Cancer survivor Libby’s 2009 Challenge Experiences

And here’s another writeup from cancer survivor Libby about her experiences in 2009. Enjoy!

After a touching Opening Ceremony in Downtown San Jose, we rode out at exactly 7:30 a.m. Katherine and I cruised along, chatting. Most of the time, I rode her wheel (drafted). She was happy to oblige. The terrain was fairly flat until heading south at Los Gatos. We rode at a comfortable pace, spinning over the pedals. We still felt good by Stop #4, at mile 40. From there, the topography rolled along by the reservoirs until turning north onto Santa Teresa near Gilroy. There, the weather got hotter and the headwinds beat us up. Katherine (she’s the greatest!) was still determined to pull and our pace dropped a bit.

We got to Stop #5, mile 56, at about 12:45 p.m. I left a voicemail with some friends who were waiting at Stop #6 to cheer us on. We took a good rest, ate more PB&Js and hydrated. I reminisced that at this point last year, I was struggling, over-heated, and fighting with the melted Gummi Bear on my cleat. I had sat with a bag of ice on my head trying to cool down and stay mentally positive. This year? I was feeling fine! We rode past the spot where the SAG picked me up, and Katherine said, “You’ve already exceeded last year!” ”Yep!” And I thought, “I am doing this! No SAG is stopping me!”

Miles later, a car with a hand waving out the window drove by and we both asked, “Did they say, ‘Libby’?” I looked at the car and it was my friends! They drove the course looking for me. We stopped and chatted a bit, but got rolling again as a SAG vehicle drove up. Shortly after, we passed the ‘30 MILES TO GO!’ marker and Katherine said, “70 miles! You’ve ridden 70 miles, girl!” Yes, indeed. In that moment, I surpassed my longest ride since the cancer. In many ways, I already achieved my goal.

It was about 2:00 p.m. and super hot when we started climbing the feared, 2 miles long, and very steep, Metcalf Road. Unfortunately, Katherine’s front tire blew and she had to sag to the next stop so the mechanics could fix it. I slowly pedaled along, left to my own thoughts instead of our mutual support. I stopped each time my heart was about to explode at over 170 bpm, walked and rested to let it come down to 140 or so, and then started again. At least there were a few other souls still on the road so I wasn’t completely alone. Finally, I rode over the crest. I made it up Metcalf! “We did it!” I shouted to the other cyclists. I have never felt more triumphant at the top of a climb! The feeling of accomplishment was so uplifting, and I again thought, “I am doing this. I am riding the full 100 miles.” I bombed down to Stop #7, giddy and excited, and got an enthusiastic welcome from Katherine who had been relaxing in the shade.

There were only 20 or so miles left. Katherine again let me draft as we flew down the wonderfully gentle and fast descent. But the last leg of a century always feels eternal. The route kept us on the outskirts of San Jose even though we could see Downtown, wondering when we were going to get there. We were both tired and ready to be done. Then San Jose PD drove up beside us and the Officer said, “Okay, Ladies. I’ve got your back.” He proceeded to escort us, full-blast lights and sirens, through all the major intersections, stopping traffic completely! Talk about cycling in style!

Finally Downtown at about 5:00 p.m., we turned one last corner, and there it was: LIVESTRONG’s banner, finish, and a large, die-hard, LIVESTRONG-yellow clad crowd. OMG! Thanks to Katherine’s willingness to let me draft her all day, I had the energy to kick it up and charged down the finishing lane for survivors, holding back tears – I did it! Every mile! The crowd clapped, cheered, waved and made all sorts of noise! Then I slowed down, wanting to savor the moment. I sat up, smiled and waved to the crowd, saw big camera lenses snapping away, and heard the announcer announce my name, as a finisher and a survivor. As I crossed the line and came to a stop, the yellow rose petals fell down around me light as snowflakes. I was glowing with the widest smile, saying “Thank you, thank you” to all the volunteers congratulating me. I got my yellow long-stemmed and de-thorned rose, looked up and saw Katherine there with gigantic open arms giving me a monster hug. I was ecstatic! What an incredible moment.

Then the announcer said, “Now don’t go anywhere, Libby and Katherine. We have a special gift for Libby. Come on up here.” Special gift? We walked onto the stage and proceeded to be interviewed as to our friendship, how the ride went; my cancer experience. Then he said that they had been saving one last gift certificate for the one of the last riders of the day. So as I was the last survivor to cross the finish, they presented me with a Gift Certificate for a YAKIMA Base Rack System! NO WAY! Katherine wished she could have taken a picture of my “I-never-win-anything!” facial expression. And I went from ecstatic to speechless to euphoric! HOLY COW! It was already an awesome day, and then it got even better! WOW. Happy. Proud. Grateful. THANK YOU ALL AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

Stats: 7 hrs ride time, about 13.5-14 mph (not exact ‘cuz I had my Kestrel’s cyclometer w/650 tires by mistake)

I am still SMILING.


About Carola F. Berger

CFB Scientific Translations and Consulting Professional, ATA-certified (EN>DE) translator of patents, technical and scientific texts with a PhD in physics and a Master's degree (Dipl-Ing) in engineering physics.

One thought on “Cancer survivor Libby’s 2009 Challenge Experiences

  1. Pingback: A thanks to all our 2011 volunteers « Beat the Clock and Help Beat Cancer

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