway, back to the story.  Our weekend got off to a rocky start, as our little girl took a header down (up?) the stairs the morning of school picture day.  The result - quickly stashing the little dude with Gypsy, a trip to the ER, and three stitches.  Very important advice now.  Are you listening?  Never, EVER, watch your child being sutured.  Even if you think you can handle it.  You can't.  She was so brave - she didn't move her head at all, but I was holding her hands and holding her down, and she was shaking so hard.  She was so scared.  Ah!!!

Of course four hours later she was fine and running with me (yes, a nice two mile run for her after a morning in the ER), and I was still a wreck.  A wreck that took Girl's Night a little too far, so headed into the Trek a little sub-optimal.

All better

Legos carrying BOTH kids around the orchard.
Guess that boot camp stuff works!
We stayed overnight at my parent's, then in the morning headed out to the Cape to meet up with the riders in Sandwich, MA.  Legos would come collect the munchkins from my parents at a more reasonable hour of the day, as we had to leave by 6:30 to make it to the 8:30 start.  As it was, we were still getting packed, pumped, and prepped when most of the riders left the camp.

First Day - 57 miles Sandwich to Brewster

The weather could not have been more gorgeous.  The previous year of the Trek, it poured down rain.  While I was not there to experience it directly, many team members were and said it was one of the most miserable experiences ever.  I can imagine.  (And they came back!  See?  Dedication....)  As it was, we can clear skies and sunshine the whole way.  In the back of the pack, we spent the first couple of hours slowly overtaking folks and enjoying the scenery.  The route, being on Cape Cod, is mostly flat.  Around the 30 mile point, we caught up with some of my team members, which brought us into the part of the ride where you can choose to go 40 or 60 miles.  With some good-natured ribbing, we all blocked the entrance to the 40 mile route in time for some other team members, including our team captain, to make the turn onto the longer route.  The last 20 miles is all on a bike path.  Very pretty, though stopping ever half a mile or so to cross a road did break our rhythm a bit.  Full disclosure - Jedi did also make fun of me for trying to keep up with some of the guys on the team that were obviously pacing a good 4-5 mph above my ability.  Whatever.  A girl can dream....

40 miles at SAG in Chatham
The last SAG stop was at a beach in Chatham - the view was breathtaking.  As were the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I had the best bag of corn chips on the planet.  Bonus of exercise #374 - everything tastes amazing.  At this point, we were starting to tire.  Jedi said that he felt like, were this a training ride, he'd stop.  Sadly we still had about 20 miles left, the first five coming out of the SAG stop were uphill.  Oof.  By some cosmic coincidence, the day's route was about 57 miles - just the same as the bike leg in a 70.3  This fact was weighing heavy on my mind (and legs) as we slogged toward the end.  Not one to let it go, Jedi asked me "So are you going to run a half marathon when we get there?"  No one likes a smartass, sweetie....  But make it we did, motivated by the Mexican food that I knew was catered for us.  

Will ride for burritos

In addition to a sore bum and tired legs, the pain my foot that I had previously assumed was PF had gone from annoying to full-on painful.  Once we stuffed ourselves with beans and guacamole, we sought out the medical tent to retape my sore paw.  Now the top of my foot felt badly bruised and putting weight on it was difficult.  The team beer chest served as treatment - providing muscle relaxant internally and ice packs for the outside.  Lobster dinner for all the trekkers, some fabulus brownies, and some time around the campfire getting to know all my team members rounded out the night.  No romance you ask?  Well, our accommodations were bunk beds.  In a room that was also a hallway.  Please save your jokes regarding who was on the top [bunk] - they were all made around the fire.  We did have a nice long sit on the beach.  That was probably our most romantic moments - the water was beautiful, the day perfect, and after the bustle and bad DJ music blaring in the camp, the rest was welcome.

Brewster Beach

Sobrero = sunhat

Swim area?  Really?

The start for the second (and shorter) day was 8:00 am, and there were tires to pump, breakfast to inhale (seriously - it is amazing how hungry you can get on these rides!), luggage to pack and get on the right van, and yet another team picture to take.

Day 2 - 42 miles Brewster to Provincetown

Despite a deep and abiding desire to NOT sit on a bike seat again, our second days' ride started much more nicely.  We were ready to go with everyone, and for the first 18 miles traveled in a foursome consisting of Jedi, me, and two other teammates, including the other more-than-one day woman rider.  I'd done a training ride with her previously - friends called her Crazy Karen with reason.  She is hysterical to ride with.  A blast.  The first part of the ride was again on the bike path, and with so much traffic, we were like so many seagulls from Finding Nemo calling out "Runner up!", "Rider Back!""Bump", "Hole!", "Slowing!", "Clear!" and the occasional "Puppy Up!" thrown in.  I'm all for bike safety, but with several hundred riders on the same path, all drafting within a bike length of eachother, you have to wonder if it was necessary for us all to repeat absolutely everything...

At the SAG stop at mile 18 we met up with a bunch more team mates that were ahead.  After yet more photos and some sour jelly beans (another great find of the trip) we set off again.  The following section is the only truly hilly part of the whole two day route.  My legs were happy to let the faster riders take off, and Mike and I dropped back into a steady 15 mph pace along winding backroads.  It was the second-most "date like" part of our trip, and would have been truly romantic, if only my foot hadn't begun to hurt past the point of being able to ignore it.  I could feel every pedal stroke as a dull throb and every bump as a shock of pain.  Finally, pushing up a steep hill, the pressure on my foot hurt so badly I had to stop with tears in my eyes.  We walked up to the top of the hill, loosened up my shoe and took a few deep breaths.  I ended up totally unclipping my foot and pedaling on that side all with my heel, which made it possible to keep going but even harder to climb.  We rode the next 13 miles without saying a word, me ahead and Jedi one bike's length behind.  We rolled into the SAG stop at mile 33 and Jedi promptly accosted a medic that we would learn later had only stopped there to use the restroom.  Cheers to the hypocratic oath (or whatever), because she nicely gave me 2 ibuprofen (just 2?) and taped up my foot tightly.  I told her I was finishing - with 8 miles to go that wasn't even a question.  She also agreed that it was probably a stress fracture, and dutifully read me the riot act about resting it once I was done with my current shenanigans.....

Worker's comp on a Sunday??

The last 8 miles were my favorite of the whole trek.  We'd caught up with the bulk of my team at the SAG stop, and we all headed out together.  The first part was back on the bike path, but unlike previous sections, it was poorly maintained.  Bumpy and with long sections of sand.  Our cries of "bump!" and "Hole!" quickly became swearing passed down the line and lots of laughter as we all gamely held onto our handbars for dear life.  We finished off on Rt. 6 into Provincetown - a beautiful section of highway with the dunes in the distance.  One long line of Sunovion jerseys.  The guy in the back even switched on his IPhone and took a video riding by all of us up to the front.  Safe?  No.  But I can't wait to see the video.  

One of our riders finishes and grabs his medal from his pregnant wife,
who volunteered the whole weekend

The last bit you can only appreciate if you are cheesy like me.  If you like unrealistic happy endings of movies where the down-and-out kids win the championship, or the ugly girl gets crowned prom queen while all the cheerleaders do a flashmob.  Our team captain, who has done SO much work for the trek over the last months, rode to the head of the line and we all pedaled into the finish chute more or less two-by-two abreast while some inspirational song (no wait, I think it was Gagnum Style) blared on the radio.  We all got medals.  More group pictures.  More cheering as the rest of our team came in.  It was awesome - I was on top of the world.  While waiting for our teammates to all come in, we saw parents finish with their kids on tandem bikes.  More riders with oxygen tubes in their noses.  It was incredible.  Impossible to not be moved.

At the finish!

The aftermath..... once we rounded everyone up, we walked (I hobbled) to a nearby pub for more medically necessary beer and what was truly the best cheeseburger ever, then a very long bus ride back to our cars, drive back to get the kids, and drive home.  The kids had a ball with Legos and her family - they didn't want to leave.
Blondie popsicles

What's gonna work?  Teamwork!
Once we got home, we had to clean my daughter's stitches and bandage up my son, who through no fault of Legos, took a bit of a tumble and scraped himself pretty good.  Pain pills and more bandages for me.  Our little team family is pretty banged up.  As I write this now, I am 100% sure that my foot is broken.  Not badly, but enough that I am taking at least a week if not two off from all training.  I and feeling fairly hostile toward running as a sport at the moment.  While my foot did go from bad to worse on this ride, I'm sure that it was running that caused the initial injury.  After riding 57 miles on similar terrain as the Patriot 70.3 would be, I did not feel at all inclined to run.  I might have been able to run a few miles, but that's it.  So I don't know what's next.  Major Taylor metric century ride in a week is OUT.  I'm actually feeling like it would be great to do more of these long distance charity rides, rather than tris.  Crazy Karen did the Ride for the Cure for diabetes research this year - her description of the 5 day ride through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont sounds incredible.  Some day I would also love to do the PanMass Challenge for the Jimmy Fund.  This weekend was just so incredible - I will be back next year for sure.  As for triathlon?  Registration for Patriot 70.3 opens tomorrow, but Gypsy and I have both agreed to wait a few weeks and see how I'm healing, how she is feeling, and go from there.  There is always the Aquabike....


If you have been amused, moved, or at all entertained by this post, please consider donating to the ALA - fundraising for the Trek is open until October 25th, 2013.  Just click this link to be taken to my fundraising site.  Thank you!

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