At the Finish Line!

At the Finish Line!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It’s not about the bike it’s about the seat

I guess the first question is why it’s not about the bike but about the seat?

Easy answer. Have you been on a bicycle seat lately? I mean, were they always so small and have they always had spikes? Is it natural for a 52 year old woman to get on a bike with a seat that narrow? Don’t even get me started about the outfits. I was thinking about all of this on my first ride to work. I was also thinking: did I hit my head? I mean, I had done this before, but that was, let me think, eleven years ago. YIKES!

I knew it was going to be hard when I took that first ride on my boys’ bike, the same one I rode in 99. First, I disturbed the sleeping bats by taking it off its hooks in the barn. I took it down the driveway for its first bath in eleven years. Free of guano and mice poop and dust bunnies, I filled the tires. Gleaming in the sun I placed my left foot on the left pedal—one always mounts a horse from the left—then pushing off on the right, I swung that leg over the seat in a balletic kick, and there in lies my first foible: I am now lacking lift in what once was an easy arabesque kick. Let’s just say I didn’t make my mount but instead chose to ride the bicycle around in little circles like I was riding a big scooter. It is a very fast bike, after all, with razor thin tires. When I recalled that there were breaks on the handle bars I garnered enough sense to stop. I quickly looked around to see if anyone saw me. They did. They had all pulled up lawn chairs for my launch, and were sitting their laughing. Wife, small daughter, neighbors, and the dog who turned her head out of pure embarrassment for me. Tick tick tick, went the bike as I pushed it back to the high point of the driveway for a remount. Equestrian rule number 1: always get back up on a horse that throws you. My bike and I just needed to re-bond. Okay, I said to myself, nervous about my fan base, who were watching. Twenty years ago when I lived year round in Provincetown I was one with my bicycle—bikes were part of our everyday lives. One never forgets to ride, right? I tried my mount again, pushed off from the high point of the driveway, swung that leg over and went sailing down the driveway into the street. I was off on my first ride. I started slow that day—I didn’t want to overdo it. I took a lap around the block and finished up training for the day.

I Am Not the Best Sister

When you grow up in a large family the responsibilities that come with each age are very specific. Rule number one: you always watch out for the ones younger than you. If my 2 younger brothers got into something on my watch, it was pretty much my fault. There once was a time that we rolled my younger brother Rob down a hill while packed inside a 50 gallon drum. To this day I can still hear my mother’s voice when she discovered he was a little bit unconscious after his ride: “You should have been watching more closely!” (I was the one who pushed it) Then there was the time we tickled him until he stopped breathing. I thought for sure we were bound to be goners if she found out we ended his life by tickling, but my mother just gave me a good tongue lashing: “You lead by example! If you do it your brothers are going to want to do it.”

If he was to follow my example my younger brother would have loved women, but it didn’t work out that way. The children in my family turned out 2 for 7. That is 2 GLBT children and 5 "Straight" children. Where were our role models?

When Robert came out I wasn’t paying attention. He didn’t come out to me or to his best friend or to the rest of his family. He turned to men, looking for answers he had no one else to ask. It was the 1970s, and, in those days any gay social life came from the bar scene—hence the reason I know that disco is the music of my people. Imagine if bars and clubs were your only social circle. Is it any wonder, then, that gay people of my generation have a history of substance abuse and risky behavior?

My brother was found to be HIV positive in 1999, the year of my first PMC.
I still hear my mother’s voice telling me to look out for him. In my memory I hear her at the end of her life, calling from the nursing home demanding that I fix the impossible. I can fix your door or change your locks or hang shutters but I still cannot divert a hurricane.

In my mother’s last days we discovered among other things, that she had lymphoma. Cancer had metastasized to all her major organs. She was 75, an age that somehow no longer seems old to me. She wasn’t a sick a day in her life, nor did she ever see the point in yearly check ups. Not if she was well. She didn’t want to be a “burden on society” a tax on the system that she had contributed to her entire life through children and labor. And here in lies the rub. Had she had regular check ups, had she had a primary care doctor who advised her to have the most basic of cancer screenings we might have intercepted and reversed the cancers that killed her.

I am not a very good sister. Nor am I very good daughter for that matter. How could it be that I work in one of the top three cancer hospitals in the world and yet my own mother escapes basic screenings? When I walk by the Blum van I could kick myself. Such a basic and elemental thing, the DFCI Blum van. Going into underserved communities and giving basic screenings—or at least raising awareness that it is a good idea to have check ups.

As my mother was dying the last thing she said to me was that she loved my house. If you had said to me in 1975 that I would grow up someday, have a job where it is less of an issue to be out, have a house and a wife, and even a child, I would have thought you were crazy. Yet here it all is. A sequence of little miracles spanning the years.

My brother has zero T cells this month and I still cannot help him. I cannot ride like Lance Armstrong. Nor can I ride like Greg LeMond whose name is emblazoned on my shiny red bike. You can’t make me want to go to France, though my wife would be gone in a flash if (and when) given the opportunity. What I can do is work here. Fix the doors, make sure they close and open. I can participate in the ride knowing that maybe, just maybe the little that I can do adds to the greater of the whole. Research and clinical trials will continue. The Blum van will pull out of 44 Binney Street. We all might live longer and be healthy and happy while we are at it.

Chicken! Airplane! Soldier!

It is 32 days until the big ride and so far I am not looking too good in my role as the mighty peddler of my own bike. I regret this. However, I ask you all: is it possible to implode from heat? I mean, as a woman of Scottish descent, going up the stairs rapidly can make my face red. So imagine me in spandex riding a bike in 90 degree weather. I start to look like a tomato within two blocks from home. (Feel free to thank your lucky stars that I choose not to wear red spandex on my little jaunts around the neighborhood.)

For instance, today with the least of effort my face is so red it feels as if all the temperature in my body is in my head. If I only had a valve that I could open up just to let the steam come out, you know, sort of like a pressure cooker. I would be all set, even better, if I could also add a cool-water valve. (Do people still use pressure cookers? Does anyone under the age of 30 know what a pressure cooker is?) And I know all of you over the age of 50 know a bit about our internal heat waves.

I must confess, the idea of donning my riding ensemble and putting on my special shoes and filling my water bottles did not at all appeal to me over the weekend. As I contemplated 4 more days of the same at 6 this morning while walking a reluctant dog, I began to hear an inner voice—

“Ciiiiiindddyyyy,” it said.

“What, who me?” I answered, looking into the lush wilds of my back yard.
“CCCCiiiiinnnnndddddyyyyy, don’t be a foooool. Come hydrate over heeeerrrreeee. Do EMTs everywhere a service. Stay Hooooooome.”

My gosh, it was the voice of the swimming pool in the neighbor’s back yard. AGAIN!

My four year old daughter is teaching me how to swim. She has been taking lessons over at school across the street and everyday if I am lucky I get a recap. Lesson number one: position of the arms: Chicken! Airplane! Soldier! Try it now…yes… Chicken! Airplane! Soldier! 2 times gets you across the pool. Just the thought of floating on my back, pressure-cooker-hot-head cooling, is reason enough to postpone my riding agony and angst.

I know, I know, believe me, the bike is whinnying in the barn. My trusty steed waits dutifully. Thank goodness she is not a horse or she would be dead from neglect. I had so much passion for my bike when I purchased her 11 years ago. I drove my wife crazy for a good three months with all-day excursions to various bicycle shops. The test drives, the hiss of tires, the smell of rubber, all that shiny new paint on impossibly light frames made me dizzy with anticipation.

Pre child, pre child in pre school, the bike was a huge and outrageous expense. (2 Months of all day pre school!) But nevertheless, bringing her home that day in 1999, and pushing off the driveway and sailing into the street, she rode like a dream. She was graceful and sleek, and she was strong enough to carry this load!

Remembering those days, I have decided I should give her a name. And some new tires. I’ll even spring for new break pads. I have busted out the lavender and yellow official PMC bicycle jersey top from 1999. When the heat breaks I will be donning the green, aerodynamic helmet. I have brown biking shoes. She is a very red bike. My wife has suggested that I name her Rhonda—as in “Help me, Rhonda” but I am not sure it’s a good fit, nor do I care for self deprecating humor. Does anyone have any suggestions?


I don’t know if any of you have noticed—I don’t know if you are just a little too polite to say anything—but I’m a tad bit chubby. How could I miss this fact? I mean, I do have a full sized mirror. So what if it has been hung horizontally above the sofa for the last decade. I can still see plenty of myself so long as I stand on the third stair going upstairs and lean slightly to the left. So what if what is reflected is mostly from the shoulders up?

I re hung the mirror the other day to see how I was looking in that Pan Mass Jersey from 1999. Ah, my jersey, my pride and joy. One does not just toss on a Pan Mass Jersey. One cannot buy one at the mall. One earns their jersey. One aspires to the jersey. But purple and yellow? Purple and yellow. My my my. (What was the designer thinking? Easter Bunnies rule?) What ever happened to basic black or a sensible navy? A tad bit chubby, indeed. OK, let’s leave the tad out of the equation.

I am chubby. There, I said it. Well it wasn’t actually me that said it, it was the dang bike. Last Thursday started out good with a fine ride into Boston. The Emerald Necklace along the Jamaica Way is simply glorious—especially going down the long steep hill. But then the ride back up in the rain was just plain beastly. Why aren’t there tow ropes? Where are the chair lifts? I quit my inner whining, ponied up and started my ascent towards Pond Street. I was on a mission: to get ready for the hills of Sturbridge.

Pretty much I haven’t noticed the cumulative effects of Ben & Jerry because I always come to work in denim out fits. I don’t rely on mirrors so much because I’m pretty sure about how I’m looking as I walk out the door each day. Besides, everyone knows that no one has looked all that good in denim since John Wayne or the Marlboro man. When at a loss for what to wear I can always say—I think I’ll wear the blue. Or if I really want to mix it up I choose the darker jeans and a lighter top all delicately branded with the DFCI logo.

Nevertheless, even though I find myself chubby I have had a training plan: here goes: all I need to do is get on a bike and my muscle memory takes over, right? I mean, what were all those years sailing through the dunes of Provincetown on a bike all about? But just like everything else that happens in ageing—right along there with my forgetful menopausal mind are my forgetful well-meaning muscles.


Today was a good biking day in spite of impending rain. I left the girls behind in the wilds of Jamaica Plain and went off on my morning quest to make it to the Institute in good time and in one piece. Success! I am here although a bit weary about saying it out loud. But not too shabby, my friends.

Now for a bit of my ponderings....Front tire a bit low and not a pump in site. I knew there was one in the bike cage when I got to work, so the bumpy ride home will be a bit better. You get this body bouncing and you are just not sure what can happen.

I have a criticism to make... I am pretty sure it is a requirement in Massachusetts that in order to pass inspection and be able to legally drive your car, all automobiles must have functioning turn signals! So I can only imagine that the dysfunction is due to driver error, driver dink-dom, driver laziness, or as many drivers from out of state have commented: Massachusetts drivers do not want to commit to where they are going because maybe someone behind them won’t let them go.
That being said, as a bike rider, it’s a good idea to know where the cars around you are going. It’s a basic courtesy, actually. Why, I ask myself, isn’t everyone on a blue tooth instead of a hand held cell phone? I mean come on, share the road, use your ding dang DIRECTIONAL! Please!

As a driver I myself have said “why did that biker cut in front of me!” and then I berate myself because I am one of those drivers as well as one of those pesky bicyclists. I guess it takes all kinds and I really hope we can all get along.
So all that being said today, 192 miles is looking more and more like a piece of cake! Bring it on!

Cindy Mackenzie’s Dana Farber Bike Blog

August 6th, 2010
1 More Sleep Until Your race Mama!

That is what my daughter said this morning. Everyday she has been counting down:
“4 more sleeps till your big race, Mama.”

“3 more sleeps!”

“2 sleeps, Mama, until you win your race, Mama! And you won’t give up, right? You’ll ride and stop for drinks of water, right? Are you going to have a sleep-over on a boat? Can I come? You are going to win! Riiiigggghhhtt? Mama, are you listening to me? OK Mama, listen to my WORDS! You’re gonna win, riiiigggghhhhttt?”

I’ll settle for finishing.