Saturday, October 20, 2007

Well, it's over. And we did it!!!

Again, hello.

It's been about 2 weeks since our ride of a lifetime adventure concluded. Since I've been back, many people have been asking me, "So, how was it?" And it has been hard for me to truthfully or completely answer this question without a terse, curt 1-sentence answer, or without spending the next 2 to 3 hours responding. I think I'm still in a bit of culture shock of the ride being over, and me being back...did it really happen? What did I just do to myself?

The ride was definitely all those things I have said to people in the past two weeks: It was great! It was fabulous and beautiful! We had great weather! It was fun! IT WAS HARD!! I did it! I was really tired! My legs really do hurt a lot! It was an amazing experience! Mel did great! Dwight and Evelyn rocked! Our team is the best!!

Mel and I were really busy the last week heading into the ride...we basically had one last training ride with Jerry and crew to Point Reyes on September 23. After that, there was no more time for biking. I basically bought a new bike thing every day to get ready. We were wrapping stuff up at work, trying to tie loose ends before we left. It was exhausting! Mel and I stayed late in the office on Thursday night and then had to pull an all-nighter on Thursday night/ Friday morning to pack our gear. On Thursday, Peter took our bikes up with him to the city. On Friday afternoon, we gave Peter our first duffel bags for him to take to the city. Then, Mel and I with our second duffel bags (we each had two) took VTA, CalTrains, and Bart (in that order) from Mountain View to SF and walked the rest of the way to the hotel for registration and check-in. Peter and Casey were nice enough to transport the rest of our stuff from their house to the hotel. Then, once we checked in and put on our new biking outfits...we ceased to be our normal, regular selves, and became cyclists!!

We became this sea of green, unidentifiable people...all wearing the same uniform of helmet, sunglasses, Arthritis Foundation biking jerseys and shorts...all with the same goal of riding down the coast of California from San Francisco to Los Angeles on our bikes on behalf of a single cause. We could not be recognizable from our individual selves and became a mass, a herd, a colony. Our bikes became inseparable from us. Life was different. I was different. Simple things mattered. Water never tasted so good. A sandwich was never more nourishing. A little breeze was sent from heaven on long, hot climbs. Small words of encouragement, a smile, a downhill were never so welcome. Life's daily rhythms changed...get up, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, ride, eat, shower, sleep. Our lives' rhythm started to match the flow of the ocean waves and breezes alongside us, the big blue Pacific being our constant companion for eight days. It became the tempo of the bike's wheels turning in a smooth constant cadence...whoosh whoosh whoosh. Ocean waves, pedaling, sea breeze, heart rate, breathing...all became our internal beat.

Every morning we would wake up (unfortunately in a cold, wet tent), and go into a flurry of action: dress as quickly as possible, pack up tent and gear, eat breakfast (I had eggs and potatoes every day- decadant!) and ride. It would take a few miles to get the morning stiffness out, to warm up and settle into the day on our bikes. Practically every mid morning we would stop in some cafe on some coastal town for coffee and pastries. Riding became our only job...looking on the Daily Route Guides for directions, rest stops, check-ins (many of which I missed or was practically the last rider in), frequent pauses to enjoy scenery and take pictures. I was never one to spontaneously speak to strangers, but I'm glad other people do talk to strangers, because there were so many people who just stopped and asked us questions: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!" I guess being an anonymous Greenie wearing tight fitting clothes, smeared with sunscreen, and stuffing down energy bars makes us more approachable than usual. Plus, we were one of many idling down the coast with nothing better to do, either by car or by bike. Everyone was in a good mood...enjoying the perfect weather, gorgeous scenery, nature in absolute perfection. We met many locals and tourists who were just so friendly and happy. "We're riding for the Arthritis Foundation," we'd say, "We're going from SF to LA and have raised 1.4 million dollars! Come join us next year!!"

I definitely could not have this adventure of a lifetime without the help of so many:
1) All the people who donated to me and our team- basically they paid for my experience, so THANK YOU!! Basically these include my wonderful family, friends, co-workers, and patients and their families. These are donations not just of money, but of time, and of support and good wishes. Thank you's just aren't enough for all that you have given me.
2) Of course, my office mates, co-workers and boss, who put up with hours of our bike talk/bike gripes, who had to step over or trip over our greasy bikes in the office, and who "let" us or at least understood when we left work early to go on a bike ride. Don't worry everyone, it's over!
3) Jerry Kruse- my biking hero and savior!! I will always remember his support, pedalling close by, helping me up the hill by simply being there and believing in me. You're the best! One story: we were all resting at the top of a tough climb when we noticed there was still one person left who hadn't made it up yet. Jerry went back downhill, and then did that climb AGAIN to bike with that other person. He voluntarily did a killer climb TWICE!
4) Peter Chira!! I luuuuv yooouuuu!! You pack-muled all of our stuff to your house, ate rubbery chicken with us during dinner, let us stay at your gorgeous place, woke up at 5 in the morning in the freezing cold the next day to take us to the start line
and put up with our frantics when we were about to leave and were panicked!! You called in to check on us, followed our progress and believed in us! You are a superstar!
5) Mel Balboni: thank you for introducing me to a great new sport, and I will definitely keep on biking! It's hard for me now to bike with anyone else, so reliant I've become on you and Pinkie in front of me, setting the pace, guiding me through traffic, signalling, pointing out road hazards...hope your back heals so we can ride again soon!
6) The Powerys: I'm in such Powery withdrawal right now. I've become accustomed to seeing Dwight and Evelyn every day.
7) New biking friends and Jerry's bike crew...we had so much fun together!!

Here are some selected photos if anyone is interested. I'll upload more to a photo sharing site soon too. There are also photos on the CA Coast Classic website itself (including a picture of me in a bathing suit....aack! you've been warned.)

Here's Jerry leading Team Stanford Pedi Rheum Zoom Zoom!

Yes, it's true. We're actually on the freeway. I know, I couldn't believe it either.

(It was really windy, in case you're wondering what we are doing here.)

See, Mel really did listen to her doctor's orders and did her physical therapy exercises!

Can you believe it? Mel had FOUR flat tires!! Here she is at her first one...note she is wearing surgical gloves for this operation.

This is us at the kick-off dinner.

That's it for now. I need to get to bed soon because I'm on service again. This has been a long week, being on service, and I've been upset. Angry and tired and frustrated at the ravages and the chronicity of lupus and arthritis on young lives. We need better medicines and more understanding. More research. Someone put me out of business so I can go ride my bike again.

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