I had a goal this year, to ride in a GranFondo.

My eyes were set on on Levi’s GranFondo: 102 Miles. 9004 ft of climbing. I set out to ride at least 50-60 miles a couple times a week, climb like a mountain goat, return to a ketogenic diet, and crush this race.

Was it crazy? Yes.

Did I do any of the things I hoped to do before race day? no.

Did I return to a keto diet? If eating croissants and sandwiches is considered ketogenic, then yes, I was keto all day, everyday.

Did I make the 102 miles? No. I made it 66.37.

Did I climb 9002 ft? No. I climbed 2310 ft in 4:08.

Did it hurt? Yes. Lord, yes.

Was it worth it? 100%

For the stomachless community, I believe anything is worth a try. Almost 5 years ago this month I received the phone call that changed life as I knew it – I was positive for CDH1/HDGC. My mind was swirling thinking about what life would be like without a stomach. I never thought I would eat solid food again let alone get back on a bicycle. If you had told me what would be possible without a stomach 5 years later, I would not have believed it. I did not meet my goal of finishing a GranFondo this year, but every mile was a celebration of life. Failed attempts carry few regrets.

My teammates from Lost Dog Cycling joined me in this journey. Over the past couple of years we ride to meet together as the sun begins to rise in downtown Campbell. In the winter, the group looks like a pack of ninjas. We raise our hands to our mouth hoping our breath will help to regain feeling in our fingers. The mask covering our mouth and nose needs to be lowered in order to complain as we wait to see who has decided to lay in bed this morning, but the complaining is a thin veil masking the truth – this is our tribe. We leave no one behind. We fix the flat tires together. We all know Friday’s are not the same when we choose to stay in bed. No matter how cold, there is always a warm cup of coffee, great stories, and epic magic hour photos waiting before we head to work.

When the opportunity came around to ride a GranFondo together, we packed our cars to make the trek to Santa Rosa from as far as Southern California. We squeezed into an Airbnb to sleep for a couple of hours before showing up with thousands of other riders from all over the country.

A few miles into the beautiful ride through scenic vineyard and picturesque roads, I was feeling ironically akin sitting behind a string of jerseys reading, “Lost Dog”. As the mileage built in my legs, the lack of training and proper nutrition was evident. Above my knees my quads began to seize up. The inability to stand for climbs made the thought of  a massive ascent and the following dangerous descent of Kings Ridge, daunting. A rule difficult for me to heed crossed my mind: know your limit. I had reached mine and it was time to turn around. It is never easy for me to miss a goal, and worse, “to quit”, but pushing forward on a bike can carry major consequences.

Whether it’s coffee rides or GranFondo’s, we never drop a rider and together we rode back to the finish. My teammates took turns in the wind. When my legs were ready to give out, I felt two hands on my back from two teammates as they literally pushed me over the final climbs. Tribe.

Over the past year, the stomachless community on social media has grown exponentially. Each new diagnosis and addition to the group is like time traveling to the moment I received the fateful phone call. Each question receives the indispenssible gift of an empathic response, “I am 2/3/5/9 years post-total gastrectomy, and you can do this!” These are the virtual hands of the stomachless community on the back of another grieving human-being pondering the insurmountable reality of life without a stomach. The advice, the prayers, and encouragement uncovers the truth – we are a tribe.

Grace and Peace,

Steve Dang

 

 

 

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