Saturday, April 24, 2010

Team Support

I train solo, but when I go on a ride like the one I’m doing Sunday, it’s what’s called a supported ride.

That means that along the way we’ll have rest stops stocked with food and drink, and volunteers to cheer us on. It means we’ll have a route sheet, and turns along the way will be marked with bright arrows so we don’t get lost. It means we will be passed at several points along the way by a “sag wagon,” a vehicle that patrols the course carrying spare inner tubes, a tire pump, and some basic tools for field repair, plus a first aid kit and a radio to relay messages back to ride HQ. It means that at the end of the ride there’ll be a fat lunch, and on nine out of ten supported rides a crowd of people right at the finish line to cheer you on and congratulate you just as if they knew you and had watched you train. Sometimes they hand out medals to the finishers.

I could ride that far by myself (and sometimes have), but it’s a lot nicer to do it supported.

In life, there are solo rides and supported rides. Sometimes you get to pick which way you ride. Sometimes life picks the ride for you.

For folks who have sat in a paper gown in a sterile office to hear a doctor pronounce a diagnosis of cancer, the uphills are steeper, the descents more treacherous, and the ride a lot longer than any I’ve ever had to put up with on two wheels.

The least we can do for them is to give them a supported ride.

Cancer is a lot more than pills and prevention and physicians, treatments and therapies and tests. It's not all research and remissions and recovery rates. Those are all fine things too, and I’m on their side. But outside of the clinic, there’s life to get on with.

People who happen to have cancer don’t stop having families who love them (and look to them for support); they don’t stop needing to pay the rent or grocery bills; they don’t stop loving baseball games and milkshakes. People with cancer are often treated to mountains of paperwork and fights with insurance companies.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a course sheet, some markers along the way to help you decide which way to turn, waystations stocked with food and refreshments and people to cheer you along? A cancer-fighting sag wagon?

Along with many great organizations that are searching the roots of cancer’s causes and trying to find therapies that knock out cancer without taking down the patient in the process, you can find groups that offer non-medical help: patient advocacy, family support, financial aid, counseling, information services, education.

When I ride out of Davis on Sunday, on a 107-mile road to Santa Rosa, over hill and dale and through Napa Valley—mostly upwind—I will be riding to support four nonprofit groups that provide some of these services to folks with cancer and their families. I’ll be on a supported ride, but I’m hoping my ride makes it easier for some other people to find the support they need on their roads.

When I make a pitch for donations, I always try to calibrate the seriousness of my request. I’m not going to make this out to be some life-or-death thing, for me. To be plain about it, I would have gone on this ride whether it was to help out against cancer or not. And when I signed up for the ride, my registration fee already covered the cost of the ride—the support teams—plus a contribution to the cause. So I’ve already got some skin in the game, and I’m not under any obligation to raise more just so I can ride.

Having said that, I’ll add: I’ve got six easy names that I can write on the dedication wall at the start of the ride—an uncle, a friend, a friend of my brother’s, a couple of people I have worked with, and, reaching all the way back to my college days, Dad. That’s six people off the top of my head who have needed the support of a strong team as they fought cancer—six people in my immediate circle, without trying too hard to remember others, without having to name celebrities or friends of friends. I’m more than happy to support this cause.

(I bet you know someone too who has been able to benefit from some support against cancer.)

And: You don’t have to give any money. I always feel with events like this that half the goal is raising funds, but the other half is raising awareness—not talking people into thinking they should drop everything and take this up as their life’s prime purpose, but reminding them in some small way of the good that goes on around all of us, mostly unnoticed, while we go through our daily routines. Sometimes when a lot of people do some easy, small things, the effect is better than when only a few people strain and struggle to do huge, difficult things. If you have read this far, whether you give any money to the campaign or not, you have helped me raise consciousness, and I thank you.

If this is a campaign you can believe in, I would be honored if you made a donation. You can add money in my name at, or you’re welcome to give on the campaign’s generic donation page. (Like I said, and I will emphasize: I don’t owe them any more money. I’m not working on commission.)

While I’m at it, I also have to give a plug for an even longer ride my brother’s going to be doing this summer, a two-day ride that stretches to nearly 200 miles. This ride is also for a very good cause. In 30 years, putting together a lot of small donations from folks like you and me, the Pan-Mass Challenge has raised $270 million to help fight cancer. If you’re looking for a place to send some money, you don’t have to give anything for my ride at all. Try giving to his:

(There are many other fronts in the fight against cancer. I’m not promoting this one or that one as the only important way to engage. These are just two I happen to be connected to.)

It will be my pleasure to ride this Sunday—although around Mile 70, I may be rethinking that platform—and after riding part of this route solo a few weeks ago, I’ll be glad that this time I’m on a supported ride. As I ride, please feel welcome to help me support others.

Many Thanks!


CaliforniaGirl said...

Go brother go.

You can add my mother-in-law and at least three friends of mine to the list. So far, my friends are on the winning side.

mrjumbo said...

E-mail me some names, and I'll put them on the wall for you! (And thanks for the donation!)

Papa Bradstein said...

Well said. Godspeed, brother.