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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seattle 2009 Challenge Ride Report

The LIVESTRONG Challenge Seattle 2009 weekend is over and it’s time to take stock of the whole experience.

For me, the weekend began by saying goodbye to my family and making the drive from my in-law’s house to Seattle. Once I navigated downtown to my hotel and checked in, at noon, I walked a couple blocks to Seattle Center, home of the LIVESTRONG Village and the start/finish for the Challenge.

Check-in was very fast so I gave myself a little time to make a card for the wall, vote for the Team Fatty jersey and wander the LIVESTRONG Village. The setup for the LIVESTRONG Village was in a circle around the entertainment stage. Vendors and volunteers were friendly and freebies were everywhere.

I stopped at a booth set up by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and talked with the three ladies running the show. I told them I rode with a team in the Challenge a few years ago in honor of a friend of my teammates, Erik Engquist, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. One of the women said she was a survivor of pancreatic cancer and asked about Erik’s outcome. Sadly, Erik did not survive his fight and left behind a young family. Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survivability rates of all cancers and also has one of the lowest dollar commitments to research. It is effectively where breast cancer research was in the 1940’s. There’s probably a correlation between research and survivability so if you ever feel like you want to make a difference for a specific cancer, I would say pancreatic cancer would be a good choice. In the conversation, and after I put down my information, the survivor asked about my pink wristband and my team. After telling her about Susan and her fight with metastatic breast cancer, she asked if I would ride with a purple PanCAN wristband for her. Of course I would.

From Seattle Center, I walked to the Team Fatty pre-ride barbeque. We had burgers and conversation. It was mostly get-to-know-you chatter, putting faces with names and making connections with people. We had 112 people on the team from all over the region with many having only a connection through the online world of Fatty’s blog and, by extension, this team. Dan was generous enough to open up his place to host us and Nick and Dom artfully grilled up the food.

After the barbeque, I wandered over to REI then downtown to Niketown. I went to REI because it was there and Niketown in the hopes of getting a LIVESTRONG t-shirt I’ve been eyeing for a while but have been trying to avoid paying shipping to get. The shirt reads: Me, My bike, My cause, Just do it. I love the message; it resonates with me. I found it on the rack on sale and grabbed it before walking back to the hotel.

On Wednesday night, I got an email saying I might be going to the awards dinner and had it confirmed the night before, so I had to hustle back and change into my formal jeans and 10/2 collection pull over. We left home Wednesday morning and I didn’t bring nice clothes. I figured I was on vacation so I didn’t need the formal wear. I felt a little underdressed but the dinner was a blast. I ran into one of my college professors and her husband, who is trying to raise enough to go to Austin for the Ride for the Roses, so we chatted a little before going in for the meal.

Team Fatty had tables right at the front and we were served first. The food was great and remarkably light. The program had a few revisions as Lance was training in Aspen and Doug Ulman was in D.C. for the signing of the bill to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco. One of the LAF staffers, Renee, who has spent the last year kicking breast cancer’s tail took over M.C. duties and did a Q & A with Dr. Craig Nichols, Lance’s oncologist about cancer, survivorship, cancer issues and health care. Jimmy and Molly Fowkes were awarded the Individual Messenger award, with the highest number of individual donors, and Jimmy was inspirational, as always. He has been an award winner since 2006, after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Then the night became Fatty’s. Our team won the Team Messenger and Team Champion awards, with the highest number of team members raising at least $100 and the greatest amount of money raised. Our co-captain, Steve, won the Individual Champion award and spoke about Team Fatty, the inspiration he finds through his brother and Susan, and the power of the community Elden has built. Elden spoke via recording from Utah, thanking all the folks involved in this process and speaking from the heart about the battle his wife, Susan, has faced. Steve’s brother, Scott, then spoke of his decision to meet cancer head on and survive in the face of long odds. I walked away in awe and with a deeper commitment and contentment that what we have done is powerful, meaningful and absolutely the right thing to do in the face of this insidious disease.

After a message of encouragement from Lance via recording from Aspen, I wandered back to the hotel, stopping at the grocery store for some safe foods to eat in the morning, and settled in for sleep before the big day.

At 5:40 a.m. Sunday, the alarm went off in my hotel room. I rolled out of bed, grabbed some food and a quick shower to wake me up, and geared up for the short ride to Seattle Center. I stuffed a few extra food items into my jersey pockets so I could finish breakfast at the start line since we had to be there at 6:30 for a team picture. The weather was partly cloudy and I was warm but not toasty in arm and leg warmers.

The ride started with a fabulous roll out behind a pace car. Only it wasn’t a pace car. And it wasn’t on the right street. But it did start in front of us as the air horn from Dan Wilson sent us on our way. Pretty much the whole of Team Fatty took a wrong turn out of the gate. We got it figured out after the car turned up the hill and we looked to see other riders whizzing by us on 5th.

Once we got on the right route, it was smooth sailing across the I-90 express lanes to Mercer Island. On a side note, the tunnels were a little on the creepy side on a bike. Weather was just about perfect: not too warm, not too cold. Hills were rolling, views were gorgeous, and the pace was solid. Various groups of Team Fatty riders formed, broke up and formed anew until we got off the island and into Bellevue.

From there it was a bit of a blur until May Valley for me. By May Valley, distinct groups had formed up and I was riding with Jon and a few folks I never did identify. We got east of Tiger Mountain and all of a sudden it got a bit chilly. The climb was a good one with a pretty good, long descent off the back. Jon and I got stopped about halfway down as one rider was directing traffic around a pretty horrific crash that took out 3 riders and sent one to the hospital with a pretty bloody face. The road was damp but we got no drops until we got to the Issaquah Highlands.

The rain came down pretty steady along East Lake Sammamish, making drafting roughly akin to getting your teeth polished but without the sickly sweet kiddy flavor. The rain let up a few miles before Marymoor. I reconnected with Jon and Steve at the Marymoor stop and we rode together along West Lake Sammamish. We caught up to Kent rolling along on his single speed (42×17 I believe) on the century. We hit a bit of a rise and he dropped us like a crazy girlfriend.

By the time we navigated West Lake Sammamish, the sun was out again. At the base of Montreux, we came together with Jeff and Matt. I suffered mightily, having to hike a bike in a couple of spots due to pretty awful cramps. I blame it on the lack of any kind of climbing on my part prior to the event. I fully expected to catch on with another group going a bit slower once I made it over that beast, but Steve, Matt, Jon and Jeff were all waiting for me at the top. Thank you.

The descent off the hill was not nearly worth the suffering to get up there, but it was a good working downhill to the next rest stop, where we ran into Janet and a few more questions about Team Fatty. Jeff, Jon, Matt and I stopped and Steve kept rolling so we didn’t see him again until the finish.

We cruised along Lake Washington through Renton and met up with more rain. And hail. And thunder and lightning. It was a short storm as far as distance, and we tried to plow through the rain so we got soaked. Wet chamois is not a good thing. We stopped when the peanut-sized hail started pelting us. Good thing for my official FatCyclist.com cycling cap for protection against that hail.

Once it let up a little, we didn’t ride much more than a mile before we hit dry pavement again and turned down to Seward Park. It happened to be a closure day for the road along Seward Park so we dodged families riding and Dads teaching their little ones to ride bikes.

We stopped at the final rest stop at mile 95 before attacking the hill to downtown. Descriptions of its length are subject to some interpretation but regardless of length, it was steep up to Yessler and steep over Yessler. Jeff’s Garmin had us at 18% grade in a couple of spots. A climb that steep that late in a century was not very nice.

The roll up to Seattle Center was slow due to the traffic lights but we made it as a group and have some good photos of the four of us coming in together. The cheering section at the finish was as loud and large as it was at any of the Portland events. Despite the exhaustion, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to complete the ride, having worked as a part of something so much larger than you in the fight against cancer.

It was a great ride. I met some great people over the course of the weekend. I’ve decided the people who are a part of Team Fatty Seattle are a quality bunch and I’ll ride with any of you, anytime.

For more links, pictures, and information about the event, check out:

Rider X's course preview - a pretty good description of the topography of the course

Kent P.'s photos

Matt K.'s report and photos

Andy W.'s report and photos

Lisa's report

KOMO News coverage

Video of the 100-Mile roll out - without the wrong turn

and of course FatCyclist.com -

First report

From the start line

The aftermath

Co-captain Steve's report

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Challenge to Cancer - 200x5

Hello! My name is Jeremy Everitt and I’m a Fat Cyclist. No, not THE Fat Cyclist of FatCyclist.com fame; I’m just a Team Fatty member. Our goal is to be the largest team and raise the most money in LIVESTRONG Challenge history. We want to leave a legacy for Susan Nelson, Mrs. Fatty, who has metastatic breast cancer. Our time to honor her is rapidly growing short.

Susan is not the only one I work to leave a legacy for, however. My connection with cancer now stands at 94 links. That's 94 people who have been touched by cancer – 94 friends, colleagues, and family members who are connected to my efforts working with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. And these are the folks who have shared their experiences. How many links are in your connection with cancer?

This is my fifth year of involvement with the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s LIVESTRONG Challenge series. I have also taken on a role as a local LIVESTRONG Army Leader in the Salem-Keizer area.

The past few months have brought many new experiences in my now five-year long effort to raise money for the LAF and it’s many programs. I spent many hours preparing graphic materials to share with teammates to help them fundraise and recruit to Team Fat Cyclist: Fighting for Susan. I rode 176 miles in 11 hours rolling time, in a loop only 0.15 miles long, raising almost $900 as a part of the second annual FatCyclist.com 100 Miles of Nowhere event. I spent three days at the Keizer Iris Festival sharing information, listening to stories and passing out yellow wristbands.

All in all, this has been a frenetic and fantastic few months in my involvement with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I have one more big push in the last few weeks before the Seattle Challenge event: I want to try to raise $1000 in two weeks.

Here’s the catch: I want to do it by connecting to as many people as possible.

There is no way I can do this alone. I need your help. Please, ask everyone you know to go to this Challenge donation page and donate $5.00. That’s right, $5.00. Then go join the LIVESTRONG Army. Join the millions of people standing up and saying it is time to make cancer a national priority.

Here’s why:

There are an estimated 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today and that number is rising. Current statistics show 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetimes. Cancer is the number one killer of Americans under the age of 85. If you don’t know someone who has had cancer, it is almost certain you will. You only need to talk to one about their experience to know a cancer diagnosis changed their lives forever.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation is dedicated to helping patients become survivors and survivors deal with the lasting effects of cancer. Money raised for the LAF goes to fund the programs administered directly through the LAF, like SurvivorCare and LIVESTRONG at School. It also funds grants such as these:

  • The Cancer Institute of New Jersey ($100,000) – New Brunswick, New Jersey – The LAF-funded Buildings and Bridges (B&B) Program aims to improve the primary healthcare workforce’s ability to identify practical and emotional needs of cancer survivors and facilitate access to services that may meet those needs.

  • University of California, Irvine ($147,377) – Irvine, CA – The "Improving Survivorship of Patients with Pediatric, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancer" project has been designed to aid transition of care from a pediatric-based care facility to an adult-care facility.

  • Emilio Nares Foundation ($149,050) – San Diego, CA – The “Ride with Emilio” program ensures that sick children have access to weekly chemotherapy and other crucial medical appointments when their families lack personal transportation and public transportation is not adequate.

  • Cancer Legal Resource Center ($149,513) – Los Angeles, California – This project, "Cancer-Related Legal Education for Health Care Professionals," will empower health care professionals in the cancer community to positively affect the lives of cancer patients and survivors.

  • The Breakfast Club, Inc. ($50,000) – St. Louis, MO – The EARS Program (Education, Awareness, Resources and Support) will provide culturally competent comprehensive breast health/cancer education and outreach and one-on-one and group support services and navigation assistance to uninsured and under insured breast cancer survivors and their families.

  • M.D Anderson Cancer Center ($150,000) – Houston, TX – The Cardiology and Oncology Partnership (COP) is a group of health care providers who are committed to eliminating cardiovascular (CV) disease as a barrier to effective cancer treatment.

  • Familias en Accion ($140,151) – Portland, OR – The Lance Armstrong Foundation will provide funding to develop a patient navigator program for Latino cancer survivors and their families, assisting them in accessing quality cancer treatment and support services. The program will provide special emphasis in providing cancer support services to adolescents and young adults – two groups who require culturally-specific and age appropriate resources.

  • Aberdeen Area Tribal Group ($150,000) – Rapid City, South Dakota – Funding from the LAF will support two Native American communities in South Dakota (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Rapid City Urban Community) to develop community-based and culturally-appropriate cancer survivor support initiatives.

Additionally, the LAF has just partnered with Penn Medicine to provide the LIVESTRONG Care Plan powered by OncoLink with connections to all the resources the Lance Armstrong Foundation can bring to bear in a battle with cancer. In fact, I referred a student of mine to it yesterday when she told me her grandfather was just diagnosed with colon cancer.

I am proud to be a member of Team Fatty and the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s grassroots efforts to make cancer a national priority. Every little bit each of us do in the fight against cancer.

In the words of Fatty:
"What helps — a little — is to know that I, along with you, am at least doing something in this fight. It’s not enough to help Susan, and I hate myself for not having done more sooner.

But it is something, and you’re all helping me feel like I’m doing something important. And that helps me. Thank you for that."

Your $5.00 makes a difference. Let’s work together to improve cancer care. I need your help. Please, ask everyone you know to go to this Challenge donation page and donate $5.00. Of course, anyone can donate more, but all I’m asking is $5.00 and a promise you’ll spread the word.

If you've already donated, great. Thank you very much. You have already made a huge impact. Please consider making your impact even larger by passing this on to folks you know who would like to join the fight against cancer.

If you’d like to know more about Team Fatty, be sure to check out FatCyclist.com. If you'd like to find out more about my experience riding 176 miles in a circle, check out my Challenge blog.

Thank you so very much,

Jeremy Everitt

LS Army Salem-Keizer local leader
Member – Team Fat Cyclist: Fighting for Susan