Ride to Remember 2014: Honoring the Fallen

Whenever I see an
adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.
~ H.G. Wells
Hope for the
human race was abundant Saturday morning downtown in Springfield,
Massachusetts, where 240 cyclists of all ages, races, genders and professions
lined up to cycle 106.7 miles to the State House in Boston. This was the second
annual “Ride to Remember,” to honor fallen police officers and to raise money
for their families. “Fallen but not Forgotten” was the slogan, printed on the
back of the 240 riders’ uniform shirts, colored police-blue.
Laurie, mother Eileen Morrow, brother Tim
I scanned the swelling crowd at 6:15 am: the riders’ adrenaline flowing; the air
chilly and moist; the bikes being unloaded and tires pumped; the massive
American flag unfurled from two cranes in the semi-dark; the dawn just breaking
over what would be a perfect-weather day for an endurance ride; support buses queueing
up and repair vehicle positioned in place.
I was riding with
my younger brother Tim Morrow, a 30-year veteran of the Springfield Police Department,
now a K-9 officer, his wife Lee, on her first “century” ride, and my boyfriend
Doug, a marathoner and endurance athlete. The riders were police officers,
fire fighters and family members from all over Massachusetts. 106.7 miles later we
would be at the State House for a ceremony to honor the fallen.

The ride begins!
The Ride to
Remember honors officers Kevin Ambrose and José Torres, both killed in the line
of duty two years ago. Kevin was the first Springfield officer killed in action
in 25 years; he was just about to retire, but was killed while helping with a
domestic abuse case. It’s a chilling reminder to those of us who take the law
enforcement for granted about how dangerous these jobs are.
Despite the nippy
air and early time, I was grateful to see my sister-in-laws, Kathy and Polina
Morrow, who came to hug us and wish us good luck. And my 82-year-old mother,
Eileen Morrow! She probably should have been riding with us, as she has enough
energy and willpower!
After pumping our
tires up and joining the bulging street of riders, I looked down and saw bad
news—my front tire was flat! I jumped off, ran to the far back of the crowd
where the vehicles were, Doug following, searching for the repair vehicle. Meanwhile
the clock was ticking as the riders were clipping in, ready to. I finally found
Steve, the repair guy, and in 30 seconds he had me ready to go. Clip-clopping
on my cleats, juggling my bike, sprinting back to the riders… but they were gone.
I hopped on my
bike and Doug and I pumped hard to catch them. It was exciting, because we
had to slice right between a parallel line of police motorcycle escorts until
we became the last of the riders in the group. It was cold; by mile 10 our
hands were stiff, noses running. I found that I couldn’t shift to the big gear because
my left hand simply wouldn’t obey—too cold!
 
The first leg, to
mile 18, was the hardest for me, incredibly. I had spent the last few days in
Washington DC at the NHF event, and while I hit the gym once, I didn’t feel
warmed up; the cold air wasn’t helping. After the first break in Palmer, MA,
where the support staff served boxes of bananas, bagels, Clif bars and Gatorade, we
fueled up (you must keep eating throughout the ride), stretched out and within
15 minutes were back on the road. We immediately hit a hill; there would be
many tortuous hills on this long ride, which tested not only your aerobic
capacity, but your quad strength, and your mental fortitude. Honestly, I kept
hearing in my head, “I think I can, I think I can…” Tim and Lee were somewhere
ahead of us; Doug stayed in the large gear (the hardest) the entire 106.7 miles, and powered up every
hill. That. Is. Crazy.
Ouch
Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.  ~ Charles M. Schulz 
There would be
five rest stops. But you must also drink a ton of fluids and these catch up
with you eventually. At one forced stop in the middle of a narrow country road somewhere
in mid-Massachusetts, to wait for the huge group of riders to catch up with
each other, I decided, like a lot of riders, to use it to my advantage. We
hopped off our bikes and headed for the woods. The men went one direction to
the edge. I delved a bit deeper into a more remote spot, where I thought there
were an awful lot of thick vines. Vines? I tried to pull them away and step over
or through them—ouch! Rusty barbed wire. One sliced my knee a little; I
thankfully didn’t get a piercing where none was desired and I headed back. A little drama is good for the story and the medical
crew was delighted to have something to do.
When the spirits are low, when the day
appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth
having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without
thought on anything but the ride you are taking. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Author of Sherlock Holmes
Back on the road
and the rest of the ride was wonderful. I hit a little “wall” at mile 40, just
feeling like I could easily nap, but oddly, by mile 60 I was revved up and
flying. We took hills doing 15 mph at times, and flew at 32 mph downhill. We
had a police escort the entire way, so were well protected from cars. All
traffic was stopped as our entourage sped through intersections, town centers,
crossed highways, thumped over railroad tracks. I took only one spill when, to
avoid crashing into another cyclist, I couldn’t complete a sharp left turn to
cross railroad tracks at a 90 degree angle. My tire went right into the track
groove and I gracefully slid to the ground. No harm done. Doug and Tim had a
crash—together! Other riders had several crashes and there were many chains
that fell off.
By 5:30 pm, we
rode into Boston, past the famous Citgo sign, with crowds along the way
cheering us on. We swarmed together like bees as we pulled into the State House
and congratulated each other. I was so proud of Lee, who had only taken up cycling
this past spring. This goes to show what training and determination can do
(though she seems to have some natural talent). And Doug was outstanding, and
now hooked on cycling. We’re going to sign up for some classes this winter with
a pro to learn how to improve our performance. 
And I’m proud of
my brother Tim, his K9 partner Cairo, and his brotherhood of police officers
and firefighters (my older brother Tom Morrow is also a firefighter!): what wonderful public servants and what better way to tell
them, to show them, how proud we all are: spending out day on a physically grueling
ride, with such positive feelings, surrounded by some of the most honorable
people you’d ever want to know. 
Laurie, Doug, Lee, Tim
Sistas!
It’s a lot like our hemophilia community, with so many of our
brothers lost to us forever due to someone else’s negligence, there are so many
fallen, but never forgotten. I think of Barry Haarde and his remarkable Ride Across America, doing an average of 120 miles a day—a day! Think of it! For 30
straight days. It seems humanly impossible, until you realize that when you
have a passion, a cause, an injustice to fix, and some training and a goal,
almost nothing is impossible.
Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes
life worth living!…Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and
go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and
bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an
hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now,
that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it…and then to
think that tomorrow I can do it all over again! ~ Jack London
, Author

Fallen But Not Forgotten

I did it! Yessir, I’ve gone from cycling a paltry 21 miles
back in June (to which Barry Haarde prodded me to go further) to 105.5 miles
yesterday. Not bad for a 55-year-old mom. I’d jump up and down but my left knee
is stiff.

Brother Tim Morrow, wife Lee,
and Laurie Kelley

On Saturday, I completed my first “century,” riding over 100
miles across Massachusetts. Many lessons learned from this event, and many
parallels to our hemophilia community. In fact, I thought about our special community
the whole way.

Our police escort, all 105.5 miles

The first annual “Ride to Remember” honored two
fallen police officers killed in June 2012 in the line of duty:
Kevin Ambrose of Springfield, and José Torres of Westfield. My brother Tim Morrow, a K-9 officer in
Springfield, my hometown, was a close friend of Kevin Ambrose. The ride raises
awareness of the perils of our men and women in blue, and also raises money for
law enforcement families. So I couldn’t help but think of my friend Barry
Haarde, who rode across America, both last year and this year, to raise money
for Save One Life, and to raise awareness of our “fallen,” those with
hemophilia who died from HIV, contracted in the late 1970s and early 1980s from
the blood-clotting products they used. Barry posted a photo each day of his
ride on Facebook of someone who had passed away, including his own brother, to
honor their memory. Like our police officers, these young men sacrificed their
lives so that others, including all our children today, can have a safer life.
Only, they did not go willingly into this service. No matter. Heroes all.

About 250 police officers, colleagues, and
family members, like me, gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts Saturday morning, September 21, at 6 am in the mildly chilly air. We were blessed with excellent
weather: no rain, slight overcast skies for a while. While we milled about,
eager to get going, like race horses twitching in their gates, we were reminded
by Sgt. Delaney, who organized the event, this was not a race. We would stay
together as much as possible—very tough, as the roads were often one lane each
way as we weaved our way through the charming towns of New England. My brother
Tim and I are naturally competitive and wanted to break away (well, he later
did!) but we complied as much as possible. He had trained weekly with his
colleagues; I trained solo. I’ve never ridden in a group before. I looked about
and saw a lot of hardware—expensive bikes, wheel, spokes, cables—and
software—arms, legs, heads. I was a bit wary of riding too close to anyone due
to my own inexperience in group riding.
We gulped down bagels and bananas and at 7 am
shoved off, herded by a police escort of about 20 motorcycles to keep us in
formation, much like a pack of helmeted border collies. What would get us
through 105 miles to Boston? Not just bagels and bananas.
“Take
is easy, baby…” (Take It As It Comes)
Music helps pass the time and motivates, so I
thought of my favorite songs from my favorite band: the Doors, of course. I was
amused at how many songs and lines seemed appropriate for this journey.
I was shivering in the misty cool air, but
thought of our guide Jacob on Mt. Kilimanjaro: “Pole, pole…(slow, slow)” A journey of a thousand miles starts with
a few steps. We were cautioned to go at a slow pace, 13 to 15 miles per hour. Now,
15 miles per hour is my regular speed, but here it was like crawling. It was
challenging to have riders blocking my view, causing me to swerve, weave, wiggle
my front wheel to keep balance. The first rest stop was only 18 miles away,
which also seemed too soon. We’re used to going 20-25 without a break.
We took it easy and it was. My fingers
and palms would go numb occasionally from the morning chill but that would ease once
the sun rose. Stop #1: Palmer. So far so good. We laughed, joked, ate more
bananas and guzzled water. Tim and I would later mention we have never eaten so much in one day in our lives, but you have to eat. It’s the one piece of advice I
took seriously: eat every 15-30 minutes, drink constantly. My sister-in-law Lee made delicious sandwiches that went down fast. On we go!
“Keep
your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel…” (Roadhouse Blues)
The pack was still thick as we kicked off to the
next segment of the ride. I had to constantly monitor who was riding up on my
right or left, who was slowing down in front. Hills. So many hills. Steep and
long. I’m not a big person, and I don’t have the quadriceps that some of these
cops have, but I noticed on the hills I blew past a lot of the guys who could
outgun me on a straightaway. I attribute this to my cross training and core workouts
with my trainer, Dan. When the quads burn out, and they will quickly on these
hills, the body kicks in other parts, like back and abs. Mine were primed and
ready to take over on hills. This is why cross training is so important: you
can get serious back problems from overtraining one part of the body and not
all parts. Yahoo! Up the hills I went, happy.
Laurie coasting; Tim behind
with raised fist

We passed through such quaint and picturesque
New England towns: congregational church steeples piercing the blue skies above,
pumpkins plopped next to hay bales, antique shops. This is Sturbridge, our next
stop and a historic town. I am baffled that I have never toured Sturbridge
before this!

Break
On Through
Nothing can explain why, at the third stop in
Charleton, I hit some sort of wall. I routinely ride 70 miles every
Sunday; what was this all about? My mind felt fuzzy, quads buzzing with
fatigue. I kind of stumbled in and grabbed some food. I resented having to stop
so often, but you know, in the end, it was good the organizers made us stop.
Otherwise we would burn ourselves out. I hardly saw Tim; he seemed to know
everyone, and was busy chatting with his comrades. I actually am used to riding
alone, and being alone, and didn’t really know anyone. I made a few friends,
but preferred to use my rest time to stretch, eat and hydrate. Time to break
through this wall. Maybe I should rename this section Pink Floyd’s The Wall?
Light
My Fire
Fuel!

Well, things change! Back on the road, muscles
got warmed up, and we hit a huge, long hill right off the bat. That was tough
but again, I found the hills not a problem. I felt more motivated and competent
and pushed it. Looking at the MapMyRide app, which charted my whole ride, I hit
18 mph at some points on this ride. Maybe that was down hill? Naw, because my
speedometer said 35 mph going downhill. We were kicking it! This felt great
now. I learned something important about group riding, which I now prefer to
call team riding: you can draft. This means you ride behind another cyclist,
who absorbs the brunt of the wind. You ride faster with less effort. I usually
can’t get above 18 mph, and even then only for a short time; now I was easily
doing 19 mph with minimum effort. A lesson for teamwork, a lesson for our
community. Stick together; lead; follow; be efficient; allow other leaders to
take the helm when you get fatigued; listen to the leader, who spots danger first—Slow! Pothole!

Occasionally I would reach behind me and grab
Snickers bars from the back pockets on my shirt, or Shot Blocks, or Gu gel,
which give instant energy. Whatever I was doing it was working. Felt great!
Queen
of the Highway
After 5.5 hours, we hit Grafton, next stop,
about 60 miles in. We all checked in with each other: “How you feeling?”  We lost a few riders and I watched the noble
bikes sadly get hung on the inside walls of a truck, feeling badly for the
riders. There were a couple of crashes too; riders who got too close to one
another, or perhaps hit a pothole. My brother Tim even crashed. Flying downhill,
probably at speeds over 35 mph, there was a sudden left hand turn at an
intersection; he couldn’t slow down fast enough because the riders in front of him
were going slower, so he thoughtfully went straight across the intersection, into a field and
catapulted over his handlebars! Luckily, he hit soft ground and despite this
spectacular landing, didn’t even have a scratch.
Only 40 something miles to go. This was so
doable and easy! I plugged in my headphones now, and cranked up my music. We
had a full police escort the whole way. The traffic in the oncoming lanes was
stopped; all traffic in intersections was stopped. The world stopped for us!
Occasionally we had folks coming out of their homes to stand by the side of the
road to cheer us on. Sweet. I felt unstoppable. Finishing was not going to be a
problem!
I noticed that when hills appeared on the
horizons, the riders, some 100 or more ahead of me, would swarm suddenly and
become a huge pedaling mass. This is when I took to the incoming traffic lane,
as I could pedal pretty well up the hills, blowing by the big guys (and some
petite women) who puffed and struggled. I started riding on the incoming
traffic lane; I didn’t have to get too close to other riders, and had lots of
room. Fun!
Stop 5: Ashland High School. Eat, eat, eat,
hydrate. Stretch. Channel 22 news was interviewing riders, and providing live
coverage. This was our last stop till Boston! About 30 miles to go.
“The
future’s uncertain…” (Roadhouse Blues)
I was zooming along, when at mile 93—almost
done—something kind of popped. In a second I had pain in my left knee, and
couldn’t get it to work. I went from 19 mph to 9 mph in seconds. I could not
push that knee for anything. I think I was right on Rt 9, police motorcycles swarming
around me, riders now zooming by me. I had been popping Tylenols the whole ride
to help with general muscle soreness and specifically my neck, which has some
arthritis in it. But nothing helped this. I hobbled along, dropping further and
further behind in the pack.
I now lost focus on the surroundings and barely
noticed the spectators cheering us on; we went through Wellesley, then Newton.
I had my eyes down and was pushing my right leg hard to compensate. Don’t quit
on me now! Thankfully, there was a final stop at Boston
College (that didn’t show on our ride map), where we all gathered in a huge,
heaving, blue mob. 
Do
It
The famed Citgo sign; the end is near!

I limped over to Tim, who was straddling his bike
and gripping his handlebars, even though this was a 30-minute rest, like he was
ready to bolt. He took me to the emergency team where they taped my knee. It
was the least we could do, and the most they could do. We waited on the grass
till 5 pm, when the organizers grouped us for the final push into Boston. There
was a ceremony waiting for us.

That was a painful ride. My beautiful adopted
home city of Boston, the birthplace of America, all the familiar sites—the
Citgo sign! Seeing that made us believe we can do it. But I couldn’t keep up
well. I felt I was the last rider (though Lee assures me I wasn’t). The streets
were lined with thousands of people waving, cheering, with flags and banners
for the fallen officers and for us. I was in a surreal zone mentally. Through
Fenway, down a tunnel, popping up to Beacon Hill and our beautiful state house
with the gold dome forged by Paul Revere himself.
“This
is the end, beautiful friend….”
Laurie rides in to
the State House

Irish twins: Officer Tim Morrow with
sister Laurie Kelley

It was done. 105.5 miles. As I sailed to the
back of the State House, I saved my GPS map and stats, and then and there my second
and last power pack died—perfect timing. Everyone had that “high” so familiar
when you do something athletically great, and are so tired but so euphoric. My
brother Tim and I hugged; this is the first time we ever did anything like this
together, let alone apart (although he is quite a competitive athlete). My
sister-in-law Lee gets the credit for providing our gear when we needed it,
giving us fuel to keep us going, and being moral support!

Tim and Laurie with firefighter BJ Calvi, at the finish

A beautiful ceremony ensued, with full honor
guard, and the heads of state of the law enforcement, including Attorney General
Martha Coakley. Though we were exhausted and hungry, we stood more or less
silently for 90 minutes while the dignitaries went through speeches and read
the names of every single officer killed in action in Springfield. Very
sobering, very sad. Such heroes.

And while standing there, at this beautiful memorial,
where the names of Officers Ambrose and Torres had already been added, it
reminded me that we in hemophilia do not yet have our memorial. Our shrine,
where names can be added, where people can come and pay their respects. Almost
10,000 innocent people with hemophilia and HIV died, becoming the sacrificial
lambs for future better and safer treatment of hemophilia. Barry did an
astounding ride last year and this year to honor them. Maybe it’s time to think
about our own memorial to our own “Fallen But Not Forgotten.”
My brother Tim told me that the activity with the highest fatalities when you are a cop is
approaching a vehicle, whether for a routine traffic stop or for suspicious
behavior. You don’t know if or when the driver will pull a gun or if you will be struck by another car. That amazed me; how dangerous is their work! And for us, it used to
be that injecting factor was as dangerous; you didn’t know which vial had HIV.
Now, we don’t have those worries. We have those fallen to thank. I hope someday
we can, through our own memorial.

Greater love has no
one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

http://www.wwlp.com/news/massachusetts/springfield-to-boston-ride-to-remember

The Memorial, in the shape of a shield

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