My Proudest Moment on a Bike: Apple Cider Century, by Michele Ringwood

03.15.2011 | 5:00 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s the second day in the “My Proudest Moment on a Bike” series, guest-posted by readers. This post is from Michele Ringwood, who owns a business in Chicago and is finishing her MFA in Creative Writing. She is writing a book about her breast cancer experience called; “Breast Cancer; Wish I Knew”. This September she and Ken are biking across Italy. Ken’s training plan, “We’ll start with a smaller country and move up.”

finishapplecidercentury.JPGMy second chemo session was worse than the first session. I was allergic to the chemo drugs and went into anaphylactic shock. As alarms went off, Lori, the nurse I’d already nicknamed Chemo Queen, was joined by two more nurses. Those little clear plastic needle caps popped off walls and bounced on the floor. They couldn’t pump drugs into me fast enough, I gasped through an oxygen mask, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” My husband, Ken, stood beside my hospital bed, pulling his blond hair straight up, his eyes bugging out (and he hadn’t even had any drugs).

I knew it was bad, when afterward the oncologist called me into his office for an “extra visit”. He waltzed in, his usual distant coolness warmed a few degrees, his gray eyes actually touched me.   

“I’m sorry. I hear you’ve been having some trouble with the chemo drugs. You know, we really weren’t trying to kill you.”

“You could have fooled me,” was the only thing I could think to say and I went home to bed.

A week later when I could get out of bed, I decided I had to get out of the house. I had to breathe some real air, even if it was January in Chicago. Ken hesitantly agreed to walk me around the block. For 45 minutes, I held onto his arm and I creeped. There was lots of time to talk. I told him I was afraid they had crossed a line. I mean, I know the whole point of chemo is that they are killing stuff, but I said I thought they had gone too far and were actually killing me. Then I started to get a little pissed. I told him if I lived through this next six months I wanted to bike a century. Yes, 100 miles on my bike in one day. And not in the distant future. This summer.

Maybe a century is not a big deal for a lot of you but my husband and I are casual bike riders (read slow). Both hovering 50 (I’m the one that is a LOT younger than 50, I’m 47), I had only been biking a few years. My idea of a big ride was 25 or 30 miles on the Chicago lakefront path. I love the second hour, when I find a long smooth rhythm and it feels like I am flying, the lake on one side and the city on the other.

One thing you have to know about my husband. He’s Swedish, so he doesn’t always tell you what is on his mind. Now, I’m Irish and if my mouth isn’t moving you, you know I’m mad at you. So when I said, I want to bike a century, he said what he said most of that year, “Whatever you want.”, “Yes, of course.”, “You want cake doughnuts, let me run to the store.”, “You need to go to another doctor, I’ll be right there to drive you.”, “You want to ride a 100 miles in a day, and it is taking you 45 minutes to walk around the block, we can make that work. I’ll set up a training plan.”

They changed my drugs and the rest of the chemo went uneventfully, not to say that it didn’t suck and I didn’t keep getting weaker and weaker. More surgery and June 12th, 2010, I got onto my bike for the first time since the summer of 2009, before breast cancer, a mastectomy and chemotherapy, reconstruction. The best that can be said is that I made the pedals go around. I groused at Ken to stop riding around me in circles. We went 7 miles and it took an hour. Recovery consisted of 45 horizontal minutes examining my living room carpet before I was strong enough to stand up and shower. Ken told me months later (after the century) that I was going so slowly he thought I might fall over.

We followed Ken’s plan. Longer rides. I got up to 11 miles an hour and thought I was a rock star. Then he added some intervals. And I got a trainer to help me build back muscle. Do you know how much muscle you lose sitting in a recliner for months watching the entire West Wing series and eating cake donuts?

The Apple Cider Century was September 26th, 2010. I was terrified of the last 25 miles. I shouldn’t have been. I should have been terrified of miles 50-75 when we were going north, onto the hilly section (ok, hilly for me) into a 15 mile an hour headwind. This fat cyclist and I kept rubber banding, I would pass him and he would pass me. (It wasn’t you Fatty. You’re much thinner and faster than this guy was.) At 65 miles there was a turn; go left and you finish in 10 miles. Go right, still into the ^%$& headwind, and you take a 25 mile loop for the 100 miles. I so wanted to turn left. Desperately. I made Ken stop. I got off my bike and looked at all the young, healthy people lounging on this rural corner laughing and joking about the cold wind. The van for the ride organizers sat there waiting to help people in trouble.

I got back on my bike. Eventually there was a tailwind. I love downhills and tailwinds.

I did the century. From bed in June to a 7 1/2 hour century in September, not too bad. That night, Ken said that when I told him on that walk that I wanted to do a century, he thought I had completely lost my mind. Perhaps.

By the way, the other thing I told him on that very same walk is when I’m 50, I want to bike across the United States. So he’s in the study right now, working on training plans. I’m working on being cancer free.


  1. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 03.15.2011 | 5:18 am

    Michele, congratulations on being cancer free and on completing your first century. You are an inspiration. I hope we get to hear about your ride across the country.

  2. Comment by ChrisL905 | 03.15.2011 | 5:25 am

    Congratulations Michele,
    You clearly have the heart of a fighter and you have my deepest admiration.

  3. Comment by aussie kev | 03.15.2011 | 5:58 am

    Allez Michele

  4. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 03.15.2011 | 6:58 am

    Wow. I’m awed and inspired. Thanks for sharing your amazing story.

  5. Comment by Mike | 03.15.2011 | 7:13 am

    Thanks for the goosebumps and the inspirational story!

  6. Comment by Debi | 03.15.2011 | 7:18 am

    What an awe-inspiring story! I admire you, your fight and your goals. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Comment by Bragger | 03.15.2011 | 7:25 am

    Ruining my mascara this morning was well worth the story. I admire your spunk, your fight, and your sense of humor. Wonderfully written!

  8. Comment by Eric | 03.15.2011 | 7:41 am

    Michele, that was an awesome story. Thanks so much for sharing your personal story with all of us. You are an inspiration.

  9. Comment by Karin Moen Abercrombie | 03.15.2011 | 7:58 am

    What an inspiration – this will remind me to always be thankful.
    Thank you for sharing. Your friend Karin

  10. Comment by MattC | 03.15.2011 | 8:00 am

    Gosh darn it, must be something wrong with the air in my cube…my eyes are misting over.

    Michele, what a WONDERFUL story, thanks so much for sharing! You are not alone in this fight…all of Team Fatty has your back! We do it so people like you can tell your SURVIVAL stories! Ride on! And Ken, you DA MAN!

  11. Comment by paul | 03.15.2011 | 8:00 am


    Always a champion, always will be!

  12. Comment by rich | 03.15.2011 | 8:02 am

    Wow…..just wow…
    Thank you for sharing.

  13. Comment by Kel | 03.15.2011 | 8:06 am

    So wonderful it made me cry! Yah for your first century!! Please please post updates on how the summer trip goes. And hooray for wonderful supportive husbands – they are the best!

  14. Comment by Amy Carraher | 03.15.2011 | 8:08 am

    You continue to inspire me in SO many ways!!!!

  15. Comment by Tonya | 03.15.2011 | 8:14 am

    I mean this in the nicest way: YOU ARE A BEAST! SO awesome.

  16. Comment by Jojo88 | 03.15.2011 | 8:19 am

    What a great inspiring story, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I seem to have something stuck in my eyes and they won’t top watering.

  17. Comment by chickenbocks | 03.15.2011 | 8:21 am

    Rock Freakin’ ON, Michele!!!

  18. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 03.15.2011 | 8:31 am

    You go girl. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Fatty, this is a great idea – it is great to read these inspirational stories from some of your readers.

  19. Comment by Rita | 03.15.2011 | 8:39 am

    Hummm…writing or biking to notoriety…both are successes of yours as well as the numerous friendships you have made along the way. I am thankful that you offered to me the best birthday gift of my day – prayers answered. Your strength and motivation to find a way to see through your own Tsunami remain in my daily acknowlegements. Italy will adore you, as do your friends, colleagues and family. Ciao!

  20. Comment by Squirrelhead | 03.15.2011 | 8:42 am

    Thanks for the great story and congratulations to you Michele! You are an inspiration.

  21. Comment by PollyC | 03.15.2011 | 8:50 am

    Michele, thanks for sharing the story of your incredible journey. A good reminder that the future is not a gift, it is an achievement! Keep it going girl…what a team!

  22. Comment by kenny | 03.15.2011 | 9:06 am

    Hell Yeah!

  23. Comment by Dan in Sac | 03.15.2011 | 9:08 am

    Thank you Michele.

    I agree with Cyclingjimbo 8:31 am…… great idea for this series Fatty.

  24. Comment by Jenn | 03.15.2011 | 9:13 am

    You? Freakin’ ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Comment by OldManUtah | 03.15.2011 | 9:23 am

    Michelle, Thank you for your story. Keep telling it everyday!!!


  26. Comment by KanyonKris | 03.15.2011 | 9:24 am

    Wow. Inspiring.

  27. Comment by Edie | 03.15.2011 | 9:26 am

    AWESOME POST! You have lifted the clouds from my miserable morning and have shown me a beautiful afternoon. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  28. Comment by Lesley Jacobs | 03.15.2011 | 9:30 am

    Thanks for the post Fatty and thanks Michelle, the story gives us a glimpse into your battle. You went at it with all guns blazing and what an achievement indeed! I hope your cross country trip is a marvelous adventure, ever pedal stroke of the way. Your century was your warmup!

  29. Comment by Michele | 03.15.2011 | 9:45 am

    Thank you all for your support. I’m overwhelmed. RT @Kel Wonderful husbands are the best. My first email this morning was from him.

  30. Comment by Richard | 03.15.2011 | 10:21 am

    You are a fighter Michelle…..thanks for the inspiration…

  31. Comment by Sharon Braxton | 03.15.2011 | 10:27 am

    You are one tough lady, Michelle. I’m amazed and awed by your determination and grit. You are truly a warrior and cancer will know better than to mess with you again. Good luck on your US trip.

  32. Comment by Bob | 03.15.2011 | 10:32 am

    YOU GO GIRL! You are AWESOME! And so is Ken!

    Thanks, Fatty, for opening your forum to share these wonderful stories!

  33. Comment by Beth B | 03.15.2011 | 10:33 am

    Wow that’s an awesome write-up. Michele – thanks for sharing your story! And have a blast in Italy; that sounds like an amazing journey!

  34. Comment by Haven (KT) | 03.15.2011 | 10:44 am

    Michelle, your story brought tears to my eyes. What an inspirational story.

    You can beat this thing, and if your route takes you through Portland, OR, I’ll be out there rooting you on!

  35. Comment by Moishe | 03.15.2011 | 11:05 am

    Amazing story!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

    I can’t recommend riding across the States highly enough; it is a truly amazing experience.

  36. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 03.15.2011 | 11:11 am

    Great job, Michele! Keep her riding, Ken!

  37. Comment by Dan | 03.15.2011 | 11:11 am

    WIN Michelle!

  38. Comment by AngieG | 03.15.2011 | 11:19 am

    Michele- That was so inspiring!! If you make it to California,let me know. All us Cali Fatty’s will take a spin with you.

  39. Comment by Fat Cathy | 03.15.2011 | 11:29 am

    You go girl! Your willpower is awe inspiring.

  40. Comment by Kathy McElhaney | 03.15.2011 | 11:53 am

    Michele, you’ve got me in tears. What an inspiration!

    BTW, my husband met a fellow from America By Bike ( over the weekend at the Solvang Century. They even gave him a free jersey! They could do all the planning for you to make the trip on your 50th a dream come true.

    Prayers for continued strength and good health.

  41. Comment by CBJ | 03.15.2011 | 11:53 am

    Congratulations on all fronts!!! You have a gift for sharing your stories…keep it up!!!

  42. Comment by Gillian | 03.15.2011 | 12:01 pm

    Yeah, girl! You can do it, hell, you already DID it! Keep on pedaling.

  43. Comment by cece at work | 03.15.2011 | 12:05 pm

    Here I am , sitting at my desk, esting my lunch and crying tears of joy for you! I am so happy for you and proud of your determination. Now you know you can do anything!

  44. Comment by cece at work | 03.15.2011 | 12:06 pm

    Michelle, you rock.

  45. Comment by Kim | 03.15.2011 | 12:08 pm

    7 and a half hours? AWESOME! That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing your story.

  46. Comment by VA Biker | 03.15.2011 | 1:22 pm

    You never know what you’re going to get when you start reading. That was 3mins of awesome! Thanks for sharing indeed.

    Here’s wishing you the best in beating cancer forever and on your future cycling adventures!

  47. Comment by LauraS | 03.15.2011 | 1:32 pm

    What an incredible story! Michelle, you are an inspiration.

  48. Comment by skippy | 03.15.2011 | 1:34 pm

    Inspirational story and put me in mind of georgethecyclist a neighbour of yours who also blogs about riding the the Chicago waterfront . His knowledge of the gear you will need for the longer trips will save a lot of research .
    Each story this week has been awe inspiring and will add lustre to Fatty’s Best of !

  49. Comment by Eric | 03.15.2011 | 1:34 pm

    So inspiring!! I love it.

  50. Comment by ShireenW | 03.15.2011 | 1:36 pm

    You do rock the house and you are an inspiration to all. You were a true support to me and continue to be as I fight the BC battle too. You keep biking and I’ll keep walking and together we will WIN!!!
    Love ya

  51. Comment by Trevor | 03.15.2011 | 1:45 pm

    BRAVO! I’m going for a ride after I wipe the tears from my eyes. You are fantastic!

  52. Comment by Sandie | 03.15.2011 | 2:12 pm

    Cudo’s to a wonderful daughter. You are everything every survivor will look up to and say, Can Do! … There is no one that will want to miss your upcoming book. Breast Cancer “Wish I Knew” . Your an inspiration in whatever you write. We are so very proud of you for not giving up, Ken, developing the plan, and Adam for keeping track of your blogs. Mom & Dad

  53. Comment by JB | 03.15.2011 | 2:38 pm

    Way to go Michele!!!
    I would be honored to ride a leg with you in Colo if you and Ken do the Trans-am across America.
    hip-hip-horaaaayy for Michele and Ken!!

  54. Comment by muskyhunter | 03.15.2011 | 2:45 pm

    Sweet, time to crawl out of the recliner to try and regain some muscle. Perfect timing to motivate the spring rides.

  55. Comment by Nic Grillo | 03.15.2011 | 3:09 pm

    I love the way you fight. Great job!

  56. Comment by Vaala | 03.15.2011 | 3:10 pm

    This is an incredible story. Lucky my boss was out of the office and didn’t see me tear up reading it…

    I can’t wait to see what comes tomorrow!

  57. Comment by Jim | 03.15.2011 | 3:12 pm

    Michele, you should be proud. Charlie Sheen’s a complete idiot, but that’s *WINNING*.

  58. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.15.2011 | 3:37 pm

    Atta girl, Michele. And listen youngster, don;t let anyone tell you getting old (56 here) is as tough as what you have been / are going through, being a C Survivor.

    You are living life; You are the tough one!

  59. Comment by Brad Schildt | 03.15.2011 | 4:04 pm


    Don’t quit your day job – your guest writers are kicking butt!

    Amazing story Michelle. Thank you.

  60. Comment by kentucky joe | 03.15.2011 | 4:10 pm

    GREAT story!

  61. Comment by Randy | 03.15.2011 | 4:16 pm

    Thank you! I needed that:)

  62. Comment by DoubleUc | 03.15.2011 | 4:26 pm

    “I’m working on being cancer free.”

    I don’t know about the cancer but in my eyes you are already “free”!

  63. Comment by Geri Kloock | 03.15.2011 | 4:48 pm

    Great Michele – your story is incredable and I am so proud of you. Your mom has kept me posted all the way thru your horrible experience. Am so glad your doing so well.

  64. Comment by Barbara | 03.15.2011 | 5:04 pm

    So glad you are doing well and thank you for sharing your experience. Reminds us all of looking at the big picture and to be thankful of the many little things we take for granted each day.

  65. Comment by Doug (way upstate NY) | 03.15.2011 | 6:35 pm

    You rock!

  66. Comment by HeidiR | 03.15.2011 | 6:46 pm

    Awesome post! You are an inspiration, Michele, and if you come through Wisconsin on your trip across country, I will be there to cheer you on!

  67. Comment by Jay P | 03.15.2011 | 10:06 pm

    Congratulations and great post!!

  68. Comment by DifferentKenny | 03.15.2011 | 10:15 pm

    Kick Ass!

  69. Comment by Jan | 03.15.2011 | 10:45 pm

    The “Wonders of Michele” never cease to amaze us and lift our spirits

  70. Comment by kratka | 03.15.2011 | 11:25 pm

    Livestrong Michele!

  71. Comment by Kate | 03.16.2011 | 5:51 am

    That was a fantastic story to wake up to this morning. Just, wow. Thanks for sharing.

  72. Comment by Kathryn Hodges | 03.16.2011 | 7:04 am

    Michele-What a story-you are tough as nails but in the best way!
    Hope you and Ken are getting ready for some Chicago spring riding.
    Italy in the fall sounds awesome-you two will sail up to those hill towns, if that’s where you’re headed-it’s worth it for the pasta and wine of course.
    Was in chicago twice in Feb but much too quick-packing an apt up-
    will be back in May-let’s make a real date.
    xo Kathryn your Costa Rica friend

  73. Comment by Chris | 03.16.2011 | 7:23 am

    AWE-SOME. The only word that I can think of right now. Wow.

  74. Comment by RoBanJo | 03.16.2011 | 1:25 pm

    Bless you. The closest I’ve come was 40 miles. It was a glorious ride because of the climb. You will blog that trip across country, yes, YES?!?

  75. Comment by Ruth | 03.16.2011 | 1:27 pm

    You Go Girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  76. Comment by Dan | 03.16.2011 | 1:31 pm


    You are inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  77. Comment by Annie | 03.16.2011 | 2:21 pm

    Bike across Italy and then take a glacier express through the alps…quite a story.

  78. Comment by Sara | 03.16.2011 | 3:23 pm

    You are an amazing woman. The cancer that made you ill has in turn made you better…better to go beyond what you might have gone without it. God does have a plan.

  79. Comment by conrad | 03.16.2011 | 3:28 pm

    The goodness of God endures continually. Your just more of His evidence Michele!!!!

  80. Comment by Christine | 03.16.2011 | 5:02 pm

    Congratulations… very inspiring. I lost my mom to breast cancer 25 years ago on March 17th at the age of 38. And,I ride a bike raising money for cancer research and a cure.
    Godspeed to you and your husband on your next ride.

  81. Comment by Robin | 03.16.2011 | 6:46 pm

    Michele! So great to hear you are writing a book! Well – about time – I say! You had to wait for cancer to inspire you to take the time to do what you really love – write! Congratulations on your great start – Hope to see you this summer and good luck with the cross country bike ride . . . way more ambitious than I can handle – I’ll be cheering you on.


  82. Comment by Linda | 03.16.2011 | 8:13 pm

    Michele, I have never met you, but for some reason I am so very proud of you.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  83. Comment by Adventure Monkey | 03.17.2011 | 6:05 am

    WOW. I am inspired once again. Great story, thanks so much for sharing.

  84. Comment by Brian | 03.17.2011 | 6:43 am

    Awesome story!

  85. Comment by Microchip | 03.17.2011 | 10:30 am

    Hi Michele. This was a beautiful account. Thanks for sharing this and to Fatty for opening up his blog like this.

  86. Comment by GJ Jackie | 03.17.2011 | 5:04 pm

    Inspiring! You definitely showed cancer who was boss. WOW.

  87. Comment by Lloyd | 03.17.2011 | 5:28 pm

    Michele, you ARE a rock star… and Ken’s lead guitar in your band. Rock on!!

  88. Comment by Christine | 03.20.2011 | 8:08 am

    This was a wonderfully written account of mind over matter and the triumph of your spirit. It made me smile and it brought a tear to my eye as I recalled how sick you were right after those horrible chemo treatments. I too thought you were being a bit extreme to attempt 100 miles so quickly. It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good, no great woman off a bike. Keep biking and writing. I am so very proud of all you have done and your willingness to share and help others.

  89. Comment by Anne | 03.20.2011 | 10:18 am

    Michelle, thanks for sharing your inspirational story! Congratulations on being cancer free!

  90. Comment by Colleen | 03.20.2011 | 4:25 pm

    Thank-you for sharing your story, Michelle! I just finished chemo for ovarian cancer about a month ago and on Tuesday I’m getting on my bike for the first time since surgery/chemo. I am terrified! So, your story is particularly timely for me and has given me hope and reminded me not to get discouraged too easily. Thanks. Here’s to being cancer free!

  91. Comment by Michele | 03.20.2011 | 6:33 pm

    @Colleen, good luck on the bike! I was terrified too, just do what you can and keep doing it. I’ll be thinking of you Tuesday.

  92. Comment by Nikki D | 03.31.2011 | 4:10 pm

    You are amazing. I’m so glad I know you.


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