Sunday, September 2, 2007

Epilogue: Recovery

I begin writing this in the very early morning of Sunday, September 2, 2007. I woke up this morning (Saturday, September 1, 2007) feeling something I have not felt in a while: energy! As has happened to me in surgical recoveries, I started to think, "oh, this is what it feels like to be normal." This tells me that my body has, or is well on its way to, real recovery.

All but my knees. They still hurt quite a bit when I go up and down stairs, but it was much better than during the ride or a few weeks ago. Before I do this again, I'll definitely need to do some research to try and prevent, reduce what happened this time.

The days right after the ride reminded me of surgical recovery though a lot easier. Originally, I had planned to go to work on Thursday, the day after the ride. For those reading this who have had GIST or other major surgery, it was more like surgical recovery, only faster. I'm sure you remember those days, when you woke up, full of energy, and by the time you made it to the den, lacked the energy to watch television or pick up a book. Well, it wasn't near that bad. But, I found I'd left a pack in Jim and Genny's car, went to meet them in Berkeley and when I arrived home by about 11:00 am, grudgingly admitted that I was done for the day.

Today, I actually felt both like getting on my bike and that my knees, though still not back to normal, could probably take a short ride! Unfortunately, some other health issues (standard, GIST/surgery related stuff for me) as I was getting ready and I felt it best not to ride. Got a good chance I will go after a night's sleep.

Ten full biking days ago, I left Bremerton, WA. Here we are, arriving in San Francisco!

August 15, 2007 5, 2007; 70 Miles 4000 ft of climbing planned and completed.

The day started out just plain dangerous. While you never want this to happen on a long ride, it is particularly perilous on the last day when your concentration can be off somewhat as you begin to think about tomorrow, the day you will not be getting on a bike! About the only good thing I can say about the morning is that it certainly kept my concentration up.

The fog was so thick I missed the turnoff to breakfast (despite a big red neon sign saying “cappuccino” which we had actually scouted out the evening before). More troubling was a piece of road kill which was difficult to see and which Genny and I happily both missed. It was big enough that a hit (and subsequent fall) would likely have sent the unfortunate biker to the hospital.

In the midst of this, (and to begin the last day feel) my friend Rich Preston coming up to meet us, passed me along the route (he was going to go up to Bodega Bay to have breakfast then drive back and meet us for the remainder of the day).

As we got through the morning fog into the sun, today happily fell into the last day, lighthearted emotional pattern for me. Actually, I never understood it, but the same is true on the Tour de France where most of the time, the leader usually does not get challenged on the last day (enthusiasts may remember seeing Lance Armstrong sipping Champagne on his bike on the last day of his 7th tour victory, that wasn't because someone was chasing him). Today, I felt it. As if I needed any more riding experience to appreciate what the pros do, I definitely came away from this experience with a new appreciation for the endurance required. I went at a really relaxed pace, even for me.

We stopped at the Bovine Bakery for a pastry. For those who have ever driven across country on US 80 or 90 (I can’t remember which), the Bovine Bakery at Pt. Reyes Station has been the Wall Drug of this trip. When driving across country from the east, one begins to see signs in Minnesota saying “Wall Drug, 500 miles” (which puts you, I think, somewhere in the Dakotas or Wyoming. And so it continues, “Wall Drug, 450 Miles.” And after seeing these signs with increasing frequency, Wall Drug, 50 Miles, Wall Drug 25 Miles etc., even when it turns out to be a pretty bland rest stop, you absolutely, positively, must stop to see what all the fuss is about.

I listened to Jim and Genny rave about the Bovine Bakery since I first met them months ago and Jim and I went on a scouting tour down the last few days of the ride, passing the bakery. I am pleased to report that the Bovine Bakery lived up to the hype. What a glorious time we had sitting out in the sun, munching down a delectable pastry.

The most significant problem with the Bovine Bakery is that it lives in a cell phone hole where no one’s phone worked. It must have been 10-20 miles before our phones worked again. My wife Vicky was on her way to meet us there and arrived just a few minutes after we left. We finally did meet up and our caravan made its way to San Francisco (though I think we were still out of cell phone range). Jim and Genny parked about 10 miles out of San Francisco. It was in this last stretch that passed the 900 mile mark. And, even better, the picture of my odometer came out. We met up with my friend Larry Kane and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (with, of course, a photo op as we entered San Francisco County in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge). Upon crossing the Golden Gate Bridge we pedaled the last few miles to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, uphill, through the beautiful Seacliff neighborhood.

Frankly, I had not put two and two together, not recalling the Palace of the Legion of Honor, but recognized it immediately when we arrived from field trip, in, I think the 6th Grade (though I have been there in the last five years). It was a great and very picturesque ending spot. So we took pictures.

Jim and Genny were ready to head back to the car and make for home. They biked off with Larry. Rich and Vicky and I went for a great dinner on the Marina, an excellent end to the day and the ride. I slept well that night.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Aug 14, 2007. Scheduled ride 107 Miles; 7000 ft of climbing. Completed 70 miles; 3200 feet of climbing.

Happily, today involved just one turn so even Genny and I could not screw it up. A left out of the parking lot onto Route 1 down the California coast. The weather varied in the morning. The fog started to burn off early but we rode into and out of it throughout the morning and early afternoon.

The day was full of coastal “rollers,” that is consistent ups and downs throughout the day rather than yesterday where we faced two large climbs. Genny and I found them particularly difficult. They seemed to take more out of me than yesterday’s two major climbs.

Over the past few days, my rides have developed into a psychological pattern. First, the warm up. Basically, this is where the advil has yet to kick in, my knees try to tell my brain that they don’t want to ride until they get the picture that my brain is going to ignore them. Then, the scheming. With my knees getting the message and feeling strong as the advil takes hold, I feel bold and try to figure out how I can add 10 or 20 extra miles on the ride to make back some of what I gave up and make the full 1000. Then, riding. Not particularly strong or weak, just enjoying the day and working my way through the ride. Then, advil worn off, I’ve had a full day of biking with thirty or more miles to go, and I just want to be done!

We pulled into Point Arena for lunch and stopped at a place with “organic” burritos (mine had a spinach tortilla) and even “natural” soda. It seemed to do the trick.

Genny asked me what was the toughest day of the ride. There were two. The first was day 3, going up a 1000 ft climb, I had just had it. Psychologically, I did not think I could continue. And really, the hill was not that bad. A little shot of gu, a short term energy concoction, got me up the hill and by and large, so ended my psychological concerns during the trip. Jim Fitch predicted day 3 would be the toughest for me psychologically and it was. With respect to the most physically demanding day, I think today was it. I have no explanation as to why. Certainly, I’d had days with more climbing, but the pounding impact of the rollers was exhausting.

And so it was, having realized that I now had a goal of 900 miles instead of the 1000 miles, I was totally fine with stopping at mile 70 realizing that with one more day to go, 900 miles was all but assured. I pulled up at our rest stop and was quite happy to see Genny waiting. She described the exploits of Jim “Fly Boy” Fitch who had set a personal speed record of 50 mph that day. Understand that this is not easy to do. I do not believe I have ever broken forty! It involves a lot of things: the right hill, the right road (well paved, fairly straight); the right traffic pattern (light); good positioning; and pedaling as fast as possible while going down hill and, frankly guts. A blow out at that speed likely involves an injury crash (and I have friends who have had blow outs in the 30-35 mph range and now refuse to go over 25 mph downhill). Jim was so far ahead of me that the very real possibility existed that he would arrive at the hotel before we did (though he didn't)!

The restaurant had a great view of Bodega Bay. We had martinis (or at least I did—right now I don’t remember what Genny and Jim had since I am finishing this in September, two weeks later). I had oysters as an appetizer (as an aficionado, I enjoyed being on the coast, but it became so frequent, that they became routine.

What a great treat for our last dinner on the ride!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day11. Bodega Bay to San Francisco

Our last day of riding... I woke up with one thought - coffee! This motel in Bodega Bay doesn't have coffee in the rooms and so we needed to go out to get some. Last night we checked out a small expresso place about 2 miles down the road so we packed up and, as usual, Mike and I started out riding while Jim drove. Somehow Jim and I managed to arrive at the coffee place without Mike, who never showed up. Jim went back towards the motel, thinking he may have had a flat but he wasn't to be found. After about 30 minutes we decided to go on, figuring we would eventually catch him. As it turned out he missed the turn and stopped to wait about 7 or 8 miles up the road. (Bodega Bay, the internet-challenged area, also is in the cell phone dead zone, so we couldn't contact one another that way.)

It was very foggy and there was quite a bit of traffic. I wore my brightest clothing and a blinking light on my helmet for safety purposes. We climbed a hill out and around Bodega Bay and then descended to the small town of Tomales. From there we started riding along Tomales Bay. This was a fun road, with lots of rollers to power down and cruise over. By 11 AM we entered Pt. Reyes Station and stopped at Jim's and my favorite bakery-The Bovine Bakery-renowned by local cyclists for it's delicious and calorically-sinful goods. Here we rendezvoused with Mike's friend, Rich, who drove up from the Silicon Valley to see the finish of the ride.

From this point Jim and Mike rode while Rich and I drove. We left Pt. Reyes Station and Hwy 1 and made our way to St. Francis Drake Blvd for the trip into west Marin county. A quick stop in Lagunitias, then on to Fairfax where Mike's wife Vicky met up with us. From there we traveled on surface streets to Mill Valley, where I parked our car and saddled up for the rest of the ride into San Francisco.

The weather couldn't have been better; light winds, clear skies, 70's. Mike, Jim and I rode along a bike path to Sausalito where we met another of Mike's friends, Larry, who rode his bike from San Francisco to meet us and ride us in. Along this path, Mike's trip odometer turned 900 miles, a major triumph for him!

The four of us climbed a fairly steep hill to the Golden Gate Bridge, pausing for some photo ops along the way. We crossed the bridge and Vicky and Rich were waiting for us on the other side. From here we had only a few more miles, after so many... We descended off the bridge and then climbed back up one last hill to finish the ride at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, which we all agreed was a fitting ending for such a huge endeavor. Everyone finished strongly and proudly.

Many emotions went through my mind as we made the final push to the finish. I was both happy to be finishing but also a little sorry the ride was ending. I was very happy for Mike since he rode farther than he ever had - over 900 miles! Jim and I collectively rode over 500 miles and completed our first multi-day ride. We raised money that will used directly for GIST research and expanded awareness of the disease to many people who had never heard of it. Mike and I helped to demonstrate that people on Gleevec can perform pretty extreme physical accomplishments, if they are so inclined.

I think all of us who participated in the PTMR hope that other folks affected by GIST will be inspired to become involved in physical activities to improve the quality of their lives, and also be moved to advocate for more funds being dedicated to research into a cure for this and other cancers. We probably cannot completely rely on Big Pharm or the federal government to pay attention to us and so sometimes we must call attention to ourselves however we can. And perhaps the PRMR can become an annual event, in some form, maybe one that is more accessible to many levels of cyclists. Something to think about for next summer...
Thank you everyone for reading and for being supportive of our efforts.


Day 10. Ft. Bragg to Bodega Bay.

Sorry for the delay in posting this but Bodega Bay is an internet-challenged area.

After a quick bit to eat, we set off for our longest, possibly toughest day - 107 miles with 7000 feet of climbing. Mike and I began riding with Jim driving SAG. The morning was cold and foggy, the road winding and rolling. Unfortunately the coastal views were obscured because of the fog, and the rollers more difficult to gauge since often the tops were not visible. Some of the rollers were really small hills, fairly long and a few were very steep! Later in the day the fog cleared and we were treated to some outstanding scenery. At one stop we exchanged glances with an otter, and saw several flocks of pelicans feeding. The entire day was along beautiful Hwy 1 and we crossed several rivers as they emptied into the Pacific.

Today I was hampered by a saddle sore and was quite ready to switch off with Jim at mile 46. Mike was good for about 70 miles today and then gratefully accepted a SAG the rest of the way into Bodega Bay. But today was Jim's day to fly. Within a few miles from Point Arena (our switching spot) he clocked 50.1 MPH down a steep roller; the fastest he has ever gone. He passed by the car in Gualala "in the zone" and we never saw him again until about 10 miles out from the end. In this climb-intensive day he averaged over 17 MPH for about 64 miles. (Of course now he is practically passed out in our motel room). But it was truly an impressive ride.

We are all icing our various sore areas in preparation for the final day tomorrow and our arrival into San Francisco. 72 more miles, a few more hills to climb and a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Something to look forward to and to be grateful for being able to do.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Day's 10 and 11. We just arrived home from San Francisco where Mike, Jim and I completed the ride this evening at about 6 PM PST. Everyone arrived safely and we are all very tired. Our last evening in Bodega Bay was wonderful but the town was internet-challenged, hence the lack of an update. I will post our final two days of riding, with pictures tomorrow, after a well-deserved night's rest.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Day 9, 67.8 miles and 5200 ft of climbing. Completed.

As I write this, we are doing dueling blogging in the lobby and have a great time at it.

It started out as a day of wrong turns. I turned the wrong way right out of the parking lot. Genny caught me. We both made a wrong turn at the same sign coming up to 101, a major thoroughfare which runs from Oregon to Los Angeles. For my part, I came to the sign and it said 101 either way. As this was a two lane road and 101 even up here can be 4 lanes (though sometimes two slower lanes), so I thought it meant either way could get you to 101 when it actually meant you were on 101. Don't recall what caused Genny to go the wrong way. What I do know is that it happened at different times and I figured it out long before her, so she ended up spotting me a few miles (and still arrived at the meeting point at the same time as me).

Today we lived through the two of the most difficult climbs on the ride. I grunted and groaned up the first climb. First, counting my pedal strokes to keep my mind occupied. Then growling like a lion to show my strength (god only knows why I picked that to do). I whooped and hollered as I reached the top, realizing that this meant I was actually going to complete this ride (though short of the total mileage objective). In fact, I whooped and hollered about half way down the ten mile descent ("I'm going to do it; I'm really going to do it."

Having summited the tallest climb of the ride, the second climb was easier. Strangely, as I reached the coast, the coastal rollers got tough. Tomorrow is both the longest and most climbing of the ride. 107 miles and 7000 ft. Being where I am now, my goal being to exceed 900 miles, I'm planning on doing 85 of them. As for the rest, we'll see how I feel.

We're now seeing more other cyclists on the road. There is a website called "Crazy Guy on a Bike" or something like that where people post about their biking exploits. One couple named Andy and Amanda had been posting tales of their trip from Vancouver. Because they were touring without car support, we knew they were slower than us. Jim was really looking forward to catching up to them yesterday which we did. I think they were a little surprised that someone biking the same route was following their posts.

Two more biking days left. Hard to believe that this is actually being pulled off. We have gotten some nice thank you emails from Peter's mother and wife. I sent the one from his wife to both list serves.
Day 9. We woke to a beautiful clear morning in Garberville. After breakfast, Mike and I began today's ride over the hills back to the California coast. My first adventure began about 10 miles into the ride when I took a right on Hwy 101 instead of a left and ended up riding 2 - 3 miles backwards before I realized it. When I saw an offramp sign for a place we had come from the terrible truth set in! I guess my tear-filled, weepy Gleevec eyes caused me to misread the route directions... Anyway I had to turn around and backtrack, adding roughly 5 miles and several 100 feet of climbing to today's mileage.

The next adventure came when we were riding on a narrow, heavily trafficked section of 101, being passed by logging trucks and RV's. Minimal shoulder to ride on and pretty scary! My heart was racing more from adrenaline than from exertion. But once we turned onto Hwy 1 the traffic thinned out considerably.

Outside of Leggett we climbed the first of 2 major hills in today's route. 1200 feetof elevation gain in 3.5 miles - a fairly serious climb. Both Mike and I handled it well and then reaped the reward of an excellent 10 mile descent. At this point Jim and I switched so that he rode the rest of the day while I drove SAG.

Jim and Mike then climbed the second serious hill - 800 feet in 1.7 miles; a bit shorter than the first but significantly steeper, again followed by an superb descent that terminated right at the Pacific. The rest of the ride down to Fort Bragg involved steep rollers along the coast, spectacular views, (the weather was perfect-65 degrees, sunny and clear,) interupted only by a nice lunch in the tiny village of Westport. This evening we went to our favorite Ft. Bragg restaurant, the North Coast Brewery, for some tasty food and brews. Well earned!

Tomorrow is our longest, toughest day - 107 miles and 7000 feet of climbing, the most of any day. Should be interesting!


So, how did it go today?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Day 8 102 Miles; 4000 ft scheduled; 74 miles, 3200 ft completed by MWP. 11.1 MPH. 6 hrs 40 minutes in the saddle.

An absolutely superb day. Weather was spectacular. Not to hot. Not too cold (well, except for the early morning). Just right. Little wind.

Genny and I pedaled through mostly flat terrain in the morning from McKinleyville CA through Ferndale (cattle farms and cornfields) to Rio Dell. Jim then began riding (with Genny driving) and we arrived at what may be the best part of the ride: the Avenue of the Giants (Redwoods). The weather was just perfect for the ride through the Avenue.

Unfortunately for me, my body again sent me signals to stop around mile 75. For those who don't read our list serve, symptoms oft get described, so I'll go into some detail here. Basically, yesterday about that point in the ride, I got nauseous and vomited a little. As it was not particularly hot and I had been adequately hydrated, I ascribed it possibly to lunch, to the cumulative effect of the riding (as of today, I am at 698 miles) or changes in my body to the cumulative exercise along with a differing reaction to Gleevec as a result of the changes. I started feeling some nausea again today and did not see much benefit to pedaling until I vomited again. So I stopped early. I don't think Novartis will be doing much of a study on this as of course, for now, Gleevec is a huge success for me and most people who take it even if it is the cause of my nausea after seven days of extended bike riding. I think my doctors would simply say, "hey lunkhead, if all that biking is making you nauseous, don't bike so much."

I'm still hoping to clear 900 miles. 1000 miles was doable with some simple changes. First, a route with less climbing. Second, a few entire days for rest rather than half days. I think everyone who rides a bike with any seriousness appreciates the amazing feats professional riders accomplish with their speed. I now feel like I have unique insight into their endurance. It is amazing.

My loss turned into Genny's gain as I drove SAG and she pedaled through the Avenue of the Giants with Jim. We stopped at the drive through tree for pictures which Genny posted. We were concerned about dinner fearing McKinnleyville, the town we were in, was so small and it was Sunday, that nothing would be open. To the contrary, we scored big time at a cajun restaurant.


Day 8 for Mike, day 2 for Jim and I. We unanimously decide to leave from our motel in Arcata, rather than drive back to McKinleyville. As we did yesterday, Mike and I rode the first half of the day while Jim drove SAG. We wound our way through Arcata, then onto backroads to Eureka. There are very nice farm and grazing lands surrounded by forested hills in this area of northern California. A bit of climbing as well as the roads rolled up and down off of bluffs and small hills.

The next small town below Eureka is Ferndale, known for its beautiful Victorian homes. Leaving Ferndale we climbed up and down another bluff and then rode across about 10 miles of flat farmlands. Here we ran through a gauntlet of sprinklers that were watering the road as well as the crops. One in particular was a huge rainbird type sprinkler, mounted on a flatbed truck, that put out an enormous amount of water. I took care to time my passage to avoid it but if it had been hot, it could have been an enjoyable drenching.

Beyond this we were surprised by 3 steep but short hills. Then we descended into the hamlet of Rio Dell, where we planned to eat lunch. In Rio Dell, on a Sunday afternoon, the lunch choices consisted of either a biker bar or a deli manned by a single teenager. We were torn but went with the deli in the end.

After lunch Jim started riding and I drove SAG. As we were leaving Rio Dell we had a little mishap where one of the bike racks on the top of the car broke and my bike half fell off the car. Fortunately it happened before we got out on the road and the bike suffered minimal damage.

Mike and Jim now began the best part of today's ride-through the Avenue of the Giants. This is a scenic byway through several excellent groves of giant redwoods. It's a wonderful bike ride (and drive) about 35 miles long, with terrific views of the redwoods and rivers that wind through this area. About 25 miles into the Avenue we stopped to take the above picture at the Drive-Thru Tree.

For the final 20 miles Mike drove SAG and Jim and I rode on in to Garberville. We checked into our motel and then enjoyed a great cajun dinner.

At this point in the ride, we have 3 more days and we are 199 miles from San Francisco. Tomorrow is a shorter riding day but contains the two largest hills of the entire ride as we head back out to the coast. And another rider, Mark, is joining us tomorrow night, for the final two days.

I do want to thank all of you who are following our progress and are supporting us with blog entries and monetary contributions to the OHSU Cancer Institute. I read the entries every night. When the alarm goes off in the morning and I am tempted to sleep in, I think about them and they inspire me to get up and get back on the bike. I hope that other Gisters will read about what we are doing and will be moved to do something challenging, something different from their usual, for themselves or for others.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Each day I feel like I have so much to say. First, to those of you who are writing messages of support, thank you. We're reading them and getting strength from them. Selina, keep riding! I got an email from Peter Thomas' mother thanking us for the event and wishing us well!

Genny and Mike, the Gleevec Twins, started riding together today from Brookings, Oregon. Within a few miles, we crossed the California border, so I've now pedaled through Washington and Oregon. We stopped for Jim to take pictures of us in front of the "Welcome to California" sign. Then crossed the street and got pictures taken in front of the "Thank You for Coming to Oregon" sign then walked to the other side and got a picture in front of the "Welcome to Oregon" sign. There was no "Thank You for Coming to California" sign. People felt compelled to write information on their rides on the posts of the California sign. Perhaps the most interesting was the person who commented that he stopped at the sign because it had been his last chance to pee in California. Another, more typical example noted a ride from British Columbia, to California, to Montreal.

With fresh legs brought in for support, and each only riding 50 miles, my position as the tortoise remains secure. Andy "the hare" Johnson is now resting comfortably.

The weather was more traditional north pacific coast weather. It was foggy and cool in the morning and remained cloudy and cool through the rest of the day. It warmed up in late the afternoon.

The first third of the ride was flat as we then moved into two significant climbs (1200 and 900 feet, the largest of the ride to date). The hills are definitely getting harder on me. Throughout the day we moved from the Coast to the redwoods with continued spectacular scenery.

Jim picked up riding after lunch and Genny took up driving.

To those who have been cautioning me not to push too hard, thank you. It has been a huge emotional boost. It has been very liberating allowing me to stop thinking about the wrong reasons for the ride and continuing and to focus on the right ones. It also allowed me to listen to my body today (most particularly my "new and improved" stomach (as I call it after my first surgery)) which told me loud and clear that it wanted me to stop riding around mile 76 (about 3200 ft of climbing). Genny graciously came back to sag me. We'll have to see how tomorrow goes. And, on riding for the right reasons, I am much less concerned about making the 1000 miles in 10 days (which now seems unlikely) than I am about missing out on some truly great and enjoyable riding in the next few days. I know that everyone will feel uplifted by the attempt by as much of this ride as I do complete (my bike is downstairs in Jim and Genny's room, but, I think, right now it is somewhere between 600 and 650 miles--a distance record for me). Tomorrow we are to go through the Avenue of the Giants (Redwoods). I want to do it!

Thanks for reading.

Labels: ,

This morning we woke to fog and mist and as predicted, low 50's-perfect riding weather! After breakfast Mike and I got started, leaving from our motel in Brookings, while Jim drove SAG. We went south on 101 and eventually began to wind through gently rolling farmland, where the crop of choice appeared to be Trumpet Lilies. (At least this is the "legal" crop of choice in this area of the country.) After about 10 miles we said goodby to Oregon and hello to California. Interestingly the state signposts are heavily decorated with graffiti from passing bicycle tourists.
As we continued south we rode past Pelican Bay State Prison, the highest security prison in California, just north of Crescent City. The coastline in this area is beautiful, rocky and rugged. I spotted a variety of seabirds and could hear the sea lions barking on rocky outcroppings offshore.
South of Crescent City we climbed what Mike described as the largest hill thus far on the ride-three miles long and about 1200 feet-up into the fog. Then we had an exciting descent down into the town of Klamath,where we ate lunch.
Leaving Klamath, Jim rode and I drove SAG. Mike and Jim almost immediately faced another climb, this one about 1000 feet in two pitches. This took us into Humboldt-Redwoods State and National Park. The route wound through some really BIG trees and we spotted 2 herds of native Elk. Then we were back on the coast all the way down to McKinleyville and the finish for today.

Labels: ,

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday August 10.

Eric kindly drove me about 15 miles to the starting point for today before heading back to pack up and start the long drive home.

I did not think it could happen but the weather and the scenery were even better today than yesterday. Though brisk in the early morning, the sun did warm things up and make for a wonderful day. At times, with the weather, I could not tell whether I was on the Oregon Coast, Hawaii, a New England fishing village or the mediterranean!

I completed about 90 miles and 6000 feet of climbing. Had a potential problem when I left Port Orford. I had not checked my water supply because, based on mileage and my hyrdration rate, I should have had plenty left. Not. Apparently I had been drinking much faster than normal (probably the sun). More than 25 miles to the next town (Gold Coast). F0rtunately, there was a picnic ground only 5 miles up the coast. I also planned on eating in between the two towns. Believe it or not, there was a dinosaur place for the kids with large plastic replicas but, alas, no restaurant until Gold Coast! When I got there, I had a burger, a coke, cottage cheese and was on my way.

With 10 miles to go, at about mile 90, an oasis appeared in the form of Genny Fox and Jim Fitch. I was very happy to see them. So happy, in fact, that I went ahead and took the sag in the last 10 miles as Genny offered.

We've enjoyed a great Italian dinner with 2 desserts for the 3 of us. I remain calorically challenged and they are trying to stave it off.

Among other things, Genny brought an ice bag which is now resting on my knees. Other than sore knees, I seem to be doing well. Emotionally I feel fine. Today was great riding and hopefully it will continue tomorrow.

Labels: ,

Report for Thursday Aug. 9, 2007.

Well, to the extent the days are not all merging into one, Thursday was a great day. The weather was sweet. I originally thought that we would have sunshine on the first two days (inland) and foggy wet coastal weather the rest. So far, its been the reverse. Perfect weather. The coast was beautiful as were many of the back roads we took. Some nice downhills as well. Also really nice was highway 101 which runs from at least Oregon to Los Angeles, if not from Washington. In particular in Oregon while somewhat busy, the road has a good shoulder and because it was a main road, the hills were moderate grade so were an easier climb. The commercial traffic lessened as we got further down the coast. Mobile homes became the thing to look out for. One in particular pulled a hummer behind it!

We did about 86 miles, taking the cutoff to the hotel and making the day short (I'm finding that easier as you'll see in my next post). Climbing was about 3000 feet. I got off to an early start about an hour ahead of the group. Andy quickly overtook me. Not to be outdone, I did the intelligent thing: stopped along the road for a full breakfast so that everyone else could pass me. Sometimes the hotels have great breakfasts, sometimes not. This time not, so I had waffles, eggs, and bacon. And it was good. The only problem: getting started back up again.

As I got into the hotel, Deanne was finishing up an interview with a reporter. I was next complete with shots of me riding around the parking lot. As I did not see the interview last night or this morning, I assume it did not play.

The real highlight of the evening was a wonderful dinner in Coos Bay, with the Johnsons getting ready to leave. Just an outstanding end to their trip and a wonderful celebration of their success in this event. Great company, great food, great drinks. We all had a great time. I miss them. I guess that is the best way to end the Thursday report.


Well today Jim and I drove up to Brookings, Oregon to join Mike for the last 5 days of the ride. Midway, in Yreka, California, we met with the Johnson family to transfer support supplies from their vehicle to ours. They looked tan and fit and were enthused by the good times and challenges that they experienced during their 5 days of riding.

We arrived in Brookings a bit ahead of Mike, who was still en route from Coos Bay. Brookings is a neat little town on a drop-dead gorgeous coastline. It appears to be quite a touristy place on weekends. This evening Mike, Jim and I enjoyed a delicious dinner complete with plenty of carb replenishment for Mike, and carb loading for Jim and I in anticipation of the riding tomorrow.

The route tomorrow has two significant climbs and a lot of "rollers." The weather appears to be perfect, low 50's to mid 60's. We may even have a tailwind. We are pretty excited to get started!

Labels: ,

We are on our way home after taking Mike to the appointed ride start up Seven Devil's Hill near Coos Bay. He is very determined to finish what he started with all 1000 miles under his belt. We are cheering him on with even more energy today, as we now understand what a difficult undertaking that will be. Luckily, getting back into the saddle today was easier for him as this is the first morning with sunshine to greet us. Hopefully, last night's celebration dinner won't be too much of a drag on Mike. We did ingest heavily on all accounts. (Fabulous restaurant in Coos Bay if you are ever here - Bennitti's Italian!! Great martinis, pasta sauces, fish, etc...)
We will meet Jim and Genny on the road to change SAG vehicles and pass on the gear for them to finish the ride with Mike and two others. They will be doing a celebration ride over the Golden Gate bridge on Wed. Aug 15 . (The first day of school for me!)
Tonight, we should be back in our own home stretching body parts and deciding what to do with our weird tans. I (Deanne) will be putting together a newsletter including more photos to send to all our terrific support team back home.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

No internet yesterday. Blog Report for Wed. Aug. 8th follows. I am just too tired to write tonight. Hopefully can do tomorrow:

Today, I pedaled a total of 101.47 miles and climbed a total of 3500 Feet in 8 hours 42 minutes on the bike. As Jim Fitch is fond of saying, the issue with hills is how they present themselves. Today, because they were on major roads, the grades were much milder and the hills easier most of the day. The weather varied from drizzly to beautiful. I think we agreed that these were some of the best and most scenic biking roads of the trip with some really great downhills. The Oregon coast just glistened as the sun poked through at the end of the day.

With all my discovery channel stuff (hat, jersey, vest, and bike), the clerk at our hotel in McMinville this morning asked me if I was a member of the team. Imagine, that, over the hill towards 50, living with the threat of the return of GIST, taking all kinds of meds and being confused for someone on a Tour De France team! I set him straight and told him about what we were doing. He seemed quite interested and will hopefully check in on this escapade on the internet.

Erica and Deanne actually saw whales at one of our stops! Typically, the driver parks the truck at a pre determined location and waits until we’ve each checked in and then moves on to the next point. So this happened while Deanne was checking in at our final stop of the day. She really screamed today, apparently overtaking Andy from what I understand.

My crown as the tortoise remains unchallenged. Most importantly, I have completed the entire trip to date, save for the last three miles of yesterday (two flats yesterday, everyone having to wait for me to drive from the finish to the hotel, time to get the message). I changed my tire (as opposed to the tube) today which seems to have helped since I got no flats. Both Eric and Andy flatted.

Andy’s crown as the hare got a good threat today from Deanne, as I am told she overtook him.

Yesterday, I decided to name these days in the middle of the ride the “Days of Doubt” because this is when it is the toughest—the fanfare is over, you are well beyond the limits in your training, and the end is nowhere in sight. As I flailed physically in parts yesterday, I really suffered mentally. Yep. Wanting to quit. I have psychological and more practical boosts to help me through those times. One of which are jerseys signed by family, friends and fellow riders supporting me. I think about them at times like those and it helps. Another is a miraculous little concoction called “gu.” As the bikers know, gu is a concentrated concoction of things like sugar and caffeine (I am not sure what is in the various varieties) designed to give you a quick energy boost. Happily, my gu kicked in as I was climbing a hill and feeling really lousy. More successful on the hill, I felt a lot better. I really did not have those kinds of psychological difficulties today. On big hills though, my legs feel like lead. As the trip odometer reads 365.3 (or over 35% of the ride) and by my calculations, I’ve done about 20% of the climbing, I’ve still got a lot of leg leaded feeling in front of me.

Hopefully tomorrow will be equally as scenic with better weather. We are scheduled to have another television interview in Coos Bay. What an excellent way for the Johnsons to finish off their ride.

We did it! Day 5 has us in Coos Bay, Oregon at 4 pm. Andy, Deanne and Mike rode the whole way. Eric and Erica shared the SAG duties. Erica set the SAG high by finding all the beautiful viewpoints along the way for us to snack, repair and rest. We saw humpbacks yesterday, sea lions today.

Just a few years ago, after the cancer diagnosis, I told Eric that I wanted to do the things I had been putting off over the years. Driving the Oregon coast was one of those things. Never did I think I'd be able to ride it on a bike, day after day along with my wonderful family. This has been a fantastic time in so many ways. We found a great family sport, met amazing new friends, and have seen parts of the country we didn't know existed. Thank you all for your love and support in this venture. We raised a tidy sum for research at OHSU which directly applies to GIST. The lab personnel and doctors who are working to beat the beast were all there to cheer us on in Portland, just as you have been doing at home. We love you and will see you soon!
Them Johnsons


Day Four -
We finally figured out how to beat Andy.
1. Share the sag/100 mile bike duties between Erica and Deanne
2. SAG across the logging/construction sites (not MY daughter going by those burly men)
3. Make sure he has two flats
and with team Erica/Deanne coming first to the Waldport HoJos, all is well.
PS don't stay at the Waldport Howard Johnsons - it's cheap, but you get what you paid for!


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Day 3.

What a luxury. We didn't bother with breakfast until 8:30. And when we did, we got to some serious calorie intake with waffles, eggs, bacon and more. The Johnsons took the tram up to OHSU. I drove the SAG truck up Pill Hill. We started out from OHSU. I particularly enjoyed riding through OHSU and felt really strong doing that particularly as I have yet to be there as a patient. Even at DF, I was basically there to establish a relationship rather than in need of expert advice.

I'd say we're all definitely feeling the effects. I was surprised at how hard I found today's 60 miles. 10.9 MPH, 5 hours and 38 minutes on the bike. I botched resetting my altimiter, so we'll go with the stated of about 2100 ft. Had some nice downhilling. At times, the route looked like Kansas. I had two flats at the end of the day and took a SAG in when I had my second flat, 4 miles from the end of the day, no tube, and knowing I had been the tortoise and everyone had been waiting for an extended period. I've had three flats on the same tire in two days, so I'm trying a new tire tomorrow to address that issue.

And, while we may be calorically challenged, I'll confirm for Ron that we are indeed using sun screen. We were better about the calorie issue today. When we do sit down to eat, we are all amazed at how much we eat. The nice thing about this much exercise, is that assuming weight is your only concern, not only can you eat whatever you want, but you can eat as much of it as you like.

And, no surprises, I continue to demonstrate that I must have the strongest butt by remaining on the bike longer than anyone during the day. Andy continues to ride strong as the hare. More tomorrow.


Hello friends and family,
We're in beautiful Micminnnnnnville after a metric century. Andy hasn't missed a mile, Deanne, Eric and Erica are all fighting for the sag. Eric finished his first century yesterday! Washington and Oregon look suspiciously like California only greener. Tere, we weren't greeted by so many dogs like yesterday's adventure. There was plenty of wind and a 1000 foot hill though! Cameron, thanks for your hilarious and uplifting comments. Barry, close call, stretch next time. Sam and Jamie, it's great hearing from you. Mike already wrote about the fabulous time we had at OHSU, it made it all worthwhile. We're off to replace calories(eat dinner)!

The Johnsons

Monday, August 6, 2007

Day 2. Part 1.

Now at the end of the day, with all that went on after the end of the ride, I find it hard to believe that we fit in a 100 mile ride. And ride 100 miles we did. My full trip odometer reads almost 202 miles. Plus we climbed about 3100 feet. We started off in a cool foggy, Centralia morning. It remained overcast, though not as cold, the rest of the day. We took a grateful SAG over the Longview Bridge into Oregon. We then took Route 30 into Portland.

As I had lived in Portland in the early/mid 90s, it was both strange and exciting to be biking through it for the first time. I got excited as I got closer and closer to town and began seeing familiar sights. And, I am pleased to report, that my position as the tortoise remains intact.
When I got in, I found Andy and a television waiting. Interview, shower, OHSU dinner, blogging, and as I write this, I have watched the television story. It was really cool.

Good thing we planned a "half" day tomorrow. Sixty miles I think. We're going to get off around 10 with a trip up the OHSU tram (both because its cool and it helps us avoid a big hill) and off towards the Oregon Coast.
Day 2. Part 2.

Deanne, Erica, Andy, and I were absolutely blown away at the reception we got at OHSU. We got off the elevator to a big sign saying "Welcome Riders" and a group of people clapping for us. I don't think people who know me say this happens very often, but, well, I had nothing to say!

We enjoyed the company of Chris Corless, Mike Heinrich and about 1/3 of their lab in addition to other GISTers, their family members, and friends of all. At some point, I did recover, and when it got around to giving remarks, I took my nightly dose of Gleevec in the presence of the very people who linked it to GIST! As I remarked, what a cool job they have where they could get us to do all this biking on their behalf. And, as I also remarked, if we can do that, curing GIST should be no problem for them.

All in all, a wonderful evening and event that gave us all emotional fuel for the next phase of our journey.



Day 2 Part 3.

It has been such an eventful day. I took more pictures today but am still too discombobulated to load them. I am going to work backwards and do this in three posts. So, at the end of the day, I was able to start tallying up the media coverage. I think it is fair to say that it has so far been much more than any of us would have thought.

The Kitsap Sun did an article on us which made their front page.

I got interviewed by KOIN Channel 6 in Portland and there should be some shots of Andy and me riding as well. This is supposed to be on the 11 pm news and should be posted on their website ( at some point for all to see.

If that weren't enough, AP picked it up which as resulted in further press mentions.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

WooHoo Andy and Deanne just completed their first century ride! 101 miles each from beautiful Bremerton to Centralia, WA. Eric and Erica shared SAG and bike duties and did an excellent job. Mike too completed 101 miles for a grand total of 404 miles for the group today. The ride was challenging, but the weather was perfect.

Last night's fun send-off dinner included the wonderful company of cousin Jamie and Beau, Aunt Joy and David, Deanne and Gerald Snodgrass at the scenic Oyster Bay Inn. Then all were on hand to see us off this morning at 7:30, along with a reporter and photographer from the local media. We'll try to keep you updated everyday.


Diary of Day 1.

We left with much fan fare in a foggy Bremerton morning. Deanne and Gerald Snodgrass as well as Aunt Joy and Uncle David (from Eric J's side of the family) and cousin Jamie from Deanne J's side of the family cheered us out. To add to the hoopla, a reporter and a photographer from the Kitsap Sun were present. As she was taking about the 20th picture of me putting my front wheel on my bike (with the camera looking up at me and me fumbling, unable to get it on) I told her I now know how Lance Armstrong must feel. She responded by letting me know that when he rides, there are about 50 photographers capturing his movements.

For the most part, it was an easy day. If you can imagine a 100 mile ride as a warm up, this was it. Climbing turned out to be a total of 2900 feet (differing from the original estimate of 2300) and mileage was 102.4 (a little longer than planned mileage because of a missed turn). My total time on the bike was 7 hrs 52 minutes and 9 hours total for the ride. My mph was 13.0.

Andy Johnson proved that any strapping young buck with long legs and a lanky body can be the hare. He did the same ride in a total of 7 hours at 15.3 mph for approximately 6 hours and 35 minutes on the bike.

It takes someone really special to be the tortoise. Its easy to bike 100 miles if you can get your butt off of that seat in 6 1/2 hours. Try it for almost 8 hours. It is painful. Plus when you arrive, the hare is already showered!

In all seriousness, the day's most impressive ride came from Deanne Johnson. Shortest of the three who did the full 100 (Andy, Deanne, and Mike) she completed the ride in 8 hours 15 minutes over 14 mph and if memory serves 7 hours 12 minutes on the bike. She was ecstatic at making her goal of doing her first century.

Aside from the stats, which I am really putting in for me to keep track of how I am doing on a personal level, we had a wonderful day. The fog kept things nice and cool until the end of the ride. The mapping of Jim Fitch was superb. We were quite concerned because today involved a lot of in town turns but the maps were dead on. The only problem with mapping came because one street sign was down. Eric and Erica kept us well supplied.

I did fall, the result of being unable to clip out on an uphill when I did not gear down soon enough, did so too quickly, and chain came off. For those that don't bike who are old enough to remember, this looks a little like that guy from Laugh In who would ride his tricycle, stop, and then go over. This happens because your feet are literally clipped into your pedals because of the shoes and if you can't get out in time, you just fall over because you cannot put your foot down to block your fall. Other than falling on a shoulder which I had fallen on two weeks earlier in a more serious fall and reigniting that pain, everything was fine.

With Andy sacked out and the four of us drained, all we could do for dinner was walk across the street to Subway.

I was lame at picture taking today (took but one) and am tired, so I'll skip the picture for today.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Well, we enjoyed our last supper. To my great pleasure, I found that like me, Erica Johnson has a fondness for dirty martinis. I also enjoyed some Northwest oysters and salmon, though Deanne Johnson did not think much of the oysters. Eric twisted my arm to have a second martini. How hard did he twist? Well, all he had to do was order one. Uncle. I followed.

We were joined by Gerald and Deanne Snodgrass, as well as Eric's aunt and uncle, and Deanne Johnson's cousin. The setting was excellent with a picturesque overview of a bay.

We went back for a rider briefing to go over tomorrow's route. It is not a technically difficult route as there is not much climbing and weather is expected to be moderate but it involves a lot of turning, so it is easy to get lost.

We have a photographer coming from the local paper to take pictures of us as we depart at 7:30 am tomorrow.


It is really happening. And smoothly. It was a beautiful day leaving the Bay Area. I found it quite strange NOT to be going for an all day ride up in the hills. I got to the airport extra early because the last time I took a one way flight, I got extra scrutiny. Not today. I breezed through and waited for two hours.

As I got off the airplane, I could not help but think of the sky divers who say words to the effect of, "I cannot believe that I am jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. " So too, I felt, I cannot believe it took an airplane only two hours to do what I am going to do in ten days.

Deanne and Gerald Snodgrass picked me up at the airport. We took the ferry to Bremerton on a beautiful northwest day. The picture is of Gerald and Deanne on the ferry.

I arrived with feeling of relief and happiness to see the Johnson truck which carried my fellow riders (who I call the Johnson Four) and my bike.


Monday, July 30, 2007

We're in our last 2 weeks of training before THE RIDE. Our pattern has been to ride long at least twice per week, usually on weekends, with one or two short rides during the week as we are able to fit them in. This past weekend's riding was interupted by the aftermath of my latest CT scan. Apparently the combo of Gleevec and barium made for a very unhappy gut for a couple of days. But we managed a 20 mile ride on Friday and then a 70 mile ride on Saturday, after being inspired by the hopefully clean performances in the Tour de France time trial, (which just happened to be won by a local boy, Levi Leipheimer-very exciting!)
One more weekend of training for us before we leave to meet up with the PTMR in Brookings, Oregon for 5 days of riding down the California coast. We're stocked up on Cliff Bars, Powerbars, Aussie Bites, electrolyte drinks, spare tires and tubes, patch kits, assorted other spare parts, sunscreen, and lubricants. I think, I hope we're ready...


Friday, July 27, 2007

Training Buddies

Here are my wonderful training buddies who have helped us get in shape for our upcoming ride. Cameron, Cheryl (who had planned to go on this ride, but fell and broke her elbow - so this was her first day back on the bike in 4 weeks!), Tere, me and Erica - my daughter. Eric took the photo, then we rode for 50 miles to downtown Sacramento and back.
Posted by Johnson Family at 3:22 PM 0 comments
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wow. I can hardly believe it. I have now completed my last two training rides for PTMR and, by this time next week, will hopefully be sleeping peacefully at the end of our first day!

I drove up to Diamond Springs, CA last night and rode with Deanne and Eric Johnson today. Erica and Andy slept. It was a beautiful and short ride (about 20 miles) in which I established myself bona fides as the tortoise of the ride. As I am fond of saying, the tortoise finished!

My bike and equipment are now with the Johnsons. Eric is driving the gear up to Bremerton on Friday. Eric is a former Marine and is appropriately enmeshed in organizing the logistics. They are continuing to train this week.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a moderate and excellent ride (about 40 miles) with my friend, Jay Strauss. Just a great day, all in all.

All in all, a great final week of training. It was really nice to be tempering my mileage and hill climbing after the grueling riding of the last few months.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

I first became aware of the PTMR when I joined GSI in 12-06, while recovering from surgical removal of a small intestinal GIST. Jim and I have been active recreational riders for several years. (This photo was taken during the 2005 World's Most Beautiful Bike Ride around Lake Tahoe.)
Ramping up my training in anticipation of this ride definitely helped speed my recovery from the surgery, although Gleevec side-effects have created some limitations in the quality of that training. But this ride has given us the opportunity to educate our family, friends and colleaugues about GIST and at the same time, raise money for GIST research. We will be both riding and providing support for the last 5 days of the ride and fully expect it will be both a challenge and an adventure.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How does one train for 100 miles per day on a bicycle? We're still not sure, but believe it must entail riding hills. Lucky for us, there are plenty of them near our house in northern CA. Even a vacation to visit our son at summer school became a training session. We rode 60 miles up and around Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz area. The views were stunning, and we were able to enjoy them even while gasping for breath.

Although this picture only shows myself (Deanne) and my husband Eric, both my son Andy and daughter Erica are training for this ride too. I am the GISTer, and can not believe how much fun we have had by joining this sport. Before February, none of us had ridden on road bikes, nor had we ever ridden more than 5 miles at a time. Now we're up to 80!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Think its tough to commit to, train for, and participate in a 1000 mile bike ride?

Well, to my surprise, it turned out to be at times, not only fun, not only memorable, but unforgettable support for me which I get to take with me through the rest of my cancer journey.

Instead of attempting to bike 1000 miles, a group of college friends, not nearly as crazy as I, organized "Bike 4 Mike" as an event for the Ochos Boy Scout Troup in Montclair, New Jersey. They rode in lengths of 15, 25, and 50 miles. The picture is of the 50 mile group getting set to go to the drop off point.

42 riders raised over $12,000 for Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Plus, they created some really cool hats with "Bike 4 Mike" on the back. I think I wear that hat every day. I am on the far right on the picture.


Think its tough to commit to, train for, and participate in a 1000 mile bike ride?

Consider the seven GISTers who felt themselves healthy enough to commit to all or some part of this ride by March of this year. Five of them had to change their plans. Four had to abandon participation. Of those, one has been on sutent for five years and found that the impact on her body had just been too hard (she is with me in the picture on our first training ride). Two saw disease progression and had liver surgery. Both of those surgeries proved more difficult to recover from than anticipated. As it turned out, one of those women has already seen the disease return. One just had too many medical difficulties including adjustment to Gleevec. The last rider, who will participate, had to up her dose of Gleevec to a point where the side effects seriously inhibited her ability to participate at her desired level.

Being one of the two who will make it to the starting line with plans unchanged, riding 1000 miles starts to look easy.


Riders Train for PTMR 2007

The riders in the Peter Thomas Memorial Ride 2007 include:
Mike Prozan
The Johnson Family: Eric, Deanne, Andy and Erica
Genny Fox
Jim Fitch
Mark Breslauer
Alan Marx
Larry Kane