|We were the lead group heading to the finish line......(cobblestones are uncomfortable to bike over.....)|
I told myself I could only do it if certain things were in place to make me look and feel the part of a cyclist: custom painted bicycle with my "blood" red color and my motto "Be Brave Love Life," a cool Kask Helmet in the USA flag version, cycling sunglasses from Oakley with prism lenses and margarita flavored gel bloks with extra sodium in case I sweated too much.
Then the next hard part was getting on the bike and riding it- putting in the miles. My balance after the chemo hasn't been so good, along with loss of feeling in hands and feet while riding-made this more challenging.
The challenge of learning how to ride in traffic, picking myself up after a fall, and then three weeks before the ride, switching to clip-in shoes to use the power that I had built up and confirmed after my bike fit with Ben. (He complimented my long femurs which would make me a better cyclist.)
So the 11 months went by and I prepared as best I could, nervousness crept in and laid itself just below the surface as the day to stand on the start line at Eltham Palace approached.
There were almost 200 riders on the starting line but we were a team of friends united for the cause on the starting line.
|Smiling before we realized what the day would entail.....|
Peter, husband, my #1 supporter, a man who loves Lycra, he loves to cycle, he loves to talk and makes many friends
Eileen, friend, St. Bonaventure University roommate, nurse and researcher, fantastic laugh, never gives up, made the journey from New York to support me and the cause
Aaron, friend, CFO for IKEA UK and Ireland, cycled in his youth, Australian, thoughtful and funny, a natural cyclist
Iannick- friend, very tall (an advantage when cycling), Canadian, has a funny sense of humor, strong rider to give that extra push to anyone who needs it
|Eileen, Aaron, Iannick, Peter and I at the starting line at Eltham Palace.|
Early start, taxis with bicycles and luggage, nervous, nervous, tired, nervous, still naive!
Hills, hills, traffic, cursed by British drivers, heat, heat, ride captains, a story to tell, the last hill, the van, being in the "slowcial group" the ferry, hotels and bus problems, worry of crashing, losing feeling in hands and legs, seemingly relentless pace.
|Bikes -front wheel fit in taxi|
|Look ma, no hands|
|Helping hand up those dang hills.....|
|Day 1(according to Strava)|
Data from Day 1: Cycled 115 km in 5:30 hours, total elevation 1,208 meters, 2,267 calories burned, average speed of 21 km per hour, maximum speed 52,2 km (holy crap)
Day 2 Calais to Abbeville
Woke up early not feeling too bad thanks to the compression pants that saved me. Little did I know that today would be the ultimate MENTAL and PHYSICAL challenge.
It was colder, raining, (I had only been a fair weather trainer), hills, hills, awesome ride captains, frustrations, by lunchtime- I was quite near to a mental break down, faster groups were already relaxing. Near exhaustion, physical fatigue and mental frustration- forces me to the van for part of the day- glad for that experience and chance to rest both the mental and physical me. Another perspective!!!
|Another little hill.....early in the day...|
Rejoin the group for the last 40 km in the pouring rain. For the last two hours I see nothing but the wheel of the biker ahead of me, tense in the entire body, wet like never before, wondered many times and why the heck I had signed up for this. Self-inflicted torture is not my usual modus operandi.
|Only Peter smiles in the rain!|
|Aaron and Iannick at the rest stop|
|The little French towns were very picturesque (when I could look around)|
|Eileen the determined one!!!!!|
|Before the rain.....|
Felt good to finish- but no time to relish it as being the slow group and last to arrive, we had to hurry to the buses. I sat in my soaked clothes for about 45 minutes in the bus to the hotel on the Atlantic coast. Not so much energy left. Too tired to really think or appreciate what I had done that day. Ate dinner because I needed to and then it was off to bed and hoping that the 6 hours sleep would feel like 10 hours in the morning. Sleeping with compression pants was a saving grace.
Data from Day 2: Cycled 139 km in 6:44 hours, total elevation 1,487 meters, 2,809 calories burned, average speed of 21 km per hour
Day 3 Abbeville to Beauvais
It was still cold but just drizzle and not pouring rain. Hills, I suck at hills, especially when I have to do hill after hill and no time to catch my breath- the amazing ride captains. I love ride captains (my saviours) and they showed up with a helping hand every time I needed it.
Arrived to Beauvais and we were welcomed by the town mayor - that was the first time I could breathe out and feel good and enjoy and look around a little bit. I think this was the day with the frolicking cows in the field- an amazing sight.
|Lunch time day 3.....|
|Bus to hotel at end of day 3.|
|Our recpetion at the end of day 3 at the local fire house with the mayor!|
Day 4 Beauvais to Paris
It's the last day, still apprehension on my part, the end in sight. I have determination. Peter and company ride with me and give the moral support that was so needed, that extra support with a hand on my back was an unspoken signal that they care and were there for me. Forever humbled by their actions.
|The kit for the ride into Paris. LAST DAY!!!!!|
|Our team and some others had matching socks.....|
|A bike path just outside of the city center.|
|The Be Brave Love Life team just before the last 25 km into Paris.|
Just outside Paris, we regroup and will all ride the last 25 km together. No stopping allowed because the motorcycle outriders close the roads and guard each intersection and the schedule can't be altered in any way. This makes me nervous and puts the pressure on me to keep cycling even though I can't feel my feet or hands at times.
At every regrouping during the 4 days- the command (suggestion and helpful hint) from the ride captains was "all slower riders get in the front" yep, they were talking to me!
So at the last regrouping, I was at the front with Peter, Aaron, Eileen, Iannick, Louise, Mo and Allan. We rode in together and they helped me keep up with a gentle hand on my back when it was needed. It was an exhilarating, exhausting and emotional feeling as we rode up the Champs Elysses, got bumped up and down over the cobblestones past the Arc de Triumph and rode past the Eiffel Tower to the finish line which I crossed first. I was almost last at every other pit stop during the 4 day ride.
It was a dream to finish and to survive in one piece. The hardest thing I have ever done.
Data from Day 4: Cycled 103 km in 4:52 hours, total elevation 946 meters, 1,831 calories burned, average speed of 21 km per hour, max speed 51 km
This year's song was "Can't stop this feeling" by Justin Timberlake. I even got a "part" in the video at the 1:40 mark. This is a must see video: click here.
|Finish line celebrations!|
|Those medals look good!|
|The Medic and I|
|Happy and delirious|
|All for a good cause!|
FINISH LINE CONCLUSIONS
Only possible with the support of friends, family, the ride captains, support crew.
I am only able to do it because I received chemotherapy at the right time two years ago and it worked. All thanks to cancer research made possible by the Bloodwise charity and their focus to beat blood cancer.
So even though I was torturing myself- I was earning the money that so many have generously donated to my BLOODWISE page- knowing first hand that every penny counts.
Two years in remission have been a struggle.
Do I love cycling? No. (It still scares the shit out of me.)
Do I like cycling? Yes. (I proved to myself that I could overcome so many obstacles.)
Would I do it again? Not sure yet (I did enjoy immensely the personal interaction with the other riders, ride captains and support crew and the amazing French fresh pain riche with cheese on Day 3 lunch.)
So I kindly thank all those that have donated to this worthy cause!!!
And I kindly ask those of you who haven't yet donated to do so- for me and for the cause (and because Aaron and I are having a little friendly competition on who can raise the most and I want to win....) (we are at just over £8,000 and would be overjoyed to break the £10,000 mark with your help)
Here is the link to my page: Teresa's London to Paris
PLEASE DONATE TODAY(hint, hint, hint)
Here is the link to our BeBraveLoveLife team
LOVE TO YOU ALL.
THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT.
CHALLENGE. FUCK CANCER.
BEAT BLOOD CANCER. REMISSION.
TEAM. LOVE. FRIENDS.
A GOOD CAUSE.