rediscovering my road
My last ten years have been a roller-coaster ride of emotions and experiences...with some amazing highs and freefall like moments shortly after. From the athletic highs of racing in the Hawaii Ironman in 2013, meeting Tim, then working with him through COVID to grow Austin and Kat, and the personal challenges of a cancer diagnosis in 2021.
Following a successful treatment where I kicked cancer's backside at the Fred Hutch clinic in Seattle, I threw myself into the "Summer of Kat" to celebrate! We saw friends, danced at Glastonbury, hiked Tour de Mont Blanc route, and even embraced the (hot and dusty) chaos and joy of Burning Man. Life had become vibrant and colorful again, and I was back!
Except, just like Dr Seuss said, “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true, that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you”. Just a few weeks later, out of nowhere, my 91-year-old dad died. I went from feeling on top of the world, feeling like I was back to being me, to being crushed flat. It wasn’t just my dad being gone; everything just got harder. The demands of daily life became bigger and bigger, and I felt smaller and smaller. In a couple of months, I’d gone from believing “I can”, to “actually I can’t” . I fell into a slump where even exercise seemed too much.
And that’s pretty much where I’ve been for the last 10 months. And it’s sucked! I’m trying to give myself to growing Austin and Kat, being the best mom I can as my four girls (18–25) still need me, managing my mom's healthcare, and packing everything up so we can get on the bus and explore life. And honestly, I’ve spent more time spinning my wheels than I have moving forward.
Recently, though, it’s become clear I need to face things head-on, beginning with getting back to exercising and getting some more “me” time. I’m proud to say that I kicked off my journey to rediscover the 2013 Kat by taking small steps but doing them every day. Six weeks of consistent running got me back into a groove, and then came the call to join the annual Obliteride charity event—raising money for the leading cancer research hospital, based right here in Seattle, and the very place that treated me 18 months ago.
For someone who’s ridden as much as me, you’d think this would be easy. Well, no. See, my relationship with the road has become strained. Over the years, I've lost friends and acquaintances to reckless car drivers, and I'm now fearful of becoming another statistic. But of course...I'm starting to realize that hiding inside isn't really living either. I spend the winter on my trainer 2-3x a week doing Zwift, but that’s more for “fitness” than for pleasure. So the Obliteride became my reason to raise money to Cure Cancer...and to get me back out on the road.
the day of the ride
The energy for a Charity Ride is a world apart from that of an Ironman. It's not just about strength and endurance; it's about the heart. It's joyful, gentle, and full of bear hugs and sincere smiles. In Ironman, you can find love too, but here, it's less about conquering yourself and more about embracing humanity. I was with people from all walks of life who came together to support a shared vision bigger than themselves. The air buzzes with a positive force; you can feel it tingling on your skin, and you can't help but join in the smiles that are contagious.
The pre-ride rituals went by like a breeze. We met with the friendly faces of the Catch the Spider Team, exchanged high-fives, and headed home for a sound night's sleep. I laid out my clothes in my usual meticulous manner, proud to be wearing the “F*ck Cancer” kit that Betty Designs' founder Kristin Mayer had given me (thank you!!!!). With fuel, drinks, and bikes checked, we tucked into bed, ready for the day.
Up with the birds at dawn, we walked the dogs, put on the sunscreen and anti-chafe balm, and rode to the start. Timing isn’t Tim’s strong point (just noticed the irony that the first 3 letters of timing are literally his name!), and we missed the start by 10 minutes. As it happens, that was the blessing: we got a private send-off from the volunteers, and I was able to enjoy clear roads and begin to settle into the groove of remembering what it feels like to be riding outside.
The first 10 miles were a pleasure, passing through university roads and over the beautiful bridge, then cruising up through the arboretum before climbing to drop down over Lake Washington to Mercer Island. Mount Rainier loomed beautifully in the distance on our right, and everything felt just…right: the weather was spot on, my bike was a dream, and everything just felt comfortable. Volunteers were cheering me on, and as I started to catch up to other participants, I got to cheer them on. It was amazing.
As we approached the 25 mile mark, I was starting to feel a bit “slower” and was looking forward to hitting the rest stop to refuel. I’m not sure who had the brilliant idea to include a BARRISTA station, but it was perfection. We stopped, had an iced latte and a bag of chips, refilled our bottles, and off we went. Having not been in the saddle for a long time, I realized how much I miss being outside, seeing the landscape, the sky, the sounds, and even the smells. Along many of the trails, we encountered the aroma of ripe blackberries. By now we had climbed some good hills that my Wahoo GPS called “summits” (they definitely weren’t summits!), and I started to relax the brake levers enough to even start enjoying the mild descents. We rolled along the Sammamish River Trail and through some of Washington State’s wine country around Woodinville, which was breathtaking as the valley floor opened up before us. I cruised past more smiling riders over rolling terrain, and then, with Kirkland quickly coming into the landscape, we were headed to the quaint town square for the third and final rest stop. For almost 20 years I’ve been gluten-free, and aid stations normally aren’t a place I find anything made for me, but here they had GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES that were outstanding. #winningA quick sit on a bench overlooking Lake Washington and the skyline of Seattle in the distance, a cold drink, and we headed off for the finish line.
the final stretch
The SR520 trail stretches for 2.7 miles over Lake Washington to connect Medina, on the East, with Montlake, on the Seattle side. Specifically made for cyclists and pedestrians, it opened in 2018 and offers a stunning and safe way to cross the lake. The trail is wide and completely protected from any of the car traffic to our left, but today every lane is empty as roadworks have closed the bridge for the weekend.
Riding across the glistening water caught me by surprise. It was so quiet! and I found myself realizing the incredible place I've been lucky enough to call home for the past six years.
Normally, just driving across the 520 is a treat because of the fantastic views of the Seattle skyline ahead, Mount Rainer to the left, the UW Football stadium on the right, and the abundance of boaters, kayakers, and paddle boarders taking advantage of a gorgeous summer day.
But the feeling of riding across 520 with no cars anywhere to be seen and hundreds of cyclists riding alongside me to support cancer research is something that I cannot put into words. Writing this now gives me goosebumps. By stepping up to do this ride, I realized I’d made real steps to conquering the fear that has paralyzed me for three plus years now.
I’ve been stuck. Scared to move. Everytime I do I seem to get another shock that the world has lots of pain, suffering, and death. As an immunocompromised person, COVID would have been really dangerous, so I isolated. Then I got cancer, which was near total isolation. And then my dad. I’d not seen him in person for 2+ years but fortunately flew over a few days before he fell ill. When I arrived he was in great health, and 5 days later he suddenly passed. Those days were precious, but my emotions were all over the place. My dad had waited for me to come see him, and as glad as I was to be there at the end, I was sad that time moves forward so quickly.
So I’m done with being stuck. As scared as I am about the future, and being quite frank, there’s a lot to do. In the next few months, Tim and I need to pack up our home, sell all we own, and leave Seattle to go and live on a school bus that we are converting. We’re going to drive around America for a couple years, exploring the country, visiting friends, and seeing many new people. I plan on popping in to all our retailers I pass, and I am having meetups for some of the wonderful customers that I’ve gotten to know over the years.
Top of my list is to be outside in the sun and dodge the Seattle winter gloom. Instead I’m going to be spending time watching the sunset, exploring National parks, and living our best life with our amazing dogs. Austin’s starting to get older, and one day he wont be here any more. I want to give Austin, Harper, Blanca, Tim, and me, the best life, which means getting out there, experiencing the world around us. It also means to start living again.
So, if you saw a woman last month in a white “F*ck Cancer” jersey in the Obliteride, with a grin from ear to ear, then that was (probably) me. I had a great time, and I was really proud of myself for making this happen, trusting Tim that I’d be okay, and believing I could do anything. The final few miles back to Gas Works Park were on the busy Burke Gilman trail, lined with cheering spectators…it’s cliche, but I felt amazing. To all of the people there, thanks! And to all the people who did the ride to make a difference in the world, I’m grateful to have been out there with you. Our individual efforts might be small, but they add up, create change, and help. Most of all, they inspire someone else, somewhere, to say, I can.
support the cause!
Please join my 2023 efforts to help Fred Hutch cure cancer faster!
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