Here are a few images from the Tour de Pink California–an incredible ride for many, many reasons. Thanks to the Young Survival Coalition and Giant Bicycles for this ride which supports young women facing breast cancer. It was a pleasure to ride my Inspire bike for 200 plus miles, but mainly it was pervaded by an intense feeling of being surrounded by survivors kicking ass on bikes. As I was inspired by seeing other young women survivors out there riding during my own diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, I hope others continue to be inspired. It looks sunny and beautiful here but the journey is a long one for us all. Emily Gresh
It is somehow far into November, Thanksgiving already, when I’m still thinking West Coast Tour de Pink which was a month ago now. A long overdue ride report:
Riding two hundred plus miles in California is just as you would imagine it: sunny and warm, miles passing without even realizing it. Cycling often holds metaphors for life so perhaps it’s true that living in California, with the means to really enjoy it, as one enjoys a really nice bike, is a little work but mainly play. As I was instructed heading out on the first day’s leg of the Cali Tour: “The bad news is today’s ride is hilly; the good news is it’s all downhill.” Imagine getting born and this is the prophecy handed to you: a sloping, downhill ride, under perfect skies…along the Pacific Coast Highway in California.
But the pleasures of my East Coast life are here for me. I came home from palm trees and Pacific waters to the cathedral-like beauty of autumn in New England, arches of trees and warm colors constructed leaf by leaf. When hit by certain angles of light, this could bring nearly anyone to their knees in the private little forum that is one’s mind, regardless of elevation gained or lost. If you know what it is to ride through the sunlight of autumn as it comes streaming through changing leaves, you know that its effect is that of exhilaration…that in effect, it’s a racing downhill ride. Hands off the brakes, fingers ready to slow the rush but staying open to speed. Coasting, concentrating, and letting go, all at the same time.
The textured and etched greys of late November are up next, snow close behind. Uphill, downhill. Beautiful either and every way. Emily Gresh
A quick post on this great contest (link above). It was definitely an honor and truly amazing experience to be a part of the first year of the contest sponsored by Giant Bicycles, highlighting the women’s brand Liv/giant and benefitting the Young Survival Coalition. Having my design selected as the winning design was such a joy. And, even better, sales from the bike raised $75,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, helping thousands of young women and their friends and family members find support during their experiences with breast cancer. I look forward to seeing the next iteration of the Inspire and hearing the story of another survivor.
With a little creativity and a few colored pencils, any survivor can enter her idea of a cool bike which can then become a reality. Survivors can submit their designs and a short essay by October 31. Good luck! Emily Gresh
Tour de Pink 2012: 235 miles over three days. Philadelphia to Washington D.C.
Surely, the most intense part of this ride was not the riding itself but the people with whom I was riding and the cause. It is intense to be a survivor on the ride, I must admit. There is a bright pink band on the official jersey I receive. It has “survivor” printed on it in black lettering. I get one of those and, yes, it makes me pause. I wore my Rapha jersey on day 2 so it’s not pictured in the photo above but you can see the “survivor” sleeve there on my friend Kim, a four year survivor and really strong cyclist, not to mention incredible person.
The experience of having had that serious of an illness is still surreal and my moment-to-moment appreciation of every second of my good health now seems more personal than what I wear on my sleeve literally for this ride. But it is important to be visible here. As someone who has been through cancer sooner rather than later in life, I am grateful that I can see the faces of young survivors, as heartbreaking as it is to see so many people around me effected by cancer. We’ve been through something terrible and looking at anyone of us in an everyday setting, you’d never know. On the ride, I know I’m not alone in this experience. In this ride, along with other rides–but this one particularly for me–I know I’m not alone in understanding with the fullest weight that even after such adversity, so much is possible in life. More than I ever expected. My thanks to what I learned from the survivors who were out there on bikes doing the Tour de Pink long before me and helped me see the other side. And thanks to everyone who supported my ride by making a donation in support of the Young Survival Coalition. Emily Gresh
Here it is a year later, a year since I completed my first Tour de Pink, the ride I had set my sights on when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer just after my thirty-ninth birthday. The year itself, my second year of real cycling and post-cancer, seems as miraculous as the year of having cancer was devastating and nightmarish.
Maybe not every day of riding but almost every day of riding, there are moments of crystalline miracles, easily forgotten on the one hand–a particular color of sky when starting out, a joke, some flavor of mood, and unforgettable on the other hand–that flavor of the day stays with you forever, along with the memory of a steady tempo that is matched precisely to the body’s workings, the right combination of conversation, unlabored pedaling to one’s own thoughts, the shape of a certain bicycle ahead, the shine of simple yet highly technical machinery, a few important words that then drift through the entire ride. These miracles have been my days. And my year.
I know I will enjoy the three days of riding–200+ miles from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.–and the camaraderie that will continue from last year into tomorrow when the ride begins, along with new faces. I know my body will endure and soak up the fun of those miles as it does each day and every ride, one year to the next. And of course, I will be riding my Inspire bike. Emily Gresh
If you are so inclined, here is the link to my fund-raising page for the Tour de Pink and the Young Survival Coalition. Every donation helps ensure that the rides continue and other young women and their friends and family members receive the information, community, and support they need when facing breast cancer.
Some rides and great moments of cycling are best left to an image. Cross riding brought me and friends out along this dock where a combination of weather, natural surroundings, random turns, and great company made for this shot. As you can see, we were not quite daring enough to take our bikes across the water, but I will say that the day felt so good that it almost seemed like we should have given it a try. We headed back to dirt trails just as the photo was being snapped. Emily Gresh
There are new roads and less traveled roads. When you return to your childhood hometown to raise your own child after living in an entirely different state and major city for almost a decade, the idea of new roads and less familiar roads would seem almost impossible. The roads here are not really new for me and yet every one is different now.
Among the friends that enjoy cycling with me, there is a common route that we often ride together. We ride out to the small town of Collinsville where there are empty and picturesque brick factory buildings from an era of axe production. On the way to Collinsville, we pass through Unionville–a trolly used to run out here from Hartford where bicycles were once manufactured and where insurance companies took a solid and lasting hold. To get from Unionville to Collinsville, we take a slight left off of Huckleberry Hill and on to New Road which heads down towards a river, the Farmington River, and then follows along there for awhile.
Just before the turn on to New Road is a large headstone with my family’s last name engraved upon it. This is where my grandparents are buried. My uncle’s ashes were spread near, and into, the river across the road and at the bottom of the hill. He died in his fifties of a brain tumor. The house that my father’s family abandoned because of a great flood many years ago is somewhere through the trees and on the opposite bank of the water’s edge. All of this at that junction of New Road and Huckleberry Hill.
These landmarks pass by in a matter of minutes as I am riding with friends or alone, chatting or just pedaling depending on the day or the hour. New Road was probably new sometime after that flood that destroyed my father’s childhood home over 50 years ago now. Yet I never knew of it and never had quite this clear path through my family’s history or a means of passing through it without feeling weighed down by all of it.
The bicycle offers one a different way of seeing things. Constantly. We all know that every ride is different, no second of pushing oneself forward on the bike can be repeated, just like time passing. Always new. Maybe familiar at times, but always new. The invention of the bicycle keeps a promise of inventiveness for me. Its history of changing life also has a promise of keeping life changing. The grave, the house flooded a long time ago, the old road that is marked as new, these are squarely at that intersection where I ride. But a new ride, and new road, await me everyday.
Yesterday, I rode along gravel and dirt, getting ready for an upcoming ride that will have some off road biking to it–the Deerfield Dirt Road Rondonee, affectionately known as D2R2. I went off of my usual biking paths, not the same trip out to Collinsville and back. These dirt roads were even less familiar than the regular roads I have taken around here, and as beautiful as the familiar ones. Perhaps even more so. Emily Gresh