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Fort Lauderdale Resident Cycles Through The Mojave Desert To Raise Awareness Of Multiple Myeloma

by Holly Gambrell Nov 13, 2017 12:42 PM

Fort Lauderdale local Randi Schwartz is an endurance athlete, a mother and a patient. 

In March 2016, Schwartz was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer in the United States. 

She recently joined the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s “Road to Victories” cycling event, as part of a team of cyclists personally impacted by multiple myeloma. 

The team rode across the country, beginning on Sept. 3, to raise awareness and funds for myeloma research. Schwartz rode for eight day from Los Angeles to Flagstaff, Arizona, covering 546 miles through the Mojave Desert. We talked with her about the journey, her diagnosis and more. Highlights are below: 

Tell us about your diagnosis and how it impacted your training. 

It was a bit of a work in progress. It was pretty complicated on a lot of levels. I had a stem cell transplant—it’s a reboot of your entire immune system. They wipe out all your blood cells in the bone marrow with chemotherapy and replace the stem cells with blood. I had that on Aug. 17 of 2016. So, with that process comes compromise. I had fatigue and weakness for a while, and a number of random side effects.  

My doctors weren’t really onboard with me doing this. They thought I was a little nutty. The comment pretty much was, “You have picked the worst condition to place yourself under if you’re looking for a goal to complete.” So I did listen to that, but I said to them, “You know what? This is something I want to take on. I am very passionate about this. The myeloma research foundation is the most innovative and proactive organization out there to find cures for this disease, and I want to be part of this ride." It gave me a platform and an opportunity to do something I was always passionate about, which was sports, fitness and wellness. I was very involved in doing triathlons and endurance sports and with this diagnosis, that was all taken away in a day. To redirect my passion in a positive way gave me an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.

How did you train for the eight-day desert ride?

The first thing I did was I measured my sweat rate: how much I sweat each hour. Then I went and I got a sweat composition test, and I figured out how much salt was actually in my sweat. I found out that I wasn’t taking in nearly enough fluids and electrolytes that I actually needed. I needed almost double what the recommended standard is. 

I tried to put myself under every condition to make sure I would be more than adequately prepared for this, so that meant—coming from Florida where we have no hills—training on a machine, which is a computerized simulation of mountains that I have in my house. It’s a bike on a machine that does that and simulates the resistance of climbing mountains. I did a lot of miles out here on the streets of South Florida up and down A1A from Las Olas all the way up to Palm Beach and back. 

Then I went out to Utah for three weeks to be out in desert-like conditions with altitude and climb, and in the heat with the elements that I would experience on the ride. 

What would you say was the hardest part of the race? 

The desert was definitely the toughest part. It’s 122 degrees at the max. It ranged from 113 to 122 and you have three days of that back to back. The first day I want to say was around 94 miles, second day was 97 and the third day was 115. So back-to-back days of that through those conditions in that kind of heat. You have to be very focused on not overheating and at the same time you want to get through the desert as quickly as you can. That delicate balance is key: the hydration, staying cool and not getting your heart rate up too high.

What was the best part of the race?

The ride through the National Forest is breathtaking. The best part of the race was getting to be with the people I was riding with. To have an opportunity to participate in something with people who have such passion for life, the outdoors, adventure and for curing this disease. It’s the people who innately understand what you’re going through. You just kind of have this understanding without having to really talk about it or work to explain things. It’s just this innate, true understanding and empathy for one another because we're all connected to the cause, either as patients or as someone who has someone who they’re riding for. That’s pretty powerful. 

Photos courtesy of Janssen Oncology/RoadToVictories.com

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Fort Lauderdale Resident Cycles Through The Mojave Desert To Raise Awareness Of Multiple Myeloma Fort Lauderdale Resident Cycles Through The Mojave Desert To Raise Awareness Of Multiple Myeloma

Fort Lauderdale local Randi Schwartz is an endurance athlete, a mother and a patient. In March 2016, Schwartz was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer in the United States. 

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