Dedicating Our Rides #3 – Riding While Sick

This post is long overdue, but we’ve been cycling through “Internet desert” for nearly a week now…

wayneandjulie
Wayne Iverson

Our ride on Tuesday, June 14 was dedicated to Wayne Iverson, who died in 2004 from the same brain cancer as our friend Warren – GBM. Wayne was diagnosed around Thanksgiving and gone by the end of January. Paraphrasing his obituary, Wayne was a biologist by profession and a naturalist by passion. And by all accounts he was magnificent at sharing that love with everyone, particularly his students at Bellevue’s Newport High School. Shortly before his death, Wayne completed an article on spotted owls, published posthumously in the Journal of Raptor Research. 

 

To quote his sister, Carol Kelly

My brother was of the highest integrity in his respect for nature and the environment. He is the only person I know who was a true consumer based on his ideals. He researched every company for any product he bought and gladly told everyone how consumers could change the world through their purchasing behavior.  

I never knew Wayne but I knew his sister, Carol, in passing. We had the same personal trainer. Her 1:1 sessions were before mine so we got to know each other on a “Hey” basis. She learned about our epic adventure to raise funds for GBM research through our trainer. 

Carol asked that we dedicate a ride to Wayne, particularly one celebrating the natural beauty Joy and I often highlight. I had been toying between doing a typical “hard ride” dedication ride to Wayne or creating a post that chronicles all the fabulous wildlife we’ve seen. I’ve decided to do both. This is the hard ride post. 

This ride was not initially intended to be a dedication ride, but as so often happens, plans go awry, particularly when it relates to health.

Although it was a short ride on Saturday from Escalante to Boulder, we wanted to stay in the tiny town of Boulder so we could take advantage the Boulder Mountain Lodge and its associated restaurant – one of the nicest hotels for hundreds of miles, and one of the nicest restaurants for an even broader reach.

Mountainlodge
Our room looked out onto the duck pond

In case you’re wondering, Boulder really is in the middle of nowhere. Even for Utah. It lies in the last section of the continental US to be surveyed and until the late 1930s mail was brought in by mule 4-5 months each year because no paved roads reached Boulder. Why there is such a fabulous resort here, I don’t know.

 

Our Sunday ride plan was to tackle the 3,000 foot climb to Boulder Mountain summit – a challenge as the climb was only over 13 miles (so steep) and at elevation, taking us from 6,600 to 9,600 –  the second highest pass we’d done, and with some heinously steep sections.

Part way through our fabulous dinner Saturday my stomach began to feel very uncomfortable and by the time we finished I had a serious case of “Thanksgiving overeating bellyache.”  Over the course of the next few hours it was clear that this was something else. I was having serious stomach cramps and had become feverish. And soon I was having trouble deciding if I should be kneeling in front of or sitting on the toilet. Some of both, it turns out. I hardly slept that night.

We did not ride on Sunday. 

Well, we did, but only half a mile. The lodge is very sought-after so we had to move into the town’s “second best” hotel  – a barebones establishment. If we wanted any food or WiFi we had to head back to the lodge. We hoped after a rest day that I’d feel well enough that we could resume our ride on Monday. Unfortunately, I spent Sunday repeating Saturday night. Even drinking water was a challenge. Monday morning we decided to stay yet another day. By Monday afternoon I was starting to drink liquids and to eat small meals.

Tuesday morning I declared myself fit to ride — driven, as much as anything by the fact that after two and half days in Boulder, I was bordering on suicidal boredom. Joy was close behind me. Because we weren’t positive we’d actually be leaving that day we didn’t get on the road until about 10. Even if we only averaged a little over 3mph it would be about 4 hours of riding. Even with breaks it wouldn’t be too long a day.  

It turned out to be a long day.

Joy rode behind me so that I could set the pace and so that she could keep an eye on me.

This ride was absolute torture for me, and a different kind of torture for Joy as she couldn’t do anything to help me.  We must have been a particularly pathetic tandem during the ride. On several occasions someone would slow down to ask if we needed help. An RV driver asked if he could take all our bags to the summit. A group of motorcyclists stopped to ask Joy if she was okay when they saw our two bikes laid out by the side of the road and Joy sitting alone under a tree while she waited for me to find solace in the forest. 

I could feel how weak I was and I knew that I was dehydrated which is a double-whammy at elevation. I knew that I was peddling inefficiently. I tried to keep my hydration and energy up but my stomach was still feeling bloated so drinking and eating small snacks were only possible by force of will. And my will was flagging, even with Joy encouraging me at every opportunity. Our pace was very slow and I was often in lower gears than I would normally be riding. One of the rules of cycling is that you need to engage your core in order to make your pedal strokes more efficient. Given my stomach problems, there was no way I was going to engage my core. 

Although my spirits were fine at first, by the time we’d climbed a third of the way, I was feeing pretty miserable with myself and my spirits were spiraling down. I realized I needed to put a positive spin on things so decided that I should turn this ride into a dedication ride. It would help put into perspective the physical pain that I was suffering and the sympathetic pain that Joy, as my caregiver, was in. What we were going through was nothing compared to what Wayne and his family went through. And for us it was only going to be a for a few more hours rather than a lifetime of pain. It’s amazing how doing something for someone else makes it so much more tolerable.

IMG_0903
Too exhausted to smile

Just before 5pm we reached the summit (seven hours to ride 13 miles). You can see from the photo that when Joy, brimming with support and praise, asked me to smile, my response was, “Just take the fuckin’ picture.” And yes, I was using the pole for support. Once we reached the summit, it was clear that we’d be stopping at the campsite three miles east (downhill) from the summit rather than cycling another 20 miles to the town of Grover.

 

Befitting something Wayne would have absolutely loved, we had just crested the summit and begun our wonderful downhill glide when we startled a pair of elk that had started crossing the road. How lucky we were to see a large male sporting a huge rack of antlers striding alongside an equally beautiful doe. We’d each only ever seen an elk once or twice in our lives and certainly never as close as this. It was a wonderful moment that buoyed both our spirits and left us thrilled for the rest of the day. 

A follow-up dedication post to Wayne (which we’ll create when we finally get decent internet connectivity) will be a photo highlight of some of the wonderful wildflowers and animals that have delighted us over the past few weeks as we cycle across the US. I’m guessing he’d particularly like that post and would have spent hours giving us insights into the flowers and creatures we’ve been lucky enough to see.

If you’d like to help us raise research funds to fight GBM, please visit Help Us Cure Brain Cancer.


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