Philly LiveStrong Challenge 2010- Bike ride

An optimistic several months ago, I signed up for the 20 miler.  Well… training came more in the form of 20-30 minutes on the stationary bike and while the endurance or calorie burning program is more challenging than doing nothing… it simulates and doesn’t take the place of REAL in the saddle riding.

Luckily, my parents decided to come up for the weekend, so I had Dad to come up with me on Sunday and Mom did the 5K with Team Smitty on Saturday and watched kiddo on Sunday.  It worked out perfectly and I really appreciated it.  I was most concerned about overdoing it on the ride and being stuck far away from home and not safe to drive.

My hill work is PA-THETIC.  I struggle with small hills and slight inclines.  I think I’m finally past shifting the wrong way and finding myself in the hardest gear trying to go uphill.. you’d think that was a mistake I’d only make once, but several times later, I think I’m finally straight on that… lol…

Well… I’d been toying with what distance to do for the Challenge.  I was semi confident that I could do 10 without killing myself.  20 would be a definite challenge.  Of course, they do call it the Philly LiveStrong Challenge.  But, they don’t call it the Philly Be Stupid and Kill Yourself Challenge…

The day came with raindrops.  I’d never ridden in the rain.  One of the Team Smitty riders reminded us to tap our brakes, to make sure they didn’t get work and malfunction.  I had visions of Tour de France type pile ups.  I thought perhaps the 10 mile would be a safer and smarter alternative for me.  Much like taking a youngster to a horse show, I wanted my first Challenge to be a positive experience!  I thought about John and knew that is what he’d want for me as well.

The rest of Team Smitty was doing the 45.  Luckily, they didn’t mind me starting with them!  When I signed up, a friend was going to ride with me as well, but surgery ended her 2010 Challenge.  Prior to the Challenge, I had visions of having to ride alone and fight it out for myself.  Of course, fighting through things myself often seems more the norm than the rarity.  Such is life… 1 + 1 = 2.  2 -1 = 1.

For days, I’ve been looking up to the sky and asking John to help push me up the hills.  Who knows if John had anything to do with it or not, but I was blessed with a mentor.  Jim rode alongside Team Smitty this year and last year.  He met John at Stan & Joe’s and is friends with several of the firefighters.  Today, Jim took the time to watch my back, and give me pointers and encouragement.  Exactly what I needed.  We rode together till the 10 mile turnoff.  Jim was telling me about the Wounder Warrior ride in Annapolis that sounds like it might be a great goal for next year!  Jim’s mother was recently diagnosed with cancer and I wish her and her family all of the best.

There were more hills than I had ever done.  I planned my gear and petal strategy, fought it out, asked John for help and every time that I thought I just couldn’t make it any further… there was the top of the hill in sight!  I didn’t win any land speed records, but I NEVER had to get off and walk the hills!!!  Woo Hoo!!!

Jim had given me a great strategy… stop at the rest stop, get something to eat or drink and wait for a few people, so I wouldn’t be riding alone.  I saw two ladies riding separately and thought that looked like a good choice.  However, within a short time… one was far ahead and the other far behind.  Oh well.  The roads were well marked with directional signs and there was little traffic for most of the remainder of the ride.

I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.  There is a great inner peace at being alone in the outdoors.  There were many huge new houses along the route.  Some wonderful historic houses- which I always find interesting.  There were even a few horse farms that I passed.

I see a definite benefit in a road bike or a skinny tired hybrid.  My ride was a Trek Navigator.  It’s considered a hybrid, but it’s tires are virtually mountain bike.  I was glad for the stability and reliability, but there was a definitely a lack of speed.  Of course, it’s the schoolies that teach you how to ride and you need to start with the basics before you ride the fancy green show horse.  I figure once I have earned a road bike, I’ll get a road bike.  I’d love to ride John’s red bike someday, but I’m not sure if it will even fit me.  Obviously, John was taller.  The Navigator is borderline too big for me and for some reason, I think John may have went with a slightly bigger frame for the red bike.

John initially bought the Navigator to ride to work and within 2 weeks or so decided he needed a different bike and within a short period of time bought the red road bike.   He’s lucky he had me as a wife because I never nagged or commented that he’d just bought a bike like many spouses would do over large purchases.  I wanted him to be happy and comfortable and as long as he had the finances for another bike that was his decision.  Plus, it scored me a bike to use.

Back to the challenge… the road passed a huge church where cars were parked for Sunday services.  I wondered if “beach church” had gotten rained out.  I had a song from last week stuck in my head-

All Day Song (Love Him in the Morning)
Words and Music by John Fischer

Love Him in the morning when you see the sun a-rising
Love Him in the evening ’cause He took you through the day
And in the in-between-time when you feel the pressure coming
Remember that He loves you and He promises to stay

When you think you’ve got to worry
‘Cause it seems the thing to do
Remember He ain’t in a hurry
He’s always got time for you

So…
Love Him in the morning when you see the sun a-rising
Love Him in the evening ’cause He took you through the day
And in the in-between-time when you feel the pressure coming
Remember that He loves you and He promises to stay

I  petaled on… I reflected on those who were batting cancer, those who have won their battles, and those who have lost the fight.  Eventually the countryside turned back to the suburbs and traffic picked up, but by now I had company and felt more confident.  As we came into the college, I hoped I’d be able to pull off my finish line tribute on the bike.  Luckily, I could… a kiss sent skyward for John.

John, Love you always… thanks for helping to get me up the hills… wish we could have rode together, but maybe in some way we did… there are lots of things that death steals, but it can never take away memories or love.

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About Mary K. Smith

I was widowed in July 2009, when I lost my beloved husband, John, to melanoma. Cancer SUCKS. We have a young son who was just a year old when his father died. I live on a small farm in Maryland which is home to horses, cats, and a dog. I started this blog as a way for me to heal, a way to remember my husband, and eventually I'd like to share it with our son so he can see the love that his father had for him, the love that we had for each other, what a great person his father was, and how hard his father fought to live.
This entry was posted in Annapolis Fire Department, Events in honor of John, Family, Friends, Life after John's Death, LiveStrong Challenge and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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