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Riding on success (RIDE DAY!)

June 23, 2012

Finish line 6 23 2012

Crossing the finish line at the Ride for Roswell (Photo by Patrick McPartland)

   Anyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person. Perhaps it is because I worked overnight for eight years and grew accustomed to heading to bed as the birds began to sing. Although I have not been a night owl for about six years, I still have difficulties going to sleep before midnight and rising before 10 a.m. I’ll do it, but don’t expect Little Miss Sunshine to appear until the afternoon.

   Until today, that is! I was up before 7 a.m., feeling refreshed, excited, anxious and determined. We prepped some after the Opening Ceremony last night, but this morning, we had to check off the list, making sure that the bicycles were in great shape and secured to the car, our helmets and water bottles were packed and our Ride for Roswell tags and stickers were in their proper places. We also had special tags to fill out in honor of loved ones, Patrick dedicating his to his parents and mine exclaiming “Survivor” to match my orange T-shirt.

   My bike featured one extra ornament – another bike! The decoration from the cake my mother made for the Stick it to Cancer event in April, I secured this tiny, blue/green bike to the front of Greeny with a zip tie so I could look down at it and remember to keep pedaling no matter how scary or tiring the ride became.

   Upon returning to UB, we found that we would have to park farther away than the night before, but the prospect was exciting because I realized I could get a little more practice in before arriving at the start line. Once we arrived, we found thousands of people reveling in the tent village and waiting for their turn to start their routes. Mary, Billy, Patrick and I were in the second-to-last group to depart, the 8-mile route that was just ahead of the 3-mile Family Ride. We got a dose of perspective when we found out that those taking on the 104-mile journey departed at 5:30 a.m.

   As soon as we got into position for our route, my co-riders found that I was not kidding when I said I wanted to be the last in our group to start. We let a few hundred people pass ahead of us in the line before we got the call to begin, leaving mostly children and tricycles behind us. Once our start flag was waved, we were cheered on by hundreds of onlookers, and a sense of pride powered me forward. I regretted not being able to loosen my grip on at least one handle bar so I could give high-fives to our cheerleaders, but I didn’t want to begin the Ride on the pavement. A smile and slight nod of the head would have to suffice if I planned to remain upright.

   Once we cleared the crowd and most of our group was ahead of us, I felt more at ease and rather enjoyed the dips and climbs along the bike path that hugs Ellicott Creek. I began to have a little too much fun and became a little too relaxed, however, and didn’t fully expect a sharp turn followed by a steep decline that appeared as though it ended in the creek. I shouted to Patrick my signature, “Honey, Honey!” which indicated I was in trouble, and I bailed off the bike. There was no way I was remounting until I knew water wasn’t an obstacle – Patrick always says I should learn to swim as my next project. I didn’t feel as lame when Mary also felt the need to walk her bike at that point, and she’s an excellent swimmer. That point of the bike path shall forever be known as “Lisa’s Scary Curve.”

   The first 4 miles flew by, just as they did when we practiced along the river a few weeks ago, and before we knew it, we were at the break. I had been looking forward to this for months, after Patrick retold his friend’s tale of the best-tasting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches being served. Handmade by volunteers, PB&J was never so wonderful. After devouring two sandwiches and an orange, Patrick and I refreshed with some water over the head, and our team was off again.

   The second half of the Ride seemed to take twice as long as the first, mainly because it began to become concerning. The 8-mile route melded with the 20- and 30-milers, so more experienced cyclists were whizzing and zooming by to our left and to our right. I felt like a 5-year-old being shamed by older siblings. At Niagara Falls Boulevard – the retail and traffic-congestion hub of the Amherst/Tonawanda area — I bailed again and walked because I felt unsafe even with burly police officers and friendly volunteers waving us on. I had to stop at the Boulevard and North Ellicott Creek Road to regain my bravery to continue, and a volunteer yelled, “Are you OK?” I told her I was fine but after just learning to ride a bike, I was not going to move with vehicles and countless bicycles swarming. She and other volunteers cheered, and she yelled, “You’re my hero!” That got me moving again.

   The Ride became even more frightening when the chaos of experts and newbies was forced off a side street and onto the four-lane Sweet Home Road. Sure, our lane was coned off and police officers were controlling traffic, but I felt overwhelmed. Compared to this, the Boulevard was nothing, as we endured these riding conditions for seven-tenths of a mile compared to 0.05 miles on the Boulevard. I entertained the thought of making a right into the drive-through of Tim Hortons to wait out the crowd, but that seemed like cheating, so I hung the left with the rest of the blob.

   As we returned to UB’s campus, I began to realize that I might actually finish. Patrick and Billy rode ahead of Mary and me to find the perfect place at the finish line for pictures. As we rounded the final corners, survivors’ names were neatly printed onto the pavement, as if a grade school teacher had spent all night masterfully etching each letter in colorful chalk. I found my name and ran it over, admiring the penmanship and thinking about the thousands of other tires that hit it earlier in the day.

   As I approached the finish line, I didn’t focus on finding Patrick and Billy because I didn’t want to fall after traveling 8 miles without a large incident. I focused on getting past the line, taking in the applause of the bystanders and enjoying the feeling of, “I DID IT!” We did it. We may have only raised $1,235 on our team of four, but we helped Roswell realize a total of $3.7 million. Even better, we proved that we can take on this type of challenge and raise even more money next year.

   I found Patrick with his camera, and it took me back to April 21, when this whole crazy idea began. I was proud that I didn’t nearly run him down as I almost did back then – that I had much more control over this wheeled beast. As we took the long trek back to the bike parking area, I knew I was done riding, and my legs felt like rubber under me. We reminisced about past falls, crashes and spills and talked about future Rides, when we might be able to raise enough money – $1,000 per person – to take part in the 12-mile Peloton.

   Mom and Mary admitted after the Ride that they weren’t sure I’d complete this journey. While they fully believe in me and my ability to achieve anything to which I put my mind, a doubt arose because the task seemed so daunting and the stumbles, wobbles and tumbles were all too real. They didn’t necessarily feel that I would just give up, but they feared that I would run out of time. They were glad to be proven wrong. When I declare that I am going to accomplish a goal, I always achieve that goal, and the determination is even stronger when operating under the “survivor” mentality.

Me on bike with mini bike 6 23 2012

Me on my big bike with the mini bike my family gave me as a good luck charm 🙂 (Photo by Patrick McPartland)

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