Monday, June 30, 2008

death, fear and life

i sent an email to a friend of mine today who was feeling somewhat
challenged by confronting death through supporting a friend who
recently transitioned due to breast cancer. it reminded me of this
experience i had a few weeks ago on the AIDS ride...

when i was on the AIDS ride i had this moment of really letting go
of my life and surrendering into the inevitability of my eventual
death. If it is my time to go, it is my time to go. I was riding
on 101 south and really scared i would get hit by an 18 wheeler or
something. Intense. i tell you. so as i was riding along, i
noticed my entire body was tightened and it really just hurt. I
think i was just so afraid i contracted in my entire being. when i
noticed how tense i was, i started telling myself to relax... and
then i imagined my own death. and then in fully embracing that
possibility, i was able to let go of my life even while fully
embracing it. It was simply about confronting the fear, breathing
into it, and allowing the truth of that possibility to really pass
into me, live, and pass out of me. my life is, best as i
understand it, in this body, finite. the more i embrace that
reality, the more i can be in right now, right here... because in
any moment i can die. it just go so real while riding the bike on
the side of the highway because of the naked vulnerability of a
lone bicyclist riding for 20 miles beside big cars and trucks...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The joy of overcoming obstacles : )

I think part of what makes joy so tremendous is often the
overcoming of obstacles -- the human spirit in triumph. For me,
the Aids ride being complete and the joy of the experience
wouldn't be so profound if i hadn't gone through so much struggle
and adversity to get there.

my thought is that the struggle itself (often the pain) often
defines the context/character of the joy through the contrast
between them.

all that said, i wanted to thank you all for your support -- in
whatever little or big ways you might have offered it -- around
the ride. it was an incredible, challenging, difficult, intense
and rewarding experience. i rode 306 of the 539 miles after
injuring myself 32 miles into the ride on the first day. it
challenged me in every way i wanted and a billion ways i didn't
imagine possible. little and big things people have said
really impacted me... one that comes to mind was a thread
someone wrote some months ago about her experience when she was
looking for a lost item and found herself running. I found my
inner athlete on this trip and that was a beautiful Becoming for

and, because it really must be said: we raised 12+ million dollars
on this ride. while a lot of this goes to research into meds
(which isn't necessarily a place people want to see this money
going (i've gotten feedback to that extent)), it is also used for
education and prevention -- seeing as these days transmission of
HIV is pretty much avoidable. some of it is being used globally as
well through Pangea, a sub-company of the SF Aids foundation.

It was a powerful experience to ride through small towns, raising
awareness, having people see hundreds -- thousands -- of riders
making a statement about prevention and this cause. imagine 2500
riders dotting the hillside all dressed in red --- forming the
illusion of the ribbon. a powerful experience at the very least.

my favorite story of how we made a difference: we were riding
through the farm lands where strawberries are picked. a woman
drives up to one of the organizers in her old run down pinto and
asks in broken english what we're about. the organizer explains.
the woman drives off. she comes back a short time later with a
collection she had taken up from her co-workers -- these are
people who are picking strawberries and making very little money,
i'm pretty sure. she brought back $3.62. While it may seem like a
small contribution, that we were able to touch these people and
have them be moved enough to donate that is, in itself, super

That all said, you can still donate if you're so moved or simply
read about my experience if you're interested in the details -- i
have put it up on the blog:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

the finish

Most of my life i have been at the front of the pack in everything i do. what a radically different experience to be at the end of the pack... perhaps the 20th rider to the end. pulling into the VA center in LA i screamed with joy like i never have before... high fives to riders as i passed them and they congratulated me... tears of joy, relief, pride... pain... release... so much emotion.

i did not think i could do it. that's a rare experience for me. so glad to have done what i did and gotten where i did.

i sat under a tree and cried for a while... glad to be done. too wiped out to deal with closing ceremonies, i simply wanted to be in Atreyu's arms. we finally connected... a beautiful reunion. so grateful to have him in my life and by my side.

slipping away as the riders went into closing ceremonies, i found myself grateful to leave when i did.

pretty much the only place on my body not sore were my ears and elbows. my face was wind chapped and sunburned. my eyes burning -- from the sun, the sunblock, the crying. my legs, ass, arms, back, and stomach muscles worn out and used. my crotch and ass chaffed beyond belief.

and, i'd do it again.

day 7: will over skill indeed!

at 65 miles, todays ride seems... in a surprising shift in perspective, short. i am, however, struggling to get out of bed again because we have to be out even earlier today as everything closes earlier.

once again, the caboose is chasing me. i'm struggling at the beginning of the ride... the first 4 miles i'm sluggish, at best. i move along, doing my best... and then suddenly i catch up to a pack of folks who are stopped at a light. slowing down enough to catch the light without having to stop, i whiz out and then i just try to keep up. for a few miles i'm riding 18-20 MPH with the pack, but i realize with my quad being where it is at, i need to take a breather. 10 miles left on the 20 mile leg... i get back on the bike and ride hard. my shifter is still not working right... i need to tech my bike at the rest stop, so i pull in and go straight to the techs. they spend 20 minutes trying to adjust it... i ride out, caboose still right behind me. I ride a good ways, stopping... the shifter finally seems to be mostly working (except the obnoxious sound it makes)... but my quad it not.

i'm hot. i'm tired. i look down and see i've put in 31 miles and i think about how lame that is. ha! i came into this riding having only done *one* ride over 30 miles and now i think only 30 miles is lame. what a perspective shift. but i realize if i sweep to lunch i can ice, roll, rest and then finish the last 18 mile leg. i mean, it is only 18 miles. so i sweep.

i call Atreyu who is only miles from me... i want to see him ... and he encourages me to ride on and finish. there are hills this afternoon... i'm not sure i can do them. really. i already feel beyond my capabilities. i wait until nearly the last minute, resting, icing, relaxing and rolling my leg as much as possible before heading out. And i give it all i have to give.

then we have to get off the bike and carry it down a stairs through a tunnel and back up. egads, i didn't know how much you used your quad when walking down a stair. wow. how painful...

it's all up hill on the other side. i ride as hard as i can manage... because anything less seems to not get me up the hills. i pull over a few times and walk the bike. there's only one big hill left. other riders are encouraging me -- they can see the wear and tear on my body, being, soul... the tears in my eyes... it is only a few miles, but oh how far that seems after all this work.

i take a rest under a tree... i slug another energy goo... knowing it's only 3.5 miles to the end. i ride out... hit a small downhill and i use it to my advantage... pedal at hard as a i can and pass riders on the uphill. as i'm yelling, "on your left, on your left, on your left..." the riders yell back at me, "Take it girl!" and "go for it..." encouraging me.

and finally, the last hill... i'm passing, and i'm about 4 car lengths from the top and as i downshift, my chain drops again. my god, what a crappy time for that to happen. A beautiful woman who 15 minutes ago encouraged me stops to help. another woman drops her chain... we make it up the 4 car lengths of hill and there it is... the finish in site.

Friday, June 06, 2008

day 6: i'm too tired to get up.

Liz is sick, i'm not feeling too well and getting out of bed simply seems impossible. i send Liz off -- since she is sick and will SAG out for the day -- telling her i will deal with the tent and everything. I try to fall back to sleep, but really, after tossing and turning, can't manage it. I slowly work my way out of the tent... stretching, putting in my ipod, and deal with my resistance to getting up.

I had made a deal with myself -- i would just get on the bike and ride each day, even if i stopped. after having put in three 40+ mile rides back to back, i wondered what i could possibly do today. downing two carb boom's before breakfast -- with mostly sugar and 2 cups of coffee worth of caffeine, i finally get myself out of camp at about 8:05. Ug. it's a relatively short day, at 85.5 miles to ventura. As is often the case, the day starts with a climb.

The caboose is chasing me again and i'm 4 miles out from rest stop 1. while i'm riding it all and it's all uphill, i am pretty slow and stopping frequently. a sweep vehicle tells me they can sweep me in, which, undoubtedly, will help me get caught up. so... i get into the sweep vehicle, determined to finish a second day on this ride.

Out of rest stop one it's all up hill for a short bit. i top the peak and hit the downhill, which soon finds me on 101. egads! this 101 stuff is scary. i mean, it's a highway and while i'm on the shoulder of the road, when trucks go by the vacuum created really does impact the car. combine that with cross winds and it is a crazy experience. At one point, i have the dubious honor of experiencing both the cross wind and an 18 wheeler. oh boy.

After about 20 miles of highway, i find myself finally getting used to it. alas, though, we exit. i barely make it into lunch where i roll out on the rollers (these are foam rollers which is like giving yourself a massage, only a lot more painful and a lot less specific) and stuff my lunch in my backpack. I haven't eaten enough as i start out on this leg and the heat is finally impacting me so that i, for the first time while riding, take off my long sleeves and strip down to sleeveless. my bike is still giving me problems when i shift, which keeps causing pain in my quad. After the 3rd dropped chain (chain coming off the gears) and 50% shifts where the gear won't drop to the lowest (easiest) granny wheel, i get in a sweep vehicle to go to the Techs at rest stop three. I pull in and get them to look at it (again -- the derailer's been checked a bunch before now and still it isn't working right) and then ride out. it's seems better on the down shift -- so much so that now it drops from the highest wheel (hardest) to the lowest wheel (easiest) and skips the middle. I guess that's better than not ever getting into the lowest.

paradise island -- the ice cream stop. yum. so glad b/c lunch was yukky and i'm low fuel.

oh wow. i broke 50 miles... i think i might do my longest ride ever today!

but again, the caboose is on my ass. the water stop... pass it but it's closed... another 15 miles to camp and i've already put on 57 miles. i have to try to break my record...

i ride on... making it to rest stop 4. yeah! first time to rest stop 4; first time breaking 60 miles; longest ride ever so far at 65 miles -- before the adjustments for the incorrect odometer. yeeeehaw!

inspired, i ride on. but boy was that last stretch the longest ever. i'm tired. even though it's pretty much all flat, i am beyond what i thought i was capable of, pedaling truly, will won out over skill.

pulling into the beach, the route was probably already closed. there were maybe 3 riders behind me... but i made it in... my longest ride at ~73 miles. i'm spent. smelly. hungry. in pain.

i head to sports med -- they are closed. shit. not good. but Cha -- goddess and healer that she is -- takes me anyway. she retapes me. then tells me to eat. i eat and it's dark before i head to the showers. shower time, then sleep. so tired. last day tomorrow.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Day 5: Red Dress Day Pix

Me, my amazing tent mate Liz, and some wonderful friends we shared time with
on the ride. :)

day 5: red dress day

Undoubtedly, this is the easiest day of the ride from the perspective of duration. at 42.5 miles, the route closes at 3 (unlike most other days when it closes at 7) and ends in Lompoc where people can take the bus into town.

on this day, everyone is encouraged to wear red so that when the switch backs get hit about half way through the ride, the riders dotting the edge of the road look like the AIDS ribbon on a mountain. to say it is a beautiful sight belies the glory of it, in truth...

i walked a good bit of the steeper part of the incline, still favoring the quad which, while better and taped in a way that really is helping, still is not 100%. That said, I rode all the way today.

Riding into camp for the first time i found a spot in the shade and called Atreyu and cried and shared my joy and relief. another ride over 40 miles. Wow. shocked i did that.

but it took more out of me than i thought it would, and even though i was in early and Liz had set up the tent, i was tired and wanted to rest. it was, however, talent show night and i was scheduled to go on at what turned out to be 9:30. Egads, that is very late when you have to be up at 5 am and you're tired and can't sleep well. My toes were frozen for it, but it was a fun set all the same... i rather enjoyed the experience... before crawling into bed and trying to sleep.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

day 4: the agony of defeat, the thrill of victory

after getting rubbed out on day two and taped up on day 3 and riding 42 miles the day before, i thought i'd be okay today. but not so much. after about 4 miles of very shallow up hill, my left quad was in agony. beyond belief. on a pain scale it was probably a solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, so i found myself on the side of the road crying in pain, waiting for the sweep vehicle to come by and pick me up and take me to the next rest stop, or rather, the first rest stop.

another rider, clearly not okay with leaving me alone on the side of the road crying, stayed with me until the truck came. Pulling into the rest stop 20 minutes later, i iced myself up, put on the biofreeze and considered what to do. with "the evil twins" ahead followed by mostly flats along the cost, in the afternoon, i wanted to go on. Plus, the twins represented the half way point in the ride -- and it seemed that would be good for my mind at least. but there were 23 miles between this rest stop and the next and only 2 hours to make it with those two nasty climbs. the decent off the second twin, i was told, was something like the decent coming over 92 on the first day which was a 7% grade and kind of scary. and this one i was told had more cross winds. But i really wanted to enjoy the second half of the day... so... i pulled it together and headed out of the rest stop with only 2 riders behind me and the caboose (this is the vehicle that follows the last rider to make sure everyone pulls into camp at night) hot on my trail.

I walked the first climb, talking to Jo (yet another wonderful woman who really made the experience seem so much easier) who got out of the caboose to keep me company. we shared stories... i told her almost immediately about why i was riding... for my friend who was diagnosed HIV+ and then 20 days later in the hospital on what we thought might be her death bed. Jo shared her nightmare -- one i've also had -- of waking up one day to find myself infected. It was clear that this ride, as much of a personal challenge as it may be, really creates so much more in the numbers of people who see us out there and the education that arises from it.

as i went and when i hit the peak, Jo encouraged me to ride it, and ride it hard i did, going as far as i could before my quad gave out. i passed a few riders, so i was no longer last, but then i hit the second twin and they passed me right up. as i was nearing the peak, i figured i'd ride over the top... Just as i was gaining momentum, up ahead i saw one of the most beautiful sights of the ride. this woman, who was struggling to ride, was being pushed on either side of her by two other riders on the Midnight Ridazz team. it was so beautiful i didn't even try to pass, thinking if i did i would break their momentum. i knew i could start again, but i really wasn't sure if she could... so i got off my bike, walked and waited till they past the peak before getting on again.

And then the big downhill. wow! intense. beautiful. 6% grade, scary stuff at 30 MPH... again confronting my fears of the downhill as well as the cliffs on the sides... and cross wind gusts picking up here and there... geez... what a scary thing. I continued along, going through a few rollers and then i hit the flat at the bottom where there was a cross wind so intense i actually kept getting blow into the lane. with the caboose hot on my ass, i got off the bike and got swept up into the next rest stop. it was closing. quick pee and water refill plus a super fast snack and boom, on the road again for one of the most beautiful legs of the trip along the coast.

I was surprised i'd made it this far, and with only 6.1 miles to rest stop three, i decided to try and meet up with Jim and Frankie again.

My first scary moment of the day was with the cross winds, but that pales in comparison to the treachery of the car who mistakenly got in the on ramp lane to our right and wanted into our lane, somehow not really seeing a string of bicyclists i guess. There were probably about 18 of us in the pack... all but 4 of us pulled out in a line, but the person 4 up from me didn't pull out with confidence and the BMW just started going. I was glad i had extra space between me and the rider in front of me because it was everyone stopping quickly with no time to call out.

I met up with the riders at rest stop 3 and assured them it wasn't their fault -- i'd seen it all well since i was at the back of the pack. the drive just wasn't yielding the right of way to us as s/he should have.

having broken yesterday's record for the 2nd longest ride i'd done, pulling in a cool 47 miles, i decided to head in on the SAG bus and give the quad a break. with three more days of riding, i wanted to save up for day 5 and actually complete a day, since it was the shortest ride of the trip. Pulling into camp, i went back to see Cha and got more taping, then met up with the Mills (former students from years ago) and had a great conversation with them as we rolled ourselves out. shower, conversation with Atreyu and bed... ready for red dress day!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

day 3: quad buster: The best of my ability in this moment

Today started out strong. i became a bicyclist in the first leg of the day, for the first time really feeling the cadence of the pedals and understanding a rhythm. i passed a lot of people on the ride to the first rest stop and rode out really strong. it felt good after two days of riding so little. the first 8 miles was great. but alas, the next leg was the actual quad buster... a long steep hill that just seems to be endless.

No worries... i rode out from the first rest stop and headed up the hill. too steep for me with my pained quad, i decided to simply walk what i needed to. they call those of us walking up the hill "cross trainers" -- and really, it's good because there's a lot more use of the hamstring walking the bike up the hill than the overuse of the quad riding up the hill.

I stopped along the way, under a tree and had one of my coolest moments of the ride. sipping some water, a rider was pulling up with literally hundreds more behind... I called out to the rider -- "good job! you can do it!" and the rider, while exerting a lot of effort, gave me a half smile. so i cheered on another rider... and that rider responded, and suddenly i found myself in this feedback loop where i was cheering riders on -- hundreds of them, literally -- and they were grateful for it. I started saying anything i could think of to inspire them... "yes you can!" and "Good job!" and "looking strong" and "you can do it" and then, before i knew it, i was yelling to them, saying, "you are doing an amazing thing right now! thank you for inspiring me!" and i found myself tearfully cheering them on.

they returned the favor as i was cross training up the hill, passing me and encouraging me back.

One of the Schwab team members -- this is a group of people who rode the hill 5 times to inspire others each time as they went up -- had passed me a few times. and as he was going by, i said, "go rider! you are doing it!" and he turned to me and said, "so are you!" and i said, "to the best of my ability in this moment" and he said, "that is all you can ever do..."

That moment was one of the most inspiring moments of my life and reminded me of what life is really about: the best of my ability in each moment.


the downhill was pretty sweet. i think the sweetest of the ride, actually. zipping down without winds at 30+ MPH passing people, feeling good and finally getting some miles on my legs, i felt good pulling into the second rest stop. next it was rest stop three. I hadn't made it there yet... that morning, Jim/Sparky had sent me a text message telling me it was within reach that day... and, well, i found myself finally making it to rest stop 3, i got to see Sparky and Frankie for the first time on the route. I hung out with them way too long though and was soon finding the rest stop closing and again, the caboose on my ass. So i rode on... my quad still in pain. Rode on 101 for the first time, for just a short mile or so... and then I rode into bradley where i completed my second longest ride and allowed myself to get taken in for the day on the SAG bus. 42 miles of riding... on a bad quad. good feeling about that, for sure.

Bradley is a small town of about 500, at least i think that is what the sign said. Each year, they do a BBQ and host the ALC riders where the funds they raise from what we pay for food -- optionally of course -- is used to fund the kids of their community going to college and on excursions to enrich their lives. hard not to be touched by the experience.

at lunch i went to sports medicine where they said i should see Cha, a kinesio taper, who would tape my leg to assist in supporting the muscles that needed help. with that in mind, i got on the SAG bus where i met Bobby, a man who served in the military in the early 90's. When he came back from overseas, he was later diagnosed with a brain tumor -- chemical warfare poisoning is the though. The man has a lemon size tumor in his head and is on 26 different medications and is riding the ALC. It is impossible to not be inspired by that dedication. We had a great conversation and wonderful connection and i have to say, that simply led to perspective shift.

Pulling into the Mid State fair grounds, it was lovely weather. Off to sports med where i went to see Cha, an amazing healer from Austin, Tx. it turns out i had just met her daughter at Sparky's rest stop. small world. The taping relieved the pain. off to the showers, some poi in the line, cool conversations, stretching, dinner, sleep... preparation for the next day. Ah, the evil twins on a long day. egads...

I also discovered today that my odometer is off by about .5 miles per 10 miles of travel... meaning if it said i travelled 10, i actually travelled 10.5. that means i've done more miles than i think. i'll adjust that at the end.

day 3 rideout

leg feels betterish. With only 43 miles total on my bike I'm ready to try the infamous quadbusters hill. Up early, out just after 7. We shall see. Today I want to make rest stop 3 where jim and frank and franks mom are. It is only 31 miles out but after the 1000 foot assent...

day 2 part 2

jeremey and I drop into deep conversation and I finally feel a sense of belonging in thisassive moving city. Intense. We go to dinner and I take my first mead with friends. I meet other friends of his and hear Moks story - hit by a car ilona a training ride two weeks earner. What?!? And you walked away? And your here?

See Boston. Hugs. Announcements. Stories. Tears. How we are making a difference. $500 from a coffee shop in route. $3.42 donated by a group of strawberry pickers. Touching. More tears. And then I see frankie and jim and spend. Embracing Jim and sobbing in his arms I realize why he does this and I hold him with so Manu emotions within me. Joy, understanding, compassion, gratitude, love, and a sense of family from one of my dearest friends. After giving him the week off for 4 years to do this, I can no longer see it as a scheduling inconvenience; it is so much more than I could ever understand before being here.

Mark said it to me years ago that nothing binds people together like the shared experience of an ordeal. So true.

day 2 part 2

Jeremey and I drop into deep conversation and I finally feel a sense of belonging in thisassive moving city. Intense. We go to dinner and I take my first mead with friends. I meet other friends of his and hear Moks story - hit by a car ilona a training ride two weeks earner. What?!? And you walked away? And your here?

See Boston. Hugs. Announcements. Stories. Tears. How we are making a difference. $500 from a coffee shop in route. $3.42 donated by a group of strawberry pickers. Touching. More tears. And then I see frankie and jim and spend. Embracing Jim and sobbing in his arms I realize why he does this and I hold him with so Manu emotions within me. Joy, understanding, compassion, gratitude, love, and a sense of family from one of my dearest friends. After giving him the week off for 4 years to do this, I can no longer see it as a scheduling inconvenience; it is so much more than I could ever understand before being here.

Mark said it to me years ago that nothing binds people together like the shared experience of an ordeal. So true.

Monday, June 02, 2008

day 2 part 1

left quad a mess; so tight after only 20 miles of relatively easy. Sweep to rest stop 1 where medical says to stop for the day, that my IT bandis screwed up. I guess they figures I didnt know the difference between my quad and IT band. They SAG (support and gear) (the folks that take u back to camp not the sweep people who take u to the next rest area) me first to lunch. My second encounter representing the antithesis of the event where I get judges harshly by some (what can best be decribed as) "queeny" guy ad his friends who were bitching shot how big the ride was before they turned their judgement to me.

Annoyed and befuddled, I return to the SAG bus where I proceed to have a series of amazing experiences - laughter, shared stories, meeting cheryl (a police seargent from Florida whose spirit moved me), and countless interactions with people that reminded me of the greater good of the experence. Beutiful people all touched by the spread of the completely preventable disease. People committed to prevention and education. People willing to rode so thousands, 10's of thousands, if not millions after all the press, hear about the disease so they can talk about it before it spreads. This is a preventable situation and silence is the enemy.

Getting into camp it is really clear to me the reap heroes are the roadies who work their asses off to serve the riders so the riders can make a visual statement in their profound numbers riding these 545 miles. Sports medicine treats me where Jo, the captain of the team, clearly a leader, holds space, works on me, multitasks, and leads with clear competence I can actually relax. I don't often feel like I can relax when I am paying for regular services so what a treat that is. I walk out with a leg which is finally less contracted and a bit bruised and sore. But better.

opening ceremonies, night 1, morning day 2

11 hours of sleep in the cold, wet outdoors really helped! Condensation inside and out of our tent. Wet wet wet. Water dripping on me in the middle of the night. And waking feeling so much better, stronger in mind and body. Getting ready in camp, reminded at the pain I felt when the crowd boo'd at opening ceremonies for when the talked about even repulicans riding: how is that judgement any different than the stigma toward hiv+ people? Painful. Sooo grateful to have Ayreyu there to love me up and see me off. A powerful partner through whom I find more power. I think back to his words before I left. I told him this was a vision quest. He wished me a safe journey, hoping it illuminated things for me. Remembering the moment I saw the light, I was renewed leaving camp.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

day 1

first, no Internet in camp, so glad for my iPhone and this will be brief to save battery.

Biggest hill I could imagine. I am not sure I have hiked something that steep going on 92 to highway 1... Walked a lot of the hill; first water stop 30 minutes before close; next stop leaving only 2 minutes before close; next stop I pull in after clocking my second longest ride to date at about 31 miles. My left quad tighter than I can believe. Need rest. 9 minutes to decide- ride or take the bus. Mom's voice rang clear - rest when you need to. Took the bus.

Rather emotional with too little sleep and the both emotional and physical ups and downs of the day. Crying up the hill at mile 11; most amazing high I can describe hitting 30+ mph a few miles later; the head game of the ego as people pass; dealing with me fear of heights on the parts of the terrain with gulches/cliffs; supportive words as I pass others and others me; literally seeing the light coming around a turn to a most amazing view if nature as I had an all too fleeting moment of clarity: this is why I'm here to be on the challenge of the journey. Beautiful. Fleeting. ;)

Out of resources, tired and run down. Bed at 6:30 pm. Sore left quad but my ass feels fine!

holy toxin release batman!

at least i slept last night. and, i'm still fighting some cold... sweating in my sleep and waking up to visit the toilet a lot. I hope that's all just a good sign! at least i feel strong... so glad this is starting.