Committing to the challenge…

Monday, June 5, 2017

With full-fledged acceptance, I dragged my sorry-ass respiratory infected body to the local urgent care with the goal of obtaining any kind of antibiotic money could possibly buy (or bribe). First, I was told it was allergies, “Are you taking your Claritin?”

I must digress for a moment here…if you’re a nurse and/or doctor of any kind, never tell me “it’s allergies.” The last time a doctor said “it’s allergies” and lived to talk about it was so far off the mark, he’s lucky to still be alive (my hubby the lawyer, not me, required murderous restraint). The diagnosis of “it’s allergies” 25 years ago ended up being a rare neurological condition that went undetected for over two years, nearly causing permanent blindness and leaving me suffering from chronic tinnitus to this day, all of which could have been resolved if identified sooner. And because of the delay in diagnosis, I went through 6 years of physical and mental hell that should never have happened to begin with…

Okay, back to that urgent care visit…

Suppressing a primal scream, I informed the nurse practitioner that she was wrong (I know, I know – nurses and doctors love hearing that as much as lawyers being told they’re wrong about the law – just ask my hubby the lawyer). At 52-years-of-age, I think I know the difference between allergies and illness. And, yes, I’m taking my Claritin…

Little voice: “Umm…honey, would you like for me to hock up one of the giant balls of florescent yellow mucous oozing from my lungs?”

Convincing her that it wasn’t my allergies, I was then told it was “viral,” therefore, antibiotics would not guarantee a cure. Fully aware of this fact, I proceeded to tell the nurse practitioner about my impending cancer ride – how I had waited two years and trained for six months to honor my brother…my big brother…my only brother who had died of cancer. I was willing to take the chance of spending the money and accepting the possibility of not getting better by June 11th. My pleading worked…

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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…but the antibiotic didn’t (serves me right) and the kid ended up with the cooties I had inherited from the hubby. Despite our collective hacking away, my daughter managed to graduate high school without a hitch. Promising to walk like Zoidberg down the procession line after receiving her diploma, the kid chickened out at the last minute, but she did wear the bow tie we’ve been hearing about for four years. I also managed to get a hand-burning high five on the way out.

Friday, June 9, 2017

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With Shabbat upon us, I prepared Ole Bessie for the Bridge to the Beach ride. Sitting in her corral, she anxiously awaited the long haul ahead…

After Michael died in 2015, I planned to do this ride last June, but it fell on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Gravely disappointed, I occasionally checked the ACS website throughout 2016, waiting for the official date in 2017. Flashback to January 20th (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”) when “I committed myself to the challenge…” June 11th was free and clear, no excuses…and then the hubby decided to share his cooties with me five days before the ride…

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Bridge to the Beach

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So, in true Doherty fashion, I ignored the fact that I was still sick and packed up Ole Bessie. This ride is going to happen no matter what

On January 20th, I wrote about being nervous. Admittedly, I was nervous right up to the second I hopped onto Ole Bessie at the starting point.IMG_20170611_063519795_HDR

Studying the route prior to departure, I discovered the entire length would be about 54.4 miles and that all four rest stops were more than 10 miles apart as noted on the ACS website. No problem – most of the route comprised mostly of flat terrain (if it was “a hill,” it was most likely an overpass). And having practiced riding more than 10 miles at a time over the past couple of months, getting to each rest stop would be a piece of cake.

Although Kathy wasn’t with me this time, I’d gotten used to riding alone these past few months. Besides, she sent me a message telling me to “Enjoy the ride!” with a silly cycling animation attached – she was with me in spirit. And I was ready – I had everything on my checklist formulated and completed through trial and error over the past six months all tucked away in one of two packs and/or the pack on my back.

I reminded myself of Jeremy’s advice: “Take your time. Don’t start in Philly – the bridge is a clusterf**k! Stay as far right as possible. Don’t stop at the first rest stop – too many people stop there and wear out their welcome…” Aside from stopping at the first rest stop (it really wasn’t that bad), I obeyed each word of longstanding wisdom.

As I pushed off and turned right out of the school parking lot, a wave of calm came over me. This was it…this was actually happening…

Over the highway and past the seemingly infinite span of malls, I pedaled down unexplored roads weaving through the countryside – small towns with tiny churches and houses sprinkled throughout, local farms growing seasonal crops and bustling Main Streets with busy intersections – just taking in every moment and stopping to smell the roses…slow and steady…

I pretty much had gotten over any fear of getting lost at this point. Riding back roads I didn’t even know existed, I decided to reprint the route directions of each section between rest stops onto small laminated note cards that fit neatly inside my front pack. At each stop, I would pull out the next card and toss the prior one into my backpack, hence, no confusion. I also figured, as long as I can see a cyclist in front of me and another in my rear view mirror, I’m not lost…until I noticed there was no one in front of me and the man behind me suddenly disappeared. Quickly bringing up Google Maps, I realized the right onto Cooper Street had been missed. Not far off course, I turned around to hundreds of cyclists making the crucial right turn I had overlooked. That would be the only mistake made today…

All in all, I managed to get to the first rest stop after the first 13 miles and showed Kathy what she was missing in the snack department:

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For the most part, I wasn’t afraid of the “unknown.” I had made it to 52, remember?! And the hubby and the kid were scheduled to meet me at each rest stop prepared to bring me home if I didn’t feel up to finishing. On top of that, I wasn’t going to let my heart f**k this up. I’d gotten off the medication causing the heart palpitations and had managed to minimize any SVT attacks (although I will admit the fear of a repeat performance like the cemetery incident).

As my concern of “not making it” subsided with each passing mile, I found myself 11 miles later at the second rest stop…where I again showed Kathy what she was missing:

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As for the weather…it was hot. Thankfully starting my ride at 6:40AM (I cheated by five minutes – no one was looking), I evaded most of the heat…until now…I was feeling it. Temperatures were hovering in the high 90s…with no clouds to block the blazing sun…and no breeze to cool the body…it was hot…

By the third stop 11 miles later, I was toast:

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And the snacks weren’t worth showing off anymore…

And by the fourth stop, another 12 miles down the road after racing the planes taking off at the local airport…

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I think my face says it all…

With only 7 miles to go, I fought the Little Voice begging me to throw in the towel and straddled Ole Bessie one last time. After 47 miles there was no way I wasn’t going to finish. Besides, they were closing down the right lane of the Atlantic City Expressway East so we could ride straight into the city and onto the boardwalk – I wasn’t going to miss that for anything! (Those of you who have ever been on the ACE during the summer know how crazy this idea is.)

For 54.4 miles, I thought of Michael the entire way, occasionally fighting back tears. I thought about how long I had waited for this ride, how long I had trained for it and how it was finally happening. I thought about Michael’s pain as the sun burned my skin. I thought about the exhaustion he must have felt as the heat drained my body of fluids. I thought about how much I missed him…

I also thought about Regina, my Irish twin, and felt grateful that she had survived her own battle with breast cancer and had driven the 90-minute trek to celebrate my daughter’s high school graduation last Wednesday. I enviously thought about Kathy having retired much earlier than anticipated and was wandering the country with her husband of 34 years in their super duper RV…it was definitely a good reason to skip this ride. I thought of Maureen…and mom…and dad…and all the other people I had lost in my life these past years.

Believe it or not, the last 7 miles were the easiest. The end was near – I could see the silhouette of the casinos on the horizon as I flew down the entrance ramp to the Atlantic City Expressway. As a result of the lane closure, thousands of vehicles piled with “shoebies” lined the highway, bumper to bumper, waiting to get to the shoreline. Some cheered us on, while others patiently (and impatiently) prayed that their engines would not overheat.

Slowly climbing the ramp off Missouri Avenue and onto the Atlantic City Boardwalk, hundreds of people cheering our victory and thanking us for our support, I could no longer hold back the tears…

I committed myself to the challenge and had triumphed…

Later, we ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen for a number of years. Having done the cancer ride over the past seven years and normally starting at the bridge, they had decided to start in Cherry Hill, confirming that, indeed, Jeremy’s advice was spot on – the bridge is a clusterf**k.

January 20, 2017

“I have a feeling this ride’s going to be even better…”

…and so it was!

“Come on feet don’t fail me now
I got ten more miles to go
I got nine, eight, seven, six, eight, six
I got a five more miles to go”

25 Miles to Go – Edwin Starr

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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