Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Defense of a Hero

Lance Armstrong stepped down as CEO from the Lance Armstrong Foundation and soon after Nike as well as Budweiser ended their relationships with him, with more to come.  I have spent all afternoon watching various tweets centered around his guilt, telling jokes (What is Lance's favorite animal?  A Cheetah) and generally jumping on the "We Hate Lance" bandwagon.  Not me.

I still am a Lance supporter and there are two main reasons why.

I remember watching Lance's first Tour de France and while at the time I knew very little about the sport, I was rooting for this guy, this AMERICAN, who just 3 years after having cancer was winning the grueling 23 day long road race. I cried when he won.  I have always had a bike and can remember as a kid just taking off and riding for hours just to explore. As a "grown up", I realized I missed my bike and started riding again. I wasn't the only one, as road biking suddenly became a topic of conversation and wearing spandex and riding on skinny tires was cool again.

Lance won again the next year and the next year and of course the next year and by then I was riding pretty steadily. I devoured his book "It's Not About The Bike."  I remember thinking that he is an x-man in the real world. His body processes oxygen at a higher rate than most people while producing less lactic acid than most. His spine is shaped in a way that makes him more aerodynamic. He simply is able to tolerate more physical stress than most people.  He also seems like a complete and total asshole.

Yep, you read that correctly.  He is an asshole. But I also think that he had to be to get through what he did and to continuously win like he did. The Tour de France is an incredibly impossible race to even complete. Each year there are multiple wrecks and even deaths. You simply cannot just decide one day to ride the Tour without any preparation. It takes years of training, days of riding in the rain, the cold, the hot and riding when the last thing you want to do is to ride. You have to fine tune your nutrition, focus everything in your life around one goal. I have done one thing like this in my life that is even remotely close and that was run a marathon.  I had to sacrifice parties, time with friends, dinners, ice cream, sleeping in and generally a life.  I hurt, all the time, and spent most weekends on the couch with ice packs on various parts of my body. I did all that for a sub par finish that is not even remotely close to what Lance could do.

I firmly believe that there are people that are naturally athletic and I am not one of those people, but Lance is. He is able to train to a level I never could dream of hitting. But the key piece of that statement is that he trained.  He did the work.  He put in the miles and miles and miles. He made the sacrifices. He prepared his body, his mind and his team for stresses they could never imagine.

I don't think anyone can deny that Lance Armstrong is more than a person, he is a brand. His name is synonymous with the  Livestrong logo that graces the yellow bands, t-shirts, bikes, hats, bags and cycling gear, seen at most races, sporting events and in any large crowd of people.  That brand has raised more than $470 million to support and empower people who are affected by cancer.  The Lance Armstrong Foundation has helped more than 550 organizations and countless thousands of thousands of people who have cancer. More than that, Lance has given HOPE to people who have cancer. He has revolutionized how people look at cancer. Instead of being a victim, Lance inspired people to fight, to take charge, to not surrender to the disease.  Livestrong is an immense resource center for people diagnosed with cancer, but Lance changed the status quo of those people.  Cancer is no longer a death sentence. Lance was able to fight cancer and come back to win the hardest road race in the world because he chose to fight.  He was the first person to say that a person with cancer can live.

Livestrong is about the fight.  It is about learning about the disease and living strong.  It is about acceptance of the fear, the anger, and working through all the emotions that a cancer patient and their support system are about to feel.  It is about living a life and having a life worth living.  Lance Armstrong showed people that you can live after being diagnosed with cancer.  His strength gave others strength.

For me, he will always be the person who got me back on my bike, and for that I thank him. Because of that I have met people that have helped me along in journeys I never knew I would be on.  The person I was 10 years ago has fundamentally changed, due mostly in part to my ability to ride my bike. More importantly, Lance is still the person who changed our society's opinions on cancer.  We fight.  We don't accept less than living.

I don't know the details on the doping scheme, I don't know if he was simply using his own oxygenated blood or steroids. I don't know if he was the only one or if everyone was doing it.  What I do know is it is impossible to finish the Tour de France without putting in the work. I know that he helped many friends of mine learn about their cancer and be better prepared legally, financially and mentally.  I know that in the pros and cons of life, he has done far more for society as a whole than most people can ever dream about. He had cancer. He fought and he won; continues to fight.  He taught all of us that we can also fight and win.  And for me, that is why I will always be a Lance fan. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September Music

Teenage Icon by The Vaccines
Something Good by Alt-J
Ayla by The Maccabees
Bom Bom by Sam and The Womp
Read All About It by Emeli Sande
Flaws by Bastille
Talk Through The Night by Dog is Dead
Madness by Muse
Two Fingers by Jake Bugg

Music Notes this Month:
I have been very fortunate this month to see a lot of  concerts and with each one I was reminded how much I love music and how important it is in my life. I am constantly amazed with peoples' talent, especially since I myself have none. Sitting in a room listening to a great singer still gives me chills and I vividly remember some performances that have brought me to tears. So even though many of these really messed up my sleep schedule, here are some highlights from my month of music:

A Silent Film - This band has long been on my radar, included in best of lists since April of 2009.  So I was really excited when they were announced to play a work event.  Their songs are pretty and the lyrics are mostly sad, which is a trait that for some reason I really like.  Like most music I really like, hardly anyone was familiar with the band which is a shame. In person they were humble, sweet and very appreciative of people actually singing their lyrics.  Two of my favorites: You Will Leave a Mark and Driven By Their Beating Hearts.

Metric: This band has been around for a bit and their songs are played pretty consistently on the station that I listen to the most, Atl Nation.  I've never really loved them, never hated them.  Then I saw them in an acoustic performance and I was amazed. The lead singer's voice is pure and beautiful and it has forever changed how I think of their music. You will probably recognize Youth Without Youth.

The Wombats: This band peaked my interest a few years ago with their song "Let's Dance to Joy Division" because it is a good song and I love that they get the irony of that line. It made me laugh.  So I have been following them, purchasing all of their stuff and would consider myself a fan. Their newest single Jump Into the Fog addresses a woman as "love" (which I LOVE and want) and also has a great lines: "I'm only here because I want to twist the structure of my average day" and "life tastes sweeter when its wrapped in debauchery". So I was more than a little excited to see they were coming to Charlotte and that they would be coming to work. I was the only one that I work with that even knew who they were!  Now I see a lot of bands come through work, some big and some small.  Some do a great job interacting with the crowd and then there are bands like The Wombats.  They walked onto the platform, hardly said hello, unceremoniously sang two songs (the usual is three) and walked off stage.  That's it. I was very disappointed.  For a band with such a sense of humor in their lyrics, to have no personality whatsoever was not what I expected. I went to the show that night and they were better, but still they have lost a bit of their appeal.   I still like the music, but I will never again skip down the hall at work exclaiming "The Wombats are here!"  Check out one of my favorites, Tokyo.

Morning Parade: I liked this band's first major hit and since they were opening for the Wombats, they also came by work. They were the first band in the 16 years I have worked here that wore a sports coat.  They also smelled good, a rarity.  They did the normal introduction, sang a song and then said they wanted to play a game with the audience members.  It was hilarious!  They sang another song and when it came to the next break they chose me. Steve, the lead singer introduced himself to me and asked the question, then played their hit song.  We took pictures and that was it.  That night at the concert I bought a cd and went up to get it autographed. He looked at me and right away said 'Hi Amy, so glad to see you again!".  How awesome is that?!  We chatted, he said he'd be around afterwards and asked if I'd stay for a drink.  I was there with Shelia, so we both stayed and she bought the band a round of drinks.  I hung out and talked with Steve while The Wombats were playing.  He had been touring with them for a few weeks and said that they are funny and nice.  He also said he was so  impressed that the Wombats were playing in a small venue here when just two weeks ago they were playing to a sold out 50,000 crowd in the UK.  I asked him if that was disheartening and he said quite the opposite...that it was inspiring to be with a band that loved performing and loved the music so much.  So Steve bought me two drinks, we hung out talking for about an hour.  I am pretty sure we are best friends now.  :)  But seriously, they will be back in Charlotte in November.  Go see them; they are a group of nice guys with a lot of talent.   Headlights is great, but this Us & Ourselves is my favorite.