Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Real Wrap-up, Part I

I know - it's been over a week since we finished the Challenge. I wasn't sure where to begin, so I'll just start writing and see where it goes.

After dropping off Bea for a sleepover with friends - thanks, Katie & Jon - we headed up to our hotel in Plymouth Meeting, PA. We checked in and dropped off our bikes and stuff in the room, then took off to pick up our packets at the Montgomery County Community College campus.

Alyssa's stuff


We got to the LIVESTRONG Village to pick up our stuff and found it was unbelievably muddy. A major storm had gone through the night before, so the grassy area where the village was set up was pretty much a mud pit. It made walking around and looking at stuff less than ideal, so we decided to just pick up our packets. Because of the generosity of you all, Alyssa and I received many incentive gifts and, cooler than that, many cheers and much applause from the volunteers when they announced the amount of money we raised. It was very cool. We both received the same things: a t-shirt, hat, water bottle, cycling jersey, messenger bag, and tickets to the participant appreciation dinner that night in Chester, PA at Turbine Hall.

The appreciation dinner was very nice. It started with a cocktail hour, which was mostly awkward for us because we didn't know anyone else there. However, as I was standing and eating some very garlicky hummus, I noticed that Fatty of Fat Cyclist was chatting with some people right behind Alyssa. When I alerted her to this, Alyssa got very excited. I was pretty sure she'd be so nervous that she wouldn't actually say anything to Fatty, but she did! She introduced us to Fatty and he was lovely. He asked if we were part of a team, so we told him we were a small team of four called Team Athena. We told him we might join Team Fatty next year, but this year Alyssa wanted to design a jersey. He asked us what the jerseys looked like, so Alyssa told him and he said he'd be on the lookout for us on Sunday. We only talked for a few minutes, but it was probably the highlight of the night. Well, that's not true - the highlight was hearing Fatty's speech that he gave at the dinner. It was funny, touching, and the best speech of the night.

Turbine Hall

My giant plate of food

We ended up sitting at a table with a very lovely couple. I don't remember their names, but the husband was himself a cancer survivor who does work with a low-cost/free legal clinic for cancer patients in Philadelphia. He participates in the Challenge, but he said he was actually at the dinner because his organization is a beneficiary of the grants that the Lance Armstrong Foundation doles out to organizations. It was really cool to actually talk to someone who benefits from the foundation. He told us stories of the people who come to the clinic seeking legal advice because they're afraid of being fired from their jobs for being diagnosed with cancer. He also told us that much of his work involves estate planning and wills. What a great resource.

After the dinner, we swung by the other half of Team Athena's hotel so Alyssa could drop off Kim & Judy's jerseys. After that, we went back to the hotel and got in bed. We were asleep by 11:30PM. That was good because we had to be up by 4:45AM in order to get dressed, eat, and get to the Challenge on time. Last year the traffic was horrendous getting to the campus, so we made sure this time around that we were on the road by 5:30AM. We got there around 6:15AM and sat in the car for a bit, just finishing up our breakfast of bagels and oatmeal and relishing the final few minutes of calm. Then it was time to get out of the car and start getting ourselves ready to head to the start.

Taking down the bikes

More than a little nervous

To be continued...

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