Hot Post Of The Month

Dec 18, 2014

Ms. BikeBike's L'Eroica Report

Quick Note: A couple of other posts from Italy that may be of interest to you - 

- Doors of Italy

- Sean's L'Eroica Report

- Headtube Badges of L'Eroica

- Italians like it Low, Low, Low


That day will be forever etched into my memory.

I burst forth from my comfort zone right into the twilight zone.

First, I am not a cyclist. I ride pretty, upright, heavy bikes - SLOWLY. Second, I never thought I'd ride a "fast" bike on gravel roads in Tuscany.

I awoke that morning at 4 am when Sean left the room to embark on his dream. I had to now wait for 7am when my day would begin. I had the shakes from the moment I put my feet on the tile. I was so nervous. The group I was with meet in the breakfast room and they could see the beads of sweat on my face!

I can't believe I am here. This was near the end of the day.  I loved that the sun was shining and look at that backdrop!!

I made sure to visit the bathroom plenty of times. I was still nervous and I also have a medical condition.  I have an ostomy, meaning, I have no colon. It was removed about three years ago. I have a bag attached to me that carries the waste, lovingly known as "The Appliance". I was diagnosed with Ulceritive Colitis in 2010 and had an operation to remove my colon in October 2011. The family of irritable bowel disease has a very large membership of roughly 1 in 100. Living with this disease is tough. The surgery removed most of the pain I was experiencing but I still spend hours in the bathroom.

I dress different then I used to. I constantly live with the fear of the appliance failing. With that fear comes the shame if it does blow. When you're a mom you clean up poop and it's not a big deal, everyone has to do it. But adult poop, and all over your clothes, socks too? That is sometimes just too much to deal with. It usually takes me a day or two to get over it and sometimes it happens many times a week. I know I am not dirty. I am just not the same. I do often forget I have it and at times that I am grateful for my ostomy. I talk about my condition as much as people are willing to listen. I know that if more people know about the disease the shame that I feel will be less.

I put all those worries that come with this condition aside for this ride. I wasn't going to worry about the bathrooms or the chance I could have a leak. Nope, I was going to get those bib shorts on and the jersey that made me a team member on and put my best self forward!

We left the villa and I can say the temperature was so low I could see my breath! The 5kms ride into Gaioli was beautiful. I did have an upright position on this beauty bike Sean built for me and I made sure to look around during the ride as much as I could. I could hear gunshots and asked my guide what they were. He said they were shooting wild boar. It reminded me of growing up in Central Alberta. The gunshots, not the boar. Before the start of the ride we had a very steep (a push for me) climb up to the castle for the official photo.

The Brooks England gang ready for a most beautiful day.

I love the group ride experience. Our shop hosts plenty of rides in the summer and usually has about 60 people out for them. This was going to be a group ride with 5,000+, an adventure I was excited to be a part of!

The large group that I lined up with was not to be seen again until we meet for our dinner. The long cue helped calm the nerves. The best bike parade ever! I thought I may have a chance at riding this and feeling good at the end! I have rode the distance before. We've ridden the Legacy Trail from Banff to Canmore, there and back., which is about 40km. 38km didn't really scare me. At this moment I believe it's going to be a breeze. There is suppose to be checkpoints ahead with food and wine! For sure the croissant I had this morning will be enough, right?

We leave on a paved road and wind around the hills. I have a large smile on my face. The beauty, wow! There are a few families at the end of their driveways sitting on chairs and cheering us on. I am getting tired already and long to stop and watch this group go by. It must be great to see this happen in your backyard every year. I start a climb and it feels like the temperature has now hit the mid 20's. I am wearing the Brooks wool jersey and wish I had an under layer to remove. I get to the top of the hill and I haven't walked! I round the corner stop and join a few of my Brooks team. I feel great I can do this!! We mount again and as I round the corner to the castle the lanterns in the forest are still burning. What a sight that would have been in the dusk.

But this is where the walking begins. A paved switch back not so bad I think. I crest the top and now the gravel descent begins. I have good tires and brakes so I now break away from our little group. I can't believe the views I have the bright sun that has been with us all day. Couldn't get much better. Except for the the next part and, well, the part after that where I walked and walked my bike up steep hills, that part sucked. I know the routine - you go up a hill and you get the down hill. I am from Calgary, I get it.

Ok, I am pooped.  Out of water at the top (I think) of a hill and not sure how much further to more water.  The view is of a cemetery, wondering if they have water there!? I am hopeful for a storm of rain and food. This was not the top of the hill.

However, these hills are unlike anything I have ever ridden! Endless switchbacks on white gravel. I had one water bottle and as the day passed and the sun got higher I got worried. I was on my own and walking again when I found a wall to sit on and drink the last of my water. Thankfully my friend Gian-Marco had some dried fruit and chocolate to save the day. More members of our merry band arrive and we roll. I am at this point questioning my decision to have one water bottle and no food. We do have a map but have no idea how far the food stop is.

Finally around a few more corners and a little more walking we can see the check stop. I don't look when we go by the ambulance and the person in the ditch. "Happens every year" Gian-Marco says...EWWW! The food stop had no bathrooms. I know there is nature abound but I can't go squat in a ditch or behind a bush. I am sweaty to say the least so I am hoping the moisture I feel is sweat only and not a blowout. I am grateful to munch something and drink a lot of water. We ride the last bit of white gravel and some lovely pavement

The three of us Brooks team women ride together around the last corner onto the main street where it seems like the whole town has showed up! The crowd makes me smile so big. I am not a competitor so I don't know the accolades of a finish line. Claps and cheers for us? Aww, shucks! We only rode our bikes well kinda mostly walked 38km. It was hard but clapping?   A local asked to have her picture taken with us.  I may now know that I've done something special.  I have had a few texts from Sean and he is having a tough day but is getting close to the finish line too. We are lined up to receive our stamp and prize (wine).

Sean had finished his journey and I am happy to put my arms around him. This journey started at 7am and I have not been to the bathroom. Its now 3:30, I don't want to see a bathroom I am very afraid of what I may find. All that sweat I thought the appliance may have moved, which means a mess. We both feel light headed and exhausted so we now head back to the villa - 5kms of more riding!! I can say that taking my clothes off and seeing nothing happened was such a relief. Not only did I make it - so did my appliance!

This ride was such a challenge for me. It was National Ostomy Awareness Day and that made me feel like a warrior.  I was never sure anything in my life would be ok after the surgery.  I was very excited to challenge the way I think about myself and see myself.  This was a ride but also a journey for me.  A quest of strength that I will take with me forever.  I didn't ask for this, it was Sean's dream, but I am so grateful for having tagged along and found a little piece of my warrior spirit again.

Thanks for reading!

Ms. BikeBike

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