Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marquise du DeffandThe distance is nothing; it's only the first step that is difficult

I usually devote this space to a detailed description of a race or ride...but sometimes, I think it is better to reflect less on the play-by-play of events, and more on the motivation that moves a person to start. After all, that is the battle right? Getting started.

The North Carolina Tour de Cure is the only tour in the country that lasts two days. It kicks off with a 109 mile ride bypassing rolling hills and fields filled with strawberries and tobacco plants, along picturesque farms and through tiny southern towns. It is the idyllic image of the South at every turn, over every hill and down every stretch of pavement. At the finish, you find a lovely farm-to-table dinner, good friends old and new, and lots of reminiscing about tired legs and fast turns. Sunday morning, the riders get up and re-trace the same route, arriving back where they started only day prior with more than 200 miles of riding behind them.

It's an impressive undertaking. 

There was a time when I could not have imagined cycling 200 miles in a weekend. Even now, my husband chuckles when I tell him that I am going out for a "quick fifty," or when I suggest that a race is "only" 64 miles. And after I was diagnosed with diabetes? It seemed more daunting still.

That's what makes the picture above so absurdly inspiring to me. Every single person in that picture has some form of diabetes. Each of them woke up on Saturday, determined to ride 200 miles. More importantly, each of them put in the hard work to make that goal after day after day.

My teammate Erin Cutrell and I - alongside Tour director Katie-Rose Darby - kicked off the event. I had spoken with many of the cyclists in advance of sending them down the road, and all seemed confident in their ability to complete the full route. Most made it the full 200. Some availed themselves of the SAG wagon after the fifty mile mark, unable to push on to the finish. But every one of them got started.

Growing up, we lived in an old, Victorian house with a small farm. There was a hand pump just outside the back door, which we used to irrigate fruit trees. You would take a bucket and you had to pour a little of the water in the cup beside the pump into the hole at the top, and then pump like crazy before you got any water. After that, it would flow nicely until the next priming was required.

That's how it is with most things in life - you start with a drop of expectation, with the idea that something is possible, and then you work like crazy until the results begin to multiply. To carry that analogy one step further, we now live in a world of faucets. My son wants a cup of water, and he can simply hold his glass under the tap. Likewise, for many of us the ease of modern convenience makes it hard to put in the work - to get to the gym or dust off the bike or lace up the shoes - and because we never put in the work, we never find the free flowing rewards.

I spent Saturday night enjoying good food and wonderful company, sitting at a table next to Tony Cervati.  Tony's story is as amazing as is he. He was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of eight, and has spent most of his adult years as an accomplished mountain biker and endurance athlete. Last year, he decided that he would show that anything is possible with diabetes, and wanted to take on the Tour of the Divide. The race itself is craziness, running along the entire continental divide between Baanf, Albert, Canada and the border to Mexico. As he would later go on to tell the riders as the keynote speaker of the evening, Tony encountered a grizzly bear after only 50 miles. He fell into a raging river, was swept away, and nearly died. He crawled from the river to a farm house, and was taken to the hospital with some broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a dislocated shoulder. He's about to give it a second try this year:

So much of success is simply finding the will to begin. It was wonderful to see these amazing athletes cross the finish line...but it was more amazing to hear them talk about getting to the start line. One woman told me that she began with two minutes - two minutes! - of cycling every other day because that was all she could manage. From two minutes to 200 miles.

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