Well, 4K is over.
It’s hard to say that…for 70 days I eat, drank, and lived 4K. Now that it is over I am beginning to realize just how big of an undertaking 4K was. For most of the ride it never seemed like a big deal because we lived day-to-day. Wake up, prepare, ride, relax, sleep, repeat. There was a great deal of change as we made our way across the country, but the routine always stayed the same. We always had a purpose. We always had direction (West is Seattle!). It seemed normal.
But it was not. How many people bike across the country in the first place, let alone with 27 other crazy college-aged people? How many rely totally on donations to survive? How many volunteer along the way and discuss the weight topics surrounding cancer? Not a lot. And that’s the point: we were doing something incredible.
I want to share some of what I learned from 4K:
4K for Cancer: Cycle, Inspire, Unite
When we began I was skeptical about the whole “Cycle, Inspire, Unite” concept. Sure, we were raising money – I raised over $9,100. As a team we raised over $150,000. As an organization, over $750,000. All for young adults with cancer. That is real. But what about community and inspiration? Turns out, we did quite a lot.
Cycle. We sure did that. As a team we rode 4,432 miles and as an individual I rode over 3,500 miles and climbed over 115,000 feet (21 miles). That is a lot of riding! There were times when I wanted to give up, times when I questioned why I was doing this. But I always pushed through, never breaking the promise I made myself to never give up, no matter how challenging the ride or how terrible I felt. In the worst of times I reminded myself why I was riding and I thought about who I was riding for: Lydia, Paul, Brina, and Poppop.
Compared to their battles, this was nothing. Brina was diagnosed right after finishing high school, Lydia just before starting Law school, and Paul passed in the middle of college at the age of 20. I have been lucky enough to be healthy in mind and body and no wind, hills, or exhaustion would bring me down. Each of us is given a life to live, whatever it may be. We must rid ourselves of self-doubt and apprehension, fear of uncertainty and the unknown. We must live life as if it is precious…because it is.
Inspire. From new recruits for 4K, to a donor who is considering ways to spread cancer awareness, to helping a host discover her desire to talk about her deceased mother, 4K has inspired countless individuals. Our families are impressed by our persistence and use our continued dedication as motivation for their own improvement. My teammates inspire me every day, and in turn I inspire them. It’s all connected – we all gain from this adventure.
There are many ways we can find inspiration in this story. For some it is simply seeing youth so actively engaged. For others it has been the stories we share and the bonds we forge. And for some, like myself, it has been the struggle. I will paraphrase Dalton, who I think said it best:
We inspire people because this is hard. If it were easy, no one would give us money. When we are out there, riding 100 miles, climbing those mountains, the pain we feel is nothing compared to the pain young adults with cancer face every day. That’s why we cannot give up.
Unite. I remember many occasions when hosts, donors, and even people we randomly encountered on the road were overtaken with emotion and brought to tears by what we were doing. It does make a difference, and it does bring people together. Every single day LPBP was on my mind and in my heart. Despite barely knowing Lydia, Paul, and Brina I feel like they are my best friends. I have joined Rafe’s Army and become just one twenty-eight with a new web of connections.
And to think, we are only one ride among four, one year among thirteen. Our 4K family has joined the ranks of all those who came before us, each with its own story. Together we have reached out to countless communities and rode for thousands of cancer patients and survivors. It may not seem like much, but I know firsthand that simply dedicating a day to someone can make all the difference. When you tell someone you are riding for them, that they inspire you…nothing in this world compares to that look in their eye, that warmth in their hug, that sincerity in their voice.
4K for Cancer: My Journey
I would be lying if I said I did not do this ride for myself, because I did. None of us can deny it – we all had our own personal reasons for wanting to ride. Whether it be finding ourselves, challenging ourselves physically and mentally, or simply discovering America, we all had something we wanted to get out of this. I had all those goals and more and I am happy to say I have reached them all.
Through this ride I am physically stronger and mentally more disciplined. Already I can see it making me better at completely unrelated skills. But more importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I learned my physical limits and I learned what it feels like to push beyond them. More than ever I realize my own shortcomings and how conflict among people is rarely one person’s fault: it is the combination of mistakes, mis-communication, and the shortcomings of all involved.
In Ann Arbor, one of our riders asked me to write their own name on their leg. Thinking it was simply someone else with the same name, I jokingly poked fun at them by implying they were self-centered. Little did I know they were actually riding for themselves, and that day they opened the doors on their own fear and uncertainty. In our 4K family they found not just openness and respect, but acceptance and but love.
This journey has changed me. It has changed us all.
Thank you to all my sponsors, donors, supporters, friends, family, and everyone who helped me along the way. I could not have done it without you!
This concludes the posts for my journey – my sponsors logo’s and donor’s names will be coming down and my blog will go back to its usual lineup of biking, transportation, urban planning, politics, and whatever else i find intriguing.
Ride in a good direction.