Saturday’s JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes was a homecoming for me. In 2012, I traveled to Death Valley as a first-time rider. I had no idea what I was getting into, and I was overwhelmingly naive about the 100 miles I dreamed of riding in the desert. I finished 70 miles with a lot of tears and a smile. The ride was hard, and the weekend was even harder, but there’s something about Ride weekends that grab hold of your heart and don’t let go.
This time, I was prepared. I’ve spent the last four years training and riding, I’ve dabbled in racing and even started coaching. I have six JDRF rides and multiple centuries under my belt along with a 70.3 triathlon. While I was ready for the full 104 miles of this desert trek, Mother Nature had other ideas. With 30 mph headwinds going out with gusts up to 50 mph, only a handful conquered Jubilee Pass; I was not one of them. As a cyclist, that was disappointing. But as a rider, it didn’t matter because there was a 55-mile ride with two dear friends instead. There were smiles, and there was great reward. There was a tailwind coming home, and there was enough gas left in my tank to go back and ride with friends. There were 300 riders from 35 states and six countries that raised $1.5 million for type 1 diabetes research.
I think the last few miles of the Death Valley Ride are the hardest. The final mile is downhill to the finish, but the few before it are brutal. It’s not a steep climb by cycling standards, but it’s at the end of a long, hot ride. That stop sign perched atop the hill stands tall, mocking your barely spinning legs with the letters “S-T-O-P.” In 2012, I did stop in those final miles—once to cry, once to breathe and once to swear I was never doing this again. Saturday, I climbed that same hill in one effort. Then I went back and climbed it again with more friends. That hill broke me four years ago, but I owned it Saturday. As I cheered on riders in that final ascent, I laughed and I smiled. Then I saw a sea of green jerseys gathering at the bottom of the hill, and I fondly remembered the coach who helped me to that stop sign in 2012.
Here I was four years, three bikes and two moves later back in the desert—the place I swore I’d never return—with the very friends who talked me into that first JDRF Ride. The hugs and laughter that ensues on these weekends is almost enough to last an entire year. Almost.
How do you put into words the emotion of returning to a place that changed your life so significantly?
To be in that place with hard memories and to replace them with victories and with fondness. To leave a place certain I’d never return to now knowing I’ll return to this place my entire life. To have a desert wasteland leave deep scars on my heart to return and have that same breathtaking landscape heal those scars with beautiful memories… I can’t find the words for that kind of healing. I only hope you can experience something of similar impact in your life.
For me, it comes down to trust. Trusting God with the plan when you can’t see it and when your heart is too wounded to try. Trusting the training and trusting your legs to carry you. Trusting your gameday blood sugar plan because you’ve worked hard to perfect it. Trusting your friends to step up when it counts and support the research that keeps you alive everyday. Trusting that there is beauty in all seasons, even in the hard and the broken places. Trusting God to bring good from all things, including a type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
This job I do is not simply a job; it’s a mission. People are counting on JDRF to make their lives easier, to keep their children safe, to give their families a reason to hope. It’s not a job I take lightly, and it’s one that can be overwhelming. It’s hard work, and it’s sometimes tireless work. But it is work that matters to millions of people, and it’s a mission I will fight for until there’s a cure.
Diabetes is 24/7, and it is complicated, burdensome and hard. I do a poor job of showing my friends that side of diabetes, but it’s there. I’ll never apologize for fundraising or for sharing how cycling has positively impacted my life, and I’m not going to stop until there’s a cure. For those who have given, thank you. For those who haven’t yet, please consider. The research is life-changing and life-giving. It matters on a tangible and personal level to so many people. Come on a ride and hear the stories; you will be amazed.
I wish I could convey the emotion my heart is feeling this week, but that’s not possible. Join me on the road and watch your heart expand and your life change. It’s an incredibly beautiful thing.