It is amazing to me how much can be learned at any age and how much of our lives are in our control and then, conversely, how much happens despite our best efforts to remain in charge. I have learned how to build a website, how to communicate via Facebook and Twitter (my daughter tells me that Pintrest is the new black and I just can’t bring myself to go there, to be honest. Overload!), how to train on a bike with more intensity than I even knew I had. All of these things are relatively minor when I think about what has happened in the last three years. You will notice I didn’t say three SHORT years because they haven’t been all that short.
When we raced RAW in 2010, Ann and I were novices to endurance cycling, or team racing for that matter. In fact, we really didn’t even know each other. We were taken under the wing of a couple of experienced racers who gently guided us through the joys of doing something exceptionally glorious on a bike. However, the moment we crossed the finished line in Durango, I looked at my new-found friend and saw a look that mirrored my own. We were not done. We had more to achieve. I think at that moment neither of us understood what achievement(s) we were thinking about. On the surface, we wanted to complete the entire race. To do RAAM. We began talking, planning, talking some more and, ultimately began to learn. A lot. We decided that doing RAAM was not enough, we wanted to make a mark and leave something of a legacy for all women (or people, really) who never envisioned themselves as athletes, or active, or reaching for something completely, seemingly, off the charts. At that instant, we realized that racing RAW was for ourselves but racing RAAM would go way beyond “just us”. We found a non-profit that we believed in, we assembled a crew (rookies mostly), we found a team, we began the arduous task of fund-raising, and the even harder task to find some exposure to get our message out there. Our goals were to win the women’s team division (which we did), to set a new course record (which we did not), do some good for our community via our non-profit (which we think we did), and open the eyes of the masses to what can be done at any age with a bit of determination. When we reached Annapolis in 2012, unbeknown to us in advance, there were people, women and men whom we did not know but had followed our progress on social media (go figure) and through the RAAM website (also, go figure) who wanted to see us finish. We received emails from around the country talking about us as “inspiring”. Inspiring? Really? Perspiring, perhaps. When I looked at Ann at that moment, once again I saw a look that I was familiar with. We were not done. Not even yet. This had gone beyond what we had anticipated.
So, in keeping with the learning theme, and I should mention that even though learning happens, it is not always an easy or quick process. For example, I am still working on conversational Spanish. So, in keeping with the learning theme, we debriefed and wondered where we should go from there. What Ann and I realized is that we would like to encourage everyone, EVERYONE to get on their bikes. Is it necessary to ride across the country? No. Is riding across the country possible with the right mindset? You bet your A . . . . er . . . . tush. Realistically, we would like to see everyone with the OPPORTUNITY to ride their bikes wherever and whenever they would like. To the grocery store. To the park. To the beach. To school. And yes, across the country.
How to do that? Well, Love, Sweat, & Gears is now a non-profit, and let me tell you – riding across the country is so much easier than filling out the monumental paperwork for the IRS– Holy Cow do they have red tape. Our mission is to educate and encourage people of all ages to embrace cycling as a means to excellent health. Women, men, children, no age cutoff. Ultimately we would like to sponsor and support participants in RAAM or another distance ride, annually. We are partnering with another non-profit this for this years ride. Bikes for Kids whose mission is to do exactly what the name implies, which is to get bikes in the hands of or on the backsides of as many children as possible, which they can do for a mere $100.00/child. We take this part of our learning and our mission very seriously.
Do we want a course record? Same bet on that same tush as before. Just take a look at the racers on team Love, Sweat, & Gears 2013, no secret there what we are after. But more importantly, we want to kindle the spark of interest into the flame of a movement. Joyous riding on a bike, anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
See you in Oceanside!