I can’t believe this year’s Ride From Reno is over. Seriously. I truly can’t believe and, don’t want it to be, over.
We endured pain, suffering, joy, happiness, loneliness, camaraderie, misery, elation, sadness, spiritual awakening, and virtually every other emotion known to mankind. When coupled with wind, heat, sweat, and pure and simple hard, hard work, it’s difficult to understand how anxious we are to do it all again. Rob Berman (2-times); Jason Bleak (7-times); Keith Facer (2-times); Rich Linton (4-times); Joe Plater (8-times); Dan Sellers (5-times); Todd Smith (1-time); Darcie Strong (5-times); and me (15-times) rolled across the finish-line Saturday at Huntsman Cancer Institute with tears streaming down our faces while huge smiles crossed our lips. We had accomplished what so many others don’t and, cannot, understand. Unless you’re part of this little adventure known as the Ride From Reno, those who do this ride cannot adequately explain it. It’s impossible. I wish everyone had the chance to ride the 667-miles from Reno or, support someone who does. To be the last rider headed-up a long climb and have someone who, at that moment may be a little stronger, come back and ride the climb with you is, well, both humbling and exhilarating. You feel a bit like you’re holding others back, sort of like a boat anchor! But, there wasn’t an ego in our group; not with those who rode from Reno nor with those who supported those who rode. Everyone wanted everyone else to be successful. Isn’t that the way life is really supposed to be? It’s a rhetorical question because the answer is obvious; yes, that’s the way we all want to be treated and the way we’re all supposed to act.
I spent a week with the finest, most generous and gracious people on the planet. People who put their practices, careers, businesses, and families on hold while they dedicated themselves to something far larger: riding their bikes to raise money to find better-tolerated and less-toxic treatments for cancer and, ultimately, cures for the more than 200 types of this disease. In the process, the Ride From Reno Team raised approximately $55,000 out of the $459,000 total raised.
When I think about each of the folks who joined this year’s ride, along with their support, the word ‘integrity’ quickly comes to mind. It’s the word that describes each person who supported those who rode from Reno and best describes those who rode their bikes.
Day 1 was fast and hot; many of us were cramping and, those last few miles (I got 142.5-miles on Day 1) were brutal. Day 2, with the vicious climbs up Austin Summit, Bob Scott Pass, and Hickison Pass were tough. Day 3 started OK, but by the time we hit Robinson Pass the wind had kicked-in and the ride in to Ely was awful; we had to shuttle our bikes 15-miles across the most treacherous and wind-ravaged portion of the terrain before climbing Connor’s Pass at 7,722′. Day 4 started with a climb up to Sacramento Pass where we tenderly wrote on Highway 50 the names of those who have had cancer (whether they won their battle or not) and those who have it now. I wish I had the power to convey the feelings each of us felt that morning but, I don’t. You have to be there, personally, and experience this particular morning to understand it in any way. Many, many tears were shed on Sacramento Pass. The final 2-hours of our Day 4 ride were at 27 to 30 mph, chasing Jason in to Delta, UT. I’ve never seen anyone ride with more power and determination than Jason did the afternoon of Day 4.
Finally, there was Day 5, also known as the Huntsman 140. Mike MacDonald and Scott Westfall, both Ride From Reno veterans, joined us in Delta along with several hundred others. As a Father’s Day surprise, my son, Seth, joined us! In total, there were nearly 1,000 cyclist who rode the final day. It was amazing to see strong riders take-off, hammering their way to Salt Lake City, and before many miles passed our Ride From Reno Team would gobble them up. It happened time and time again; the power of a cohesive team cannot be overstated. Simply stated, we wanted one another to be successful and that’s how we rode; for one another. As we approached Salt Lake City, there were many times the entire paceline would slow down to enable a rider to ‘catch back on’ . . . we’d ridden the entire distance together and we were going to finish together.
As a survivor of Stage IV cancer, this ride is personal to me and, as long as my health holds-out, I’ll continue the Ride From Reno. When the time comes that I cannot do this ride, I’ve asked Jason Bleak to do the ride at least one more time; something to which he’s graciously agreed. Even then, this ride will still be personal to me. Clinically, healthcare professionals refer to the treatment regimen as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. To me, at the consumer level, I refer to it as slash, burn, and poison. It’s personal, and should be to every one of us. It’s time we drive a stake through the dark, cold, unfeeling heart of cancer.
Something our entire Ride From Reno Team is committed to do.