Livestrong Challenge 2016


It was humid if not warm when I lined up in the 100-Mile riders’ coral. Our pre-ride instruction included a doctor who told us that number one we should have fun and number two “be safe.” Interesting. I think safety should always trump fun. But maybe that’s me.

At the start - 7:30 a.m.
At the start – 7:30 a.m.

The first 10 miles to Aid Station #1 is one big mass rollout. Police patrol the many intersections leaving the city and at most traffic lights we could roll through. The crowd started to thin out approaching the aid station but it was mostly one big group ride. At the Aid Station, I pulled in and found a mechanic, who happened to be from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop which is where I rented my bike. Since I had no pump with me and had the bike since Friday, I knew I would need a little air. He pumped up the tire, refilled a water bottle, and was out of there in three and one-half minutes. I wanted to keep my rest stops short.

My favorite gas station
My favorite gas station

I rolled into the second stop for water. This time it was 90 seconds. I went by the third stop which used to be the cookie stop. I guess it still was. Damn. There was a sign warning riders the next stop was the cutoff for the 100-mile route at 10:30 a.m. I rolled into Aid Station #4 at 9:50 a.m.

Crossing the Blanco River
Crossing the Blanco River

Then it was off to the Wall. Or as it’s called, Devil’s Climb. I was on a rental bike. My guess is when I rode this route four years ago my Trek Pilot was fitted with a 30:28 gear ratio. It was difficult but I don’t remember struggling (like everyone else seemed to be). This bike was set up with a 34:28. I’m older. The ratio is worse. It’s not getting easier.

Texas 4000 Aid Station at top of Devils Climb
Texas 4000 Aid Station at the top of Devils Climb

The climb was hard. Damn hard. There were more people walking than riding. My Garmin was set up with a maximum heart rate of 180 and Garmin was going nuts because I was over that (186). I was displaying heart rate and knew that. My legs ached and my body wanted to quit. But I would keep going.

Blackberry the chicken
Blackberry the chicken

I pulled into the aid station near the top of the climb (essentially it was at the top) and talked to the kids from the Texas 4000. This was their aid station and they were quite helpful. I spent 24 minutes here which represents half the time I spent in all stops.

Pulled into this campground to check in for tomorrow's flight
Pulled into this campground to check in for tomorrow’s flight

The roads from here back to the finish were very “heavy.” Chip and tar, heavy on the chips. Not a smooth surface at all. It’s hard to pedal on this surface but must keep moving.

Buda, Texas
Buda, Texas

I stopped at each aid station after this. It was hot (90 degrees) and I needed to keep my fluids topped off. Around Mile 70 we saw the chickens. I think it was an FFA group and the girl proudly displayed “Blackberry.”


The roll in to the finish went well. Ninety-nine miles went OK but that last mile forced me to think why am I here? Why am I here when Jake and Alex are not? Or Joe Petrucelli? Or Nancy Natoli?

Survivors get a yellow rose

I rode by myself all day. I never hooked up with anyone all day long. It was just a 100-mile solo effort. So I entered the finishing chute and made sure I was alone. I stayed right, for survivors and videoed as I got my yellow rose for they hand out for survivors.

I rode for many today. I did not wear a survivor’s bib. I have transformed so that this ride is not about me – it’s about others. I’m thinking this was my last time. It was if it is only for me. But if I ride for others I may be back.


And if I ride it again, I have to remember, NO RENTAL BIKE. I want my bike which is geared a little more favorably to the Devil’s Climb.

Dave Wright, Kelly Wright, Barry Sherry
Dave Wright, Kelly Wright, Barry Sherry Team CCC

It’s Not About the Miles


This was about the LIVESTRONG weekend. Saturday morning I went to Mellow Johnny’s, Lance Armstrong’s bicycle shop, where I had reserved a bike for the Challenge. Reservation was simple and efficient. I recommend working with Peter Finklea, the Rentals Manager and I’d gladly rent there again. 

Mellow Johnny’s. Austin, Tex.

I went over and met Will Swetnam and six other riders from Cyclists Combating Cancer at the Grand Hyatt. We rode five or six miles to Rudy’s, a country store / gas station / BBQ. That was a good lunch. As a first-timer they let me sample their “three main food groups:” Juicy beefy brisket, lean brisket, or turkey. I went with the lean brisket.

Rudy’s – Self-described at worst BBQ in Texas

After lunch at Rudy’s we went over to the LIVESTRONG headquarters for packet pickup. As part of Cyclists Combating Cancer I was happy to find the room dedicated to our CCC group.

CCC Room at Livestrong HQ
Barry at Livestrong

In the evening I attended the LIVESTRONG Awards dinner since I was part of Cyclists Combating Cancer, the top fundraising team. Unlike past dinners, I wouldn’t say there were headline speakers (no Lance Armstrong) but everyone, especially the award recipients, moved the audience.

Two of the Movember founders – Adam Garone, Travis Garone, Luke Slattery, Justin Coghlan – but I couldn’t tell you which two

After dinner I spoke with outgoing President/CEO, Doug Ulman. He was kind enough to pose with my new Team Alex jersey, in honor of Alex Shepherd.

Doug Ulman on Team Alex

It was a late night, a short night, and a very early morning. I was out of the hotel at 6:00 a.m. At check-in Saturday, the volunteer had encouraged me to get to the $500 threshold. I was at $240 at the time and he told me to come back Sunday. I have some wonderful friends who donated and thus I had earned a backpack overnight. I needed to get there early and pick it up before the event.

Austin at daybreak

At the Challenge I was joined by Vanessa Beltran. She refereed for me five years ago and rode in the Texas 4000 from Austin to Anchorage this summer. We signed up to ride 100 miles.

Barry Sherry, Vanessa Beltran

Or maybe I should say I signed up for 100 miles. I love distance riding and there’s something about going the distance in a cancer ride. But Vanessa hadn’t ridden her bike since August 8, the day she finished her ride in Anchorage.

Kathryn and Vanessa

At the first rest, Vanessa saw a rider go through and pointed her out to me as I might be interested in talking with her. Once we were on the road, we first caught Kathryn Flowers, a staffer with the Texas 4000. After riding a while with them, I excused myself and went ahead to catch the rider who Vanessa told me was up the road.

Vanessa, Alaknanda

I caught the rider and as I pulled up beside her I said “Seattle 2013 — that would be Bradley Allen’s group.” Alaknanda Renukuntla, who went by “Lucky,” looked at me in surprise. After chatting for a few minutes she told me that Bradley said “if you don’t already know Barry Sherry, you will one day.”

Barry and Lucky

We rode into Rest Stop #2 which was a Texas 4000 Rest Stop. We met a number of the 2015 team. Vanessa was having a great time meeting them. Vanessa loved the rest stops and she took every opportunity to ask volunteers and riders their stories. And that is what the ride is really about. It’s not about the miles.

2015 Texas4000 riders manning the rest stop

The weather was great. It was about 70° with a cloud cover as we rolled out. It didn’t burn off until more than halfway through the ride and even then, only reached the mid-80s.

Prehistoric playground

I like this course. Two years ago I averaged almost 18 mph on the 100 miles including 22 mph for the last hour. And today I felt good. I certainly had 100-120 miles in my legs. I was enjoying reminding Vanessa of that. And she reminded me she hadn’t been on a bike in two months.

Love this photo stop – Dell’s Angels rest stop was right behind this building

The final time for a reminder was at the “Biker Bar” rest stop, Dell’s Angels. There was a sign there announcing we had to be at the 4th stop by 10:30 a.m. to ride the 100-mile course. It was six miles away, the time was 10:06 a.m . By averaging 15 mph for 24 minutes, we could make it. It wouldn’t be that hard to make the cut.

What cramping looks like

“Lucky” would spend more time at this stop and we would leave her here.

Taking my turn as a server

Vanessa and I rolled ahead to the 4th stop and I counted down the seconds to the 10:30 cutoff. We missed it by a minute. At the stop, we met students from the Hispanic Student Association at the University of Texas. We talked to them about why we are riding. We talked about Jake Grecco and Alex Shepherd. The students seemed surprised that kids would have cancer.

Bicycles on the road. Good thing they have signs.

Although we had missed the cutoff I was already resigned that 65 miles would be enough. Actually, a volunteer offered to let me continue but I wasn’t to go on without Vanessa. I was enjoying the company and she needed a ride partner. It’s not about the miles.

Logan Debord, Barry Sherry, Vanessa Beltran. Credit: Logan Debord

Talking about the battles was more important than cranking out the miles. At the rest stop, we talked to the Grassroots winner who talked about his wife, Brianne. We also decided that it’s not about the miles and decided to ride 65 instead of 100.

Buda, Texas

Until Thursday’s ride which I unexpectedly rode 55 miles, I thought I would need 100 miles to reach 5,000 for the year. But I came in needing just 46 miles and would get it no matter which route we would ride. So my Livestrong ride would make 5,000 for the year whether I rode 65 or 100 miles.

5,000 Miles. Or Close Enough.

Before cancer I didn’t track mileage other than look at the odometer on my bike. Unless the battery died, the odometer method worked great and I never had to record anything. But using a Garmin it became necessary to use a log.* When I returned from treatment in 2010 I started tracking mileage. And while mileage was never a goal, 5000 miles just seemed to be the right number for me. In 2010 I reached it on the LIVESTRONG Challenge course – Philly. It wasn’t during the August event but I drove there in late November to reach 5,000. And today it would be during an actual LIVESTRONG event.

Buda, Texas

I did not wear a Survivor’s bib. Five years ago in Philly I wore the bib. I needed to be a survivor. I needed to let the world know I was going to be a survivor. But today was about Alex Shepherd. And Jake Grecco. And a ton of other friends.

Team Alex

At the finish line the survivors are recognized. It was the only time on this day I allowed myself to be a survivor.

At the finish line

Five years ago I was choked with emotion. Today I was all smiles.

Finishing chute – Vanessa (ahead left, is winning)

Waiting for me at the finish was a volunteer, Haley Gold. She was at the dinner with us, she’s an intern at LIVESTRONG, and also rode with the Texas 4000 this summer in Vanessa’s group. We saw her this morning as we rolled out at 7:30 and she waited for us, for me, to finish. It was very meaningful that she was the one the presented me with a rose.


It was a day I felt good. If I didn’t have the rental bike which needed to be returned by 5:00 p.m., I may have ridden 20 miles back to Buda, turned around, and finished with 100.


But instead we went to the LIVESTRONG lunch in the tent. And met other riders.

We also honored friends who are battling or have won their battles and escaped this hideous disease.
Erin Bishop once said “you always ride for Jake.” I do and I always will.

It was a day to remember my friends who passed. I lost a good friend, Joe Petrucelli, this past year. And to honor those who are battling. Good thoughts for Marilyn Chiodo and George Born. Katie Bugge. Brad Lawmaster. Ned Lowmaster. Patricia Lawmaster. Elaine B. And so many more…

For Alex. Source: Source: Kreutz Photography

And today was especially for Alex. Twelve years old and battling. I can’t imagine. I am hoping that next year he can come here, or to Davis**, and get his own yellow flower.

And I’ll be riding with him.

Barry and Vanessa

*The evolution of tracking. I had a Trek bike computer that tracked distance and speed and had a built-in odometer. It was an upgrade to go to a GPS device (Garmin) but it did not have an odometer, thus it was necessary to use a log or a spreadsheet. Garmin also offered their website, Garmin Connect, where one could upload their rides which eliminated the need for a log. Later, RideWithGPS and Strava would offer their services as well. In those early days, that also meant using a USB cord and connecting the device to your computer for upload. Very clunky so I simply used a spreadsheet most of the time. Later, the devices became wireless and a ride is uploaded automatically once a ride is completed.

**There used to be a ride in Davis, Calif.

Reflections on the Year – 2012


This does and does not lend itself to a Top Ten list. I like to do a Top “Ten” because 10 is such a nice number. But for a year that began hoping I’d go to Italy or Ride the Rockies, I had to settle for something less. At least that’s what I thought. A year in which I rode more than any year before (6,500 miles) there are too many memories to narrow them to just 10.

It was a year in which I did not have a week without a ride. As for what defines a “ride,” I do not count the miles running “errands” including 0.5 mile to the Mall in D.C. at lunchtime to play Ultimate Frisbee. I define a “ride” as just that — it has to be a minimum of 10 miles to make my count. But I did count one ride of less than 10 miles – the 7.6 miles up Mount Washington. Was that wrong?

In all I had 10 days of more than 100 miles in the saddle.

My Top Ten (or 11)

1. Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb – When I first started dreaming about climbing the big mountains in Europe, I discovered Mount Washington. I wanted to do it once and now have ridden it five straight years. This year was crazy because I had all but decided not to go then changed my mind, drove up Friday morning, arrived late Friday, did the race on Saturday, then drove home Saturday night, arriving just after midnight. I remember this one most for the uber nice Gabinksi family who gave me a ride down the mountain: Vic, Alison, Alexa, and Lucas.

The Last 50 Yards
The 50 yards before the last 50 yards

2. Bike Virginia – I looked forward to Bike Virginia for a chance to ride with my cousin, Kay Walborn. We didn’t ride much, mainly because she was on course each day before I could ride to the course since I elected to stay at Bethany’s and Ashley’s places. But we rode some. I also rode with a former work colleague, John Dockins. But mostly I remember being struck by a car. That hurt. But I survived.

Barry with cousin Kay
(Don’t know the dork in the background)
John Dockins, Barry Sherry

3. Pedal Pal – Let me be clear – I wish I didn’t know what it was to have cancer. But I am a survivor and that has opened some new opportunities for me including being a Pedal Pal for Patrick Sheridan. I rode out on Day 1 with Team San Francisco from Baltimore to Alexandria and rode in with them on Day 70 from Mill Valley, Ca. to San Francisco. But it was mostly about Team Portland and Chey Hillsgrove supporting Jake the Hero Grecco.

Chris, Lauren, Patrick, Jeff
Patrick Sheridan, Barry Sherry

4. Mt. Tam – My friend, Eric Scharf, always said “you have to ride Mt. Tam.” And so I finally did. I was on a rental bike and missed my Trek Pilot. I really missed my bike. This bike didn’t have the climbing gears my bike did and I was suffering. But the best “compliment” may have been made by Kevin Barnett, when he asked what we did with Peter (Bai) who rode with Rodrigo Garcia Brito and me that day. Kevin said Peter came in immediately after the ride and crashed.

Peter Bai
View from Mt. Tam

5. Mt. Shasta Summit Century – While on the west coast I found the Mt. Shasta Summit Summit Century. Like Mt. Tam, I wasn’t on my own bike but a steel touring bike lent to me by Deron Cutright, a friend from our Trek Travel trip to France two years ago. Beautiful scenery and some pretty long climbs.

View of Mount Shasta
Early morning at the ride start

6. 24 Hours of Booty – My first Booty and it won’t be my last one. While I joined Team BootyStrong, in Columbia, Md., I rode in memory of Jake and established a team for 2013 – Jake’s Snazzy Pistols.

7. RAGBRAI – Every cyclist must ride across Iowa once and this was the year it worked out for me. I can’t say it is my kind of event because it is much too crowded but I enjoyed the point to point riding each day. And I killed the mileage knocking out 700 miles in a week of riding from South Dakota to Illinois.

Tractor at a road side Farm stand



8. Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo – This is a fund raiser for some local charities including the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. I invited Chey Hillsgrove to join me and we had a great ride until he crashed out.

Barry, Chey

9. Riding with Dad – I never went for a ride with my dad until he turned 82. Memorial Day weekend we rode on the Great Allegheny Passage between Frostburg, Md. and Meyersdale, Pa.

My dad, me, angry sister

10. Civil War Century – One of my favorite rides but wasn’t a century. Cut dangerously short at Mile 75 by severe weather I took a shortcut back to the start. I returned five weeks later and rode to Gettysburg by myself to finish the ride.

The Road Back to Start in Thurmont
Rest Stop at South Mountain

11. Livestrong Gala and Challenge — Given the 1,000 page report by the USADA outlining systematic doping at U.S. Postal and Lance Armstrong, I am still sorting out my thoughts. But thousands of cancer fighters not named Lance support and are served by Livestrong. It was fun being among them, and Lance, for a weekend in Austin.

Always ride for Jake

With 6,500 miles on my butt for 2012, I now have surpassed 10,000 miles for two years and 15,000 for three years. Cancer-free. I can’t predict where 2013 will take me although I would like to do Bike Across Kansas if the route is right and Ride the Rockies. A trip to Europe would be nice. And maybe a repeat of Bike Virginia. As for the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, I just received my private registration code since I have ridden it five consecutive years but don’t know if I will do that one again (I said I wouldn’t and I mean maybe).

The best rides are just following the road ahead and I’ll go where the road leads as long as my health permits.


Livestrong Weekend


PROLOGUE – How I got here began at Christmas. My wife wanted to find me a book about a cyclist who battled health problems so naturally found The Happiness of Pursuit by Davis Phinney. The book follows Davis’ life and career and is part about his cycling career and part about his battle with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Davis also wrote about his father, Damon Phinney, who died from prostate cancer. Damon founded a group called Cyclists Combating Cancer (CCC) and I was intrigued.

It was hard to find an Internet presence for Cyclists Combating Cancer but I did. I got on an email thread for CCC and they were looking to purchase a table for ten at the 15th Anniversary of Livestrong. They had nine and needed a tenth. I replied that I would attend “in a pinch” but preferred they still look for a 10th. I’m not sure if they tried to find a 10th or just informed me that I was in. So I flew to Austin for the LIvestrong Anniversary Gala.

It’s not about the bike — is both a Lance Armstrong book title and a frequent comment of cyclists. But it’s not about the cyclist either. Arriving Friday for the Livestrong Gala was a bit weird. With a damning USADA report just released outlining years of doping and Lance electing not to defend himself, this would be his first public appearance since the report. But nowhere would people be more supportive than at the 15th Anniversary Gala. If Lance had friends then he was among friends.

Yellow Carpet Entrance at the Gala

I was conflicted as I knew I would be. Lance, the founder of Livestrong deserved the benefit of the doubt. But fresh in my mind was the report detailing 15 years of cheating. Of lying. And yet I knew.

Two years ago I celebrated being cancer-free by flying to France to ride in France and to see the last week of the Tour de France. I flew my daughter, Ashley, over to meet me. She was in Business or First Class on American Airlines from Dalles to Paris. She was with a Vice-President for Amgen and the VP turned the conversation to doping. And then she asked rhetorically “Who do you think supplied Lance with his EPO?” That was strange for this person to offer such a statement unsolicited and I never told anyone else this information. But the truth would eventually surface.

With all of Lance’s teammates lining up to take admit their part, the time was right for him to take responsibility. But he seemingly never addressed any of the allegations other than to rely on the tired statement that he passed 500 drug tests.

Minimum Bid for Lance’s Seven Podium Jerseys: $10,000

From backstage Lance appeared and the crowd stood. I wanted to remain seated but also wanted to see so I stood too. It was weird for me. During his prepared remarks, he only talked about Livestrong. But there was a technical glitch so he and Matthew McConaughey appeared together and Matthew referred to the past few weeks. Lance said he has had better days – but he’s also had worse. That seemed sincere until …

Twelve minutes before the Gala

…This morning I was in line with the 100-mile group to roll out of the Palmer Event Center for the Livestrong Challenge. I couldn’t quite see the stage but I could hear Lance. And he told the crowd that he has had better days – but he’s also had worse. It left me wondering if it was just a line that his PR people came up with.

In Memory of Jake the Hero Grecco,

But it’s not about the bike. And it’s not about the cyclist either. Livestrong is about the 28 million people with cancer (or is that fake too?).

Memory and Honor Bibs at the Livestrong Village

Yesterday I made a “bib” in Memory of Jake the Hero and promptly hung it at Livestrong. I made another. I hung it there too. I made one in my hotel room and the wind tore it off. I made a fourth.

None of my bibs survived the strong winds

We rolled out of Austin on a warm morning. The temperature was already in the mid-70s. I never felt comfortable in a pace line and did very little riding on others’ wheels. If I was going to I was scared off around Mile 22 when some guys started to pass me and when one got right beside me to went down hard and took out three riders with him. He just missed taking me down.

I think every farm in Texas is a ranch

The wind was quite strong but never so much that I complained. I love riding with the wind in my face — maybe not quite this much, but it was fun.

Big flags. Big wind.

The elevation was listed as only 2,200′ for 100 miles which seems like almost any flat ride would have that. I expected more and believe that was off by at least half.

At Mile 48 we were riding on the flat plains when I could see cyclists ahead climbing a “wall.” My initial thought was “What in the hell is this?” followed by “Alright!, finally a real hill.”

I’m not that good. But I like to climb. And this one was formidable. It wasn’t overly lengthy, maybe 3/4 mile, but it went from the valley floor to what must be a butte summit and rose quickly. I had not used my granny gear and never thought I would but seeing this hill up ahead knew that I would.

Only about 200-300 yards in they had painted “16% grade” on the road and I’m sure it was. I would estimate that fully 2/3 of the riders I saw were walking at some point. I passed many — slowly, but I passed. I would not let a hill beat me.

At the top was a rest stop manned by the Texas 4000 — the University of Texas group that bikes 4,000 miles from Austin to Anchorage. I had met some of the kids yesterday at check-in and a couple even called out my name. That was pretty cool actually.

Texas 4000 Rest Stop

The Livestrong Challenge is well-supported with a rest stop about every 10 miles. And I stopped at every one to fill my water bottles. At each stop, I’m sure stronger riders kept on going so I may have lost my place in line with faster riders. Actually, when I lined up at the start I was at the end of the 100-mile group anyhow so basically anyone faster than me I probably never caught. I was here for a relaxing and reflective ride.

Some of the Texas 4000 These students were doing community service for their 2013 team

Around Mile 70 we pulled into Blanco Vista, a new suburban community. While 3,999 riders stayed on the street, I took to the path/sidewalk which was about 20 feet wide. I curved back and forth making for a fun ride. Riders looked at me leaning into the curves of the empty path. I told them this was lots more fun. I was feeling great!

Bike on stand at rest stop. The back wheel never felt right.

At Mile 78, I decided I could lift the pace a little bit. Once I hit the road I started pulling back people for the next 20 miles. Not once did I get passed by anyone. As I approached an intersection a policeman slowed me down to let out opposing traffic but told me not to stop and lose my momentum. Once traffic cleared he waived me on. I popped out of the saddle for an extra burst and he said “Wow! You look like you just started riding.” I told him I felt good.

Texas 4000 Information Stand

And I thought about that. Maybe all the fast riders started before me and were gone but this is the place where lots of distance riding kicks in. For those riders who were pushing themselves beyond a typical 20 or 30-mile distance, the body simply isn’t used to it. And I actually felt better at Mile 80 than at Mile 10. For him to recognize that meant a lot.

I stopped to help this deaf rider at Mile 69

For the next 10 miles, I just pulled people back until I came to an intersection with about 30 cyclists waiting. Once we got the green I moved past them all except one rider, Mark from Irvine, California. He came with me and sat on my wheel. He told me he was glad I came along. He said he just wanted to follow me (in my draft) as long as he possibly could. I obliged. I don’t really know if it costs me anything in terms of energy doing all the pulling. Usually, we would swap off but I felt that strong I did all the pulling. I even backed off at a couple of rises in the road so I did not drop him.

Riders on Course

With one mile to go in city traffic, we were in with other riders we caught. And after feeling good all day with no signs of cramping — it hit. A severe cramp in my right hamstring. I could not pedal. We were going downhill and I unclipped but any position hurt. I thought I might have to be sagged back with a mile to go. But I would crawl to the finish line first.


We came to the last light before entering the riverside park at the Palmer Center where the finish was. I unclipped, and put both feet down. When the light turned green the cramp was gone and that was that. Mark and I rolled into the finish, I stayed to the right for survivors.

Still selling Livestrong gear

At the Philly Challenge, the survivors’ finish was a separate chute to the right. And that was special. In Austin, it was just staying to the right. Still, the announcer called out my name and I was handed a yellow rose.

Stay to the right

My friend, Vanessa, came down to meet me at the finish. And that was special. It was the first Challenge where I had someone at the finish.

I don’t know the future of Livestrong. But I hope it remains a vibrant cancer-supporting organization. At the heart of the fundraising are the challenges. They are wonderful events – to ride – to reflect – to remember.

At the finish in Austin

As for Lance, I had a great day on the bike. When people passed me I didn’t feel challenged that I had to beat them. And over the last 20 miles, I averaged more than 20 miles an hour – solo — which is the best I think I ever have done at distance by myself (wind-aided). But it never was about beating every person I passed. It was simply me having fun. I hope that someday Lance can ride a bike for fun. Maybe Lance can find peace on a bike.

5,000 Miles


Total miles ridden in one year was never a goal; specifically, I never set out to ride 5,000 miles in one year (8,047 kilometers). Rather, it was a byproduct that in this year of my recovery riding was the one activity where I felt normal.

Although I made an effort to track every mile in 2009, I gave it up once I was diagnosed with cancer. In prior years I simply noted the odometer on my bike at the end of each year. My previous mileage counts were in the 2,500 mile range and in three years on this bike I had 6,600 miles at the end of last year.

This year was different. I recorded every mile in a spreadsheet. On August 22 I completed the LIVESTRONG-Challenge Philly and went over 3,000 miles for the year. On that day I noted that I could hit 5,000 miles by the end of year if I could keep riding deep into the fall. It becomes difficult because the light of summer evenings turns to the darkness of the fall. Weekends could be cold and rainy and the enthusiasm for being on the bike wanes.

I looked at where I had been and what I needed and knew I would reach 5,000 miles. It was a question of when. That was answered yesterday. I had left myself just 27 miles short and could break 5,000 on the Reston Bike Lane shop ride or go to Pennsylvania. I decided on Pennsylvania. I rode 21 miles in the late afternoon and left myself needing just 6 1/2 miles today.

My niece, Emily Cramer, was in the Pennsylvania Outstanding Young Woman competition in Reading. She was the winner of the Somerset competition and was representing Somerset in the state-wide competition. Emily and I also rode together on July 4 when we encountered a bear.

Rev. Harry C. Sherry, Emily Cramer, Naomi Sherry

Not far from Reading the LIVESTRONG-Challenge Philly course rolls by. The longest and steepest hill is on Oysterburg Road up to the village of Landis Store. This is also where the “devil” will taunt riders trying to make it up the hill.

Ha! It was too cold today for a sighting of the Devil

On a cold and very windy day, we drove through Reading out to Oley and found the intersection of Hoch and Bertolet Mill Roads. The temperature was just 40 degrees and the winds were howling. I misread the map and pushed off in the opposite direction. Oh well, bonus miles in the valley before beginning the climb. Once righted, I found Oysterburg Road and began reflecting on every mile that I rode this year. That’s 5,000 reflections.

Two years straight I rode this route and flew by the prettiest stone and wood barn, always going by too fast to stop and take pictures. Today I could.

Not far beyond the barn is another barn near the base of the two-mile climb. Although not a rest break in the LIVESTRONG Challenge, there is always bottled water there for the riders to refill before the climb. It is also where riders are taunted with signs that the hill is steep. And the hill is long.

Photo in summer (Aug. ’09) stating the obvious

I hit the climb and was all smiles. Although I had to work, there was an 18-19% wall, but it was all good. I reached the summit in two miles and came to the Landis Store Hotel at the Village of Landis Store, Pa.

During the Challenge this is a major rest stop. It is beaming with riders glad to have made it 57 miles. Live music, hot food, plus water and Gatorade are a feature at this stop. Today, nothing. But that’s OK. I came back to the place where I twice came to fight the global fight on cancer. 

Once I arrived at Landis Store, which is now a restaurant but has been a store and hotel over the years, I was ready to pack up and leave and get back to Reading to see Emily. But so many times I enjoy or suffer the climbs and don’t reap the reward on the other side — the “wee” factor that comes with the descent. So I turned around and flew down the mountain I had just climbed.

I came back to tell cancer you have picked on the wrong person.

5,000 miles indeed!

EPILOGUE: My niece, Emily Cramer, was named the 1st runner-up in the statewide competition as Outstanding Young Woman. Congratulations Emily!

Map and Stats at Ride with

LIVESTRONG Challenge 2010


With very tired legs and a body to match, I arrived at the hotel shortly after midnight and was asleep by 1:00 a.m. I got up at 5:00 a.m. and headed out of the hotel to Montgomery County Community College for check-in at 6:00 a.m. And no breakfast.

I went to get my ride packet and the volunteer handed me a top contributor’s jersey. That’s all. Thankfully another volunteer corrected her and told her that I get level C (jersey) and the gifts with levels A and B too. But I didn’t get the iPod and will dispute that with them afterward.

Last year I checked in and they rang cowbells and made an announcement that I raised $2900. It was actually more. It was a very welcome introduction.

This year I raised $5,000 and nothing. Sort of disappointing. Maybe more disappointing was that I had qualified for the recognition dinner last night but had to miss it as I was en route from Mt. Washington, New Hampshire to Philadelphia.

I returned to my car and started the assembly of my jersey. I wore the new LIVESTRONG jersey and added my race bib, my honor bib, my memory bib, and my survivor bib. Before I rode I posted a picture of my bibs on Facebook with this heading “Really wish we didn’t need these events.” Then I made my way to the start line.

Livestrong-Philly (2010) Jersey and Bibs
Lots of people honored one person. I honored a bunch!
More names were written on the back too.

At the start line, I could hear Lance Armstrong address the crowd but could only see the back of the stage and his legs. He addressed the 3,300 cyclists and said that he looked forward to a day when we could gather and just ride. He said, “I really wish we didn’t need these events.

After the comments from Lance, the ride went off 10 minutes late at 7:40 a.m. It was announced that he would ride 100 miles but I heard he cut it short at 45. It was dry at the start but around Mile 20 it would start to rain and it rained steadily and hard at times.

Some of the 3300 Cancer-Fighting friends at Livestrong-Philly

The start was slow, it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before I began moving even though the front of the 100-mile riders had already departed. The first 7-8 miles consisted of working my way farther and farther toward the front. I blew by the first two rest areas and reached the intersection of where the 70-mile group turned but the 100-mile group continued for 30 miles.

I was told that shortly after I went through the intersection LIVESTRONG closed the 100-mile route due to the weather that was moving in. There weren’t too many of us who got to ride 100 on the day. Call me lucky.

Raining at Landis Store. Love how the riders tried to crowd under the tent for protection even though they were soaked.

I was a little sore from yesterday’s climb up Mount Washington but not so much sore as simply without power. When I came to Landis Hill, the longest and steepest hill on the route I wanted to walk like I saw others doing, but knew I couldn’t. I had all the excuses — Mount Washington, four hours of sleep, a 12-hour drive, no breakfast — but knew I had to keep going. And I did.

Rest stop #9 (or #10?). This was at mile 90 and was marked SURVIVOR REST STOP. I stopped hoping for some survivor swag but no one there knew why it was called that. So I ate cake.

A number of people complained about the rain. My standard response was that fighting cancer isn’t bright and sunny. Metaphorically speaking, I expect a rainy day.

I was most disappointed that no one commented about my bib – FU Cancer. In a crowd of people who hated cancer, not one person. One did say “I like your bibs.” And that was all.

Yellow rose at the finish line – Livestrong-Philly 2010

When I saw the sign for 30 miles to go I started rehearsing what I would do when I crossed the finish line. Last year was tough. For many survivors who cross the finish line, it is the end of a difficult journey. For me, it was the realization that my journey had just begun. And it was tough.

A Century must be 100 miles, no?

Crossing the line as a survivor is emotional. I can’t explain it but you can ride 99 miles and be fine and when you come to the finishing chute in the last mile it becomes very emotional. I wish for none of my friends to ever know what I’m talking about. Today would be different. I was looking forward to crossing this finish line with positive emotions.

After riding all day with no power left in my legs (thanks, Mount Washington) at Mile 90 my legs came back. I started passing people. Tons of people. I both wanted this moment to last but yet wanted to get to the finish.

With one mile to go the sun came out. It would be the only time I would see the sun all day. I entered the right side of the chute for survivors. My final 200 meters went way too fast. Or I went way too fast. I hope they had photographers to capture the moment because I grabbed a rose and held it in the air and almost ran over some people who had stopped. Oops.

On the day the Challenge was only 97 miles. So I rode the extra distance, with the rose between my teeth, to make it 100. It had to be 100.

Livestrong-Challenge Philly 2010
The Rose and the Jersey are from the Livestrong Event
The blanket and the medal are from MWARBH

After I changed out of my soaking wet clothes, I went to the luncheon in the tent.  I wore my Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb shirt. Strangers came up to me to ask about the race. Was I doing it? (Yes, already did – yesterday.) What gearing did I use? (24:28)  Did you know my friend rode it yesterday? (Uh, no, I don’t think so.)

Wear a bid that says “FU CANCER” and none of the 3,300 cancer fighters wanted to acknowledge it. But put on a Mount Washington shirt and strangers come up and talk. Even with people who hate cancer, they don’t want to talk about it.

Livestrong Challenge Philly 2010 – It’s raining pretty hard

Right after I got back to the car a deluge occurred. Just another day fighting cancer.

Livestrong Challenge Philly 2010 – It’s raining pretty hard

LIVESTRONG Challenge – Philly 09


Livestrong-Philly 09

The climb up Mount Washington is an accomplishment of personal achievement of one story to be told. Riding in the LIVESTRONG Challenge-Philly was a much different accomplishment. Here there are 6,500 stories to be told.

There’s a real sense one can beat anything by reaching the summit on Mount Washington. Likewise, there’s a real sense that one can beat anything by seeing 6,500 people come together and raise $3.2 million for cancer research and education and support.

At check-in, the volunteer, in a long table of volunteers, opened her notebook and saw my fundraising total — then more than $2,800 although it grew to more than $3,000 by the time I had left the table. She yelled out my name and announced how much money I raised for Livestrong. Everyone in the tent cheered.

Bikes at Landis Store – Livestrong Philly 09

Because the checks that I carried had not yet been credited to my account, my total went to $3,050. And $3,000 was the threshold for an invitation to the LIVESTRONG recognition dinner to be held at 6:30 p.m. I thought “a dinner’s a dinner” and wasn’t going to attend. Even less so when I was told the dress was business casual. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt — a LIVESTRONG T-shirt to be sure, but still, shorts and a T-shirt. And that was all I had brought with me.

The volunteers told me that I must attend and so I did. Ninety minutes later I found myself being served H’ors devours by black-tie waiters to me in my shorts and T-shirt. There weren’t many people by themselves — most had family members with them. I was a little lost and found myself standing next to a bald man — about 30. I saw his name tag. It was Ethan Zohn — winner of Survivor-Africa.

Lance Armstrong could not attend as he was racing the Tour of Ireland. He did send a video message and asked Ethan to be the keynote speaker.

Everyone has a story. Lance’s personal friend, John “College” Korioth, kicked off the evening with many stories about Lance. I won’t do any of them justice but will try this one.

After Lance’s surgery, they decided they would fight cancer. It began with fundraising and they set off to raise $25,000.

“Hello. I’m raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

“You know, he’s the cyclist that had the surgeries for cancer. He rode in the Olympics.

“No, that would be Scott Hamilton.

“Well, he lost a testicle to cancer.

“No, that would be the Phillies’ first-baseman, John Kruk.”

And here, College smiled and said, ‘Lance hates this next part.’

“No, he’s a cyclist. Like Greg LeMond. Only he’s never won the Tour de France.” And that was the beginning.

Elden Nelson, blogs on I would say there were 30 people or so that raised at least $3,000 for LIVESTRONG-Philly even though there were a couple hundred people in attendance. Many people were part of his team, FatCyclist. He has a national following which helped Team Fatty raise more than $250,000 for the Philly event and for the three Livestrong events so far this year — more than $625,000.

College spoke, then Eldon, then Ethan. The night was running late and I had to get back to the hotel, decorate my shirt, and get up at 5:00 a.m. Regrettably, I had to leave before the event was over.

A better account of the evening’s activities is at

A sign to make, break, or challenge riders up to Landis Store – Livestrong Philly 09

Morning came much too soon. A quick breakfast and I was off to the event. There was a three-mile backup on Germantown Road to Montgomery County Community College and I was creeping. I was in it at 6:45 and by 7:20 was still 1.5 miles from the event start. So I drove into a residential section, parked, and biked in, getting there just before the 7:30 start. And learned the start had been pushed back to 8:00 a.m.

At the start were queues for the various distances. Ten, 20, 45, 70, and 100-mile rides were offered. Many riders wore a LIVESTRONG jersey, at times it seemed that almost half wore the black and yellow. I chose to go with my Amgen Breakaway From Cancer jersey. I received a number of compliments on it and saw no one the entire day with a similar jersey. I love being unique.

Posing with the Devil – Livestrong Philly 09

As group winners, Fat Cyclist riders were allowed to go first. Imagine starting a century ride with a group of fat riders in front. Actually, while they had some portly riders, many are drawn to this group because of their mission and not because they are overweight.

I don’t know the exact numbers but think nearly 1,000 riders started out with the 100-mile ride and we were the first group to roll out. Still, it took 10-15 minutes from my middle-of-the-pack position to make my way to the start line.

The first 20 miles were spent just sorting things out. Letting the slower riders drop back and getting the faster riders to the front. In my haste to park and get to the start line, I left all my food in my van. Still, I rolled past the first two rest stops to try to get closer to the front group of riders.

Rest Stop 4 – Livestrong Philly 09

As the route rolled through the countryside, signs greeted us alongside the road and people came out of their houses to cheer. And high-five. I probably slapped the hands of 20 people standing along the route including the Devil himself. Maybe he was drawn to my bike number still on the bike from Mount Washington which was 667. Well, in handing out numbers for Mount Washington they were in sequence to 665 then skipped 666 to give me 667. I know I had 666 no matter what was on my bike. And I guess he did too.

I stopped at rest areas 3-6 and even an impromptu water break before rest stop 6. The rest areas were 10-12 miles apart and I drank two bottles of water and/or bad Gatorade between every rest stop. The temperature was in the mid to high 80s. (30º C)

Rest stop 6 – Landis Store – Livestrong Philly 09

The 100 and 70-mile routes used the same course with the 70-mile route taking a shortcut to the return. A 30-mile shortcut. Although they started behind us, eventually they got in front of us and we began catching them in the last 30 miles.

A number of riders were walking. The course was challenging for many. For some, they had never done a 70-mile ride before. And they had the right cause to do it. And the same with the 100-mile ride. Who cares if they had to walk long stretches of hills? They were challenging themselves like never before for a great cause.

Eventually one begins to see the same riders and I found myself in contact with a few. A couple of riders asked about my jersey and really admired it.

As I rode I talked with some riders including such minutia as the meaning of the race bib numbers. I was shocked when I got my race bib — number 60. I was expecting a number like everyone else seemed to have — 3898. I certainly wasn’t the 60th person to register. Probably more like the 3,898th.

Livestrong Philly 09

But on the form, one must check the reason why they are riding and the first box is “I have or have had cancer.” We surmised the low bib numbers were for the survivors. And I think we were right.

As I rolled to the finish I found myself next to a young lady named Amy from Providence, Rhode Island. This was her second century and both were here. And she warned me — at the finish, survivors enter the barriers to the right while supporters enter to the left. We came riding in together and she went to the left side and I went right. As I came to the finish people cheered and a volunteer held out a yellow rose which I took. Actually, I sort of went flying by and grabbed the outstretched rose so they couldn’t see the tears in my eyes under my glasses.

It’s not a normal ride. There are 6,000 stories, every one different. But at the finish, the rose was a reminder not that I’m a survivor but that I have a longer road ahead.

Livestrong Philly 09

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