As summer quickly turns to fall, I can’t help but think of Kate pedaling through Indiana all bundled up in her Pedaling for a Cure under armour garb.  When we started this journey together, just six weeks ago, it was the hottest part of summer in California with temperatures up to 108. The ice in our water bottles melted & our tank tops were drenched with sweat within minutes. It all seems so long ago. But for Kate, the trek continues. She has traveled another 1,250 miles since I returned home & crossed 4 state borders (5 if you count the brief stint in kentucky).
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(no official kansas welcome sign)

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My personal favorite…see below..

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The best part about this picture is that an innocent stranger took this & probably handed her camera back to her & said awkwardly “do you want to take a look to see if it turned out ok?”
& she probably laughed hysterically & said “thank you, it’s perfect”

Kate is very good at alot of things but I don’t think we will be seeing her in 2016 in Rio battling China for the gold in gymnastics.

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I rest my case.

Olympic cyclists, on the other hand, will have to watch out for Kate. She is gaining strength & confidence by the day. She called me today & said that the day she crossed into Indiana, she had done a century in 5 hours & 45 minutes. What’s more is that she actually did the first 90 miles in 5 hours & if she hadn’t gotten lost going through the city, that time would have been even lower. This was more than 10 minutes faster than her first century this summer completed WITHOUT panniers (i.e. carrying at least 60 lbs less weight).

(please standby for the Indiana welcome picture)

She is on a serious mission to get to Boston & with the mileage she is covering everyday, she will be there before we know it. Before she reaches Boston though, she will stop in Rochester for a couple of days. I’m hoping to be able to meet her in Erie or Buffalo & ride into Rochester together. A friend of mine has spoken to some people at News 10 & they said that they will cover our story as well as interview us about our journey & most importantly, our cause. To date we have raised $21,615 towards the National Brain Tumor Society. We are hoping the press coverage will help us reach goal #2: 25k.

I could not be more proud of Kate. She has faced several challenges since I left including flat tires, the severe ups & downs of Missouri’s mountain range: the Ozarks, being chased by dogs, nearly sprayed by a skunk, stared down by a terrantula, taunted by a scorpion, but scariest of all, tackling the last half (to 2/3) of America solo. I am thankful for the kind souls that she has met & have recharged her batteries along the way. People have paid for some of her meals, groceries, & lodging. What’s better than free stuff? The sentiment behind it.
Kate said in one of her recent blogs: “All big things have small beginnings.” I think this is so very profound & true. This journey began with one idea, one phone call & 2 friends who didn’t even own bikes. Six months later, the journey is almost complete but will hopefully continue to inspire people for years to come.

Last night marks my first official bikeride since returning home (not counting a leisurely kickball commute down the canal path with a friend on Tuesday).  The strangest part was riding without the weight of the panniers.  A couple of times when I stood up to pedal, I almost threw my bike  sideways to the ground expecting the bike to weigh much more than it did.  I had no plans to ride quite yet as I felt like I had too much to get in order at home first.  Well, as I was sitting on the couch drinking wine & watching the always depressing news, I realized I wasn’t doing anything productive anyway so I  might as well take a ride. (This may have also had something to do with a friend asking repeatedly whether I had gotten back on the bike yet, felt faster, stronger, more confident, etc)  It is possible that these questions were burning in my head as well.  What would it feel like to do the training rides I had been doing just 5 weeks ago?  I knew they wouldn’t compare to most of the mountains we climbed but for some reason I was still weary to try.  Maybe the first glass of wine was a good thing because it caused me to throw my doubts to the wind, hike up a pair of bike shorts & go for a ride.  It was already 6:45 so since sundown was in 45 minutes I didn’t have to worry about pressuring myself into a long ride (you wouldn’t believe some of the internal dialogue when it comes to exercising).  Started safe with a downhill then headed towards Clover & Jefferson.  This summer, the first hill after turning right onto Clover always made me shift into one of the lowest gears & gasp for air.  I made myself do it everytime because I “knew” it would help me prepare for the mountains.  Little did I know that would be one of the smallest hills we encounter out West.  I now know that there is no way to fully prepare in Rochester, NY, which is 500 ft. above sea level, for a bike trip through 7,000-11,000 feet elevation.  Some athletes like Michael Phelps actually sleep in altitude tents, to simulate elevation, where the air is thinner so their lungs adapt to less oxygen.  That would have been helpful to do but not quite in my budget.  So anyway, the hill on Clover still made me breathe fairly hard but made it up no problem.  It would not have been a hill Kate had to wait for me at the top, heck, we likely would have talked up the whole thing.  It’s amazing what you can do when you distract yourself with other people or things.  I remember some of the self defeating thoughts I had during some of my summer rides in Rochester that never crossed my mind out west with Kate. 
I ended up doing about 12 miles yesterday in 50 minutes. I didn’t race but also didn’t take my sweet time either.  It was nice ride again…even though it had only been 5 days it seemed like an eternity since Kate & I were used to riding all day, 6 days a week.  As odd as it may sound, I missed the smells.  I could have sworn that someone a few streets down was cooking Chef Boyardee ravioli for dinner.  Though it was more then likely a fresher brand of ravioli, my thought put a smile on my face since it made me think of Kate furiously opening 2 cans of beefaroni insisting they were both fermented.   Whether they were or not, in our limited budget & food supply she ate them regardless.  I am even such a good pal that I took a big bite to help her out (with my eyes shut tight & making sure not to breathe through my nose.)  True friends eat the same cheap poison garbage that their friends are eating.  She goes down, I’ll go down with her. 
Where was I …the ride at home…yes, long story short it was about 1,000x easier than the same ride was a month ago & a hell of alot easier than 95% of our rides out west.  It feels good to have made such noticable progress in such a short period of time.  I need to figure out a game plan asap so I don’t completely atrophy the muscle I just built.  The choices as of now are, train for a half or full marathon, triathalon, bike race (or just charity ride with a fairly significant distance).  I know myself well enough that I won’t keep working out regularly if I don’t have something specific to train for. Suggestions are also welcome.  Unfortunately winter is approaching so that will inevitably place a damper on cycling for the season (the thought of a stationery bike does not excite me in the least).  Hmmm. Big decisions.  Meanwhile I will ponder them while blogging & eating ice cream in my bed.  Life is good. 

The transition home has been bittersweet. It is so great to see my Rochester family & friends again. My mom made me this adorable sign for my return letting me know how proud of me & Kate they were.

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I was welcomed back at work with open arms as well. So good to see everyone again & find out how many people had been reading my blog (I was fairly certain that everyone would lose interest around day 3). The best was the one project manager who was unaware we were starting from California & thought we made it from Rochester to Nevada in 4 days…he even went home & discussed this in depth with his wife debating whether that was possible on a bicycle. Kate & I are ambitious but not that ambitious.

One of the guys had a sign made (which I put in my bedroom to see every morning & every night)

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One girl knew how hard it was going to be for me to leave Kate so she printed out pictures of us from my blog to ease the transition a bit:

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It’s nice to see those throughout the day & be constantly reminded of the lifetime of memories we made. It really flew by & sometimes I have to really think whether it was a dream or reality. At the time, there were so many days that I was sure were never going to end or that we would never make it over the next mountain, but it did & we did. Now I’m home & Kate is still on the road pedaling across America. I knew the whole time that this moment would come but tried to push it out of my mind & remain in the present moment. In the first few days we thought it may be possible to make it to Rochester in a month but after seeing how much the heat, elevation, mountains, & extra weight on our bikes were slowing us down from keeping on 100-mile-a-day pace, we knew it just wasn’t a reality.
So now as Kate continues to pedal eastward, I am staying put in Rochester anxiously awaiting her arrival. We were hoping that, since I departed right after the Rockies, the next 500ish [flat] miles through eastern Colorado & Kansas would be cake. Since keeping up daily with Kate, that does not seem to be the case at all. The wind in Kansas has not been a tailwind as predicted…instead more of a side/headwind. Despite this extremely unfortunate reality, Kate has made it well over 400 miles in the past 5 days. Her perseverance & will to press on is incredible. She has met some generous people over the past week who have insisted on buying her food & some who express their deep appreciation for her journey due to their personal struggles with cancer. It is the brief interactions with people like this that keep her mind off of the frustrating elements & on the end goal. To End Brain Cancer. I know from riding with her last month that it is so easy to get wrapped up in your own head & focus on the pain. I am so proud of her for being able to keep pushing past all of that & remember at the end of the day what she set out to do from the day she started training.

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Keep on keeping on buddy. You have more supporters everyday. Wish more than anything I could be pedaling with you on those desolate Midwest roads. Show small town america what you’re made of out there.

Just pulled into Rochester about an hour ago after 26 hours in the car. Don’t worry, Enterprise gave me this monster that is about 800x the size of the Honda FIT I am used to driving:

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I requested a car that I could fit my bike in & they gave me one which I could fit an entire little league team. Surprisingly it didn’t take too long to adjust. Kate came with me to the pick it up & she couldn’t stop laughing as I was driving like a 110 year old woman. I was afraid to go over 20 mph so after we drove 3 blocks to the bike shop, we decided to drop the car off at the hotel & walk to do the rest of our errands (“errands” = buying candy & ice cream). Our last day together was a riot. We woke up early (because we didn’t have to…) & headed to a cute mom & pop restaurant a few blocks away called “Patti’s.” There is something so nice about eating breakfast at a diner on a day off at your leisure. We both ordered the basic All-American breakfast of eggs, sausage, home fries, & toast. Oh, can’t forget the bottomless coffee. It was delightful. At that point I was planning on picking up the car at 3 pm & driving until dark then starting up again in the morning somewhere in Nebraska. I quickly did the math in my head & realized, since I wouldn’t get very far that night anyway, I might as well just wake up early on Saturday when Kate sets out on her ride & just do the drive in 2 days. That way we wouldn’t have to say our goodbyes just yet & we could have the whole day together. On the walk back to the hotel we were giddy about this decision & began discussing the priorities for the day.

1. Hot tub
2. Blog
3. Laundry
4. Bike Shop
5. Nap
6. Eat up some of our food so Kate doesn’t have to carry it all…

Rough day, I know. It was a stretch but we did end up completing the to-do list & even had some fun doing it. Below is a picture of us sitting on the hotel floor making pad thai (freezedried…a gift from Kates boyfriends parents!) with the mini stove. It turned out really well! & the Marriott is not in ashes so that was also a plus.

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Pictured above: shoveling food into my face as per usual.

I have decided that even though I am home now, I’m not done blogging. Whether you choose to continue following me or not, that is up to you but I feel that, as long as Kate is on the road I will be there too in spirit & this is the best way I know how.

I feel as though I didn’t do yesterday justice in the blog so I will do a quick recap now.

Woke up in a cute little “bunkhouse” in Howard, CO. I have realized that “cute” places are more fun when you don’t have a bike with 60 lbs of gear on it because maneuvering it around the room is infuriating, to say the least. Kate & I pinned ourselves into a corner more than once. Staying there actually worked out perfectly because there was no TV in the room (only a mini rocking horse…) & very sparse cell phone service so instead of blogging we were forced to go to bed early. We both slept like rocks then woke up & ate breakfast at the cafe next door. I am embarrassed by this next sentence but feel I must share it, for the sake of being brutally honest with my followers. I ordered (& consumed) scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries, 4 pieces of toast, & a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar & milk. Not sure I have ever put that much food in my face in one sitting. What’s possibly more embarrassing is that I was hungry by mile 10 of our ride. Boy I will miss being able to eat like a Sumo wrestler.
Mile 10 took us into Cotopaxi, CO located at the base of the day’s climb. There was a small grocery store there where we spoke to a few of the workers & shoppers about our mission. It never gets old hearing people react to our journey, especially the further away from San Francisco we ride. The cashier loved what we were doing & scrambled for a pen to write down the name of our site. Another gentleman in the store mentioned that his daughter started a company that has earned millions of dollars towards cancer research. He said he was glad that there are more people working towards the same goal of ending cancer for good.
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Time for the climb. This time I was actually not dreading it as much because I knew the alternative was riding to Pueblo on route 50 which had very little shoulder & lots of high speed traffic. No thank you. Although I can’t say that the road conditions for the remaining 70 miles of the day were ideal. In the words of my eloquent friend Kate, “what, did they pave over the shitty pavement with even shittier pavement?” It’s funny because it’s true. It seemed as though they glued a whole bunch of different sized rocks together & called it pavement. Not to mention the cracks in the road literally every 5 feet to help us lose the beautiful momentum that bikes provide. That went on for the ENTIRE last 70 miles. We tried to play the “think positive” game & say to ourselves, “every bump in the road means we are another bump closer to Pueblo” but that mantra wore itself out after about 10 miles.

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The weather was perfect as you can probably tell from these pictures. This whole week we really lucked out with weather, no rain, hail, or thunderstorms. That would have really set us back since we were under a strict time frame this week…if we didn’t average 80 miles a day we would not have made it to Pueblo in time for me to rent a car & drive home. I would have figured something else out but that was the easiest transition.

90 was so tough yesterday but we timed it perfectly (seasoned veterans) & pulled into our hotel right before dark. It just seemed like so much was trying to hold us back yesterday between the road conditions & the headwinds. Once we reached the top of the last Rocky Mountain we thought we could crush the last 45 flat/downhill miles like we did the one day with 26 miles in 1.25 hours. In hindsight we should not have had expectations as they generally aren’t fulfilled as planned.

I think it took us about 3 hours to get to pueblo between snack breaks & unmapped hills. I do love those unmapped hills as I study the elevation maps in depth several times a day & base my energy output on the number of inclines for the day. Luckily it seems that all of the mountain riding over the last few weeks has gotten us in shape for a day worth of hills. Kate said that she noticed as she looked at her speedometer that she was actually accelerating up hills …this was around mile 75…incredible. It really amazes me what the body can adapt to when pushed beyond it’s normal limits. Kate read me a quote from a card her sister gave her that said “with no struggle there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglas. That seems to sum up so many parts of this trip. I will get back to that later in an all inclusive summary post.

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When we finally arrived in Pueblo we couldn’t be more excited because Kate’s mom had called & said she was going to treat us to a steak dinner that night. We were talking & thinking about it all day. On top of that, a friend surprised us with a night at the Marriott so we didn’t have to stay in another flea bag hotel on our last night together.

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Clearly I was beyond satisfied with the room & namely the bed. We quickly showered, put on make up, dresses, & gabbed briefly about how nice it was to feel girly & ,”pretty” again. Stuffing our hair under a helmet & sweating in bike shorts all day isn’t really the definition of “girly.” We headed down to the restaurant of the hotel & had the whole place to ourselves.

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We both ordered the filet mignon & it was honestly the best meal either of us could ever remember having. We were in heaven. The waitress was very sweet too…after we explained why our appetites were so ravenous she first said “…wait, like 90 miles on a motorcycle?” It took her a long time to grasp that we had actually traveled by “bicycle” from San Francisco to this very hotel in Pueblo. She was extremely touched by the cause as her own mother had a run-in with breast cancer so she saw first hand how scary & devistating cancer can be. Her genuine interest & support in our journey was so honest & touching. She kept saying “I love that, that is so great.” I just can’t believe some of the reactions we get on a day to day basis. They are the memories I will remember forever. Kate & I have talked about the importance of “paying it forward.” For example, the night we slept in the shower stall & the campground host was so kind to not only let us stay there, but also to bring us chairs, socks, & blankets. We didn’t know how to repay her ..other than to literally pay her with cash as well as include a hand written note from us thanking her from the bottom of our hearts for her kindness & hospitality. I believe that is how love & kindness grows…you get what you give. The sky is the limit. Kate & I have felt so loved by all of our family & friends, even strangers, throughout this whole journey. We hope that we have made you all proud & that the outpouring of support continues for Kate as she covers the rest of our beautiful country. I am honestly heartbroken that I can’t continue on with her but will give her all of the support via phone & thoughts that she will ever need. I’m hoping that alot of the memories we have made together keep her company if she ever feels lonely. So many laughs, smiles, high-fives, & understanding looks that got us through some tough days. We were chatting tonight & said that there wasn’t one entire day where we were both unhappy. Parts of everyday, yes, but that is where the importance of struggle comes in. Thinking you can’t do something & then doing it & more is an amazing feeling. Neither of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into but couldn’t be happier with the outcome at this moment.

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