“Hi Dad. Do you mind if I stay with you in April? I’m planning on riding in the Tour de Pink for breast cancer survivors.”
That was how the phone conversation started last fall when my daughter, Amie, told me about her intent to celebrate her one year anniversary of being cancer free by riding 200 miles over a three-day period, from Disney World to Jupiter Beach. Since we live in Orlando, she called us to ask that question — which was silly, because the answer was obvious. The only question I had was whether I wanted to ride with her. Without thinking about it too long, I told her I’d do it too.
I was not all that concerned about Amie’s ability to complete the ride. I knew how tough she was. I was her USSA club swim coach when she was in high school. She was the team’s premier distance swimmer. I also slept in the hospital when Amie, only 28 years old then, had her mastectomy. I saw her refuse pain medications. When she wanted to get out of bed at 3 a.m., just 10 hours or so after the operation. We walked all over the hospital that morning.
I should have been a little concerned about my ability to complete the ride. Even though I’d run lots of marathons and completed plenty of triathlons, nearly 30 years had passed since my last lengthy bike ride. Before retiring from teaching and coaching, I’d retired from the Marines. Marines suffer from the common delusion that we can do anything, especially physical things, albeit with a little preparation. Two weeks before my 65th birthday, I was going to ride 200 miles with my daughter; no problem, I thought.
I took my 20 year old mountain bike down to the local bike shop to see if it could be reconfigured with thinner tires and maybe a tri-bar. The service manager did his best (but failed) to keep from laughing. He tried to talk me into a bike way past my budget. Eventually, I bought a road bike online and assembled it in my garage. I sent a picture of it to Amie; told her I was getting ready. That was four months from the Tour de Pink’s inaugural South ride.
Neither of us was fully prepared for what was in store. Maybe I should say “in sore.” I’d done the physical preparations for my legs, lungs, and heart conditioning. But my rides were, at their longest, 90 minutes and not that many of them. There are two areas where a ride longer than 90 minutes takes it’s toll, areas that I’d not considered. First is the numbness in the hands — the kind that makes you lose all sensation of your grip on the handle bar. In fact, there were times I wasn’t sure I had a handle bar. The second, and most critical for me, was the capacity for the seat to turn skin into a state of raw, painful pulp. I think a rider summed it up best at the start of day three, as we left Club Med in Port St. Lucie, when he declared to his friends “I think my ass is holding my brain hostage.”
In the end (no pun intended), memory of the pain dissolved while the memory of the people we met on this journey never will. Because I live in Orlando, I’ve become a big fan of Kyle’s Bike Shop, who provided all the road assistance at Tour de Pink South. He even provides locally brewed beer on tap in his shop while your bike is being serviced!! The ride marshals were some of the greatest folks we could ever expect to meet. They nurtured, encouraged and provided sage advice at just the right times throughout the ride. The YSC staff would go to any extreme to make sure the riders, and even spectators, were well taken care of — beginning weeks before the start and continuing well after the final rider finished. But most moving for us were the many stories. Some were about victories, some were about fights lost valiantly by the most uncommon warriors of life. There are no words to adequately describe the ubiquitous power of hope and strength present throughout those three unforgettable days.
It was our first Tour de Pink and as we drove home afterward, we found ourselves already planning for the next.
Has Bob’s incredible account of his first TdP ride inspired you?
This ride is for everyone — whether you’re a young woman affected by breast cancer, a co-survivor riding in support or memory of loved ones or someone who just loves to cycle. You can select a one or three-day ride and they’re fully supported with bike and motorcycle marshals, support vans and ample rest stops. Three-day riders are provided hotel accommodations and all meals.
Consider joining this amazing rolling community by registering for an upcoming Tour de Pink ride:
East Coast, September 16-18, 2016
Ride from scenic Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the beautiful beaches of Cape May, New Jersey.
West Coast, October 14-16, 2016
Ride from the beautiful beaches of Ventura, California, to the breathtaking views of Encinitas, California.
South, 2017 Date TDB, Registration opens this Summer! Learn about the 2016 ride.