Yep. Those are my skinny legs pedaling away on that bike. As promised, I owe you an update about my experience participating in Get Your Guts in Gear. I went into this ride only knowing Megan who was riding, and Andrea who was crewing. Everyone else I didn’t know, but honestly by the time I layed down to go to sleep the first night I already felt like I had made some new best friends. When things like that happen it’s special. I can tell GYGIG is special because there were people there that keep coming back, and something special has to make them want to come back year after year. And now that I have participated I want to come back too because I feel like I have a family there. I was new, I was scared, I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I put on my brave face and walked in the door, but I was welcomed and never made to feel like I didn’t belong there.
Was I the best rider? Nope.
Was I the worst? Check!
Did I complete the 150 miles. Nope.
But I got on my bike and I rode when I could and for me that is a huge accomplishment. Showing up with all the anxiety I had about the ride was overcoming something. Showing up at all, driving all those miles, and spending a week away from home in the midst of bad health was my own version of riding my bike 150 miles. And you know what? I had fun! I also learned that I really like cycling and if my health ever allows I want to train even more or at least ride my bike for fun on the days that I can.
Here is how the ride went down: I have been having a rough time with my health for awhile (see former related blog posts). Before the ride even started I was waking up with terrible hip and knee pain from my arthritis and my guts were causing me pain. The first day I rode only a short few miles in the beginning (but the ride began with hills - something my skinny unmuscular legs hate) and I was out of the game for a bit. I had a sweep van pick me up and drive me to lunch. I sat there and ate and rested and was taken care of by some very caring and sympathetic people who didn’t make me feel bad at all. Once lunch was over with I felt a little stronger and my pain had subsided a little bit so I rode the next 16.5 miles with Megan and my new friend Adam. I don’t think the two of them know it, but they were a huge help to me just being there. I rode those 16.5 miles feeling like I could do it, and hardly thinking about how difficult it was (except on the hills!) because I was enjoying the company and because they were doing it with me. After that I needed a break again at the next rest stop and didn’t ride again until the very end of the day.
On day two things got worse for me. It’s no secret that my body isn’t in great shape. Not just speaking of how physically fit I am, but also what is going on internally with my health. I woke up in worse condition and decided I needed a sweep van to take me a few rest stops ahead. Luckily I wasn’t the only person who needed this assistance and that made me feel a little better. I was hoping that I would feel better by lunch time like I did the day before, but by lunch time I was hardly able to sit up. I tried my best to keep a smile on my face and say “i’m fine” at the appropriate times, but it became increasingly more difficult. I owe a huge thank you to Megan’s boyfriend Andy and to her mom Val. I had never met her mom until that weekend and I had only met Andy briefly before, but they made me feel as comfortable as possible while I was in the back seat doubled over in pain. I am usually uncomfortable showing my weak side and tend to say “i’m okay” because I don’t want anyone to worry about me. But I had become pretty sick and at one point Andy was kind enough to honor my request to quickly drive me to the nearest place with a bathroom so I could throw up, change my clothes, and use the bathroom. I continued to lay down in the backseat of the car they were driving while they did their sweeping duties and I eventually drifted off into a light sleep after taking some pain medication.
So that was the ride. But here is what really matters: The people, the environment, and the support. Just like Camp Oasis is for me, GYGIG is a family (now a new family I have to add to my camp family). For some of these people it’s the only place or the first place they were able to talk about their disease. That is why events like this are so important and crucial to our community and need to remain in existence. It’s about being around people who understand and about being around people who support and encourage you.
It’s about setting a personal challenge and overcoming it. And if you can’t, it’s about the people who pick you up and support you either way.
Sure, it’s about cycling too. If you’re an avid cyclist maybe it’s more about the ride than the whole experience. But as GYGIG’s slogan states, It’s More Than a Ride. My favorite thing about it was the people. It was the constant laughs that made my tummy hurt in a good way. It was the inside jokes i’ll laugh about always (graham crackers are the silent blinders), the conversations, the new friends. I had so much fun and keep wishing I was back in our cabin with it’s mice and it’s spiders laughing about everything and nothing all at the same time with people I love so much.
(Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of you who helped me get there. Whether it was encouraging words, a donation on my page, or by purchasing a wristband. I am truly thankful that I was able to participate in another event that makes me feel less alone in my disease and hope that I can return the favor to you with this blog and my videos. I love you guys!)