I wake up and look at the clock….8:00 Friday morning; t-minus 24 until I have to be at the start in Leadville.
Not a problem….I’ve trained. I can pack in a day, get the family ready. Food and cold beer have already been purchased. We are good to go.
Oh wait, one small detail….we still happen to be on the 8th floor at Children’s Hospital.
I start to formulate back-up plans. Can I ride in morning and drive down to Children’s in the afternoon? How many days can my husband stay in the hospital without going batty?
I was smokin’ crack, thinking that I could pull this off, thinking that I could make this ride happen.
Our fabulous pediatrician, Dr. E. comes into the room.
“What are your plans?” She asks
“I don’t know….what are our plans?”
“Will she be on oxygen the whole time?”
“We will never take her off of it.”
“You have all of her meds?” She asks
“Here is my cell phone number. Call me if you have any problems. Otherwise, I think we can get you out of here today and you can go up.”
My eyes fill with tears. “Thank you.” I say
She hugs me “Go, ride, be careful, take good care of her and for God’s sake, don’t get hurt.”
It’s 5:30 in the evening. Samantha and I are packed up, out the door of Children’s and hopelessly stuck in rush hour traffic. We decide to leave tomorrow morning….but we are still leaving….pending Samantha’s night.
5:30 am, Saturday morning, we are on the road. Samantha is snoozing in the back. I am wondering how much coffee it will take to get me over Vail Pass. Six weeks in the hospital, God I’m tired.
We have made it.
It’s 8:30 am, Samantha is crying in the back. My husband is putting my bike together and I am trying to organize the meds and formula he will need for the day. I feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, anxiety from the last month of hospitalizations and realize that perhaps the only thing that will calm me down is a 157 mile bike ride.
Good thing were here.
I see my team. I love my team. I kiss them all and feel a lump rising in the back of my throat. My step-dad pins a sign stating “My ride is dedicated to Samantha”, on my back. We are off.
I ride. I ride up Tennessee Pass, to Camp Hale, breathe in the pine and fresh air. I laugh, eat oranges and hold my team mates hand. As we enter the magnificent Pando valley, I am reminded of how very small I am and that maybe that’s okay. I get tired of trying to be so big. Through the valley I see members of Team Courage, riding tandem or solo. I cheer them on….so very grateful that they give me hope…hope that maybe someday Samantha can see Pando Valley from the back of a bicycle.
We stop for lunch. My team mate looks for her husband so she can breast-feed her baby. Have I mentioned how much I love my team?
And those are our three days…..we ride, curse Vail Pass, eat, sleep, wake up and ride again. Samantha is a trooper; no fevers, no pain and she sleeps off the last five weeks in the hospital. My husband and my mom watch over her like hawks, fielding calls from doctors and making sure she’s okay. This has become quite a production.
Monday is our last day. As we pack up, another team-mate pumps my tires and lubes my chain. I have become so dependent on other people this weekend. People to watch my daughter, fix my bike, look over us….have I mentioned how much I love my team?
This is the day when it all settles in for me. As I ride up Freemont Pass, I pass another member of Team Courage in a hand cycle; using her arm strength to carry her 45 miles and 2,000 feet of vertical. I look at my beefy, tired thighs. I couldn’t imagine my arms doing the climb I expect from my legs.
“Whoo Hoo! Go Team Courage!” I say.
“Thank you.” The girl replies in a breathy voice.
I get big tears in my eyes and my nose starts to run. Heather! Pull yourself together! You have to climb up Freemont Pass! There is no crying in biking! I wipe my snotty nose on the back of my glove and try to catch my breath. This is tough….because we are at 11,000 feet.
I pull myself together and manage to remain so around Turquoise Lake. As we turn onto 3rd Street, I realize that I did it….that we all did it….my team…because they love my daughter and they love me.
I try to hold back the tears as I turn into the Lake County High School. I hear the cow bells and a distant cheer of ‘Go Heather’! I see my husband taking pictures.
I ride up the hill sobbing…..one of those ugly cries…you know where you no longer have control of your facial expressions? Full body crying….pretty…..I can’t even thank the lovely girl in the wheel chair handing me my medal….no…..sorry little girl…I’m so overwhelmed, you’re so inspiring, and part of the reason why I’m crying.
I see some unknown person take a picture of me….yeah, that’s right, take a photo of the lady doing the ugly cry….nice
My team surrounds me in big, comforting bear hugs. We did it. Six weeks in the hospital, three courses of I.V. antibiotics, sleepless nights, a sick little girl, and 157 miles around the mountains. I am eternally grateful; to my husband, my parents, my friends, our doctors and our nurses….maybe it does take a metropolis…and maybe that’s okay.