Thoughts from an 8-hour bike ride
Eunice Ahn, Fitness Specialist in Columbus, shares her Pelotonia experience.
This past weekend, I was one of 7748 riders who participated in Pelotonia. Pelotonia is a grassroots organization established with the objective to fund lifesaving cancer research. Thousands of individuals from near and far experience the weekend of Pelotonia together in Columbus, Ohio, complete with cycling, volunteerism, and entertainment. In the first seven rides, Pelotonia raised over 106 million for cancer research. Even more so, Pelotonia is able to direct 100% of every rider raised dollar to cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center- James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Just take a second to think about that.
Saturday marked my second year riding. Both years, I chose to ride the 100 mile distance, beginning in Columbus and ending in Gambier. I dedicated my ride to many, but the one that I hold most near and dear is my dad. My dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000. It is now 2016 and my dad has been in remission for over 10 years.
The first few miles, you’re fueled by adrenaline. You pass the crowds of people cheering you on and hear all sorts of noises; cowbells, whistles, “Thank you for riding!”. It all whizzes past you; maybe it’s too early for you to soak in why these people decided to get up at 7am to cheer random strangers on. Would you give up your Saturday morning for that? Mile 50 comes along and it’s starting to get hot. At that point, I had already been on my bike for about 3.5-4 hours and I’m kicking myself for not just ending it at 50 miles. But I get back on, because though I may struggle, I will not quit. It doesn’t matter when you cross that finish line, it’s about getting there.
I continue to ride, becoming more and more mentally drained; it’s like watching your phone battery slowly get to 1%. Physically, of course, I hurt. But at that point, I was numb. You’re gritting through the heat, the pain, the soreness, and you’re mantra is, “it doesn’t matter how fast you’re moving, just keep moving.” It’s now a matter of believing in yourself and telling yourself that you WILL get to the end. I’m so caught up in the battle to finish that I don’t even notice the crowds and strangers cheering me on. Yet somehow, hours later, you cross that finish line. It’s a blur every time. I cry as soon as I turn the final corner to reach the finish. Imagine crowds of random, absolutely random people erupting and yelling for you. “Thank you for saving my mom/dad/sister/brother from cancer,” is something you commonly hear. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed.
It wasn’t until I got off my bike and was finally able to be in the moment, rather than a part of it, that I came to my realization: this is what life is about. Life is about hope. Life is about knowing that there is a better day. It might not be today, tomorrow, or even ten years from now, but you hold onto the belief that slowly, but surely, we can get there.
Envisioning a world that is cured of cancer seems far fetched and people, even I, am guilty of saying, “What difference could I possibly make? My small donation won’t make a difference. My 100 mile ride won’t make a direct difference for anyone lying in a hospital bed going through chemotherapy.” You’re right, it’s tough when you can’t see or hold the direct impact you make. But you’re also wrong. You’re difference isn’t what you provide tangibly; it’s the unwavering invisible voice that you shine out. I think back and wonder what my experience would have been like had I had this thought throughout the entire ride. Sometimes you don’t see what’s in front of you; you miss it. But it only takes that split second for it to hit you; for you to see what life really is. I won’t lie, those eight hours were grueling and one of the most mentally challenging things I have ever done. Yet somehow, I would still do it all over again, just to be “in the moment” again.
-Eunice Ahn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fitness Specialist, Columbus