Saturday, July 9, 2011

Today I ride…

So this day has finally arrived.  It has been five months coming, a couple of thousand miles in training rides, thousands and thousands and thousands of feet of climbing, jugs of electrolytes, cases of Gu shots, bunches and bunches of bananas, lots of sweat, and lots of soreness.  Today I ride the Death Ride: Tour of the California Alps with Team-in-Training.  I ride, but together we raised $5,250 dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Together we rock!!!

By the time this gets posted and it is read, I should be ascending Monitor Pass to a breathtaking sunrise.  I’m a huge fan of sunsets but on this day I’ll pretend this sunrise is a sunset and that I’m sitting on the porch swing at camp with my mom.  I’ll pretend that she is right there with me and that the pain of missing her is really just the pain from a 12%+ grade.  I’m not usually the talkative type, but I’ll fill her in on everything; it will be easy. 

I’ll remember my godmother, my Aunt Mary, whom I wish I had gotten the chance to say good bye.

I’ll remember my Aunt Kathy, whom embodied everything that a person should be. 

I’ll remember my Uncle Dick, whom I never knew that well but did know he shared the same familial ‘dread’ about our genes that I do…tick tock, tick tock. 

I’ll remember my Memere, whom I remember only speaking French, yet for some reason I understood exactly what she was saying.  Yet today mon francais est tres bad. 

Over this long day, I’ll pretend to get the chance to talk with her about how her death impacted career choices I’ve made.  I’ll take some comfort that I’m in the lab daily trying to make my small impact on finding a cure.  I’ll share with her my life with Trevor and would she believe that we’ve been together nearly twenty years.  I’ll thank her being such a good role model that it helped me get through those tough times.  I’ll share with her my opinion that those idyllic happy times in a relationship are great, but those hellish trenches are what make the foundation one of granite.  I’ll talk about my Dad, and how now that I’m grown, I have a much better appreciation for what he’s gone through.  I’ll share that Beverley has been a great companion for him and that I love her dearly too.  I’ll share with her that her impact on my life has been huge, and that is an understatement. 

By mile sixty or seventy, I’m sure I’ll be cursing her because she’s the one making me do this ride.  I won’t curse too loudly, because her Rosary will be in my jersey pocket.

I’ll share that I’m incredibly blown away by the support and well wishes I have received since starting this journey five or so months ago.  I’ll share stories of the training rides and of all the great people I’ve shared them with.

As my legs start to cramp on Ebbetts Pass, I’ll remember that even though cancer is devastating, and that it has decimated this family, I’ll remind myself, that not only am I riding for those that have already passed I’m riding for the survivors too.  I’ll remind myself that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had a small part in developing the treatment that has helped my cousin Connie fight and survive her B-cell Lymphoma. 

I’ll remind myself that I could be back in Maine celebrating my cousin Jackie’s wedding, sharing one of the more momentous occasions in life.  I’ll hope that my small part in this ride may help her overcome her cancer.  I will celebrate with lactic acid buildup and from afar. 

If I am so lucky that I have survived the front and back climbs of both Monitor and Ebbetts, I’ll turn my thoughts to the real reason I’m doing this ride with TNT.  I’ll allow myself to start thinking about that last pass, Carson, and the future.  I’ll think about my nieces, Samantha and Juniper.  I’ll concentrate on the fact that my mother dreamed about the day when she would have grandchildren.   I’ll concentrate on the fact that my pedal strokes may allow my mom’s dream to become their dream. 

Today I ride...because I can.

Love eternally,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I can’t be any more ready…

Eastbound ascending Wilson's on one of the last major climbs of the day.

Yesterday was the last ‘epic’ Team-in-Training ride in preparation for the Death Ride on July 9th.  I have to say I’m quite amazed and happy with the way the ride went.  Yesterday’s ride was 118 miles with 12,000 vertical feet of climbing.  It included jaunts up Mount Tamalpais twice;  travel up Highway one to Marshall battling moderate headwinds and the rollers; Olema Hill; Marshall’s wall; Wilson’s Hill (both sides); and the backsides of Alp du’Fromage, Nicasio, and White’s.   

I can not speak more highly of the training program that Karen, the TNT head coach, put together or led for this season.  The training program allowed me to make a ton of mistakes earlier in the season, which gave me ample time to correct those mistakes so that yesterday’s finale was ‘relatively’ painless.  I was hydrated and stayed hydrated, I started slow and conserved energy so that I would have a little something for the end, I ate on the bike, I filled my water bottles with Hammer Gel (Montana Huckleberry is gross, Orange is good), I kept rest stops to a minimum, I took off my shoes at the later rest stops to give my feet a breather and keep ‘hot foot’ at bay, I applied sunscreen, I enjoyed the burn, I didn’t cramp.  

I am still fearful of riding in the heat, as it has been a cool spring and early summer.  Even though SF is always cold it does get hot in the surrounding areas and that hasn’t happened yet this year.  In years past I made it a rule that if the temperatures approached 90 I wouldn’t ride.  The Death Ride has been known to get hot, so let’s hope it doesn’t get too warm.  To help allay that fear, I’ll be leaving well before dawn to help minimize the amount of time in the mid-afternoon sun.

So cheers to the last big training ride.  From here on it is taper and rest.  What a great season leading up to the Death Ride!!!

Ps.  As of Friday morning, we have raised $5,050 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!!!  Never in my wildest dreams did I actually think we would reach the goal I had set.  My heart can not thank you enough. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Know why - No why!! (part III) [sometimes a picture says it all]

Sometimes a picture says it all...

Clockwise from right...

Nana - Stomach Cancer (age 60)
Mom - Multiple Myeloma (age 53)
Aunt Kathy - Esophageal Cancer (age 59)
Aunt Mary - Endometrial Cancer (age 67)
Uncle Pat - Heart failure (age 55)
& Uncle Dick - Esophageal Cancer (age 59)

I ride for them...

Know Why - No why (part I) -
Know Why - No why (part II) -

Friday, May 27, 2011

Know why - No why!! (part II)

part I -

This post was going to be an incredibly happy post, but events this past week have tempered it quite a bit. 

First the happy part.  A few weeks ago, my cousin Connie marked her two year anniversary from her last chemotherapy treatment for B-cell lymphoma and remains cancer free.  In 2009 while in for an unrelated surgery it was discovered that she had Stage 4 B-cell lymphoma.  As much of the cancer as possible was removed surgically at that time.  After confirmation she quickly went on R-CHOP, rituxan plus chemotherapy.  Obviously she responded well to the therapy for now it has been two years!!!  Woo Hoo!! 

Connie is nearly a big sister to me.   I realize now that my youth was extremely charmed.  Our extended family remained fairly close, in part to the fact that at one point or another we all lived in the same building.  My parents owned a three unit apartment building in Auburn, Maine where our family lived on the top floor.  For the longest time, my Pepere and Memere lived in the middle.  The bottom floor was occupied by mon Oncle Bob and Tante Pauline and my cousins.  Connie was the eldest.  After they moved my mon Oncle Gary and Aunt Kathy moved in.  I think nearly everyone on my father's side, at one time or another, lived in the apartment building.  It's charmed in that it helped to keep the family more closely connected.  Hence, I think of Connie as nearly a sister.  Connie has one of the most kind and gentle hearts there is (Trevor is another).  Everyone else, including me, are simply mean SOBs compared to those two.  She always has a smile and always non-judgmental.  There are so many times I've stopped myself and asked 'what would Connie do?' to help make my decision. 

I'm beyond happy that she has remained cancer free.


Yet this week I learn that yet another cousin, Jackie, is stricken with cancer (Hepatocellular cancer, i.e. liver).  Jackie holds an extremely rarefied place in my memory.  I so wanted to be like her as a kid and still do.  As a kid, I remember her being FEARLESS and that is what I wanted to be.  I hadn't seen her in years but I got to see her last year at my Dad's 70th and it made my year.   Forgive me if my tone is poor or my sadness is coming through.  This sucks...cancer sucks!!  I wish I could be there to give her a big old hug. 

I ride for Connie...

I ride for Jackie...

I ride for you...

I ride for me...

Please click on through and donate as little or as much as you would like.  Every little bit helps, even $1.00.  With checks in hand and employer matching I'm almost at the $4,000.00 raised mark.  Merci, but send some warm thoughts my cousin Jackie's way first.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Holy Headwinds Tomales!!!

The group of us in Tomales!

{my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fund-raising page may be found here (}

The email from Alex arrived mid-day last Friday.  It was the route sheet for the following day's ALC training ride that I was helping to co-lead.  I looked at the route, lifted my head and I looked out the window.  I see trees, I see trees that a billowing.  I look back at the route; COUNTER CLOCKWISE to Tomales!!!  I start felling a sense of panic overcome me, COUNTER CLOCKWISE.  You see I've done this ride, or very nearly this ride, a few times.  It is absolutely gorgeous, but after the first two times doing it counter clockwise, people would tell us/me that we were 'idiotic' for doing it in that direction.  The reason we were called idiotic is the WIND goes WEST to EAST or NW2SE!!  It is the reason (at least in my mind) why ALC goes from SF2LA and not LA2SF.  After getting home from work and a glass or two of wine, I was calmer.  The wind wouldn't be bad two days in a row, could it?

I detect a hint of a smile underneath that grimace.

Alarm goes off at 4 am, I like to ease into the day.  Before I roll out of bed, what do I hear?  the WIND.  Wind at 4 o'clock in the afternoon in SF, no big deal, that is to be expected.  Strong wind at 4 am just means trouble.   I get up, put all my stuff together and check the weather on-line.  Current wind gusts are 27 mph.  Big frown crosses my face, I resign myself to the fact that for a good chunk of the ride I'll be lucky if I travel more then 8 mph on flat land.  The section from Petaluma to Tomales Bay is going to be brutal!!

and it was!!!  enough said....still a fun ride though!

{this post originally appeared at}

Monday, May 2, 2011

Growling like a Grizzly Bear

View West towards San Francisco from the top of an early morning Skyline.  Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, SF, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen.

{my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fund-raising page may be found here (}

Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to go for a ride this past Saturday as I had pressing work to attend to.  I didn’t mind all that much since I knew Sunday I would be riding in one of my favorite century rides by far, the Grizzly Peak Century.  I was fortunate enough to get a transferred registration from Kevin H.  Thanks!!

Climbing Grizzly in the early morning shaded sun.

I was up before dawn to get all my ‘stuff’ together for the day.  I put the bike on the rack and drove out to Moraga CA where the Grizzly starts from.  I loved the fact that since I was holding a transferred registration my line was absolutely empty.  I could walk right up and be done.  At 7 am I took a ride through the parking lots looking to see if I could find any more TNT riders as I saw Jerry and John in line at the registration table.  Seeing none I headed out and started the route shortly after 7 am.  The first few miles were cold.  My fingers started to get numb and I regretted not bringing my full fingers.  They didn’t stay numb long.  Once we began climbing towards Grizzly Peak we hit some sun.  

It was after the first rest stop when I ran into John Buckley and noticed he had the same Death Valley jersey on.  It was a few miles later he caught up to me and we started talking about our experiences there.  After a few minutes, he dropped back and I continued on my merry way as I was felling pretty strong.
 Not all century riding is through gorgeous green valleys and flowering mountain tops.  The Grizzly has us riding smack dab through and oil refinery in Port Costa.

After Port Costa, one of the major climbs of the day is immediately after the rest stop, McEwen.  It isn’t the longest but surely is the biggest gradient.  Towards the bottom of the hill there are signs every few yards. There were three in succession at a very steep part of the hill that said something like ‘you may have noticed you’ve come to a crawl…one should not fear…unless one doesn’t have a granny gear’.  Further towards the top of the climb there is ‘you’ve made it to the top…but don’t put on airs…for in a few miles…you’ll face the BEARS’. Alluding to a series of three significant climbs; Papa, Momma, and Baby Bear. 
 Cresting McEwen

For the middle few rest stops I seemed to leap frog with Jerry from TNT for a few hours.  I would catch up, move ahead a bit, and end up taking a little extra time at the rest stops.  The fruit was fantastic; strawberries, pineapple, melon!!  And this century has a lot of riders.  It is a very social century.  It wasn’t until after the Wayside Rest Stop (mile 77.6) that the number of riders ahead and behind started to become sparse.  Up until this point there were always riders ahead and behind that I could see.  Not now, it seemed at times that I was riding this route all alone.  Also it wasn’t until after Wayside that I slowed my pace considerably.  I was getting kind of tired.  There were still many big climbs ahead, Redwood up to Skyline, Skyline, Walnut, Redwood, and Pinehurst.  The second Redwood climb is a long slow slog.  It doesn’t look that hard on the elevation chart but it came at mile 95.  

Unhappily I report that my hot foot has made a re-appearance.  It hasn’t bothered me in quite some time and hope that it is not a foreshadowing.  I pulled into the finish shortly after 4 pm for a total riding time of approximately nine hours.  Felt good for 109 miles, but realize I still have a lot of training to do to be ready for the Death Ride.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I ride...

{this post originally appeared on}

Part I— Why I’m riding to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
 Mom and Dan on the camp porch
Even though the dimensions of my heartfelt pain have lessened over the years, the impact of the loss of my mother remains infinite.  That pain will forever remain deep whenever thoughts wander her way.

Mom, Dad, and Cathy

There are some memories of her lasting impression which simply remain lodged in one’s brain no matter how trivial they now appear.  At the age of four maybe five tops, I remember being traumatized after some family event from which I was completely exhausted.  Throughout the day, I’m certain family conversation turned towards dieting of some sort, as general conversations often go.  And on this day, I explicitly remember my mother telling my sister and me that she would be joining Weight Watchers and that she was going to try to slim down.  Not certain at this time whether it was exhaustion or the tender age of four, I completely lost it.  I remember running up to her crying, top of my head to her belly button, throwing my arms around her, and telling her I’d have nothing to do with it, didn’t want her to lose the weight, I didn’t want her to change and she shouldn’t want to either. I truly loved her just the way she was.   

Looking back these 35 plus years later (gasp for both time that has passed and my age now), the event seemed inconsequential. It shouldn’t have registered in such a prominent place in my memory.  Yet it does.   

Fifty-three years of age is young. 
Mom (circa 1952)

There are so many memories of spending summers at camp.  I remember watching many sunsets from our favorite spot of all, the porch swing.  Often times, it was after my back had sunburned (don’t judge it was a time when baby oil was considered suntan lotion). She would patiently peel off the blistering skin, a tender moment in my childhood which seems like a lifetime ago. I remember being shewed out the door to play in the yard as she watched her Soaps.  To this day whenever I hear the theme from the ‘Young & Restless’, I’m brought back to the sand-pile just outside and the matchbox cars I played with there. I cherish the memories of Sunday mornings spent at the tiny church near camp, and not just because we got to go for ice cream after every mass.  I remember the pennies from heaven, which would liter the floor for my sister, my cousins, and my friends to find after the adults played a night of poker.  I remember hating thunderstorms as they raced across the lake towards us; but loving, after the storm had passed, that she then encouraged us to go outside, to run and slide in the puddles, and then to jump in the lake to clean off.

I remember being in bed and rocking back and forth muttering under my breath that I hate you, I hate you, I hate you; whenever she “sinned” by putting me down for a nap.  I remember the hideous plaid pants she made me wear to Merrill Hill School in the first and second grade; yet I really love plaid today.  I remember her (& my father) torturing me by bringing me to the Auburn Fire Department's Minot Avenue Station when I was little because they thought it would help me overcome my incredible fear of fire trucks, especially the sirens.  It didn't.  I remember her slipping down the back stairs to the backyard, in order to fulfill my request to have my wagon there. I remember waking on Sunday mornings, my sister and I running into our parent’s room; we would wrestle and tickle them awake.
Zoanne, Mom, and Carol

I remember mom covering for me when I used an SOS pad to clean the family car. I just wanted to get it cleaner and didn’t realize it would also scratch the paint.  I also remember her covering for me when I would swipe quarters to go play Asteroid at the Big S with John T.  I remember what she told me when I asked, ‘where do babies come from?’  I remember the sunny afternoon she said that she was pregnant with what would be my baby brother, the one I had prayed for such a long time.  It was many years ago, but I remember……….
Me, Mom, Dan, and Cathy

Fifty-three years of age is young.  I remember…

I remember the time she announced that she had cancer.

I remember the chemotherapy treatments. 

I remember the loss of her hair, the nausea and this sickness she endured. 

I remember being at home the last few days of her life. 

I remember her wasting away and watching the mother I love become so frail. 

I remember joking with her about that time she came home to let us know she was joining Weight Watchers, and my refusal to allow her to change.  Damn you weight watchers. 

Mom holding Aimee

I remember her wish of wanting to survive till my brother graduated high school; she never did. 

I remember her request that I look out for him and my dad after she was gone. 

I remember the exact time she was last conscious enough to communicate. 
Tante Nancy had just arrived for a visit.  Before leaving to go check on my sister’s cat and leaving her and Nancy alone to visit, I bent down to kiss her and give her a big hug.  I remember the tears in her eyes.  It was a Wednesday evening; she passed early Saturday.

Fifty-three years of age is way too young to die.  I remember….

That was my mother’s age when she finally succumbed to the effects of chemotherapy for the treatment of Multiple Myeloma
Mom, Dad, and Elvis

She departed this world, this realm, in May of 1994, just a few weeks before I graduated from college.  My younger brother was a sophomore in high school while my older sister had yet to be blessed with her awesome daughter, what would have been my mother’s first grandchild, who carries her name Samantha Claire.  My father was not yet retired and still working at Bath Iron Works.  The porch at camp still had screens, not the fancy windows of today, nor the concrete foundation.  She did however get to meet Trevor.  I did get the opportunity to ‘come out’ to her, although one of her first questions at the time was, did Trevor turn you gay,’ and my response was, no mom he didn’t.  She never had the pleasure of meeting my Sister-in-law, and will never get to meet my brother’s baby L’Italien, who will soon join us.  I can go on and on and on.  There is so much she has missed; and there is so much we have missed.

I ride for her. 

I ride for those who are suffering and will suffer from cancer. 

I ride for a cure. 

I ride for all those who will someday face the need to remember.

I ride for you.

I ride for me.

I ride…I ask for your support

Friday, April 29, 2011

Donor Incentives!!!!

{originally posted at}

As promised, below are the donor incentives I've come up with for your donations to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Death Ride fundraiser.  Not only will I pedal for you, I will also cook for you...stop that snickering.  Gone is the $1,000.00 donor incentive of me riding the 129 miles in drag, but rather yummies for your tummy.

Any donation no matter how large or how small will have my sincere appreciation and gratitude.  You’ll also get a picture of yours truly from atop the very last mountain pass.  It will be signed with love.
large vat of awesomeness

$75.00 donation: one container of homemade spaghetti sauce (mom’s recipe), must be local as not shipping overnight.  We can probably arrange something if you are located back east in Maine.  This way you can have your very own sauce-on-bread for breakfast, lunch, and supper.

$125.00 donation:  your choices of homemade peanut butter fudge or whoopee pies (gluten-free optional).   The fudge will be made with the real Fluff and not that jet-puffed crap I can only get out here.  You decide whether you trust me to make them or have my father make them. If I am not able to deliver personally, I will ship treat on ice pack, via USPS (if it fits it ships).
Gluten-free whoopee pie

$200.00 donation: Both peanut butter fudge and whoopie pies.

Peanut butter fudge and whoopee pies will arrive near the holidays to avoid the summer heat.
the change bucket is here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coleman Valley!!!

I have a few more roads to add to my FAVORITE's list after today!!!!

Yesterday's Team-in-Training ride (April 23, 2011) had me traversing roads that I have never ridden before.  There are so many good riding roads in Marin that I usually just start my ride from home and not drive to a start location.  By not driving, I save gas, but it limits my northward riding distance to Tomales and back, which is 120 miles round trip.  Today I drove to the Cheese Factory and then started riding with TNT.  This allowed me to venture further north on roads not previously traveled.

Bay Hill Road, just outside of Bodega is phenomenal!

Leaving the Cheese Factory shortly after 8 am, we traveled familiar roads: Hicks Valley, Wilson Hill (the short but STEEP direction) and Chileno Valley Road to Tomales.  This early in the morning there were no headwinds to speak of and the pace-lining got us through pretty quick.  After a very brief stop in Tomales, I took off with a smaller group so that I could go at my own pace and not feel as if I had to 'keep' up.  Not that I couldn't keep up, but if I was not having a good day I didn't want the added stress of not being able to keep the pace.  Besides, I like to stop and take pictures and let the surroundings settle in.  Often the views are more breathtaking then the riding and the smells can be just as breathtaking.  I'm talking the eucalyptus trees and not the manure.

On Dillon Beach Road, can you spot the black sheep of the family?

After the stop in Tomales, we headed north on Dillon Beach road.  My friend Joseph, has always wanted to get me to ride this road to Dillon Beach and now I can see why.  Some nice rollers with green hills and sheep galore. 
View from Vally Ford Franklin School Road towards Tomales Bay

From Valley Ford we headed Northwest on Highway One towards Bodega and my new favorite road, Bay Hill Road.  Such a narrow, eucalyptus lined, almost path.  I loved it!!  
Catching up with TNT group 2 riders on Bay Hill Road

I am extremely thankful that our small group caught up with a few riders ahead of us.  I was following Lisa G and another just outside of Bodega where we made a right onto Coleman Valley Road.  I surely would have missed this road had I not been following.  Similar to Bay Hill, it is a narrow winding road that is unmarked and could be easily missed.  However that is the only thing that could be easily missed.  Coleman Valley was our main climb of the day, and a climb it is.  I figure there is a good mile, mile and a half, of 12%+ grade and numerous cattle grates too. 
The view from Ocean Song, the top of Coleman Valley Road

The descent into Occidental was nice, again not for the speeds or bumpy road, but more because it was wooded and narrow.  Joy road was a joy.

SAG support at last rest stop at mile 62 on Whitaker Bluff

The last leg of the day brought us back near Tomales, where we took Fallon-Two Rock Road to Alexander to Tomales-Petaluma Road back to Chileno Valley Road.  On Chileno we slowed the pace a bit as we were getting tired and wanted to save a little something for the last climb of the day, Wilson Hill before getting back to the Cheese Factory.
Kyle cresting Wilson's with John G in background
John G and Jerry after Wilson Hill and mile 80-ish

All-in-all it was an awesome training ride.  Once again tired and sore after 85 miles and 7500 feet, but not cramped nor dehydrated.  Plus I now have a few more favorite roads to add to my list!!


Somewhere on Highway One near between Marshall and Hamlet

Last Saturday (April, 16, 2011) Joseph was leading a Different Spokes ride from SF to Tomales and back (120 miles).  I decided to do this ride because Will, a friend from work, was interested in meeting us in Fairfax and riding the best 70 miles with us.  The 20+ miles to Fairfax are usually pretty mundane and tedious; when did crossing the Golden Gate get tedious? 

I broke out the camel pack and cleaned it as I said I would do after the Mt. Diablo ride.  After a hellish finish on Diablo, my goal was slow and steady, 120 miles is a long way and a long day. 
Will and Joseph, I made them stop so I could get pictures of those pretty yellow flowers

From Fairfax, Joseph took us on a clockwise route through Samuel Taylor State Park, Olema, Point Reyes Station, Marshall, Hamlet, to lunch in Tomales!!  Last time Joseph and I rode this ride we took the counter-clockwise route and that was just dumb.  We had encountered not only fierce headwinds on Chileno Valley Road but also coming out of Tomales to the coast.  Coming out of Tomales last year must have been the worse headwinds I've ever encountered.  Even worse than the 2009 Tierra Bella headwinds in Gilroy.

In Tomales, we ran into a small group of AIDs/Lifecycle riders lunching. 

After Tomales, we continued in the clockwise direction to traverse Chileno Valley Road.  As we suspected we had some awesome tailwinds pushing us southwest.  Those poor riders heading in the other direction.  After Chileno Valley it was up and over Wilson Hill to the Cheese Factory and eventually to Fairfax and back home.  Arrived home around 5:30 pm, tired, but no cramps and plenty hydrated.  A very successful training ride that was a ton of fun too. 

A foggy Tomales Bay