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About a month ago a dear girlfriend asked me to do a charity bike ride in Seattle on a team she and friends were putting together in memory of her husband. He died a year ago of cancer. We would be fundraising for The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. A place I know well! I was on the board there for 10 years and I know many people saved from their incredible work, including my father. Sadly, I also know several patients NOT so fortunate…my friend’s husband being one. While we know the Hutch is on the cutting edge of research, lots of work still needs to be done to find a cure.
While I love to spin, outdoor riding has always made me nervous because of falling. BUT I told my girlfriend YES without hesitation. I wanted to support her and I knew I could get in riding shape by doing spin. As for raising money to ride…I am never afraid to ask. This time I was asking friends and family to support this amazing cause. My passion for things I believe in, added with personal stories of cancer, make the ask for donations easy! I set my goal high for an event only a few weeks away…$10K!
I told my older 4 kids to take notes on this act of kindness and support of a girlfriend they all know, who has been in our life for 18 years. I reminded them that unconditional love to those we love is the greatest gift, and that there are times when dropping our world for a friend in need is the way to live life!
I got to Seattle the day before the race, borrowed a Seattle friend’s bike and helmet for the race, played with my girlfriend’s adorable kids who break my heart knowing they don’t have their Dad, and had amazing talks with my girlfriend around the chaos of her house with young kids and in-laws visiting. We stayed up like two teenagers later than we should have catching up, reminiscing and talking about how to live on and live well.
The next morning was race day, and luckily not too early was our start time. We went a bit early to get my race packet and take photos. There was an amazing memory board honoring loved ones… those gone or survivors! I took photos of my girlfriend writing her husband’s name on the board and putting a heart by his name! An emotional moment indeed!!!
We got all of our equipment and selves ready for the race and went to the start. A few survivors spoke to us, the riders. There was a sad scene of a woman pushing her husband’s bike to the start because he had passed away a few months prior. The national anthem played on the loud speakers, and then told us to start the race while the song “Forever Young” blared. Another very, very emotional moment!!!
The ride was easy at times; hard on the hills and some down hills; so incredibly beautiful in the best of Seattle summer days; good conversations along the ride; lots of encouragement from the families and volunteers on the sidelines of the blocked streets; a nice break halfway for snacks, potty and Gatorade; inspiring when you knew you were almost done, even thinking we could have done the 50 mile race; and then finally crossing the finish line together at mile 30! The climax of emotion for all kinds of reasons but ultimately recognizing it was truly a ridiculously amazing day for so many reasons. Our team took a group photo and we talked about how we would make next year even better by getting more people to ride and help us raise even more money for such an amazing event supporting such an incredible cause.
For me and my girlfriend it was another blessed memory as bittersweet as it was… Truly defining living on and living well. I am blessed from this friendship and more blessed from this experience. I am so motivated to make next year’s ride even better so that more lives can be saved and we can carry on the memory of a man who touched so many lives and left behind an amazing wife and kids. It’s a lesson of unconditional love and support. It’s a story of a friendship that we are forever blessed for! It’s a reason to be spontaneous, believe in mind over body, and help others while we may in fact be healing ourselves.