Keep Peddling: Reflections on GYGIG

I did it…I survived 3 days in the wilderness of upstate NY.
(Ok..maybe it wasn’t really wilderness, but it came close enough for this city girl.)
For all you doubters out there…I went 3 days without “doing” my hair (thank goodness for pigtails), and I broke not a single nail. So 😛
And guess what…

I actually enjoyed it. Maybe not the camping part so much ( although I’ll definitely do it again), but the GYGIG ride was an amazing experience. Over 150 riders and crew…each with a unique story about how Crohn’s and Colitis has affected their life, each riding or crewing for a different personal reason, but committed to the ‘corporate’ mission of the ride.

As I watched the riders and crew each day, I was reminded of my own “journey” with IBD, and it can be likened to a bike ride. In the beginning, I was extremely focused on the end…when, where, how will it be over?

But over the years I’ve learned to not focus so much on the destination, but to appreciate the “ride” and the progress I have made. There have been hills; hospitalizations, ostomy surgery, lack of insurance, emergencies, “accidents”. “Hills” that at the time seemed insurmountable, but somehow I made it to the top. There have also been descents and valleys; depression, self destructive behavior, wondering what the future held. Determination and perseverance allowed me to keep peddling and eventually reach flat, even ground; acceptance. And all along the way, there have been rest stops and cheering stations; a WOC nurse who not only encouraged me but inspired me, my involvement with Youth Rally, working for CCFA, being elected to office with UOAA, and all of the other amazing opportunities I’ve been afforded because of my journey with IBD. But most importantly, there was the crew; the people that I met along the way who cheered me on, picked me up when I couldn’t go any further and “swept me along”, those who fixed the broken parts, those that showed me how to “ride” when I was a new cyclist in the IBD journey, those who “rode” before me and marked my way, and those who believed in my ablity to finish the course, even when I doubted.

My ride is far from over. Each day I get up, I set out along the path. Some days I am the rider…climbing hills, careening down the other side, pulling out of the valleys, and picking up speed on the stretches of even gound. And some days I’m the crew…helping a new “rider” get their bearings, sharing my story and encouraging them to “keep peddling”.
Truth be told, I’m not positive of my destination. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t so much matter- I’m on an incredibly scenic journey and I’m going to keep peddling to wherever it leads.

Here’s a quick recap of the weekend events:
Arrived in NYC on Thursday afternoon. Hooked up with Julielyn and Paul and did “touristy” things like Times Square, met Spiderman, and we visited the World Trade Center site. Checked in for the ride, attended ride meetings, then headed out on the town and met up with a sorority sister I hadn’t seen in about 12 years ( Hi, Laurie!). Then back to the hotel and bed because I had to be up at the butt crack of dawn.
Got the the starting Pier in Tribeca at 5am Friday. Made coffee, set up breakfast, helped unload gear truck and set up bike racks, etc. Opening ceremonies, riders departed. Tore down above mentioned items, helped reload gear truck, then headed upstate to camp 1. Arrive at camp, help clean dining hall (nasty) and bathroom/showers (nastier). Help unload gear truck (again), set up tents with the guidance of the Tent Fairy, got text from friend Julielyn (rider) who was in ER getting breathing treatment next to the rider (Yoni) who got hit by a deer!, passed out towels, took a much needed shower, ate dinner, attended crew meeting, chased tumbleweeding tents across the field (it was a bit windy) , got in my tent and collapsed in exhaustion. Awoke at 1am to the sound of rain. Had to pee (of course!), so walked to bathroom with flashlight in rain with one contact suctioned to my eyeball and other eye barely functional (fun times). Back to tent, wonder if I should pack up my stuff so it doesn’t get wet…should I get out rain gear in case it starts storming and I must make a run for the pavillion. Decide I am too tired to care, try to go back to sleep. Hear scary noises coming from surrounding woods and have ridiculous thoughts of Camp Crystal Lake and the Blair Witch Project.
Get up at 5 in the morning, make Gatorade and icewater for riders, pack up my stuff, help take down tents, clean up, tear down bike racks, load gear truck (again), then head to breakfast at the Elk’s club. Eat, then head upstate to Earllton. Arrive at camp 2. Unload gear truck (again!), set up canopies, tents, bike racks, snacks, Gatorade, water, yada yada. Rest a bit (nice weather this day) and check out campsite. See lots of double wides and garden gnomes.
Riders start arriving, direct them to tents, hand out towels. Eat dinner, listen to Solid Gold ( 4 men, 50+ yrs old, singing 50 Cent…classic..), hang out with riders and crew, talk, collapse in tent exhausted.
Awake at 5am, shower, eat breakfast, tear down camp, load gear truck (yet again), head upstate to Saratoga Springs and Skidmore College. Set up rider holding area, unload gear truck (for the LAST time!), await riders. Riders finish ride, I get teary-eyed several times, take lots of photos. Then closing ceremonies. I address crowd on behalf of UOAA, get teary-eyed again. Barbeque dinner, then goodbyes.
Through out all of this, the reflections from above were flowing through my mind. I just gave you the nuts and bolts of all that happended. But like the T-shirts say …

“It’s so much more than a ride”…

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