I envy what Steamboat Springs has. Much of Colorado can boast tremendous scenery. Quite a few places have high altitude recreation. There are excellent cycling opportunities in any number of towns. Colorado is home to a collection of really interesting and innovative small businesses. Steamboat certainly has all of these things, but what really struck me was how they all gel on one particular weekend, as if made for each other, into a cohesive, supportive community.
July 28th marks the third annual “Ride 4 Yellow” mountain bike event, where 200 riders will take on the Continental Divide Trail. This is no gimme. 26 miles may not sound like much, but mountain biking up around 10,000 feet over that distance is not to be underestimated.
In January of 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage III, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was absolutely exhausted all the time, and the chemotherapy cure wasn’t exactly a shot of energy either. I spent a lot of time, in bed, staring at the ceiling contemplating the shortness of life and wondering what I’d do if I ever got healthy. I wanted to ride my bike. Not for any reasons of race glory or personal bests or extremes of distance, all of which were unlikely anyway, but because I missed my riding buddies and I missed being out in the fresh air in beautiful places.
As I started to recover, my wife found me a new mountain bike, which was something I hadn’t done in years. The whole point would be fun, and the only rule I made for myself was no computers. There would be no training, no goals, no tracking distance for the year – only fun rides. I’d be done when I had my fill of fun, or got back to the trailhead.
At the time we were also becoming more involved with LIVESTRONG and had met some great friends through their organization. We were looking for an opportunity to become involved in a LIVESTRONG event, and we soon learned of Ride 4 Yellow. This sounded perfect for my renewed mountain biking interest! I knew it would be a big challenge, but finishing chemotherapy and being declared “clean” provides a tremendous amount of subjective energy, even if the anemias persist and objectively you still ride slowly! I was very excited to sign up!
The ride requires a bus ride up Rabbit Ears pass to Dumont Lake. I sat down and ended up sitting next to a local rider. He was also an anesthesiologist in town who had plenty of opportunity to treat cancer patients. What struck me was that the whole town was invested in this event and really seemed united in the fight against cancer and the support for several local survivors. It was terrific to see.
For the inaugural 2010 event, Lance Armstrong and Leadville legend Dave Wiens both spoke before the event to the riders and they rode. As expected, both finished very quickly at the front of the pack. I was fortunate enough to ride with my buddy Scott, and we didn’t finish with nearly the same speed!
The ride is beautiful and features a wide variety of terrain to match the variety of vistas. There were some quick technical climbs, but many of us took our time and worked our way through. I was in no hurry to rush since I was enjoying the day and getting some great pictures too! The ride ended at the top of the gondola on the Steamboat ski resort with a party, a speaker, and some auctions.
As it turned out, Linda Armstrong Kelly (aka Lance’s mom) was the keynote speaker, and she turned out to be the highlight of the event for my wife and myself. She spoke about the “obligation of the cured” which I had fully identified with, but also the hardships faced by the entire family. Put simply, it wasn’t that I had cancer, but “we” had cancer meaning my wife and myself, as well as my close friends and family. It was a special message to hear and it really touched my wife and gave me a new appreciation for the other side of that equation. In fact, my wife got to meet and spend a little bit of time talking to Mrs. Armstrong Kelly and was so impressed.
What is special about the Ride 4 Yellow event is that they have a global benefit target in LIVESTRONG, but also a local benefit in that half of the money goes to the local cancer center in Steamboat Springs. Even though I live in the metro Denver area, that was really nice to see and encouraging to support.
Ride 4 Yellow is a special event I’d encourage a mountain biker of any level to take advantage of if at all possible, but don’t wait – they cap at 200 riders!
Guest Blogger: Joshua N. Schwiesow