My account of life both on and off of two wheels...... "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recovery and Updates.

The past couple of weeks since the Bearscat  has been all about rest and recovery for me.  I still rode a little but not with any real intensity.  I had  caught a nasty head cold the week following the race, so I tried to take it easy and honor my body.  I have made my body work extra hard this year and I owed it a little break. 

Feeling well rested, the break is over and I am back to training with some focus on my speed.   This was the least important thing for me during the past 5 months.  I have put the base miles in my legs so now it’s time to ramp things up a bit. 

During this recovery period, our local mountain bike club- WMBA- had their annual Fat Tire Festival at Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill, NY. I look forward to this event every year.  I was unable to ride last year, as I was only 2 weeks post op and could hardly move. So this years attendance meant a lot more to me than normal.   

I had volunteered to lead the woman's ride again.  My friends Helen and Kim helped as we took 12 women into the woods.  For some, this was their first time on real single track and rocks were not something they considered 'rolling'.

Just look up and don't hit the brakes! 

And away she goes....

Helen took some photos, while Kim and I stood at the base of this rock shouting out encouragement to the beginner rider.   I'm so glad that Helen caught this moment because that is what leading that ride is all about for me:  Giving at least one woman the confidence on her bike that she may not have gotten on her own.  She did her first rock roll down and I was so proud of her.  When I saw her later on that day at the festival, she was still smiling. 

YES, she did it! 

We were all smiles that day at the festival.

What a great day!  ♥

I am feeling pretty good these days.  I have been hearing from a lot of people comments like, “you look so great”, “wow, you would never have known...”.   While all those complements feel great, I have to remind people that it was a lot of work to get my physical self back together.  The hair was going to grow, that was a given but the extra chemo weight and building up my strength again was all me.  I had a lot of help and motivation from G and I still can’t say enough good things about the pilates program through Body Wise Connection: what Joy has done for me has been really tremendous.  Now if I could just have the emotional healing catch up to the physical healing…..

It seems all my 3 month doctor follow ups hit at the same time.  It started with a follow up appointment with my breast surgeon.  I am happy to say I have nothing to report there. All looks good- phew.  The following week I had my routine Echocardiogram and according to the tech “you have a beautiful heart”.  Aw, shucks! But seriously, this is a very good thing to hear.  The Adriamicyn (the red devil chemo drug) and the Herceptin both have a very high cardiac toxicity so hearing those words is a relief.  It also means I was clear for my Herceptin treatment last week.   I did not have to see my oncologist so I was in and out of the chemo suite as fast as they could move me.  The next follow up was last Friday with my plastic surgeon.  All looks good there as well.  We spoke mostly about the next steps in the breast reconstruction process- no, I am not done!  We discussed what the procedure would be like to exchange my tissue expanders with the silicone implants. She even let me hold some sample implants to see what they feel like.  They are so much softer than what I have now and I can’t wait!  Well actually, I can wait.  I am choosing to wait until October to have my exchange surgery for two main reasons.  First, it is summer and I do not want to be off the bike again.  I lost last summer because of surgery and chemo and I am not willing to give that up on purpose.  Second, the longer my skin has to heal from radiation, the better chance I will have for a successful surgery.  There is always a 50% chance that the new implant will not work out for me because of the radiation.  I knew this but it is still a tough statistic to swallow.  I am just keeping positive and I will continue to take this whole process one step at a time. 

In the meantime, I plan on continuing to enjoy my summer. 


Friday, June 10, 2011

The race is in the books and for sure in my legs!

I had my own expectations for Sunday but I was careful not to set them too high.   My major goal on Sunday was to show up at the start line and race my own race to the finish: mission accomplished!

It felt so great to be at the start line again with all the familiar faces.  This particular race, unlike most of the races I have done, did not break off into age groups or separate categories.  It was what they call an Open Class.  That means I lined up next to everyone from the pro-racers as well as all the strong Cat. 1 racers and intermediate racers.  I was not intimidated by the competition as for the most part, they were all just happy to see me there. The encouragement that I have received from the majority of  ladies has been overwhelming.

This time at the starting line, something felt different for me.  Before my diagnosis, I would line up at the start of a race feeling more pressure on myself to have a good result.  That pressure has shifted probably because my definition of a good result has changed.  I set out on my race on Sunday not really caring about what place I finished, but instead my focus was on finishing the race feeling strong and enjoying the ride.  It was so hard not to give it some extra gas and chase the masses.  It took some discipline on my behalf to hold back which also meant I was solo for most of the race.  I had never done a race this long and frankly, I had no clue if my body would fail me that day.  The night before I had G set up my cycling computer on my bike.  I normally only use one for riding out on the road but I needed a way to time my nutrition and gauge my timing so I would be sure to make the time cut offs that the race promoter put into effect for the safety of the racers.  The first cut off was 4 hours at the 25 mile mark.  I pulled into the 25 mile mark feeling surprising strong and in 3.5 hours.  I was pleased.  While I lost some time on the second half of the race, I just kept moving forward.  As my friend Jocelyn said “Just keep moving forward no matter what the pace”.  I must have used that as a constant mantra after mile 35.  Around mile 42 I had some extra pep in my pedals and I am still not sure if it was because I caught up to two girls or if it was the motivation to be finished with the race:  7.5 hours is a long time to be on your bike!

I was feeling the fatigue on the climbs toward the end but I still felt I was holding my own in the technical.   As I approached mile 46, I knew  it was mostly all fire-road.  I knew it was coming, but the second time around it seemed to go on forever!  I started to get some cramping in my inner thighs and my neuropathy had settled into my right foot.  "You are almost there Reba…just keep pedaling"- I told myself.  I inhaled some energy blocks and water and asked my legs to hold on for just a couple miles longer.  The fire road ended and I was on the paved road toward the finish line.  I could see the people all there and I could hear them cheering.  I could hear my name and at that moment I could no longer feel the pain in my legs or my foot.  I only felt the huge smile across my face and the tears: I cried when I crossed the finish line.  I was so proud of myself at that moment.  I have overcome so much over the past year that finishing this race meant more to me than I could ever express in words.

Smiles and tears crossing the finish line.

It is so good to be back in the ‘scene’ again.  Next big race is the Darkhorse 40 on July 31.  I may actually race that on my single speed.  Until then, I will just keep enjoying the ride.

Thank you for reading and for all your faith in me.


Friday, June 3, 2011

It’s time to zip up the suit…

It’s time to zip up the wonder woman suit.  I need all the” super muscles” that I can muster up at this point in the game.  The countdown to the big race is here.  The Bearscat50 is this Sunday, June 5.  Not only is it my first race back post cancer diagnosis, but it is the longest race I have ever done. And it happens to fall on national cancer survivors day. For me the race will be about celebrating life.   I have a lot of friends and loved ones that I will be riding for on Sunday.  

Am I ready? I am as ready as I am going to be.  The thing about fitness is, you either have it or you don’t.  I have received some solid advice from some of my friends that  I look up to in the racing world and I’ve noted all of it!  “Hydrate and eat on schedule” , “keep moving forward, no matter what the pace “and “it’s us vs. the course, pace yourself”- just to name a few

My father offered up his own parental advice. “Remember you are a winner when you get to the starting line”.  Right, well…tell that to my ego.  

Sunday  is going to be a really hard day both mentally and physically for me. While I have been through a lot over the past year, one would think I would be able to dig deep and get through it. The thing is, I have been digging deep all year long- it has been a push for me. Let us see if I can translate all I have been through back into the bike.

Wish me luck!