Where Did the Time Go?

Does anyone else feel like this week has flown by?  Even driving 20 mph (or sometimes less) across Nevada seems to have gone faster this year, and I’d love to have a couple more days to spend with this amazing group of people.

I got the opportunity to drive behind the team, or the last person for 2 and a half days this year, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it!  I did miss getting to spend the time with Darcie at the stops, but the good thing is that there is always someone else who is going to make sure her bottles were filled, or feed her, and ultimately me lunch.  Thank you Vickie, and Marsha for taking such good care of her!

It was a different year….People who have been strong in the past struggled, and those who have been steady every year emerged to help lead. I was honored to drive behind Jason and Todd in those moments that I know they wished had been different, but ultimately became some of the most touching moments of the ride for me.

So what do you take away from this experience at the end of the week? I’ve watched Jason suffer in silence when he crashed two years ago….I watched him this time open up and accept the help of his team, and he became a bigger man to me, and once again gained my respect!  I watched a team work together to protect each other, I saw them place the ones who needed it in the middle and get them all to the end together……I saw them all hot and suffering and yet continue to encourage each other.  I saw members of the team gently pushing another at the end of the day when heat was at it’s worse…and I mean physically pushing them with a hand on their back to keep them moving….

And  I see a group of men that day after day loves their little “sister” Darcie while knowing full well that she is every bit as strong as them, and she stepped in to protect them from the in wind, or keeping the team together.  I cannot love them more for the way they treat her!

This ride is not about individual accomplishments….it’s not about being first or last, it’s about the journey together, and for that I cannot be more honored to be a part of it.

Our support team was just awesome!  I tried to explain what we do to one of the new drivers before the ride…and I don’t know that I can do it justice in words….

Lastly – because I am responsible for the social media – thank you, thank you, thank you for the literal hundreds of you who have commented and read the posts.  I cannot tell you how much it means to the riders to get that constant support as the days go by!


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Day 4: Wind farm to Sacramento Pass to Delta!

Day 4 of this ride is the shortest in mileage but with the time change crossing back into Utah and the long stretches of straight, seemingly endless roads, it seems like the longest.

Our time at the top of Sacramento Pass was one of the most special moments of the ride.  We each took time to remember those we have loved and lost, and to celebrate those who have fought and won.  So many names in colored chalk on the road further emphasized for me the purpose of the ride: to raise funds to support research advancements so that one day in the future, none of us will add any names to our list.

From there we made our way down the hill and into Utah.  Overall for this ride I think the winds have been gentler than any year previous, for the 4 years I have been along on the Ride from Reno.  There is one little valley which we affectionately refer to as “the oven” where it is always windy (and felt more like a blast furnace this year) where our Garmins were reading well over 100 degrees.  We stuck together and pushed on.

With the help of a gentle wind at our backs, we made our way toward Delta and you couldn’t have met a happier group once we arrived! The pain and soreness from everything that hurts felt immediately a bit better once we were off our bikes and in the shade.

Since I started to do the Ride from Reno, I have often pondered what I could possibly have to offer this group of amazingly strong men, men who have a depth of wisdom, understanding, and wit.  (Yes some very funny things do get said during this ride, especially from the perspective of being the only girl out on the road.  I have been taking notes and Jason is well in the lead for coming up with the good one-liners.  Maybe I will share some at a later date.).  Each of the men in the group rides for endless miles and makes it look painless, and each one of them would be the first to set their own pains and concerns aside and take the burden for someone else in the group.  New friendships have been built, and old ones strengthened.  One day more, and we will be at the doors of Huntsman and for this year, our journey will be complete.

During our rest day in Delta, we are once again made aware of cancer’s wide reach.  We usually order cupcakes from a bakery here in Delta.  We called this year to find that the lady who bakes them was not baking today because she was taking her husband to Huntsman for his first chemo treatment.  She remembered me from previous years, and remembered that I was with a bike group who rode from Reno, but I don’t think I had ever explained why we were riding.  I talked to her on the phone this morning and told her the reason why we ride.

A very sincere thank you to all our support crew, especially to Denise.  She is a pro at this support thing not only for me but for the whole group!  There is no way we would have survived The Oven without you!

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Thoughts From the Ride (posted by Jo Ann, Todd’s mom)

Ten years ago Todd began riding what is to this point a yearly odyssey–LOTOJA. His dad Tom drove support for him while his beautiful wife Lisa; lovely daughters Caitlin, Kira, and Kodi; and I spent the hours following behind and joining him at each feed zone to hug, high-five and be reassured that all was well with him. I learned that first year that what I thought was purely an athletic endeavor is so much more.

When on that September morning it began to snow, we envisioned riders, downhills, and freezing wind, and didn’t much like the combination. That 2005 race now dubbed “SNOWTOJA” saw riders sitting wrapped in blankets on the curbs of Montpelier, ID while some of their competitors were hauled away by ambulance suffering hypothermia. Todd arrived, shivering and miserable. Lisa ran for hot chocolate and the girls blew warm breath into his icy gloves and leaned over his seat, hoping some of their body heat would transfer. We observed many racking their bikes and later learned that fully one-third of the entrants could not finish.

Fast forward to Ride from Reno 2015. Earlier I referred to “something more” in cycling. I am not an athlete (no news there😉) but I watch as my son participates and competes.  Beyond the pleasure of riding, beyond the competition, the obvious strength, training and determination, there is an element that to me is spiritual. Divine protection, spontaneous joy, the brotherhood/sisterhood of people joined in a comment cause–and in the case of RFR–to dedicate some time and resources to the wickedness that is cancer.

Four years ago, Todd’s dad–proud fan and support driver–passed away. My son misses his dad’s presence in every race and in every training ride he ever takes.  Since then the women in his life have taken over that calling.  In these four years of this ride fashioned by one of my heroes–Jeff Warren–I have been blessed to spend a week each June in the company of some of the finest people I know. I have witnessed countless acts of kindness and have admired the strength and quiet compassion you all demonstrate. Because each of us has, in some form, a cancer story, we understand each other’s burdens as well as tender mercies visited upon us. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your goodness. Thank you for your support. To quote Denise’s chosen funeral song, “Because of you I know I have been changed for good.”

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Rest Day….

Had to drive back to Ogden for Megan’s son my best friend :)
Nice dinner and a swim before sleeping.
Thanks to everyone for all the help this week and support most of all my beautiful wife.
Another 140 miles Saturday with everyone, see you all early in the morning.

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Day 4 RFR 2015 – Sacramento Pass to Delta – Jason Bleak

One really famous cheater said: “it is not about the bike”. Being neither famous or a cheater I am going to steal that phrase for today’s entry (guess that makes me a plagiarizer).
The night in Ely was awful. Lying in bed, looking at the clock, my body aching, my heart rate still over 80 BPM, I was finally able to get to sleep around 2AM. Even with the alarm set for 6AM I was staring at it at 5, 5:10, 5:20, and just got up. Barely 3 hours sleep, legs angry as hell, I was not sure how I would make it today.
The first climb was up Sacramento Pass, around 4 miles long and 1200 feet of elevation, everyone was up the climb on top many minutes ahead of me. It is not a race, but the desire, drive, will, were barely with me enough to get to the top and what has always been an emotionally motivating moment was the valley of discouragement as I was believing that 115 miles was still my challenge for today. The mileage, the bike, were not the challenge. My challenge was to openly accept the help of others so I could complete the required miles.
I am not an easy individual to help. But to complete today’s mileage there would be no choice but to accept all the hands which would be put my way. Todd and Jon at the top of Sacramento Pass gave me a little boost with their expression of brotherhood. The group enveloped me as we crossed the seemingly endless snake valley, a road straight as a ruler and so long the end seems unreachable, they slowed as I showed diminished strength and kept me at their side and out of the wind. The climb up the pass with no name Brian stayed alongside and somehow the conversation was easy and light, while little was said which I would view as patronizing cheer. Darcie, Strong not just in name but in character, gentleness, and grace, was astutely aware of the group and today added leadership to her long list of traits when she helped keep the group from being runaway horses and multiple times it felt like she was guiding the group to keep us together. Todd riding with Jeff in much the same manner as Brian was with me, as a friend, brother, there to help pass the time and mute the pain until a goal was reached. Larry coming back from the top of the climbs to make sure all of us were going to make it. Zo pulling into position to block the wind for miles. And the list goes on. Most important to me…. My daughter Chandler. She was there every time with a laugh, with water, nutrition, Chandler and Chelsea have been lights out with their support. Dan and Marian arranged dinner at the park, Denise making comments about how my mother and the list just goes on. My words sell the ideal short but this is a class group of people, everyone.
We all made it to Delta, every pedal stroke, but today was not about the bike, it was about listening, recognizing, and feeling the support of those around me and then accepting it.

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Day 4 Ely to Delta

Well we finally made it to Delta. The day started with a climb to the top of Sacramento pass. This is the pass in which we take time and write names of loved ones and friends which have or had cancer. Some of those names have lost the battle. Marsha and I wrote names of our family and friends who have had the disease. One of the riders had recently lost their daughter in law and had a sign with her name in which we held up and paid tribute to her. That experience at the top of the hill was overwhelming to me. We wear on the back of our riding jersey “The worst day on the bike is still better than the best day of chemo”. I have to say that I have begin in a small way to experience this message.
As I reflect on each day’s ride and the differences between each day, I have been blessed and moved by each day’s challenge. From wind, hills that never seemed to end, heat, and fatigue it offered me the opportunity for some self reflection. I have had the privilege of spending 4 days with the some of the most kind and compassionate individuals. The riders and supporters have constantly offered support and encouragement, that supported me through the ride. My wife was my constant cheerleader and support and I can’t thank her enough for allowing me this opportunity. My life has been blessed to have her at my side for the last 38 years.
Today is a rest day. Some sleep, food and bike cleaning to get ready for tomorrow’s 140 to the Huntsman Hospital. Although we might not all ride as a group the whole way tomorrow, I have gained a life time friendship with some of the finest people there is. Thanks again for the kind words of support in my and Marsha’s behalf. I would also be ungrateful if I did not acknowledge the the Hand of the Lord in keeping us all safe to this point and the tender mercies extended to me along the way. Thanks also to my family for their daily calls and text messages offering constant support.

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Day 4 – Windmill Farm to Delta, Utah (‘Zo)

I have been looking forward to Day 4 all trip long. Three years ago when I was on the Ride from Reno for my first time – I remember the emotions and feelings that came out atop Sacramento Pass – and I have been looking forward to remembering, and paying tribute, to those who have battled, and do battle cancer. The race to the top of the pass this morning was different, just different. Hard to explain in words through this keyboard, but for Todd, Larry, Ravell, Rich, and myself – it was the most emotion-filled 4 miles of my life on the bike. Can’t really explain more then that – but to say that I love these guys I am with. Some are friends I have had the pleasure of getting to know over this past week, and others are some who I have known for years. Brothers in arms.

In the same tradition Jeff has carried on – we arrived to the top of Sacramento Pass – and took chalk to mark the highway with those who have held a close place in our heart throughout the entire week of riding. I chose to pay special recognition to three people who I have had on my mind this week: 1) My Grandma Roundy – she was a cancer survivor, a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, a champion of Christ-like thoughts and behaviors in all aspects of her life. She passed several years ago, to join my grandfather who passed before her, and I am confident together they still watch over their family. 2) Dave Brown, a.k.a. “DB”. Dave has been a friend, best-friend, of my dad’s since they were young men. Dave is a cancer survivor, a fighter, a friend, a fisherman, a smile every time you see him. 3) Richard Burke – I had the pleasure of meeting, and becoming friends with, Rich during my years I worked at N.Glantz & Son. Rich was an executive at Avery Dennison – and our working relationship quickly turned personal as we got to know one another. We spent many nights in various cities around the country, having dinner together – speaking of our families, our lives, what we enjoyed doing. Rich was stricken with cancer – and passed not long after his diagnosis. From these three people, I have learned to laugh more often, cherish the blessings we wake to every day,and love without conditions.

After lots of hugs, lots of tears, lots of smiles – the group saddled back up on the bikes, loaded into the cars – and we continued on our journey for the day.  Day 4’s trek consists of long, long stretches of road. I’m talking roads that go on so long, they disappear into the horizon. Across Snake Valley was a long, hot, windy journey. We stayed together as group – sheltering one another from the elements – and crossed into Utah! The final miles into Delta were the hottest of the week so far. Everyone felt the intense heat on their backs, there faces, there arms….everywhere! Tired legs, fatigued shoulders and necks. But we rolled into Delta to complete an epic day.

I am grateful for this day. Grateful for the long miles, for the memories, for the laughs, for the hand on my back from a fellow rider asking if all is well, for the fist-bump from my brother Todd, for the uncontrollable sobbing at times, for the support teams who wave-smile-hydrate-honk as we come upon them…….I am just grateful today for life!

Rest day tomorrow – and I am excited to take a day, reflect on the week we have had, spend time with friends in Delta! Today is a great day, I tell you.


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RFR 2015 Day 4 (Ely to Delta, 112 miles)- The Ministry of Angels

For me, this is always the toughest day.  Sit bones are sore.  Feet are sore.  Legs are sore.  Hands are sore.  Get the picture?  But, we know that the worst day on the bike is still better than the best day of chemo. And, that’s why we do this.  So we can help raise funds to relieve pain and suffering and help find a cure to this disease.  So, the soreness will go away, the battle will not.  At least not for now.

Many who know me know that I have cancer.  Not had.  Have.  I was first diagnosed and treated in 2009.  It went away for about a year and a half.  In November, 2011 we learned it had come back.  It’s been with me ever since.  Probably always will be.  But, it’s “indolent” (medical term for slow growing), and until/unless it transforms to “aggressive” (medical term for aggressive), we just wait.  And watch.

So, for the last two years, I’ve made it my goal to be the first one up the first pass- Sacramento Pass. The climb itself is a metaphor for life, but also for one’s battle with cancer.  No one else can ride my bike up the pass.  No one else can suffer for me. I have to do it on my own, even with people around, cheering me on during the climb, and more waiting for me at the top.  So, I’ve made it my goal to be the first one up, to show cancer and myself who’s in charge, who’s ultimately going to win, and who’s not backing down.

Well, this year I knew I wouldn’t be the first one up.  Pulled it off the last two years, but I’m not as strong this year due to more training for a marathon than in past years.  I knew it.  I owned it.  But, I still left as quickly as I could, hoping I could at least try.  But, I knew it wasn’t gonna happen.  And, as I heard my friends closing in on me, I was happy for them they were riding well, but a little bummed that I couldn’t pull it off.  Again, it’s not about being FASTEST up the hill (though that matters), it’s really not even about being first up the hill (though that plays into my metaphor better), it’s about me doing all I can to own this summit, and not the other way around.

So, as I’m pedaling my guts out, Ravell pulls up next to me.  I’m not listening to any music, because I want this to be as spiritual of an experience as it can be.  So, I’m focused, and listening to the road and myself breathe.  Ravell gets by me and says, “You’re the survivor here, we’re going to escort you to the top.”  HUH?  I immediately am overcome by emotion.  I say “Ravell, no, you guys are riding strong, go on to the top and crush it.”  He says, “No.  I want this.”  And that was it.  He dropped back to let Zo, Rich and Larry know, and it was end of story.  So, I turned myself inside out pushing to the top, knowing these four strong riders, and even stronger men were right behind me.  Talk about even more of a metaphor!?!? As I approached the summit and finally could see the sign, I got out of the saddle and sprinted as fast as I could- but at the same time I was beginning to be overcome with emotion and to sob.  Uncontrollably.  Here’s the best way anyone who wasn’t on that part of the ride right then can visualize it- and this is a perfect memorialization of the moment.

Now that you know the story, this picture comes better into focus.  That’s not exertion on my face, it’s sheer emotion.  Those aren’t cyclists behind me, they’re angels.  Four of my best friends, and four angels who were carrying me to the top of a metaphor that means more to me than many might understand.

LDS apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk entitled “The Ministry of Angels” a few years ago.  It’s probably my all-time favorite talk from my all-time favorite apostle.  I now quote him, “And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.”  These four angels were seen, known, and mortal. They were my angels, and they are my friends.  Ravell, Zo, Rich and Larry- I love you all, brothers.  I will never be able to repay you for the kindness you showed me, but I hope each of you felt in my embrace and my words my love and gratitude for each of you.

The rest of the story yesterday just doesn’t matter as much.  My wheel got out of true again, we trued it back up.  I suspect it will go out again Saturday until I can get it into the shop.  But, for a ride that’s all about raising awareness for cancer, and driving fundraising, the real life example of cancer support and love was witnessed on the road yesterday.

Much love.

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