Thursday, November 10, 2011

On her way to the Counting Coup.....

Cancer survivor Cheryl P is training hard for the Counting Coup in April

Follow my client/athlete Cheryl P on her blog as she trains for the grueling mountain bike race "The Counting Coup"in Southern California. The Counting Coup is a 44 mile race with over 8000 feet of elevation gain.

Cheryl is truly an inspirational woman who started biking in her late 40s to literally save her life from cancer and serious alcohol addiction.

Check out her blog at: and read her story below:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 when I was 30 and lost both breasts, followed by six months of aggressive chemotherapy. Seven years later, at 37, I was in for a regular check-up and after a bone marrow biopsy, I was told that 98 percent of my plasma cells were cancer and that I had six months to live, that I had a rare cancer called multiple myeloma. I was hospitalized at once and I lost everything. From 1995 to 1998 I was on high-dose chemo therapy and had two bone marrow transplants back to back. My life was over, as I knew it. I worked hard for six years to finish court reporting school and being a single mother of one daughter. My little girl was only five when my hair fell out the first time. All she knew was her mommy was going to die. I have lost too many good friends to cancer. I had no medical insurance and fought for everything I could get. Several doctors in Newport Beach teamed together and treated me for free, getting the chemo donated to me for the breast cancer. There was Dr. Burns, Dr. Barth, Dr. Long, Dr. Harvey Heinricks, all who took care of me on their own dime. I started a cancer support called the Walking Fish Society, for young adults with cancer from 18 to 40. Why? Because people think fish don’t walk and they think we don’t live.

The doctors are not sure why I am alive today. I am in the 3% survivorship of my diagnosis. I had five years of interferon and 13 years of monthly Zometa, which they are now discovering can cause spontaneous femur fractures.

I had just ordered a new bike for Sea Otter in 2009 and my leg started hurting on my left femur. They could not find out what was wrong. After lots of tests, they said the multiple myeloma was back. Right before a scheduled surgery, they changed their mind and said that it was a mistake. They said maybe I have a stress fracture from trauma and there was nothing they could do. (that trauma was from a mt bike crash) Zometa is a drug that won’t allow your bones to heal. I have been off that drug since March of 2009.

In June of 2009, I was visiting a friend out of town. Somebody knocked at the door. I answered it and my dog run out. The man at the door was very drunk and would not move out of my way. As I stepped around him, I felt something strange and my body just froze in the doorway. Then I could hear it. I said, “Oh my God, I think my leg is breaking”

And it did. My femur snapped in half. 15 hours in the ER – months of recovery, nursing home and painful therapy and the titanium rod on my leg, I got back on my bike!

A friend of mine is Colette McFadden and she rode the Vision Quest in my honor, when the doctors said the cancer had returned. My goal and dream is to finish Counting Coup on my birthday on April 7, 2012.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

La Ruta de los Conquistadores 2011

The 2011 version of La Ruta de los Conquistadores was as eventful and adventuresome as ever!

Day 1 from Jaco to San Jose was a little rough for me. I felt good going through the jungle and mud, but had a major bonk on a long paved climb during the middle of the day. It was very hot and humid and I had a hard time getting enough calories in. Rebecca passed me on this climb, and all I could do was watch her ride away as I was going in slow motion :-) I ended up finishing in 3rd place behind Adriana Rojas and Rebecca Rusch, quite a ways back.

Day 2 is only 45 miles, but has about 11,000 feet of elevation gain, much of it very steep. At times my Garmin was showing 30 percent grade. I felt a bit better this day and Rebecca and I rode together for about 30 k during the middle of the race. It was really nice to ride with her as it kept our pace and motivation up! Rebecca left me on some flat and rolling sections and I ended up about 8 minutes back, finishing in a down-pour weaving in and out of San Jose traffic.

Day 3 is the volcano day! It's a 32 km climb from San Jose to the top of Irazu, topping out at 3015 meters. I was feeling pretty strong and was in 2nd place at the top of the volcano. At the 2nd checkpoint, I was told I was 7 minutes behind Adriana and I was hoping to use the technical downhill to my advantage. After a bit of a traverse, the trail gets quite rocky. It was wet and muddy in spots, but it was really fun. At some point the journalists were on the trail, telling me I was 3 minutes behind Adriana. The day ends with a HUGE drop on a road followed by a few km of a flat section. It is quite sketchy with lots of cars, people, and dogs on the road. I think I lost a little time in the final stretch as I was riding by myself and it would really help to have another rider to work with. I finished about 5 minutes behind 1st place Adrianna. Rebecca came in only a couple of minutes behind me. Jane Rynbrandt with Carmichael Training Systems had a really strong ride and was not far behind us.

The final day of La Ruta features about 4000 feet of climbing in the first 40 km, followed by a paved downhill and then lots of gravel roads as well as the infamous train trestles. As usual, I started out slowly as it takes my legs a while to warm up!! I was hoping to catch some fast riders toward the top of the climb, so I would have someone to work with for the downhills and flats. A mile or two from the top, I did catch Rebecca and we decided to work together to see if we could catch Adriana. We stopped briefly for fluids at the checkpoint and ended up flying down the descent with Adam Pulford from CTS. As we descended we picked up several other riders and soon we had a fast group of about 8 riders as we hit the flat bumpy gravel roads. We were setting a really fast pace and were told Adriana only had 2 minutes on us. It was very hot and very humid and I was working HARD to keep up with the group. There are lots of sharp turns, rail road sections, and stream crossings that are potentials for losing the group, and I knew we had to stay together if we wanted to catch the first place woman. Riding with Rebecca was great. She is a super strong rider who races very honestly and fairly. Adam (CTS) and a Scottish guy were doing a lot of work for the group.

When we hit 83 km someone mentioned that we hadn't seen any signs for a while..... the checkpoint was supposed to be around km 80. We slowly came to the horrible realization that we had missed a turn and were completely lost. As we reached a dead-end with a few buildings we saw some people and a couple of the spanish speaking guys in our group asked where we were. It was all VERY confusing. As I don't speak spanish, I had no idea what was going on. Someone in the group remembered the name of the town with the next checkpoint, and after stopping several times to ask for directions, we were told we were 11 km away. We were all out of fluids, tired, and deflated, but determined to get back on course so we wouldn't be disqualified. Rebecca and I also didn't want to lose our 2nd and 3rd positions in the race.

At one point we stopped at a small store. The Scottish guy had been smart enough to bring money and he bought us all ice cold coke and water!! We continued on, and FINALLY we popped out at the checkpoint. I had 103 km on my Garmin at this point, we had taken a 22 km detour, BUMMER!!!

We were now on a mission to get to the finish. It had been a long, hard, and hot day, but there were still more adventures to come! As we were riding down a long flat gravel road we spotted a large group of riders standing in the middle of the road next to a support vehicle. When we reached them we were told that a rider had been bike-jacked at gun point and that we should all ride the next section together for safety. How scary!! There was also the bee-section where several riders were stung (some 30 times) and 1 rider ended up taking a 30 foot leap off the railroad bridge and into the water below to avoid the angry bees....

The final 20 km we did a lot of beach riding. The group had dwindled to me, Rebecca, Adam, and a guy from Costa Rica. Although it was great to finally finish in Limon, it was a bit deflating since we lost so much time. Oh well, that's all part of the adventure!! I was happy to keep my 3rd place at least.

Still had a great time as always in Costa Rica. It was super fun hanging out with Eric (racing on his single speed), Mark Jeffery, and Dave Engelbrecht who did awesome their first time at La Ruta!!!!