LiveStrong Challenge Austin: Friday and Saturday

What would happen if you got together with about 3500 people who have all been working hard toward the exact same thing you had been? For the same reasons? And with the same intensity?

You’d have a three-day party called the Austin LiveStrong Challenge / Ride for the Roses.

This was one of those weekends that will stand out in my mind for a long time. I got to spend a few days relaxing — not working! — with my sister Kellene. I got to meet a lot of team Fatty. I got to hang out with the guys from Twin Six. I got to spend time with the people I admire at the LAF. And I — finally! — got to meet and hang out with my co-captains from all the event cities.

Friday Evening

There was a Ride for the Roses dinner / party / “Welcome to Texas” shindig the evening I got there. Curiously, instead of being dropped off right where we could hustle into line for the food (astoundingly, I was hungry), we were supposed to first wander around and look at a couple of very expensive houses and cars.

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Frankly, I didn’t get the connection to the cancer fundraising aspect of looking at ridiculously ostentatious houses. But that’s OK. I still posed by the banister on the upstairs deck of one of the houses:

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I totally own that sunset.

Then there was dinner, which was a sort of “Fried Foods from Around the World” buffet. Much of it tasted like chicken.

And then Lance magically appeared (he has powers of teleportation) and talked to us.

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Judging from his jacket, he has evidently joined a Special Forces unit canvassing the Alaskan tundra. Good for you, Lance!

And I got to meet and eat with the Team Fatty co-captains:

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From left to right: MikeRoadie (Austin), me, ClydeSteve (Seattle), Philly Jen (Philly), and MattC (San Jose).

What a great group of leaders, and what a great group of friends. I chose wisely.

Oh, and since Kellene was taking the pictures, we tried to do a jump pose:

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Yeah, that didn’t go so great.

And then, for no reason whatsoever, Colleen O’Farrell (who up until this evening had always been one of my primary go-to people at the LAF) came over and tried to throttle me, yelling at me, “I AM NOT YOUR PERSONAL ASSISTANT!”

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Once I could breathe again, I asked her what time the bus back to the hotel was leaving, and whether she had ensured my bike would be ready with the tires’ air pressure set to my preferred level.

Saturday

Saturday was nonstop fun. First, there was the “private ride with Lance Armstrong.” Here’s the way that private ride works. You and a group of 50 people or so go for a five mile ride at an ultra-slow pace behind a truck. Everyone gets a turn talking with Lance for a minute, while the photographers in the back of the truck furiously take pictures of you.

Most people brought their high-zoot road bikes. I brought the bike that the LAF staffers had provided for me:

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Bad to the bone, baby.

Meanwhile, Kellene — whose superpowers of asking rival my own — went up to a surprisingly alone Lance and got a great photo with him:

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As we were getting ready to leave, Lance rolled up to the truck and was talking with the photographers, shown here:

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But the driver of the truck didn’t realize Lance was leaning on the truck, and pulled away, just about crashing Lance out:

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Yeah, that would have been embarrassing.

As for my photos with Lance, I’ll have those in a couple weeks.

But really, the coolest thing for me was that while I was riding in the pack, someone pulled up beside me and said “Sweet ride.” I look over and it’s Dave Wiens.

He and I talked for about half the ride, and then I made sure to get some photos with him. Here’s the pose:

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And here’s me giving him the hard sell on helping Team Fatty in 2010:

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Actually, I didn’t have to hard sell Dave at all. In fact, he asked me what he could do to help. Further evidence that Dave Wiens is one of the nicest guys who has ever ridden a bike.

The Cedar Door and Mellow Johnnie’s

After the photo opp, we had lunch at the LAF headquarters, then went over to the Cedar Door, to hang out with some of Team Fatty. I had my picture taken with a lot people, but — strangely and stupidly — I didn’t think to use my own camera when any of those pics were taken. People who were there, do me a favor and post your photos in the comments section, K?

From there, a bunch of us made a pilgrimage to Mellow Johnnie’s, Lance Armstrong’s bike shop. And you know what? It’s a pretty darned nice bike shop. With some outrageously-priced clothing.

I did buy a t-shirt, though. I was living large.

The Awards Dinner

I already posted my speech from the Awards Dinner. What I did not post, however, was the fact that I spent most of the day nervous to the point of panic over that speech. Here’s me printing what was theoretically the final draft, about an hour before the speech.

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I was so nervous before the event I was absolutely certain I was going to throw up on Doug Ulman’s (President of LiveStrong) shoulder when he gave me a hug as I got on stage. Here’s us before then, him blissfully unaware that I was 87% of the way down the road to Hurlsville:

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That would have been photograph-worthy.

Oh and check it out: he’s holding a bottle of Michelob Ultra. That stuff was everywhere during the whole weekend. I loved hearing so many people describe how awful they think this beer-in-air-quotes is.

Note that Doug’s bottle is very nearly full. Almost as if he’s holding the bottle out of a sense of duty.

Lance and Doug then did a Q&A session. I was able to slip one of the questions in, and I used one that a commenter had posted on this blog: “What is the fastest you have ever gone on a bike?” What was awesome was that this question caused an audible gasp. It’s a really interesting question.

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“75 mph,” was Lance’s answer, and he went on to say that he reached that speed in last year’s Giro, and that he was completely terrified, while simultaneously amazed at how all the “young guys” were bombing down at that speed without apparent concern.

Then it was my turn. Which you’ve either already seen, or you can see it here. Kellene got photos of my incredible co-captains as they stood up and took their bows:

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ClydeSteve, Team Fatty Seattle Co-Captain

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MattC, Team Fatty San Jose Co-Captain


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Philly Jen, Team Fatty Philly Co-Captain

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Mike Roadie, Team Fatty Austin Co-Captain

These four people — none of whom had ever met me in person before agreeing to take on this massive responsibility deserve a huge round of applause from all of Team Fatty for the brilliant job they each did. And they have my thanks and gratitude for carrying this team entirely for a while, while I had to focus on myself and my family.

Shocker of the Evening

The big surprise of the evening came when Lance Armstrong announced that he was changing his first name to “Allen.”

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OK, just kidding.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the day of the LiveStrong Challenge itself. You won’t believe the way it ends.

Actually, come to think about it, you probably will believe the way it ends. In fact, it ends very predictably.

But it’s still a good story, with pictures and everything.

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