Lance Armstrong - Its Not About The Bike

MyRoyalWayCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2008

Lance Armstrong finishing 3rd in Sète, taking ...Image via Wikipedia

ACCORDING to www.allamericanspeakers.com, Lance Armstrong commands a staggering $200,000 and above for one session of motivational speaking! Initially, I felt that was that is a ridiculous amount to pay considering that the average speaker commands only about $20k-30k.

But when I read his book, “It’s Not About The Bike”, I realize why he is worth that much.

Lance Armstrong is a champion of champions - he not only won the most grueling of races – the Tour de France a record seven times; he also successfully overcame the odds of a three percent survival rate Cancer.

In the book, Lance Armstrong spoke passionately about the following points:

  • his relationship with his mother
  • pre-cancer career
  • his journey with cancer
  • post-cancer career and Tour de France

Linda Armstrong was Lance Armstrong’s greatest supporter and teacher

Linda Armstrong gave birth to a 9 pounds, 12 ounces Lance Armstrong when she was just 17. Everybody would tell her that they would not go far in life, as they would attach a social stigma with a mother and child born out of wedlock. But Linda Armstrong raised her beloved son with just one rule “Make Every Obstacle n Opportunity”.

Lance Armstrong never really had a dad. His natural dad left before he was born. His stepfather, Terry Armstrong, married his mother when Lance was three and adopted Lance, hence Lance’s surname. But this marriage did not last long. Not that it mattered to him. His mother was the only person that mattered to him as far as parental guidance is concerned.

She was the one who imbued in him the “Never Say Die” spirit. Every time Lance felt like quitting a race, she would say “Son, you never quit.” Young Lance Armstrong would walk to the finish line in tournaments than to fall out and not complete races. It was his mother that cultivated in him an unrivalled determination that would serve him well in years to come.

Pre-Cancer Career

If you have never seen how Lance Armstrong looked like before cancer, you probably would not imagine how muscular he was.

He was born with an exquisite capacity for VO2 max (gauge of how much oxygen you can take in and use) and tremendous lactic acid tolerance. He would hone his muscular body through participations in running, swimming and cycling events. And he would consistently win races with an indomitable will and irrepressible strength.

During his senior year, he would train with the U.S. Olympic cycling developmental team in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He would rise rapidly in the amateur ranks, and Lance qualified for the junior world championships in Moscow in 1989. By 1991 he was the U.S. National Amateur Champion.

Pre-cancer Lance Armstrong has always been a very impatient rider, and would not give two hoots about showing respect to other competitors. He won races based on pure adrenaline and strength. However one event would change his perspective of life significantly.

Death Of Fabio Casartelli

Fabio Casarelli, the 1992 Olympic Champion, and Lance’s teammate on the Motorrola team, was killed on a high speed descend. Lance was close to Fabio and was devastated by his death. Fabio had just gotten married and his baby was barely a month old.

When Jim Ochowicz, his manager told the team about Fabio’s goal to win the Limoges stage in the Tour De France, Lance knew exactly what to do – he want to win it for Fabio. Previously he had only won two stages, in San Sebastian and Tour Du Pont, but he had never won Limoges before.

On the day of the race, Lance was very focused. Despite the punishing routines, he did not feel any pain at all. He had rode with a higher purpose, for Fabio, and he felt that Fabio was with him all the while. Lance Armstrong won the Limoges by a minute.

As Lance won, he pointed to the sky towards Fabio.

Lance had experienced the first significant victory in the Tour De France…however his life would be shattered by what was about to unfold in his life…

Lance Armstrong Struggles With Chemotherapy…

I would never understand how Cancer and chemotherapy felt…but reading this book at least allows me a glimpse into the life of a cancer patient and the struggles a cancer patient would have to put up with in chemo treatments.

The first symptoms that got Lance worried were coughing of blood and an unusually large testicle that made riding difficult. By the time he sought treatment, he was diagnosed at Stage 3, the last stage of cancer.

Before commencement of treatment, Lance Armstrong was a big strong muscular fellow at 175 pounds, with a round thick neck that were the result of years of tough training in swimming, running and cycling.

Four months of chemotherapy, countless episodes of hair loss, nausea, and burning skin sensations from the inside out, had reduced Lance to 158 pounds with narrow and hawkish face.

The question that was constantly on his mind as he went through chemo was “which would the chemo kill first: the cancer or me?”

Lance would joke ironically that the worst he felt, the better his condition was. At the last stage of treatment, he would be reduced to being dragged out of bed, but he was almost clear of cancer cells.

Fighting Cancer Like Riding

Lance would compare his recovery from cancer like a time trial in the Tour. When his team manager would tell him he is thirty seconds up, he would want to go faster. Similarly in his battle against cancer, whenever he has news from the doctor about his progress, and whenever the doctors set new goals for him, he would almost will himself to achieve it. It’s a race to him. It’s a game, and he would achieve the goals set by his doctors without much trouble.

Post Cancer Lance Armstrong was a total wreck

Lance Armstrong finally conquered cancer. He would have to wait a year to find out whether he would have any relapse. By the end of one year, if there would be no relapse, there was little chance it would come back.

However the post Cancer Lance Armstrong was a far cry from the belligerent, supremely confident guy who would go out and thrash with anyone.

He was low in self esteem, and would go around telling people “its over, I am retired.”

It was not hard to understand his predicament. He had just come off a Stage 3 cancer, torturous chemotherapy treatment; treatments that were meant to demoralize and weaken the strongest of will power. Lance Armstrong’s will power had been whittled to an all-time low.

Fortunately, Lance was blessed to be surrounded with people who believed in him more than he believes in himself, at least at this point of time.

I can relate to an experience I had. In short, there was a point of time where I was contemplating breaking the scholarship bond I had with an MNC and pursue internet marketing. That requires a hefty amount of $70 grand and my own parents were not able to afford it. I hesitated to borrow from my girlfriend’s parents as it would represent an ultimate blow to my ego. But my girlfriend believed in me more than I believed in myself at this point of time, and she was the one who convinced that it would be worth it all in the end.

Lance’s manager, doctors, close friends quietly believed that they can change his mind. Eventually over cycling trips to Boone, a place where he dominated races and was revered by residents, he rediscovered his passion for cycling. A new Lance Armstrong was born.

Conquering the Mount Everest Of Cycling – Tour de France

The new Lance Armstrong cycled for a purpose, he wants to prove that there is life after cycling. He wants to inspire cancer patients all around the world that it is possible to stare cancer in its face, and not only that, to leave it in your wake as you pursue things that nobody thought possible.

Lance had also lost 15 pounds, which would be very beneficial in the steep ascends of Tour de France. His previous built was suited for flat sprints but the Tour de France was more than that, and Cancer had ironically prepared him for this.

i was there
Creative Commons License photo credit: placid casual

Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France. Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason, and that sometimes the experience of losing things–whether health or a car or an old sense of self–has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers.

Since retirement, Armstrong has focused his efforts on the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which provides support for people affected by cancer.

Lance Armstrong’s prominence and his work as a cancer survivor probably garnered more attention than it would have, if not for his participation.

My favorite quote from Lance Armstrong:

Pain is temporary, it may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

This book is for everyone, all sports fans, and non sports fans, cancer and non-cancer patients, anyone who wants to know how it is like to overcome the odds.

“Pain is temporary, it may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever” - Lance Armstrong

Some of the other reviews are:
“Lance Armstrong does things in a big way. Other people write books about the long road back from cancer, or the physical and emotional trauma of infertility, or the experience of growing up without a father, or the determination it takes to win the most important bicycle race in the world. Armstrong lays claim to all of it, and the result is a pretty terrific book…Armstrong’s book is both inspiring and entertaining. He doesn’t whine, doesn’t sugarcoat the tough parts and doesn’t forget to thank the good people who helped him most along the way” – Rocky Mountain News

“A good, emotional, genuine story, eloquently woven by two master story-tellers: Mr. Armstrong, with his honesty and detail, and Ms. Jenkins, for the artists’ polish she paints on his narrative…The description of the brutal ride into the French town Sestriere ( a major tour hurdle) is as good a piece of sportswriting as you’ll find, and the perfect climax for a fast story…captivating.” – Cincinanati Enquirer.

“A disarming and spotless prose style, one far above par for sports memories.” – Publishers Weekly

“Absolutely Absorbing…Compelling.” – The Denver Post

“It’s about far more than just the bike” – San Antonio Express News

Get this Book

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