Of course he rode

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Feeling was just returning to my hands as my room/teammate walked into our dorm room at the Mass Maritime Academy (MMA) with a space blanket tucked under his helmet and wrapped around him. He looked a little stunned and pasty white–and for me to say that means he’s looking pretty pale.

As he unpacked to locate what he needed to shower, he explained that he’d gotten cold in that final 20 miles of cold rain showers and just couldn’t get warmed back up. As he talked, it looked like he was just this side of uncontrollably chattering teeth.

He explained that as he’d rolled into MMA, he had been shivering uncontrollably, and as he was being checked in, a nurse pulled him aside and started warming him up. Kudos to the PMC medical staff for being proactive on such a difficult day. I don’t know how he felt about it, but it made me feel good that they were so on the ball and took such good care of him.

I ride with this guy several times a year and not only is he one of the strongest riders I know, he’s always sharp, from start to finish of a ride, no matter how long it is. While I can get tired and forgetful, he is always just as alert and quick-witted as we’re getting back into our cars as he was when we got out of them a few hours earlier. So when he showed up in our dorm room looking dazed, I was truly concerned.

Fortunately, a shower, change of clothes, massage and dinner all got him back on track. Again, kudos to PMC for providing everything riders need to recover, no matter how difficult their day was. (What’s truly amazing is that this all is at no cost to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, since rider fees and corporate sponsors pay all the administrative costs of the ride, so that 100 percent of your donation goes directly to cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber.)

Knowing how strong he is on the bike, how tenacious he is always and how committed he is to making cancer history, it was no surprise to me that he was up with the rest of us at oh-my-G_d-it’s-early the next morning, wrapped in spandex, ready to ride. But when I told this story to a friend, after I returned home, she exclaimed halfway through, “Oh! So he didn’t ride the next day, then.”

I cocked my head like Scooby Doo trying to figure out the mystery and stammered, “What? Why not? Oh, because he was hypothermic? No. Of course he rode.”

She laughed. But of course he rode.

I forget that this isn’t a normal reaction when I’m surrounded by 5,700 riders and over 3,500 volunteers who will do anything to kick cancer’s ass. I would assume any other rider would do the same, if possible, because all of us understand the stakes in a painful, personal way. It’s the same reaction I have at 5 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in the winter, when I pull on my heavy gloves, slip insulating covers onto my cycling shoes and roll out into the darkness. Of course I ride. It’s the same reaction I have at 9.30 p.m., getting onto my bike trainer in the family room after the kids are in bed, my suit is laid out for tomorrow, and Mama is reading a book in bed. Of course I ride.

We ride because as cold as the losses to cancer we’ve suffered have left us, we’re never so cold that we’re immobilized. Quite the reverse. I’ve seen it on the faces of riders as we’ve talked, rolling along–the colder cancer leaves us, the tighter we grip the handlebars, the harder we stomp down on the pedals and the firmer we grit our teeth. We’re coming for you, cancer, and nothing will stop us.

Of course we ride.