Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Raising Money for Breast Cancer Research

The distant rumble of thunder just stirred me from my slumber. The laptop is feeling toasty on my legs. The cat hops up to get in on the action of a warm lap. I try to jog myself awake and resume my editing of the most recent blog post. I switch tabs to wikipedia and look up the definition of tired. I see my own reflection in a mirror. Ah... the new definition of tired!

This kitten is a bundle of energy in comparison to me!

The last two years have been a whirlwind of activity. It's no longer the same old weekend away for an epic bike ride, followed by unpacking, laundry, planning for the next weekend, packing and travel to another epic ride. The new normal has become doctor's visits, physical therapy, massage, more doctors, all while doing as much riding as possible. But riding is not just my transportation and fun activity. It is very much part of my recovery and the way to for me regain strength and prevent further deterioration to both spine and muscles.

If the broken back wasn't enough, in March, the proverbial excrement hit the ventilation device, and things got really hectic. Someone recently asked me how I've dealt with all the stress, and to be honest I haven't had any down time, so I haven't noticed any new stress. Ha!

Since the move in June, I've been making trips back to Boston every three weeks for 3 days at a time. I pack a lot into those three days trips, between seeing doctors (both back and cancer), heart tests, blood-work, chemo, shots, massage, PT and special dinners with friends. I keep my commuting bike at the old house, and I use it to get around when I am there. The nurses are no longer surprised when I show up for treatments with pannier and helmet in hand.

On the other side of the state, we are mostly unpacked at the new house and have put in a bit of time exploring all the new roads nearby. Being in the valley means it's always uphill when we leave home. OK, some of you may dare to suggest that I just stick to the valley for flatter rides, but even doing that results in some good climbs. And the reason we moved out here was all the glorious roads up into the hills, so we are taking full advantage of those hills.

Last week was a significant milestone: my sixth and final chemo treatment. To celebrate, we decided to do the JAM Fund Grand Fundo on tandem. We've done this event 4 times now and it's always a fabulous day out. The route takes riders on some amazing beautiful and unknown-to-many roads in western Massachusetts. It's the primary fundraiser for the JAM Fund, a program to help young aspiring cyclists both on and off the bike. Jeremy, Alec and Mukunda are true cycling ambassadors and have really gone a long way to help promote not just sport but sportsmanship.

Rapha women's ambassador, Jenny W. and duelling HTC Re cameras at the start

A large field, queueing up for the off

This year, Jeremy decided to up the ante, and make the route more challenging, no longer following the gentle contours of the valley [What ride did you do before? I think the "gentle contours of the valley" were due to you/us being younger fitter! -- Fear Rothar] [hey those were Jeremy's words not mine! -- Fixie Pixie], but instead crossing all the ridges he could find and taking in roads that even the locals did not know. I'd seen hints on twitter that the route would be harder this year, but really had no clue how much harder.

After cresting King's Highway, we and everyone else thought the worst was behind us. A fellow rider told our friend Jutta, who was riding alongside us at the time, exactly that. There will be no climb worse than that one, he said. I later thought she might hunt that fellow down and make an example of him for telling tall tales.

It was a gorgeous day, thankfully cooler than previous editions
We rolled up and down some more before descending to the fluffer-nutter stop, where sandwiches had been prepared with fluffer-nutter and bacon and blueberries! I don't know about this fluffer-nutter stuff... It seems to be a New England thing!

The route had followed the original course up to that first stop in Chesterfield, but then took a turn onto new roads which headed up and up and up some more. There were a few little downs, with soft sandy surface at the bottom followed by more up also on soft sandy surfaces! We've had lots of heavy rain this summer, and dirt road conditions vary greatly. The day after a storm, the roads can be firm and packed or muddy, or loose and rocky and then the next day soft and sandy.

One of many steep ups...

...which were occasionally followed by downs

A babbling brook and tandem pilot

Our 42mm tires were perfect for these conditions. Folks on skinny 23s and 25s were struggling quite a bit, both with maintaining traction and with keeping air in the tires.

At one point we passed Jeremy and his crew. I think they were hanging out just to watch people suffer on one of those loose climbs. I believe we made a good impression getting up and down everything. The tandem has the great advantage that the front wheel stays on the ground on even the steepest climb, and the long wheel base provides extra stability on the descents.

A short while later, Jeremy passed us back and pointed out that the pointy white cloud off in the distance was actually Mt Ascutney. We had no idea it could be seen from so far away, although we started to wonder if we weren't so far away after all. We'd been riding (climbing) for what seemed like an awfully long time! Had we been transported up into the mountains of Vermont?

We had a great time chatting about l'Ard├ęchoise with this gentleman

In previous editions of the ride, the ice cream truck has been the highlight of the day, providing some delicious ice cold refreshments in the brutal heat. This year the temps were milder, but where oh where was that ice cream truck now? Many miles passed beyond where we'd seen it before. I thought I remembered it appearing just a short while after the fluffer-nutter stop. But we just kept climbing and turning and climbing and turning, with no ice cream in sight. Jeremy's name was taken in vain more than once. Then finally we took a right turn down to a small lake where some folks took a refreshing swim and everyone lined up for ice cream.

Fixie Pixie, chillin', post ice cream fix

Restored and refreshed by cold creamy ice cream, all was forgiven. Then a few more short sharp climbs preceded the coolest part of the route, the goat track! With nice cushy 42mm tires on the tandem, we bombed along this tiny rocky lane and took in the lovely cool breeze off the stream alongside.

Throughout the day, we took great advantage of those 42mm tires, passing by loads of riders who took no heed of warnings to bring fat tires, or lots of spare tubes. The people in the SRAM neutral support vehicles were kept busy, gaving out lots of tubes and pumping up lots of flat tires throughout the day.

After that glorious descent along the goat track, we turned onto a bigger road and soon reached the final rest stop, where ice cold towels were on offer. While these had been a life-saver in previous editions, cooler temperatures this year saw us push right through to the bar-b-q at the end. The cooler temps also meant we'd actually feel like taking full advantage of the roast pig and all the fixin's.

We enjoyed hanging out and catching up with loads of friends. and everyone came away with a great impression of the event organisation, the route, the area and a real appreciation for how hard the riding is around here. I know my legs were completely trashed!

Chillin' at the post-ride cook-out

Of course, not to be one who does things by halves, I had offered to lead a western MA version of the Rapha Women's 100 the very next day. The weather forecast for Sunday was not so glorious and likely affected turnout. Still we had a few hardy folks brave the elements and do as much of the route as possible before the heavy thunder rolled in. My legs were so wrecked from the previous day, that I took advantage of John's offer to take the tandem yet again.

Well that's a typical weekend done, and now I'm well and truly exhausted. But I will not go down without a fight.

Last week I completed chemo, and now have surgery scheduled for September 8, exactly two years to the day from when I was run down by that truck and broke my back. It just seems fitting the have another surgery on this fateful date.

Between now and then, I plan to ride my heart out, to recover... to get stronger and to be healthy and fit for surgery. And now I will ask you, my readers, to help motivate me.

I have done various rides over the years where entry fees go to charities, but I haven't done the big fundraisers where I ask friends and family to donate so I can ride. Partly, it's because I don't feel I can justify asking folks to donate for me to do a ride that's something I'd do anyway, or more to the point, something that just not that much of a challenge.

Well now I face a challenge. And I have a real motivation. I have mentioned the Breast Cancer Research Foundation before on the blog. These are the folks who actually fund real breast cancer research and cures, and these are the folks I am asking you to support in my name. You can donate a fixed amount or pledge per kilometer for every km I ride from my last chemo on July 23 to surgery on September 8. I will match the donations up to $5,000. Leave a comment here if you are donating based on distance. Otherwise, you can just go directly to Breast Cancer Research Foundation to make a donation now.

You can track my distance on strava - look at the bottom of the blog (web version). I will ride more because my readers will be donating more. Please help me as I say Yay! Science and say thanks for funding my cure. Please donate to Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

For those skeptical about all the different charities and where the money goes, check out Charity Navigator. BCRF has one of the highest ratings there.


  1. I'm pledging $0.25 per km--$0.125 for you and $0.125 for me imagining all the fun we would be having if we were riding these km together. There will also be a bonus for every kilo-strava of climbing to be announced at the end of the challenge!

    1. Thank you Dena. Looking forward to that day off in the future when we can ride together again, when the science we support and believe in has made strides to make our lives better.

  2. I will donate to your charity, as it is highly rated by Charity Navigator and Wickipedia, and to keep your entertaining reports coming. Thank you, and Good Luck

    1. Thank you Dale. Yes, I did my research. So many of these charities have low ratings because so much money goes to administrative costs, or elsewhere. BCRF funds actual research and it was through BCRF funded research that Herceptin was found. So this one is very personal for me. Thanks to everyone for every little bit you can contribute.