Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thanks, Tessa for the after-ride photos! CC 2013

                                                       Enjoying the happiness post-ride

Counting Coup 2013 photos

I could have rewritten the previous ride report so many times.  But I have to go ride hill repeats now. Here are some photos of this year's fun at CC.

                                                          AT THE FINISH LINE OF CC
                                                 TESSA WORKS HER FEATHER MAGIC
                                                           THE WINNERS
                                               MY BRAVE FRIEND AND CREW SCOTT
                                                     HAPPY CP
                                                      TOLD YOU I NEEDED A NEW TIRE


        2013 COUNTING COUP -44 miles; 8000 feet – mountain bike race
April 6th, the day before I turned 55, I settled in to riding my second Counting Coup event. I had vowed to have fun this year and to keep smiling.  After the cancer scare in March, I was grateful to ride my bike, period, after losing important training time.  It was a very happy day for Cheryl. 
Counting Coup/Vision Quest is hosted by the Warrior Society and a very well organized mountain bike endurance event held in the Saddleback Mountain region. I have tried to sit down and write about the ride, but always start to cry.  

The last few months I was able to go out and ride Blackstar and Maple Springs to Santiago Peak and to see that my climbing time was faster than last year.  Understanding it is always safer to ride with a buddy, La Ruta Lou (coach for 2012) would tell me that she trains by herself most of the time.  It’s nearly impossible to find someone who is at your level of training, and on your schedule.  So this year, I trained more by myself on long rides.  I remember when I first started mountain biking bike, I would panic if I have found myself alone on a mountain for 30 seconds, afraid of my own shadow and getting lost.  I had no self-confidence whatsoever.  Plus, if you know me, I cannot find my way out of a paper bag.

I spent the week before the race in Orange County, riding a bit, relaxing, and practicing putting tube in tire, nutrition, etc. 

Last year I was ill with a terrible flu and cold for three months before the event.  This year I flew to Atlanta in late February, and decided to try jogging, since I did not have my bike and really hurt my hip.   What followed was what I believed to be bone marrow cancer causing that pain and eating me like Swiss cheese.  Very emotionally times the month before this race.

March 1st I went for a long over-due blood test at the multiple myeloma cancer center with Dr.  Berenson.  After my femur broke in 2009, and they had made a mistake about the diagnoses, I had stopped all treatment and medication, but agreed to go every 90 days for blood tests.  I got busy enjoying my life without monthly IV treatments and pain, after 24 years of living with 30-day doctor visits, and its fears.  I started having a lot of dizzy spells and a funny taste in my mouth and got worried.   When I called the doctor and they said I had not been in since July of 2011, I could only blame myself if something serious was going on.   So when Dr. Berenson called me and sounded worried, the fear returned in a heartbeat.  He said he was pretty sure it must be a lab error, but that after being in remission from breast cancer and multiple myeloma since 1998,  the bad-boy protein was elevated and possibly showing cancer in my blood.   On March 6th, we repeated the labs and in another independent lab.   They all showed measurable amounts of cancer.  He said, “I did not expect this”.  I panicked. We all panicked.  Dr. B wanted a bone-marrow biopsy (key test for MM) and full skeletal x-rays, MRI, etc., STAT!

Following what seemed like forever, days and nights of being sleepless and scared, while planning my funeral and where my family would hold the service.  I have no words how scared I was and depressed. I was reliving my worst fear of dying of cancer, again.  Danielle went with me and again I saw her with sad eyes and held my hand through the bone marrow test, as I had insisted this time to have a general and not feel the pain of a needled going in my back and sucking out marrow.  

Dani was brave and my lifeline, as always.  She would tell me later that she, too, thought I would die before Leadville and she was making plans to have my ashes spread out along the Leadville trail.  Danielle knows how important it is, and she would see that I rode Leadville, dead or alive.  I love you, Dani.

My life today is one of love from many friends and my family.  The fear was 24/7 in my mind.  Riding my bike, or even working and attending to business, was not possible.  My nights were lonely.  Posting on FB really saved me, since I live alone.   The prayers and support from family and friends was enough to convince me to show up for the necessary medical tests and relive what I have been through so many times before.  Fear and waiting.   Only this time, first time in my life, I had to really feel the feelings and had nothing to numb or blot out reality.  I used use alcohol to not feel emotional pain.  I did not know so many people knew who I was, let alone care.   The posts expressing love and support from fellow bikers, teammates, work associates, and clients was amazing!  Thank you all.

What could stand in the way of my dreams to ride my mountain bike at Counting Coup, Sea Otter, Whiskey 50 and the ultimate challenge: Leadville?  Would these dreams not come true?

The mystery of blood tests is still pending.  But so far, all the more critical tests are negative.  What a relief.  I will be repeating the test soon.   The bone marrow test showed up negative for cancer, and that’s a very big deal!  My daughter just broke down and cried as I came in the room after the surgery.  After all this in the month of March and the dizziness prior (we still don’t know what that was, but it’s gone) my training was put aside, and was disappointing.
Sorry.  Back to Counting Coup:    The night before the race I woke up at 1:40 a.m.  I stayed in bed for a bit and decided to get up.  I had my preplanned breakfast and left the house where I had been renting a room on Balboa Island at 3:15 a.m.  My car was packed the night before.  I was nervous and excited.  Cheryl, the girl always afraid of the dark, too scared to do anything alone, was I going to do this? I started thinking strange things like…I could lie and say I have a headache and go back to bed. I could do the first climb and then go home and enjoy the day and not climb 8000 feet with that made-up headache.  It’s easy to back-out when there is nobody with you?  This will be very difficult, am I crazy?

Leaving the Island in the middle of the night, nobody out on the streets, I started to reflect the ten years I lived there and was on chemo, lost my hair and would walk the Island with such sadness.  How life can change in a moment.  My foot stayed on the gas pedal and I slowly just kept on going, not knowing how things would turn out.  Would I be last, and picked up by the sweepers, like last year? 

As I got closer to the mountains, the darkness was something I had never experienced alone, not a light anywhere.  It felt like a scary movie.  I smiled and vowed to not chicken out (the thought was still crossing my mind) and clutching on to my new-found life, a life of letting go of fear of the dark and fear of being alone.   I was going to do this all by myself.  I made the left turn onto Blackstar at 3:45 a.m. being the first one there, except the guy sleeping in the back of his truck I parked next to who startled me when he got up and started moving around.  Again, like a scary movie. 

I tried to put my nerves aside, sat in my car closed my eyes and prayed to have fun.  I tested my lights, tested the Garmin.  The weather was perfect this year, not too cold, even at 4:00 a.m.  The Warrior Society volunteers starting showing up, the loud upbeat music is blaring, the flood lights are on, and the fun was starting.  Campers were getting up.  Hundreds of riders were now showing up, getting ready, and the energy was like nothing I can explain.   I was able to get my registration number early and now I was ready to ride.  I decided this year I would not be intimidated by the fastest racers out for blood running me over and I would move to the front of the line with the winners.  They can pass me.  This is my race too.  We were warned about a lot of hikers this year due to the missing hikers the week before (who were found) but it seemed people wanted to come see the where and why.  This would prove to be true later on lower Holy Jim that slowed everyone down.

The first climb (2000K) in the dark up Blackstar was beautiful.  I felt strong and confident and ended up taking three minutes off my best time.  Looking down the mountain, on the switchback, and seeing the lights of riders behind me was a good feeling, considering last year, I am pretty sure I was the last one, in the back, and the last light.    

After a painful encounter with a hornet in my sock on the single track, a rider blocking me coming up on the single track and saying, “DON’T MOVE” as I looked down and I saw my foot was inches from a rattle snake.  I screamed and nearly jumped over the 6 foot plus man and his bike!   My chain dropped on Upper Holy Jim and a polite nice guy stopped and helped me out.  The rear tire going flat, though it sealed with  Stans, who knows how long I was riding with the big ball on my tire?  

The fog was thick across Main Divide and I did not have time to pre-ride this, so I had to take it slowly, not knowing or being able to see well.   That is a long climb to Motorway.  Motorway was in better shape than I expected and I was more confident than I had ever been on that trail, but I still took it easy because I saw three guys who flatted there. It’s very technical and rocky.   I reached the first aid station in plenty of time, and Scott, AJ and Ted were there to support me.   I got a fresh water bottle, some in my camelbak, put a bar in my mouth and rode off in a few fast minutes.  No resting this year.  There were a lot of lessons I learned on this ride.  Going to a new bike shop, I had counted on strangers to inspect my bike and I should have stayed back there and watched, because they did not lube my chain, did not check sealant in the front tire and convinced me not to change my rear tire I wanted to change!

I insisted over and over that the tire should be new, after sealant already sealed a hole in the tire, but friends, mechanic, and even the bike shop owner said, no, it would be okay.  I should have gone with my gut.  Why take a chance on a race, a ride I trained for all year?   And that same tear in the tire did reopen, and even though it did reseal, it was not without causing a huge bubble on the outside of the tire of mud, grass and dirt I had to ride on.  I got lucky.  But I won’t take those changes again in a race!  The front tire went flat as I was loading in the shuttle, and later I found out there was no sealant in the front tire.  If you have to go to a new bike shop before a race, watch them.   Also, I wish I had chain lube with me on a long ride like that.  The volunteers at Upper Holy Jim had lube and helped me out.  My chain was badly dragging, making a lot of noise and crying “lube me, please”!  This made for a longer stop than I planned there. I only had to pee twice this year, once before Motorway and once at Upper Holy Jim.  Last year, I lost count.  Don’t drink too much water out of fear.   Plan your food and water intake.

Climbing up Maple Springs with my friend Scott me up the pavement portion, I knew I had gained time over the previous year.  It was nice to be passing riders on the climbing sections and feeling strong.   I had to run down most of Upper Holy Jim – but it was still 16 minutes faster than last year.
Stopping to fight with the hornet in my sock did take some time to sit down on the trail, take off my shoe and sock and get it out!  The tight switchbacks haunted me for the second year on lower Holy Jim.  I just did not find time to practice them. I know I need to ride them, crash where I need to crash and deal with it. It is the fear that is stopping me.  My ride results would have been a different story without so much getting off and on the bike.  Sucks when your feet hurt from running in your bike shoes!  I also found being very tired and getting off and on is dangerous.   I was too tired to swing my leg on the bike.

I was fighting with all I had to not let riders pass me, but when the rider behind me yelled out, “there is a hornet in your sock” and, of course, I could feel the pain, I thought I had hit a sharp bush.  Five guys and one young gal that I had passed and seemed to irritate them, as they were all walking, rode by me smiling and a guy said, “at least we got you off your seat” – too funny –  I would never catch those riders and put me six spots further back in the finishing.  But I guess it is all part of the fun of racing.  

When I got to the creek crossings, I was just running through the water and staying in front of the guys behind me.   Then several emergency vehicles were coming up the fire road and I had to literally dive in a bush that was poison oak.  I am not allergic to that stuff, thank goodness!  The bumps and rough road were horrible the last four to five miles to the finish line.  But I was riding as fast as I could those last miles, hoping to gain any second I could.  I was so worried I would be last, as I was last year.  Oh, that hurt the ego! 

I ate while riding and only stopped for a few minutes at Four Corners for a bite.  Those stopping times add up.  This is something Lou Kobin tried to drill in my last year.  I noticed at noon I was almost to the peak, and this was a huge improvement from last year.   This race will always be close to my heart since last year was my first endurance race and my family flew in to see me.  It takes me a lot of practice to learn to stop as little as possible, eat on the bike, do not over eat – don’t carry too much stuff.     

I could go on and on with the fun and excitement of my Counting Coup 2013 experience, and next year I will be back and work on those gnarly switchbacks and upper holy Jim.  It seems after I broke my leg, my fear of falling has gotten worse.  This must end now!  Falling is part of mountain biking, in my opinion.

Big thanks to Tessa and her huge hugs and smiles and being at the finish line for me. Scott for bringing my nutrition and water, Ted and AJ for support and Ted coaching, my office staff for working their butts off to give me time off to train.  

Of course, the best news of my ride report is that I took 1.5 hours off my time from last year.  I was not last.  There were riders finishing behind me.   I think there were 26 riders that registered and did not even bother to show up and start and several DNF.  I am happy that I showed up.  I did not quit.  I did it alone. I faced my fears.  I kept on pedaling.  I tried my best.  I remembered to smile when the going got tough and then more tough.  I looked at the trail ahead of me and I thought to myself, indeed, Cheryl Parrish, this is EASIER THAN CANCER.   

 This is saving my life.  I have found a challenge, as cancer is a challenge, and if I can get through chemo, bone marrow transplants, broken leg, etc., well, I can get through a bike race.  And even if you are last, so what…showing up and doing your best and enjoying it, this is the adventure.   This is my dream.  I am living my dreams today, one day at a time, one fear at a time.     
So, if you read this far, don’t blame you if you did not, it is with a huge smile and chills that I thank my friends and family for opening their hearts to me.  Thank you for caring.  This weekend is Sea Otter and I hope I remember these lessons.   Smile.  Have fun.  Ride hard and ride smart, as Lou says!
Peace, thanks, love - 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Morning of counting coup 2013

Set my alarm for 3:00, woke at 1:40 a.m.

Banana and two egg pancake.  Coffee.  Water.  Pray - check.
Smile - check

I am feeling grateful this morning to have the opportunity to ride my mountain bike at such an awesome event.  

Wish me luck and see you all later - !!!  Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.

Ride hard and ride smart - eat - drink - suffer through the pain, it's only temporary -

oh, and BREATH