It's strange how inspiration always rears its head in the most unusual ways. Three weeks ago, before I boarded a plane with a fever, I had no idea how I was going to keep training while traveling and recovering from a cold. I was feeling pretty down about it actually—when you only have six weeks to train for 200 miles, every moment counts—and tried to think about what Coach Daniel said from day one: “Don’t try to make up multiple missed workouts. Just pick up where the calendar days falls and get back on track.”
After not working out for three days straight, I got back in the saddle and only managed to knock out a measly 13 miles while in Portland. I was happy to be riding again, but I felt like I was hardly “back on track.” Anxiety started to bubble up and manifest itself in the form of chronic stomachaches. How could I be ready in time if I'm not giving 100 percent during my training rides?
Then suddenly Lisa Frank—the three-time breast cancer survivor, avid cyclist, and founder of YSC's Tour de Pink fund-raising bike series—came to mind. First diagnosed at age 36 in 1998, Lisa learned early on how to balance feeling ill while still riding. Though a relapse kept her from participating in the Tour de Pink's inaugural event in 2004 and a hysterectomy the following year kept her from the second annual ride, she wasn't about to miss out on the fun for a third time. As hard as it was for her to ride the first day of the 2006 event (it was raining and she was still weak from years of treatment), Lisa remembers thinking, “I had cancer. I'm not scared of a little rain. We're going to ride!'” Ride she did—all the way to the finish.
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Her grit and determination inspired me to reach out to her for some advice. My little cold is nothing compared to the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. But even though I felt embarrassed to ask, I was curious to know, how does she manage to push herself mentally and physically when the odds seem against her? Here's what she told me. (It's so beautiful, I had to share her entire response.)
“I know the miles will be tough this year and I may spend more time in the van than on my bike, but hell, I'm just happy to be there at all. When they found the cancer in my parotid gland last October, I knew it was bad news and everyone was very concerned, but I never let myself accept the gravity of the situation. When I turned 50 in June, I had a big party. That's when a friend who's a doctor confided in me that when she saw me last November, she did not think she would be here celebrating my 50th. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm just freaking thrilled to be at Tour de Pink on or off the bike!
I'm sorry you don't feel well. Please don't ever think you will insult me (it takes a lot, trust me). But also, everyone has things in their lives. When people complain or tell me they don't feel well, they tend to say 'Oh, I shouldn't be saying this because look at what you are going through,' and I always say everyone has their own life issues and challenges. Each one is hard in its own way and should never be compared to other's struggles unless that comparison helps you, motivates you, lifts you up.
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And now to really answer your question! I look to others for inspiration. Many of the women who inspire me are no longer with us, and when I ride I think of them and the fact that they can't ride. I know I won't be able to ride every mile of TDP (I haven't trained much at all), but I can't use that as an excuse not to be on my bike. That would be giving up. Also, I truly love being on my bike so I should ride because I like to, not just for training.
I also think about some of the women supposed to ride this year who, for health reasons, cannot, and I say to myself: 'Self, get your ass on the bike because YOU CAN!' Using cancer as an excuse lets cancer win. Right now, and hopefully for decades to come, I am NED (no evidence of disease). If I let being tired and unfit become my excuse to not ride, then I let cancer win that moment—and that is simply not acceptable. Many times when I'm riding a particularly difficult climb or feel ready to plop, I repeat the names of the women I loved who are no longer here and do not have the option to ride. As crazy as it sounds, it does energize me to get up those hills.
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The final element of motivation is being realistic. I've been beating myself up because I can't do what I did last year. That has pretty much as stopped. It's unhealthy to think that way and it uses up energy better placed elsewhere. My friends and family often remind me of what my mind and body have been through in the past year. I think about that, and I accept it and realize I have to listen to my body and continue to heal while continuing to strengthen as well.
I hope this helps you. Please let your body rest and get rid of whatever you have! We have a lot of fun to be had on West Coast.”
And there, in those few heartfelt paragraphs from Lisa, lies my inspiration to get out (even with a sour stomach and dry cough) and kick butt during my last training weekend before the Tour. Looking forward to riding with you, Lisa, on the bike and possibly in the sag wagon :)
Follow me @XstinaGoyanes for live training updates.