It was a really special part of my cycling year to finally ride my first LIVESTRONG Challenge this past weekend after having to sit out last year and settle for photographing the event. This year I was able to ride thinking about the wonderful people in my life who had tragically been affected by cancer.  Every mile of the 45 miles that I rode was ridden thinking about each of them.

Laura, Buddy, and Helen, three dear friends lost to cancer, were memorialized on my back bib right over my heart.  And I had my parents with me – three cancers between them and currently healthy, thank God – tagged onto the seat of my bike, too.

Especially bittersweet for me this year was that my Fairy Godmother was in Houston’s MD Anderson hospital having surgery for pancreatic cancer while I was riding.

And yet, the wonderful thing about being a part of the LIVESTRONG community is that it inspires hope and celebration.  It’s about focusing on what we CAN do.  And on Sunday what I could do was ride for my friends, exceed my own limitations, and remember that I’m also a walking (or in this case, riding) miracle.

After rolling out with 3100 other riders it took a while to seed into manageable pace groups, but we did after about 15 minutes.  If you’ve never tried riding down a major highway with people an inch or two on all sides of you and nothing but bodies for over a mile…well try it.  It’s a unique experience which yielded several important yet humorous life lessons.

Lesson #1:  Don’t slow down to ride over a cattle guard.  Ride ‘em fast!

So about 90 minutes into my ride Lance and actor Patrick Dempsey (Gray’s Anatomy’s “McDreamy” but don’t make the mistake of calling him that he asked “for God’s sake”) blew past me with a peloton of about 25 riders, including one of Lance’s Radio Shack teammates Levi Leipheimer.  The deep “WHOOSH” sound they made as they whirred by at 25 or 30 MPH while I was stopped was unmistakable and a sound I’m not likely to ever forget.

This happened as I was stopped on the side of the road getting ibuprofen from a route medic who thankfully had some. This stroke of luck saved me from a migraine after I rode too slow over a cattle guard and wrenched my neck.  I’m always so careful about disturbing my back and neck and who knew slow was B-A-D?

This scene also pretty much cleared up any delusions I had about being a “real” cyclist. At least for now.

Lesson #2: Don’t answer your cell phone while on a bike that is moving.

My only boo-boo came IN THE PARKING LOT when I learned this humiliating lesson.

I’ve always had a no cell phone rule on my bike. And I made an exception this one time because I was rolling so slowly as to be barely moving when one of my riders called. We were just about to roll out and one of us had been unable to locate his teammates in the throng of 3100 riders after 3 phone calls and 30 minutes. So as Mother Hen, to a group of over 400, some of whom were riding with us, what am I going to do – leave him hanging after he drove all the way out to Dripping Springs to ride with us?

After landing on the pavement in the launch chute in front of 3100 of my closest friends I figured that stopping one handed doesn’t work, even when you’re only rolling about 2 MPH!!  No harm, thank goodness, except to my ego and a spot on my knee the size of a quarter.  I’ll live.

Lesson #3: if you ever want to hurry anyone up say “race you for the beer!”

This works like a charm.

After feeling pretty sluggish off and on for the last 10 miles my riding buddy and I raced each other to the finish and rolled in about 21 MPH for the last 2 of our 45 miles. It felt GREAT.

As we crossed the finish line I was shocked to hear emcee Sandy McIlree as he called out “there’s Allison Peacock of Team Austin Cycling Meetup” and he called out our team stats.  I can’t lie.  It felt great.

I can’t wait to see the pictures.

 

iPhone Photo :: The memorializing and honoring of loved ones affected by cancer is part of the LIVESTRONG ride experience.