“Just don’t die, OK”

19 Jun

Well-meaning friend: I can’t believe you’re actually doing this. Promise me you won’t get hurt.

Me: “I can’t promise you that.”

Friend: Well, then just don’t die, OK?

Me: “I’ll do my best to come back alive.”

Friend: <sigh>

Because I’ve had this conversation (or something pretty close to it) well over two dozen times during the past 48 hours, I don’t consider this to be remarkable in the least. Unsuspecting bystanders, however, apparently find it to be alarming, as I learned this morning in the ladies room.

Stranger: [after my friend had left the scene] Um. Sorry to intrude, but … what are you planning to do?

Me: “Nothing! I’m just leaving for vacation tomorrow”

Stranger: Well that sounds nice! Are you going to some sort of third-world country or something?

Me: “Ha! No. Not this time — although I *do* do a lot of traveling in developing nations. No, this time I’m just going to Belgium & Luxembourg.”

Stranger: That doesn’t sound dangerous at all! Why was your friend so concerned?

Me: “Well…., that’s a bit of a long story. How much time to you have?”

After assuring me that she was in no rush, I gave her my stock “condensed” tale of how I got hooked up with Ride2Recovery and why I now have an even stronger affinity for their mission. After giving me a hug and $20 to give to R2R (which officially made her “Blog Eligible”), she made me promise to explain everything again, here, “because your story is really remarkable — so many parts of it, and you never know, it really could benefit someone who doesn’t even know you but who just ends up reading it somehow.”

Now, I’m fairly certain that all 178 of you subscribers already know everything about this situation, but on the off-chance that a “stranger” (or, more accurately “a friend whom I’ve not yet met”) may lurk among us, let me bring you up to date.

I’m a partner in a law firm, but none of my clients pay me. In fact, although the main job of every other partner in my firm is to generate revenue so that we can run a profitable enterprise, I have NO official revenue-generating responsibilities. Instead, my entire job is to figure out the best, most productive way to give away our services for free. I am the “Pro Bono Partner.” I connect our ~400 high-powered lawyers with a thousand or so low-powered individuals and low-revenue nonprofit organization each year who otherwise would not be able to access the legal system.

This is –without exception– the greatest lawyering job on the planet!

And although I get to experience the true, unadulterated, joy of “doing good” and “being charitable” 100% of the time at work, it’s also true that sometimes I need a break from being charitable.

Sometimes I need to just be selfish. And my favorite way to be selfish is to spend time with Dexter, my bike.

When I started cycling (which is a whole ‘nuther world from “riding a bike,” btw), I was very clear with myself that Bike Time = Me Time. And there was definitely NOT going to be anything charitable about it. No AIDS rides. No Team-in-Training rides. Not even a Support Bike Lane Infrastructure ride.

No charity, period: I’m cycling, leave me alone.

I successfully maintained this attitude for over a year. Then, one day, as I was riding along PCH near Malibu, I encountered a HUGE pack of cyclist who were –frankly– moving pretty darn slow. And I got annoyed. And as I rode by, I made note of their group name so that once I got home I could look them up and make sure to avoid them in the future: “Ride to Recovery” — sounded like a bunch of ex-drunks on bikes to me!

Oh, for shame, for shame! They weren’t a bunch of recovering alcoholics, they were amazing awesome, valiant, brave, committed heroes!

They were all wounded warriors who were either missing limbs or had suffered traumatic brain injuries and they were using cycling to help them overcome these injuries. The were literally riding their way to recovery: Ride2Recovery (or, more simply: R2R).

Holy moses. Did I feel like the world’s biggest asshat or what?

Veterans + bikes = my 2 favorite things in the world (later blog posts may delve into why I love Vets so much, but we don’t have time / space for that now).

My goodness. The least I could do was to buy a jersey from their on-line store, right? That would assuage my guilt a little bit anyways.

And so that’s what I did. And then I promptly forgot about them and went back to my “just me” riding zone.

About two months later, however, –right around my birthday, actually (February 2011)– I got an email from R2R announcing their first-ever international cycling challenge: 10 days of riding in the Normandy region of France with 35 slots open to non-veterans who were willing/able to raise at least $5,000.

Riding in France. Touring D-Day sites! During the Tour de France!! With Veterans!!! And all you need to do is raise 5 grand?

Count me in to the world of charity cycling!

Fast forward a few months to June 2011. I had already raised over $10k and we were just a few weeks away from our France trip departure date. R2R asked if I would like to participate in one last fundraising ride with them up in Calabasas — no need for me to register or do any additional fundraising, just show up and meet some of the staff and guys (vets) before we all headed overseas together. I re-arranged some work travel so that I could get back to CA from DC in time for the ride.

Three hours into the ride I crashed. Literally.

A full-on face-first, head-smashing, life-threatening wreck.

I don’t know how it happened although various witness reports have helped shed some light on it (and we don’t need to rehash).

What I do know is that one of my fellow riders (whom I had never met before, nor have I seen him since) had to perform CPR on me while I lay bleeding and unconscious on the side of the road and when the ambulance crew arrived I was in VERY bad shape.

They took me to the nearest level-1 trauma center were I was prepped for emergency brain surgery (along with a bit of facial reconstruction, too). My family was warned that I may not survive and further advised that if I did manage to survive, I would likely suffer life-long disabilities and would require months of rehabilitation.

Here we could go into 12 pages of stories about how I ended up proving the doctors WAY wrong, but that’s not worth getting into now.

Instead we’ll jump to the punchline: I not only survived. I thrived. And I beat the living daylights out of everyone’s expectations in large part thanks to my bullheaded determination to literally get back on the bike.

Less than 9 months after my accident I completed a 100-mi ride in 6:06 hours and two months after that, I tackled one of North America’s toughest climbing race, L’Etape du California. For my 1-year “Meant to Live” anniversary, I rode 70mi with 6,000′ of climbing. At the end of this post is a photo from that ride — me in my original R2R jersey on June 11, 2012; a year to the day after my near-death cycling experience.

So, now circling back to the initial Friend/Me conversation (which I heard 20+ times this week). I guess it’s sort of understandable that some of my friends are worried about me continuing to engage in an activity that has proven itself to be not entirely risk free.

But here’s the thing, what me and the other R2R riders understand is that the 100% known risk of NOT riding (i.e., being fat, lazy, unhealthy, and unhappy) is actually WAY worse for us than the potential risk we face when we are clipped in and riding.

We ride to recover. And we recover because we ride. Going to Belgium with these guys, to visit WWII Battle of the Bulge sites will further heighten our commitment to making the most of some bad situations.

When I ride, I feel free. I feel strong. I feel like I can take on and conquer anything the world throws at me.

Tomorrow, I get to tackle the world with ~150 true warriors. The only risk is that we may have so much fun together over there that we might decide to just stay — riding, drinking beer, and reveling in the miracles of the universe.

Stay tuned to this blog to find out what happens…

10 Responses to ““Just don’t die, OK””

  1. Kathleen June 20, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    Have fun. Buon viaggio.

    • justadventures June 20, 2012 at 5:09 am #

      Thanks, aunt Kathy! Am at the airport now — so excite!

  2. Amanda June 20, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    I may have already known the story, but this still choked me up and inspired me! You are a great writer and an amazing person. Hope you have a fabulous trip and keep taking/posting pictures too!!

    • justadventures June 21, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      Thanks — am a having a little bit of technical difficulties with photo uploading here (for now). Trying to get it all sorted out…

  3. katerinadiaviano June 20, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    You know we have another neice (grand niece actually) who is rollerblading across America. Set a record getting to Jacksonville, FLA and is now headed to NYC.

  4. Jumbo June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    You need to share “Unstoppable” by Foxy Shazam with all of your r2r crew. Give it a listen…

    Get Spotify if you need. Well worth it.

  5. Allison July 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Hi there. Thanks for re-sharing the story here — I had not known anything about it/you, and came upon your story and blog after reading about your role at Manatt. Wow. Kudos and thanks to you and all the R2R riders.

    • justadventures July 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      Thanks, Allison! And welcome to the blog. I plan to post some updates this weekend, so stay tuned!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Rules of Engagement | JustAdventures - July 8, 2013

    […] will do my best to not die or get injured while riding my […]

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