Color Me Inspired - Cycling for a Cause
Feb 05, 2009 by Brie Sullivan
Color Me Inspired
Not everyone wakes up one morning and decides they are going to try and bike 100 miles, but that's what I did. For me, the turn of a new year is a chance to take stock in my life and figure out what I can improve upon so I'm living it more fully. In past years I've made several lofty goals. Some of you might remember me saying I was going to complete a Triathlon a couple years ago. I thought if I told enough people I'd be held accountable and actually follow through. That was not the case; I simply lack a certain gene that allows me to actually complete projects. So some, including me, felt a little wary when I announced on New Year's Day that I was going to complete a century ride within six months time. I had never biked more than ten miles at any time in my life, so what made me think I could do this?
Last spring, my good friend and musical peer, Andrea Coller, lost her long battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of twenty-nine. Andrea was an incredible force and inspired everyone around her, myself included, in so many ways.
There aren't enough words to truly capture Andrea's huge personality, but if you've got some time you should read her award-winning essay titled, I Want My Life Back, published in Glamour Magazine. The issue hit news stands the morning after Andrea died, and despite the terrible ache of loss that sat heavy in my chest, her words and wit still had me laughing aloud. It's one year later, and Andrea's essay was recently chosen as a finalist for the National Magazine Awards, making Glamour magazine history. They had never before been represented in the essay category. Andrea's writing was honored along with essays from the New Yorker and Harper's. This is a true testament to the power of her words and talent. You can also listen to her music here. She was truly a gifted musician, writer, stylist, fashionista, and friend.
It is in Andrea's memory that I am training to ride 100 miles around Lake Tahoe as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team in Training.
Four weeks ago I bought and rode my first road bike. The most I'd ever ridden (besides the stationary bike at the gym) was fifteen miles. Yesterday I joined the TNT MA and NH teams for a beautiful ride. During last week's ride, as we were struggling up yet another tough hill around mile 56, my teammate muttered "Geez, at this point every hill feels like a mountain." Must've been a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am so proud to say that yesterday we climbed to the summit of Mt. Wachusett on our bikes in the middle of a 62 mile ride.
After last week's ride my Mom asked me, "How are you doing this?" I jumped into training really late in the game and participated in my first team ride one month ago (this is not the way you should be training for something like this.) I would be lying if I didn't tell you this is the most physically and mentally gruelling endeavor I've ever taken on. There have been many moments during this training process where I thought "Oh no, I'm going to have to get off my bike and walk." or simply "I can't do this." In those moments there is only one thought that keeps me going. Yesterday when I was climbing up the very steep and seemingly never-ending access road on the mountain (aptly named Mile Hill Rd.), there was only one thought that kept me going.
Andrea fought harder than anyone I've ever met in my life. She beat her disease into submission three times within several years; I can't imagine how exhausted she must have been on a daily basis. I'm sure there were times when she could have easily given up, but she continued to fight and live her life, making music and writing and enriching the lives of those around her.
So, so what? The next five or ten minutes of my life might be difficult and exhausting, but when I consider the unbelievable strength and sheer determination that Andrea possessed, it makes the mountain look like a mole hill. So my answer to my mom's "How are you doing this?"
"I just have to." I have to do this for Andrea.
She inspired me and now I want to inspire others.
I am not a super-athlete. I am not a type A personality. I am not even someone who's ever been able to maintain a weekly exercise schedule. I just want to honor my friend whom I miss terribly and help to eradicate the disease that ended her life.
I am a member of an incredible team of warm people with huge hearts. I tell them I wouldn't be doing this without them. They say otherwise, but I know the Team, along with my Coach and Mentor, are a large factor in my success thus far.
If you think you can't do something like this, I promise you, with good bike shorts and Team in Training, you can.
Mahatma Ghandi said "We must be the change we wish to see in the world". What will you be?
Maybe next year I'll see some of you on the trail.
To all who've donated, re-posted the page link, harbored me on your couches, listened to me endlessy chatter on about this endeavor, cheered me on, and given me such positive energy to carry with me, I thank you endlessly for your support!
You have helped me to pay tribute to Andrea's incredible spirit and together we have taken one step closer to finding a cure.