10 years ago next month, cancer stole my best friend, Allan Goldberg. Since then, I have been consumed with making the world a better place for cancer survivors and fighters through my service as a Board Member and fundraiser for the First Descents organization (www.firstdescent
s.org). First Descents' mission is to provide life-changing/healing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer (and this summer, for the first time, those impacted by Multiple Sclerosis). Think Make-a-Wish crossed with Outward Bound crossed with group therapy.
Most of my fundraising efforts for First Descents have been in conjunction with my competing in the Leadville 100 mountain-bike race every August. I have done the race 11 straight years and it has been a major fixture in my life. Last summer Lisa and I were driving across the country and Lisa asked me if I was getting bored yet with Leadville. Here is how the rest of the conversation went:
Me: "I actually am getting a little bored with Leadville, but can't imagine not doing it."
Lisa: "I know you. You obviously have something else on your bucket-list that would top Leadville. Care to share it?"
Me: "Are you sure you want to know?
Lisa: "Shit, I knew there was something. What is it?
Me: "Well, about 8 years ago I saw a documentary about a mountain-bike race called the Tour Divide which was the story of 15 nut-cases who raced down the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the US-Mexico border in New Mexico. Over the years, the race has grown in stature and myth and I think I'd like to give it a shot someday . . . maybe in 5 or 6 years when the kids are all out of the house."
Lisa: Silence. More Silence. Then "why wait 6 years? You are turning 50 in a few months and aren't getting any younger. Who knows what the future will bring? Why don't you do it next summer?"
Me: "Wait . . . WHAAAAATTTTT? You know that I would be gone for 4-6 weeks?
Lisa: "It wouldn't be ideal, but I'll survive!"
Me: "Who's the boyfriend?"
Both: Laughing out loud
Sooooo, here we are on Friday, May 18, 2018 and exactly three weeks from today a gun will blast from a park in Banff, Alberta, Canada and, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Allan's passing, I will embark on the Tour Divide (www.tourdivide.org). Here's the real skinny about the Tour Divide: for one, it travels 2,760 off-road UNsupported miles from Banff down the Continental Divide ending some 26-33 days later at the U.S./Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Second, my chances of finishing are probably 50/50 as I'll have to overcome snow, wind, sleet, rain, heat, cold, dehydration, hunger, physical ailments, river-crossings, downed-trees, bird-sized Montana mosquitos, sleep-deprivation, bears and mountain-lions, bike-hating rednecks in pick-up trucks, boredom, loneliness, saddle sores, raw taint, flat tires and other mechanical failures, scary wilderness noises at night, never-ending climbs up Rocky-mountains, steep technical descents, an unwieldy 50+ pounds of bike and bags and tent and food and water, and massive cumulative mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Third, the total elevation gain on the route is some 235,000 feet (think riding a heavy bike from sea-level to the top of Mt Everest . . . 8 frickin' times). Fourth, I'm an idiot. What I'll have spurring me on is my usual mission to raise money for First Descents and, more importantly, the inspiring stories of all those cancer survivors who have attended First Descents programs after (and sometime while) battling their own personal medical Tour Divides to defeat such a pernicious disease. For this epically insane adventure, I am setting an epically ambitious goal of raising $200,000 for FD. As of today, we are about halfway there.
I have spent the past 12 months planning, training, accessorizing, purchasing gear and generally fretting (and stressing) over this adventure. I can't believe it is now just a few weeks away. About a week before the race, I will publish a web-link to a webpage where everyone can track my progress online throughout the race via a gps tracker. I also plan to update this blog with narrative, pictures and video during the race whenever I have some downtime in a location with a wireless signal.
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