Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ride the Rockies 2011- Breastmilk Express

How much is enough? When do we quit? What obstacles will we overcome to achieve a goal? At the end of the day, what are we made of? This past June 11-17, 2011, Ranch West Coast explored these questions when faced with the layman's version of a cycling "Grand Tour."

Ride the Rockies (RTR) is an organized and supported 6 day summer cycling tour through the high alpine Colorado Rocky Mountains.

The ride covers 400+ miles total with an average of 60-80 miles distance and 2000-4000 feet of vertical climbing per day, linked point-to-point over multiple mountain ranges topping 7000-12000 feet in elevation.

Some months ago, RiderTurbo and RiderMama registered for the event in anticipation of cycling through the picturesque state of Colorado on a glorious summer ride with 2000 of their closest cycling friends.

As luck would have it, complications arose. RiderMama gave birth to RiderSasha on February 25, 2011. This meant that RiderMama would either need to sacrifice breast feeding four months into RiderSasha's infancy, or devise a way to breast feed on the cycling trip every three hours during daily rides of 6-7 hours or more. Aside from the logistical difficulty of breastfeeding on the roadside in the middle of nowhere each day, would lactic acid accumulation in the breast milk on long rides cause it to taste sour and be rejected by young RiderSasha when she had not yet made the transition to solid food or baby formula?

Complicating matters, RiderMama's very special private graduation ceremony celebrating the glorious completion of her three-year Medical Fellowship in Oncology at UCLA was unexpectedly scheduled for the first day of the RTR tour, in direct conflict with the event registration, pre-arranged travel plans and first two days of the ride. Talk about bad timing.

Beyond that, if the Ranch figured out how to manage the challenges, what would we do with the now-four-year-old RiderZoe? Depart and ride bicycles for a week without her?

And if all this wasn't enough, the apparent final straw: one week prior to the event, RiderTurbo tripped and fell on an early morning run with the dog, breaking his distal radius near the wrist. This required a rigid blue fibreglass cast placed from hand to elbow in order to immoblize the right wrist and hand.

Could Turbo ride with a arm cast over a multiday cycling event on top of Mama's breastfeeding? Maybe grandparents could drive the kids and time breast pump-breaks in the middle of the ride each day? Breastfeeding, broken wrist, schedule conflicts, and questionable logistics with kids in a 400 mile mountain cycling tour 1000 miles from home. Was it enough to make the Ranch quit?
Frailty is not a characteristic associated with the Ranch.

Those who know it as more than a gratuitous moniker, know that the Ranch represents a way of life, a philosophy forged in the rough and tumble landscape of the Western U.S, Canada, the Pampas of Argentina and places alike where men are cut from a different cloth, women are hearty, where healthy livestock roam the plains under a vast, blue sky. The Ranch isn't just a catchy white and yellow lycra outfit with colorful stars and a black horseshoe for decoration. Ranchers are durable individuals who buck up and get the job done no matter the circumstances.

Turbo and Mama rescheduled flights to attend the graduation in L.A. and depart immediately to join the RTR peloton on the third day of riding in the Colorado mountains.

Turbo dismissed doctor's orders to stay off the bike with an armcast. Mama pre-pumped and stockpiled 120 ounces of frozen breastmilk in reserve ice coolers, then got out the breast pump car charger and scheduled rendezevous points in the mountains to "pump and dump" roadside while on the move cycling, bypassing the risk of "lactic laced" milk that RiderSasha would refuse but keeping the breast milk flowing so that Mama's supply didn't dry up.

Ranch grandparents slotted in as private drivers of the support vehilcle to deliver breast pumps, bottles and water to Mama at designated points each day. The Ipad was loaded with $100 worth of the "Fresh Beat Band", "Bubble Guppies", "Imagination Movers" and sundry math and alphabet games for RiderZoe to enjoy while riding backseat in the Jeep with Grandparents.

The Breastmilk Express was leaving the station as planned. It was time to cowboy up and see what we were made of.

And leave it did. After a lovely ceremony with accolades for the now fully fledged oncologist RiderMama, the crew jetted to Colorado and met up with RTR in Avon, just outside of Vail. From there, the team pursued each day with planning and vigor.

The high mountains provided a beautiful backdrop, complete with magnficent views, great climbs and descents and snowy backdrops in the higher elevations. The trip doubled as a family vacation. Each day after riding, the family would join up for dinner and activities. A hike to a waterfall. A dinner out. A chinese food smorgasboard. A nature walk by the river. Playtime in the park. All in all, it turned out to be a magnificent week, culminating with the proud finish of Turbo and Mama in Georgetown, Colorado after hundreds of miles of mountain riding.

What seemed like an insurmountable logistical challenge turned out to be the best riding experience of our lives. Next year, in lieu of the likely long-lost idea of RAAM, we invite all Ranchers to join us for this week-long cycling event and combined family vacation in the most beautiful of settings. Maybe we can all do it together then without breastfeeding and broken arms. It just might the best experience you'll ever have on a bicycle.