Tag Archives: Challenge to Conquer Cancer

Take a punch at cancer and end up in San Lucas!

Some of my greatest memories riding a bike have come while participating on the Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride. I’ve twice had the opportunity to make the ride from Greenville, South Carolina to Austin, Texas. What makes the memories so special is that you join together with riders and support crew with a passion to fight the blight of cancer.

I won’t be joining the crew this year, but my heart always makes the trip with them. It is an emotional experience and an encouraging lesson in love and support. I want to make an appeal for you to support the ride this year.

You can learn more about the endeavor at P3Ride.org. I’d also like to point you to a particular opportunity you might be interested in. Local cyclist Donna Navarro is selling tickets for a chance to win a week’s stay (2 bedroom) in Cabo San Lucas.

The tickets are available for a donation of $50. The prize will be drawn on October 7. You do not need to be present to win.

You can learn more about the opportunity at Donna’s Facebook page that she created for it. It is always fun to give to a cause in unique ways. Here is a way you can give to a worthy cause and possibly even get something cool as well.

All I can say is, “Thank you,” to Ron, Kevin, and the gang for having the vision and perseverance to keep the Palmetto Peloton Project moving forward. I truly wish I could join you again — and perhaps someday I’ll have the chance. Until then, I have my memories…


— 2008 Challenge to Conquer Cancer —


— 2009 Challenge to Conquer Cancer —

Remember, you can make a tax deductible gift for any of the riders at P3Ride.org.


The battle continues

With the start of Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride now nearly a month in the past and the miles behind us, it is easy for me to “check it off” as one goal complete. I tend to place finished goals on the shelf and start focusing on the next one. It is good for me to be reminded that the ride isn’t over. The goal didn’t end when I dismounted my bike.

The Challenge to Conquer Cancer and the Palmetto Peloton Project is more than just a set of dates on the calendar and miles to be ridden. This organization is made up of people. Some of those people are constantly in the true challenge to conquer cancer. For them it is most certainly more than a ride.

Whether is be one of our colleagues going through a struggle with chemo or a new instance of someone finding they have a tumor, it all comes back to the realization that I can’t say to myself, “Well, I’ve done my part. I rode the miles. Now, on to the next thing.”

The battle continues.

Raising funds for the battle is just part of our responsibility. We also have the responsibility to encourage and hold up in prayer those who are on the front lines of the war each day. Even for those of us free from the immediate effects of cancer this can be emotionally overwhelming. How strong these warriors are.

I begin to glimpse the truth in the simple statement: LiveSTRONG.

All in one place

Pretty soon I’ll be sending a DVD and a jersey of my Ride For Mike to his parents.  I’ll also be sending one to his wife and little girl.  It will be something for them to remember him by and to remind them that people still love him.

I figured I would go ahead and combine all the videos of the week in one place for archive sake.  So, below are all the videos you may have seen last week during the Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride.  Then again, you may have missed one.  Check them out.

The Overview

Day One

Day Two

Day Three/Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven – LiveSTRONG Challenge

Remember last year?

Why not make your plans for 2010?

I didn’t ride with Lance

Last week my teammates and I did a lot of riding:  100 plus miles on the beautiful Natchez Trace – in the dark, 80+ wonderful miles through the walking horse country of Tennessee, dozens of miles here and there, and – not to be overlooked – 85 miles that included 2.5 hours through tropical storm Rick.  However, the miles I was looking forward to all week were those in Austin when I would once again try to catch Lance Armstrong during the LiveSTRONG Challenge.

I did it last year. A few of us riders took off from the start and caught Armstrong about 15 minutes into the ride. It was a once and a life time experience – at least I know that now!

This year I took off once again to relive the excitement of the past. Fifteen minutes into the ride there was no Lance and my teammates who started with me were no longer around me.  One succumbed to cramps and another to a mechanical. I wasn’t sure of the status of the third.  All I knew is that I was hurting and trying to stay with about 6 other riders who were putting the hammer down.

My mind went back to last year when I was on the super team of the Palmetto Peloton Project. We had a strong collection of riders and I came to Austin much fresher that year. It was a different experience entirely. That year we gloried in our strength – and I loved it. It culminated with enough reserves in the tank to ride with Lance.

Here I was again in 2009 trying to bring back some of that magic. I kept hanging on to the chase group knowing that if I could stay there then the crud would pass and catching Lance would still be a possibility. I was right.  Twenty miles into the ride I was starting to feel better.  I took my turns on the front and then slid back to recover.

Nearing mile 24, I was on the front.  We were going through a small town when we came to an intersection with some policemen directing traffic.  It wasn’t clear what we were supposed to do.  I motioned to the guardians to give me a signal of how to continue you.  They waved us directly ahead.

We then approached another one.  There was on policeman on duty here and I motioned to him for a sign as well.  He made a small motion with his hand and in a split second I realized I misread his signal.  He told us to go right.  I continued straight.

Unfortunately for me, all the other riders were paying better attention to the road markers.  They whizzed through the turn and took off.  The one guy who went straight with me got turned around faster and took off after them.  By the time I got back to the turn, the group was out of sight.

I chased to get back on.  However, I knew at that point it was fruitless. To be honest, I knew it was going to be tough the day before when I went for an easy spin around the city of Austin. A couple of times I gave my legs a test, but the screamed back at me and simply did not offer me any power.

My team this year was much different. Most of them had taken up cycling just recently. I was not on the “super-team” this year. My miles from Greenville to Austin included a fair amount of pulling my teammates through headwinds. There simply was not enough fuel left in the tank. Had I been able to catch Lance, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay with him because I would have shot my wad to get there.

Now, does that mean that this wasn’t as good of a week? No – not by any means. It was simply different. This year’s team gloried in each new accomplishment – and we loved it. This year it wasn’t about me going fast with a bunch of racers. It was about watching relatively new cyclists grow by going farther than they thought they could. It was with pleasure and a sense of ownership that I pulled them (not to say they didn’t work hard!)

All alone somewhere in cattle country of Dripping Springs, Texas I had opportunity to think through these things. Finally, some other riders came along and swallowed me up. I gladly jumped into their pace line and began to think that while I might not catch Lance, at least I could get a good finish.

Will Flanagan was in the group and we stuck together for many miles. I owe him big time. Here I was the “racer” the “Lance chaser” and I was trash. Will had to pull me along. He didn’t complain when I began to ask to stop at the various SAG stops along the way.

Then with around ten miles to go I came upon Sally Dunn.  I knew it was her because she had her pink cape on.  As we approached her we called out her name.  “Oh, hi, Jonathan! Your wife is just ahead!”

One thing I didn’t mention is that my beautiful redhead decided on Friday to do the 45 mile ride of the LiveSTRONG Challenge! She had never ridden over 20 miles in her life and here she was biting off quite a piece of cycling! I was a little concerned knowing the rolling nature and rough roads of the Dripping Springs area.

I caught her and we began to ride together. She was doing her best, but after the 20 mile mark she was starting to have some pain in her knees.  She was really suffering up the hills. It caused me to slow down to nearly a coast.

Rider after rider passed me.  Racer types, overweight types, older riders, and kids finishing their shorter distances.  I recognized some of them from pace lines I had left behind earlier in the day. My competitive nature cringed as I watched them leave me in the dust.

I urged Annette on and we continued together. Rather than being frustrated about being passed, I put my focus on the fact that she was doing this for me. She isn’t a cyclist. She doesn’t want to be one. However, she wanted to experience this with me.

We rolled into the finishing shoot together.  She was hurting so badly that she couldn’t put much pressure on the pedals. I looked back and she gave me a smile through a painful grimace. I finished my 90 and she her 45 together.

No, I didn’t ride with Lance. I rode with Annette — and I grew to love every minute of it.

For memories sake, I am also including last year’s video.

A day in Austin

Once again it is getting late at night… at least considering that I will be getting up at 4:30 AM in order to get to Dripping Springs, Texas for the LiveSTRONG Challenge 90 mile ride.  However, I do want to get this uploaded before I go to bed.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back on the computer tomorrow.

I hope I will have a little time to breathe tomorrow and I will begin to tell some of the stories I’ve experienced during these days.  Unfortunately, editing these videos seems to take up more time than I remember them taking!  It is leaving me with less time to type the thoughts in my mind.

If things go well in Dripping Springs, I hope to have some good video of the LiveSTRONG Challenge ride.  Arthur, Bob, and I are planning on making a mad dash to the front like we did last year.  Who know who we might see up there…

Riding into Austin

This video uploaded while I was sleeping last night.  Think I stayed up a bit too late getting these done.  I have that very groggy feeling going on in my head… coffee… coffeeeeee…

It was an emotional day all around.  The video of the actual LiveSTRONG Challenge ride may not get up until sometime early next week.  It all depends on how things go on Sunday.

If you enjoyed this video, be sure you go back into previous posts to check out the rest of this year’s segments.  I sure have enjoyed living them!  Thanks, Team Awesome!  I’ll be your exit buddy any day.

Have you ever ridden in the middle of a named storm?

We have.  We rode through tropical storm Rick as it moved across Texas.  It certainly was a dark and stormy night.  Team Green was ready.

I’ll spend some time later blogging about exactly how the ride progressed.  For now, I am still very tired and after a busy day of Palmetto Peloton Project related activities, I’m ready to hit the sack.  I’ve got to get some rest for the ride coming up Sunday.

However, before I climb in the bed, I’m putting up two new videos for you all.  By the way, thank you so much to those who let me know they actually watch these things.  I do wish they could better capture what happens out there.  At least I know that as my teammates come back to view them the videos will serve as a spring board for bringing back to their minds the events surrounding these feeble attempts to portray those memories.

First, Part One of Day Four – it was a very interesting day on the road — in the van that is.  We learned to practice that informal motto of the Marine Corp: adapt, improvise, and overcome.  Team Green did!

Next up is Part Two of Day Four – or was that the beginning of Day 5? Hmmmm, it started at midnight and ended around 6 AM in the morning.  Most amazing was that once it was all pedaled and done we learned we had ridden straight through the middle of a named tropical storm!  Rick dumped his best on us, but we came through together as a team.

I believe that the connection that cyclists have with cancer warriors is the suffering.  A cyclist may be 70 miles into a ride with a 20 mph headwind and rain beating down on him.  His body is cold with his muscles and joints aching from the exposure to the elements and exertion.  Yet, he pedals on to reach the goal ahead of him.  He attacks the pain – or at times locks it away in the corner of his mind.  He finds away to go through the pain.

I do not have cancer and don’t mean to speak for those who have fought – or are fighting that battle.  However, I have seen in those whom I have been privileged to know that same spirit.  I cancer patient has much more pain and aching than I’ll ever know on the bike.  Still, she will attack this invader and go on with courage.  What an inspiration these brave warriors are to all of us.

Thank you.

Oh, deer!

I’m pretty tired right now.  We rolled into Vidalia, LA last night at midnight.  I slept pretty well, but the effort of the last couple days is beginning to show a bit.  Forgive me if this blog is a little short… but at least there is some video today.

We started the morning in Tupelo, MS and got in the van to ride to a rest area on the Natchez Trace.  This is a scenic highway that cuts through Mississippi.  It has become a favorite route for cyclists, and I can tell why.  It was a wonderful ride on some great road.

Being pumped on the way out we thought we could get in over 100 miles for the day.  However, no sooner had we gotten started when Jerry’s rear wheel flatted.  It was a little frustrating because the follow vehicles had been told it was against the law to do so on the the Natchez Trace.  So, we were scrambling to get the tire changed.

Thankfully, Bob Cramer, with Great Escape, was starting the leg with us.  He was able to help us out.  I know we wouldn’t have been able to do it as quickly!  He had us back up and going in no time.

From there there isn’t a lot to describe — one light in front of me… one light in the back of me.  We just kept going into a setting sun.  We had no incident following the flat and so we were making great time.

The most eventful part of the trip were the deer.  We could hear them off in the woods to either side.  Then we started seeing them dart out across the road.  There was one time that a doe came across the road IMMEDIATELY in front of me.  The riders behind me were freaking out because from their perspective the deer was about to take me out!  However, it was really about 10 feet in front of me.  I could hear the hoofs tapping the asphalt as she crossed.

Toward the end of the ride Bo, the closer, started smelling the barn.  We had to hold him back — as well as Meggan (who we always have to hold back) — because Nikki was feeling the effects of her accident a couple days earlier.  At first it was frustrating because we were afraid we wouldn’t get our century ride if we had to slow too much.  However, it ended up be a good experience because Nikki really worked hard to stay up and the team began to work for her.

Working together helped pull her through some slight climbs along the way and then we would bomb downhill for a bit.  As a team we neared our transition point and the century was right at our fingertips.  Then we were afraid that the transition would be BEFORE the magical 100 mile mark.  We were on pins and needles, but shortly after we crossed the Mississippi River the computer flipped to to triple digits!

For me it was a great night.  I tried to pull on the front as much as possible to help the crew keep it moving.  Three of the five of us had never had finished a century.  It was encouraging to think that I was helping them reach that goal that most cyclists aim for.

Today we have some time down.  Unfortunately, it will be hard to spend any of that time sleeping.  Maybe we can find some hot spots so that other members can get in their blogs.  I’m certain there are some spots out there as we drive today to College Station, TX.

Texas… ah, that word sounds good!  We’re almost there!

Getting in gear and picking it up

It is a beautiful morning in Tupelo, Mississippi. Wow, I got seven hours of sleep and I’m not having to rush around to get my bags packed.  It’s going to be a good day!

To get things started on today’s blog, I’ll point you to the video for Day One.  You can read the report of the day here.  You can see a sampling of the day in the below video.

What about yesterday?  It was an eventful and fun ride.  It certainly exceeded my expectations.  Here is the report followed by some video from the day.

We started off waking up in Chattanooga, TN.  We had a really nice hotel that we got for $29 a room!  The breakfast was a nice warm buffet.  We got ourselves loaded up by 8:30 and we headed out to a cool coffee shop in the city.  Then it was time to climb into the KIA and go down the road.

Ahhhh, the KIA… it is an adventure in and of itself.  Those back seat benches are less comfortable than my bicycle seat!  Of course, we have seven people in this seven person mini-van along with food, gear, and all kinds of technological devices.  Oh, don’t forget Bo’s ukulele!

We made it to Spencer, TN where we were supposed to make our transition.  Once again we made the switch off without a hitch.  Then it was time to hit the road.

It was then we realized our first issue of the day.  Nikki was unable to start with us because her bike was on the mechanic’s bus.  She had to get into Betsy’s support vehicle and they drove ahead to find them.

It was a little discouraging because we kept having to move over to the side of the road to let traffic by.  Then we missed a turn.  However, we were able to find an alternate route that got us back in gear.

Thirty minutes into the ride we were averaging 11 mph!  I was starting to get worried that the whole day would go this way.  It made me a little antsy, and I finally had to move to the back of the group so I wouldn’t gap everyone.

Then we hit the sweet spot!  The road changed and there was less traffic.  We were heading into Tennessee Walking Horse country.  Not only was it beautiful, the terrain was slightly rolling.  We all got in gear an started making up time.

First we started a pace line that put one rider on front for 30 seconds.  For a bunch of riders who had ridden together as a group for the first time one day earlier, we did pretty well.  Then we upped the ante and we started rolling with a rotating pace line.  Again, I was surprised by how well we worked together.  We were rolling along for sometime averaging 23 mph.

By the time we met up with Nikki an hour into the ride, we had our average back up to 16 mph.  We held that average until we reached our next transition in Columbia, Tennessee.  It was a great moment to roll in there knowing we had more than pulled our own weight… and that we had done it was a true team effort.

We did make one more wrong turn, but it wasn’t surprising.  The roads we were taking were pretty small and in some cases not marked at all!  One road in particular we sat there wondering if it was the right road until a local showed up to confirm it for us.

Other than that it was smooth sailing through some truly beautiful, rolling countryside.  You can get a small idea of it all in the video, but the tiny helmet cam simply doesn’t do it justice.  The majority of the ride was this way until we neared our finish where we had some wonderful pizza before heading on a several hour drive to our next stop.

It’s great to have Nikki back.  She is a real trooper.  You can see in one scene of the video where she is riding holding her arm gingerly.  Her shoulder might be hurt, but her legs aren’t!  Having her there — along with Arthur and Bob — was a major help in keeping each persons’ work load to a minimum.

Well, off to find some breakfast.  I’ll just finish by reporting that the experience is certainly different that last year, but both times are turning out to be just as enjoyable in different ways.  It’s going to be a good week.


What a first day.  I’ll have to make this one short because we have to be loaded soon to head to our next transition area.  Got to sleep at 1:30 AM and had to roll out of the bed at 7 AM.  Now, it is time to get day two underway.

We left shortly before 3 PM on Sunday.  The entire crew rode out together for about three miles.  I thought that the Green Team would then continue for another three hours.  However, I was going off an old rotation sheet (the one I used for yesterday’s blog).  Turns out we were going to drive ahead to Seneca and wait for the Polka Dot Team.  We would be doing our first leg from 6 PM to 9 PM.

However, before we could even get the first three miles done, Jerry Page had a front flat.  The mechanics got it switched out pretty fast and it was a good practice.  Before long we were all back together and then at the final launching area.

We had an awesome transition.  It all went perfectly.  Well, all except that Jerry unfortunately had his hand on the door jam of the van when Betsy, our support member, closed it.  Hmmmmmm, it is going to be black and blue!

The ride itself was hard!  They had us going from Seneca, SC to Hiawassee, GA.  Don’t know if you have ever been on that route before, but it is a load of climbing!  We were supposed to cover it all in three hours!

The first thirty minutes we were averaging 16 mph.  Then we hit the hard stuff.  Our average started to drop and we struggled up the climbs.  I’m sure there were some times of downhill, but I don’t remember many of them.  It just seemed like it was up, uP, UP!

At 10 miles in we had to pull over to clear the road for traffic that had backed up behind us.  I pulled into a parking lot that looked to be a cheap asphalt.  As I came in I realized it was gravel.  I instinctively adjusted the weight on the bike, but did not instinctively call out that I was transitioning to the new surface.

The next thing that I heard was a commotion behind me.  Nikki had come off the road and slipped on the gravel going down very hard on her left shoulder.  Megan turned quickly to avoid her and went down as well.  I felt awful.  I’m sure had I warned them she could have been better prepared.

It was bad enough that Nikki had to get in the bus and finish the ride there.  We pressed on with our average continually dropping.  To add insult to injury, the temperature was in the low to mid 30s.  It was only three hours, but it was worse than any ride I did during the Austin trip last year.

Ultimately, we had to let the bus go about three miles from our finish.  They had to go meet up with the next team.  Still, considering all that we dealt with, I was very pleased with the effort of the team.

Today, we’ll be meeting our transition at noon.  We’ve got to get things packed up, get some breakfast, and then get going.  Supposed to be 54 degrees and sunny when we start.  It should be a good six hours for us as the high is to reach 64 degrees.

Well, I have to stop.  I’m running up against the deadline to get my bags down to the van.  Hopefully, we’ll have some more down time after this next shift.  If I can remember anything more about the first segment, I’ll report it then.