Reflecting on the 2011 RftR/ Austin Challenge weekend

Training has been temporarily put on hold due to me fighting a nasty cold, but this gives me the chance to finally reflect a little bit on the October “Ride for the Roses” weekend in Austin. It has been my 6th time at the Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge, and it’s always my one real chance at summer (those numbers are in °C, but you’ll get the drift 😉

You know you arrived at a Challenge event when AMAZING individuals and groups like the “Challenge to Conquer Cancer” folks arrive at the hotel.Somehow seeing their support vehicle reminded me of the Columbus LIVESTRONG summit (can’t stop smiling every time I remember Courtney standing next to that car, grinning from ear to ear).

Another highlight of my visits to Austin: meeting fellow survivors and friends I haven’t seen in a while and catch up (if only for a little while).This is just a small collection (but I just had to post pics of my friends Heidi, Amanda, Stephen, Leana, Jennifer and Levi… ok, you caught me: I just tried to sneak Levi Leipheimer into that list of friends 😉


The Austin weekend marks the end of a fundraising season… but it’s also a family reunion of sorts, as you get to run/walk and/or ride with friends of past events. You also meet new friends and get to put faces to names of folks (most of them with inspiring stories to share), and who hopefully will stay part of that special bonded family for years to come!

But it’s not only about meeting the people who were fortunate enough to make the trip. The weekend is also about thanking the friends who believed in me enough to trust me with their support/donations and honoring their stories of survivorship as well as remembering their loved ones who ran out of time. It’s a humbling moment, when you write down names for the tribute wall (just as humbling as it was to add names to my tribute shirt all through the season).

The most memorable thing to me (accept from having dinner at Lance’s house ;-), was to experience the enthusiasm of staff, volunteers, fundraisers and friends once again. From the medics (who -and I speak from experience- are the BEST when it comes to taking good care of you; ha, I’m on a first name basis with some of them… but you probably don’t want to have me as a role-model in that regard :-), to the volunteers (who cheer you on and tell you you’re almost there… beginning just right after the start), to the staff (who are doing a great job to make everyone feel welcome and appreciated), to the vendors at the village (sorry for stalking the guy in the wheelchair who did a GREAT job telling people about the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program)… everyone was more than happy to help out with questions or concerns and put a smile on my face throughout the weekend!

Riding with my team was the best way possible to end an AMAZING weekend. A special THANK YOU to Mike for riding part of the course with me. With the patience of a true angel, he didn’t mind (or at least didn’t show it) to wait for me on the downhills (yes, I still have problems with downhills and the speed – even after 3 years since my crash; seems like it’ll take some additional time for my mind to keep up with my will). Unfortunately, I didn’t feel too good after the ride (which my surgeon says was a crazy thing to do, anyway, just a day after reinjuring my shoulder), so I went back to the hotel pretty soon and missed some of the post-ride festivities. BUT, at least I made it to Austin at all, and I couldn’t have done that without the collective efforts and support of you, so THANK YOU (if you were part of the support team of my 2011 fundraising efforts, please take a moment to read my thank you note –– posted a while ago)!

Stay tuned for a new version of our Tribute Shirts (coming soon) as well as more details on a friendly competition. My fundraising efforts have always been a team effort and I’m happy to report that I’d like to pay it forward a bit this season by awarding 2 people with a prize:

  1. the person who makes the largest individual contribution to my 2012 fundraising season (I’ll combine donations made on my 2012 LS fundraising pages (mentioned below) throughout September 30th, 2012)
  2. the person who refers the most individual donors to my fundraising campaign (I’ll combine the number of referrals, not the combined amount, as I believe there’s strength in numbers and no amount is insubstantial when it comes to fighting cancer)!

If you’d like to get an early start, please consider a small donation to LIVESTRONG via

I’ll leave you with a small paragraph I wrote for the RftR year book on why I ride:

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