Monday, June 22, 2009

How Mark Bumbled Through the Livestrong Event

This is my pal Mark Vande Kamp's report from yesterday's Livestrong ride. It's good to know I wasn't the only one confused at the finishing chute! -- Kent

First, I started off the weekend by riding my bike downtown to pick up my event packet. I, of course, forgot that it was the weekend of the Fremont Solstice Parade (think Brazilian Carnivale with granola) but figured it out as I neared the bridge and Leary Way became filled with people walking along. I was walk/riding my bike along with them, working my way to Fremont Avenue and somehow found myself on Fremont Avenue literally IN the parade. It was like one of those surreal Italian movies. I'm looking for a way to escape but people are lining the road 10 or 15 deep and I'm rolling along right next to a float filled with gyrating scantily-clad young women. There's no way to get off the parade route to the bridge and I end up having to ride along for another two blocks before I see a break in the crowd on the opposite side of street, cut in front of a group of kids in shiny uniforms playing recorders and escape to a side alley. When I tell my wife, Jane about this misadventure, she dryly suggests that I should have just stripped and joined the parade (there's a long-standing tradition of naked cycling at this event).

The morning of the Livestrong ride I line up with the rest of team fatty and leave the line at the official starting horn. The first topic of conversation is that none of us know where we are going, so we are following the yellow Nissan vehicle that we thought was supposed to be the pace car. Well, the yellow Nissan abandons us by zooming up a side street in downtown Seattle and it's up to each of us to haphazardly join the official route somewhere in the southern part of downtown. I subsequently put in a huge effort to catch up with a group ahead that seems to be holding the approximate speed I'd like to ride. Oh well, I wanted to get in some good work today.

Later in the ride I'm part of a group of about nine riders rotating in a paceline and going (for me) pretty fast. I end up at the front as we go down a hill in a construction zone. I get in an aero-tuck position and just as we go through the green light at the bottom of the hill I see the arrow on a yellow sign showing a left turn. Crap! I look back and luckily only one rider has followed me. He and I do about three illegal things right in plain sight of the police car managing the intersection and work our way back onto the correct road. Our group is up ahead and both I and the poor guy who was following me work hard for awhile trying to catch up. Just when we are ready to give up, the two strongest guys in the group drift back on a rescue mission for us. Of course, even drafting them, their pace just about kills me. I almost lost contact on the final push to bridge the gap. When we were finally back in the group, I was just glad they didn't have to come back to rescue me again since the whole episode was my fault.

Finally, I'm a few blocks from the finish line, hitting red light after red light as we wind through downtown. I've been riding alone but the lights end up grouping me with two riders wearing "I am a survivor" tags who were finishing one of the shorter routes. As we enter Seattle Center I tell them to go ahead so their finishing photos won't have me stuck in them, and I soft pedal along to the finish, following them. They cross the line and are each handed a beautiful long stemmed yellow-and-red rose. I cross the line and am handed a rose too. Wow! I think, that's a nice thing for me to bring home to Jane.

I end up talking with a nice fellow (Jeff, I think) who I rode with for part of the day and meet his wife. She says to me, "So you're a cancer survivor?"

"Um, no."

"But you have a rose. Did you know there were two finishing chutes?"

So now I've bumbled my way into the wrong finishing chute and filched a rose intended for some noble cancer survivor. Great. There's no readily apparent way to return the flower, so I just flee the scene. As I say goodbye, Jeff's wife says, "And I was all set to be impressed that you were a survivor who had done the 100 mile route."

When I get home, I tell Jane and my six-year-old daughter about my misadventures. Jane can't resist needling me. "So, you know that now they are going to end up publishing your name and finishing picture in the paper as the first of the cancer survivors to finish." And also, "Gee Mark, think of that poor last cancer survivor who comes through the line and puts out their hand -- Sorry, we've run out of roses."

My daughter makes Father's day complete by asking me to tell the story of the rose about thirteen times over the rest of the day. "Daddy, why did the people think you had cancer but felt better now?" This morning, she woke up and the first thing she says to me is, "Daddy why did you go in the wrong line and get the rose?" I tell her that sometimes you make mistakes when you aren't paying close enough attention.

P.S. Thanks to all of you who donated to my effort or to others participating in the Livestrong event. I ended up raising $770, team Fatty raised over $140,000 and the Seattle event raised over $1,000,000. I'd call that a strong showing.

Mark Vande Kamp
Seattle Washington USA
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