Transplant Athlete
Thursday, July 28, 2005
  My Hematocrit is 36

There is less than a one day supply of "O" negative blood on hand, so I made an appointment with the American Red Cross to donate today. I am type "O" Negative. During the check in process, they tested my hematocrit and it came out at 36%. The minimum for donating blood is 38%. They turned me away and told me to get more iron in my diet. I'm already taking iron supplements, there isn't anything else I can do to fix the problem. I dragged Bruce Deming down to the center to donate, and it hurt that he was able to donate and I wasn't.

I have an appointment with my nephrologist on August 4th. There is no medical reason why my hematocrit should be this low and I'm pretty devastated that they wouldn't let me donate. We'll cover this issue and my blood pressure medicine which doesn't seem to be working. I'll probably also be scheduling a biopsy for the new kidney.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005
  Martin's RAAM Race Report

I present to you in an uncensored form, Martin's RAAM Race Report:
Note: I have added some HTML commands to make it a bit easier to read.

After reading Lou's account of the race, I finally decided that I had to write this. I'd tried to write a race report several times but had deleted it every time because it never ended up sounding "happy". I wanted a "happy" report and because I couldn't write that, I wrote nothing. Lou's report finally convinced me that I should write about the experience from my viewpoint because there is information in Lou's report that is factually incorrect. I'm sure he thinks it is true, but he wasn't there (when I "went AWOL"), so I'm going to help him out with some of the finer details. There were many GREAT things about this race, but as with anything, there were some things that could have been better.

I arrived in San Diego as the last arriving rider/crew barely 24 hours prior to the race start. I'd wanted to come on Friday, but the decision had been made for me to arrive on the following Monday. One of our sponsors, Independence Air (THANK YOU!!!- you guys were GREAT), provided all the flights to San Diego. Bruce (team captain) had determined who flew on each of the dates that Independence could provide flights. As I had feared, as I was the last rider to arrive, I missed the mandatory registration and rider meetings. What I hadn't counted on was that my team conducted media interviews prior to my arrival. Somehow they also forgot to pick up my official starters jersey when they picked up their own. Finding all this out contributed to the feeling that I'd had every time I'd met with the team - that I was a necessary "add on" to the team rather than a part of the team. Maybe that is my fault, but it's how I felt.

So as I got to the house that served as our San Diego base camp I quickly found that there was really no place for me to stretch out to sleep. Riders or crew who had arrived in previous days had occupied every flat surface. I inquired about perhaps sleeping in the RV, which was parked down the street, but was told that Bruce and Clay had claimed that for the evening. I ended up sleeping on the deck next to the pool. Between dogs coming around and the bugs, I got very little sleep. I thought not to worry, we'll get this show on the road and all will work out. I just wanted to ride my bike.

So the race began. Initially we were not allowed to follow directly behind our rider, so we passed Bruce and waited up the road for our first transition. We waited some more and some more. Finally Bruce showed up and he was mad! Seems that he had taken a wrong turn and somehow thought that it was our fault. In any case, we were suddenly 30 minutes behind only 45 minutes into the race. It was an ominous beginning.

Bill and I took over riding at some point and rode much of the first night. At around 2AM, I got out of the vehicle to take my next pull and noticed that the thermostat said it was 102!!! It was a very warm ride all the way across the country. On the positive side, I only got rained on twice (though once I was soaked for several hours)! For those of you who know how much I hate rain, that was a blessing!

Then came the interesting part that has been misreported. How could it be accurately reported? They have no idea what happened! I did not go "AWOL" in Mexican Hat, Utah. I was left! Bruce ignored me as I (and several members of the support crew) yelled at him to stop as he rode past. The support crew, Bill and I had figured out a way for everyone to get a couple hours of sleep as no one really had slept much by this point. We had a hotel room for Bruce and Lou to sleep in, but Bruce sailed on by and left the crew, Bill and I to scramble to catch him and come up with another plan. I was left standing alongside the road in front of the hotel in riding clothes with no bike, no car and no way to catch up. The crew told me to go to sleep and they would figure out what we were going to do. I woke up about an hour later and I asked the crew if they could take me forward, but they were exhausted at that point and needed to sleep. So let I let them sleep for 1 1/2 hours, then woke them and asked them to shuttle me forward. They said they needed more sleep. I woke them after another 2 hours and at that point one of the crewmembers said to me that he was tired of Bruce ignoring everyone's advice and making what he called "bad decisions". He said he was going to leave Bruce out riding until he decided to listen to anyone else. About an hour after that, the crew got up and drove me forward and at that point I rejoined the race not having slept more than an hour because I was so upset at Bruce for creating this situation.

So the race continued. Over the next couple of days it became apparent that Bill and I were not getting the same level of support as the Bruce and Lou. We were riding as two - two person teams. It seemed that frequently Bill and I got Bruce and Lou's leftover food. There were several times that we ran out of water or food during our legs. There was a particular moment that just sums up the support that Bill and I received. At about 7am one morning, Bill and I were finishing up a leg in which we'd been out for around 6 hours with very little to eat. I was riding and for some reason THREE of our support vehicles were driving within 1/4 mile of me. I noticed a McDonalds as I rode past it and motioned our follow vehicle up to me. I told them that Bill and I hadn't eaten and that it'd be great if someone would stop at the McDonalds and get us both some pancakes. The follow vehicle relayed that information over our radio network. I was really looking forward to getting those pancakes a couple of miles up the road! You guessed it, we got done with that leg and not only were there no pancakes, but the crew was sleeping on all of the beds. I made Bill and I some oatmeal and slept on the floor between the beds.

There were also a couple of times that Bill and I ended up riding for two consecutive legs (it was never planned). That left us with little time for sleep. Speaking of sleep, we were getting very little of it. Originally, the RV was supposed to immediately shuttle the riders who were not riding up the road, then park so that they could sleep. That never happened and I STILL don't know why. Every suggestion to do that was agreed to by the crew, and then often vetoed by the team leader. Bill, I, and eventually some of the crew decided that we would rather be riding (or crewing) than be anywhere around that RV - it was drama central.

Oh, there were some good times on the road. You can read about the parade we got involved in. The funny part about that was before I started throwing the Organic Food Bars out the window of the RV, everyone was telling me not to, that we'd get in trouble. After everyone saw the crowd scrambling to get those bars, there were bars flying out every window of the RV. There was one woman in particular I remember. She was probably 40 and of generous proportions. She knocked over a child of about 8 and DOVE onto one of those food bars. I was amazed.

There was another woman I won't soon forget. I don't remember what town (or even what STATE) it was. I went into a diner to grab something to eat before one of my rides. The waitress looked at me and said something about me being in rough shape. She asked about what we were doing. I explained the best I could and at some point mentioned the charity we were riding for and what it does. She told me that her mother and sister were both waiting on a kidney transplant and that she had just been tested and was a match for both of them. She was touched by what we were doing and it brought home to me that the organization we were raising money for really would help save lives. That chance encounter was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

A funny chance encounter happened in Kansas. I never knew Kansas was the mosquito capital of the world, but trust me, it is. I've been to Alaska at the end of June, I've been to Louisiana in July - you guys have NOTHING on Kansas! We were trying to spend as little time outside the vehicle before riding as possible. The mosquitoes were THAT bad. We stopped at the end of a driveway that served a plant of some kind. It was around midnight. We were very close to another team so there were several vehicles with flashing lights moving around. One of the guys from the plant came out to see what was going on. We explained it to him as he opened a beer. He couldn't believe what we were doing, and then said we seemed like "good fella's" did we want a beer? We explained that we couldn't, as it was a banned substance for the duration on the race. He then told us he had 80 acres that everyone thought he grew corn on. He said 64 acres were corn, 16 were marijuana - did we want some of that? Again, we had to decline, but we all had a good laugh about that later.

The scariest part of the trip for me was riding through Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. We were riding on one of the major roads through town. It was sometime after midnight when we got there and it was either Friday or Saturday night. The terrain there was generally downhill, so we were moving pretty fast, but kept getting "buzzed" by fast moving cars that the occupants of the vehicles kept screaming out the windows at us. I'm certain that many of these people had been drinking or were drunk. I was sure that one of them would finally hit me, but we made it through unscathed.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was when eventually we caught the soloists (they started 2 days ahead of us). I think all together I was riding as we passed about 4-5 of them. It's certainly not because I'm a better cyclist than ANY of them, it's just they'd been riding about 20 hours a day for the last week! I had a real nice, but short talk with Trout and a quick "race" with McDonald. Trout seemed to be one of the nicest guys you could meet. McDonald was an animal! I first saw him at the base of the first of two fairly tough climbs. Even after riding as hard as he had (he finished 2nd) it was still VERY difficult to catch him going up the hill...We went over the top of the first hill together and I had to ride HARD to make sure he didn't pass me going up the next one. My crew told me later that his crew was telling him not to chase me as I was on a four-man team. He was still VERY strong with 500-600 miles left to go in the race!

In the event that anyone who is contemplating a RAAM team reads this I'll end with some things I learned during the event:

  1. The riding is not as hard as I imagined. I thought the logistics/dealing with all the personalities was going to be the hardest part and it was - by far. The crew really does make or break the team.
  2. Splitting into two teams of two works well.
  3. The support personnel MUST come from a sporting background. Our support that came from that background was superb; those who did not come from that background had great difficulty. They could not understand what the athletes were experiencing and had trouble being effective at night. I spoke with another team that actually did psychological testing on their support team - it's not a bad idea.
  4. There must be a dedicated support team for each team of two. They should support while their rider is riding, sleep when their rider is sleeping. We didn't have that and the result was CHAOS. Most of the support crew worked during the day. Nearly all the cooking was done during the day. That meant at night (mostly when Bill and I were riding) there was very little support other than drivers. It affected our performance. Further, when Bill and I were trying to sleep (mostly during the day) the RV was a zoo with everyone running around to provide support to Bruce and Lou. There were other times that there was no one who could really drive safely (Bill and I both were almost hit by our own sleepy support drivers). That isn't a criticism of the drivers - they were tired. It is an observation of the way our team was organized - it was done poorly. Initially we didn't know any better. Later no one would listen.
  5. Things will not go as you plan. We planned on having laundry done everyday. At one point I rode in a T-shirt and gym shorts because I had no more clean clothes (laundry hadn't been done in 3 days) though the need was mentioned several times. Take more shorts and jerseys than you could ever possibly need.
  6. The riders, who are teamed up, must get along. The ONLY reason I didn't abandon 1/2 way through was because Bill told me it was very important to him to finish (I asked). I'd had it at with some of the antics of the team/support and was ready to pack it in. If I had been teamed up with anyone else on this team (or didn't feel obligated to Bill) I would have left the race.
  7. On a four-person team, you can ride harder than you think you can. My coach recommended that we ride in upper Heart Rate Zone (HRZ) 2 and for the most part I did. I think I could probably have done the whole ride in HRZ 3. I just was never really working that hard. I kept waiting for the cumulative effects to really nail me, but other than "bonking" a couple of times because I didn't have anything available to eat, it was really a pretty comfortable ride.
  8. I can't really leave this without saying that ALL the riders (and most of the crew) lost their cool at some point. One rider had at least one heated argument with every other rider on the team. You may get to see my blow up some day if you watch the RAAM video. I knew our cameraman was taping, but I didn't care. I "went off" on one of our support people. Bill and I had been left out to ride a double leg (unplanned) for the second night in a row. At the end of ~120 miles we were once again out of food and water and we still had no relief. I had our support vehicle take me to the RV where I expected to roust the other riders and get them riding so Bill and I could eat, drink and sleep. When I got there I was already upset. The other riders got on the road and one of the support people and I got into it over the level of support I thought we were/were not receiving. I shouldn't have said some of what I said, but I did mean every word of it. The reason I mention it here is because everyone associated with a team is going to at some point be at their absolute worst. If the team is going to finish, everyone has to be able to roll with the punches and keep their eye on the finish line. It's the only way you are going to make it.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005
  Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs, Blocking Up The Scenery

These billboards are up all over London, Ontario. The same image was used on flyers and programs throughout the games. Check out the third picture from the top.

Here it is up close. That's me from the 2003 World Transplant Games in Nancy, France.

As you know, I took the bronze in the road race, so here I am on the podium carrying the Stars and Stripes.

From Left to Right: Grandpa (Lou Astorino, yes, I'm named after him), Mom, Me, Dad, Aunt Ruth, And Uncle Len (my Dad's brother). You can see my Uncle Len is pretty tall, so are his kids. My Aunt Sue's children are all tall. The fact is, I'm the shortest male Gen-X on the Lamoureux side. Even though I'm an inch taller than the national average, I'm oddly jealous.

You can click on an image and a window will open with a larger version.


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Friday, July 22, 2005

First step: China will stop pegging yuan to dollar
On Thursday, China's Central Bank announced they would stop pegging the yuan to the dollar, letting the yuan rise 2.1% and letting it float 0.3% per day. Treasury Secretary John Snow had this to say, "They've put in place a mechanism that provides room for significant movement over time in the currency, and they've expressed a commitment to using market forces to let the currency move..." I think the important term here is "Market Forces".

Chemo may avoid castration for testicle cancer
Researchers have determined that one dose of chemotherapy is as effective as several weeks of radiation. The 5 year "cancer free" rates were within 1 percentage point of each other, and the chemotherapy patients were less likely to develop new tumors on the remaining testicle. They theorized that if the cancer was caught early enough, then removal of a testicle could be avoided, they haven't proved this, nor have they studied it yet, its still just a theory. Early detection has always been the key. While this disease is generally rare, it does attack men between the ages of 19 and 39. Lance Armstrong is the most famous victim of Testicular Cancer; however, he waited a long time before he sought treatment, and by then, the cancer had spread to his lungs and brain.

The Transplant Athlete Returns from World Transplant Games with Bronze medal
Following advice I received several years ago from Joe Althoff, I warmed up for a long time before the 20k Road Race. A good warm up was needed to make sure that I could get out in front for the first turn which came a couple hundred feet from the start line. If I got caught behind there, it would be tougher to catch the front of the group. A small group of us got off the front early on. There were 5 people in my age group and 4 or 5 people from the 16 - 29 age group. The pace was kept wickedly high by Soeren Hermansen of Denmark in my age group and Erlend Gjerde - Norway in the younger age group. There was one rider #294 (Alberto Hernandez from Spain), who beat me by 6 seconds in the time trial, who was all over the road. He cut across the road and caught somebody's front wheel with his rear wheel, he bumped into riders on either side of him, including Scotty Miller from Australia, Austin Magruder from the USA, and several others. I went shoulder to shoulder with him at one point and briefly considered pushing him off the road. He was really dangerous.

Fortunately, Hernandez couldn't handle the pace and was the first to drop off leaving me with Krimbacher from Austria, Hermansen from Denmark, and Recoules from France. With 4 people in my age group in the break, I figured I had a good chance to sprint it out for the finish to at least take a bronze. Then, two laps later, Recoules dropped off on a climb and I knew I had a bronze locked in. With three laps to go, Hermansen attacked on the high side of the course near the start/finish line and I was the only one who was able to stay with him. On the downhill, I kept drafting him, if I had come to the front and pulled, I might have had a shot at silver. I was really on the rivet and didn't know if I had enough to keep the break going. If we got caught and then Krimbacher attacked, I would be shelled off the back. I opted to stay in Hermansen's draft and we got caught. One lap later, Krimbacher attacked, then Hermansen attacked. I crested the hill right behind the group, but the pace stayed high and a gap formed. I tried to chase it down, but was unsuccessful. At that point I realized I just had to stay away long enough to reach the finish line to claim my bronze. I figured Recoules was back there somewhere and I was worried he might jump on a paceline from the group that started a minute after us. So, I kept the pace high and kept looking back to see how much of a gap I had on them.

Until the final straight, at which point, I sat up and raised my arms to the air to enjoy winning my bronze medal. Yes, I did feel like Dave Stollar winning the Little 500. Music is playing in my head. The crowd is cheering. It was cool.

Here is a picture of Hermansen in front, me in second position. This is off of the Transweb.org site.

Afterwards, I went up to Soeren and said, "you did a great job, you really kept the pace high." he replied, "Yeah, there were a couple people just hanging on..." I said, "Sorry about that, that was me."


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Monday, July 18, 2005
  4th Place is the first loser

I had expected Niagara Falls to be populated with seedy hotels and a low brow knick knack stores, a veritable tourist trap. I guess some of that is based on a cheesy image of the area from one of the Chris Reeves Superman movies and the rest is based on what I’ve been told about the area. Growing up, it seemed to have bad connotations as the poor man’s honeymoon of choice, whether that was reality or adolescent assumption, I don’t know.

The reality is much different. I’m sitting in the Brock Plaza hotel on the Canadian side overlooking the falls. The view is spectacular, the room is amazing, and the walkway along the Canadian side of the river is a pleasant path unencumbered with stands and stores hawking plastic replicas and souvenir snow globes. Its actually a place I would consider vacationing. Its not DisneyWorld, but it'll do. To be fair, as you move further out from our hotel, there area few haunted mansions, and at least one amusement park.

I competed in the 5 Km TT today and came in 4th place. All the results were mish-mashed together, so I know my time was 8:47 and I came in 4th out of 18 riders, but not much else. If history is any guide, I lost bronze and silver by seconds. I know where I lost those seconds. I was finishing my first lap and a guy who started as I was passing, blew himself up trying to catch me and succeeded in doing so, right at the corner at the top of a small rise. I let him push me outside my line. He then nearly put me into the grass as he kept going outside. Instead of tucking on the downhill and gaining massive amounts of speed, I was swerving back to the left to avoid him, he then cut back to the left at the bottom of the hill to hit the apex of the turn forcing me back out to the right. He then slowed down either because he was tired or he didn't know how to get around my 30 second man. Yes, you heard right, they sent us out in 30 second intervals. I blew past both of them. I figure I lost a couple of seconds in this whole exchange. The two riders ahead of my 30 second man had backed out and so I had nobody in front of me to chase. I jammed up the big hill in the big ring and shifted into the small ring for the easy grade after that. I kept my cadence really high and as I passed the Start Line I was starting to feel the lungs screeching for more air. I had 2 tenths of a kilometer to get to the finish line on a gradual uphill. I pushed for all I was worth, holding nothing back. My brain shut off and I just kept increasing my cadence. I sprinted out for the finish line to stop the clock and came to a stop about a 100 feet down the road at the first bend. I thought I would pass out, I thought I would throw up, and the legs were awash in lactic acid.

Tomorrow is the 20Km Road Race, the results haven't been posted yet, so I will get to the event early tomorrow to see who I have to mark in the race. Some people say 2nd place is the first loser, but I think 4th is the first loser in my book.


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Friday, July 15, 2005
  So Long and Thanks for all the yuan

Now, I realize that China is communist and they are not an ally, but...Disneyland Hong Kong is opening its doors on September 12. The majority of goods purchased in the US are manufactured in Taiwan or China, so the US has a huge trade deficit in China's favor. That means they have tons of US dollars (over $600 Billion per year) floating around in their banks. They have so much US cash floating around, they've pegged the yuan to the dollar. This means that the yuan can be artificially undervalued against the dollar making chinese goods cheap in the US while US goods are expensive in China.

Given all this, I was surprised to read that a senior Chinese General threatened us with a nuclear attack...Scary isn't it?

I'm heading to Canada, but not because I'm afraid of nuclear attack...I'm competing in the World Transplant Games. Wish me luck.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2005
  Illinois Governor Blagojevich

Kudos to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for signing legislation that created a donor registry that allows a donor to make a binding decision to donate that cannot be reversed later by family members. Currently, we advise people to let their family members know that they have made a decision to donate, because in most states, family members can block the decision. This simple change insures that a person's wish to donate is not denied by their family. The governor's office estimates that this move will bring in another 100 organs per year. That's 100 extra lives saved every year, good job Governor. You've made a difference to them.

Why would a family block donation? I don't know, but unfortunately, it happens too often. In Illinois, family members over-ride the decision about 20% of the time.

This was page 3 news in the Effingham Daily News as we (meaning RAAM) passed through town.


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Monday, July 11, 2005
  Corticosteroids soon to be history for patients on FK506

Three studies presented at the American Transplant Congress on May 24, show that there are benefits to transplant recipients in early steroid withdrawal. The first study followed over 400 transplant recipients on a Prograf (fk506) and Cellcept (mycophenolate mofetil) regimen with a portion withdrawn from corticosteroid therapy on day seven and a portion on the standard chronic corticosteroid therapy. There was no significant change in graft survival over one year, however, there was an increase in acute rejection episodes in the early withdrawal group. The benefits however were significant decreases in cholesterol buildup which will lead to healthier hearts, and fewer complications due to post transplant diabetes mellitus, and my fave less weight gain. The second study found that pediatric patients didn't need it at all, however they only followed 14 patients, so while I like the results, I think they need to follow a larger population before they make the recommendation. The third study found that for African Americans who receive deceased donor kidneys that early steroid withdrawal lowers the risk of post transplant diabetes mellitus, which is good because African Americans in general have a higher risk of developing diabetes to start with.

Prednisone, the corticosteroid I was prescribed, has the following side effects:

  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stomach irritation
  • Mood Swings
  • High Blood Sugar
  • Cataracts
  • Skin Changes - Acne - Easy Bruising
  • Bone disease
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased Hair growth
  • Increased risk of infection

I had many of these side effects. Years prior to my transplant, I weighed in the mid 160s. The months before my kidneys failed, my weight dropped to 157. After the transplant my weight topped out at 185. I have been off prednisone for nearly 3 years and I now weigh 167. The mood swings were nasty and I often burst out in anger at my wife. Its a wonder she stayed with me. Several times, my doctors told me to cut back on sweets because my blood sugar results were high. My optometrist says that I've started developing cataracts. I thought it was just dust on my eyes, but thanks to the miracle of prednisone, they are cataracts.

The insomnia, restlessness, depression, anxiety all lead to my first transcontinental bike ride and to my dream of competing in solo RAAM, so I guess that's one thing I can thank Prednisone for. I couldn't sleep, so I spent nights surfing the internet for everything and anything cycling related. The restless feeling I felt was like pure energy in my body just waiting to be released. More and more the answer seemed to be a bicycle trip across the country. I spent hours and hours researching it and settled on PACTour.

The Doctors at the transplant clinic promised me that I would be off Prednisone in 1 year. I kept on them to decrease the dosage everytime I saw them. I was down to 5 mg a day at the end of year two and the doctors didn't taper me off the prednisone. Around Christmastime, a few months after my second transversary, I tapered myself off the prednisone and called them after the fact to let them know. I have a cousin who has been on Prednisone for many years. He's spent the last couple of years trying to get off it and his body just won't let him. It may be a wonder drug, but its got nasty side effects and I'm glad researchers have determined its not necessary for transplant patients on Prograf.


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Sunday, July 10, 2005
  Blood Pressure

I have had lots of problems controlling my blood pressure this year. In the past (hypertension has only been an issue since my kidneys started failing in '97), the exercise that I have done has been enough to keep it under control. But earlier this year, as I rode longer and longer rides, my blood pressure exceeded 150/100 on a regular basis, which is reaching Stage 1 and Stage 2 Hypertension.

I've cut out salt and added more bananas and fruit to my diet. I eat plenty of soy protein. Doctor's also recommend weight loss as a way to lower blood pressure, but I'm not carrying any excess fat (I'm at the bottom end of the healthy fat zone), so that's out of the question. My only recourse is medication. Earlier this year I was put on Cozaar which controlled my blood pressure, but elevated my liver enzymes. My doctor's say that is an early sign that my liver was being damaged.

So I was taken off Cozaar and put on the Catapress Patch. This was the only thing that controlled my blood pressure as my kidneys failed prior to my transplant. However, the patch was ineffective. I was then switched to ProCardia which worked, but...

There is a side effect of Cozaar that makes it more desireable for kidney transplant patients, it lowers proteinuria and in studies, it "reduces the occurence of sustained doubling of serum creatinine". Basically, the screen in the kidney (Glomeruli) lets wastes out and keeps proteins in, inflammation of the glomeruli called glomerulonephritis leads to proteinuria - excess protein in the urine. So, a drug that lowers proteinuria, must be relieving inflammation.

My doctors switched me from ProCardia to Diovan, a "kissing cousin" of Cozaar according to my doctor. This helped lower my blood pressure up to RAAM and presumably gave me the same benefits of Cozaar, but now that I'm back and my activity level has dropped, my blood pressure has creeped back up. I had to call my doctor and they increased my dosage of Diovan. I had blood work done early last week and I will post the results soon.

Speaking of high blood pressure, I had a BBQ yesterday to celebrate our triumphant RAAM finish and I was a bit worried about the team interaction. Jacques said that he had kicked Chris Beams (the NBC camera guy) out of the minivan for the last 60 miles of RAAM because he thought we were going to implode. Everybody got along and there was some talk about racing next year. Martin wants to race the 2 person RAAM. I think if he didn't get enough sleep in 4 person RAAM he's going to be in for a big surprise in 2 person RAAM. To be competitive in the two person division, I think their pulls are 4 hours long, not 12.

Mike will only do this again if he can ride. Which is really a shame. He kept me going late nights while he was hopped up on Red Bull.

On a final note, we will be donating blood as a team in about two weeks to fulfill our mission. Now if only I could get one of them to donate a kidney...


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Saturday, July 09, 2005
  15 year old unlicensed driver

If you've checked the RAAM website at all, you know that during RAAM this year, Bob Breedlove died tragically. I knew Bob by reputation only, he held several transcontinental records amd some tandem records with Lon Haldeman. While we were on the road, we first found out about a rule change when we called in our time at a time station. They said that the follow vehicle had to be behind the rider at all times including broad daylight. Previously there had been some leeway during the day, so the vehicle could get refueled or crew could be swapped out. I donn't know if the crew was insulating us from the tragedy, but I didn't find out for another 4 to 8 hours that Bob had been killed. The details on the road were sketchy. I wasn't even sure where it had occured.

The story goes like this. Bob's crew was providing leapfrog support and saw him about a mile before the accident occured. The 15 year old driver claims that Bob slumped over on his bicycle and swerved into his path.

I'm immediately skeptical of the 15 year old's story. First of all, Bob was an experienced ultracyclist, he couldn't and wouldn't make a mistake like that. His crew saw him a mile before the accident, so Bob was presumably awake and alert. The coroner's preliminary report says that there were no other circumstances like heart attack or stroke. I'm guessing that the 15 year old unlicensed driver was flying down the road at Mach 2 fiddling with the radio or his cellphone when he realized he was in Bob's lane(maybe it was a bend in the road). I'd like to know how fast the kid was driving if after leaving skidmarks, he hit Bob hard enough to kill him.

During my first transcontinental bike trip a rider was hit from behind by an RV. she died several days later. Later, Larry Schwartz, another rider from the trip was hit by a school bus and killed, the driver didn't even stop. Later that year, a woman narrowly missed me as she passed and hit the rider about 50 yeards in front of me during a fun century. The first words out of her mouth were "that cyclist hit my car."

That's one way of looking at it I guess. Another way to look at it is to say she overtook him at around 45 mph and slammed into him from behind with a ton of detroit steel. I don't really see how he was supposed to get out of your way ma'am he was as far right as was practical. The sad part was she went to the police and the cyclist didn't, so the police only got the "that cyclist hit my car" side of the story.

Ride boldly ride Bob.


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Friday, July 08, 2005
  Suck it up and donate a kidney

Due to some miscommunication, Martin blew by the final time station. I caught up to him and told him I would ride the last nine miles to the finish. When I passed he was on the shoulder with the Jet Truck. I assumed he would get in the truck and drive the rest of the way, I kept waiting for the jet truck to come up behind me to be my follow vehicle when the van came blowing by. I didn't have a water bottle with me, so I was pretty pissed at the time, but I figured that the Jet Truck would eventually catch up. I got to the finish line and the rest of the team was there, except Martin and the Jet Truck. He had decided to ride the rest of the way. While we were sitting around waiting for Martin, we didn't realize we were in the wrong place, so we wasted about twenty minutes, before they stopped the official race clock. That was the story of our RAAM, but at that point it didn't matter.

Bill kept saying he was going to sprint to the finish line once we hit the boardwalk, so I was a bit nervous that he'd take off. I kept thinking, "Keep it in an easy gear that you can spin up, just in case..." We hopped on the Atlantic City Expressway and rolled into town. The Police blocked all the intersections, I felt like a rock star. It was a good day. They hand out these huge medals at the stage (7 days 14 hours 39 minutes for those keeping score at home). The finishing ceremony was kind of a blur. The next thing I know, my daughter is wearing my medal and we're cleaning out the RV and Minivan. Then my family went to breakfast and back to my parent's house for sleep. My mom accompanied me back to AC for the Finish Line Banquet. Then the Team went for drinks afterwards. Mike, who had been denied beer all week, let loose and got a bit fresh with my mom.

I slept the whole next day and drove home on Friday. We had to drive home on Friday because while I was away, my daughter missed me and did some bad things. First, she locked herself in my bedroom. My wife had to take the door knob apart to get her out. Later, she wiggled herself out of her bed in the middle of the night and cut herself just above the eye. It required stitches and we returned on friday to get them removed. I slept most of Saturday with a short recovery ride thrown in for good measure. Its been a week since we finished but I've been having the weirdest dreams, they generally involve me starting or finishing a pull at the RV. The other weird thing is that the first three nights at home, when waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I had to convince myself that I was home and not in the RV.

I'm struck by two major impressions from RAAM. First, I slept too much. And I mean that in the "its the toughest race in the world I should be dead on my feet way" Second, I really want to do solo RAAM.


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Thursday, July 07, 2005
  West Virginia Mountain High

There was a group cheering us on at the time station in Athens, OH. I found out later, the woman was giving out envelopes with $100 in cash for gas and food. The team leader has the envelope, but from what I remember, their name was Matter or Matler. Parents of Brian. Thank you for the donation to our cause.

As we pulled into Parkersburg, West Virgninia I had a good case of Deja Vu. In 2001, 9 months after my transplant, I rode through Parkersburg on the Pactour Northern Transcontinental. It was just as confusing this time, at higher speeds and in the dark. There was a huge group in Parkersburg cheering us on, so I came into the Time Station with the sprinter salute (both arms rasied high in victory). I signed a t-shirt and we talked for awhile about organ donation and blood donation.

Bruce and I had a 50 mile break, while Bill and Martin rode. Bruce and I rode from Smithburg to Grafton. Then we took another pull into Gormania. I had manned a time station for RAAM in Gormania the previous year, so I was eager to ride into town. Bill and Martin took the next two time stations (90 miles) unfortunately, they were two very tough sections. The first 46 miles had 3050 feet of climbing and the next 43 miles had 4350 feet of climbing. In the west, the climbs are high (10,000 foot summit) and generally gradual. The climbs in our neck of the woods are shorter (2,000 foot summit) but steeper. As the RV cruised along on Rte 68, we passed the guys struggling up Rocky Gap on 40 Alt.

My hematocrit is generally on the low side (my last blood test was 38%). If you follow the link for hematocrit, you'll see that normal for a male is between 40.7% and 50.3%. So, since my hematocrit is low and I have less red blood cells transporting oxygen, the altitudes out west were really rough on me. We rode nearly 300 miles above 6000 feet and between my chest congestion and the low hematocrit, I was often having trouble breathing. Now that we were back east, I was feeling much better.

Bruce and I made the pull from Hancock to Hanover. Bill and Martin took over and the skies opened up. We were getting closer and the miles seemed to fly by. Bruce and I jumped back on the bikes for the pull from Georgetown, PA to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. I guess jumping on the bike probably wasn't the best description for Bruce. He was suffering from severe saddle sores and generally mounted the bike rather gingerly or very loudly. I took longer pulls here to keep him out of the saddle.

Saddle sores. There were a couple of reasons I was fine and Bruce was suffering from Saddle sores. I rode part of the trip on my Softride Rocket which as the name implies is a soft ride. Also, I had a different saddle on my Litespeed Vortex than I had on my Softride Rocket. The saddles had slightly different contact points which relieved stress on already sensitive areas. I've had more long distance training time in the saddle, so my behind was a bit more accustomed to being in the saddle. Bruce also spent the most time in the saddle out of the four of us and I probably spent the least time in the saddle. Out of 182 hours, Bruce probably rode 50, I probably rode 40 hours, and Bill and Martin were probably close to 45 hours each.

I wrote the following during RAAM, so it is biased
We’re almost to Atlantic City. Bill and Martin have a 63 mile pull, and then we have a 45 mile pull and a final 50 mile pull. Then its down to 14 miles, half of which are parade miles. Bruce and I just finished a long pull and Martin wasn’t even dressed to ride, he was getting a massage when we pulled up. Bill was and jumped in the van to catch Bruce. It occurred to me that his heart hasn’t been in this ride at all. The first or second day he claimed he couldn’t sleep in the RV and requested a hotel room. Just a day or so ago, he called a powwow with Me and Bill to talk about Bruce. Mike was there, but Martin rather belligerently and repeatedly told him to shut up. They weren’t ready for their pull, so Bruce had continued on. Martin thought we should pull everybody off the road and let everybody get two hours sleep. I objected. Anytime we stop, we slip further behind. All I needed was two hours of sleep, which I ended up not getting. My performance sucked the whole next pull, but I was able to recover for the shift after that. Martin came in last night after a pull and threw his helmet onto the stove and I could tell his attitude was messed up. I asked, “What the F$@K is your problem?” He said that we were late for our shift, but we weren’t. They did their 4 hour pull and we were ready when they were done. I’ve been pissed when they weren’t ready for a shift, but I didn’t take it out on others.


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Wednesday, July 06, 2005
  I wasn't the only one on medication

Kansas was mostly harmless. During the day it was hot, flat, and fast. At night, it was attack of the killer bugs. The air was thick with mosquitos. On Saturday morning we were told that we were only three hours behind the 7th place team, but at the time station in Mount Vernon Kansas #27, we found out we were really 6 hours behind. The good news was that there were several teams around that time, so if we were able to make up time, we had a shot at a higher position. By TS #29, we had made up 12 minutes, but we were still losing tons of time at transitions and probably could have made up another 15 to 20 minutes if our transition went smoothly. At the time, we felt like we could make the time up, so every minute standing by the side of the road was a minute lost.

Looking back over the route book, I can only remember about half of the pulls that I did. I rarely looked at the route book, and when I did it was to look at the route profile. I'll be glad to get the raw footage from NBC, to help my memory.

Now, I wasn't the only person on the trip taking medication. One crewmember stopped taking medication and became a sobbing lump on the RV couch. So yes, I did make someone cry today. This was very much like "Survivor" but trapped inside an RV, with the riders being the only ones getting out for the immunity challenges.

Mundane Facts:
1) The Air conditioner in the RV leaks water all over the place including the couch I like to sleep on. The floor gets disgusting.
2) I act like a baby when I've been riding for a long time. Pointing and going uh uh to get what I want.
3) Because of the water everywhere, and Clay dropping a bag on my head, days after Mike dropped a bag on my head, I've determined that the bunk above the cab is the best and safest place to sleep.
4) The tanks on the RV fill up quickly so showers must be short. At one point while washing dishes, the graywater going down the sink drain was coming back up the shower drain. My daughter loves waterfalls, so she would have thought the right turns were cool. Scott Jancy did our dirty work by emptying the shower a cup at a time (into the grass at a hotel) so that we wouldn't have any more waterfalls. Until we got to a proper dump station.
5) When unable to get a massage, the Compex Unit in active recovery mode works just as well. In fact, a couple of times I used the Compex Unit after a massage for added benefit.


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Tuesday, July 05, 2005
  Ride Alongs

Because we were so slow, we were unable to meet up with Bill and Zach in Arizona. We were also supposed to meet up with Chris Klug, but my teammates and I dropped the ball, so by the time we got in touch with him, we were already in Durango and there was no way he could get to us in time. Talking with Chris on the phone was a real pick me up. For me, it was like getting a call from Lance Armstrong, Micheal Jordan, or Tiger Woods. Chris is getting ready for the Olympics and this time he's bringing home the GOLD.

I met Ruth Ann in Trinidad, CO. Her brother had had a kidney transplant but passed away in 1992. I believe she said her mother and sister were on peritoneal dialysis. We chatted for awhile. I explained the mission of the Give Life Foundation and our goal to increase blood, organ, and tissue donation. I think we got a bystander interested in donating blood. It was really great to meet her.

From Kim, CO to Walsh, CO we were able to maintain a pretty high pace. Bruce was riding into town in a dust storm, like something out of DUNE. Muad-dib! We had been just hammering down the road, so we were early for our shift to end and we headed out of town. Although it took a couple seconds to get started, while waiting for Bruce, the wind caught my rear disk and nearly yanked the bike out of my hands. The tailwind was so strong that I could go 25mph with little pedal effort. I easily cruised at 30 miles per hour. The only down side is that I am coated in a fine layer of dust. Its in my hair, its in my pores, its everywhere. Its time for my massage. Ah, the life of a Pro-Cyclist.

Early on in the trip, Bruce told a story about the time he was driving trucks to put himself through law school. He wasn't getting along with his co-driver and at one point Bruce pulled the truck over to fix a tire or something. Bruce jumped back into the truck and started jamming down the road. A couple of hours later, his dispatcher called and said, "I know you hated him, but did you have to leave him standing on the side of the road in his underwear?"
Bruce replied, "Whattdya mean? he's asleep in the back." Bruce checked the back and sure enough, he wasn't there. "Does that mean I get solo rate?" Bruce asked.

Somewhere in Colorado, I awoke as the RV pulled into a McDonalds. I told them I wanted two cheeseburgers and that I was going in to use the bathroom. By the time I got out of the bathroom, the RV was gone. So...I waited...and waited. I had no phone. I had no wallet. Luckily I was wearing a bit more than tighty whities. I was hoping that they would say, "geez, there are two cheeseburgers left. Who ordered the cheeseburgers?" and somebody else would say, "Lou wanted two cheeseburgers." the someone else would say, "where is LOU our rider?" Then in my imagination, they turn around fetch me. I couldn't ask any of the locals if I was on the RAAM course, because they generally don't know. For all I knew, they could have pulled off the route to get some food and jumped right back on it. My best hope was that our support vehicle would come by or another competitor would give me a lift to the next time station. As you can tell, I had a lot of time to think of alternative scenarios standing by the side of the road.

Eventually, the Jet Truck came around the corner and I waved like mad and tried desperately to get them to understand that I was stranded and they had to pull over. This being my second McDonalds incident, some of the crew started calling me Big Mac. The really really sad part of the whole incident is that somebody ate my cheeseburgers.

More Intrepid Crew members:
Chris & Xuan Independence Air Volunteers in front of Jet Truck
Chris and Xuan work for Independence Air and graciously volunteered their time to support us. And there is that Jet Truck.

solo rate Catherine. No, she's not as mean as she looks
Catherine happened to be the one who actually drove the RV away from the McDonalds, so she gets solo rate.

Sorry about the bad picture Clay.
This is Jacques and Clay. Clay kept me feed with plain pasta and scrambled eggs, which surprised Clay's mother. Food is the most important element to Team RAAM. It takes time to digest. The quicker you can get it into your system, the better. Sleep would be second, I could always catch a few zz's in the van. Hydration is relatively easy. Plain water anytime I was awake and not eating.


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Monday, July 04, 2005
  Out of Africa

I found out in Cortez, Colorado that Martin had brought an upper respiratory infection back from Africa and his chest was bothering him. Hello. Immuno-Supressed rider here. After a really long pull, and finding out he showed up to the start line sick, I was pretty pissed. The story was that he may have gotten a cold from Bill, but at least I know where my cold came from. To make matters worse, the crew wasn't really washing out the waterbottles.

When we started, the crew filled up all the bottles, some with Hammer HEED, some with Perpetuem, and I think there were a couple with water or gatorade. It was kind of pot luck grabbing a bottle out of the cooler. To get a specific drink, usually the crew spritzed out some into their mouths to determine what was in the bottle. Later, the bottles were labeled with the contents. Then they were marked by rider. The drinks were mixed a bit sweet for my tastes, so I ended up just drinking water. I tried to hold on to the same bottle; since they weren't washed very well, very often my water tasted like Starburst candy.

A big thanks to Clint Phillips (Martin's Brother) for bringing Sun and Nikki. They are excellent massage therapists and had me feeling like a million bucks at the start line and have kept me rolling ever since. Sun also explained why I was feeling pain in my leg on my Softride. I was rubbing the Sciatic nerve the wrong way, probably because of the Carbon Fiber seat. Masssage and stretching seemed to help the problem, but I might switch back to the gel saddle on the softride and try the Carbon fiber saddle on the Litespeed. I'm sure this slowed me down during the 24 Hour Sebring time trial, within 10 miles of the start, my leg was hurting.

My wife sent a packet of envelopes for me to open each day of RAAM. The first had some drawings she must have made with my daughter and this is what she wrote “Congratulations on making one of your dreams come true. Not many people are so lucky, so enjoy every moment of it. Love Adrienne, Lorelai Q, and Roland.” The second had this written ”THE ITALIANS ARE COMING…Oh and Eddie is a real son of a bitch” For those who don’t know, the first quote is from Breaking Away with Dennis Quaid and the second quote is from American Flyers with Kevin Costner. The third had this to say ”Have you made anyone cry today?” this is a line from a Julia Stiles movie, Ten Things I Hate About You. This last quote seemed somewhat prescient (i'll explain in the next post), but I think she meant it more along the lines of the game Lance Armstrong plays with his son Luke:

Lance: "What does daddy do?"
Luke: "Make them suffer."

Here are three more crewmembers who made a difference.
Derek teaches college students in Colorado and kept my bike and spirits well adjusted
Derek teaches college students in Colorado. He kept my bike rolling along and together with Scott gave me advice that got me through some of the roughest parts of RAAM.
Jacques got my bikes ready to go and worked tirelessly to keep us riding
Jacques kept my bikes rolling along, I was the most trouble for him, I was the only rider on Campy and I only brought tubular wheels with me. "Where's my crack pipe?"

Scott had great advice that kept me from getting discouraged
Scott and Derek kept me sane with their advice during RAAM. They and the other crew members often worked to the point of exhaustion to keep us rolling along.


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Sunday, July 03, 2005
  I Love the smell of Monument Valley in the morning

Somewhere in AZ, after my pull, I fell asleep on the couch in the RV. They had just started to make pasta and chicken. I woke up what felt like hours later, the RV was quiet and dark, Catherine was the only one up. I hadn't eaten after my pull and I was seriously jonesin' for some food. I walked out to the gas station we were parked at and bought some muffins. There was a huge McDonald's sign out front and the clerk told me that the McD's was 1/4 mile down the road.

I felt like I had burned 20,000 calories, but had only replaced 2000, so I started walking (my bikes were on the follow vehicles and the spare bikes were locked to the back of the RV). If I had been thinking clearly, I would have woken up a crewmember and asked for food, but I was seriously bonking. The walk was more than a 1/4 mile, and I saw lots of stray dogs wandering around. I ordered 2 quarter pounders and some fries. I figured there was lots of salt, fat, and protein in them. I was a bit wary walking around with a half pound of beef and so many dogs, but as I got back to the RV, I could see that it was ready to roll. I'm not sure what they thought when they realized I was gone, but Bill said they made it sound like I just got pissed and walked off. If I had been thinking clearly, I might have left a note.

So, while I was having issues getting enough calories in, another rider was having his own problems getting sleep in the RV. For the past couple of pulls, Martin had been unable to sleep during his rest break. The RV was too hot, or noisy, or moving...it got to the point where he desperately wanted to get a hotel room.

I think Bruce and I started our pull somewhere between Tuba City and Kayenta, Arizona. Bruce says we started at Midnight which means Tuba City. Martin and Bill were coming off of a long pull. My first quarter pounder was digested and I was riding well when we got to Kayenta. I had the pleasure of riding into Monument valley at sunrise. There were monuments on either side of the road like giant sentinels. I got into a good tuck to pick up some speed and Jacques felt I was a bit skittish on the road. We started to reel in larger teams though (6 and 8 person teams).

When we got to Mexican Hat, Martin our former Army Ranger had gotten less than 1 hour of sleep and he had warned me the night before that if he didn't get any sleep, he wouldn't be able to continue today. So I told him to go back to the hotel and sleep, Bruce and I would take another pull. Bill (our Navy Veteran) jumped in the van ready to go. We decided to do a three man rotation until Martin joined us. I was under the impression, that it would just be to the next time station, that would give Martin at least another hour and a half to sleep before he had to jump in the van and get shuttled up(it would take us about 2.5 hours to get to Aneth). The time station at Aneth, Ut came and went and no Martin. We gradually shortened our pulls to 20 minutes because the day was really heating up. We had no choice but to press on to Cortez, CO in the three man rotation. By Cortez, Colorado (another 3 hours down the road) Bruce and I had pushed to the point where we were pretty tired and would need some recovery time. Bill had been out for nearly his full pull, so theoretically, we should have been relieving him within an hour. And Martin was still AWOL.

At Cortez, Bruce made the decision to drop me at the RV for sleep and food, this was after about 12 hours on the bike. It was around 2pm when we got word that Martin was nearly in Cortez. Martin showed up at Cortez and then went off to join the rotation. Bruce stayed in the minivan and they dropped him off in Durango. He had spent nearly 14 hours in the rotation. Martin claimed to have only gotten an hour of sleep on top of the first 40 minutes. I then started using that as a running joke, "I can't sleep, can we get a hotel room?" The reality was, I was sleeping very well on the RV couch, in fact, MikeLou and Mike in San Diego
had to drop a bag on my head to get me to wake up. That's Mike on the right. If you see him on the street, buy him a Red Bull or hit him over the head with a suitcase, whatever strikes your fancy.

In Durango, Bruce's friend Sheila was genereous enough to give us a place to shower. I've been fighting a cold since a couple of days before RAAM, and now its a full blown sore throat and hacking cough. Sheila made me some tea. We likes Sheila, don'ts we preciousss. Golum, golum.


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Saturday, July 02, 2005
  Rider or Figurehead?

I was shuttled to Time Station #2, Bruce, Martin, and Bill had been in a three man rotation for over 120 miles. They had had gone off route for around 5 miles and at some point had gotten a flat. They were out there a long time. I was fresh and ready to go and I was waiting. The guys pulled into the time station and spent nearly 10 minutes putting lights on their bikes. For that 10 minutes we lost ground to the other teams. I was ready to go, I had lights on my bike and I was fresh. My biggest fear before RAAM was that I would get shuttled from time station to time station across the country, that I was just along for the publicity. It even seemed like that was really happening when we got word from Bruce that I would be shuttling up to Time Station #3 (another 40 miles down the road).

I'm a team player, so I did what I was told. we then settled into our 4 hour pulls.


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Friday, July 01, 2005
  Game On

Did I mention I got carded buying Playboy at the Dulles Airport…I must have repeated myself three times, “You’re carding me for Playboy?” First of all, its Playboy people, not a bottle of Absolut, or a pack of Marlboros, or even Naughty Asian Sluts. Do they even have nude layouts in Playboy anymore, I think MAXIM is probably more hardcore than Playboy is these days. Second, while this is tuff for me to admit, I don’t look 17. And Finally to set the record straight, Yes, I did buy this for the Lance Article.
A big thanks goes out to Ye Olde Bike Shop on University Ave near La Mesa. They hooked us up with some small parts we couldn’t find at other bike shops and they even handed over a slightly used front derailleur that is working out great on our backup bike.
The race organizers are only letting 1 person per team ride on the parade route, a 13 mile stretch through the streets of San Diego ending at a Jack In The Box. I will be representing Team Give Life, riding with Team Donate Life, and a few other transplant athletes that have gotten permission to join us for the parade route. Bruce will take over at the Jack In The Box.
Gentleman Start your Engines:
The start line was packed with riders and spectators, the riders were chomping at the bit to get going and I’m sure the spectators were wondering what we were thinking riding our bikes across the country. We rode along the parade route at a leisurely pace. A rider got a flat within the first half mile or so. Another rider turned to me and said, “that’s kind of a bad omen.” I looked up and said, “Not as bad as you think, we’re right in front of Dirty Dan’s Topless Bar.”
I chatted with a guy who’s father started the Saturn National Donor Days. I also rode with Jason from Team Donate Life. The weather is spectacular and the parade route was relatively flat up to the Official Race Start. Bruce took over according to plan and I jumped into the Jet Truck. Chris and Xuan (Swan) shuttled me up to Time Station 2. We stopped near El Centro to use a rest stop. When my buddy Bill Wohl told me that if I wanted to get acclimated to the heat I should stick my head in a pizza oven, I thought he was just making a joke, until that rest stop. ohmigod, its hot.

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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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Warning Signs for Kidney Disease:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Burning or Difficulty when Urinating
  • Frequent Urination at Night
  • Blood in your urine
  • Cola or tea colored urine
  • Swellig of the eyes, ankles, or feet
  • Lower back pain unrelated to physical activity

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