Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 2 in Spades

It’s a let down. After all the anticipation, the training, to have it stop, be over, is a let down. The amazing high of knowing i was going to finish knowing i was this close to the end and then passing that line, how could i not feel deflated after? What is going to give me a thrill like this again? A sense of accomplishment, achievement? What?

After a desultory dinner of spaghetti and marina sauce topped with tasteless shaved cheese (not grated, shaved. Reminds me of my shin with the thin layer of flesh shaved off) tossed salad and coffee and cake (no tea. Only oddballs drink tea. I can make tea in my room later) the North Florida Chapter of the National MS Society makes a few announcements, not wanting to step on any toes, the usual sort of thing...except it's not usual at all.

they list the various reasons people take part in this charity fundraising event: family member or friend afflicted with MS, near one who has died, actually diagnosed, believer in the cause or a personal statement of strength and challenge. We are asked to rise as our reason is announced, snap the glow stick left on the table and raise. The dark room is awash in blue light. The lights remind me of small limbs, small arm or leg bones, swaying gently in the dark room, much as a person with MS will lose control of his/her limbs and wobble, perhaps fall, the individual lights are lowered, laid down on the table of hung around necks. many of the riders are crying. am i? no comment.

The room is still full. Dinner is over, announcements made and honorifics given out. cyclists and their families wander the room, reliving the days events, their training regimes and what they'll do differently the next day, if they are planning to ride. There is a one day option for the MS150, which about a third of the riders elect to do, not wanting or able to give up a whole weekend with their loved ones.

The riders are a diverse group, from 22 states and 3 foreign countries. Perhaps 3/4 of the riders are male, which surprises me. Recreational cycling is a male sport, whether it is because of the time or money involved or because women can’t find mentors to help them, give them tips to be comfortable and train, I don’t know. I do it and I feel it and I have no one to discuss this with, no woman who has cycled longer or harder than I have to tell me what will help with the female specific discomforts. I look around, recognizing some of the faces from the day. The family at the next table didn’t meet at the hotel; they rode down on two tandem bikes, mom, dad and the 2 kids. Over there? A group of recumbents, a university team, a business team, a family reunion. It is a patchwork, more colorful than the room holding our bikes for the night.

Talking to various groups, finding other ‘virgins’ we discuss our preparation. I seem to have the unique honor of having the shortest, most intense training regime with the highest number of cuts-n-bruises of any other newbie I meet. The consensus is 6 to 8 months of increasing time on road racers, going from 30 miles per ride (mpr) to 70 mpr over a few months. My two months of 10 mpr to 45 mpr provokes horror, although my fellow cyclists seem to find my scrapes (shin, shoulder, ankle) and contussions (left thigh) rather appealing. it reminds me of MSR and the way the women would ooh and ahh over the men's bruises or GMSMA members comparing whipmarks. to each their own...

No interest in the bar, head back to my hotel to sleep. Breakfast is 6 am, 7 am take off again. Wait a sec. I just did 90 miles. I’m going to do that again? AM I OUT OF MY GOURD? I open the window on the terrace and watch the moon, listening to the breakers. They sing, ‘teshuva, tefila, tzedukah, that is why you are here.’ The crashing waves remind me of the blowing of the shofar. And I fall asleep.

In the morning, restless, I ride in circles, then decide to take off. I hear the Pledge of Allegiance recited and The Star Spangled Banner being sung in the now faint dark behind me. A few groups have already ridden off, they’ll reach the finish point at perhaps 10:15, keeping a 24 mph pace. These are road racers and century riders. I’ll be happy if I get in. Whenever I get in. After all, it’s not a race, it’s a ride. My challenge is personal to see if I can finish, not to beat an arbitrary clock or the rider to my left. I set a goal, made a promise to my readers, to myself and I intend to keep that promise.

As soon as I assume the position and take off, I know something is wrong. Despite copious amounts of anti-chafing cream to my bottom, thighs and shorts liner (AsMaster and butt'r chamois creams are popular brands) I am raw. And it hurts. Oh boy, does it hurt! I can’t get comfortable on my bike seat. I have to ride 86 miles and I am in agony, my skin rubbed right off, no drugstore in sight and no topical painkillers in the med buckets. What to do, what to do?


What choice do I have? SAG out? [SAG out: Support and Gear will transport injured or tired riders and their equipment to the nearest reststop to await transport to the finish area] i have too much pride for that. and i have a mission. if i have to crawl, i'll cross that line, but i am NOT going to SAG out.

I ride. I find a group with a speed that matches my own and a pedaling cadence that I feel comfortable with. I watch the knees rise and fall, a long line of knees, pedaling, pausing, pedaling, pausing, and slide in, taking advantage of the draft and the rhythm riding with a group forces me into. This will be the best thing for me, enabling me to reach the end. I won’t have to concentrate on keeping my timing, I’ll be able to look around, admire the clouds, the shadows AND HUNT FOR A DRUG STORE FOR SOME *^&%(*#o@ TOPICAL PAINKILLERS.

i try to ignore the pain that knifes through my groin with each downstroke of the pedals. today's mantra "you'll live. it's only pain. you can can handle this. up down up down." it's hard to keep my shoulders relaxed because of the pain. i can feel it stealing energy from me and i'm afraid. i know i'll finish, but wonder how long it will take this abrasion to heal? and how do i even explain it to a medic? well, at least my GP is a sports doctor. and my OB/GYN has seen much worse...

Did you know that convenience stores, which seem to carry everything, do NOT carry topical painkillers? I rack my brain, trying to come up with a substitute. At the 44 mile stop, halfway there, I speak to the medic: "I need a numbing cream. You sure this will do the trick?" the medic offers me some Biofreeze, telling me it’ll numb whatever it is that needs numbing. I look at the small greenish glob "are you SURE this will do it? i just want to be numbed." A pair of women cyclists tap my arm: "Where are you planning to use that?" Embarrassed, I mutter that my crotch is kinda sore, i have an abrasion... One cyclist takes out a small tube of butt’r, says to use that, NOT the BioFreeze, it would kill me. The other cyclist pouts, says, "Oh but it would have been fun to hear her scream when it went from numbing cold to blazing hot in about 30 seconds. You didn’t know BioFreeze was another IcyHot gel?" I swallow, visualizing the knife in my groin becoming a shredding machine and whisper my thanks. i slip my goo covered fingers inside my shorts to apply the gunk to my loins. Done. Relief. Bliss.

It doesn’t last long. But that’s alright because I find a truck stop which carries Oragel. If it’s good enough for a baby’s mouth, then it’s good enough for my crotch.

And it was. OMG, the absence of pain is a beautiful thing. I can evaluate its intensity by the difference in my whole demeanor and ability to move once it stopped. It reminded me of when I was in labor with my first-born. After 8 hours of back labor, 90 second contractions only 3 minutes apart (again, an analogy which men cannot fully commiserate with, the closest parallel being pack pain or sciatica), it stopped. Like snapping off a light switch, it just stopped and I was able to coast, reveling in the pleasures of the human body and the wonder that is the central nervous system.

I ride. I ride some more. I ride up bridges, which do not bother me at all as I am too busy thinking about my nether regions at the time to be concerned with panic attacks. I ride down small inclines. I ride into the wind. I ride under tree limbed canopies. And I clock miles. Checking my odometer, I had perhaps two or three miles to go, so I fly, left turn, straight, right turn, left turn, right turn and under that banner, that banner with one word on it: FINISH.

I was done. Over. It was over. For this year. I stowed my bike in the car. And registered for MS150 2009.

But I wasn’t done, not quite yet. I still had to get home. Wandering around, the fully occupied massage tent, sore muscles being pummeled into shape, the medic and bike repair tents, empty except for staff, the musician tent, and the largest of all, the Bubba Burger tent, where we could consume as many burgers as our calorie starved bodies could hold. I ate one, a whole burger, but would have been better off confining myself to the lettuce and tomato, I think. I’m not used to eating that much red meat at a sitting any longer, a whole 5 or 6 oz. of chopped meat. My stomach clenched in rebellion, or perhaps it was muscle cramping from the sudden inactivity after five hours of pedaling. Perhaps.

Driving home, it struck me. There were over 2200 cyclists in this one event, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society holds 100 of these each year, including in my home towns of New York and Orlando. Not every event is two days nor do they each attract as many riders. Yet they require support: the NMSS, the NFMS, volunteers to do paperwork, cook, clean, serve, clean up, medical personnel, bike shops, SAG teams. There are as many of them as there were of us, and without this group of unrecognized persons, the people that don’t get the applause, silly necklaces, nutritious but disgusting granola bars, none of this would be possible.

Without your support it wouldn’t be possible.

I drove home, thinking about this world so much larger than myself, each individual trying to help, to achieve a small bit of grace by going outside him/herself and started to shake. How many degrees of separation are there in this, as in all things? None. Not a one. I drove my car, the same roads I’d ridden the day before, powered by my legs and will, knowing I played a small part in fighting this disease that steals the ability to power legs but leaves the will whole, to be frustrated over and over until all that will can control is one finger.

One of the few times I hit my kids, my oldest was pretending she couldn’t walk, that she required a wheelchair. "Don’t you EVER do that. Your aunt has a withered leg and SHE doesn’t use a wheelchair. You be grateful that you CAN walk or dance or whatever and don’t you EVER make believe that you can’t walk again." How prophetic.

I remember and think of all those who can’t dance and I cry. It’s cathartic, after the highs of the weekend, to cry. I cry for about 15 miles, from when I pass Daytona, the ending point of Day One and the beginning point of Day Two, until I am well onto I4, quiet tears. When I get home, I sleep.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 1 and I am Still Breathing-Heavily

i'm not dead. not quite anyway. pulled out of st augustine airport about 7:15. taking an easy pace, not pushing myself, not suffering, stopping at the various checkpoints to see what was there, who was there, taking photos (which i will upload at a later time) hit the midpoint about 10:15, earlier than i thought. "midpoint" was 44 miles.

keep telling you, IT'S NOT 150 MILES, IT'S MORE. but once you're at that level, what's a few more miles? actually paused for a second at the 'century' turnoff, had a brief hallucination of myself, on the ground, stars on eyes, bicycle spoke through my heart with dirt being tossed on my face. shook my head to clear it, continued on the plebian pathway

saw tandem recumbent, a family on a pair of tandems, an old 1970's style recumbent, junker bikes, top of the line megabuck bikes, many teams, some of whom found their noses slightly out of joint when a certain not-so-young punk passed them. [preens slightly, fluffs VERY sweaty hair]

i should have been much more tired than i was. i can say that now, i've showered and rested. going to take the shuttle bus to dinner at a certain point, take more photos.

oh yeah, skipped the pool party, started raining about 10 miles from the finish point, so... maybe 12:15 or so, when i got over the SECOND drawbridge.

yes two drawbridges. some of you may know about my inclination to anxiety attacks when crossing bridges or elevated roadways. don't mention it that often any more, had behavioral therapy for it years ago in order to be able to get my driver's license. in fact, i hardly ever think about it any more. well, the first drawbridge. as i pedaled over it, i looked down through the grating, saw the choppy water and panicked. deep panting breaths, cold sweat, muscle tremors. yes i realize those can all be attributed to extreme exertion but soon as i got back on land i was fine.

the 2nd drawbridge, longer, because of the rain, we had to walk across. five bikers had skidded out before i got there. so dismount and walk. on a narrow pathway. with grating to my left and a low railing to my right, whitecaps underneath. you know part of my mantra, "up down, up down, one foot after the other, that's it. you can do this, half way there, 3/4 way there, you are over you are done you are fine" well it's playing in my head nonstop, just the way adam taught me years ago. got over, rode around on the grass to relieve the tension.

oh great. i get to do it all over again tomorrow.

well, at least my life insurance is paid up. girls, remember me fondly. make a chocolate cake in my honor. a triple layer cake. with vanilla mousse filling. don't spend it all in one place.


ps: reached the finish point about 1:15, an hour earlier than i estimated at my BEST time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

24 hours...

24 hours from now i will be dead
48 hours from now i will rise to the heavens in a poof of smoke.
a few months from now i will do it all over again.
the MS150 (LIARS!!!it's 172 miles, NOT 150) charity bike ride to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
will report back next week. after i'm scraped up from the asphalt.

teshuvah, tefila, tzedukah.

(see! i told you i was a jewish mother! GUILT! GUILT!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More on THAT LUMP!

look at that lump! if i wasn't so toned from all the biking there is NO WAY i'd be able to get into my shorts! look at the collar of my jersey! how did i manage to rip that? thumb has almost returned to normal normal? what's that?

going to curl up for an hour or 3 with a book of bukowski's poetry.charles bukowski has received any number of awards, commendations, been told he is a genius, oft-quoted etc etc "oh robyn you HAVE to read his work, you will love him" well... i've read 8 pieces so far. it does not strike me as poetry for the ages. it is very much of its time and place.

which is fine. i think 90% of my work is of its time and place, not for posterity IF it manages to escape the trash can or shredder.i have a heavy duty shredder and i'm not afraid to use it. which i do.only a small portion of good writing is writing. the rest is reading, refining, editing. lather rinse repeat as often as needed.which is generally 2-3 more times than you think. stop too soon you do an injustice to the reader, to yourself AND to the piece. get that marker. get that red pen. ATTACK!

i'm going to curl up and rest for tonight's 25 mile ride. i am so hyped about this weekend.

Why Bike Helmets Are Important and What's That Purple Lump?

got to the ride site early, did about 5 miles just cruising around lake eola (no bikes allowed, rode outside the park. note to self: swan boats ARE a form of transportation. resolved: to ride in a swan boat)we were a large group, way over 20, lots of new people.

how can we tell they are new? well first off, never saw them before. 2nd, no helmets, no gloves, no lights. i may have ridden a junker, and been happy to do so, but i ALWAYS wore a helmet. keeps my nose from getting broken. protects my eyeglasses too. [more about the importance of bike helmets later...] so we did 11 miles, nice and easy, the newbies dropped out, they'll join us again thurs or next week.

and then we took off, did another hour, perhaps another 12 miles. i skidded out on some loose sand, bruised my left side, tore my jersey, dislocated my right thumb. starting to wonder if this carelessness on my part meets some psychological need for praise or if it truly a physical thing, result of my VERY poor night vision, loss of depth perception, still getting used to the clipless pedals etc etc. probe all of this AFTER the weekend.

because i am riding. 84 miles each way (official route, NOT 75, but when it is that long who counts anymore?)(unless you're doing the century option, adding 16 miles at the end to get the 100 mile patch. and NO i am NOT going to do that. i will be VERY HAPPY to finish both days) (crazy but not totally nuts)

i'd like to thank all of you for your support and generosity. this is a wonderful cause. research, individual support, helplines, psychological, emotional, legal support-YOU ARE THE ONES WHO MAKE IT POSSIBLE.


every single one of you.

thank you.


it's been a month since i fell and bruised my left size. i have a hematoma the size of texas [yes, STILL!] been to the doctor 4 times for that and for the infection i developed from some of my scrapes AND the allergic reaction i had to the meds AND to the associated bruising (black and blue from hip joint to mid-calf). had an MRI on my thigh to determine if there was vascular or neural invovleement, concern about permanent brusing on the bone since it is taking so long to disolve.

so WHY am i labeling this 'bike helmets are important'?
because when i fell and hit my shoulder and tore my jersey, apparently i also hit my head. the styrofoam inside my helmet cracked and there is a NICE dent on the fiberglass outside. i didn't notice any of this, it was pointed out by my biking partner. sent chills down my spine. if i hit hard enough to dent my helmet, what would the impact have been on my naked skull?

can anyone spell S-C-R-A-M-B-L-E-D B-R-A-I-N-S?
i think i need to take up a safer hobby. like russian roulette.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

i've been busy

in case you haven't gotten my emails, this is what i've been up to:

various posts:
(redundent if you get my emails- SORRY!)
so now you know the real reason i've turned into a bike maniac. i've been hard training for this for two months now, have gone from 30-40 miles a week at 10 mph to 120+ miles a week, average ride length (LOTS of hills) of 30 miles, doing that 3-4 times a week, have done 48 miles in about 3 hours, 36 miles INCLUDING sugarloaf.
average speed of 15-16 mph, so should be able to do this, even if i have to crawl.
will be updating the profile on the MS site later tonight, but leaving on a training ride in an hour!wish me luck, please make a pledge and i thank you for your support!

clipless pedals
i tried them.
i'm not sure if i like them, but i tried them. it's a learning curve i am going to coast down. coast, not skid. i hope. i don't need any more bruises. really. i don't. in my eternal battle between the curbs and my flesh, the curbs are winning.
anyway, i CAN feel the difference. it's a smoother stroke, conserves energy, utilizes all the muscles, is bidirectional. the foot is bound to the pedals, so the force that would be used to remain in contact with the pedals is instead transferred to the wheels. it takes full advantage of inertia, that a body at rest wants to remain at rest and a body in motion wants to remain in motion. the push accelerates the pull and the pull motivates the push.
it'll give me better control of the beast between my legs, that wild piece of hardware i've been riding. am i talking about pedaling a bike or am i talking about....? hmmm. oh well.ride 'em, cowgirl! hey. i DO live in kissimee! the MS150 (and i) would like to thank bike fitters of ponte vedra for their continued support. visit them on the web at

sunday's ride
rode with a different group. much easier pace, no curbs, no stairwells, no in-and-out of buildings. kept to officially designated bike trails (west orange trail) but took it AWAY from sugarloaf where there was a massive assault of bike riders. apparently a few of the groups who regularly ride up that way avoided sugarloaf because of that. felt odd to be so close and NOT be struggling with the mountain. then again, i had the pedals to deal with, my first real ride. they take getting used to but i can see that they conserve energy. we did a total of 37 miles, then i did an additional 10. so a total of 47, legs not tired, wrist was okay too.i have acquired a biker's tan: my arms are dark from shoulder to wrist,my hands almost white from the gloves, my upper thighs dark, lower legs medium, stops at my socks, back has odd lines from my various bike tops.

and guess what?
NO NEW BRUISES! the gash on my shin is healing nicely. well, let's see what happens this week. i need to be in tip-top shape for saturday am, have to be there by 6 am to sign in, get my tags, arrange to have my overnight bag shipped to my hotel (along with my extra eyeglasses, i'll be wearing my sunglasses) (no i do NOT need a full medical kit, they have EMS squads every 10-15 miles along the route. and one EMT has been personally assigned to moi)and then i get to ride 75 miles to daytona (it's actually a little bit more than that, but when you're looking at such big numbers, we stop counting. you know, one, two, three, more than 75....) eat, sleep, tend my wounds (my wrist hurts already)

and do it all over again the next day.


my first post, i said "maybe i don't know anyone with MS. maybe it's not personal. maybe i do. maybe it is." well, it turns out i know more than one. more than two. i am hoping not more than three. those senior moments we all get? maybe they're not just senior moments... pray that they are.

thank you for helping

wait a sec. does that say the finish line celebration starts at 10 am? for the road racers who think nothing of riding along at 22+ mph, sprinting at 28+ mph? the guys (and ladies) who intimate the beejesus out of me? i'm figuring on hauling my almost dead ass over the finish line at about 3 or 4 pm. if i have to claw my way across.
[robyn's mantra: stubborn stubborn stubborn, up down up down, you are NOT going to let the road win, stubborn stubborn stubborn.] you have doubts? DON'T DARE ME

Friday, September 5, 2008

Skim Milk and Cream

It hurts to drive away. And I know it hurts you.
You tell me that, often enough. No comfort, hearing, saying it.
No comfort stating facts.

If it were a relief-
not-so-sweet parting, looked forward to relief
-like all the others, ones, tens, dozens of others,
I'd be sad.
But it would be a relief. And I'd have me, my time.

It's not.

Living on skim milk, crumbs, a prisoner in solitary,
You feed me cream, chunks of cake, coat my palate with richness.
With you.
Stuffing ourselves for hibernation, gaunt again after a few days.
A few hours. Minutes. Seconds.

I am awake, conscious. Wishing I still slept.
Can't sleep anymore, too cold to sleep, too hungry to sleep.
The little match girl sits; her belly growls in the icy rain.
Fantasy in smoke warms her but that only for a match flare.
She has boxes of matches and will use them all, trying to stay warm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Carrot and Stick

Dangle that carrot!
Tell me everything I want to hear, have ever wanted to hear.
But I know. The carrot is poison.
Behind that smile are teeth.
Easy to swallow that carrot.
Open wide, bite, chew, swallow. Status quo.
Push down roiling bile.

Check the chains, ropes, locks.
Ask the Korean torturer,
"Please sir, I want some more."
Ground absorbs split water.
Oh! He saved a few drops for me, just for me!
He DOES love me.
Prostrate myself, roll over, expose my soft underside, mouth open
to receive the life giving fluid, drop by drop, grateful not to be kicked.

And he wonders why.

Drawn and Quartered

Drawn and quartered!
It doesn't matter what you do or say or anything.
All that matters is how my gut reacts.
You can't make it right by force of personality.
I can't be seduced.
I can't.
I can't.
I won't.
I want to live

Where Ever We Are, That's Where We Be

We do what we want, whatever we want
may lie about it, deny it, but still do it.
May not look that way; may look 180 from outside.
Push me, kicking and screaming. I let myself be pushed.
Rationalize everything, justify, verify.
Ugly is as ugly does. It suits me,
absolves me of responsibility, of free choice.
Ohh, he gave me paper. "This is your direct deposit info."
No one made me.
No one made me.