The Ride — Im Tirtzu (If You Believe)
Posted on November 19th, 2012
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After a few minutes it was time to mount up again and continue on. I couldn’t wait to get to Almog because I knew Stella and friends would be there. We also had planned into the schedule a nice hour break. It was at around the 210 kilometer point so it felt like the right place to stop.
Almost until this point, I was still feeling good. But when I turned West from the Jordan Valley road, very quickly things got hard. There was a massive headwind and the road turned upwards. Even though this stretch was only four kilometers, it hurt much more than the previous forty. I finally wheeled into the rest area feeling horrible.
Unfortunately, I was not much fun. All I could so was drink bottle after bottle of Gatorade and force down a bunch of energy bars. My leg muscles started to shake and my head was spinning. But worst of all, I was doubting myself. From Almog to Jerusalem is one vicious climb. It is twenty-four kilometers and the last five are a beast. All I could do was sit in a chair and think about what lay ahead.
But that was exactly the point.
I cannot say that I know what it feels like to be the one with cancer, fighting through treatment after treatment. But I did want to show Stella how powerful the mind can be. I know there have been times when her body has been hit hard and moving forward depended on her mind. I wanted to reach a point where, no matter how much training I had done, finishing would depend on my attitude, not my lungs or my legs.
And if it wasn’t for Stella, I would have done so. No question.
But my message to her is always — We can do it. We can do anything. By quitting right when things got hard, what sort of message would I be sending?
We are fighting cancer. We are fighting a tough, aggressive disease where the treatments can feel worse than the sickness. It is not the time for taking things easy. We can’t play nice.
Yes, the ride was a crazy adventure. Yes, we raised buckets of money that will have a real impact. Yes, we wanted all our friends to have something uplifting to focus on.
But sitting at Almog, I came to one conclusion.
And Stella and I are going to beat this cancer — no matter how tough it becomes.
In both cases, we must banish all thoughts of failing.
So just as I am writing this now back in the chemo room at Shaare Zedek, it was back on the bike to take on the mountain.
Besides Trep and the Salami crew, I now had a few more friends who were going to ride with me. Mike, my training partner, actually rode all the way back to Neve Daniel with me. And that was key because I don’t think I would have made it without his pacing me up the hill. At Mitzpe Yericho, a friend greeted us with chocolate chip cookies. Before Maale Adumim more friends lined the road with Stella’s Army signs. If I wasn’t so terrified of the climb still to come, I would have enjoyed schmoozing with them.
But we continued. And very soon we got to the point where the climb feels like a wall.
Riding along the tunnels highway, many cars started honking us. The crew were making sure we had protection in the front and the back. Some of the honks were from supporters, while others were from impatient people just trying to get by. We decided to simply interpret all the honks as ones of support — even from the buses.
When we finally saw the turn up the hill into Neve Daniel, it was an unbelievable feeling. I would have stopped riding were it not for the crowds cheering us on. Going up the hill to the finish, the crowds closed in until I felt that I was riding the Tour de France. People were screaming and holding signs and beating drums. Many yelling “Stella’s Army.”
Everyone started chasing me to the finish, but I was able to get there about a minute before the crowd. I unclipped my shoe and put my head on the handlebars, completely drained. Mike and Trep helped me off the bike and I lay on the ground, trying to catch my breath and understand that we had done it.
I looked up and saw Stella and could not speak. I just grabbed her and held on tight. Soon my children joined me and we stood together. What a feeling!
Words cannot express my gratitude to the Salami Crew, Trep, and Uri and Tal, our Homefront Command. Words cannot express my gratitude to the people of Neve Daniel, who made me feel like I had just won a Gold Medal.
Words cannot express my gratitude to all the people along the way who were there with the wrist bands and “Stella’s Army” signs.
But more than any of that, words cannot express my gratitude to Stella. She is my hero and my inspiration, and I would bike to the moon for her.
Come on Stella, we CAN do this.
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