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Blackduff suggested I post more and talk about riding, so...I will.

I have only been riding seriously for a little over a year. I used to think cycling was cool, back when I was in high school, but the equipment was expensive and my parents were too overprotective to let me go on long rides. I had a Schwinn 10 Speed (red), watched Breaking Away with great frequency, and had pictures of cyclists and gears and stuff hanging in my room. (1992-1995)

In college, I didn't have a car. I saved up and bought a hybrid Trek that I rode everywhere. I just assumed that road bikes weren't really practical at that time, but I loved riding around. My sports in college were: soccer, swimming, rowing and running. Cycling was just transportation. Except during the summer, when I would, just for the hell of it, see how far I could go in a day. I remember coming home sweaty and exhilarated, telling mom I'd gone all the way to the other end of town and back, over the overpasses, over the train tracks, etc.

My oldest brother has always been a big cycling fan; loved Greg LeMond and got all pissy when this cocky little Lance Armstrong guy came on the scene in 1994 or so. He followed the Tour in the papers, but of course, we didn't have OLN or much internet access back then.

My bike, my hybrid Trek, was stolen in 2000. I was dumb, and let a friend borrow my bike lock. I figured my bike would be okay on the back balcony of the apartment (steps led up to the balcony, but I was on the back side of the complex, and we only had woods behind us.) I was wrong, and came home to find it gone. I was so mad at myself, and it would be four years before I bought another bike.

In 2003/04, I got to join an amazing club: cancer survivors. Early in my treatment, my brother sent me Lance's book(s). I resisted reading them at first. I thought it would be all sappy and ...I don't know what I thought. I just didn't expect to find anything of value in there. I didn't know Lance Armstrong at that point. But one sleepless night (tumors aren't shrinking, no idea what's next, chemo doesn't seem to be working, everything feels like it's falling apart), I didn't feel like reading any more of the medical books I had, so I picked up Lance's book. I was just going to skim it. (I'm talking about "It's Not About the Bike." Later, I also read "Every Second Counts.")

Instead, I read it cover to cover. I read it almost completely slack-jawed and fully immersed. I had no idea, prior to that, how close to death he had been. No idea how close he came to giving up cycling after his cancer was gone. I had no idea how secular he would be in talking about his experience. I appreciated that. I heard my own voice and fears and stubbornness (not that I have anything on L.A., mind you.) - after that, Lance was not only my hero, but my mentor. His book got me through my cancer. You should see my copy ("It's Not About the Bike") - it's tattered and the spine is broken, and it's highlighted in places. It practically falls open to Chapter 8, "Survivorship."

So, when I got done with my treatment (Feb of 2004), and started coming back to life (my tumors finally did shrink, with a different kind of chemo; I had surgery and was declared free of disease), I was more keenly aware of the cycling world, and I was more keenly aware of my need to be active. Prior to cancer, for the few years I'd been out of college, I had let my love of outdoor activity kind of lapse. I was putting it off until I was settled and had money and time. Ha.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation was bookmarked on my computer. When I saw these little yellow band things in May of 2004, I thought they seemed kinda cool. Only $1. You had to order ten to get one, so I sucked it up (having no idea who else I might give the other 9 to) and bought a pack of ten. I started wearing my yellow band, a little sheepishly. No one knew what it was. I was living in Chicago all summer with my boyfriend. I tried to get him and his sister to wear them, but they thought it was stupid. I realized I missed my old gig of riding a bike. In June, I went and bought a new hybrid (I was in law school so I didn't have a lot of money). I spent $240. It was a Specialized. I was working at a garden center in Chicago (after cancer, I decided I didn't want to spend my summer in a stuffy air conditioned office), and I rode my bike the 4 miles to work every day through Chicago's near north neighborhood (from Clark and Division up to Diversey and Ashland). I had so missed being on a bike. On the weekends, I would ride the Lakeshore, sometimes with my BF, sometimes (most times) alone, 10, 15, 20 miles. I wore my yellow bracelet, gave a few to people at work, practically had to pay my nephew to take one, and started to see them pop up slowly here and there.

When the Tour started last year, on OLN, I was governed by it. It was the first thing on in the morning, and the last thing off at night. I was riding all the time. I was checking on the LAF website pretty often. The first week of July, since I now have this serious seize the day mentality (more than ever before the big "C"), I said what the hell, and signed up for the Ride for the Roses in Austin; bought a plane ticket and reserved a hotel room. I created a page on my website to tell about it, and started fundraising. I raised $2,700 and some odd change, entitling me to wear a White Jersey at the Ride for the Roses.

When my boyfriend dumped me (thank you, God), in August, he cited my questionable future (because of my health - pbblltt!!), my "new interests" (in cycling and being more active), and my "lack of direction" (because I worked at a garden center, thus doing nothing all summer to kiss lawyer ass and try to secure a job for after law school). I couldn't see at the time that this was a good thing, and so I had much Anger. Anger is good for cyclists. I came back home to Indiana, and found CIBA (Central Indiana Bicycling Association). I started doing 20-25 mile weekend rides, on my clunky hybrid with the group. I felt dumb, because everyone else had sleek road bikes and clip shoes and stuff, but I didn't care that much. After all, it was Lance who said that as a kid, he won by not caring how it looked. And people were actually really nice, and I got a lot of praise for my strong legs and endurance.

Then I went to Austin. I only did 40 miles, because while I knew I could do 70 or 100, I also knew it might take me all damn day. I also knew I'd be back some year in the future, stronger and more experienced. So, I settled with doing 40 and vowing to come back. It was amazing. I wore my cancer survivor ("1 Year!") tags, and along the entire way, cyclists would pass me yelling, "CONGRATULATIONS!!" and/or pat me on the back, or pulling up alongside to tell me their own story, or help push me up the climbs. It took me about 3 and a half hours.

Pictures are on my website:

I was completely hooked, and the only question was when I would be able to get a road bike.

I took some time off during the late fall and winter (3rd year of law school was kicking my butt). In the spring I started up again a bit. But...then I took a trip to Chicago, with my bike in the trunk. It was my first time back to Chicago since the Break-Up and I was going to visit a friend. I wanted to get back on the Lakeshore and try to make some new memories. When I got to my friend's place (in Bucktown on the Near Northside), I parked right in front of her building, on a nice, tree-lined street. It wasn't until 11:00 p.m. when I went back down to my car to get my duffel bag that I realized something was amiss. My car had been broken into, and my bike was gone.

So....... I just graduated from school in May. I've been studying for the bar all summer, and no money for a bike (I'm straggling along on the last of my student loans). My parents gave me a three-month gym membership and I've been swimming and cycling on a stationary bike. I'm employed now, and start work next Monday (a week from today, after the bar exam). I am MORE than ready for a bike. I am dying to get back with CIBA and do some rides. I didn't sign up for Austin this year, because with the new job, I don't think I should take the time off yet. I intend to go in 2006, and I intend to do 100.

So, that's me and my cycling history. Don't hate because I didn't know Lance and the Tour prior to my cancer. I know a lot of people have followed it and loved it all along. I hate it when people hear my story and say, "well, snort, I liked Lance and cycling even BEFORE I got cancer." Blah. I know. I wish I had. But that's life.

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