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By Leesa Gabel

I had to make a tough decision this week. Due to some recent health issues — no worries, it’s not cancer-related — I had to drop from the TNT Tucson team. I haven’t been able to get in the needed training and I really didn’t want to get out to Tucson and not be able to finish.

Yes, I’m frustrated and disappointed. One thing I’ve learned over the last couple years is that you can’t take your health for granted. I need to stop and refocus. I need to get me healthy.

It’s going to take time, this didn’t happen overnight and I can’t expect it to be fixed overnight. I have the proper tools and the knowledge…just need to put them all to good use.

Tucson will be there, Tahoe will be there, Disney will be there, Redman will be there. And one day soon, so will I and I’m going to kick some serious butt!!



All is well

By Leesa Gabel

Life is good in the House of Four Gabels.

The summer is winding down. School starts in a few days. Tucson training is going well….could be better if the weather would cooperate. Training in 100+ degree temps is not my cup of tea….I have a basket on my road bike, I’m not hard core.

Craig and I have been spending a lot of our summer weekends at the LIVESTRONG Sporting Park watching some awesome Sporting KC soccer games. But our main reason for spending so much time out there is to help spread the message of LIVESTRONG and to help connect people affect by cancer to the care and support that they need. We’ve met wonderful people, heard amazing and inspiring stories….and have learned a lot about the sport of soccer.

Hopefully Sporting KC will make it to the playoffs so that we can continue spending time out at the park….touching lives, making a difference. If you’re ever out at a game, please stop by the LIVESTRONG tent to say hello and to add to the Tribute Banner.



Tahoe to Tucson

By Leesa Gabel

At some point after the first couple of Tahoe training rides, I came to the conclusion that my body wasn’t ready to just jump right back in to where I was in June 2010. It was a very rude awakening. So after much discussion with Craig, I decided to drop from the Tahoe team and join the Tucson team instead. The two main reasons, one: longer time to train — El Tour de Tucson isn’t until Nov. 17, and two: El Tour de Tucson is relatively flat!! Sure it’s an extra 11 miles, but it’s much, much flatter!

Training has been going well. Still getting used to being back on the bike and being active. I’ve started a new page – Adventures of the Blue Basket – there I’ll write strictly about being on my bike.



Back in the saddle

By Leesa Gabel

Saturday was my first time back on my bike out on the road since June 2010. And my first time using clips.

I didn’t fall and I didn’t throw up….so it was a good ride!

To see the humor in the ‘throw up’ statement you needed to be here from the moment I agreed to go buy clips. Just the thought of being connected to my bike made my stomach turn. Practicing clipping in and out with my bike on the trainer was easy. I didn’t have to think about balance, just focused on the feel and sound.

For the non-cyclists reading this….clips refer to a type of shoe and pedal. The shoe has a special connector on the bottom that clips onto the pedal. Making me and my bike, one.

Supposedly being clipped-in will help my performance. I have yet to experience this. Right now I’m most concerned with remembering to unclip or clip-out before I stop so that I don’t just fall right over.

Saturday’s ride was also a reminder as to how not flat Kansas is. And this route didn’t even get to the ‘big’ hills. While I was riding I was wondering what the people passing me in cars were thinking. I figure it was either, ‘that woman is crazy, doesn’t she know it’s barely 30 out!’ or ‘look at that woman, it’s barely 30 out and she doesn’t seem to care…good for her!’ Honestly, once I got riding, I warmed up quickly. Plus I dressed for the weather….special gloves, special shoe covers, special hat, special jacket….I was just special!

Now to make time during the week to get time on the bike in….hopefully the weather will allow for it to be out on the road.





My first Ironman triathlon

By Craig Gabel

Ironman Triathlon…seriously? Who could endure that kind of punishment? Isn’t that something only elite athletes can finish? Could the average guy like me do something this crazy? Why the heck would I want to? These are all questions I have had in my head for decades now. I always thought completing a triathlon would be a really cool accomplishment. Just over one year ago I did finish my first ever triathlon. It was an Olympic length and up until I crossed the finish line, the thought of me even signing up for an Ironman was a very distance unreachable goal… for me anyway. I considered myself much too old and overweight for something like that. Ironman is a younger man’s event…early 20 something’s. Boy was I ever wrong!After completing my second ever triathlon one year ago, the Redman half Ironman, I knew a full Ironman distance was actually reachable…even for an overweight guy pushing 40. I set my sight on the full distance the moment I crossed that half Ironman finish line. I’ve spent that last several months training for all 3 sports. Using the Lake Tahoe century ride training to ramp up my riding endurance, that only left swimming and running. Well if you know me at all, you know I am a bit of a fish so the swimming was a no brainer. I just needed to get ramped up on the running. Not that I hadn’t run a marathon before. I just had never run a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride. How on earth could anyone still have the strength to walk or run a full freaking marathon after all that distance on the swim and bike? It was going to a huge challenge.

Redman Ironman… What an experience. The event I knew would be top notch based on last year’s event. I just had to put in the time to train up for it. I trained with a fantastic group of people who were all Team In Training alumni. They knew what needed to be done… so we just went out and did it. My first mentor Kim played a crucial part in my training. It was hard to stay motivated week after week. I knew I had to get with someone to keep me on task. Kim was the answer. She encouraged me to run when I did want to. I encourage her to ride when she didn’t want to. We trained well together and were physically ready for the challenge.

Race day. Once we got to the start we entered the water with some nerves tingling a bit. I was actually pretty relaxed. It seemed like another long training day for me. When we finally heard Black Sabbath’s Ironman over the PA speakers, we were pumped. Jon (who’s been with me since day one of my triathlon training days and an awesome friend) let out a very loud and enthusiastic “Yaaaaaaaaaa!”. I am pretty sure folks in Kansas heard him. It was awesome and Jon, Kim and I were all ready to kick Ironman butt. The shot gun fired (literally) and off we went for the 2.4 mile swim. The swim seemed very long as it usually does in these events. We swam a 1.2 mile loop twice. I had decided to wear a wetsuit because the water temp had dropped over night. I really don’t like wearing it but figured it might keep my muscles warm and prevents some cramping towards the end. Half way around the first loop I had enough of that darn suit. I was seriously contemplating swimming to the shore and chucking it up on the grass but I endured the discomfort for the remaining lap. I finished the 2.4 miles in about an hour and 25 minutes. I was about 5-10 minutes slower than I wanted to be but I didn’t want to kill my energy on the swim and have nothing left for the bike and run. The best part was seeing my quasi-adopted little brother Donnie waiting for me and all the other swimmers to lend the athletes a hand out of the water and unzip that dang wetsuit. Up the ramp out of the water I see my stripper wife. Ya she was a stripper than morning because she helped strip wetsuits off the athletes. You basically come out of the water and unzip your wetsuit, work the suit off your arms and down to your waist. You lay down in front of two strippers and they grab your wetsuit arms and yank it right off your legs in like 500 milliseconds. Ya, ironically enough my wife was a stripper that morning at of all places…Lake Hefner. What are the odds? LOL!

On to the bike. My transition was a bit slow (around 10 minutes) because I hit the changing tent and put on some dry clothes. That ended up being a great decision since I was not only dry but much more comfortable on the bike. The bike course was a 28 mile out and back (loop if you will) that we had to ride 4 times to meet the 112 miles. The first loop really set the tone for the remaining 3. As one of our teammates (and fantabulous training partner) JRo described the course, It was ‘Craptastic’. It totally lived up to the name. It was relatively flat but rough and bumpy as all get out. I started off with about a 22 mph average for the first 6 or so miles. I was ecstatic! Then after the next 8 or so miles, I knew that this was not going to be nearly as fast as I had hoped. I kept it around 17-18 mph for the remainder of the first loop. On that first loop I saw all my teammates doing the half iron, JRo, Dave, Erin, Dianna and Jennifer which was really cool. Plus, I saw my full iron teammates Jon and Kim. It was good to see everyone even if it was just for a few seconds. Just knowing we all made it through the swim was a great feeling… not that I had any doubt we would all make it. It was just good to see everyone on the bike. The second loop was a tad slower and dropped my average down to 15-16 mph and was so rough that my water bottle cage backed out both screws from the frame. One came out completely and the other was barely hanging on. I had to stop and tighten up the one remaining screw and put another one in to replace the lost one. I was off the bike for about 2-3 minutes. That is the only time I got off the bike for the entire 112 mile duration. The third loop I experienced a very strange feeling of sleeplessness. I truly felt like I could fall asleep while pedaling. My eyes got very heavy. My head was hanging down and my energy level just completely tanked…I felt as if I had bonked (meaning I hit the breaking point of no energy or motivation to continue. I immediately fueled up with some Hammer gel, a Clif bar, some electrolyte capsules, Gatorade and water to try and give myself a boost. I was hanging by a thread so to speak and I finally snapped out of it on the 4th and final loop. The best part of the bike was seeing my fellow teammates with huge smiles on their faces and also seeing my family at the turn around on each loop. I finished up the bike in 7 hours and 18 minutes.

On to the run…okay mostly walk. Transition from bike to run was relaxed and therefore a bit lengthy at around 10 minutes. I was more concerned about my teammates than myself. I had not seen Kim the last 2 loops and I was very worried about her. I had seen Jon on every loop so I knew he was not far behind me. I saw Jen and Dave in the transition area and asked if they knew where Kim was on the course. They did not know anything. I figured maybe I just missed her in the mind fog I was in. I congratulated them on their half ironman finish and moved on to the run. Just out of transition I found my wife waiting to greet me along with my family and teammates. It was good to see them and get some encouragement before starting the long run course. I had planned to walk at least the first two miles before even attempting to run. I surprised myself by getting into a nice jog after just .25 miles. I felt okay. I was really tired and the thought of a full marathon was really overwhelming. I mean I had a hard enough time just doing a marathon by itself just two weeks prior. Now i had just swum and biked over 114 miles and now I have to complete a full 26.2 mile marathon…jeepers. I tried to stay focused on my pace. I had a full 8 hours to finish the marathon before the course became unsupported. I knew if my pace dropped below 17 minute miles I’d be challenged to finish on time. I know a 17 minute mile…that’s walking at a good clip but it’s not like running constantly. This should be easy…right? Well not so much for a big guy like me. I walked and ran intervals. Sometimes it was based on my pace. If I got slow on the pace, I’d run to speed up the average pace. If I had some good landmarks then I run from tree to tree or telephone pole to telephone pole or whatever other landmarks I could find. That worked pretty well for a most all of the run. Having to run a 6.55 mile out and back 4 times was very intimidating. It took me getting to the 13.1 half marathon point to get the “I’ve had enough. I’m done. I’m ready to quit!” thoughts out of my head. Reaching that half marathon distance made me feel like I was getting there but that 3rd loop was the worst. I think in my mind I thought making it to the halfway point meant I could relax a little bit. When you just endured almost 128 miles of energy expending exercise you can’t relax. To relax at that point in the event would almost be like stopping. I did relax for a while and then my average pace really dropped quickly. That was a huge mental blow. Now I had to not only get back in the groove but also make up time. Making up time at this stage is extremely tough mentally and physically. My team mates Erin and Jennifer (who had previously finished their first half ironman distance) were on the course cheering me on. I think I was pretty out of it though since it was really dark and I didn’t even recognize them at first. I recognized their voices before their faces. Thankfully, the one thing Team in Training has taught me is that no matter how tired I am and painful I feel there is a cancer patient out there who is feeling much worse than me all the time. My pain was just temporary. These real life heroes would give anything just to walk a mile much less do anything close to the monumental task I was doing. I couldn’t quit on them. I thought of my awesomely wonderful wife. She’s never given up so why the hell would I give up! Plus my selfish thoughts of, I can’t let my team or my family down filled my head. They came all this way to see me finish. I have to finish. But the one thing I did repeat several times on each lap was a conversation in my head. I’d ask myself, “How bad do you want this finish?” I’d answer, “Real (expletive) bad”. All these things kept me going. The one thing that ultimately got me over the mental game and to the finish line was our super awesome coach. Coach Jen kept me motivated. She said the right things at the right time. She listened to me whine and complain, talk myself up and talk myself down, but she also knew when to just leave me alone, which is what a truly great coach knows how gauge. After night fall she more or less gave me a pace to keep which is technically illegal but hey she was just out for a walk on a public trail and I was just trying to keep up. I nicknamed her “Coach Recon” at that point.

My brothers and sisters-in-law, my dad and step-mom, my teammates and most importantly my wife cheered my on to the finish line. Jon had finished his first ever Ironman just over an hour ahead of me. They were all still there bringing me into the finish. What an awesome feeling to have such a fantastic support system. I made it! I finished 140.6 miles. Late in the run I knew I was ahead of the cut off so it became my new goal to finish the same day I started. We started at 7:15 AM. I had until 12:15 AM Sunday morning to cross the finish line. Well I crossed that finish line at 11:55 PM on Saturday, September 25th. I finished it all in the same day. I hadn’t even thought of that as a goal until my final loop on the run and it gave me the motivation I needed. Leesa was there to give me my finishers medal which was the absolute best finish hands down I have ever had. I gave everyone a big nasty sweaty hugs.

16 hours 40 minutes and 51 seconds = Ironman status forever!

I went straight into an ice bath for about 10-15 minutes. Then warmed up and headed back to the hotel with all my family and friends right there with me. The next day I felt pretty good in the morning. The long car ride home was another story though. Sitting in the car for hours on end made it very tough to get out of the car and walk around. The second day I worked from the comfort of my bed with my legs relaxed and slightly elevated. Moving around the house that day was tough to get started but got easier the longer I was moving around. I ended up at a scout meeting that evening and felt pretty good walking around. The 3rd day I had a couple quirky pains but the 4th day… it felt like I hadn’t even done the event at all. Total recovery! That was pretty darn cool!

So Ironman may not be for everyone, but it can be done by the average Joe if you put in the time to train for it. Just make sure you’re prepared physically but more importantly mentally. It was a huge mental battle that I thankfully won but I can see how physically capable people can fall victim to the mental war. Just ensure you are ready for it before you get to the starting line and success will be yours. If you fall, just get back up and try again! Thank you Kim for training with me all summer long. I couldn’t have made it without you. I am very proud of both our accomplishments this year. Next year will be even better. I hope we can all training together again for another Ironman event in the future.



Craig’s Tahoe Recap

By Craig Gabel

 This is a very inspiring story. I know it’s a bit lengthy but please read to the end.  If you do not have time to read it please save this and read at your convenience.

 First thing first.  Thank you to everyone receiving this message for your support of Leesa and I as we try to make a difference.  The following story details how we were able to directly impact lives due solely to your help.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

 Lake Tahoe.  What an awesome destination it was.  This 100 mile bike ride was the most inspirational, fun, exciting, breath taking and exhilirating Team in Trianing event we have experienced so far.  The “team” factor really shined bright upon all of us through the entire trip…not  just on the course.  Leesa got cleared for the ride by her doctor just a few days before the ride.  She had just 6 days with no chemo before attempting this epic journey.  The trip out to Tahoe on Friday was fun.  We had some good times with a few of our team mates we were traveling with. 

 We arrived in Reno with no lost luggage…Yea!  We were able to upgrade our rental car since I had prepaid for the entire rental.  They gave us a huge price break which allowed us to snag a 2009 Corvette convertible.  I only mention it because it seemed there was many thigs on this trip that just fell into place.  The car was yellow and black which just happens to be the Livestrong colors and we happened to be riding on National Cancer Survivors Day (the first Sunday in June) which has gotten much attention world wide by Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong Foundation.  So the car was only fitting.  On top of that, Leesa had asked me if we could get a convertible weeks ago.  I shopped around and couldn’t find one anywhere in Reno…online at least.  So when I asked her if she wanted one she went a little nuts…being a Corvette only added to the excitement factor.

 We drove to Tahoe with the top down and wind blowing.  Upon our arrival we went staright to bike pickup.  We had our bikes shipped out 5 days earlier so they’d already be there waiting for us.  We got our bikes and got checking into our hotel (Harvey’s Casino just on the Nevada side…literally).  We drove most of the bike course and hunted down a unique place to have dinner.  The course was spectacular and very hilly. This really was in the mountains so some of the hills were larger than I had imagined.  We found a place in Tahoe City called the Fat Cat Café to eat dinner.  Great food and cool atmosphere.  It was everythign you’d expect out of a local California joint.  It reminded me of a Starbucks but only with a bar and a dinner menu…very laid back.  I recommend the sweet potato fries…yummy!  We moved on around the lake as day turned to night.  The course was hilly but very much a doable route.  Not to intimidating at all. Off to bed to get some shut eye before an early morning ride the next day.

 Saturday’s sun was already hitting the snow covered mountain peak across the lake just after 5:00 am.  That was much too early to see the bright sun.  We met up with the team and went on a 10 mile out and back ride to the Pearl Izumi outlet store (bike apparel shop) across town in South Lake Tahoe, CA.  Leesa was not to ride (coaches orders) so she had fun driving the “fun car” along with us.  On the way back we stopped for breakfast at Sprouts.  I high recommend this place.  Very organic and the food was just phenomenal and good sized portions.  Once back to the hotel we went to packet pick up to get all our event related stuff.  Then we took off for a car ride to do some shopping and see the breath taking sites Lake Tahoe has to offer.  Dinner was an awesome experience as always with the TNT inspiration dinner and pasta party.  The dinner was held across the street from Harvey’s in the Harrah’s casino ballroom.  We had the high energy entrance put on by the various TNT chapter staff members.  I think my ears are still ringing from all the bells, whistles, clapping and cheering.  The pasta was great, cookies even better and the speakers were full of stories that tug at your heart.  We heard from the LLS TNT national spokesperson who announced that we as a collective nationwide group rose over $6,000,000 for this event.  We had 1300 riders from TNT out of about 3000 total event participants.  The race director was a great speaker who went over the race rules and talked about the sponsors.  He was a great speaker full of energy.  Then we had an inspiration story.  It was from a Dad’s perspective of when his young child was diagnosed with Leukemia.  He spoke from the heart detailing every emotion his family experienced along their journey.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house but this is why we were there, to help families and victims of this nasty disease.  It served as motivation to get out there and finish this ride no matter what…no excuses.  I was ready to ride at that very moment.  After dinner we had a team meeting to go over last minute changes, reminders and what not.  At the end of our meeting, one of our honor patients, Anna Oliver, gave a very emotional speech she had prepared.  She thanked us for all we had done for her and the advancement of cancer research.  She would know as she just went through a second battle after 10 years of being in remission and could speak to the changes she has seen since her first battle.  She is a two time survivor and has a heart of gold.  Her family is rock solid and a huge inspiration to me and my family.  I am actually tearing up as I write this.  Her husband Brad is her rock.  He deserves that title as he not only keeps her in check but he keeps our team in check with his kind, friendly, funny and gentle heart.  My mother-in-law has referred to me over the years as the gentle giant.  I see Brad Oliver as a gentle giant as well.  After some hugs and sharing of friendship we headed off to bed.  We had an early morning ahead of us.

 4:30 AM the alarm goes off and we are up and at em.  5:10 we scurry to the elevator to find an empty car to cram us with bikes in for the journey from the 17th floor to the lobby…this is where the gambling factor with luck and chance came into play.  Many stops along the way as there were 17 floors of cyclist wanting a ride down as well.  It was quite comical actually.  Once on solid ground we headed out to meet the team.  We heard a great speech given by a fellow rider and survivor Jason Sullivan.  Jason is a huge inspiration as a survivor.  He looked Leesa in the eyes and told her she reminded him of six words that would help all of us get through this ride.  Courage, Spirit, Resolution, Tenacity, Triumph, Survive!  Courage (implies firmness of mind), Spirit (a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one’s own or keep up one’s morale when opposed or threatened), Resolution (stresses firm determination to achieve one’s goal), and Tenacity (stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat).  And, it takes Courage, Spirit, Resolution, and Tenacity to achieve Triumph and to Survive or to help someone become a Survivor.  This really got the team pumped up.  We headed to the starting area and rolled on our way through South Tahoe, CA.  The start was nice and flat. Leesa was a bit on edge because of the close proximity of all the riders.  Once we made it through South Tahoe, we dove down into the forest for a bit and then started to spread out a bit.  As we approached the first climb, we hit a total stop.  It was a check point to ensure only event participant were on the course and we rolled on through in single file.  We started climbing the switch backs and Leesa was doing very well.  She made it about half way up and then had to dismount and walk it for a while.  While she was walking up these steep hills a fellow Team in Training coach from the Washington/Alaska team stopped to offer help.  She told him she was doing fine but was just worn out since she just finished chemo 6 days prior.  The coach went a little nuts in his amazement that she had just finished chemo and was embarking on such large endurance event.  He asked if he could walk with her so he could hear more about her story.  They walked together as I rode on up a couple switch backs ahead of them.  Once I stopped I could hear other riders passing by talking about Leesa.  They seemed inspired and they didn’t want to complain about how tough the route was since she was out here just off chemo doing the same thing.  Story’s like hers in these events tend to shut people up and give them the courage and strength to keep moving forward.  I met up with our TNT coach (Coach Jen…she ROCKS!).  She asked how Leesa was doing.  I told her she was doing okay and that the grade was just too steep for her to keep pedaling so she was walking it.  I mentioned that I wish I had made a sign for Leesa that said she had just finished chemo 6 days ago because it was inspiring many riders that were passing me as I waited for Leesa.   Leesa made it to the top and enjoyed the view of Inspiration Point which a breath taking site sitting high up on a ridge between Emerald Bay and Cascade Lake.  After a few moments of taking God’s creation in, we moved on to an exhilarating downhill that was steep and fast. I like the fast down hills but I had to brake most of the way down. Leesa was in pure heaven as we rounded the bottom to the next uphill grade.  She made a comment about how awesome that was with some words I can’t repeat here.  As we climbed the next ascent we saw our entire team, their families and a few other people who just happened to be at the SAG (Support and Gear) stop cheering like mad for Leesa as she climbed up the hill to a parking area.  It was an unbelievable moment to see all these people cheering on my wife.  Coach Jen and our team mentor JRo (Jennifer Rodrigues) presented Leesa with a sign to attach to her back that simply said “Finished chemo on Monday”.  That was the start of something very big. We took a team picture and then rested for a bit as we took in the spectacular views of Emerald Bay.  Once back on the bike we hit a lot of up and down hills.  Leesa was wearing down so she was walking half of the uphills but she was still motivated to finish.  We got to mile 22 and Leesa had decided that doing the full 100 miles was just going to take too long.  She had it in her to pedal through every mile but time was a factor.  She was going to settle with a 72 mile route around the lake.  I had to make a decision at that point to go on ahead so I could make the turn in time to get in the 28 mile out and back to Truckee, CA so I could complete the full 100.  We parted ways and Leesa rode with Coach Jen to the lunch stop at mile 45. 

 By not going on the out and back to Truckee, Leesa gained 28 miles on the other riders.  Now she had a very large group passing her and reading her sign.  Her story was spreading through the entire event quickly.  Along the route and at each stop she received many positive comments and a lot of hugs.  After my out and back to Truckee I made it to lunch and then headed up Spooner Junction.  This is an 8+ mile uphill battle.  In all we climbed almost 1,100 ft from Truckee (5955 Ft) to the top of Spooner Junction (7044 Ft).  I met Leesa at the top of Spooner and we raced down about 800 ft through Cave Rock and into Zepher Cove.  That was a fun time as it was almost a 9 mile downhill that wasn’t too fast but just fast enough.  The wind coming off the lake felt like our helmets were going to get ripped right off.  Good thing they are buckled on! We finally made it to the finish line.  Rounding the final corner we saw our team on the side of the road hooting and hollering for us as we rode on to the finish line hand in hand (it made a great picture).  It was a great moment that I will never forget.  Leesa got many hugs from complete strangers who were inspired throughout the ride.  We checked in with the TNT folks (so they wouldn’t send out the search party for us) and then rode back to our team just outside the finish line and waited for everyone to assemble while we enjoyed and adult beverage, then we rode across the finish line one last time as a complete team. Teammates and cancer survivors Bill Hicks, Jason Sullivan and Leesa led the way for us. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.  Leesa again was approached by many people who had heard her story. What a day!  What an awesome day!

 We went straight to the after party to get some well-deserved food.  It was BBQ buffet. We ate, drank and recovered for a bit.  Then we were full, tired and ready for a shower.  Leesa was still the center of attention and got a standing ovation by a table next to us as she exited the after party.  She got more kudos as she entered the hotel lobby and on to the elevator. 

 We enjoyed a nice night out with the team consuming several adult beverages…I will leave it at that!  The next morning we packed up and headed out to do some shopping at the local grocery/discount store.  In the middle of the store this anonymous guy asks Leesa if she was the one in the ride yesterday that had just finished chemo, She said “Yes”.   He asked if he could give her a hug because she was so inspiring to him.  Random hugs in the grocery store….really?  WOW!  The reach this wonderful woman had made over this weekend was amazing!  We drove around the lake one last time and I took her on the route out to Truckee so she could see what she missed (or didn’t miss in this case).  We toured Squaw Valley (site of the 1960 Olympics) and were off to the airport to turn in the “fun car” (Boo!) and catch our flight back to KC.  As we were walking through the terminal we saw the Washington/Alaska coach that started this inspiring weekend along with some of their teammates.  Hugs were again exchanged along with words of encouragement.  Leesa at one point said, “I feel like a Rockstar!”.  I told her she should, because she is a Rockstar.  As we sat waiting for our plane to depart I said to Leesa, “I wonder how many lives you have touched this weekend?  How many people finished THEIR race whether it was 100 miles, 72, miles or 35 miles or some other goal.” The number has to be staggering when you think about the lives directly impacted and then those people will go back to their teams, chapters, friends and relatives and talk about this woman who rode in this event just 6 days after finishing chemo.  If that’s not inspiration….I don’t know what is.  That why we are part of Team in Training and why we care to help cancer patients and their families!

 Thanks for taking the time to read our story. Thank you so much for all your support.  We couldn’t have impacted these lives without your help. I hope you feel compelled to do something you never thought possible.

 Next up for me is the Redman full Ironman Triathlon on September 25th in Oklahoma City.  Leesa and I have also committed to continuing our fight to raise money for cancer research by going back to Tahoe next year for another 100 miles and also to Anchorage, AK for the Anchorage Marathon.  Please help support our cause.  



Tahoe Recap

By Leesa Gabel

Whew…what an amazing weekend in Tahoe!!! Naming the event America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride was extremely appropriate!

Craig and I arrived in Reno Friday afternoon and that’s when my rockstar weekend began. He upgraded our car rental to a bright yellow convertible Corvette!!! I’ve never been in a convertible, let alone a Corvette! I’m sure it was quite a site to see us trying to figure out how to get two large suitcases in the trunk. In the end, we dumped the contents of one into the trunk and placed the empty case in the passenger seat with my legs inside of it. Thankfully a TEAMmate took it back on the shuttle for us.

Our Tahoe rideThere’s not much time before an event to sightsee, but we made a point to for this one…hello….convertible Corvette….plus it was important to me to see the course before Sunday’s ride. Driving a course and riding a course are not the same, but at least I would have a better idea of what to expect. I could see where I was going to have the most challenges — the switchbacks and Spooner.

Saturday morning the team went out for a leisurely bike ride, minus me. I drove the team car….the vette…LOL!! Coach Jen didn’t think riding would be a good idea for me…..better to save my energy for the big event! Saturday evening was the Inspiration Dinner….always a great (and emotional) time. Surprisingly I didn’t have a hard time falling asleep. I think the time difference had something to do with it.

I was however a bundle of nerves on Sunday morning. All my positive self-talk just went right out the window. The mass start was my #1 concern. Starts are not my strength….can’t ever seem to get my shoes to slip under the toe clips easily. But once we got out a ways and it thinned out, I was fine. The first 10 miles were fairly flat. Which I was thankful for since it had been two weeks since I’d been on my bike. Then we got to the ‘entrance’ to the switchbacks. I say ‘entrance’ because there was a chute constructed so that only one biker at a time could start up….had to show a special wristband….and this was the only section of the route that the road was closed (only for a short time). I made it up and around the first couple, then I lost my steam. So I walked. No biggie. I met another TNT coach who stopped to make sure I was ok. I told him I was, that I needed to walk to catch my breath because I’d just finished chemo on Monday and the altitude was getting to me. This coach was from the Alaska team….I shared more of my story and he was so amazed that he asked permission to share it with others too. I was more than happy for him to do that….little did I know what that would bring. Craig and Coach Jen were waiting for me at the top….Craig overheard a group talking about me….he said it’s too bad Leesa doesn’t have a sign on her back letting people know she’s only 6 days out of chemo. Coach Jen rode on ahead to meet up with the rest of the team at the first SAG stop. I got back on my bike and Craig and I rode on….down a great hill!!! At the top of the next was the SAG stop. The entire team plus their family members and a few others were all waiting for me and Craig chanting “Gabel”… was awesome!!! Another TEAMmate, JRo, had a gift for me….a sign that read ‘Finished Chemo on Monday’…that she pinned to the back of my jersey.Here's My Sign

That sign helped get me even more encouragement and support. I felt like a rockstar and super hero all rolled into one.


I knew at the start that I wasn’t going to do the 100-mile route, I was just going to do 72….cut out the out/back to Truckee, CA. At around mile 22 Craig needed to go on ahead so that he would make the cut-off for Truckee. I had 4 miles to ride by myself which was really nice….quiet….beautiful. I met Coach Jen at the next SAG stop (mile 26). She rode with me all the way to lunch (mile 42). She is a wonderful woman…a tremendous coach….and a great motivator/encourager! I did learn after the ride that I would have made the cut-off time to Truckee! Ride officials were actually looking for me at the Truckee SAG stop because they thought I was coming….and here I thought I was riding too slow to make the cut-off.

At lunch Coach Jen and I decided it would be in my best interest to SAG forward up Spooner. So I did…or so I thought….I got out of the van at a SAG stop not knowing that I still had 2-3 miles of up hill to go!! The stop was at a false downhill….which I sailed down only to discover more uphill! I made it up one hill on my bike, but had to walk after part way up the next. I admire those who can stop mid-hill and then start back up on their bikes (my husband being one).

I waited at the Spooner SAG for Craig so that we could finish the ride together. The next couple miles were all downhill. It was amazing!!! I was going so fast and the wind was so strong that I thought my helmet would fly off.Plus the views of the lake were just breathtaking, but I could only take peeks as I had to really focus on the road in front of me at the speed I was going. There were more uphills that weren’t on the map….need to send a note to the map makers! By this point I was getting so very tired and the hills were really taking it out of me. Craig was up ahead….waiting for me as usual….talking with another TNT group of coaches/support. He had my story shared before I go there. Hugs and pictures…..Not since my wedding have I hugged so many people!! We continued on until the next hill. He was up ahead…again…talking to another TNT coach.

AMBBR is a premier TNT event. There are so many TNT chapter teams present that each team wears something representative of their chapter on their helmet so as to be able to identify all TEAMmates. We wore shuttlecocks on ours. And since no one has names on the backs of their jerseys, you’re identified by your chapter. So along the route if I heard ‘Keep it up Mid-America’ I knew they were talking about me. Aside from great encouragement the most I heard on the route was ‘on your left’…LOL!!

So Craig and I are almost at the finish. He’s waiting for me and talking to a TNT coach. When I get to them I’m out-of-breath from walking up the hill. This woman hugs me…she’s heard about me from her TEAMmate….the coach from Alaska that I met on the switchbacks. She tells me that she would be honored to help me SAG forward a little. I’m very thankful for her offer because I know there’s one more hill and I don’t think I have the energy. Into the SAG wagon me and my bike go. She drops me off in sight of the finish. I wait for Craig. We come into the finish area….there’s the team…waiting…..I start to cry. Craig and I ride to the finish together….we cross holding hands!Finishers!!

I get my finisher medal and Craig and I go back to the team to cheer on the remaining few that are still riding. Once all 24 of us are back together we ride to cross the finishline as a team — Jason Sullivan, Bill Hicks and myself lead the group because we’re the survivors on the team.

From there we return our bikes to the truck and head to the after-party!! I stayed long enough to get some real food in me and then head back to the room to shower. I’m still being hugged by complete strangers who tell me how inspirational I am. Words cannot express how all of these people have made me feel.

The next day at the airport I still have a few people approach me. It’s simply amazing. Being a part of TNT has been such a wonderful experience….life changing.

I know I’ve left out so much from the weekend. It’s hard to put it all into words. There are so many side stories and so much that you needed to be there for yourself to experience. I’m so very thankful for all those who donated to help me and Craig get there. I..we…couldn’t have done it without you!!

I’ve been taking the last few days to rest, but I’m ready to get back into a more active lifestyle again. My calendar is filling up quickly with events that I’d like to do…mostly biking. After Tahoe, I feel like I can conquer anything!!



Packed! Ready??

By Leesa Gabel

I can’t believe the ride is just 3 days away!!!

Craig and I had a great time in St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend. We had both families over to my parent’s hhouse on Saturday — talk about a crowd!! I was surprised that none of the younger kids made a comment about my bald head. I was prepared to give an elementary school explaination, but never needed to. That was nice. On Sunday we had a Garber family picture taken. My small family of 5 has grown to a family of 15!!! I can’t wait to get the pictures in. We came back to KC Sunday evening…without our kids! Of course Ashlee called us when we were just West of Columbia crying and begging me to come back to Grandma’s house. It took all my strength not to beg Craig to turn the car around. I haven’t been apart from the kids for this long…ever. But I know they’re having a great time and are in very good hands.

We leave tomorrow for Tahoe. I’m packed. I’m not sure if I’m ready though. I’m getting nervous. But I always get this way before a big event. All the ‘what if’s’ start playing in my mind. I figure I’ll just get out there and give it my all. Driving the route with Craig will help me too. In my mind I’ve created monsterous hills….I’m hoping to be proved wrong.

I definitely have a great team who supports me 110%. I’m looking forward to spending time with them before and after the race. I’m looking forward to being with all the other TNT chapters.

Plus….the fact that the event is done on National Cancer Survivor’s Day is awesome!! I think it’ll make my finish even more spectacular!!

Time to ride!!




By Leesa Gabel

I’ve been dreaming about biking….and cupcakes.

The dreams started Mother’s Day weekend. The night before our training ride I dreamt about riding out at Lake Tahoe. Of course in my dream it looked more like Colorado since I’ve never been to Tahoe. I dreamt of rolling hills and steep climbs and wonderful downhills. I saw myself finish the ride…all 100 miles. And at the finish there was a cupcake buffet waiting for me!!

And so the dreams have continued on a regular basis in some way, shape or form….biking and cupcakes.

I’ve found that it helps me to see a route I’m going to ride before I ride it. Craig and I will often drive our Saturday training routes beforehand. It really helped me on the 80-mile ride….which was only 50 due to the rain and wind and my health. Which is why we’re renting a car while in Tahoe, so that we can drive the route. I need to see what 100 miles is going to look like. I’ve heard stories, but I want first-hand knowledge. After we drive it, I know I’ll dream about riding it….if not in my sleep dreams, then in my daydreams. I’ll visualize myself out on the course….visualize which gear I need to be in….when I can coast….when I need to crank it….when I need to drop down into ‘granny gear’. And of course I’ll visualize me finishing!!

Now the cupcake part of my dreams…well….that’s easy. I have a new love. Small Cakes. It’s a new cupcakery (yes, that’s a real word you could use in Scrabble) here in Olathe that sells the most delicious cupcakes I’ve ever tasted!! I’m addicted to them. Not to any one particular flavor, but all of them! I figure there a perfect way to reward myself after a long…or short…ride. Which is why losing weight is so hard…..I burn the calories and then put them right back in by eating a cupcake. I’m just maintaining my weight at this point….but if it means I can keep eating a cupcake….then so be it!! At least that’s what I tell myself…..

I feel that I am both mentally and physically prepared for the bike ride. More so than any other event I’ve done.

I am ready to ride!!!



50 of 80 ain’t too shabby!

By Leesa Gabel

I got in 50 miles on Saturday. Only 30 shy from the 80 that was on the schedule.

It rained the entire time we were on the bikes. Misting rain, fat drop rain, pouring rain, steady light rain… was like the scene in Forrest Gump when he was desribing the rain in Vietnam. The route took us west on 175th into the city of Gardner. A nice little town (with plenty of bathroom stops)! It wasn’t until we made it to the turn-around spot that we discovered the 15 mph wind was at our backs the entire time. So the ride back east to Metcalf was into the wind, which meant the rain was into our faces!! I’d wear my sunglasses for a bit to sheild my eyes from the stinging rain, but then I couldn’t see very well. So I just squinted and dealt with it.

We made it to the next turn-around point…Metcalf….and headed back west to Gardner. By this time I was just wiped out. The wind and rain, plus boot camp on Friday, had taken its toll. I knew I had pushed my body to its limits. I had enough steam to make it back to the truck that was parked at Quivera Park.

I’m sure all the people in all the cars that were passing us were thinking that we were crazy for riding bikes in such crappy weather. I would have loved to be wearing a shirt that read ‘I’m not crazy, I’m in training” on both the front and back. But they’d probably still think I’m nuts!

All-in-all it was a great ride. I know….even despite the rain…..I had a good time. I liked passing all my team. It’s very encouraging to see them all. Besides…it’s nice to know that there are others out there just as wacky as me!!

Hopefully the official ride will have perfect weather. If not…I’m ready for whatever is out there!!!